Trauma: The Introvert and the Extrovert
The experiences you go through and the subsequent choices you make define you. Actions that are repeated strengthen neural pathways, and they can become habits that you then default to.
It is left to debate whether someone is inclined to be an introvert or an extrovert at birth. The culture and the society you grow up in, and the character of your parents and siblings, certainly play a role.
Apart from those influences mentioned above, I think our particular traumatic experiences “cement” our pathway towards becoming an introvert or extrovert.
I will go into HOW that happens a bit later.
Childhood Trauma, Child Abuse and the Combinations of the Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Please Responses
You adapt to your environment as best as you can in order to survive. Adaptation is both a human strength, as it secures survival, and a weakness, as it can keep you stuck in survival mode, which prevents you from thriving.
A default survival pattern is almost always built up by a combination of either fight, flight, freeze or please.
You might be someone who, when under stress, chooses to escape (flight) the situation first and when that doesn’t work you will try to please the person involved in the situation in order to avoid further stress or possible conflict. When flight followed by pleasing still doesn’t work for you, you might go into a shutdown response (freeze) and hope to wait out the danger.
Someone else, when challenged, might first respond by being aggressive or argumentative (fight), followed by trying to get away from the situation (flight) and further on, when the stress continues, go into a freeze response. Becoming indifferent, apathetic, or depressed can be part of a freeze response.
You will have a primary default pattern you reenact in stressful situations, and that very pattern was perfected in childhood when you dealt with a traumatic environment because it seemingly worked at the time.
Think adaptation and survival once more.
Survival Strategies of Fight, Flight, Freeze or Please and How They Contribute to Formation of the Introvert or the Extrovert
How you respond, in terms of fight, flight, freeze or please, will contribute to your either becoming an introvert or an extrovert.
The best way to illustrate this is with the following three examples. Keep in mind that there are many possible variations, but for the sake of the length of this article, I have described only a few.
Jim is an extrovert. He gets his energy and self-validation from being around others and is always actively participating in social events. Jim grew up in a large family of seven siblings where, if you wanted something, you needed to raise your voice or fight for it. His family discouraged the children from spending too much time alone as doing so was seen as failing to contribute to the family household in any beneficial way, which made one more reason for Jim to always be around others. When raising his voice or fighting didn’t work, Jim would resort to pleasing his parents or siblings to get what he wanted.
Joe is more of an introvert. He recharges his energy when he is by himself and feels that he can keep his boundaries more intact. Being around others too long fatigues him, and he gets bored by others quickly. Joe’s parents wanted him to be a model son with high grades at school, a good job, marriage, and children. To deal with his parent’s pressure he tried avoiding (flight) them as much as he could by locking himself up in his room, and when that didn’t work, he would pretend to do what his parents wished of him (pleasing).
Jane is an introvert. Severely physically, psychologically and sexually abused in childhood, she prefers the safety of her own company. People and places trigger her easily, and isolating herself seem to be her way of dealing with her pain and surviving emotionally. Jane defaulted to flight where she could as a child, followed by fight, before going into shutdown (freeze) response when possible.
You can see from these three examples how the introvert or extrovert can come into being.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert and what is your main fight, flight, freeze or please pattern? Leave your comments below.