Monday, March 18, 2013

Self awareness - not feeling social

Not feeling social means to me that I'm tired of empathy, of sympathy, of listening. As rewarding as it is, sometimes I'm just DONE. I need to be in my own head.

This is a selfish place to be but it's also a comfortable, easy place. Like a favorite chair, well used in all the best spots.

This is, however, the worst place to be when I need to be social, for family or friends or work. I don't want to get out of that easy chair. And when I force myself out I can be mean to those around me. Resentful is probably a better word, since it reminds me of the behavior I see in my kids when I tell them to stop doing something. So consciously, I know that it's completely childish and yet I still do it.

Which is not the best thing!

So I guess acting this way is kind of like when I eat a lot of chocolate. It feels good to do but is not good for me. Mmmmm chocolate.

Thankfully for me (and for my family, friends and co-workers) these feelings often pass quickly. So my takeaway from this is to just ride it out. Once the feeling passes I'll be back to my old self again.

Another takeaway is if I see myself acting angry or resentful and there doesn't seem to be anything behind it, it means I probably just need some me-alone-time.

What do you do when you want to be alone? How do you feel?



Wire said...

Sometimes a person needs alone time. I don't think that's bad or a problem.

Anonymous said...

usually I feel this way when I am exhausted and stressed out from work. Rest helps. Being left alone helps.

Heather said...

I definitely need alone-time/quiet-time, and try to be aware of it and make it happen - at work I have an office with a door, and sometimes I just need to close it; sometimes at home I just need to go to another room. Because, yeah, there are times when I feel like I just can't be patient or kind. A lot of the time when I need alone-time I feel sensorily overstimulated, like things I can normally tune out or not be bothered by are impossible to ignore/extremely grating - someone else's fidgeting, or noisy eating, or whatever.

Quaker meeting has been really really good for me lately, though, in terms of starting the week off in a good place. There is something about sitting in a room silently with other people that is just incredible to me - it makes me intensely aware of everyone's personhood and interiority, and I feel like I can bring that awareness with me out of meeting and into my daily life, riding the subway or waiting on line or whatever.

judy said...

Your description of being social ["Not feeling social means to me that I'm tired of empathy, of sympathy, of listening. As rewarding as it is, sometimes I'm just DONE."] sounds to me like a huge amount of work. Perhaps you are trying too hard; being social should be mostly for your own pleasure (except when a friend has a crisis, etc.). If you don’t feel empathetic with someone, perhaps the relationship should just not be a close one. That doesn’t preclude socializing with that person, just that it is a less intense interaction.

I personally love being alone, perhaps need it more than most people. I spend the majority of my time, by choice, doing things or going places alone. When I’m with someone very close (husband in the past, family) I feel comfortable being inside myself reading, thinking, in a different room. I don’t think it is selfish; it is just the way I am. I'm social when I want to be – but not by trying to be empathetic or sympathetic, but by sharing activities, jokes, stories, experiences, laughter, and just letting people talk to me about what they want. I can participate by just listening. Commenting when I feel like but with no obligation.

Most people want you to listen to them and be genuinely interested in what they are telling you, but not the way you describe it. Just accepting of who they are, how they live, and what they are telling you. If you try too hard for empathy/sympathy/understanding it may make the interchange too intense, demanding, and even judgmental in a way (by reacting to all they say instead of just accepting it as normal).

When I worked in an office, I worked, and socialized only when I felt like it. My door was always open, but if I didn't want too long a conversation, I said I had work to do. Ate lunch while reading a book - nobody minded. Everyone was different and needed different amounts of alone time, even when not actively working.

Now, when I don't feel social, I cancel lunch/dinner engagements (& I've learned over the years how many/how often I want to plan them for). If I can't cancel, I just relax and let other people do the talking and just listen. At family gatherings, I get all “socialled out” after a while, so I listen to people in a group, or read a magazine in a corner, or take a nap. Then I get my second wind and enjoy everyone again.

My advice – relax with who you are, be alone when you need it, don't feel guilty about it, it isn't being selfish. Don’t feel you have to be close or feel empathy for everyone you meet.

susan thom said...

hi janet,
for me, when i need some alone time, i go up to my room, close the door, and either email some friends, write an article for, which i have been doing for 7 years this april, or take a nice bath, or simply take a nap, or watch something on my computer or tv. i just need to regroup, and be alone for a time. sometimes, i just want to feel better by accomplishing something, so i do a load of laundry, or change my bedding, or get stains out of the rug, polish the furniture, and once i feel that i've done something worthwhile, i can rejoin the downstairs :)
for this reason, i have my computer in my sitting room, and have all my favorite knick knacks and pictures displayed throughout both rooms, and i feel cozy and at home. i think some alone time is essential in feeling whole and ready to deal with others.

Janet said...

Wire: I agree!

Heather: It sounds like you and I both like times of peace and quiet. I also like the idea of starting the week with a religious moment.

Judy: It is a huge amount of work, and so is writing this blog. Still I feel passionate about doing this and wouldn't stop this practice for anything. I don't personally consider being social as something I do solely for pleasure. I consider being social something that helps me be a better person.

Sue: That sounds like some great ways to be alone. I'm a big fan of knick knacks in my personal space too.