I’m 21 years old and came across (your column) (http://www.reviewjournal.com/steven-kalas/intense-personality-may-simply...) about someone describing themselves as intense and overwhelming to other people. He was eternally disappointed that people felt he was too demanding, too hard to deal with, taking too much energy away from others. I’m writing you because I feel I have the exact problem this man had described to you. I’ve never read any advice targeting this so well. It felt very validating that someone out there, too, feels the same way.
I’m super extroverted, outgoing and appear totally confident but suffer from deep insecurity in many ways. People describe me as intense, overwhelming, passionate, extroverted, exhausting, energetic or bouncing off the walls. I’ve been told I put a lot of pressure on people. I have worked on this a lot, but it really hurts to be told I’m this way. I’m a naturally anxious and excited person, and it has served me in good and bad ways. But it seems to scare people away. Especially potential boyfriends.
However, what this man says is also true: Conversely, many people tell me that I’m thought-provoking, life of the party, gregarious and full of life, inspiring, creative, lovable … and your explanation that this difference lies in the fact that people either prejudge my motives or give me the benefit of the doubt … well, this explanation completely clicks with me. It makes sense.
I think I’m a catch. However, my intensity wards off guys and maybe a few friends. It doesn’t bother me that much, because, even though I’m extroverted, I enjoy spending time by myself and have cultivated meaningful hobbies. But do you have any advice on how I can attract more people, especially more potential guys, into my life, without scaring them away?
OK, I confess. I wasn’t going to say this out loud. But then I received your email. And it was so poignant, so honest and vulnerable … well, I just have to come clean.
The original column is about me. It’s pure auto-biography, disguised ‘as if’ about someone else. But, of course, I’m not the only one with a personality type as that described in the column. There are others.
You, for example.
I am so happy for you! You are asking questions at 21 that I would not (because I could not) formulate until I was much older. I always feel a thread of redemption when I meet someone who can scratch and claw their way to liberation sooner than I did, aided in part by my story of scratching and clawing. That makes us companions. Thanks!
A couple of ideas for you …
Go to the website enneagraminstitute.com. You will see, in the center of the home page, a circle filled with triangles. No, it’s not a pentagram. It’s the Enneagram wheel, identifying nine essential type/temperaments. That is, defining patterns of personality. We are each born, you see, with an energy. This energy is our personality type. And the Enneagram is simply the most brilliant and useful model I have ever seen to identify and describe type/temperament.
Now, click on type “7, The Enthusiast.” Read it. See if that fits. If you’d like, take the RHETI test ($10). Find a therapist who is schooled and deft in Enneagram interpretation.
I’ve never met you, of course. And I don’t have to be right. But your presentation is very much the plight of Enneagram 7’s. Or other types with a strong “7” tri-type. The Enneagram can provide you a language and a map for reveling into the strengths of your type (all types have strengths) and mitigating the blind spots and weaknesses of your type (all types have blind spots and weaknesses.)
Next, keep the original column on hand. Think about this not as mending an illness or fixing something that is “wrong with you.” Rather, think about this as learning a social etiquette. A politic. 7’s have to learn to bridle and manage the abundant, often frenetic energy of their type. But it can be done.
Lastly, separate the issues of enthusiasm and anxiety. Enthusiasm is a good thing. Anxiety is, most often, something that saps our strength and energy, not to mention the strength and energy of those around us.
If I could give you an early Christmas present, you would unwrap eight sessions with a really, really good therapist. Not because “you need counseling.” But because you are a way-ahead-of-your-peer-group 20-something, primed to do some serious learning and growing about herself.
You go, girl!
Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Las Vegas Psychiatry and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). His columns also appear on Sundays in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at 702-227-4165 or firstname.lastname@example.org.