Introversion

Don't talk unless you can improve the silence.
-Vermont Proverb

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It's obvious that the American dream is to be extraverted. We want our children to be "people who need people." We want them to have lots of friends, to like parties, to prefer to play outside with their buddies rather than retire with a good book, to make friends easily, to greet new experiences enthusiastically, to be good risk-takers, to be open about their feelings, to be trusting. We regard anyone who doesnít fit this pattern with some concern. We call them "withdrawn," "aloof," "shy," "secretive," and "loners." These pejorative terms show the extent to which we misunderstand introverts.

The majority of Americans are extraverted (about 75%), but the majority of gifted children appear to be introverted (about 60%), and the percentage of introverts seems to increase with IQ (Silverman, 1986). In addition to the problems encountered with being gifted, these children are frequently misjudged because they are introverted. Introversion is a perfectly normal personality type identified by Carl Jung. It is actually healthy to be an introvert. The only unhealthy part of it is denying your true self and trying to disguise yourself as an extravert.

Introverts are wired differently from extraverts and they have different needs. Extraverts get their energy from interaction with people and the external world. Introverts get their energy from within themselves; too much interaction drains their energy and they need to retreat from the world to recharge their batteries. People can be extreme extraverts, extreme introverts, or a combination of both. Since extraversion is the dominant mode in our society, there are no "closet extraverts," but there are many "closet introverts," people who are so ashamed of their introversion that they try to be extraverts.

Here are some tips on the care and feeding of the introverts in your family or classroom:

HOW TO CARE FOR INTROVERTS

    grenblackdiamond.gif (591 bytes)  Respect their need for privacy.

    grenblackdiamond.gif (591 bytes)  Never embarrass them in public.

    grenblackdiamond.gif (591 bytes)  Let them observe first in new situations.

    grenblackdiamond.gif (591 bytes)  Give them time to think. Donít demand instant answers.

    grenblackdiamond.gif (591 bytes)  Donít interrupt them.

    grenblackdiamond.gif (591 bytes)  Give them advanced notice of expected changes in their lives.

    grenblackdiamond.gif (591 bytes)  Give them 15 minute warnings to finish whatever they are doing before calling them to dinner or moving on to the next activity.

    grenblackdiamond.gif (591 bytes)  Reprimand them privately.

    grenblackdiamond.gif (591 bytes)  Teach them new skills privately rather than in public.

    grenblackdiamond.gif (591 bytes)  Enable them to find one best friend who has similar interests and abilities:  encourage this relationship even if the friend moves.

    grenblackdiamond.gif (591 bytes)  Do not push them to make lots of friends.

    grenblackdiamond.gif (591 bytes)  Respect their introversion. Donít try to remake them into extraverts.

Introverts need to learn about the positive benefits of their personality type. They need to be taught that reflection is a good quality, that the most creative individuals sought solitude, and that leaders in academic, aesthetic and technical fields are often introverts. Parents need to know that more National Merit Scholars are introverted than extraverted, and that introverts have higher grade point averages in Ivy League colleges than extraverts (Silverman, 1986). Contrary to public opinion, success in life is not dependent upon extraversion. Introverts also have an advantage at midlife in that long, hard journey to the soul which heralds the second half of the life cycle. The time has come to respect the introverts in our families and classrooms, and the hidden introvert in ourselves.

-Linda Kreger Silverman, Ph.D.

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Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
-Kahlil Gibran

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    C. G. Jung discovered and explored the reality of the psyche, an inner reality that is the complement of the outer one, and for many of us, the more meaningful of the two. However, before considering the inner world, we need to know where we stand in the outer one. For Jung, understanding the constellation of our conscious attitudes was important for the first process in individuation - differentiation. This process is metaphorically described in the alchemical process of separation and refinement of elements. It is hard to begin anything if you do not know what you are beginning with. There is also the fact that the way in which we relate to the outer world is usually the opposite of how we relate to the inner one.

    You may be surprised to learn that the terms introvert and extrovert originated with Carl Jung. Psychological Types was Jung's first book after his amazing encounter with the unconscious - a period of waking dreams, conversations with inner figures, and a creative outpouring of inner images. So, you would probably expect him to include some of his experiences and insights into the nature of the unconscious in it. However, it is not about the unconscious at all, but about the dispositions of consciousness. And the first half of the rather long book is taken up with a historical contrasting of the two major distinctions: introversion and extroversion.

    No two thinkers have had a greater impact from the Hellenistic up through the Modern periods of history than Plato and Aristotle. Aristotle was a student of Plato until the old man's death. Then, after a tiff about not being made head of the Academy, he wandered around a bit, eventually deciding to reject Plato's philosophy and formulate his own.

    Where Plato had transcendental Forms, which were primary to the objects that participated in them; Aristotle had causes, which were the form, use, reason, and ultimate purpose of objects. When the students at the Academy were studying geometry (how idealized figures relate together); the students at the Lyceum were studying biology (how parts and types of animals relate together). Plato wrote dramatic dialogues using characters other than himself. Aristotle wrote notes for his own lectures, and let others write those down and systematize them.

    Many people throughout that long stretch of history have remarked on the fact that certain types of people liked Plato, and other types Aristotle. While my own theory involves masochism (at least in the case of Aristotle), Jung saw this as the difference between the introverted and extroverted personalities. The introvert's flow of vitality is inward, while the extrovert's is outward. For Plato, a horse's existence flowed inwardly from the external ideal Horse Form. For Aristotle, a horse's existence flowed outwardly from its internal causes and purposes. These represented similar forms of thinking, but moving in different directions.

    This difference of polarity is difficult to understand; our own direction seems as natural as a river running downhill while the other is as odd as a river running uphill. For example: I can conceptualize the fact that extroverts report feeling energized by attending parties, but it is a freakish and unnatural thing. "Normal people" (read - introverts) should feel drained by such functions and spend a few days afterward in solitary contemplation - recovering.

    To continue the river analogy, these polarities are better represented by tidal rivers than mountain rivers. Tidal rivers do at times flow backwards, and we all under certain circumstances function through the other polarity. Introversion and Extroversion are best seen as preferences, much like right- or left-handedness. In our extremely extroverted culture, for instance, introverts must often play extroverted roles. Jung also saw the life cycle as favoring extroverts in the first half of life - learning how the world works, establishing a career and a family. It favors introverts in the second - where the search for meaning and purpose are predominant. One solemn example of this might be that suicide rates are highest among white males over 50 in our society - many of whom were very successful in the first half of life.

    We usually think of introversion and extroversion in terms of personality types, but both are also attitudes. To illustrate: there is a temple with an idol in which, and to which, people perform religious services. An extroverted attitude would be that this is idol worship (and probably idle worship as well); an introverted attitude would be that the idol is symbolic of the inner aspect (meaning, or possibly divinity itself) that each person brings.

    Spend some time examining these inward and outward flows in your life, particularly in how you understand your self and others.

        © -1996 Troy W. Pierce

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Jung's Extraversion/Introversion

One of Jung's main theories is that of extraversion and introversion. They are both related to each other. Using context clues, one can conclude that they are opposites of each other. These ideas are central to understanding the collective unconscious and the persona.

Extraversion - People who are extraverted associate most of their time and energy toward things outside of themselves. They are interested in other people, social activities, and they are generally loud and uninhibited. These people usually go to parties and enjoy themselves immensely. Another key association in Jung's ideas is that the extravert usually focuses much of his or her attention toward reality and the persona. This means that they do not really pay much attention to themselves and what they feel.

Introversion - Introverted people are the opposite of extraverted people. They focus most of their attention on themselves and their collective unconscious. This means that they usually keep to themselves and are quieter than extraverts are. Whereas extraverts enjoy parties and socializing, introverts value thinking, dreaming, and fantasies.

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An Introvert Handbook

There are many mistaken notions about introverts; e.g., introverts are often thought to necessarily be one or all of the following:

  • Shy. An introvert may have no fear of saying hello or to talking with strangers.

  • Anti-social. An introvert may like to say hello or talk with strangers.

  • Uncooperative. An introvert may be eager to help.

  • Non-verbal. An introvert may be quite verbal.

  • Dumb. An introvert may be extremely intelligent.

So what then is an introvert? The essence of an introvert is to focus on his or her internal life.

This does not mean that an introvert is self-centered or is not involved with the external world. An introvert operates predominantly internally by thinking quietly.  (In contrast, an extrovert operates predominantly externally by vocalizing while thinking.). Thus, whether the introvert is working on external or internal issues, he or she will tend to be taciturn and reticent.  (In contrast, an extrovert will tend to talk.)

However, if an introvert ever gets into a discussion about a topic that he or she has a particular interest in, then his or her internal machinations may be externalized. Such a discussion may be quite beneficial, functional, deep, involved, and/or emotional. The tendency amongst introverts is to have discussions of the most meaningful sort; otherwise, no discussion at all is preferred. From an introvert's point of view, most other discussions are simply chatter.

Needless to say, there are many problems involved with this. Most people, i.e., most non-extroverts, need more communication and feedback. There is useful information and bonding that can be acquired via "chatter." These problems do not mean that introverts should convert into extroverts!  It would be a dull world if everyone thought and operated in the exact same way.

Successful Introversion

An introvert needs to know how to succeed in a predominantly non-introverted world. Here are a few quick pointers:

  • Realize that there is nothing unnatural or wrong with being an introvert.

  • Speak loudly and clearly when you need to. Since introverts rarely speak, others should be more attentive to what introverts have to say.

  • Don't hesitate to ask questions when you need to. Trust your introversion to filter out all but the most important questions.

  • Introverts don't have to make disingenuous jokes, make pointless comments, or chip into conversations without earnestness.

  • If you are with a talkative group of extroverts, then you and the group can and should be comfortable with your silence. This is especially possible once they know you and recognize that you are not being silent out of hostility.

  • Be your own person. Do what interests you. Be authentic.

by George Hernandez

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The Relationship of Introversion to Shyness and Introspection

Under one guise or another, the concept of introversion has been a part of the study of human behavior for ages. Going back as far as the Greek physicians Galan and Hippocrates, thinkers have noticed behavioral patterns that fall along the lines of those who seem to be more energetic and outgoing, and those that seem more reserved or withdrawn (Eysenk, 1973). Although the concept seems prevalent in literature, both psychological and pre-psychological, definitions and conceptualizations of exactly what these two types of people are still seem to elude us. Common sense tends to link introversion to shyness and extraversion to confidence, but this is not how most of the major psychologists studying the issue have viewed things.

When it comes to more modern psychology, Carl Jung, while accused by some of appropriating the terms (Eysenk, 1973), can certainly be said to be the man who popularized the notion that people fall into two 'attitude types': introverts and extraverts. Jung's idea of introversion was complex. On the surface, it had less to do with inhibition and more to do with the interjection of a subjective point of view between the subject and the object (Jung, 1971). In other words, an introvert would not take the 'objective' or outer world for granted, but always looked at it from an individual, interpretive point of view. Introverts, in this view, pay more attention to their own psychological processes in response to external stimuli than to the stimuli themselves. Jung did, however, describe extreme introverts with characteristics commonly thought of as belonging to shy people (Sharp, 1987), seeming to suggest that this preference for the inner world caused a negative attitude, and in extreme cases even fear, toward the outer world. Later theorists working with Jung's ideas came to think of introverts as people who were 'energized from within' and drained by extended exposure to external stimulation (e.g., social gatherings, loud or busy environments, etc...; e.g., Keirsey & Bates, 1984; Myers, 1980; Thomson, 1998). The emphasis became more focused on motivating principles and less on behavioral descriptions or phenomenological experiences. The issue of shyness was either avoided, or it was suggested that introverts are not necessarily shy but simply less socially oriented.

Keirsey (1998) criticized Jung's definition of introversion as blurring two concepts: introversion (a tendency to be reserved) and introspection (attention paid to inner thoughts, feelings and fantasies). Keirsey's claim is that Jung's 'intuitive types' are introspective, but not necessarily reserved (introverted) and that Jung's 'introverted types' are reserved, but may either be more observant (paying attention to the outer world of concrete, sense impressions -- Jungís Ďsensing typesí) or introspective. However, a study designed to test Jung's concepts of introversion and extraversion did indicate that introverts used more words pertaining to inner processing (e.g., consciousness, wondering, imaging, etc...) and extraverts used more words pertaining to external objects and time (Davis & Johnson, 1983). In addition to the above complications, other psychologists have formulated altogether separate theories of introversion.

Another major figure in psychology, Hans Eysenk, took a more biological perspective, and came to understand introverts as people who had a naturally highly aroused Reticular Activating System. His theory is that this fact causes introverts to withdraw from stimulating situations more readily (e.g., Eysenk, 1981). How shyness fits into this picture has seemingly not been answered with a complete consensus. While Eysenk once postulated that shyness was a form of neuroticism, not introversion (Eysenk & Eysenk, 1964), evidence accumulated from various studies fails to support the idea that shyness fits neatly into either category.

The most common finding among psychologists attempting to study shyness through psychometric measures and factor analyses seems to be that shyness is not entirely contained by either introversion (or 'low extraversion') or neuroticism, but is partly tapped by each of these higher order constructs (e.g., Briggs, 1988; Crozier, 1979; Jones, Briggs & Smith, 1986; Pilkonis, 1976). The details of these studies vary, however.

Although at one point using the word 'introvert' to seemingly denote a lack of interest in socializing, elsewhere in the same publication Zimbardo (1977) divided shy people into being 'publicly shy' (whom he called "shy introverts") or 'privately shy' ("shy extroverts"). The publicly shy person's shyness is obvious to others; the privately shy person's shyness is not. Thus, the word introversion was used to denote the obviousness of one's shyness. In an attempt to follow up on this idea and identify different types of shy people, Pilkonis (1977) analyzed intercorrelations among shyness scores on a short form of the Stanford Shyness Survey and Form A of the Eysenk Personality Inventory (EPI), among others, and found that shyness negatively correlated with extraversion (r = -.43, p<.001) and sociability (r = -.39, p<.001) and positively correlated with neuroticism (r = .28, p<.001). Another analysis in the same paper suggested support for Zimbardo's distinction by comparing 'aspect of shyness' ratings to scores and discovering shy people who tended worry more about awkward behavior and failures to respond, also scored higher on the Self-Consciousness Scale. However, Jones, Briggs & Smith (1986) did their own factor analysis of 5 different shyness scales as well as a number of related measures, including the Self-Consciousness Scale, and found no reason to conclude that there are independent types of shyness. One of the scales used by Jones, Briggs & Smith (1986) was the Shyness Scale, constructed by Cheek & Buss (1981), which is one of the most popular measures of shyness.

Cheek & Buss (1981) noted that, while most psychologists recognize a distinction between shyness and low sociability, most laypersons, and some psychologists, do not make such clear distinctions. They argued that psychologists typically recognize shyness as a negative reaction to social situations, and sociability as being typified by a preference for being with others over solitude, and to affiliate with others. Their concern was that most scales tapping into aspects of social anxiety did not specifically assess shyness as a distinct construct. To remedy this, they constructed a scale meant specifically to assess the degree of one's shyness and compared it to a scale assessing sociability. The results showed that shyness was not mere low sociability. It had a moderate, negative correlation to sociability (r = -.30), indicating that shyness and low sociability have some overlap, but are not the same. In a second study presented in the same paper, it was found that there are indeed people who are high on both shyness and sociability. These people exhibited the most social difficulty of the groups compared, presumably due to a conflict between a desire for affiliation and contact, and inhibition or fear of socializing. There were also people low on both sociability and shyness, indicating that some people who exhibit social avoidance behaviors may not experience any fear, anxiety or inhibition when among others, but simply have low interest in socializing. Schmidt (1999) replicated the comparison of the Cheek & Buss (1981) sociability and shyness items, and found a very similar result (r = -.32), and added to its credibility by finding differences in electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings between people with the four different combinations of high or low shyness and sociability scores. The subjects were placed in a tense social situation while their brain activity was monitored. The results were interpreted as indicating the possibility of different neural substrates for shyness and sociability.

Miller (1995) put an even finer point on shyness, separating it from embarrassablity. He performed a factor analysis of shyness, embarrassability, self-consciousness, and other related measures, which indicated that shyness is more associated with low self-confidence than embarrassability, whereas embarrassabiltiy is more associated with fear of behaving inappropriately.

Briggs (1988) performed a factor analysis on 74 items compiled from different shyness scales and compared them to Eysenk's introversion and neuroticism superfactors, as measured by the EPI. Most shyness items were shown to correlate with both superfactors relatively equally. Briggs interpreted this as suggesting that it is not shyness measures, but the constructs of introversion and neuroticism as operationalized by the EPI that have fuzzy conceptual boundaries. Items that were found to have a higher correlation for neuroticism tended to be related to negative affective response, as opposed to social facility, social confidence, and approach-avoidance. When a further analysis was performed for the same paper, it became even clearer that shyness items that were more associated with introversion (as measured by the EPI) had to do with sociability, not self-esteem.

All of this seems to suggest that, if nothing else, shyness and introversion are complicated constructs. Shyness seems to relate to introversion, insofar as shyness has to do with low sociability and a desire to avoid social situations, and to neuroticism, insofar as shyness has to do with feelings of inhibition, awkwardness and low self-esteem. But shyness was also found to correlate only moderately with low sociability, when specifically phenomenological items were used to define shyness. Introspection also has some theoretical ties with introversion. Some research supports the connection, but some theorists reject it.

It was the purpose of this study to add clarity to these two problems in the definition of introversion. To do this, a number of subscales designed to assess both behavioral and phenomenological aspects of personality as it relates to introversion, shyness, and introspection were used to test two main hypotheses. The first hypothesis was that introversion, as measured by items designed by Keirsey, would not be highly correlated with shyness. Keirsey's items were chosen to operationalize introversion in order to attempt to approach the problem from a more 'Jungian' influenced interpretation of introversion, as opposed to the 'Eysenkian' interpretation more popular in academic personality research. The second hypothesis was that introversion scores, as per Keirsey's contention, would be independent from measures of introspection and that intuition scores would not be.

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Introvert Qualities:

Like quiet for concentration. Tend to be careful with details. Dislike sweeping statements. Have trouble remembering names and faces. Tend not to mind working on one project for a long time uninterruptedly. Are interested in the idea behind their job. Dislike telephone intrusions and interruptions. Like to think a lot before they act, sometimes without acting. Work contentedly alone. Have some problems communicating.

You probably:

  • Rehearse things before saying them and prefer that others would do the same; you often respond with "I'll have to think about that" or "Let me tell you later."

  • Enjoy the peace and quiet of having time to yourself; you find your private time too easily invaded and tend to adapt by developing a high power of concentration that can shut out TV, noisy kids, or nearby conversations.

  • Are perceived as "a great listener" but feel that others take advantage of you.

  • Have been called "shy" from time to time; whether or not you agree, you may come across to others as somewhat reserved and reflective.

  • Like to share special occasions with just one other person or perhaps a few close friends.

  • Wish that you could get your ideas out more forcefully; you resent those who blurt out things you were just about to say.

  • Like stating your thoughts or feelings without interruption; you allow others to do the same in the hope that they will reciprocate when it comes time for you to speak.

  • Need time to "recharge" alone after you've spent time socializing with a group; the more intense the encounter, the greater the chance you'll feel drained afterwards.

  • Were told by your parents to "go outside and play with your friends"; when you were a child; your parents probably worried about you because you liked to be by yourself.

  • Believe that "talk is cheap"; you get suspicious if people are too complimentary, or irritated if they say something that's already been said by someone else. The phrase "reinventing the wheel" may occur to you as you hear others chattering away.

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The Jung Lexicon

Introversion. A mode of psychological orientation where the movement of energy is toward the inner world. (Compare extraversion.)

Everyone whose attitude is introverted thinks, feels, and acts in a way that clearly demonstrates that the subject is the prime motivating factor and that the object is of secondary importance. [ Ibid., par. 769.]

Always he has to prove that everything he does rests on his own decisions and convictions, and never because he is influenced by anyone, or desires to please or conciliate some person or opinion. ["Psychological Types," CW 6, par. 893.]

An introverted consciousness can be well aware of external conditions, but is not motivated by them. The extreme introvert responds primarily to internal impressions.

In a large gathering he feels lonely and lost. The more crowded it is, the greater becomes his resistance. He is not in the least "with it," and has no love of enthusiastic get-togethers. He is not a good mixer. What he does, he does in his own way, barricading himself against influences from outside. . . . Under normal conditions he is pessimistic and worried, because the world and human beings are not in the least good but crush him. . . .His own world is a safe harbour, a carefully tended and walled-in garden, closed to the public and hidden from prying eyes. His own company is the best. ["Psychological Typology," ibid., pars. 976f.]

Signs of introversion in a child are a reflective, thoughtful manner and resistance to outside influences.

The child wants his own way, and under no circumstances will he submit to an alien rule he cannot understand. When he asks questions, it is not from curiosity or a desire to create a sensation, but because he wants names, meanings, explanations to give him subjective protection against the object. ["Psychological Types," ibid., par. 897.]

The introverted attitude tends to devalue things and other persons, to deny their importance. Hence, by way of compensation, extreme introversion leads to an unconscious reinforcement of the object's influence. This makes itself felt as a tie, with concomitant emotional reactions, to outer circumstances or another person.

The individual's freedom of mind is fettered by the ignominy of his financial dependence, his freedom of action trembles in the face of public opinion, his moral superiority collapses in a morass of inferior relationships, and his desire to dominate ends in a pitiful craving to be loved. It is now the unconscious that takes care of the relation to the object, and it does so in a way that is calculated to bring the illusion of power and the fantasy of superiority to utter ruin. ["General Description of the Types," ibid., par. 626.]

A person in this situation can be worn out from fruitless attempts to impose his or her will.

These efforts are constantly being frustrated by the overwhelming impressions received from the object. It continually imposes itself on him against his will, it arouses in him the most disagreeable and intractable affects and persecutes him at every step. A tremendous inner struggle is needed all the time in order to "keep going." The typical form his neurosis takes is psychasthenia, a malady characterized on the one hand by extreme sensitivity and on the other by great proneness to exhaustion and chronic fatigue.[ Ibid.]

In less extreme cases, introverts are simply more conservative than not, preferring the familiar surroundings of home and intimate times with a few close friends; they husband their energy and would rather stay put than go from place to place. Their best work is done on their own resources, on their own initiative and in their own way.

His retreat into himself is not a final renunciation of the world, but a search for quietude, where alone it is possible for him to make his contribution to the life of the community. [Psychological Typology," ibid., par. 979.]

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I'd like to address Marti Laney's book, The Introvert Advantage.  Here's a short & pithy book review:  it's written by an INFP for INFPs.  No joke!

While all introverts will naturally find something in common with the descriptions Marti shares, the Cinderella shoe does not fit perfectly overall.  For instance, there is no allowance made for the INFJ Chart-the-Course interaction style, which operates at a faster pace than the Behind-the-Scenes style.  Luckily, Temperament is a common denominator, but there are occasional inferences to the Cognitive Processes that seems to better describe the whole type pattern of INFP over INFJ.  And the whole bit about left-brain/right-brain differences seems like an interesting way to characterize differences among individuals within the INFP type pattern, but it left me cold.  Perhaps that distinction is an artifact of extraverted Thinking that I seldom relate to -- I don't know whether that holds true for other INFJs or not.  

So while I think the book goes a long way to validating one's preferences for introversion, take care to realize that the "fit" won't be 100% for an INFJ, and doesn't take into account the various type models I've described elsewhere on this site that would describe more "varieties" of introversion.

(It also sets my teeth on edge that "extravert" is misspelled as "extrovert" on the cover.)

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an introversion/extraversion "assessment" is here

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More to come...

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