“INTPs are marked by a quiet, stoic, modest, and aloof exterior that masks strong creativity and enthusiasm for novel possibilities. Their weaknesses include poor organization, insensitivity to social niceties, and a tendency to get lost in abstractions.” – Wikipedia
I have always been hyper-conscious of the fact that I am socially awkward. Being aware of my social ineptitude is no consolation, it just adds an additional sense of dread to any impending social situations. On a certain level I know what to say and how to behave, at least up to a point, but eventually I start to drift away, mentally and then physically. I am not sure why this happens. Perhaps it is that, in any conversation, my mind starts processing what is being said and how it is being said, and how I might respond or contribute to the conversation. My mind starts playing out a choose your own adventure story to various ends, and when I finally come up with the seemingly correct thing to say, the conversation has moved on, and what I have to say seems odd, no longer interesting or relevant to the conversation.
“Sometimes in this life, under the stress of an exceptional emotion, people do say what they think.” – Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time, Volume Three: The Guermantes Way
When I do not overthink my conversations I have a tendency to say exactly what I am thinking. I like to portray this as speaking honestly, but really it is just speaking impulsively, which may or may not be the same thing. My social filter has always been somewhat porous. What comes out of my mouth in unfiltered moments can range from insightful and funny to inappropriate and brutal. Given enough time, I will eventually say something that annoys everyone. Some people, who know me take this in stride, but others take perpetual offence. In someways my filter has improved with age. For example, when someone greets me with “How you doing?” I generally reply with the appropriate response, “Just fine, and you?” In the past I would have actually answered the question, but I found that people really did not want an answer, they just used “how you doing?” as sort of “hello” with the added pretense of caring.
“I’ve never been to good with names, but I remember faces” – The Lemonheads, “It’s a shame about Ray”
To add to my social awkwardness, I am terrible with names. I can be in a conversation with someone I have known for years and realize, at that moment, I do not remember their name. I have always been told that if a person is important to you, you will remember their name. So when I suddenly can remember a persons name two things happen in my mind: First, I start trying to remember the persons name, this often includes mentally cycling through an internal dictionary of names hoping for a match. Second, I feel like a terrible person for forgetting the name in the first place. I have no idea why this happens. I can rehearse names over and over, and then suddenly… nothing. On occasion (more often then I would like to admit) I confuse the names of my own family. I do not believe this is a result of middle aged senility creeping in (though I can not rule that out), this is not new, it has been this way as long as I can remember.
“Have you ever heard of the hour of the wolf? My father told me about it. It’s the time between 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning. You can’t sleep, and all you can see is the troubles and the problems and the ways that your life should’ve gone but didn’t. All you can hear is the sound of your own heart. I’ve been living in the hour of the wolf for seven days, Lyta. Seven days. The wolf and I are now on a first-name basis. In times like this, my father used to take one large glass of vodka before bed. To keep the wolf away, he said. And then he would take three very small drinks of vodka, just in case she had cubs while she was waiting outside. It doesn’t work.” – Susan Ivanova, “The Hour of the Wolf” Babylon 5: Season 4, Episode 1
Sometimes the world in my thoughts overshadows the external world. This can happen at any moment, slowly and subtly. A simple thought expands to a vision and the vision in my mind becomes a story being played out in my mind, often fleeting, but in the moment real: Places are visited, conversations are had, things are done, feeling are felt. These moments are structured and controlled unlike the panic of “Hour of the Wolf” episodes. Sometimes these thoughts replay scenarios from the past, moving things around to affect a different outcome. (In French this is a referred to l’esprit d’escalier – “the sprit of the staircase.” In Yiddish the word is trepverter – “staircase words.” In either language the idea is the same, that as you walk away from a situation (i.e. leaving and walking down the stairs) ones mind quickly rethinks what one could of/should of said in the previous encounter.) Sometimes these thoughts are new mental fantasies, devoid of the past. Often, in these moments I can dissect a (perceived) problem and find solutions, but this too can lead to a bit of social awkwardness. Both initially when I’m zoned out, and then when I return with a solution. In order to provide a solution one must first acknowledge a problem. Because of this, unsolicited solutions are often unwelcome.
“I came,” she said, “hoping you could talk me out of a fantasy.”
“Cherish it!” cried Hilarious, fiercely. “What else do any of you have? Hold it tightly by it’s little tentacle, don’t let the Freudians coax it away or the pharmacists poison it out of you. Whatever it is, hold it dear, for when you lose it you go over by that much to the others. You begin to cease to be.” – Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49
So this is just a taste of what is going on in my mind in social situations. When manifest together I imagine the perception of myself that is being projected is, while hopefully not altogether negative, probably not ideal. That said, I generally like people, and I probably like you (if not I imagine I would tell you). If I insulted or offended you, appeared disinterested or aloof, or in someway gave you a negative impression of myself or how I feel about you, I apologize. Sometimes it is just difficult to stop thinking long enough to empathize and feel. Know when I am in a social situation I am totally uncomfortable and self-conscious, but I am trying.