February 7, 2013

Confessions of an Incurable Melancholy: Ambushed by Good Intentions


Once we announced we were expecting our first baby, it started. Well-meaning women (and men, at times) would stop me in the hallway or pop in to my office and ask, in that sing-song voice I’ve come to despise, “Soooooo… How are you feeeeeling???” People who have not talked to me in years all of a sudden come out of the woodwork wanting to know all the personal details of my pregnancy. I’m almost dreading the day I begin actually showing because I know everyone will think my belly is public property and can by fondled at any moment they choose.

As a Melancholy/Choleric, I am generally comfortable staying mostly in the background, quietly running the show. For the most part, people leave me alone and just let me do my thing, which is great by me. But now, all of a sudden I’m on everyone’s radar. If I enter a building, every woman within a 50’ radius knows and comes running to see how I’m “feeeeeling,” and there is no sneaking quietly in and out of meetings. It’s like I have a flashing neon sign floating above my head at all times declaring, “Pregnant woman here! Stop what you’re doing and come talk to me!”

I don’t generally like being the center of attention anyway, so I am becoming increasingly frustrated and agitated by all the interest I’m suddenly receiving. All these lovely, outgoing people simply want to celebrate with me and love on me, but I interpret the constant attention as bombardment and bothering. After several weeks of trying to hide and avoid people as much as possible, I’ve finally figured out the problem:

As a Melancholy, my most important emotional needs are support, sensitivity, space, and silence. However, I work with a lot of Sanguine people, whose emotional needs are attention, affection, appreciation, and approval. So, when all these dear Sanguines are attacking and fawning over me, they believe they’re giving me what I need, which in their minds is the same thing they would want in my situation: attention and affection. However, the Golden Rule only goes so far, and definitely should not be applied when deciding how to best support and love on someone of a different personality type. Doing unto a Melancholy as you would do unto a Sanguine, just doesn’t work. The heart is in the right place, but the actions don’t translate well.

In order to best support me as a Melancholy, I need the people around me to give me space to be my introverted self, silence to process new information and still get my work done (SURPRISE! Work doesn’t stop just because I’m running to the bathroom every 15 minutes), support when I bring an issue to their attention, and sensitivity to the fact that all this is completely new and slightly overwhelming for me, which means I need even more space and silence to process the newness of it all – a completely foreign concept to most Sanguines who don’t tend to know what they’re thinking until they hear themselves say it out loud and NEED people around to help them process.  

The other piece of this puzzle is that while Sanguines want to tell everyone their exciting news and have a hard time keeping a secret, we Melancholies only want to share our innermost thoughts and secrets with our closest friends. Sanguines will talk to a fence post, but Melancholies have to establish a level of trust and respect with someone before they’re really allowed to see the messiness and excitement of our lives. I don’t mind talking about the baby or how I’m doing with my best friends or others who have been actively involved in my life before a baby entered the picture. When someone who has been solely an acquaintance and has shown little interest in my life up to this point, all of a sudden is asking a bzillion questions and wanting to know everything about the baby and my birthing preferences, I feel used. You didn’t care about me before, but you care about me now just because I’m pregnant? No, I don’t think so. Just because I’m having a baby doesn’t mean I’m going to trust everyone with the thoughts and experiences that are closest to my heart anymore than I used to. Please don’t expect me to share openly with you – and don’t be offended if I don’t – if you have not been an important part of my daily life before now.

I realize this post may come across as harsh, but my intent is mostly to help my well-meaning acquaintances and coworkers understand where I’m coming from, why I can seem withdrawn and anti-social, and what they can do to help me feel more comfortable in this new stage of life. I do believe most people are genuinely excited and innocently nosey, but if they really want to support us Melancholies well as we usher life into this world, they need to understand the our unique emotional needs and how to adjust their approach so we won’t feel assaulted by their good intentions.

I hope it helps!

Question for you, readers: Are there any other Melancholies out there who have felt similarly overwhelmed once everyone found out you were expecting? How did you handle it? Any tips would be much appreciated from the Melancholy population out there!

2 comments:

  1. Interesting, I must be a melancholy as I'm often taken aback when a bubbly animated person begins firing off questions - an invasion of sorts!

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    1. If you're interested in learning more about the Personalities, check out the book "Wired that Way" by Marita Littauer or "Personality Plus" by Florence Littauer. Great reads and super helpful in learning how to understand ourselves and communicate well with others. Obviously, I'm still learning, even after 18 years of knowing this material. :) Maybe I'll write a post with a brief description of each type to help those who visit my blog without a background in the Personalities... Thanks for the idea!

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