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  1. #1
    Patron Saint Of Smileys Gloriana's Avatar
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    Question Intrusive Empathy/Intuition

    A particular reflection just occurred to me, and this was the first place I thought of to jot it down.

    I guess I'll start by saying I'm a massive CSI fan. I've seen every episode a million times but never tire of it, I own DVDs, I write fan fiction for the frickin' show as a latent hobby. Not totally sure why this particular show has such a calming effect on me seeing as it's all about murder, I think it may have to do with the fact I was a nervous Nellie living in my first apartment alone. I could not afford cable television, so all I had were 4 channels to choose from. CSI was just about the only thing I watched, something I looked forward to every week during an unsettling time of transition.

    So anyway, they have this traveling exhibit at museums where you walk through a fake crime scene and learn all about forensics with the assistance of CSI actors in videos, etc. "CSI - The Experience". Rumor has it that it may return to a local museum. My other half was the one who pointed it out to me, and I was so utterly excited by the idea (because I'm a nerd before anything else...)

    He figured we'd both go, and I instantly felt this pang of resistance and awkwardness inside because I really, really want to go by myself.

    What does this have to do with the topic of my thread? Let me digress...

    On the whole, I realize that when I'm on an outing with other people, something odd can often happen in my mind where it's almost like I'm seeing everything through their eyes. This intrusive sort of intuition/empathy I can't stand at times because I'm thinking about how others are experiencing it rather than being in touch with myself. If I enjoy my solitude for any reason, it's that.

    I've taken many trips by myself, I drove from Florida to PA/NY by myself twice and I went to England for the first time for a month by myself. I enjoy going to the movies by myself, I've even explored an abandoned house I happened upon all on my own. A lot of people I've met seem to think that's either amazing or weird, depending on who they are. Some assume I must hate other people to do so much stuff alone.

    It's so hard to explain that's just not the case! If being around a lot of other people exhausts me for any reason, it's because it can be like I'm drawn into their minds as if by tractor beam. When it's something I really desire to experience, I find it hard to share with others. When I was younger, I think I really did get mad at other people for pushing me to take them along when I'd embark on adventures I liked. As if they knew how my mind works and wanted to 'steal' my precious experience from me or something, haha.

    Obviously now that I've matured, I don't have the same reaction. If anything, I just feel guilty resisting because I don't want to exclude anyone or be too selfish. Like this CSI thing. I can't pay for it so it would have to be his gift, and I feel like I couldn't ask him to pay for me to go alone, especially knowing he truly wants to see ME enjoy it.

    But I'll be seeing it through his eyes, thinking about his reactions. I don't know if any of you guys do this, but do you ever find yourself wandering off from a friend or a group when you find yourselves in a place that captures your fancy? I do it in museums and at theme parks all the friggin' time. For me it's like taking a breather from being in everyone else's head and finding room to see it all for myself (and one of many reasons I get labeled as a space cadet).

    I know most of the basic reasons why I have this particular trait, it's the result of my experiences in a very fractured, ignoring, critical family. Knowing where it comes from isn't an issue for me anymore, it's wondering if I'll ever figure out the formula for making it ease off. I mean, I really LIKE it in the respect that I feel I can connect with people better on the basis of knowing so much about how they think (when it's not freaking them out) and this ability also gives me a goldmine to work with in terms of insights for characters I create in my writing/performing.

    It can also feel like a freakin' curse a lot of the time, like this current situation. I love people to pieces, I love all the different perspectives I get being intuitive/empathic, don't get me wrong. I just find it hard to both explain this particular idiosyncrasy and how to manage it at times. It also pisses me off sometimes that I can be doing something alone and think "Oooh, ______ would probably love this view", but when I'm with others and someone asks me what I think of the view I basically just wing-it with the most impulsive answer because I won't actually know what I thought of that view until I think about it later, hehehe.

    So what are your thoughts? Any of you guys go through this too? How do you manage it?
    "Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get, but if you work really hard, and you're kind, amazing things will happen. I'm telling you...amazing things will happen" --Conan O'Brien

  2. #2
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    I sympathize. It doesn't seem weird to me. I'm an introvert, and if an experience is really meaningful to me then I'll probably want to take it in at my own pace and in my own way, rather than being rushed through with a group of others or even with an SO.

    Sometimes I'll say exactly that to the other person(s), especially if they're just along for the ride and probably wouldn't mind going off and doing their own thing anyway.

    If I'm with someone else and they want to experience that same thing too, then I might ask them if we can separate and go through at our own paces. Or I might stop at the end and tell them to go on ahead and get some coffee while I go back and check out a couple high points at greater length. Or I might arrange a separate second viewing for just myself, either before or after the viewing with other people. (Often it's fun to see an exhibit once by myself and then a second time with another person, looking at it anew through their eyes.)

    In short, I agree with everything you said about how experiencing something with other people can muddy the experience in various ways. So I just tell other people what they already know about me: I'm an introvert, and if it's okay with them I would like to process the experience/event separately, at my own pace and in my own way.

  3. #3
    Senor Membrane
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    Yeah, for some reason I imagine (or remember) that I am watching a painting, just kinda tuning in, a bit like meditating, and then someone else appears and throws out his interpretation of it, and it is a spoiler for me. Ironically, the worst case of this is my xNFJ mom, who can just talk almost a whole movie through about what is going on in the movie... Well, fortunately most movies are crap anyhow, so, it's not like she spoiled any of the good ones for me. It's weird, though.. I'm not really sure why it is so important for her to share the interpretation immediately. Any ideas about that?

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    I think what you're talking about is a very NFJ thing - thinking about what other people are experiencing? I do that when I'm reflecting, but not actually while watching a movie or looking at a painting or in a museum...if anything, I want to do those things alone so other people won't intrude upon my experience with their jibber jabber and own opinions. If they keep their mouth shut, I don't sit there wondering what they think...I'm too busy doing my own analysis or imagining.

    You not knowing what you think of it until later, but predicting that others will like it sounds extremely INFJ to me.

    It sounds stressful, one way or the other, whether you're the NFJ trying to get into other people's heads, or the NFP trying to protect their own experience from the intrusions of others.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nolla View Post
    Yeah, for some reason I imagine (or remember) that I am watching a painting, just kinda tuning in, a bit like meditating, and then someone else appears and throws out his interpretation of it, and it is a spoiler for me. Ironically, the worst case of this is my xNFJ mom, who can just talk almost a whole movie through about what is going on in the movie... Well, fortunately most movies are crap anyhow, so, it's not like she spoiled any of the good ones for me. It's weird, though.. I'm not really sure why it is so important for her to share the interpretation immediately. Any ideas about that?
    I'd never watch a movie with your mom again.

  6. #6
    Symbolic Herald Vasilisa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gloriana View Post
    It's so hard to explain that's just not the case! If being around a lot of other people exhausts me for any reason, it's because it can be like I'm drawn into their minds as if by tractor beam. When it's something I really desire to experience, I find it hard to share with others. When I was younger, I think I really did get mad at other people for pushing me to take them along when I'd embark on adventures I liked. As if they knew how my mind works and wanted to 'steal' my precious experience from me or something, haha.
    Gloriana, don't feel bad about wanting the experience singularly. You may be interested in reading the article I posted here.

    In the paper, Burum offers two possible theories to explain what she and Gilbert found in the study. The first invokes a well-known concept from social psychology called “social loafing,” which says that people tend not to try as hard if they think they can rely on others to pick up their slack. (If two people are pulling a rope, for example, neither will pull quite as hard as they would if they were pulling it alone.) But Burum leans toward a different explanation, which is that sharing an experience with someone is inherently distracting, because it compels us to expend energy on imagining what the other person is going through and how they’re reacting to it.

    “People tend to engage quite automatically with thinking about the minds of other people,” Burum said in an interview. “We’re multitasking when we’re with other people in a way that we’re not when we just have an experience by ourselves.”

    Perhaps this explains why seeing a movie alone feels so radically different than seeing it with friends: Sitting there in the theater with nobody next to you, you’re not wondering what anyone else thinks of it; you’re not anticipating the discussion that you’ll be having about it on the way home. All your mental energy can be directed at what’s happening on the screen. According to Greg Feist, an associate professor of psychology at the San Jose State University who has written about the connection between creativity and solitude, some version of that principle may also be at work when we simply let our minds wander: When we let our focus shift away from the people and things around us, we are better able to engage in what’s called meta-cognition, or the process of thinking critically and reflectively about our own thoughts.

    Other psychologists have looked at what happens when other people’s minds don’t just take up our bandwidth, but actually influence our judgment. It’s well known that we’re prone to absorb or mimic the opinions and body language of others in all sorts of situations, including those that might seem the most intensely individual, such as who we’re attracted to. While psychologists don’t necessarily think of that sort of influence as “clouding” one’s judgment — most would say it’s a mechanism for learning, allowing us to benefit from information other people have access to that we don’t — it’s easy to see how being surrounded by other people could hamper a person’s efforts to figure out what he or she really thinks of something.
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  7. #7
    i love skylights's Avatar
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    gloriana, i do not experience this in the exact way you've phrased, but something a bit similar happens for me. when i am with another person, the experience is immensely colored by that other person. if the other person is someone i really like, like my family, SO, best friend - that can make the experience so much better. but if the other person is not on my wavelength, it can totally kill my enjoyment. like the last time i went out to a bar, a friend of mine was disappointed that i did not feel like dancing with her. i really just wanted to sit and enjoy the music - i'd had a long week and was tired - but her being upset with me really infringed on my enjoyment. my memory of that incident is primarily about her feelings and secondarily about the music, even though the music was more meaningful to me.

    when i want to do things that are self-reflective in nature, i tend to do them alone. i suppose that seems like a really obvious thing to say, but i know people who like going running together, or to the gym together, and to me those times are very much about pushing my personal limits. i need the literal silence to be able to listen to my body and not be focused on the other person. it's even better if there are very few people in the gym. for the E that i am, i really like being alone sometimes. i also do not like looking at things that are very meaningful to me with others around me. sometimes if it becomes annoying to me, i just quietly slip away from the group...


    i wonder if perhaps your other half would mind if you just explained this tendency to him and explained that it was a really meaningful thing to you. if i were in his situation, i wouldn't mind funding you to go alone. i love to make my SO smile, and i know that some things are better experienced alone. wanting to be alone then does not mean you love or appreciate him any less, especially given that the nature of your relationship with CSI was one of helping you adjust to getting along on your own. speaking about it with him afterwards, once you got the chance to process it, would probably please him as well.

    alternatively, what if you asked him if he would mind if the two of you had some mutual quiet time to observe and engage individually, with times in between or afterwards to reflect? i'm extraverted enough that i couldn't imagine enjoying long solitary trips like you have, really, but what i really like is having others around, not necessarily having to engage with them all the time. it's like a passenger taking a nap in your car, no big deal. kind of nice to have some extra time to think, really. would it still bother you if you were both there but not engaging actively?

    Quote Originally Posted by nolla
    I'm not really sure why it is so important for her to share the interpretation immediately. Any ideas about that?
    my ESFJ mom and i can spend a whole movie commenting on it. my INTP brother HATES it. for us i don't think it's really all that important, we just think it's entertaining. we both like to talk with one another. but the more complex or meaningful the movie, the less i want to talk. she seems to feel the same.

    Quote Originally Posted by Vasilisa
    It’s well known that we’re prone to absorb or mimic the opinions and body language of others in all sorts of situations, including those that might seem the most intensely individual, such as who we’re attracted to. While psychologists don’t necessarily think of that sort of influence as “clouding” one’s judgment — most would say it’s a mechanism for learning, allowing us to benefit from information other people have access to that we don’t — it’s easy to see how being surrounded by other people could hamper a person’s efforts to figure out what he or she really thinks of something.
    thank you for posting this!!! i feel SO MUCH like this. i am indecisive to begin with and having other people around really confuses me. i want to please all of them and i try to feel them out for what they like and then i'm busy figuring out something that everyone will like all the while totally ignoring whatever i feel about what i actually want.

  8. #8
    Uniqueorn William K's Avatar
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    Do you laugh at a joke you don't find funny just because the rest of the audience laughs?
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  9. #9
    Patron Saint Of Smileys Gloriana's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skylights View Post
    i wonder if perhaps your other half would mind if you just explained this tendency to him and explained that it was a really meaningful thing to you. if i were in his situation, i wouldn't mind funding you to go alone. i love to make my SO smile, and i know that some things are better experienced alone. wanting to be alone then does not mean you love or appreciate him any less, especially given that the nature of your relationship with CSI was one of helping you adjust to getting along on your own. speaking about it with him afterwards, once you got the chance to process it, would probably please him as well.

    alternatively, what if you asked him if he would mind if the two of you had some mutual quiet time to observe and engage individually, with times in between or afterwards to reflect? i'm extraverted enough that i couldn't imagine enjoying long solitary trips like you have, really, but what i really like is having others around, not necessarily having to engage with them all the time. it's like a passenger taking a nap in your car, no big deal. kind of nice to have some extra time to think, really. would it still bother you if you were both there but not engaging actively?
    Yes, I think you're absolutely right. I think I might be hesitating due to holdover feelings from my ex-husband. With him (I believe he was ISTJ, not that I think all people of a certain type are the same) he only wanted me to do things alone when he had other stuff to do, but the rest of the time he reacted to me wanting to do things alone like it was a betrayal/rejection, or took it to mean "I don't want to be with you" and wouldn't accept it when I told him that simply wasn't the case. My current SO is incredibly different, and when I think about it, there's no reason I shouldn't talk to him about it. He's very self-assured and trusts what I tell him about how I feel, so it should actually be fine. I really like your idea about perhaps talking about taking time to check things out independently even if we're there together. I like that idea a lot!

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    Senior Member mochajava's Avatar
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    Gloriana - so glad you're back on the forum! Yay! And this thread is great.

    I definitely relate to what you say about experiencing things through other people when you're with them. Being alone is like finally getting to stretch your legs, getting to take up all your space... to me, it feels like being released from the cage of always planning / anticipating things on behalf of other people, etc. Aaaand, I have a similar family story. My parents were incredibly needy and sensitive, and I had to really manage situations for them or for my younger sister often - eek. Glad to be an adult and done with being that overly responsible child.

    There are some old habits/beliefs that I've successfully worked through (mostly icky beliefs and perceptions that are a relic of my imperfect family life), and the way I've done it is by actually DOING the thing in question. So my best guess as for a solution would be -- find an ally. Maybe a friend who is in a similar place or knows you well enough that they'd accompany you when you practiced. They wouldn't respond when you asked them about THEIR opinion of it, they'd just ask you what you thought of it (being an INFJ, you'll deliver what you genuinely think and feel even if it takes a few minutes

    What says you, G?

    William K Do you laugh at a joke you don't find funny just because the rest of the audience laughs?
    Of course. And plus, I like to laugh. The only time I saw someone not do this in a very conspicuous way is an author -- when Jhumpa Lahiri did a book talk / Q&A.

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