Marlon Brando: “Most people are simply getting over bad emotional habits established in the first ten years of their life.”
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I sometimes wonder about the relationship between introversion/extroversion and childhood.
I’m an introvert. I’m not at all shy. I’ll talk to anybody, anytime. I’ve done television, radio, and years in classrooms, kids and adults. Longest classes I ever taught were six hours a day every day of the week, college level. Not a hint of stage fright.
Just in case you made that most common of assumptions about introverts.
But I am, in fact, an introvert. If there’s not a “reason” to speak (say, a classroom situation), I tend to be silent. I don’t share what comes to mind. In fact, it’s as though sharing and coming to mind are in different parts of my brain. When things come to mind, sharing is the farthest thing from my mind. When I’m ordered to share, absolutely nothing comes to mind.
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I wasn’t always this way.
In fact, as I child, I was the exact opposite. I externalized everything. I was like a Tourette’s robot. Anything that entered my mind left immediately via my mouth and limbs, with gusto and joi de vivre.
All of this was, however, much to the chagrin of my parents, who absolutely could not cope with it. I was chastised heavily and continuously for years for not being calm and quiet.
And now—I am calm and quiet.
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Of course, now that I’m in adulthood, this doesn’t serve me well. People want to be able to carry on a conversation, make smalltalk about things that are not Functional Matters At Hand. I find it impossible to do this. Everything that issues forth is now, without fail, task-oriented.
Strangely, I can write about this and that all day. I just can’t speak about it, particularly if near someone else. When others are near, “this and that” simply disappears from my mind. No fear. No shyness. Just blank slate, tabula rasa apart from utilitarian exchanges. It’s as though there’s a wall between my speech and thought centers that simply cannot be breached.
I sit in silent envy as others do the “Oh, did I tell you what happened to me yesterday?” performance. Because I simply can’t do it. Write? Yes. Speak one-on-one? No.
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Would I have been this way by adulthood regardless, or does this result from an entire childhood of being told to Be Quiet For God’s Sake And Stop Talking About Nonsense For Just One Minute Please?
It makes me want to say: Be careful what you wish for. You might not get your silent child in time to have a quiet evening, but I wonder if you’ll end up with a silent adult child that will never, ever share with you about their day—despite your wishing they’d tell you, now that they live a completely separate life.