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Clarity
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Hello!

Postby Clarity » Wed Aug 19, 2009 8:58 am

Hi, my name is Adair, I'm 18 years old, and I've been in love with the asexuality movement for two or three years now. Unfortunately, it took me this long to admit it to myself, to realize that it appealed to me far more than my old relationship with another sexual orientation, so I'm just now trying to really get intellectually (and perhaps physically, through IRL activism on my liberal arts college campus?) involved.

I feel ambivalent about identifying as asexual, because I feel like I perhaps have the capacity to be sexual sometimes, but right now my asexuality is far more important to me than the scraps of sexuality I may or may not possess. I feel somewhat uncertain about how to communicate this to others, but I'll probably end up doing it once I get back to college for the new semester. (Although I have a hard time casually coming out to people--I tend just to not say anything.)

Also, I have a mental illness called conversion disorder (although I somewhat disagree with the diagnosis) that causes me to become paralyzed--it's an anxiety disorder and just an extreme expression of my general lack of control over my own actions that has previously expressed itself in eating disorders and that thing where you spend hours pulling your body hairs out that has a big name I don't care to remember. Mental illness is a huge part of my identity in a positive way, but the negative effects are also a burden on my life. I'm planning on starting a NAMI on Campus club at my school this year to fight the stigma and help others with mental illness.

I'm intellectually gifted and love hanging out with the people on a giftedness forum that I was once involved in the leadership of, because as Ily says on her blog, which I have been reading somewhat compulsively, if you're weird in one way you're weird in a bunch of others, so we get the aces, the genderqueers, the pansexuals, the aspies, people with mental illnesses of many stripes, and so on. People often see it as pretentious to identify with a group basically defined by having "superior" cognitive skills, and that has troubled me for years and continues to do so, but on a basic level it's not that we identify as gifted because we think we're "better" than other people (we're not), but because we think differently and get lonely and sick if we can't talk to others who are more like us and who welcome our style of speaking and the topics we care about.

(Although most gifted people find non-gifted specific outlets for this, places that just happen to attract a lot of probable gifteds. Like, say, the asexual movement! But we feel that pseudo-egalitarian prejudice against children and teens [and probably adults, but most of us aren't there yet] with cognitive traits that they were mostly born with and can't do anything about is an active force in society, and many gifteds cry when they finally discover "giftedness" and the research and anecdotal knowledge of its effects on a person, because suffering in silence with a sense of your fit with society being wrong but not having the words to express and validate it is... hard.)

Oh, and I'm genderqueer and a feminist. I also grew up in Georgia and now live in Utah. My father's a crazy right wing blogger. Less than a year ago I would have (albeit with some reservations) called myself a conservative. It's been haaaaarrrrd to come to terms with everything I believe and who I am, but it's also been, I think, one of the most worthy things I could have been doing these past few years.

Edit: The link to the forum rules is broken. :`(

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Dargon
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Re: Hello!

Postby Dargon » Sat Aug 22, 2009 12:56 pm

Hello and welcome.

Might I say I really like the comment about liking to hang out with other gifted people not because of perceived superiority, but to feel inclusiveness. I've never been able to justify that, because the percieved superiority always comes up.

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Re: Hello!

Postby Clarity » Sun Aug 23, 2009 4:23 pm

Thank you!

It's interesting--in the gifted teen/young adult community I belong to, a lot of people are "in the closet", even from their own families. They come to a website in order to talk to other gifted people their age, but they won't admit to being gifted in real life. There isn't really anything wrong with being gifted and knowing it--a lot of us would have to be delusional to not know we're gifted along this scale, and "false modesty" wouldn't help anything but reinforce the false value of intelligence as something you'd have to be modest about, as opposed to just something that helps influence you but can do so in a wide range of ways, some good some bad for you, some good some bad for others. But just because I think IQ points are overrated doesn't mean this information is instantly conveyed to people when I talk about giftedness (though I hope that some of it gets across in my attitude).

What bothers me most is that a lot of the time the "superiority" isn't perceived as simply, "Oh, those kids have it easier going about academic tasks, so they're probably going to become lazy or devote themselves to sports or church activities or whatever they're interested in." People inflate it into all kinds of things it isn't--perceived moral superiority, higher social status, an overall "easier" life. And then kids who are gifted in school and have all these stupid values floating around themselves start to feel like they are valuable only for their intelligence (or perhaps only for their academic output) and start worrying that every little thing means they're not as smart, or that if they can't master something instantly like they have done with almost every academic assignment they've been given for the first X years of school, then they'll never be able to learn it and they have suddenly lost the only thing worthy about them--because if someone's busy valuing intelligence, they're probably not valuing effort or unconditionally valuing human beings, and that's a shame.

And even though a lot of schools in the US have gifted programs (often inadequate or designed to give a greater work load while ignoring the emotional needs of the students), I've never even heard of one doing outreach to the students who go to school alongside kids labeled gifted but aren't labeled gifted themselves, or to the larger community, parents, or anyone else, to explain the needs and differences common among the gifted, or to explain why intelligence isn't that important--but why it's very important that every child be provided with work that they find challenging enough to learn the value of effort and that you can be wrong about something at first but then learn more and not be wrong anymore. Which seems so obvious, but it's a concept I've had to get myself to grasp in my mid and late teens. Even more alien has been the concept that you can have low skill at something, but then with just plain practice you can get better at it. I never encountered that until I took dance classes in college, and I was really astonished to see my skill level change.

And then there's the social isolation that occurs when you group kids based on birth date rather than where they *actually* fall on the developmental spectrum. Radically accelerated kids do better socially and emotionally than kids of similar intelligence who get stuck with their age mates. This isn't something that's necessarily obvious--I mean, advanced cognitive skills don't equal advanced executive functioning or actually being physically and mentally older, and it could have turned out that kids *are* better with people of their own age. But kids are better off, socially, with people of similar cognitive skills.

Gifted programs in schools could be educating the community on all of these things--and maybe even creating an eventual political movement to change the inflexible age-group tracking of US K12 education! It would be good for everyone--if people recognized that children's cognitive skills in different areas fell along a bell curve, it would take the stigma off being "held back", because there would be no concept of being held back--age variation in classrooms would be normal, and additionally, you wouldn't have a large group of kids feeling stupid compared to a few genetic freaks who obviously shouldn't be in a certain class. And the genetic freaks could get a whole lot more out of their education, and avoid emotional problems in the process. I feel like all of this is being held back by a combination of political inertia and of people not wanting to talk openly about variation in cognitive skills--even if it's obvious that some people are "smarter" than others (genetics can make you "smarter" in this sense, but the pursuit of learning can certainly make a non-gifted person smarter than a gifted person), it's something people start complaining about and denying if you bring it up, because they perceive the gifted kids as advantaged, and that's threatening, even when the gifted kids are, say, suffering from mental illness and turmoil at home while just trying to stay alive and in school, and their stellar test grades are just a side effect of doing that while not being asked to do anything that challenges their cognitive skills.

And that was a huge rant, but I can tie it back to your comment! For many people, giftedness does "show" in some capacity--in their school or job performance, in talents of various sorts, in the way they think and speak and the information they rely on. Last semester, a roommate and I spent a day in what I thought was a running playful banter of an argument about vegetarianism, just light enough to be stimulating as I sought out an answer to her last point, but not too serious. In the afternoon, she called a stop to it: "I've been trying to defend my entire way of life and how I grew up!" (She came from Texas cattle country.)

Conversational topics and points that come naturally to me are way too intense for most people. Or else, they're obscure and geeky. Or both. And emotionally, most people can't understand my perspective very well. I can't deny that a lot of this is correlated with cognitive skills--many things that are interesting to me but not too intense or difficult are too intense/difficult for other people. I can't avoid talking about things that spark my cognitive fire (and it's probably obvious that I'm a very verbal person, and it takes considerably effort or selective mutism to keep me from speaking or writing as I think, especially if I'm seeing some mental connections for the first time), just as many people can't avoid not being interested, but it's much more likely that someone else who's gifted is going to enjoy my thought processes. It's cruel that the same people who might shun or censor me for side-effects of my giftedness might also judge me for seeking out other gifted people.

But the thing is, to me, my interests and the way I think and talk and experience the world, emotionally, sensorily, or however, are a lot more of who I am--as a gifted individual--than is my cognitive "superiority". I mean, first of all, I have no incentive to compare myself to other people on a day-to-day basis, and when I do, I come up short as much as anyone else. Second, well, how fast I pick up on something--that's just part of the process of me doing the thing I'm actually paying attention to. People of higher intellect are more likely to get socially valued outcomes like good grades and career achievements, and that achievement gap is probably exaggerated in most people's minds, but in any case, it has nothing to do with me, my own individual life. And even if me and my gifted friends were high-achieving in such a way as to make people jealous... Well, that's hardly my fault! I didn't ask for giftedness! I didn't ask to be more successful at certain things than most people are, either--I wasn't trying to be better than you--I was just doing the task in front of me, and/or trying to be better than myself of a minute ago or a day ago or a week or month or year ago. And achievements can't buy happiness or moral worthiness, either.

So that's me further justifying why it's alright to hang out with other gifted people. And if I'm coming across as a little extreme, it's not like I *only* hang out with people I think I'm gifted, or only have friends who are gifted. And there's enough variation among the population that I find compatible conversational partners among people who do not have cognitive skills in the gifted range--because there's variation in many factors that are important in conversationability other than just "g". But if I want to talk about things that are *specific* to the gifted experience, or if I want to find a place where I'm more likely to find people I get along with, seeking out gifted people would be a good idea. And in any case, just because I meet friends through something related to having high cognitive skills doesn't make me arrogant except to someone who thinks that I see intelligence in a way that I very much do not. And I need to stop typing now. Apologies.

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Dargon
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Re: Hello!

Postby Dargon » Sun Aug 23, 2009 8:50 pm

No worries. Admittedly, I skimmed, I'll read it in full later, as I am in a bit tired at the moment.

Concerning being in the closet, I suppose part of this has to do with the anti-intellectualism prevalent in todays society. I do not know why it is, but being smart is seen as a bad thing by popular society. And it is true that the smart kids are often valued by their peers solely for their intellect. I delt with that throughout gradeschool all the way through my high schools joke honors program.

Unfortunately, I think destroying the age/intellect stigma will be tough to do. Considering the jollies parents get when their kid starts walking, talking, using the toilet at an earlier age than the neighbor kid, getting them to accept that their kid is a little slower than other their age isn't going to be easy.

I'll comment further tomorrow, like I said, rather tired at the moment, but didn't want to leave you hanging.

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Dargon
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Re: Hello!

Postby Dargon » Mon Aug 24, 2009 2:36 pm

Ok, time to give the full response.

Concerning the giftedness as a moral superiority, this is the first time I have ever encountered this. However, in school, I did encounter more than a few times where by not knowing something immediately, I seemed, or at least felt, that I disappointed everyone, since apparently my intellect was so valuable. And the not understanding things immediately thing, I can relate to that quite a bit. Further more, I'd go so far as to say the kid who had a little bit of difficulty in high school and had to study is actually a step on on the gifted kid who breezed through high school when it comes to college. I got to college and realized I had no idea how to study. Anyhow, that's getting off topic.

As for gifted programs, the only one I ma familiar with would be the joke program they had at my high school. With the exception of English (which really just came down to two amazing teachers), they were nothing more than heavier course loads, except in math's case, which was effectively being a year ahead.

As for being "held back," another issue struck me with that. As things currently stand, schools get their money, at least here, based on test scores and graduation rates. As such, there is pressure on the school to pass kids who should have been held back in order to get more money. This effectively brings the next class down a level in order to try to keep the force-passed students caught up.

With the exception of the verbosity, I relate almost perfectly concerning topics of interest and conversation.

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Sciatrix
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Re: Hello!

Postby Sciatrix » Mon Aug 24, 2009 6:11 pm

Regarding people thinking about "gifted" as "snotty," I've encountered a lot of that--sometimes even from gifted elementary school teachers! The perception in some gifted programs and with some teachers is that a student who can complete work faster and better than their peers should not be rewarded with more advanced work or free time but rather with more of the same work everyone else is doing--so that I learned that with some teachers, there was no point to doing my work quickly because I'd just have to do more of it than the kid who is struggling with the concepts. When you already have those concepts down, more of the same is frustrating and boring.

(I'd also agree with you on study skills, Dargon--I had a nasty shock last year in college about study skills and my lack thereof, partly because I wasn't really being challenged in high school and partly because I didn't care about my GPA as long as I got As and Bs in high school. In college, I'm part of an honors program that requires me to keep a 3.4 or better, and my first year I went briefly into probation after getting a bunch of A-'s and a B- in a calculus course. But that ties into my earlier point about accelerating gifted students, because if you push them to their limits they learn those study skills just as the less-able kids do. If they're used to operating at a level below their cognitive skills, they get lazy. Or that's my experience, anyway.)

Addressing the greater topic, welcome! I was always tracked as "gifted" in school, too, and a lot of your posts ring true for me. My third through fifth grades I was in a sort of magnet gifted class made up of students from different districts in the area who had been identified as gifted by means of a test, and I definitely remember a lot of Aspie-types (and in fact both I and at least one other student were later diagnosed with AS), kids on medication for one reason for another, and a lot of kids with odd aspects that meant they didn't fit in so well with the greater whole.

It's really frustrating sometimes, because you're never ever ever supposed to say "I am smarter than you" or any variant on that in this society, but then what do you say when someone says "you're really smart?" I've never understood that.

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Siggy
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Re: Hello!

Postby Siggy » Mon Aug 24, 2009 6:24 pm

To be honest, my first impression was that this is all a bit silly. Particularly the part about "coming out" as gifted. Is "giftedness" really a binary, something you are or aren't? And what does it even mean to be hiding it? It sounds like "hiding" the fact that you are an ISTP or something equally ridiculous. Or perhaps what they're hiding is their intellect, or they are hiding the fact that they participate in a particular community. Tell you what: I myself am a very intelligent person who hasn't gotten so much as a B since high school. I also used to participate in an online community in which I wrote and solved logic puzzles; now I participate in the skeptical blogosphere. I don't tell most people this. But it sure doesn't feel at all like I let you in on a secret.

But reading further, I actually agree with a lot of points you make. People who are "ahead" in school frequently experience all sorts of problems which can push them behind in many aspects of life. These are things worth thinking about.

So I don't really think it's completely silly. Now I just think it's rather irrelevant where I am, in a university. I can see it being more useful for K12. But here, uh, nearly everyone is a nerd. Lots of people came from the top of their respective high schools, where perhaps they were thought of as "the smart one". It's all meaningless now, since it ends up that nerds are an incredibly diverse group. And I simply can't imagine anyone here being ostracized or pigeonholed into a role for their intelligence. I guess people might react slightly negatively if you said you were intelligent, but that's just because talk is cheap, and you should show, not tell.

It just feels like all the issues surrounding "giftedness" have been completely solved by this age. At least, that's how it is for me. I just don't see how this would gain much traction among college students.

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Dargon
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Re: Hello!

Postby Dargon » Mon Aug 24, 2009 9:09 pm

Of course you are supposed to hide the fact that you are ISTP. Society says ESFP is right. ISTPs and INTJs are weird, maladjusted people.

As for the college thing, I found my time in college to be the most enjoyable time of my life. It was the first, last, and only time I have been amongst, well, other nerds. Upon leaving college and joining the work force, even in an engineering job, there was really only one other person I could even remotely relate to. Everyone else was...normal.

The situation had been solved in college, but it returned in "the real world."

As for the skeptical thing, also something fine in college, but bad in the real world. The real world, which values blind faith, lack of critical thinking, appeal to emotion, etc, views skeptics as cynical, maladjusted people. Where I am, it's something that you keep secret if you know what's good for you.

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Noskcaj.Llahsram
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Re: Hello!

Postby Noskcaj.Llahsram » Tue Aug 25, 2009 7:10 pm

I can verify for people thinking INTJs are maladjusted, even when I'm being the best social chameleon I can be for a given situation, I get the strangest reaction from people.
What is love? Well, you know that feeling you get when you've been locked in a tiny dark space alone for a year? It's kind of the opposite of that.

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Siggy
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Re: Hello!

Postby Siggy » Tue Aug 25, 2009 9:31 pm

Guys I think you missed the point of that example. INTJ or whatever says something about how you interact with people. How is this something you can hide from other people?
Dargon wrote:The situation had been solved in college, but it returned in "the real world."

I plan to stay in academia. :P

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Dargon
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Re: Hello!

Postby Dargon » Tue Aug 25, 2009 10:20 pm

You pretend to be extroverted and able to empathize. That's how you hide it.

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Re: Hello!

Postby Clarity » Wed Aug 26, 2009 11:43 am

Thanks for the greetings! (And the discussion. ;) )

The main reasons for coming out as gifted are pretty much the main reasons for coming out as anything else--political advocacy, social awareness, personal relief, finding others like you, and so on.

Saying that things are solved by university is kinda like telling someone who grew up in a conservative town that coming out as gay is unnecessary once you're in a situation where you can move to a gay neighborhood or other accepting environment--like a university!

You (a) still have to deal with the psychological effects of your upbringing, (b) may not be fortunate enough to be surrounded by similar people (I, for one, am at a tiny college that's "the only wet campus in Utah!", which is less than thrilling for me), (c) may not be able to or may not want to relocate to a place with a suitable concentration of people like you, or (d) may not stay in the good place forever. Certainly it's much better in college, but even if you reach that good place, it's still not a bad idea to advocate for younger gifted kids. Additionally, gifted kids drop out of high school at equal to or higher rates than the general population, so, again, getting into college isn't guaranteed just because they're smart, which is one of the big misconceptions.

The reason some gifted people (including several college students I know) feel like they're "in the closet" and like talking about their giftedness is a secret--often something they only share with other self-identified gifted people, or cautiously with friends who they've identified as probably gifted--is quite simply that they have been rejected by family or other people for bringing it up. They've experienced strong negative reactions to people who don't understand the complexities of giftedness issues and are deeply uncomfortable with it as an identity. I certainly don't think the identity is necessary or desirable for everyone who could fall into the category, but it is helpful for many, and ideally at some point in the future, a strong cadre of teens and adults who identify as gifted could influence some of those crappy gifted programs into providing for the real needs of the students.

Likewise, I bet there are people who feel the same way about their personality type. Just because some types of human variation don't immediately ring an "discriminated-against minority" bell in our minds doesn't mean that their concerns are less valid for going unheard, that the stigma is less real for being accepted to the point of being invisible, or that a successful social movement will not emerge from the obscurity. Mind, I'm not saying that one will--the basic problem is not that each of these differences is not recognized and widely known individually; it's that people think normatively and resentfully, without having any idea of the huge amount of human variation and the equal variation in the problems and the life paths people take. Basically, if people were more open-minded and willing to listen to other people's concerns, we wouldn't worry about these things.

Oh, and as far as giftedness being binary--no, I don't believe it is, although I've gotten into that argument with some others in the community, and I have heard in reports by people who should know that there are true important differences. For example, in a certain type of instruction called "clustering", kids are split up into groups. It turns out that students benefit when the majority of students are put together in groups of mixed ability, but the highest ability students are all put into the same group together.

And while I don't think there's a clean line between "gifted" and "not gifted" (and researchers and educators use ALL SORTS of different definitions, metrics, and cut-offs), there are many people who are clearly intellectually gifted or clearly not intellectually gifted. In fact, I'd say that for the majority of people, this is clear. I'm one of them.

And as far as not being able to hide giftedness (a la the parallel with personality), the idea is that while people can often tell there's something weird about you, and they might be impressed by your cognitive feats if they're in a position to witness them, it's still something you need to educate people about (if you want to), and having a label is really helpful. People tend to default into thinking you're wrong just because you're different, and they also tend to help you internalize that. Being "out", is, as always, about being proud, and about being able to stand up and say, "Hey, I'm human, I'm living my own life with my own inner narrative, and I'm actually not doing anything wrong. I'm going to label who I am so that the only words describing me aren't the pejoratives you apply to people like me. And I'm doing this partially for myself, for my own advocacy, but mostly because there are others like me out there and I need to help free them from the tyranny of your unreasoned expectations."

Question: INTJ's don't empathize? O.o

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Noskcaj.Llahsram
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Re: Hello!

Postby Noskcaj.Llahsram » Wed Aug 26, 2009 7:03 pm

I can't speak for all us INTJs but I my self have a very difficult time empathizing I think it has to do with my inability to view other individuals emotions with respect to their own 'big-picture' view of the world and their place in it; and so I find their emotions are frequently petty, to be fair I also frequently find my own emotions petty. On the other hand, with fictional characters I can empathize a great deal, probably because I can see their emotional state, both internal and external, but its place in the world.
O bye the way I'd like to congratulate you on your verbosity and textual aptitude; finally someone whom can give pretzelboy a run for his money.
What is love? Well, you know that feeling you get when you've been locked in a tiny dark space alone for a year? It's kind of the opposite of that.

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Sciatrix
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Re: Hello!

Postby Sciatrix » Thu Aug 27, 2009 4:21 am

*shrug* On the other hand, both I and my mother are INTJs, and neither of us have issues with empathizing on a pretty basic level. I'm not always good at guessing what other people are feeling and reading whether they're annoyed at me, but that's because I'm autistic, not because I'm an INTJ. My more neurotypical mother has absolutely no problems empathizing and interacting socially, even if she does need time to recharge after socializing too much. The worst interpersonal problem she has is occasionally coming across as blunt and unwilling to take excuses, which isn't exactly an empathy problem.

I think you're extrapolating from an insufficiently large sample, Noskcaj.

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Dargon
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Re: Hello!

Postby Dargon » Thu Aug 27, 2009 8:18 am

I am INTJ, I have quite a bit of trouble empathizing. Unless it is very obvious, I cannot pick up on emotion, and even if I can, I don't know how to express something back appropriately. Perhaps I am projecting onto the entirety, but that's just my experience.

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Re: Hello!

Postby Clarity » Wed Sep 02, 2009 6:01 pm

I think part of all this is that "empathy" is a slippery construct to pin down. I think I've stopped trying to because I always tied my mind in knots.

Noskcaj.Llahsram wrote:I can't speak for all us INTJs but I my self have a very difficult time empathizing I think it has to do with my inability to view other individuals emotions with respect to their own 'big-picture' view of the world and their place in it; and so I find their emotions are frequently petty, to be fair I also frequently find my own emotions petty. On the other hand, with fictional characters I can empathize a great deal, probably because I can see their emotional state, both internal and external, but its place in the world.
O bye the way I'd like to congratulate you on your verbosity and textual aptitude; finally someone whom can give pretzelboy a run for his money.


This really speaks to me. I actually have an annoying piece of empathy whereby I pick up on someone else's big picture view and it replaces my own beliefs and drives my actions in different ways, but sometimes when I'm in kinda a dissociated state and don't think anything's that important, I make very poor predictions about other people's emotional reactions.

Sometimes I find people's emotions petty just because I'm stuck in my own worldview and don't look at their developmental trajectory (basically, I think: Oh, I've been through something like that, but I've moved on and now have this enlightened perspective--when really they could do the same thing to me; they're following a different but still legitimate path in life). But "normal" people do that all the time too. It often takes effort to empathize--certainly to develop the habit of empathizing--on a deep level.

But more often I have an unlearned response of feeling an emotional response (usually sympathetic or mirroring theirs) to the other person's emotions. I don't think about whether their feelings are legitimate or not--I just feel them, and assume they're legitimate and important because we're experiencing them together. Which, btw, can be a great way to start a fight with a group of your friends against another group you've all misunderstood and gotten angry at.

I have an INTJ (I think) friend who really surprised me when he told me that he couldn't cry for strangers. I can't help but cry for strangers sometimes. And he couldn't even cry for a friend of several of his own friends who had died their senior year of high school. I would have been utterly unable to help curling up in a ball and crying for hours, probably on several occasions, and probably commiserating with and crying around the actual friends.

I think on average some types would be more "touchy feely" in various ways like feeling more empathy and sympathy, but of course there'd be tons and tons of diversity within each type.

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Dargon
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Re: Hello!

Postby Dargon » Wed Sep 02, 2009 9:37 pm

Clarity wrote:I have an INTJ (I think) friend who really surprised me when he told me that he couldn't cry for strangers. I can't help but cry for strangers sometimes. And he couldn't even cry for a friend of several of his own friends who had died their senior year of high school.


...This one kind of struck me. I know it was not your intent, but the surprise and seeming disdain for those unable to cry bugs me. I've cried twice in the past decade, the most recent being six years ago.

I thought I'd mention that. Somehow the inability to cry seems to translate into being perceived as a heartless monster, and while I am not accusing anyone here of making that accusation, I still wanted to debunk it.

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Re: Hello!

Postby Clarity » Thu Sep 03, 2009 7:02 am

Dargon wrote:
Clarity wrote:I have an INTJ (I think) friend who really surprised me when he told me that he couldn't cry for strangers. I can't help but cry for strangers sometimes. And he couldn't even cry for a friend of several of his own friends who had died their senior year of high school.


...This one kind of struck me. I know it was not your intent, but the surprise and seeming disdain for those unable to cry bugs me. I've cried twice in the past decade, the most recent being six years ago.

I thought I'd mention that. Somehow the inability to cry seems to translate into being perceived as a heartless monster, and while I am not accusing anyone here of making that accusation, I still wanted to debunk it.


I know that. Testosterone makes it harder physiologically for males to cry, and inability to cry can be a symptom of depression. I'm sure there's a ton of other sources of variation in how frequently one cries. The reason I was surprised that the above friend couldn't cry for a friend of a friend was that I know he's not heartless. He pretty much saved me from a time of isolation so intense I don't want to talk about, just by reaching out and listening and caring. And I know he can cry because he cries himself to sleep and on other occasions. But he explained to me that he couldn't mourn this person just because he didn't know her (he even met her once). That's what surprised me.

I apologize for using crying as a proxy for being emotionally affected. (I certainly wouldn't say being unaffected translates into being a heartless monster, though, either--different reactions, different priorities, different ways of coping with all the ills in the world--I've been accused of heartlessness at times simply because I was accepting the things I could not change.)

And as someone who sometimes cries very easily and sometimes doesn't, crying isn't a good measure of how much you care about something and certainly not of your likelihood to do something about it. But, if it's any consolation, someone crying is often seen as weak, and it especially makes many males uncomfortable--many of them just want to get rid of the crying female: they see it as a huge inconvenience and sometimes even a betrayal of them, like just because you have an involuntary physical response to something, you're making an unrealistic demand on them. How 'bout, "Just listen, or just give me some time, or just treat me like you normally would treat a person?"

When I see people accuse other people of being heartless for not crying about something, it really seems like the accuser is just striking out. I don't know why. I've only ever, and rarely, been on the receiving end of that, as far as I can remember (ahh, the self-serving bias, introducing uncertainty into our assessments of our own past behavior). Maybe the person who is more obviously distraught feels judged or isolated by the person who isn't crying. Regardless of what emotional space the non-crier actually is in. It's kinda like, humans automatically tend to connect emotionally by literally sharing emotions: I smile, thus you smile, and we're sharing a good memory. I cry, you cry, and we're giving each other strength. (Although hugging is important there--people are less likely to cry at the same time, so other means of support are necessary.) Instead of using conversation to share emotions, or simply assuming an underlying emotional intimacy in each other's knowledge of the other's life and humanity, us neurotic human beings want reassurance of an emotional connection in the form of frequently mirroring the other's emotional expression. It probably doesn't help if the person who doesn't cry also doesn't talk about their emotions frequently.

But I'll try to be on the look-out for this prejudice against non-criers and mention that it doesn't accurately reflect the reality of someone's emotions and personality if it comes up!

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Sciatrix
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Re: Hello!

Postby Sciatrix » Thu Sep 03, 2009 5:02 pm

Personally, if I'm crying, it's usually because I'm very frustrated or very angry. I rarely, if ever, cry because I'm sad. Most of the women I hang out with also tend to cry when angry or frustrated, particularly my roommate. It's a maddening response, because people seem to interpret crying as a cue to dismiss me, and that's not what I'm trying to get across at all.

So crying is not necessarily even an emotional indicator of sadness, either.

Clarity
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Re: Hello!

Postby Clarity » Thu Sep 03, 2009 8:05 pm

Yeah, I know! I guess my sense of the vast range of emotions and situations that can involve or not involve crying for a given individual at a certain time and a certain immediate setting makes it seem so ridiculous that people would assume something from crying.

I mean, I most often cry in deep existential despair, which is actually a pretty shallow emotion when it comes to how much it indicates about anything but my depression and I guess some life history stuff.

I can also cry if someone makes me move when I'm catatonic. Or if I try too hard and actually succeed at getting myself to move.

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Noskcaj.Llahsram
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Re: Hello!

Postby Noskcaj.Llahsram » Thu Sep 03, 2009 10:56 pm

I've only cried once in the past, oh 7 or so years, and it was because this year was/is particularly crapshack, and it was born out of extreme frustration, also if i hold my head on my side long enough my left eye will leak tears, but that doesn't count
What is love? Well, you know that feeling you get when you've been locked in a tiny dark space alone for a year? It's kind of the opposite of that.