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

The Ugly Confession

Dear Diary,

You know what hurts so bad? It’s all my fault. I know I said it wouldn’t happen again, but it’s my period and my thoughts got the better of me and I–wait. No. I know I can’t say that. Those are my thoughts, they’re my responsibility. But whatever. I thought them and they hurt so leave me alone!!

(I just want to quickly note here that Welsh boys have beautiful square jaws. I had not noticed this before today, but there are two guys in our chem class and they’re from Wales and they are h-o-t. I digress.)

So, I saw Dave sitting with this girl. This woman. I know I probably shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Yes. My thoughts drove me to do that too. My thoughts. Yes. My responsibility. Okay. So I guess what I’m saying Dear Diary is that I had a choice to go bra shopping with my sister, and I need bras, and instead I drove across town to stalk my own boyfriend.

I am so grateful that diaries do not have eyes to stare at me in shame.What good could come of an emotional girl alone in a car with her worried thoughts? I. Should. Have. Known. But no, I went in. Yes Dear Diary. I went in.

Of course she had the audaciousness to be gorgeous. Just what I needed. For my boyfriend to be having meetings with an accountant who looks like Beyonce. I feel sick. I thought this shit ended when I was a teenager.

For the first time in my life I’m too ashamed to tell you what I did. It’s that bad. It’s U-N-F-O-R-G-I-V-A-B-L-E. It was awful for her, it was awful for him, it was awful for anyone who even saw it happen. And here’s the best part….

It wasn’t a romantic lunch.

That was his boss’s daughter. I called him a two-timing cheat–I told her he beat his dog! Have I lost my mind? Why would I say something like that? I was just so…. MAD. I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW. Mad because of my thinking. I couldn’t have been mad about her. She was trying to help him. And do you know the worst part? She was nice. Super really truly nice. I #*&%ing hate that.

So there I was, without you, on the weekend, with Dave. I can’t write to you, I can’t get these feelings out, and I am just avoiding too much eye contact with Dave because I have no idea what to say. What do you say after something like that? What do you say to your own girlfriend when by 22 she has totally destroyed your career and your life?

I know. You would think he would want to dump me in the street. But do you know what he did? He told me he’d never seen me this quiet before. And so he sat down with me and he asked if it was about what happened with Tina (her). I told him I was afraid if we started talking that he would break up with me. That seemed to really hurt him knowing that and he hugged me.

He told me I was horrible. He reminded me of times I was horrible before. And he told me he didn’t want to live with me doing things like that for the rest of his life–BUT… he also thinks I’m the most beautiful thing in the world and he wants to be with me forever!!!!!!!

CAN YOU BE-LIEVE THAT!????????He said he loves me. Not just good me. And he knows loving bad me is harder. but he loves all of me anyway!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!. He loves all of me, including the horrible parts. He loves my horrible parts because their they’re mine!!!! Can you believe that?????

If there was ever a man to learn to control my own thoughts with it’s this one. If he can love me like that then I want to love him like that back. Can you imagine how that would feel!!!!????

I have to stop speculating and live in the now. I just don’t want to wake up one day and he’s with someone else–Okay. Oops!!! There’s the future right there. Sorry. I guess I’ll just keep this in mind and do it moment by moment.

Do you think that one day I could forgive myself and love myself the way he loves me? Dave’s self-love doesn’t feel egotistical it feels like respect. Maybe I should start there. Tomorrow I’m going to treat myself with respect. And I guess not having to be perfect means I can at least relax into being me. I just wish “me” hadn’t ruined Beyonce’s dress like that. I’m so sorry Dave. I’ll think less and love more. I promise.

peace-out. Dave’s <3 Love <3

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.

The Friday Dose #128: Loving Relationships

1008-fd-relax-and-succeed-what-destroys-an-intimate-relationshipI’ve written about it many times. You can’t ask another person to create a great relationship for you. Those things come from the inside. If you’re always in a state of want, if you always have something you need from that person then who are you to them? You’re a burden. But you weren’t a burden when you were falling in love. You were practically willing to be a servant!

1008-fd-relax-and-succeed-to-come-upon-love-without-seeking-itWeird isn’t it? It’s counter-intuitive at first, but not after some meditation. If we’re always asking others to live for us then they are forced to defer their own life to lead the one we claim we need. But if I’m a servant I’m always helpful and worthwhile and valuable. If I’m so picky about how the house looks for company that I torture my family with anal-retentivity then is the beautiful home really valuable at all, or is it now just a source of abuse?

Some people have huge insecurities that lead to jealousy, leaving partners having to live their entire life in their partner’s fearful context when that’s not their own context. It is literally a form of being a prisoner. All actions are dictated by that identity. The same with people with tempers. If your spouse blows up the moment something goes wrong then you stop living your life and you just start trying to make sure nothing goes wrong, even though that’s inevitable. It’s a life on eggshells.

It is not other people’s jobs to live to your script. No one made you the screenwriter, director and producer of the film of all of our lives. We are not co-stars in your movie, our jobs are not to get things the way you want them. We are individuals and we have hopes and dreams just like you and they’re just as important as yours. Healthy partners don’t ask, they offer. We can all take turns at being unhealthy, but if someone lives their life in that state then that is not their partner’s problem to fix.

Have a great weekend everyone.

peace. s

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