Thursday, March 31, 2005
Brash culture marginalises the shy, or I want to be left alone!::

Well, here's an article "Secrets of the Shy" that got me angry. It starts off fine, as the write up of some interesting research:
It's hard to get much lower-tech than the laboratory of psychologist Sam Putnam at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. The equipment here is strictly five-and-dime--soap bubbles, Halloween masks, noisemakers--but the work Putnam is doing is something else entirely. On any given day, the lab bustles with toddlers who come to play with his toys and be observed while they do so. Some of the children rush at the bubbles, delight at the noise toys, squeal with pleasure when a staff member dons a mask. Others stand back, content to observe. Others cry.

Those differences are precisely what Putnam is looking for. What he's studying during his unlikely playdates is that elusive temperamental divide between those of us who thrill to the new and those of us who prefer what we know--those who seek out the unfamiliar and those who retreat into the cozy and safe. It's in that divide, many scientists believe, that the mysteries of shyness may lie.
The next paragraph begins with a description that rings true:
Few things say "forget I'm here" quite so eloquently as the pose of the shy--the averted gaze, the hunched shoulders, the body pivoted away from the crowd.
That's me, and I know that it is some of you, though I know also that some of you are raving extroverts too... Such a spread is part of the wonder and joy of being human. Made in God's own image, but with such surprising variety!

It's the passing phrase: What can be done to treat the problem? that got my goat. The deep-rooted prejudice against the shy shows up in other places too, in phrases like: "Faces aren't the only things working against the shy; their genes may be too. Hey, what's all this against stuff? I like being shy, it's your demands that I act like you that I do not like!

Enough, already! I am fed up with brash, rude, demanding, petulant and oppressive extroverts who want to make me just like them. It's time the shy fought back, we should refuse to be bullied, and demand our rights (though quietly, and if possible anonymously ;) Stop trying to "treat" our "problem", being somewhat reserved is not a problem, preferring deep conversation with a few friends is better than enjoying party noise, not a treatable issue!

I'll go with the conclusion of the article, though, (buried on page three):
As Battaglia puts it: "Shyness is simply a human difference, a variation that can be a form of richness." Scientists studying shyness never tire of pointing out that Abraham Lincoln, Mohandas Gandhi and Nelson Mandela were unusually reserved people and may have achieved far less if they'd been otherwise.
Amen, God made me shy, and I'll thank you brash extroverts to leave me my peace! As the actresses Bette Davis and Marlene Dietrich are reported to have said: "I want to be alone. Though actually maybe Greta Garbo got it right when she corrected the record on her own identification with the phrase:
Garbo once commented, "I never said, 'I want to be alone.' I only said, 'I want to be left alone.' There is all the difference in the world."
PS to all the lovable extroverts I know well, including my wife, this rant does not mean you, it means the system, the culture, that keeps consistently showing bias against us shy folk.

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