Silent battles: Toxic patterns in the lives of introverts
How toxic patterns develop in introverts and what impacts do they have in their lives
Being an introvert, I cannot stand too much interaction, people, or activities around me for a prolonged time. It’s hard for me to be the center of attention or mingle with too many people at once.
To be specific, I’m an INTJ in the Myers-Briggs Test Indicator types. If you’re interested to know more about it, you can look here.
I’m a sucker for a quiet, peaceful life with a lot of intellectual pursuits and creative works. For the same reason, I’ve tried to build most of my significant relationships with introverts.
There is a certain safety that introverts provide with their private and low-key interactions and connections. They prefer a drama-free relationship.
It’s all about escaping into our world of mutual interests, having logical conversations, and learning new things together in the relationship and so on, a luxury many other personality types don’t even care about (Here, I’m using MBTI personality type references).
Idealizing introverted intuitive personalities
Without overlooking the fact that silent self-absorbed people are considered weird and difficult in the standard social norms, there’s also a mystical admiration for intuitive people who are intelligent, creative, and eccentric.
I too had a very misguided notion that introverted intuitive personalities were all thoughtful, warm, and empathetic by nature. Whenever we read about these personality types, we get the picture of calm, intelligent, and self-aware people who are reserved and diligent.
It was only from actual interaction with many introverted intuitive that I realized how biased and generalized these prevalent descriptions were.
The truth is, introverted intuitive personalities also have a dark side, something that is toxic, destructive, and often aggressive. This has been apparent from many relationships I had with them.
The catch is that the toxicity and aggression are of a silent and cold nature, with sudden outbursts or abrupt door slams that no one can predict coming.
Toxicity in introverted personalities
I am basing this article on Myers-Briggs Test Indicator (MBTI) personality types. If you don’t know about them, you can check here.
Toxicity in individuals is a result of underdeveloped cognitive, emotional, or mental functions, or dysfunctional coping mechanisms to various kinds of stressors in life. Like any other personality type, introverts are also prone to under-development in different areas of their psyche.
I’d argue that introverts have a greater risk of developing toxic characteristics, simply because our societies are geared towards seeking external pleasures and extroversion, making the introverts conflicted about navigating life.
Introverts are shunned as shy and awkward, misunderstood and neglected in modern societies. This creates patterns of isolation and lack of exposure, closing them down further.
It affects an introvert’s thought-action repertoire, as in, we do not gain skills and experiences needed to live a healthy life. Rather, we develop toxic and dysfunctional mechanisms of dealing with different challenges or opportunities that come our way.
This is especially true in the case of interpersonal relationships. Introverts prefer fewer interactions and connections, and that converts to lesser experience and knowledge regarding them.
How does it affect introverts?
They close down.
Introverts often have to come out of their comfort zones to interact in many social situations. But when conflicts arise in them, the first response of an introvert would be to close down and avoid any contact with the people they have an issue with.
It makes them cold and detached at best; sometimes introverts use silent treatments as a method to gain control over the interaction.
Though it is a temporary escape from the issue or challenge, the introvert shutting out people doesn’t realize that they may be losing out on more important things or meaningful connections they wanted to continue.
Also, because we assume conflicts and challenges are obstacles as opposed to opportunities for more growth and avoid them, we lose out on important personal experiences and exposure that would ultimately make us better human beings.
They suffer internally and alone.
Because of the natural tendency of an introvert to withdraw and emote in private or alone, we suffer alone as well. Most introverts struggle to show their emotions and it’s especially hard when the circumstance requires them to be vulnerable before others to express sadness or loneliness.
As a result, we suffer alone and spiral down the depressing path, creating a need to isolate ourselves more. It can turn into a vicious cycle of isolation and more internal suffering that stops only when the person takes a conscious effort to come out of it.
Dependence and addictions
Introverts become dependent on substances, behaviors, or people for two reasons.
- One, to increase interactions.
- Two, to cope with loneliness and depression.
By finding common grounds or interests, introverts can maintain relationships. But as the relationship is based on a common thing, they can also get hooked on it.
Take gaming for example.
Many odd people bond over gaming. They satisfy multiple psychological needs through it. They could be engagement, pleasure, connecting with others, or even flexing their creativity.
If an introvert finds it difficult to fulfill any of these outside the gaming circle, they will become dependent on it.
This is true for all types of addictions.
Secondly, introverts become hooked to many addictive behaviors because they are lonely, as a result of their inability to form meaningful connections. The substance or behavior of choice becomes their only escapade or leisure, thus becoming dependent on it.
Workaholism, substance abuse, people addiction, food addiction, work-out addiction are all examples of it.
These are some of the ways in which introverts cope with the lack of exposure and meaningful interactions in their lives. There could be many more. If you can think of some other pattern or behavior introverted people adopt to cope with lack of interactions and exposure, please let us know in the comments!
As a result of these toxic patterns, they lose relationships, families, and friends. They become isolated, but often they don’t recognize or understand the emotional or interpersonal loss resulting from their patterns.
They tend to understand them logically and without considering their emotional aspects. That way, they fail to arrive at helpful solutions to their loneliness and isolation.
They dismiss healthy fulfilling connections as too clingy, weak, or threats to their independence and individuality.
What introverts need to understand is that they are not logical intelligent machines. They are as human as anyone else, with emotional and relational needs like anyone else.
Relationships enhance our lives
Introversion is a basic personality style characterized by a preference for the inner life of the mind over the outer world of other people. Introverts enjoy solitude and quiet spaces but it doesn’t mean introverts can lead fulfilling lives in complete isolation or with poor interpersonal skills.
Our personal space is important but so are interpersonal connections.
It can be difficult for introverts as our first response is to withdraw and solve things on our own. It is great to be self-reliant and capable of dealing with life alone. But only by finding meaningful connections and experiences can we have a fulfilled and happy life.
It takes love, family, friends, and exposure to the entirety of worldly affairs to have an all-rounded life.
In my next article, I’ll discuss the aggressive tactics introverts use in conflict. Stay tuned for it.
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