Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Hidden Life of Introverts

I am really zipping through these old papers — well, not really, because every time I write one up I spend about 20 minutes on it. Which makes for about 5 minutes per page. Not zipping, then. Considering that I have a box full of papers, I am probably not making much progress at all. I don’t even want to do the math. But blogging them is helping them stick in my mind — I suppose it’s a form of narration. So in that way, it’s all good.

Several years ago we were talking about introverted temperaments at Real Learning, and Lissa sent this link to a post by her husband. He, in turn, was drawing from an Atlantic article by Jonathan Rauch called: Caring for Your Introvert (the habits and needs of a little-understood group). From what I read on the Atlantic web site, the short piece received and still receives more traffic than anything else posted there.

Also, in an RL discussion Cindy, an old friend who has two introverted sons, mentioned this book: The Introvert Advantage. Reading the article and the book helped me quite a bit in understanding things that had puzzled me in the past about myself, my kids, and the world around us. According to most sources, introverts are “a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population.” The reason for this, apparently, is that introverts mentally process a different way than extroverts do. They are often slower in the give-and-take of an “extrovert” scene like the local neighborhood BBQ, but process in more depth and since they are energized by solitude and going into depth on a subject or skill, they develop abilities that carry over into intellectual areas. Of course, quick social ability and ability to get along in crowd situations is a good thing, and is probably an important aspect of “emotional intelligence”, but the point is that introversion does have some redeeming qualities as well.

Also, introversion is not the same thing as shyness. Some introverts are shy, but so are some extroverts. I would imagine that there is more reason for an introvert to develop social anxiety, because often society prefers the out-going, “people person” type of personality to the quieter, more reserved type. (I have read that it is otherwise in Japan, where quiet reserve is valued more than it is here in central California, but I don’t know if it’s true. It always reminds me, though, of my oldest son’s good friends in his grade school years — they were Asian, brothers about a year apart in age, and their mother heartily approved of my son as a playmate for them because he was so quiet and respectful and thoughtful : )). So, there are plenty of confident introverts who are comfortable in their own skins, and there are extroverts who are socially insecure, perhaps because they have been criticized for their natural style of interaction.

A surprising number of actors and actresses are introverted by temperament, and this isn’t as odd as it seems. My daughter, for instance, as a moderate introvert, is much more comfortable doing things like cantoring and lectoring at church than much of her more extroverted peer group. It seems that this kind of setting, where an introvert is allowed to challenge herself in a semi-controlled environment, can lead to success which builds confidence in other areas.

It’s much more commonly realized that many writers are introverted types. One way that this is noticeable is in their choice of main characters. A large proportion of literary characters especially in juvenile books have some obvious up-front “issue”, like overweight or a limp or poor eyesight, and also some inner strength or talent or vocation that ends up saving the day in some respect. This, I would imagine, reflects how many introverts see themselves, and it’s probably no accident that many introverts (certainly I was one) receive a lot of emotional nourishment from books.

I suppose the internet can be a solace to the introverted person, too. A solace can become a burrow to escape into and balancing that out is important. I think I burrowed into books a bit too much as a child, and I have to fight my tendency to burrow into my computer now.

I blogged about introversion and unschooling a few times in the past:

(I thought there were more, but they are not coming up).

Not directly related, but I like this post at Studeo about how “the world” sees things one way but that is not always the truest way to see them.


(Brendan having some time and space)

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