Wednesday 22 September 2010

Shyness and introversion

Good news for those who suffer from "shyness":
'hormone of love' cure for shyness

Palpitation, raised blood pressure, hot blushing face, sweaty skin, clammy hands, fidgety feet, uncontrollable tremors. We have all experienced such fears. But this is a particular brand of fear, namely the fear of being seen, fear of making a fool of oneself, fear of being ridiculed. It’s like a fever, a disease. One feels ill and helpless when such fear strikes.

But it is such a strange topic for Café-philo: Shyness. Does an awkward personal trait merit a serious philosophical debate?  To my surprise, our fellow café philosophers have proved fairly flexible about the range of topics that might be admitted into our discussion, as one can argue that “philosophy” is also about questioning anything under the sun. So be it, we can talk about “shyness” just as we can babble on about the foul British weather, no doubt which is largely responsible for the making of the British characters: moodiness, shyness, introversion, stiff-upper-lip, and so on. 
Shy Politicians

Normally we would attribute a person’s shyness to a deep inferiority complex about one’s appearance, hence such a word as self-consciousness. Some café philosophers, however, tried to use Reverse Psychology to analyse the situation. They think that “shyness” could be interpreted as a manifestation of Superiority Complex – it describes certain persons who rate themselves higher than others and their inhibition and reticence can therefore be seen as a way of showing their contempt for others. I am not sure if I would agree with this theory. To my mind, it is one thing to be shy and bashful and it is another to be inhibited and reticent. Some former “Spin Doctors” in the previous government had a reputation of being secretive and not forthcoming. Can we say that the “Prince of Darkness” of the previous Cabinet suffered from “shyness”? Or, shall we assume that they felt “self-conscious” of their secrecy so that they had to borrow some fig-leaves to cover up their shame, like our biblical ancestors did?

In Asiatic feudal society, women were required to behave in accordance with certain social protocols, in which shyness was regarded as a virtue, and modesty and humility the quality of a well-educated woman. Even in old Europe, this kind of social protocol was not uncommon. Before French Revolution, people from lower social strata had to show diffidence in front of nobles. Assertiveness in the old days was considered bad manners, equivalent to the behaviour of drunkenness.

As Jean-Christophe pointed out, those who like to speak out in the public are usually those who try to impress, to show off their eloquence. Of course, there is nothing wrong with show-offs. Neither is there anything wrong with introverts. Some like to be in the limelight, some like to be on the sidelines. Some are loud; some are quiet. Some like crowds, some like solitude. Chacun a son goût. This is the beauty of living in a multi-cultural society, if we allow diversity of cultures to co-exist, why can’t we allow diversity of personalities to co-exist?

Why then in this day and age are there so much negative connotations attached to the words vaguely connected with “shyness”, such as introversion, inhibition? I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about the trait of introversion in general perception. If you are interested in popular psychology, there is an article worth reading:
Introverts should be left by themselves

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