A subject closely related to Introverts are highly sensitive persons. Although not all introverts are highly sensitive and there are extroverts that are highly sensitive too, the majority of highly sensitive persons are also introverts (Quiet, Susan Cain).
The psychologist Elaine N. Aron, PhD, and author of the book The Highly Sensitive Person, has defined highly sensitive persons as someone who “has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment” (http://hsperson.com/books/the-highly-sensitive-person/). But how does that feel?
I perceive it as if my filters are too thin. When other people seem to be able to filter out and not hear, see or be affected by outer stimuli, I don’t seem to be able to. On a fairly conscious level I am aware of any sound, smell, touch and visual cue within my range of perception. I can choose to ignore responding to it but I can’t choose to not be aware of it. To me the idea of a rave party seems ridiculous when a simple restaurant visit can be quite overwhelming with chatter, music, different smells of food, numerous people moving within my field of vision. This includes sounds, smells and visual stimuli that is pleasant. If I’m also tired it all blurs together into chaos.
At the moment I’m trying out audiobooks for the first time. I know that the underground isn’t the most ideal place to listen as I hear the train, other people, station announcements as well as this woman (the reader) talking in my ears. Listening at home doesn’t necessarily help, as I’m still aware of the other housemates moving about in the house, the toilet flushing, the washing machine going, the neighbours’ dogs barking, even the quiet sound the central heating makes when heating up the radiator.
Next time you’re in a crowded public place, stop and try to identify every single sound you can detect. If you think it’s tiring to listen to the chaos of sounds for 5-10 minutes, try doing it for a lifetime. It is no wonder that introverts/high sensitive persons want and need a lot of quiet, low-stimuli time.