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“How do we maintain integrity as introverts, and at the same time allow our natural extroverted tendencies to emerge?

The answer: organically. We mosh best when we feel like moshing. The T’ai Chi symbol illustrates that introversion (yin) flows into extroversion (yang) and extroversion flows into introversion. Each specialty houses the nucleus of the other. When the introvert is safe, she can extrovert. When the extrovert is safe, he can introvert.” 
~Laurie Helgoe, PhD "Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength"

May Newsletter from Pyxis Counselling Services
The April showers have indeed brought May flowers. I hope that this finds you well as we are approaching the end of May and looking ahead to summer and all of what that brings. This month I have written about a topic that feels very personal to me. Probably the most illuminating piece of information I could have gained about myself is that I am an introvert. (Or to put it in a less labelling way - my personality is very clearly on the introvert side of the extrovert/introvert continuum. If I had a dime for every time I've been told "You're too quiet...") Understanding this temperament shed light on a whole lot of areas for me, and so I'd like to share some of what I've learned . 

Understanding Introversion (For Introverts and the Extroverts That Love Them)
Possibly the most important point to be made about this topic right off the top is that introversion is not a flaw that needs to be fixed.

Unfortunately, the word itself has a negative connotation and is often used as a synonym for antisocial, shy, or even pathological. It has only been in the last year or so that it is NOT (thankfully) appearing in diagnostic manuals such as the ICD (International Classification of Diseases produced by the World Health Organization) and the widely used DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders produced by the American Psychiatric Association). There is an article here by Nancy Ancowitz and Laurie Helgoe that covers the background on this. (An aside, Albert Einstein was an introvert. So was Audrey Hepburn. So is Bill Gates.)

The other thing to keep in mind is that although I refer to "introverts" and "extroverts" as though it is cut and dry, we all have both parts to our personality. We will fall somewhere along a continuum, so that there are those who are very strongly extroverted or introverted, or more moderately so. Then there are "ambiverts", those that have introversion and extroversion in fairly equal measure. 

The extroverts are often easier to spot, as they are usually more talkative, like to be in on the action, have a wide circle of people that they consider friends, can dance all night once they get started, and are great at thinking on their feet. 

The introverts are most comfortable one-on-one or in small groups, consider only deeper relationships as friendships, will need to rest after being out and doing activities, even enjoyable ones, tend to listen more than talk, may appear to be calm observers, and need to think before responding or acting.

Perhaps the hallmark difference between introversion and extroversion is the source of energy. Extroverts become energized and invigorated by being around people and action, whereas introverts need to be alone in order to rest and recharge their energy. (Have a look at a blog I have written about being an introvert which explains this with an analogy of solar panels vs. rechargeable batteries.) 

So this is where some of the negative perception of introverts occurs in our culture, in that being alone is often seen as negative, a problem, and something to be avoided. In fact, having time alone is a necessity for introverts, in order for them to have energy to go out and "extrovert" as needed, whether at work or with friends and in other social settings. Because of this different orientation to the social realm, introverts are often mistaken for being antisocial, or not liking people.

There's a similar bias against quietness, which is often misinterpreted as being aloof, snobby, or stupid. Introverts may actually have a lot to say about things, particularly topics of interest to them, and may just need to be asked some good questions. They tend to be less comfortable with small talk/chit chat, hence the challenge of being at a party. Introverts often express themselves really well in writing, as it's a chance to consider more what they want to communicate.

It may seem obvious, but we absolutely need both types of people in the world! It's true that introverts become exasperated by being ignored or misunderstood, and extroverts wonder why the introverts can't say more or why they need so much down time. But imagine if everyone was an extrovert, or if everyone was an introvert. Not a good scenario either way. 

There is a lot of room for increased understanding of this personality dimension, so that we can move toward not only affirming the "life of the party" people but also honoring the quiet, contemplative people among us as well. A character in a novel I once read said this, "I have a rich interior life", and this has always struck me as a great summary of introversion. From the outside it may not look like there's a lot happening, but there's a world inside the introvert that is rich with thoughts, ideas and emotions.

If you think you might be an introvert and want to read further, or are an extrovert and want to understand an introvert in your life, here are some resources to start with:
The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D.
Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength by Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain 
(There is also a TED talk by Susan Cain


I invite you to pass this newsletter along to anyone that you think might find it helpful. As well, please let me know if you have any questions or comments and I look forward to connecting with you again next month.

Susie Merz MC, RCC


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