It's Difficult To Practice Self-Isolation In A System That Throughout Our Lives Trains Us To Be Extroverts

It's Difficult To Practice Self-Isolation In A System That Throughout Our Lives Trains Us To Be Extroverts
Can we practice self-isolation not to feel lonely but to enjoy the solitude, writes Hira Shah.

Seldom are we forced to unlearn what we have spent years learning; only rarely are we expected to do the opposite of what we have been taught. Students, throughout the early period of their lives, are instructed to socialize, make friends, and shake hands during get-togethers. They are marked based on their class participation and are labelled shy if they fail to participate. Now, the same students are being told to self-isolate, and avoid public spaces. Social distancing is easier for some but quite difficult for others. The real challenge here is to unlearn what took years to learn.

Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist once wrote, “Each person seems to be energized more by either the external world (extroversion) or the internal world (introversion).”

The struggle for the extroverts is real. They are feeling bored and lonely. Instead of making the best out of the present, they are missing how things were and are planning for the time when things will be the way they were. They can’t be at peace with being locked inside their homes, unlike the introverts who are contemplating, reading, writing and are enjoying their own company.

Andrea Kluth, a member of Bloomberg’s editorial board, writes in one of his articles, “The definitions of these personality types, which originated in the work of Carl Jung, have nothing to do with being shy or being a leader. Instead, the difference lies in what, cognitively, somebody finds stimulating as opposed to exhausting. Extroverts need other people and their chitchat to get energy. Introverts are the opposite. They’re drained by the random noise of small talk, fatigued by the fluid kinetics of a cocktail party, dazed by people speaking before they think in allegedly creative brainstorming sessions. To recharge their batteries, introverts need to be alone, or with a few people whom they know intimately.”

Susan Cain, author of Quiet Power writes, ‘Extroverts and introverts are yin and yang - we love and need each other.”

As the pandemic gets worse, social distancing is being seen as one of the do-it-yourself antidotes against COVID-19. Yet the phenomenon is appalling for the extroverts and liberating for the introverts. As Susan Cain writes in her book ‘Quiet Power’, “not that introverts are anti-social but are differently social.” So what needs to be taken into account here is the fact that being at home too can lead to social interactions which can be the same in spirit but different in practice. Knowing there is always light at the end of the tunnel, we’ve to devise ways to enjoy our time in the tunnel. We are quite familiar with the phrase, ‘Survival of the fittest’ and can relate with the idea of being adaptive which is much necessary and relevant in contemporary times.

If you’re still wondering why it is hard for people to stay at home, then perhaps you need to understand that the problem is neither with the people nor their brains but with the system that throughout our lives trains us to be extroverts, not only in practice but in spirit as well.

It does not give us the power or control to switch swiftly between both like an ambivert (according to the need of the hour). Precisely, being an ambivert is to be astute enough to know when to be ‘who’ – fish in the water or monkey on the tree!

Take a moment and think, can we try being social while maintaining social distance? Can we practice self-isolation not to feel lonely but to enjoy the solitude? Can’t we wait for the storm to pass so that we can again unleash our extrovert powers?