Sunday, February 12, 2012
Finding Myself in a Book
A great book that I read late last year was Look Me In The Eye, by John Elder Robison (the Aspergian younger brother of Augusten Burroughs). And one of the parts that stood out to me most vividly was his realization and coming-to-terms process of Asperger's syndrome. He was nearly forty by the time he was given a diagnosis, but he describes such a feeling of relief, of deep understanding, about aspects of his personality that he never understood before. He had recognized that they were different, but finally had a way to attribute them to something, a reason he was the way he was.
While there are always perils of such classifications (I am of the belief that we have more people with many diseases, syndromes, and concerns, because we have names for them know where there weren't before), it's nice to know that there are reasons we are the way we are.
I had a similar realization last year in the form of Emmons' The Chemistry of Calm, which discusses the biological causes, and some natural remedies for, chronic anxiety. I'm presently coming down from a similar moment with Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.
My diagnosis as an introvert is not new. I've known ever since I took the Myers-Briggs in college, and since then have had it affirmed as I aimed to learn more about the personality parameters examined in that instrument. And looking back, it explains a lot of my behavior up to that point: I revel in the opportunity to live by myself, am protective of personal space, detest small talk and superficial relationships, and am most energized when alone or in the company of a few close friends. But Cain went to great lengths to explain why, unlike my other traits (sensing, feeling, and judging, for the record), introversion was something that I struggled with so often.
To clarify, I don't struggle with the classification; I am accepting of introversion as being a part of who I am. But it turns out that like most cases where you are a minority, being in a state that defies the dominant culture is difficult. And without giving away too much of the book, Cain asserts that the majority of our world- social gatherings, workplaces, and especially schools- is designed for extroverts.
As with The Chemistry of Calm, the revelations of this book will not change my behavior. But I know that the knowledge contained within this incredibly relevant pair of books will stay with me. It'll make me better with family and friends, at work, and in my relationships. And it's nice to know that the "me" that I am has an explanation :)
What books have you "found yourself" in?