Does this sound familiar: You walk into the classroom or staff meeting. There are a few people there and you say a quiet hello to them. People continue to file in. A few may say hello but some don’t. You watch people happily greet each other. As the room fills, the loudness grows.
You sit in your quietness. It feels pretty painful, you feel invisible. As the loudness grows you look at the time, counting down the minutes for class or the staff meeting to start. It’s hard for you to be in a large group of people where there isn’t structure.
FInally, it starts, and you start to feel less discomfort. You can now focus on the person in charge. If there is a break, the experience happens all over again. You have felt this so many times and you really don’t like it. It’s a painful experience to be in a group of people and feel invisible. I’ve been there.
One thing that can happen internally is a feeling of shame. You wonder why it’s so hard to be social. You wish that you could be comfortable, not shut down when there is more than a few people. You start to assume, or have for a while, that because you are quieter that it means you are not likable.
Before I go further, I want to explain what a trigger is. A trigger is when we experience an emotion because there is something happening right now that reminds us of some event in the past that didn’t go well. So, in that moment, we are having hard feelings from the past and present. When this happens, you wonder why you are having such a strong reaction; your reaction seems too big for what just happened.
That’s a good indicator that it is a trigger, and triggers are really frustrating. Sometimes we know what triggers us so we can do some preparation and other times they catch us off guard and we are left feeling like we have just been run over.
So let’s go back to the staff meeting/classroom setting. For those of us that are introverted, you have likely had this experience since elementary school in one form or another. And if you grew up not knowing you were introverted (which is quite common) you were left feeling a bit defective. So these past feelings of shame and inadequacy flood you and leave you feeling overwhelmed.
I remember a few times at university that it would take me a few days to recover from this. And it is a weird experience in that no one was mean to me, no one actually did anything. The hurt came from not being seen. And this really hurts, especially when it continues.
Some ways to manage triggers
The first recommendation is to start to notice when you have feelings that seem a bit too big for what happened. (Note: If you are highly sensitive, your big feelings may be because you actually just have bigger emotions, it might not mean that you are triggered.)
Once you have an idea of a few of your triggers, be curious. What about the situation caused the big feeling? Some triggers are very clear, others not so much. Decide if there are things that you would like to change in order to reduce the triggers.
The analogy that I like to use with my clients, is being in the water when the waves are big. If I prepare for the wave – turn away, stand where I feel strongest – the wave has less impact on me. If the wave catches me unaware, I am thrown into chaos.
Some common triggers for those of us that are introverted
- Not being acknowledged
- Being asked why are you so quiet
- Being left out
- Feeling overwhelmed by all the stimulus
- Conflict (or even the possibility of it)
- Any questions about friendships
- Too many people
- Feeling stuck in a social setting
Triggers take up a lot of emotional energy, both in the experience and in the recovery. This can change.
The way that I handle my trigger of “feeling invisible” is that I remind myself ahead of time that it might be hard (preparing for the wave). As the feeling of shame comes up, I am prepared with a few tactics.
I remember who I am important too and who is important to me, I search things on my phone, or if I’m feeling more emotionally strong, I let myself experience the feeling and remind myself that just because I’m not talking does not mean that I’m not a good person. In our quietness, you are good and so am I.
If that’s hard to believe right now, I’ll hold that belief for you until you feel ready to take it as your own. If this feels like something you would like to hear more about, please feel free to book a complimentary call with me.
Tracy, a fellow introvert and therapist, helps introverted people manage anxiety, find success in the workplace, and build better relationships.