Flourishing with Sensory Processing Sensitivity
I’M LISTENING, STOP LOOKING AT ME: Grumpy’s Reflection on Craving Connection
By Jennifer Mattern
I was wondering if you had any advice for an introvert who loves people but has difficulty making deep connections.
I constantly feel like I am searching for something in others, but I have no idea what that might be. Although it leaves me feeling drained and I’ll need a few days to myself to recover, I can play the extrovert and have no problem meeting new people. I have met quite a few people with whom I share similar interests, but I still feel as if I want something “deeper.”
Do others feel this way? Could it be my sensitivity as an introvert which makes me want to seek out that “something” in others?
I could use some of that Grumpy wisdom.
P.S. I don’t mean that “something” as a lovey-dovey romantic thing.
So, I have a hunch. Not, you know, like Quasimodo. But a big, fat, juicy thought in my belly about your letter.
Maybe, my connection-seeking friend, the problem lies not in other people. Maybe, just maybe, you’re having trouble connecting deeply to yourself.
[Ed. Note: That’s WAY too self-helpy.]
[G.I.: OR IS IT?]
[Ed. Note: What? You can’t just answer with “OR IS IT?”!]
[G.I: OR CAN’T I?]
[Ed. Note: This had better be good.]
It sounds like that introvert soul of yours is hungry. Starving, maybe, for that elusive “something more.” And I do think this is a very common state of mind for many introverts. Our internal world is our primary (and preferred) residence. We’re far less concerned with what’s going on outside of us than what’s going on inside of us. I read a lot of letters from introverts all over the globe. What I’ve discovered is that the introverts of the world seem to be constantly, relentlessly seeking meaning—profound, glistening, Holy Grail meaning—in every facet of their daily lives, from work to play to relationships.
So, what do a lot of us introverts do to feed our ravenous souls? Like you, many dyed-in-the-wool introverts borrow a page from the extrovert handbook and engage in more interactions with others. Sometimes, this hits the spot. That’s because it turns out that our extrovert pals are on to something: actual in-person human interaction keeps us, well, human. I can’t believe old Grumpy here is admitting this, but life is richer when we nudge ourselves out of our comfort zones and spend quality time with others.
[Ed. Note: Who ARE you?]
[G.I. I’m channeling my inner Yoda. Hush.]
But in your case, it seems like these interactions have been less than satisfying. Metaphorically speaking, you’ve been nibbling on granola bars and greasy packs of airplane peanuts instead of reveling in the lush five-course meals you seek, and you’re downright peckish right about now.
Yes, YES, you say, I WANT THE FIVE-COURSE SOUL MEALS, PLEASE.
Well, get in line, buddy. But in your case, maybe the line starts in a different place.
You say that you want deep connection, that you’re looking for “something” in others. I sense you’re frustrated by your own inability to be more specific, to articulate what you need, exactly, to make your introvert soul feel more satiated.
And that’s okay. You don’t have to know. I would wager that you don’t know, not yet. It’s easy to fill your stomach; it’s a lifetime process to figure out how to fill your soul.
It’s time for a little self-discovery, CSI. All that human interaction is commendable and worth continuing. But I think that pesky soul hunger you’re feeling is about your relationship with yourself.
And I’m not suggesting you have a crummy relationship with yourself, either. You sound thoughtful and proactive and self-aware. You want more, but you don’t know what that looks or feels like, yet.
Allow the Grumpy to share a brief, but hopefully relevant, anecdote. A year ago, I was feeling similarly hungry, CSI, for something I couldn’t quite name. All I knew was that I wasn’t finding it in my friendships, my family, or my work. I wasn’t finding it in romantic relationships. I felt adrift, and I felt downright lonely. (Don’t tell anybody about my soft underbelly; I’ve got a rep to protect.)
Here’s what I did: I let everybody else off the hook and decided this one was all on me. I sat down with a notepad and made a reverse bucket list. My reverse bucket list was a list of the absolute best, most soulful, most meaningful experiences I’ve had in my life thus far. Here’s the really interesting takeaway, one I think might pique your curiosity: Not only did this little exercise ground me and make me feel pretty darn grateful for the life I’ve had, the list revealed to me that most of my blissed-out, connection-rich life moments have involved travel.
My grumpy, grayed-out soul had a lightbulb moment: ahhhhh. Maybe my soul needed more travel—its favorite food—to find equilibrium. Maybe I needed to hit the reset button with a trip to a new place. So, I yanked out a credit card and booked a solo trip to Montana, a place that had been whispering to me for years. I spent a week in a rental car, driving through mountains and alpine meadows and bison ranges and dusty towns you’d miss if you blinked. Most of that week, it was just me and my camera. But I was doing my soul thang, and my nervous, incessant wanting of more connection, more love, more everything just plain ceased. My head and heart shut up, CSI. I was alone, but I wasn’t lonely. And when I arrived back home, back to my usual life programming, that sense of soul-fullness stayed with me. I expected less from others, and my interactions with friends and family became less about what I needed and wasn’t getting and more about enjoying what was.
So, CSI. I offer you this rare Grumpy anecdote in hope that you will be intrigued by the idea of a reverse bucket list. Maybe travel is not your soul’s currency; maybe it’s mountain-biking or writing or music. You’ll know it when you see it on your life list because, I guarantee you, your soul will say ahhhhh, too. Dive into the ahhhhh, CSI, and you might just find that this slippery question of connection becomes a moot point. And how lovely would that be?
Yours in Grumpy Soul-Searching,
23 Emotions People Feel But Can’t Explain
“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing…to find the place where all the beauty came from.”
– C.S. Lewis
In this together,