Introverts and Extroverts Need Tools to Recover From the Trauma of Social Isolation
How the pandemic has impacted introverts and extroverts and the tools they need to recover from…
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The pandemic has had a different impact on introverts and extroverts
I’ve noticed that the pandemic has affected different types of people in very different ways. In particular, how after many months of social isolation, introverts and extroverts demonstrate suffering and recovery in their own unique ways.
Before I go any further, let me explain the difference between extroverts and introverts. Extroverts need to spend a good amount of time with other people. For them, being social is energizing and uplifting.
When an extrovert feels tired or down, they turn to their loved ones in order to recharge their batteries. Extroverts also enjoy their alone time. For an extrovert, too much alone time becomes painful and demoralizing.
Introverts are people who need to spend a good amount of time on their own. For them, excessive socializing can be draining and exhausting. When introverts feel tired or down, they take time alone to recharge their batteries.
Introverts enjoy the company of other people and they’re just as capable of forming close, meaningful relationships as extroverts. It’s just that they need more solitude than extroverts do. A lot more.
Pre-pandemic, both extroverts and introverts were able to achieve a balance of time alone and being social. Once Covid-19 hit, all that changed. Everyone had to contend with months on end of isolation which has affected the introverts and the extroverts quite differently.
Excessive time alone causes introverts to be more withdrawn
I’ve observed that since the pandemic, many introverts have withdrawn more than ever. One reason is that they got so habituated to being alone that they stopped craving human companionship.
Also, for the average introvert, being social is somewhat more challenging than for the average extrovert. All the months of imposed isolation have caused many introverts to lose their social moxie, A.K.A. their social know-how.
It’s like someone who had a serious illness and had to lie in bed for many months without getting up. Their leg muscles would atrophy, and when they were finally allowed to get up, they’d be too weak to walk. They’d have to build up their muscles in order to start walking again.
Getting so used to being alone and losing some of their social skills could result in the introvert not wanting to bother reaching out to others. They could remain alone and of course, the longer they’re alone, the harder it becomes to start connecting with other people again.
Extroverts suffered a lot during the pandemic. Aside from all the other losses, social isolation was almost physically painful to them. For those who followed all the public health guidelines and maintained appropriate social distance, the nearly two years of being around so few people were agonizing.
Extroverts are traumatized by social isolation
They might not realize it but these extroverted individuals were traumatized by all the aloneness. They’re carrying unacknowledged loss, grief, and pain and without realizing it; they’re bringing this emotional baggage from the pandemic into their interactions.
Think of soldiers coming home after experiencing the horrors of war. Even if they haven’t been physically wounded, many are left with PTSD and it starts to affect their behaviour once they’re back at home. It’s similar for extroverts who’ve been through the pandemic.
There’s a psychological phenomenon called “leaking.” When we have unrecognized emotional wounds, we can’t be in touch with our feelings of pain, grief, or hurt. These feelings build up inside us, and like all emotions, they need to be released.
When we’re not expressing these emotions consciously and deliberately, they end up leaking into our day-to-day interactions. What this looks like is someone who’s more irritable, agitated, impatient, weepy, or jumpy. Or they could be less tolerant, understanding, or empathetic.
The leakage will often upset and confuse the people in the extrovert’s social life and could cause them to withdraw, leaving the extrovert alone again. This will further traumatize the extrovert and likely result in more leakage of emotions, creating an unfortunate vicious circle.
Fortunately, there are solutions.
Here are my simple tips for social recovery, post-pandemic.
For the introverts:
Self-discipline: Introverts need to push themselves to start reaching out to others, even if it’s hard to do. They can start with things that are easier, like sending an email or a text, then progress to phone calls and face-to-face online interactions. Finally, they can agree to meet in a safe manner with one close friend or family member and spend some in-person time together.
Self-compassion: Introvert needs to be compassionate with themselves, and not be self-critical if their social skills have backslid a bit. They can remind themselves that the more they practice socializing, the more they’ll get the hang of it and soon enough, they won’t need to force themselves because it will once again be enjoyable to spend time with other people.
For the extroverts:
Self-reflection: Extroverts need to take time to get in touch with the feelings that have arisen within them as a result of all the social isolation and resultant loneliness. They’ll need to do some “inner work,” processing their hurt, grief, and pain. They’ll need to deal with the emotions so that they don’t start leaking when they’re interacting with other people.
Clear communication: They need to talk to the people in their life and explain how hard it has been for them and that they’re not quite themselves these days. By communicating with others, the extroverts ensure that the people around them will be more understanding if there’s any inadvertent leakage and as a result, no-one will be pulling away.
Understanding facilitates healing
Both extroverts and introverts have suffered differently as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Because of this, their paths to recovery are also different. Understanding these differences and identifying which group you belong to will help you to recover more quickly and more fully from any negative psychological impact of the past several months in social isolation.
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