BLOG disclaimer: This opinion blog is a reflective crossover as a clinical counsellor AND as someone with a lived experience. I am an introvert, yet as a public communicator have spoken to hundreds of thousands with many assuming I am an extrovert because of my engaging and interactive style. I have experienced diagnosed situational depression and have a lived experience of burnout and resulting PTSD. This is an opinion piece and not a clinical or academic article.
A Reflective Blog – COVID19 and RE:thinking life.
PART A: RE:THINKING ‘SOCIAL DISTANCING’ – A CALL FOR RELATIONAL ENGAGEMENT*.
Three weeks ago, life as we know it changed indefinitely. I would suggest permanently. What was is no more, and what will be is a complete unknown.
What does social distancing* actually mean? For introverts* it’s heaven. For extroverts* it’s hell. The term ‘social distancing’ has been birthed in response to COVID19 pandemic. People are trying to get their head around what it means.
There have been attempts to rename it with many reframing the term ‘social distancing’ to ‘physical distancing*’ or ‘physical distancing and social connection’. As a society, as businesses, as individuals and households we are grappling with physical contact, social contact, with the frequency of contact, the mode of contact and the challenge for many of finding pragmatic ways to relationally connect.
I want to play devil’s advocate for a moment. What if the underlying implication that ‘social distancing’ is somehow a negative or bad thing isn’t true? What if the premise doesn’t apply for all? Is this discussion and reframing being led by extroverts? Is it from people with little personal lived-experience of mental health concerns? Maybe it’s both? Here’s why I’m wondering…
For me, to socialize is to spend time ‘with’ people, connecting and engaging ‘with’ people. Globally we are seeing evidence of those unable to socially isolate or distance – be it because they’re ignorant, indifferent or just idiots is not for me to say. As you might see I have little respect for those unable to heed to global, government and health warnings to stay at home. I digress.
I wonder if we are better to think in terms of relational connection or relational engagement?
Let me share some scenarios and points of perspective as food for thought:
Point 1 – For extroverts needing lots of daily contact with multiple people, then connecting and finding ways to do so when isolating or distancing becomes a challenge. They thrive on the energy of being amongst and with others. Yet for introverts, for those embracing the quiet and not having to see people, to not talk to people, is pure bliss! It’s like they’ve won the lottery of latitude and longitude where being located permanently and indefinitely in their own space is simply sensational.
Point 2 – As a simplistic statement, those who have experienced a depth to life difficulties (aka gone through some shit) tend to find comfort and peace in not having to engage in the small talk or mindless chatter or pointless conversations often associated with social gatherings. They too also embrace this ‘social distancing’. Meaningful conversations can still be had on the phone!
Point 3 – What about those who experience anxiety, or social anxiety specifically? There is a quiet whispering of hallelujah as they rejoice in the blessing of social calm, thrilled to be granted a reprieve from having to participate in social engagements, groups of people and endless parties and work functions that cause distress and lead to a depleting of energy – because it takes so much out of them.
What denotes meaning and intimacy is all about perception.
Bringing into the conversation our universal human need for connection and intimacy at this point is helpful. I’ve long stated that as humans our greatest needs are to be loved, to be needed and to belong. How we connect, when we connect is dependent on our personality, our needs for connection and depth of intimacy.
As I shared the draft of this blog with my friend Imre and we fleshed out individual and collective needs we created this little quadrant – trying to capture and encapsulate the variations of our varying needs for intimacy and connection.
So perhaps out of this COVID19 chaos, we might see a healthier social conversation emerge. One that respects differences, expresses empathy for those not like us, and one that values relational engagement. May extroverts and introvert’s get-together and connect intimately, be it individually or in groups.
May our community conversations go viral, expressing authentic and real-time voices. Whether we are extroverts or introverts, may our individual and collective engagements be rich with meaning, honesty and kindness and may the term ‘social distancing’ be reflected in a variety of social engagements, in person or otherwise.
Please spare a thought for those for whom physical distancing is positive and healthy. Let’s work hard to perpetuate healthy social connection and relational engagement. Let’s ensure we don’t inadvertently send a message of shaming those for whom seclusion and solace brings relief to the soul.
To come: Part B RETHINKING RELATIONAL ENGAGEMENT – Exploring how remote workers and virtual teams can thrive.
Be kind. Be wise.
Sincerely, Brendon (an INFJ)
with expressed thanks for collaborative input from @imrehegedusconsulting
Afterword: if you would like to discuss your support needs at this time, be they personal, parental or professional please send me a note via firstname.lastname@example.org
Clinical Counsellor | Coach | Speaker | Trainer
Introvert: Typically enjoys spending time alone, is reserved, processes internally and works independently.
Extrovert: Typically enjoys spending time with others, is outgoing, likes to process with others and prefers to work with others.
Ambivert: Typically enjoys others though needs alone time, can be outgoing, can process with others or internally and is flexible in working with others and independently. [A hybrid ‘vert’ able to function in interchangeable amounts of alone and social time; where proportional engagement can energise, and disproportional engagement can overload or drain].
Physical Distancing: Distancing oneself from others in terms of day-to-day physical space and location.
Social Distancing: Distancing oneself from others in terms of day-to-day social interactions – in person and online.
Relational Engagement: Connecting oneself with others in an intentional, purposeful/meaningful and mutual way. Choosing to engage relationally – or as my 15yo stepson said: #relatablesocialisation