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Thread: Introversion, experience...getting more out of it

  1. #1
    Scala Mountains Resonance's Avatar
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    Introversion, experience...getting more out of it

    I have another big tangle of thoughts to comb out and you people seem like the perfect audience.

    As introverts, we naturally shy away from frequent, intense stimulation. As a corollary, we end up with fewer/less intense experiences than others. That seems kind of bad for learning since learning occurs via experience (yeah there's imagination and language but those are secondary). But we end up pretty smart anyway, or at least it doesn't negatively impact our relative learning so somehow, we are getting more out of less. That doesn't mean that more would be even better, sadly (luckily?) but it does mean we have to be extra careful not to draw too many conclusions from the limited data sets that we have (or, heaven forbid, from pure imagination).

    This reminds me of something that stuck with me from my childhood. Once upon a time, I whined to my dad that I didn't want to do something because it was [i]boring[i]. He countered with a concept from the Tao of Pooh: Pooh bear is always 100% engaged in whatever he is doing, even if it's not something that he enjoys (like getting honey). As such, the wisdom is to find a way to engage with and learn as much as you can, even from the most menial and even irritating tasks. (I think. I was pretty little at the time and may have misunderstood.)

    I didn't know at the time why that was bullshit (cognitive resources are not infinite) so, being unable to refute it, I was forced to accept it as fact and live according to the principle as best I could. I think it was for the better. Even though I find many things boring, like small talk and transportation, I still have a nagging voice in the back of my mind telling me to keep a lookout for things I could learn, to be alert and pay attention to details instead of dozing off or getting antsy like I would naturally tend to. When I do,I feel like I gain an appreciation for the thing that I'm actively observing - a more pleasant state than irritation.

    Do you have, or do you think you could benefit from a rule of maximal engagement? How do you stave off boredom and meniality?

  2. #2
    (╯□)╯︵ ┻━┻ Deckard's Avatar
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    I think there's a lot of value in placing yourself outside your comfort zone. But I also think us introverts shouldn't feel like we have to engage the way others do all the time. For instance, I've found that I really enjoy travelling and going to music festivals solo. Other than the fact that it lets me do what I want and at my own pace, I tend to meet & engage with people a lot easier than if I was in a group.

    I'm not sure if it's the ADHD or the introversion, but I can't force engagement. Doing so tends to have the opposite effect, my brain shuts down and I start falling asleep or feeling like I need to escape. Seek out activities that naturally engage you and try not to worry about social pressures if that puts you at odds with the group. If you're forced into a situation that's not engaging, I find a good approach is to practice mindfulness: let your mind relax and become aware of your surroundings, your body and your breathing. Consciously let go of the anxiety or irritation and let your mind do what it wants.

    Also, hi @Resonance!

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Resonance View Post
    I have another big tangle of thoughts to comb out and you people seem like the perfect audience.

    As introverts, we naturally shy away from frequent, intense stimulation. As a corollary, we end up with fewer/less intense experiences than others. That seems kind of bad for learning since learning occurs via experience (yeah there's imagination and language but those are secondary). But we end up pretty smart anyway, or at least it doesn't negatively impact our relative learning so somehow, we are getting more out of less. That doesn't mean that more would be even better, sadly (luckily?) but it does mean we have to be extra careful not to draw too many conclusions from the limited data sets that we have (or, heaven forbid, from pure imagination).

    This reminds me of something that stuck with me from my childhood. Once upon a time, I whined to my dad that I didn't want to do something because it was [i]boring[i]. He countered with a concept from the Tao of Pooh: Pooh bear is always 100% engaged in whatever he is doing, even if it's not something that he enjoys (like getting honey). As such, the wisdom is to find a way to engage with and learn as much as you can, even from the most menial and even irritating tasks. (I think. I was pretty little at the time and may have misunderstood.)

    I didn't know at the time why that was bullshit (cognitive resources are not infinite) so, being unable to refute it, I was forced to accept it as fact and live according to the principle as best I could. I think it was for the better. Even though I find many things boring, like small talk and transportation, I still have a nagging voice in the back of my mind telling me to keep a lookout for things I could learn, to be alert and pay attention to details instead of dozing off or getting antsy like I would naturally tend to. When I do,I feel like I gain an appreciation for the thing that I'm actively observing - a more pleasant state than irritation.

    Do you have, or do you think you could benefit from a rule of maximal engagement? How do you stave off boredom and meniality?
    You could always ask yourself: "Will I be glad to have done it after it's done?" If the answer is yes, then that's something you should probably do.

    My profession provides lots of external stimulation, which I suppose makes me lucky. Mostly I don't look forward to it, but when I'm in the moment, I actually enjoy it. Same with meeting new people nervousness peaks shortly before meeting them, but as soon as I've set eyes on them, I immediately relax. Perhaps this is due to a tendency to mentally overcomplicate things beforehand. Most real-life interactions are actually quite straightforward exchanges of "do something for other people, and they will do for you". Once you know how to make yourself useful or at least entertaining to someone else, you're golden.

    That said, I really love living/being alone and doing housework. It's a treat and the ultimate me-time just doing something semi-productive which immediately results in better conditions overall, manifesting itself in a cleaner, cosier living space, neat, ready-to-wear nice clothes and a general sense of serene contentment. I like to do this on Sunday afternoons and view it as a kind of battle preparation for the week ahead. Clearing a lengthy to-do list makes me feel cheerful; not to mention that during the week, I'm thanking myself for having tackled certain chores when I had the time.

    So to put it in a nutshell, it may help to assign a sort of meta-purpose to tasks you don't like doing.

  4. #4
    creator kali's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Resonance View Post
    I have another big tangle of thoughts to comb out and you people seem like the perfect audience.

    As introverts, we naturally shy away from frequent, intense stimulation. As a corollary, we end up with fewer/less intense experiences than others.
    Since introverts have little-to-no filter, they tend to have more intense experiences from the same stimuli. Imo introverts are great at learning because only a little bit of information will set off lots of mental activity.

    We kind of need to differentiate intensity of experiences vs novelty of experiences though. Introversion does tend to coincide with avoidant personality, which is what tends to limit ones exposure to novel experiences. The extravert is perpetually bored and seeks novel experiences because it takes a lot to stimulate them. Which is sad for introverts because environmental enrichment is very very beneficial for neurogenesis
    "I fucking hate the cold!" - Wim Hof

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    Quote Originally Posted by Resonance View Post
    As introverts, we naturally shy away from frequent, intense stimulation. As a corollary, we end up with fewer/less intense experiences than others.
    I was talking about that to Sappho the other day and we said that as introverts we just don't get much out of the big gathering of people. I really like talking to people one-to-one. I get intense stimulation from that. I think it's a much better social experience. I think the interaction is more meaningful. I often find that a group of three is two large. I'm not sure how to effectively contribute in that dynamic. I find that when it's three or more, the quality of conversation starts to become more about generic small-talk. I still find myself in larger groups sometimes, because I exist in the world, but I don't tend to play much of a role. I don't think I'm missing out very much, in regards to the stimulation that more extraverted people get from those experiences. I could be wrong. I also think that being better at interacting in larger groups could just be a puzzle I need to spend more time figuring out.

    This reminds me of something that stuck with me from my childhood. Once upon a time, I whined to my dad that I didn't want to do something because it was [i]boring[i]. He countered with a concept from the Tao of Pooh: Pooh bear is always 100% engaged in whatever he is doing, even if it's not something that he enjoys (like getting honey). As such, the wisdom is to find a way to engage with and learn as much as you can, even from the most menial and even irritating tasks. (I think. I was pretty little at the time and may have misunderstood.)

    I didn't know at the time why that was bullshit (cognitive resources are not infinite) so, being unable to refute it, I was forced to accept it as fact and live according to the principle as best I could. I think it was for the better. Even though I find many things boring, like small talk and transportation, I still have a nagging voice in the back of my mind telling me to keep a lookout for things I could learn, to be alert and pay attention to details instead of dozing off or getting antsy like I would naturally tend to. When I do,I feel like I gain an appreciation for the thing that I'm actively observing - a more pleasant state than irritation.

    Do you have, or do you think you could benefit from a rule of maximal engagement? How do you stave off boredom and meniality?
    I think there are some genuinely boring people and it's not worth your time trying to force yourself to find them interesting.

    This isn't really practical advice: but I've found that meeting people through travelling and at hostels is great for increasing your satisfaction from social interactions, and improving your skills there. The people you meet while travelling often have something interesting about them. They're usually excited about something they've seen recently. That all makes it easier. I think you can then get to a point where you figure out what it takes to have a reasonably satisfying conversation with someone, and you could do it with almost anyone. Perhaps more practically, I think that meeting a variety of people is very beneficial. It keeps you interested.

    Regarding small talk: I personally think small talk is fine. It's pretty much just inconsequential sounds in order to satisfy our needs to interact with other people. It's great because it doesn't matter what you say to the other person. You don't need to think too much. Throw in a few casual questions regarding whatever they've into, and they love it. Then they may even be vaguely interested in what you're up to as thanks. And if the conversation is boring, then just find some way to steer it towards something more interesting. We're already awkward introverts, so sometimes it's fun to embrace that and make the conversation a bit unusual in order to make it more interesting.

    Once you've gone through a bit of smalltalk then you should have some more interesting things to talk about if you want. If you're still bored, then I think you should find some better friends. Get to know some people who are interested in similar things.

  6. #6
    Now we know... Asteroids Champion ACow's Avatar
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    I don't think its as simple as living a philosophy of maximum engagement. Just like in the physical context you can't just "exercise everything to its maximum extent by lifting weights 24/7", both because you have to worry about natural opportunity cost, but also because you have the proclivities of body types, the different muscles you focus on, nutrition, rest and recovery, flexibility, technique, experimentation etc.

    The real world is more complicated even than that. Not only is there no quantitative basis by which you can meaningfully compare experiences (which throws problems on the notion of maximisation in the first place), but all human consciousness is experiential, including both the experience of "mental engagement", but also the realms of detachment, tranquility, reflection, analysis, boredom. You do not maximise one without trading off the experience of the others. Yet we must, as humans, in some way choose some of these alternatives over the others. I would reject the notion that what the external world and most of our cultures calls "maximum engagement" is necessarily the right or most valuable thing to focus on. There are infinite depths and dimensions to all our other fixations as well that extroverts miss out on.

    But do not get me wrong, I think there are benefits to focusing some energy on those aspects of weakness presented by your own psyche and conditions and not relying upon falling back on what one finds most naturally comfortable just because one finds comfort and ease there. Adversity, diversity and resilience are muscles to be trained, and the world isn't given over to caring too much about your natural proclivities or preferences. Also, just because you're not naturally given over to the initial barrier presented by something, doesn't mean there aren't interesting things lying on the other side, or syncretised and combined with something else.

    Additionally, as @kali hints, but possibly even more so, not only do we have to differentiate between the intensity of experiences, but the depth, breadth, amplitude, and number of dimensions in those experiences appear to be different between each person. What appears to me to be intense stimulation may be a light flickering to another. Where I see 48 colours and 24 tastes, another may see 2, if that. My experience of hot and cold may be tied to realms of pain or pleasure that another person does not even experience. Even our perceptions of time and space: i don't accept that my brain ticks over at the same base rate or in the same way that others apparently do, and my body and memories inhabit a history and structure that means my experience and perception of the world is fundamentally different to someone who is tall and lanky, short or squat, or whom may have been sexually or physically or emotionally abused in ways that I have not. I have no concept of breasts or vagina, nor of exactly what an amputee, deformed or paraplegic experiences. And while I may pretend that I am a rational person, and am capable of reflecting on the fact that I have recurring sexual feelings, for example, primarily towards members of the human species of the opposite gender, it is an experience I clearly do not share with the majority of the human race, and can find limited rational basis for. Don't even get me started on the experiences of other species...

    In such a world, who am i to proclaim what engagement, boredom and the like even is to people other than myself.

    What I think, from an individual point of view, is that there are certain aspects, attitudes, works, practices that seem to correlate with one another, and which bring forth depths and experiences that I value, and which seem to protect me from those that I do not. One of those is depth and breadth of experience and openness to new experiences. But another is reflection and isolation and peace and detachment. To gain in those though often needs experience and experimentation in other domains one is not usually comfortable with, as well as pushing oneself in those areas, often in ways that are naturally confronting or possibly even in their opposite domain. Like a muscle gets stronger through exercise, so too may our tranquility and detatchment get stronger by experiencing and learning and losing things and finding that ok.

    While it is trite, a sage really does see more at the bottom of a well than a fool does from a mountain top. That respect for the infinite depth in all things is another aspect of truth, but so too is the realisation that a finite being cannot give themselves maximally to an infinite world. Engagement without overwhelming. There is depth everywhere, but it is also ok, indeed necessary, to turn away from the aspects of various things. One does not preference or engage in one without denying another.

  7. #7
    schlemiel Faust's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sappho
    You could always ask yourself: "Will I be glad to have done it after it's done?" If the answer is yes, then that's something you should probably do.
    Without consideration for the means there's no reasonable limit. Else I would be simultaneously on my route to being a millionaire business mogul composer software engineer novelist polygamist cult leader.
    "All my heroes are dead" - John Zorn

    "It's not selfish if you hate yourself"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Faust View Post
    Without consideration for the means there's no reasonable limit. Else I would be simultaneously on my route to being a millionaire business mogul composer software engineer novelist polygamist cult leader.
    I was rather thinking of short-term goals, such as doing the dishes, filing your taxes or giving a public speech. But if the above is what you want to do, by all means, do it. Obviously it would help to set priorities first...

  9. #9
    schlemiel Faust's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sappho View Post
    I was rather thinking of short-term goals, such as doing the dishes, filing your taxes or giving a public speech. But if the above is what you want to do, by all means, do it. Obviously it would help to set priorities first...
    you're right of course, I do the same with chores.
    "All my heroes are dead" - John Zorn

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  10. #10
    Sysop Ptah's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Resonance View Post

    Do you have, or do you think you could benefit from a rule of maximal engagement? How do you stave off boredom and meniality?
    No and no. Imagination.

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