It is usually considered a good thing.
When we describe a person as intense in their careers, education, athletics, etc., it’s looked upon as a strong personality trait. It often describes a person who is focused and motivated. These individuals work hard to achieve their goals.
But what about emotional intensity?
I’m not so sure that everyone would describe it as a positive attribute. It can be exhausting to be with one of “those people”. :o)
I am what most people would consider to be a very INTENSE person.
As my close friends know, I LOVE making connections with others, but I have an incredibly difficult time making small talk. I prefer to dive in and go under the surface than discuss more top-of-the-surface issues.
For example, don’t you learn more about people when you discuss how they feel in the weather rather than what the actual temperature is on a certain day? Wouldn’t you want to share stories about our best friends, rather than our favorite pair of shoes or handbags or places to shop? And while I love to chat about the Real Housewives of NYC or Atlanta or Beverly Hills or Orange County, wouldn’t it be more meaningful to talk about how your dad is getting along since your mom died?
You see my problem.
I should clarify. I’m not saying that small talk doesn’t serve a purpose. It does. And I’m not saying I don’t do it either. I do. It just so happens that I really like to watch and recap the Real Housewives. It’s a great escape from reality. It keeps things light. However, I am just unable to keep up my end of the conversation, so a “light” conversation with me usually turns into something like this:
Friend: “Did you see that episode this week? Her sister is nuts!”
Me: “Well, I don’t know that she’s ‘nuts’, I think she has some really serious addiction issues and I feel really sorry for her and her kids…”
You see my problem.
Being a “Debbie Downer” is truly a downer sometimes. And that’s not to say that I can’t be a lot of fun. It’s true…I used to be HILARIOUS! I can do the best impersonations, make a complete fool out of myself for a laugh and tell hysterical stories. However, over the last five years, I’ve definitely mellowed and now most people only get to visit the “deep end” of this pool. While I used to host huge house parties, I will tell you this, nothing clears a party faster than when someone asks me what I’m up to these days…
Party Guest: “Wow, you sure go back to Chicago a lot, what are you going for this time?”
Me: “I’m organizing a team for a suicide prevention walk.’
Party Guest: “Oh”
Again, you see my problem.
So…this happens – A LOT. And, because I’m totally awkward and not very quick-witted, it takes a long time for me to recover. Like, it might not be until I’m driving home in the car 45 minutes later or when I’m about to fall asleep later that night that I realize how I should have responded without getting too deep. It isn’t unusual for a friend to receive an email or text apology after I’ve over-thought the situation for HOURS on end.
And, it’s important to note here that it’s not like I’m walking down the streets of Fairfield or Chicago telling everyone and anyone my business. As any (tortured) Public Speaking 101 student remembers, you need to “know your audience”. I am careful who I reveal my intensity to (well, most times).
Because of my emotional intensity, and trying to “read” my audience, I now save the heavy stuff for certain people. And because my family and I have experienced a lot of tough stuff over the last several years, I’ve had to allocate the stories around to a lot of different individuals, although my husband, Dave, bears the brunt of it. And it is a heavy burden.
I refer to these folks as my “safety nets”. And I am so incredibly fortunate to have them. As someone who identifies strongly as more of an introvert (I get my energy from being alone), I do have a lot of close connections. It’s just that when you’re an emotionally intense person, I have found that it’s better to “share the wealth” with many, in order to keep those friendships. Basically, these people save me from myself. They know (at least I hope they know this) that I am ALWAYS there to listen to them and their stories as well. As long as it’s not about shoes or handbags (just kidding…sorta).
I also choose to spend a significant amount of time alone. And it’s not because I’m sad. I just really, really, REALLY enjoy being alone, which doesn’t happen all that often. And, I need to stress here, it’s not because I don’t like people. It’s actually the reverse. I love people with an INTENSITY that’s exhausting and very difficult to understand unless you’re hardwired or socialized this way too.
Over the last few years, I have found the best of both worlds in social media, more specifically, on Facebook. Yes, I know all the statistics about how bad it is for you and your relationships, but for me, it has helped. Like, really helped. I love connecting with people, I get to edit my comments (impulse control issues here), “like” to show support for my friends and see their adorable families and what they’re up to – all from the comfort of my little corner on our oversized forest green outdated sectional. Life is good.
And if you’re a Facebook fan like me, you know it isn’t rare to come across one of those “fun” little personality quizzes that show up on our newsfeeds once in a while. I usually don’t take the quizzes, but when the “Bright Side”, a great site for spreading happiness had one, I decided to take it.
Although I was not expecting this answer from the sweet little “happiness” site, I was not completely surprised. It read:
The results: “Your subconscious is obsessed with the fear of losing someone close. The pictures you have selected suggest that from a very early age you have been a very emotional person. You have matured fast, and realized that people sometimes get hurt. This realization has made you worry for the people close to you, and that has only grown as you’ve matured. Your subconscious is constantly running. It also tells you that you should do something in order to save the people who are closest to you. There is no real way to let this feeling go, but instead of worrying, you should try to channel those feelings into something positive.”
While I think many factors play a role in my intensity, there is a lot of truth in those words. The fear of losing someone close is with me every single day. I’m not sure if it’s the result of losing so many people, or losing so many people to suicide. It is just so complicated.
As the results indicate, the fear may never go away, but I can learn to channel it in positive ways. Forging ahead with the kindness initiatives, continuing my volunteer work with the AFSP and always looking forward for new learning opportunities are just a few ways that I am trying to do this.
To my friends and family…I hope you now have a better understanding that there’s a real reason for my intensity. I love you more than you can ever imagine and I am terrified of losing you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for continuing to be there for me.
Intensity, as it turns out, may be my bright side.