On Being An Introvert

Several years ago I cam home after reading a book titled The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney and announced to my wife that I was declaring myself a Militant Introvert! In her book, Dr. Laney pointed out that many of us introverts grow up believing there is something wrong with us because we are not as out-going or socially skilled as the extroverts in our lives. I resonated to that, having long seen myself as socially inept. What her book and the better known Quiet by Susan Cain helped me see was that we introverts have our own set of gifts and that I would do well to embrace those gifts.

Indeed many people we look up to are introverts. People I had long admired — people such as Gandhi or Eleanor Roosevelt or St. John XXIII were introverts yet were also clearly people of inner power.

What has also been helpful to me is to understand introversion and extroversion in terms of what energizes us versus what exhausts us. I remember after reading this idea in Laney’s book, I had the thought “Gee, maybe that’s why I’m so tired after a day of counseling with others!” We introverts indeed can do many social things and can do them well. (Remember that one thing most people like about we introverted counselors is that we listen well!) It just tires us while solitude energizes us.

As a strong introvert, I am aware, just as Jung said, that I have extroverted capabilities. I drew on those energies for example when I portrayed Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey. But my make-up is that of an introvert and I have come to embrace that rather than judge it negatively.

At the spiritual level, I function mainly as an introvert. I am drawn to introverted practices such as meditation or silent prayer or journaling. To be a complete spiritual person, I see that I am challenged to work at extroverted spirituality. I can do that but only if I first accept that I need to do that to be complete but not because extroversion is the better path.

So, yes, I am an introvert and a militant one and, somewhat later in life, proud of it!

Reflection: How do you see yourself on the introvert-extrovert scale and how does that inform your spiritual world?

About richp45198

I am a clinical psychologist and have an abiding interest in matters spiritual.
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4 Responses to On Being An Introvert

  1. I’m terminally introverted–what energizes me is meditation, prayer, reading, and writing. I spent most of last week holed up, working on my next book, but I must confess that by the end of the week I was beginning to get cabin fever and needed contact with friends. My spiritual edge, of course, is in extroverted activities–forming and nourishing relationships in the world. Winter is a very inward time, so it’s easier to be introverted in winter than in summer. I love winter because it calls me inward where longer nights and shorter days compel me to discover the light shining in the darkness.

  2. Susan says:

    With regard to feeling tired after a day of counseling with others I would say that there is more to it than just introversion. I can recall walking into a room with a YOUNG Iraq War veteran and walking out an hour later feeling as though I too had been making the decision as to whether or not to shoot a vehicle coming close to the perimeter. It was like being there. I felt shaken and later tired. It takes energy to enter into the pain of another person. It is not possible to do it without taking on some of it yourself.

  3. Michele Osborn says:

    According to the Myers-Briggs personality assessment I took years ago, I am lucky I go outside. LOL Being introverted in the field of Human Resources had its own challenges as well. I found myself exhausted after a day of “ice breaking exercises” and such and did not have energy enough to socialize after a day of networking meetings. I did always feel like an outsider. I have come to learn, as you say Rich, that I have different gifts and I embrace those more now than I used to. Thanks for sharing your insights.

  4. Mary Muntel says:

    Interesting question, Rich. Something I had to ponder. I know that the different groups process information differently and that is a benefit in understanding others as well as in leading discussions, teaching, etc. Of course this and what you wrote of is very helpful in understanding ourselves.
    Part of aging I’ve heard is integrating different aspects of ourselves. Experience leads us to doing that work and also wisdom and grace.
    Though shy and more introverted in the past, I see myself as bordering both introvertedness and extrovertedness for some time now. So looking at that then, I imagine I need the quiet reflection, the time away for reenergizing, and the taize type communal prayer in the dark quiet of our church. Also I know I benefit from the vibrant liturgies with wonderful songs and participation, good faith sharing, stimulating class discussions, and community and parish service. Both a walk in the woods and a raucus afternoon with grandkids nourishes me! I must admit though, that I do find working with kids and teens now exhausting!
    I still feel called to reflect on this question. We are always processing. Always growing. Perhaps I need to look into new ways or different patterns of enriching my spiritual awareness. Thank you.

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