Wiggle and high reactives:introversion

My sensory antennae were spinning. I was losing my buoyancy and in ever- increasing circles of unfocussed, jagged, environmental sensory data. Was I just plain daft? I didn’t know how to do it? I was panicking and needed to breathe……panic…..how do I ?…I will relax…..breathe………..breathe………it’s only…………breathe…….breathe…………BREATHE! I was sinking fast. I did my best to smile, look calm, ask a question or two; whilst knowing that I needed to be in a quiet place. It’s not that I don’t like people, I do. It’s just that meeting new people in new situations requires energy, focus, concentration, planning, preparation, time, forethought, fortitude and sheer bravery. But at this moment my confidence, my speech, my memory and who I was whizzed out of the windows and doors. I was struggling. I tried desperately to listen but couldn’t hear as my need to breathe muffled all conversation. My mind a vortex of disconnection;  my own Corryvreckan.

I’ve been taking time and space to think, to be. My reading has included Quiet by Susan Cain, bought after watching her TED talk. Included is an experiment by Jerome Kagan, often referred to as the ‘father of temperament,’ from which he hypothesised that infants born with excitable amygdala would wiggle and howl when shown unfamiliar objects – and grow up to be children who were more likely to be vigilant when meeting new people ie high reactives, and, these may be one link to help explain introversion.  Further research by Hans Eysenck makes reference to introverts having wide open information channels, causing them to be flooded with stimulation giving a sense that you can’t think straight – that you’ve had enough and would like to go home now.

OK, I know there’s a lot more to who we are, our temperaments, characters and behaviour but there’s some basic face validity here for me, as I am in this book. Yes, there’s a little stereotyping around extroverts, introverts, leaders and shy people, with a mix of research and examples it’s a heady mix of moments where I find myself thinking and saying; “that’s me, that’s exactly how I feel, that’s me down to a ‘t,’ some experiences and feelings are more understandable and I feel as though I know and appreciate myself a little better.

My quiet place has included very few social activities, lots of TV, reading, tai chi, baking cake and bread, picking blackcurrants, starting to make blackcurrant liqueur, gardening, just wondering, walking and being. I’ve had a few days out, taken in a film and popped into an occasional supermarket for grocery supplies. All of these can be solitary activities where exposure to social interaction is known, limited and generally within my control.

My TV watching hasn’t been very selective:

  • Neighbours – What’s happened to Madge and ‘Al’ and ‘Di?’
  • Ripper Street returned to BBC after a brief sojourn on Amazon prime
  • Channel 4 News is my preferred news channel
  • When channel flicking one rainy afternoon I spotted Gerald Harper in a western. Yes, Adam Adamant
  • Seeing the latest trailer for ‘The Great British Bake Off’ was just terrible, so much so I said clearly and ‘out-loud’ that I wouldn’t be turning up in front of the TV. But I do like Mel and Sue  and I’ve made a few of Mary Berry’s cakes so ….. After a day where every step of my walk was hard work I just wanted to be entertained. I was. The interpretations of madeira cake and Black Forest gateaux were funny, off-the-wall (beetroot), quite ridiculous, and, I learnt that candied peel should be brittle and make a crisp noise when dropped onto a plate
  • Genius of the Ancient World I haven’t caught up with the second episode on Socrates yet but I do love the way Bettany Hughes summarised the buddha’s greatest gift ie ‘ it’s compassion, empathy and knowing who we truly are which makes both us and the world better.’
  • Are our kids tough enough? My very first reality TV teaching viewing. I just don’t get it. Why do we think we can take teachers from a different culture and place them in UK classrooms. I feel for the teachers who are extremely knowledgeable, leaders in their subjects at home and highly regarded. I feel for the pupils as they appear to be placed in a situation not of their making and are struggling to comprehend what’s going on. It appears to be bringing out their character, individualism and ways of coping which include both positive and negative aspects of a ‘fight and flight’ response.  Toward the end of this episode the maths teacher had great insight and shared a maths puzzle/game with the pupils. The change in the classroom was incredible. I saw intrigue, excitement, puzzle, frustration, peer cooperation and learning, increasing self confidence, realisation and communication between pupils and the teacher.  It brought home how relational teaching is. The individuals I don’t feel for are the members of school management seen during the first and second episodes. What possessed them to undertake this experiment and why didn’t any of them stop it?  Surely, a research project which is clearly demonstrating negative data (just look what’s going on in the classroom) would have been stopped. But then I remember, it’s sensationalist, misinformed TV in a UK school where even the headteacher now wants to see a lack of positive results. Why wait for the exam?  Why do we continue to denigrate our schools, our teachers and our pupils in this way?  If you want to read a little truth behind those PISA comparison stats read this blog.

There may be a few who see this form of teaching as reflecting that which we experienced decades ago in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s and, think this is what should be happening in our schools today. Some may even think this clearly demonstrates where we’ve gone wrong. It’s important to consider any positives which we can take from the social experiment, although we are watching extremely edited images. There’s energy in the classroom which is being wasted, misdirected, unseen; there’s energy in the morning collective exercise which turns out to be popular. Our teachers are not only subject specialists they are experts in relations, in teaching and learning; working with pupils to help them understand, achieve and gain confidence. Just look how some pupils went to see their usual maths teacher to help them understand a concept introduced by the Chinese teacher (episode 2).

Without warning ‘shackling the mind’ pierces my thinking. Where did I read this? I’ve virtually re-arranged my bookshelves (a considerable task) hunting this down…… it’s from Unpopular Education by the Education Group (Centre for Contemporary Studies); a critic of Jean-Jacques Rousseau is quoted as saying ‘ tis necessary, therefore, in order to form a good citizen to impress the infant with early habits; even to shackle the mind with salutary prejudices, such as may create a conformity of thought and action with the established principles on which his native society is based.’

These quiet days are restorative, energising, simply lovely relaxing times, accepting that this is a part of who I am. They are adventures in their own right. My engagement with a busy, noisy, energising, amazingly kind and lovely wider social world just needs to be balanced with quiet solitude.

It’s not you, it is me!

I’ve learnt to accept this important aspect of my identity and not apportion blame or feel inadequate. I’m coming out to play again …… I’ve nervously and bravely stepped into a world of daub painting with the generous spirited Jerry Gordon. It’s exciting, extremely challenging and, my fellow learners Rob and Arnold are amazing. It feels great. I anticipate writing a little more in the three paint colours Jerry wants us to use; red, blue and yellow…….


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