I was saying yesterday how developping the social instinct, whether it's in the middle (second) position, or bottom (third) position is kind of hard if you've neglected it for so long that you don't have anyone to practice it with. There really is an epidemic of aloneness in the Western world today. People get left alone after a divorce, or after the children leave home for university, or maybe they just never got married in the first place. For most people being alone is a terrible feeling, leads to depression, and has been shown to lead to earlier death. People stay in marriages to avoid being alone, or they cling to their adult children by going to visit them as often as possible. People avoid growing up so they can stay out late and party, and don't have to face being alone. Like seriously very few people want to be alone forever. Even Type Fives, with the archetypal battery that needs to be alone to recharge, want people to come knock on their doors every so often and engage them.
Now, some people just gravitate towards social situations, and that's their preferred way of human interaction. They maybe make up a third of the population. They find it easy to be around others, and it feels wonderful. I'll eventually write about those guys, but this blog post is for those people who find it hard to be with others, either because they have trouble reading social cues at school or at the office, or they feel like they don't fit in at parties, they never know who to talk to at business events, or how to make networking feel natural, or it simply exhausts them too much to be in a group of people.
Let's first take a look at what Social people look and feel like from the outside. To those with a Social blind spot, the energy of the group feels like everyone's all gently swinging in a hammock together, and they've all figured out the rhythm of the swaying back and forth, and they want it to keep going, so awkward pauses get filled with extra verbiage- maybe a platitude here and there- that may not mean a hell of a whole lot, but it keeps the rhythm going, and allows the other people to figure out a thread to pick up on and start on that.
The point is the rhythm and the delicious and alive feeling of giving and taking. There's a buzz in being able to connect, to support and feel supported, engage in a back-and-forth conversation that isn't necessarily going anywhere, but they're knitting something- and that's a big fuzzy sweater, and when the sweater's done, they're going to all get in the sweater and wear it together.
Someone with Social as their lowest instinct is going to be like "What the fuck people. What color of yarn are you using? [because Socials aren't knitting an actual sweater- it's a metaphor] What pattern are you knitting? Who's in charge here? Whose lead do I follow? Where am I supposed to sit? Is anyone going to lend me a pair of needles? Oh. I was supposed to bring my own? Dammit. They're in my room. Maybe I'll go knit the sweater from there. See ya!"
For those with a Social blind spot, it's going to feel like they're a big old dog that just ruined the swaying of the hammock, and they just took their sharp energy and ruined everything, and now the Socials have to get the momentum going again.
OK, so if this is you, there is help.
I was listening to a talk with Russ Hudson and Jessica Dibb the other day, and they were talking about intimacy, how you don't necessarily have to be around other people to experience it- you can be intimate with the night sky, or with the forest, Russ was saying. Now intimacy is the domain of the Self-Preservation and Sexual instincts, and the area that Socials may struggle with.
So if that was true, I thought, the opposite must also be true- that you don't necessarily have to be around others to develop your social instinct. I thought that was an interesting idea, and it's something you can breathe into at home or at work as you notice your connection to the potted plant and the connection to the kitchen sink and the walls on either side of you as you go up the stairs. Just noticing the energy of what's physically around you, and how it feels to be amongst the objects in your environment is going to wake you up to a different energy.
Dr. Dan Siegel provides another lens. He says that our brains were initially wired to be social, and we can improve our social connections just by being social with ourselves. That may sound weird but it's actually the neurobiological starting point for the practice of mindfulness where we become our own observer.
But unfortunately, I now have to say "To be continued..." because it's getting late, but I will talk about the neurobiology of Social tomorrow.