Understanding the Impact of Trauma on Personalities: Faux-Extroverts and Faux-Introverts
Can we talk about personality for a second? Specifically, I want to know if you are introverted or extroverted.
While you might have taken the Myers-Briggs or other personality test, I’m here to tell you that you may be a faux-introvert or faux-extrovert. And yes, this is important information to know because how you interact with others will explain the quality and depth of your personal and professional relationships.
As a life coach for entrepreneurs, I have seen many people ruin relationships because they were behaving inauthentically to their own values, goals, and ambitions. In this article, we are going to compare introversion from extroversion and then explain how trauma can transform one’s personality.
First, let’s talk about the original definition of introversion and extroversion.
Origin of introversion and extroversion
In 1921, psychologist and psychiatrist Carl Jung introduced the concept of a person relating to the world from the perspective of their psyche or mind. In his book Dreams, he defined introversion as an “attitude-type characterized by orientation in life through subjective psychic contents” and extraversion as “an attitude-type characterized by concentration of interest on the external object.”
Over the years, this simple idea has been simplified: introverts find their energy from within, whereas extroverts use interactions with others as a source of energy.
But are you really an introvert or extrovert?
This is all well and good, but what if you had to adapt and survive in a stressful environment where you had to be on constant high alert for dangers, seen and unseen? How would that impact one’s behavior?
It’s not uncommon for trauma to shape how we interact with others and ourselves. In fact, it can deeply affect our personalities. For example, you may think you are an introvert, but find yourself energized around others. On the other hand, you may consider yourself an extrovert, but discover that your outgoing nature masks deeper insecurities.
To survive, we must learn to adapt
I propose that if you were raised in a pain-filled environment, your personality and life outlook may be less about your personality and more as a survival adaptation. In simpler terms, you had to act in a way that you believed would keep you safe.
In the next section, I will explain my own personal story and showcase some examples of inauthentic or faux-introversion or faux-extroversion.
The best performance of your life was in your childhood home
The other day, I chatted with a client who told me that she was an introvert. However, based on her past (she was raised by two alcoholic parents), I knew she was a natural extrovert. For sure, our personality is influenced by many factors, but her childhood forced her to behave in a certain way that betrayed her fun personality.
She learned, as a child, to keep herself invisible to prevent being seen by her often hostile and violent parents. This was especially true during one of their drinking spells when they would curse, throw objects and threaten violent acts against herself and her younger siblings. I can relate to this because for many years, I also falsely identified myself.
A flip-flop of moods
For many years, I sincerely believed that I was an extrovert. I was quick to speak and very slow-thinking. Most of my reactions during my younger years were impulsive and irrational. I jumped from one emotional extreme to another. I also craved attention, especially from men.
During the initial years of restoration and healing, I went inward emotionally. I became extremely sensitive to things that I perceived as judgmental or critical. As such, I hesitated to speak to certain people or in situations that I felt could damage my terribly low self-esteem.
As I reflect on this flip-flop of moods, I now see that my personality was inauthentic. I communicated with others from a place of pain and unresolved trauma.
Representing yourself or your trauma?
But what about you? Are you confident about how your present yourself to others?
Your personality might be a response to trauma, rather than an accurate representation of who you really are. You may have learned to keep your thoughts to yourself out of fear or to act outgoing to conceal deeper insecurities.
In the next section, let’s dive more into the traits of the faux introvert and extrovert.
The faux introvert personality
If you’re a faux-introvert, you may have learned to fear sharing your thoughts due to past experiences of being ignored, hit, beaten, or yelled at for speaking your mind. As a result, you may have learned to keep your thoughts to yourself.
Therapist Claudia Black’s book, “It’ll never happen to me,” perfectly explains how children adapt to the adults in their world in stressful situations. One of the roles is the “placater,” and the following excerpt describes the traits of the placater:
“These sensitive characteristics are displayed at school just as they are at home. In fact, these are the qualities that make placating children so well-liked at school. Acting the role of the placater is certainly safe for them. If they allowed themselves to risk self-disclosure, they would have to deal with their own realism and experience the pain of that reality.”
Safety is key for faux-introverts who cannot risk anything that would put a spotlight on their problems. That requires not making waves and adapting to everyone’s personality. Unfortunately, this self-betrayal is a denial of one’s authentic nature. Instead of sounding the alarms and alerting others to danger, they scurry away first physically, then mentally.
Signs of the Faux Introvert:
While you may indeed be a natural introvert and identify with some or all of the traits listed below, please note that the faux introvert also uses these traits to adapt to traumatic and chronically stressful situations.
- Slow to speak. Fearful of being perceived as weak or receiving negative feedback from others.
- Unable to act. Fearful that decisions are irreparable or beyond repair. Because they are looking for risk-free solutions they are susceptible to procrastination and being chronically late to important meetings/deadlines.
- Under-stimulated. This person desires little to no excitement.
- Demand absolute predictability and perfection. This is unrealistic because we live in an unpredictable world with unpredictable people and outcomes. This desire comes from fear or something being taken away or some denial of pleasure.
The faux extrovert personality
As mentioned earlier, for many years, I prided myself as an extrovert. With the aid of confirmation bias, I would happily check off the boxes in personality tests asking, “Do you enjoy being the life of the party?”
Years later, I can honestly say that after years of trauma and recovery work, the last thing I wanted was to be the center of attention. My behavior, especially during my most active years of sex addiction and alcoholism, was fueled by fear and overstimulation.
Life of the party or convenient scapegoat?
But what is a faux extrovert? Let’s go back to the book “It’ll Never Happen to Me” and talk about the role of the “Acting Out Child.”
Claudia Black refers to this as the perfect scapegoat for the family to avoid confronting how alcoholism is damaging the family. Here is why, according to Black: “If there is a delinquent child in the family, it is often easier for parents to focus on that child and the ensuing problems created, rather than worry about dad’s or mom’s alcoholic drinking. Such are the ones who are doing poorly or dropping out of school, getting pregnant in mid-teens, drinking at the age of 12, abusing other drugs, and exhibiting other socially unacceptable behavior. They may be found in correctional facilities, mental hospitals, or other institutions during some time in their lives.“
Next, let’s talk about the signs of the faux extrovert.
Signs of the Faux Extrovert:
Similar to the introvert, while you may indeed be a natural extrovert and identify with some or all of the traits listed below, please note that the faux extrovert also uses these traits to adapt to traumatic and chronically stressful situations.
- Quick to speak. This person is quick to speak due to their fear of being perceived as weak or losing control.
- Unable to slow down. They are unable to slow down, fearing that delayed decisions will result in irreparable harm. They refer to themselves as “revolutionary” and constantly seek out costly challenges.
- Over-stimulated. The person’s desire for constant excitement is rooted in a fear of loss or the denial of pleasure, causing them to seek unpredictability and lack boundaries of what is considered normal. The person lives life by the seat of their pants.
In conclusion, understanding the impact of trauma on personalities, and the concept of faux-introverts and faux-extroverts, can be a pivotal step towards personal growth and healing.
Your childhood experiences, especially in a stressful or painful environment, might have shaped a personality that doesn’t truly reflect your authentic self.
If you resonate with the descriptions of faux-introverts or faux-extroverts and recognize elements of your own behavior in them, there is hope. The first step towards happiness is self-awareness, and you’ve already taken that by reading this article. The next step is seeking guidance and support.
You deserve support – these resources will help you
I invite you to consider working with me, Denise, as your life coach. I specialize in helping individuals navigate the complexities of trauma and personal growth. Together, we can embark on a journey of self-discovery and healing.
Remember, it’s never too late to embrace your true self and build more meaningful relationships. Let’s take this journey together. Reach out to me for coaching, and don’t forget to listen to the podcast episode. Your authentic self is waiting to shine.