Soapbox Therapy: Rollercoaster Ryan and the Introverted Extrovert

Ryan is normally the life of the party, but some nights he calls it off, stays in alone to dick around on the internet or play video games, and then feels anti-social and guilty for ditching his friends. Is something up? Our expert Brooke weighs in.

Dear Brooke,

I have a lot of friends. People tend to like me, and I’m very outgoing and charismatic in social situations. But every now and then, I just want to be left alone and do anti-social stuff like surf the internet or play video games for a while.

Nobody bothers be during this time, and even though that’s what I wanted, I start to feel like nobody misses me. Obviously, that’s not the case, but I can’t help but feel a little down. Then I hang out with some friends, feel better, and it starts all over again.

Am I crazy, or is this normal?

Signed,
Rollercoaster Ryan

Dear R.R.

First of all, what an amazing guy you are for even thinking to write in with this question. You’re thinking about things and being curious about yourself…congratulations on being conscientious and self-aware, I love it.

That being said, let’s do this thing…

First and foremost let me give you the simple answer to your question…yes, this is normal. You are normal. Like, normal normal. (What is normal anyway…but that’s a whole other topic)

Don’t you feel better already? Want more explanation? You got it…

So this question isn’t actually a question about being “anti-social” as you called it. “Anti-social” is a word filled to the rim, in this context, with judgment. By using that word to describe your wanting to spend some time alone once in a while you’re not only saying there’s something wrong with it…but you’re saying there’s something wrong with you. That massive judgment leads you to a place where you start to wonder if others are wondering about you or criticizing you or thinking about you, or or or… exhausting, absolutely exhausting.

You, my darling R.R., are fabulous at beating yourself up…so let’s take care of that right now. We are officially tossing the totally unhelpful term “anti-social” out the window. We’re done with it. It’s a crappy word that need not be used to describe your much deserved alone time. OK? OK, moving on…

When it comes down to it, your question is really one about being introverted or extroverted. So appropriately, I’d like to give you a little tutorial on introverts vs. extroverts, à la Brooke.

Commonly, introverts are described as people who like to be alone and are not super outgoing, and extroverts are described as people who are extremely social and communicative. In addition, we tend to think we have to only be one or the other.

I, on the other hand, would describe an extrovert as someone who recharges their battery by being with others, and an introvert as a person who recharges their battery by spending time alone.

In addition, I think as human beings we deserve to give ourselves a little more credit…a lot of people have both introverted and extroverted ways of being in the world, and you are one of those people.

It seems like your amazing and healthy balance between introversion and extroversion is confusing you a bit darlin’.  You’re the kind of guy who can be recharged by hanging out with others, and depending on the day, your inner battery wants to chill alone to revitalize.  Both are healthy options that deserve your attention.

Here’s my advice: Befriend your inner introvert. Drop the judgment and know that you’re a guy with the gift of balance…if you decide to take it. You enjoy spending time with other people and congratulations, you also enjoy spending time with yourself! Healthy guy, I must say.

If your introverted self is asking you to pay attention, respectfully engage him.  Let your friends know you have plans, turn off your phone, and actively participate. Add some additional activities to your introverted-inventory like reading, napping, listening to music, etc. Begin to see your introverted time as a part of your balanced and personal self-care routine, making you a stronger, more well-rounded (and well-rested) person.

Thanks for you,

Brooke.

PS: There are a bunch of online tests including Myers-Briggs that you can take to find out more about your personality type including introverted and extroverted tendencies. This one is free and quick…

*Disclaimer: Brooke cannot respond to every question asked, nor should her responses be considered professional medical advice.
Brooke received her Masters Degree in counseling psychology and is an MFTI (registered marriage and family therapist intern) working towards licensure in CA. Soapbox Therapy/Primer Magazine is not part of the licensing process and should not be considered psychotherapy. Soapbox Therapy/Primer Magaizine is commentary and advice based on Brooke’s personal opinions and insight and should be regarded as such. Soapbox Therapy/Primer Magazine is in no way related to or reflective of the opinions or insight of Brooke’s private practice supervisor, Cynthia Hoffman LMFT.

Born in Detroit and raised in Chicago, Brooke Miller, MA is now a San Francisco based advice columnist and relationship expert. Her column, Soapbox Therapy, has been called “ Raw, honest, thought-provoking, and wisely witty” by readers and critics and can be read in several publications including The SF Chronicle’ s affiliate, TheIsCollection, and Cheeky Chicago. Brooke supports clients all over the country via Skype and phone coaching sessions. She can be contacted at brooke(a)primermagazine.com.