My perk of being a wallflower


I don’t know if you watched the movie “The perks of being a wallflower” or read the book (1999), but if you didn’t, please do it. Basically it tells a story about a boy that is defined as a wallflower, and how amazing life can be for this kind of person (ignore my synopsis because I can’t reduce the film to a simple phrase). This term describe a person that is introvert, but still tries to get involved in social events. Normally enjoys to be lonely, and often can pass without being notice.

The question is what is the perk of being a wallflower then? To answer this question we have to dig in the lovely world of neuroscience a little bit, and after answering this question, we can connect more with each other, and I can try to explain why this is a perk for me.

Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody. ― Stephen Chbosky

I love neuroscience and psychoanalysis, if I wouldn’t have became a software engineer, I would probably have joined the neuroscience field. I would even say that if the path of medicine in my birth country wasn’t that expensive and “selective” I would have opted to it instead of software development career. I do believe that one day we will be able to predict actions precisely based on the analises of the brain, because every single option that you chose daily, sugar or salt? cold or warm? right or left? All this options have a fundamental explanation based on what you have being exposed through your whole life, and how your brain was composed to be.

This can sound as I’m minimising our brains, but is the total opposite, it fascinates me how complex and simple we are at the same time. We are unique in so many ways, you can say that you are you only in this moment in this place, because after reading this you are not the same that you were seconds ago. If we are a composition of experiences, we are who we are just at this second. Any different exposition can lead us to take different paths.

So I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we’ll never know most of them. ― Stephen Chbosky

Let’s get back to the focus and discuss the introvert behavior. Carl Jung was a psychologist, and in 1920 coined the terms introverts and extroverts in his work Psychological Types. To Jung, the main difference between this two kind of personalities is how their brain get stimulated. To him, an extroverted person, tend to energize himself with social interaction, in the other hand, an introverted person lose energy, and need to “recharge” after some social event, such as parties or family meetings.

The german psychologist Hans Eysenck, came up with a more biological explanation that corroborates the Jung theory. To Eysenck, the main difference is on the cortical arousal (the speed and amount of the brain’s activity, a synonym of arousal is stimulation). Introverts seems to have a high cortical arousal, and process more information per second. This means that, when you put an introverted person into a very loud, colored, crowded place, his brain tries to sort of shut down to reduce the exposition or stop the influx of information. In the other hand, extroverts are minimally aroused, witch means they seek highly stimulating environments to augment they arousal levels.

And in that moment, I swear we were infinite. ― Stephen Chbosky

There are tons of studies that support this theory, and add more data to the discussion about the difference between introverts and extroverts brain. I could cite all of them here, but you can find an incredible article written by Joseph Bennington-Castro that resumes them all beautifully here. This list exposes the main difference between this two kind of personality:

After this introduction between the differences in the brains of introverts and extroverts, you maybe thinking that be an introverted person is awesome. But of course it isn’t that good, otherwise you would be probably see training courses, books, post and a lot of slides like: “How to become introvert in 12 steps”. As almost everything in life, the equilibrium is the perfect point. This high cortical arousal has a very dangerous side, overthinking.

So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be. — Stephen Chbosky

You may find introverted people sort of paranoiac, because they tend to overthinking about everything, a simple word in a phrase can trigger a whole flow of thoughts. Thinking too much about reasons and explanation may lead your brain to paranoid. It is also very common enter into dissociative state, for example in the middle of conversation your brain can get attached to other details and start to think about that instead of listen the actual words coming from the other people’s mouth, specially because for introverted person, a human face and an inanimate object have the same stimulation. This facts become a problem very often, screwing relationships or becoming a barrier to create bonds with another person.

As far as I can remember, my brain was not born introverted, I remember dancing with aunts at grandpa birthday parties, having plenty of friends, in general being full of energy with other people. At some point our brains seem to get confused about life, and the wrong connections start to take place. I think Froid would "click on recommend" at this story, since I got expose to parents divorcing, young mother inexperience, father on drugs, drugs myself, mother dying young, father fights, and all that kind of stuffs that can shake anybody personality and understanding about life during early life stages.

But, this is not a sad story, or, as Chbosky said, it is a story that can be sad and happy at the same time. And the happiness of all this is that I became myself, and you became yourself, we wouldn’t be this person without experience every single moment of our past, the important thing is to be in agreement with yourself and do the best you can with the one that you became.

I just want you to know that you’re very special… and the only reason I’m telling you is that I don’t know if anyone else ever has. ― Stephen Chbosky

The perks of being a wallflower then is that this introspectiveness allows us to have a unique level of sensitivity. From my side, I have this strong identification with sadness in general, and I’m pretty sure that there is a lot of persons like me out there, otherwise you will not see so much fans of this playlist. In the other hand, people with this personality do not like people very often, but when you do, oh boy! you can became the most naive person in the world.

Overall, as a proverb dated from 1915 says “when live gives you lemons, make a lemonade”. So, what I recommend for crazy people like me is to stand up and try to cross that barriers, the first conversation, create a bond, the hug, the kiss, the mistake, the fall. There is nothing comparable to love, to have a friend, to taste, to experience, even if end up bad, the path is what matters, because in the end, all that matters are the stories and the memories that you have.

Maybe it’s sad that these are now memories. And maybe it’s not sad. ― Stephen Chbosky