Introverts: Healthy or Unhealthy

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Through the years there has been a lot of study of introverts and extroverts and the differences in how their lives unfold as a result. Even lay people can appreciate that it is not surprising that extroverts tend to seize opportunities that introverts may not.

This is largely unsurprising because by adulthood most of us would have seen (or been) introverts that were stopped, not by the quality of an idea or our interest in it, but rather by discomfort with the interpersonal relations required to enact the opportunity. In these states were are intimidated, and every human being will experience that in life.

While this leaves introverts at a disadvantage in a competitive landscape (which nature naturally is), this is not to suggest that there is something ‘wrong’ with them. Every human being has limitations that can prevent certain kinds of success, but there are no ‘wrong’ personalities.

If some person enjoys a lot of time alone and works well off by themselves, then they should pursue that and feel healthy. There are some well-known iconoclastic artists and scientists and other people who have lead fruitful, enjoyable lives, largely tucked off on their own.

That said, there is also a large group of separate introverts who self-hate themselves for their inability to seize opportunities they later regret having passed up.

Being a bit ‘aspy’ and enjoying time alone focusing on something for hours can make someone seem unhealthily obsessed, but if the motivation is the feeling that it must be done, then that is an example of a human being living their life in a way that suits them. That is what it is to follow a calling. There’s no external sense to it, but it works for the person living it.

If life wasn’t like that, we may have waited for some time for another Newton to sort out gravity and calculus. He didn’t love people, he loved ideas. In fact, he was known to pretty much hate people, he hated bathing, and he worked naked a lot. He was often seen as an unpleasant person.

Importantly, one gets the impression that Newton was too busy being Newton to care what others thought, and that is a form of spiritual health I write and speak about often. It may not seem like a naked, smelly, unfriendly person can live a quality spiritual life but they can and they do.

1363 Relax and Succeed - If any organism fails to fulfill its potentialities

It’s all a matter of –do we think we’re living our own life, or one stifled by uncertainty about our place in the world? Newton would have been very troubled were he forced to leave his lab only to be bathed and dressed and liked by people he had no interest in. So he was healthier in his lab, alone.

Be they in the arts or in science or accounting or engineering or any other field, those sorts of intense passions represent what it is to healthily separate ourselves from others. That is not what crippling introversion is.

This small study is yet another look at how some people are subtly and negatively affected by their introversion, and how they can benefit from actually learning to be more assertive.

Keep in mind, Newton had no trouble with assertive. He had confidence in his way of being. However, if our ‘aloneness’ doesn’t also have a confidence with it, then we’re likely in the group that would do better by learning to be more assertive.

This ‘change’ should not be seen as an improvement of a person because what is being asserted is the real person. The pain I see in many introverts comes from them chastising themselves for missed opportunities because, in essence, they feel that they are not living up to their natural potential. They, in effect, lack the courage and/or confidence to be the person they truly feel they are inside. That is not what Newton felt.

The logic of both Newton and the crippled introvert makes perfect sense with what I teach and what this blog is about. While unhealthy introverts are thinking debilitating, enervating thoughts about lost opportunities that have prevented personal success, Newton’s introversion had a certain confidence to it. He fought for the right to spend time with the one person he wanted to spend it with; himself.

With rare exceptions like Newton aside, it is a very human thing to function in groups. This increases our mental and physical health in many ways. A strong sense of community and connection is directly linked to our health. This is why it ends up being a positive experience for an unhealthy introvert to work toward being more extroverted –their lives end up being more social, and society is good for individuals.

The difference between these two groups is simple and both tend to instantly know which kind of introvert they really are. Newton wasn’t trying to be liked or be acceptable, he wasn’t even thinking about Newton’s place in the world.

Newton’s thoughts were on his science. He was a confident extroverted introvert, doing exactly what he wanted to do. He didn’t care what others thought and so he lived successfully by his own standards. Meanwhile, many crippled extroverts are prevented from doing what they want to do by their thinking.

Learning to stop all of that thinking, and becoming more comfortable with others through experience does take time. But with each successive step, a less secure introvert becomes stronger and stronger, until there is a day where they can finally feel that they are more fully being their true and healthy self.

If we’re cloistered away and we’re loving life, then we’re fine. But if we are the sort of introvert that deep down wishes they were living a life they can imagine, then it is time to take action to alter how we are using our thoughts. Otherwise, we can use them to build a jail for our spirit. That prison will always only exists in our heads, but if those thought-based walls are not taken down, they will lead us to suffer the pain of not fully realizing ourselves.

peace. s

Success by Failure

Each of us will take a direction in life depending on who we see ourselves as. For some people this leads to obscurity, for others it leads to great fame, but fame should not be mistaken for success just because it’s more visible. That’s just their job. People’s personal lives will all share the same sorts of ups and downs, so we shouldn’t either lament that we aren’t famous, nor should we be jealous or envious of those who are.

Just the other night my parents were watching America’s Got Talent, and a young singer noted that to pursue his dream of being a famous singer, he left home and moved to New York and for a few years he slept on couch that smelled like cat for $30 a week. Britney Spears has had jobs since she was about eight years old. Olympians rarely see their friends so they can work out instead. And there’s only so many of us who think the result is worth that effort, just like some people don’t think cooking a fancy meal is worth the effort when they could just fuel up. We’re all different.

1207 Relax and Succeed - Believe in yourselfI remember I’d been working in film and television for about 10 years before the first time I ever heard anyone say that they wanted to “be famous,” rather than note what they would want to be famous for–as in the case above, where what he really wants to be is a singer, not famous. In my experience, the ones that want to be famous never have that cat-sofa dedication and they eventually surrender that idea for something that actually suits them better. In that way their failure is a success.

A very talented film student I taught wanted to be an A-list cinematographer on big budget superhero blockbusters. But after close to 10 years climbing his way up and seeing Hollywood work, he concluded that the reality of the job wasn’t what he wanted and he surrendered that and went to do smaller, but much more meaningful documentaries. And he’s much happier doing it.

Cases like the one noted are often seen as a failure by the person approaching the decision. All they feel is the separation from their previous identity. It feels like they surrendered in a bad or weak way, when it’s actually the smart or strong way. Once that student crested the hump into his new identity, he got to work at his new career and it turned out he loved it the way he’d assumed he would have loved the Hollywood blockbuster job. It wasn’t a fail. It was a discovery. You’ll make them your entire life.

As I’ve noted before, if you want to know where you’re at, imagine your life as a big continuous sine wave that completes each wave about every 7-9 years. At each peak you have slowly rewired your brain to be fully efficient at being that version of you. But of course, once you’ve maximized why continue? Been there done that, as the saying goes. And so it’s not really disappointment that disrupts success, it’s the inklings of our next success.

The sooner we start to embrace that downslope the shorter it gets–although it can never be fully removed, otherwise you can’t have your peaks either. This is why a Buddhist monk on a train once lead me to conclude his encapsulation of life: everything changes. If it’s good, enjoy it–it’ll get worse. And if it’s bad, don’t lament–it’ll get better.

Find where you are on your wave and surf that. It’ll include the pain of those downslopes, but wherever you are, wishing you were an an upslope is the literally the definition of suffering. But if you surrender instead, it’s actually flows pretty nicely.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

Sologamy

It’s more popular in other countries, but even here people are starting to understand the true nature of sologamy. At first it seemed like some silly, narcissistic effort at self-aggrandizement, but in fact it is more of a spiritual practice than a ritual or ceremony.

This isn’t about I’m so awesome. It’s not pride, it’s respect. It’s just like real couples either know or learn; no one’s marriage is held together by romantic love. What does it is respect, dedication and perseverance. Those little ceremonial cuddly times are nice, but it’s the partnership itself that counts most. It’s knowing someone has your back.

People who practice sologamy are merely those who have come to realise how critical self-respect is to healthy being. Some don’t even have a ceremony other than the one in their head where they actually make the commitment. You know the one–the one that means you can turn down invites you don’t really want and not feel guilty about it. That one. Self-respect.

Far from being flighty or silly or immature, people who are sincerely practicing sologamy are practicing the art of stillness, focus and wisdom. They won’t want their ego frightened, angered or backed into doing something it doesn’t want to do. They simply want to be able to resign themselves to the harder parts of life, and feel worthy of, and revel in, its joys.

There’s a lot of thin, hollow-feeling single people out there who come across as though they’re worried that if they don’t find an anchor soon they’ll blow completely away. People feel like wispy clouds when they should feel like the sky itself. Yes, we all have weather pass through. It’s inevitable. But the sky is always the sky. Sologamy is about recognising the sky and committing to it.

This isn’t to say you’ll always be faithful. You’ll slip into ego occasionally. You need to, or you’d forget to value peace and clarity. So the idea is to surf. Sometimes you’re riding the way you want to go, sometimes you’re traversing to get to where you want to go, and at the end of every wave–every section of your life–there’s always a tough period where you have to paddle back out.

Don’t waste your life feeling unworthy or incapable or weak or alone. You belong to everything. We all live in the palm of the universe. Even falling down is safe. So be yourself, mistakes and regrets included. The universe finds it very easy to absorb such tiny experiences. And it revels and expands when you’re blossoming and creating.

Maybe it’s through your work, maybe it’s by having a relationship, or even a baby, but your job is to joyfully move through the universe in whichever way feels right to you in any given moment, and any associated consequences for those choices were always yours to live. Your struggles are where you grow stronger. You subconsciously seek them.

Take it seriously. Respect yourself. You don’t have to be pushy or rude, though people may take it that way. But people not liking you representing your own interests is their problem taking place in their consciousness. You’re learning to manage yours. So you don’t want nervous narratives about disappointing others to lead you to somewhere you really never wanted to be. You making a choice to sacrifice for some reason is fine. You going out of a fear of not being accepted is you thinking too small.

Whoever you are are, you are beautiful and you are worthy of your own affection and respect. It will be much easier for people to give those things to you once you know how to give them to yourself. Start practicing today. You have a lot of amazingness to uncover.

Have a wonderful day everyone.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.