Introvert Survival in the Big City?

For the last couple of years, my mission and lifestyle has led me to live in a major city.  Many key aspects make this place ideal to my purposes, the simplicity of public transportation, more jobs, the wide representation of unorthodox social circles I couldn’t find elsewhere, the protective anonymity living among millions…
Yet it’s also a place that wears me down.

There are crowds and noise everywhere and often there’s no escaping it for most of the day.
At the end of the day, the clamor of voices, rumble of construction, armies of cars, the odor of rancid people grease in that press of bodies still fills my senses like the slow-fading blindness after a bright light.
Oddly, one person restrooms seem to be the only possible sanctuary, a few quiet minutes in a day.

I realized one day that if there was a city with lots of introverts, there’d be something like coffee shops on every street corner, but with soundproof, dimly-lighted stalls.  Each stall might have some small windows, but only if its occupant lifted a slat to have a peek at events outside.
It would be pretty easy to have dozens of them lining the center and walls of a small indoor space.  Or why not even have them on the sidewalks, taking up little more space than a peanut stand?
You’d buy some coffee to get a key to one or rent one out at a low rate.

I’m supposing there might be a computer inside, or even a comfy chair that permits reclining.

I imagine you could turn the lights out, and let your overloaded senses recover in silence and pitch black if you wanted to.

It wouldn’t seem too much to have some speakers in each stall to play some ocean or rain sounds…

I’m just imagining, but I know if there were hordes of other people who felt like me, certain, goods, services, and customs would naturally manifest.
Their non-existence attests to the rarity and powerlessness of my kind.
After all, how do most people feel when they go to a foreign city where they can’t eat the foods they like, shop at the stores they’re used to, or observe the customs they know—because no one else there has those same preferences.  Often they become indignant and recoil as if insulted.
How must it feel to look around and see a city built and populated by people like you?  To think: “This is mine.  It belongs to my kind.”

One of the challenges of being an introvert, is every day, you’re hit in the face with how nothing in society reflects your needs—and no one cares.  It’s as if it were all run and set up by some alien species and you just try to accept existence in their hive fortresses as best you can always feeling something is missing; that you’re very far away from some home you dream of but have never seen.

Introverts, Atheism, and Nihilism

There’s an enemy anyone given to prolonged thought has to face.

Sooner or later the question of purpose and meaning looms like a wall.

If all is wiped away when we die, what is the point?  Is life worth it, or just a cruel joke?

Time and again I’ve heard smart Christians present an unmoved mover, a first cause outside of time, as “proof” of a specifically Christian God.

All this really tells us is this universe had to be started from a cause outside the rules that govern our universe.  If that means God, at best we can assume a Spinozan God that’s more of a force of nature than a human personality directly involved in our lives.  And an afterlife or reincarnation?  I can think of no reason to assume such a thing is true.
It makes the most sense to assume this is our one chance since we do not know otherwise.

It’s easy to fall into the trap that atheism is the “rational” approach while anyone religious is simply deluding themselves.  It seems at first to make sense.

But then you have to live your life by the values you have chosen…

Atheist “humanists” like to point out that lack of religion doesn’t cause them to go out and start randomly being evil.  They often live by a moral code.

The trouble is that strong atheism must reduce to nihilism.  One cannot hold moral values if one explicitly believes in a universe without purpose or meaning.  Nothing can be good or bad in such a universe.  Strangling puppies is no better or worse than winning the lottery.  Life is no better than death.

Here, the supreme irony of moral atheists becomes clear.  Despite professing atheism they mostly continue to stick to Judeo-Christian moral laws.  They don’t practice what they preach…because if they did, it would destroy them.

The interesting thing is one cannot be an atheist…at least not for real.  I was inspired to make this post when a reader named luciferslibrarian asked me this:

So I am curious – you mention that you have used philosophy to arrive at meaning. I am an introvert whose biggest problem has always been that I don’t see meaning in anything. The older I get, the worse it gets. When I was younger, I was far more motivated and creative; driven even. Now I find getting started on the smallest tasks almost insurmountable, because I don’t see the point. Most people I know take solace and find meaning in friends and family, but as an introvert with a less than stellar relationship with my family, the social path is not really for me. I also know that toiling in obscurity for some higher purpose is kind of a pipe dream. Can you shed any light?

I replied:

Yes! The biggest problem we have to face is the challenge presented by the yawning nothing of nihilism.

I approach it something like this:

The adoption of nihilism is pretty much guaranteed to destroy civilizations and hamper the progress of individuals, to trick them into living a directionless cursed half life until they finally die.

Nihilism seems to make sense based on what we know, but if we implement it, it’s unquestionably destructive.
As I see it, living by nihilism is against the observable laws of our universe. It doesn’t work. In this sense it is objectively false.

Also, even nihilists don’t really truly act on nihilism. The logical thing to do if you’re a nihilist is to be unaware of the problem of nihilism. That knowledge only causes pain and dissonance and even if it’s the truth, who cares if it has no meaning anyway. Better to be like an insect in the field playing out its role as a biomachine, never doubting.

You can’t even be a conscious nihilist or atheist and really be consistent!

If nothing has meaning, we might as well kill ourselves, start a party binge to drown out the knowledge of our fundamental irrelevance, or have some of our brain removed to remove the pain inflicted by ennui.
Yet no one does the logical thing…

A self professed strong atheist or nihilist is a liar. They clearly continue to believe in some kind of meaning or higher purpose. They can say what they want, but what they do says it all.

Since meaning is a law of existence for a sentient being, we might as well either completely accept that or self destruct.

Faced with a choice…I chose meaning.

At least I chose to follow meaning.  It’s a battle that never ends for a person of awareness.  That creeping feeling of pointlessness and despair is an adversary that’s always there, waiting for an opening.  It’s the price we must pay to be aware.

It’s a fearful thing to face and those who can avoid it through distractions usually do.

I’ve spent some time just thinking about this post, because I know from experience, there’s few greater threats to an introvert’s life than the triumph of meaninglessness within.

Often isolated, without any sources of fulfillment in the material world, many of us don’t make it.  I am convinced that confronting the problem of nihilism is something that can save lives.  Asking those questions without a doubt played a huge role in saving my life.

Far from a dramatic conversion to orthodox religion, I’ve come to see things in a way that diverges from both atheists and theists.

Consulting both reason and my intuition, I’ve long since come to conceive of “God” as something closer to that Spinozan force of nature.  It doesn’t have a mind or personality exactly nor is it remotely human.

Logically, the best way to understand its nature is to observe nature’s workings.

For the most part, it seems to be an impartial thing, but it does establish certain laws that govern our universe…

For years after having rejected strong atheism I was vexed.

Many having gone through the same process as I did become religious.

But all my life I had marveled how absolute morality legislated by a deity tends to lead to hypocrisy and ambiguity in interpretation.

What’s more, “absolute” morals often backfire when “good” people restrain themselves and others happily take advantage of them.

If religious moral law isn’t consistent with observable reality, then atheists with their satirical Flying Spaghetti Monster make an excellent point.  If God’s law turns out to be arbitrary in implementation, the 11th commandment might as well be Thou Shalt Not Tie Thy Shoes.
We’re left with an absurd nothing that reduces to Nihilism!  Orthodox religions need an afterlife to “solve” this problem!

So a key requirement of a life-preserving belief system for a thoughtful person is that it must make sense within observable reality…

At this point, Taoism with its ‘Way’ provided some key inspiration.

There are observable laws of the universe that move us along effortlessly when we follow them and crush us when we fight them.

We see this everywhere in the natural world and in our lives as human beings.

From this perspective, lack of meaning simply violates a timeless law.

If we must either hold to purpose or perish, it is clear what we must do…
Meaning becomes effectively self-evident because we cannot exist without it!

Since finding a way to help nullify the threat of nihilism I’ve since used this basic premise to create the values I live by.  It has served as a genuine map telling me what I ought to do next rather than being a burdensome absolute law that spites the nature of reality in hopes of a better hereafter.

Extrovert Critic: “You can’t judge a book by its cover!”

Most plugged in people will tell you, “You can’t judge someone!” but anyone with a Subtle predisposition has always seen the hyprocrisy behind such sentiment.

Countless times we’ve seen the very same people turn around and judge in the next instant by appearance, dress, ethnicity, walk, talk, music, hobbies, sports, food…you name it.

One has to conclude they are simply oblivious and do not know themselves to be able say such silly things.

One with a degree of self-awareness understands it’s simply human to judge, and the better we get at consciously reading certain signs, the less arbitrary and more accurate such readings become.

In the ‘Highlander’ TV shows and movies, two immortals can instantly sense each other’s presence when they enter a room, even if there’s a crowd.

Over the years, I’ve come to understand it’s exactly the same with different types people.

I have an old saying “Every breed knows its own.”

Any place where people gather whether a profession, a hobby, or a bar tends to attract a particular breed.
And once a certain breed achieves a critical mass, it penalizes incompatible types and promotes the like-minded.

Such are people.

One can understand the way of the world and work with it or ignore it and mask the truth with popular platitudes.

This is especially important for someone of a minority breed, an introvert outsider who enters nearly every group setting at a major disadvantage, faced with loyalty tests and traps meant to weed them out.

Life as one of an outcast breed is precarious.  Judging who can be trusted and who is compatible becomes even more important.

For years, to my great detriment, I was handicapped by the common platitudes.  All that misdirection has little real effect most people’s behavior because their actions are mostly guided by instinct.
But for someone of awareness, such falsehoods can be devastating.

I ended up not judging time and again growing up when I absolutely should have!
Only after years did I begin to understand that everything I’d ever been told was a lie!

Finally, I learned to become gradually more shrewd about sizing people up.

Before overall appearance, ethnicity, age, anything else there are far more important things to pay attention to.

First is body language.

Subtle people, are often divorced from their bodies, but spiritually quite aware.  This makes for a distinct demeanor…often stiff and deliberate, a certain presence, a detached dignity.  It comes across as cold, robotic, haughty, very unpleasant to “well-adjusted” people.

They never walk into a room with a smile.  First they observe.

They don’t smile for most photos, but they do regard the camera with a frank and intimate gaze that reveals their character.

One cannot exaggerate the importance of the eyes:

People of the outcaste breeds have what I call spirit or dream eyes, because there’s a light of awareness, a certain type of awareness that I don’t see in most people’s eyes.

As a high school freshman, a name sprung into my head as I observed people passing by during lunch or walking to my next class:  In my mind but never aloud I called them “The Dog-Eyed.”  There was emotion and personality in their eyes, but none of “the awareness.”
Back then I just felt something was horribly wrong, I was totally isolated, but didn’t remotely understand I had to actively judge to find friends and allies in this world.

Now, it seems I can get at least strong hints of breeds and predispositions even just looking at pairs of eyes in a crowd.  And when I have a chance to get to know more about someone, my first impression is less and less often wrong.  Patterns we’re not supposed to see in polite society are all arrayed for our perusal.

As I’ve learned, some people are not “in” their eyes or face, when seeing athletes or anyone who works primarily with their body, often I see an odd emptiness in their visage but quickly sense their energy lies in their torso instead; they talk with their shoulders.  I even find myself returning their gaze to their center and it seems natural enough to them.

It’s not without coincidence that professional athletes and dancers are not also scientists or philosophers.  They live first in their body’s instinct, pretty much the polar opposite of the archetypal thinker.

Another giveaway is how someone talks.
Unusual and unusually varied word choice is very common; all of it contraband smuggled through the blockade of the mass culture.
The introvert often has the same deliberate, stilted, yet dignified manner with their mouth as they have with the rest of their body and there’s no way to hide it, not even when trying to imitate common diction.
I don’t think even language really matters; the “symptoms” are always there.

Introvert Advantages: Avoiding Herd Predators

The problem with mass society is that people are only able to handle 150 or so human relationships, the “Dunbar number.”  Everything goes awry when you let us loose into a mob of millions.

Those who get ahead are those who can understand the abstract concept of a mass society and exploit it.

In a small tribe, it’s obvious if someone is taking more than their fair share.  Our instincts are well honed to detect and counter cheating in face to face relationships.

But what if you have 100 million people and one clever person steals one penny from everyone every day?

This is where most of us fail.

From the first ancient cities to the present, we see a small number of herd predators taking advantage of the rest.
We fawn over technology and inventions trying to hide one big fact: In thousands of years, nothing has changed.

Those who come out on top are Dunbar Hackers who take advantage of people’s tribal instincts.

Introverts, however, have a huge advantage in being much less vulnerable and much more adaptable.

High self-awareness and not being plugged into the normal social channels allows introverts to avoid many of the usual traps.

A Dunbar Hacker profits from predictable human needs.

If no one can do without a place to live, rent will be very expensive.

If you can’t do without going out and socializing, all the social spots will be very expensive.

If you must maximize your social fitness in a competitive society, you must like what’s cool to like and buy what’s cool to have…And you guessed it, things that are cool to have will be very expensive.

In a mass society, we are like arctic seals swimming under the ice.  Eventually we have to come up for air at a predictable breathing hole, and when we do, there’s going to be a hunter waiting to harpoon us.

One of the greatest privileges of being an introvert is we can live our lives mostly under the surface, only sometimes getting harpooned.

Introvert Survival: How to Recover Quickly From Overstimulation

An introvert’s keen sensitivity is the gift that allows for innovation and insight, but in a modern society that just cares about short term results, it is also a potentially fatal vulnerability.  Nobody has the patience for you to reflect or think.  Whatever it is they want, they want it right now.

To survive, we’re all forced to compete against one another in a great gladiatorial arena if we want to have food, shelter or basic acceptance from other humans.

All my life, I’ve had to struggle for enough time and space just to avoid overstimulation.  It’s been a war for survival living among a hostile tribe.

One disadvantage has especially plagued me.  Flighty extroverts have more hours each day to do things!
I require more rest and recharge time.  I require large blocks of free time to do the sort of thinking and reflecting that makes me feel free and alive.

Recently, I endured weeks without free, quiet time and it was chipping away at my sanity until one day I found myself breaking down and was forced to rush home as soon as I could.
“Make it stop!  Just make it stop!” repeated in my head over and over again.  I had to cover myself with a quilt and shut out all stimulation for hours before I could do anything at all.  It was horrible.
For weeks after that, I felt drained, jaded, and tired.  I realized I had to find a solution to be able keep doing the Work that I must do.

I realized I had to find a way to make the best of my rest and sleep time.  I can’t afford a backlog of deferred impressions and experience that never gets resolved until I’m going mad.

After covering myself with the quilt in desperation, I realized why I had covered my face with blankets at night since I was an infant.  And why one of my favorite parts about camping trips as a kid was simply sleeping in sleeping bags that shielded my whole body from sensation.  I just needed to improve my method.

First, I started listening to rain sounds and binaural beats while sleeping which turned out to be a huge step in the right direction but something was still lacking.  I needed a better way of shutting out light and visual sensation.  So I bought a sleep mask and combined it with the headphones or earplugs and the results have been extraordinary.

I now feel like I have a safe bacta tank I can heal up in every night and come out regenerated – for the first time in my life.  I had chronic aches in my molars from grinding my teeth every night for years, and suddenly, they’re gone!
Since I was a small child times and places where I could feel safe and accepted have always been scarce.  Even in sleep, it seems, I was tense, never letting my guard down.

I suddenly have more quality hours in a day than I’ve ever had before.  I’m suddenly able to put in longer periods of effort with less rest in between than I ever could have before.

I’m that much closer to overtaking the extroverted socialites who rule this jungle.

I can’t compete directly with sabre toothed tigers and woolly mammoths, but that is why I must invent arrows and spears first to defend myself, then to surpass them.

The Millennial Introvert

Mass society is a tyrant. It is our duty in life to protect friends and family and to create a good quality of life in the immediate sphere that we can control. Human happiness occurs in spite of, in defiance of the whims of that great mindless hive.

If you are a Millennial like me, the elder generation will always tell you “Do what you want!”, “Follow your passions!” The baby boomers have long harbored a romantic belief that our role in the mass society actually matters to someone and that success is finding “careers” that are “fulfilling” and look cool to other people. Like an Icarian Gatsby, the whole purpose of life is to try to rise in class and impress…who?

For the introvert, this is just about the worst possible advice.
What really matters is to figure out how to have sources of income that won’t completely dry up after the first round of layoffs, to help out the allies who actually care about you. First when survival, then prosperity is secured, that’s when the way is open to “do what you want.”

The mass society doesn’t care about your talents and aspirations. It tells you very clearly what it wants through wages and social status. The mindless tyrant much prefers you be a pro football player or divorce lawyer than an artist or veterinarian.
Our ability and willingness to feed it what it wants determines what we get.

Our job as individuals stranded in this insanity then, is to maximize what we have to offer to gain enough autonomy to accomplish our own goals. Looking to the mass society and its institutions to grant our wishes is silliness.
I try to understand the old cult of the “fulfilling” career, but find myself at a loss. A job is a job.

Change happens fast now and is accelerating; there is no more “career” where you can keep your head down in some cubicle for a few decades like some meek, mediocre little dilbert whittling life away.

The millennial generation has been derided as a bunch of lazy Peter Pans but are they not the realists riding out the storm? If society offers no meaningful incentives why put in any effort beyond the bare minimum?

Though most people are suffering in this new world, it may prove to be a paradise for an odd assortment of introverts, outcasts, and outsiders who never had a chance when the established order was stable, sedate, smugly in place.

Introvert Survival: Basic Protection From Ostracism

Over the years, I’ve learned most of the social skills I missed out on as a kid, but I’ve grown in my own direction and I can’t ever completely hide that.
Being overtly different from the people you meet puts one in danger of ostracism.
Over time I’ve found a few ways to reduce the likelihood of this outcome.

People are psychologically geared to live in small tribes. Whenever we meet strangers, they are not truly people in our eyes.
Thus, the importance of initial impressions.
This is the time in which you are either grouped into the ‘insider’ or ‘outsider’ bin.
Once a person you have met has succeeded in establishing an empathy bond with you, you can begin to gradually relax, but at first, a single misstep can end in ostracism. You have to establish that you’re someone who can be sympathized with.

-Always eat meals with the people you’re living/working with if possible.
Humans instinctually form communal bonds when they eat together.
Eat what they’re eating, even if it tastes horrible, at least for the first few months.
This is the easiest and most effective way not to get ostracized.

-If you are offered some food, a ride, whatever—never refuse, even if you don’t want or need it. Even if the one who offers isn’t your favorite person. To accept is to become a person in their eyes and a member of the community.
Helping others makes people feel good. By extension, they will feel better about you.

When younger, I interpreted what people were saying much more literally. I got in trouble countless times by offending people who were just trying to be nice.

-With members of the opposite sex who are close to your age, never, ever try to ignore them. Both males and females will subconsciously feel rejected, even if there’s no attraction.
Courteous attention and some polite conversation can prevent what could otherwise cause the worst sort of social tensions.
Females especially, are prone to mobilizing all their friends and boyfriends against you if they feel you’ve given them the cold shoulder. And they will nearly always succeed in kicking you out.

This is one of the most common ways I’ve gotten myself ostracized.
Because of the general negative social feedback I got, I didn’t realize until my late teens/early twenties that women found me attractive and were trying to flirt or just trying to feel personally validated by receiving attention from a man they found attractive.

-Keep divergent interests in sci-fi/fantasy, computer games, any unusual hobbies concealed until you’ve known people for a few months. Anything nerdly or out of the ordinary that’s put fragrantly on display right away will cause people to judge you quickly.

-Show familiarity with their favorite brands, TV shows, bands, etc. Go on wikipedia if necessary.
I generally don’t research the group’s belonging tokens online because it’s usually not necessary to achieve the bare minimum of avoiding expulsion. Besides, I don’t want to clutter my mind with that stuff. Worse, one can come across as a douche or a soulless walking encyclopedia if you know the requisite information but clearly aren’t enthusiastic about it.
But wiki-clicking is worth considering if the stakes are particularly high.

-If you see public opinion turning against you, control the damage as best you can and make an exit plan.
Once you’ve overstayed your welcome, things will get ugly.
This one took some years to sink into my head. Socially inept, I would always think that things would just proceed normally, willfully ignoring or missing all the little warning signs that people drop.
I eventually stopped lying to myself and formed an axiom: If you are not seen as part of the group, the group will devise a way to eject you sooner or later. On the instinctual level, you are not a person to them. Beware!

The good news here is you mostly just have to handle the introductory first few months reasonably well. Once people feel that you are an ‘ordinary’ human being they usually won’t begrudge unorthodox habits and interests.
You won’t be everyone’s best buddy, but people will tolerate you and let you live in peace.