Introversion: The Third Leg of My Three-Legged Stool

It is high time I finished the third leg of my three-legged stool. I wrote about the first leg, Depression (“What’s With That Blog Title?”) on May 9; I wrote about the second leg, Shyness and Anxiety (“My Three Legged Stool”) on June 1. I intended to finish the job long before now. Life intervened.

With apologies to my many followers waiting with bated breath for the third leg of my stool:

The third leg of my stool is Introversion. Here’s what I wrote May 9:

“Depression, shyness, and anxiety are disabilities to be managed. Introversion is not a disability; it is an innate part of  who I am and is to be understood and embraced.” 

I use the term Introversion as the psychiatrist Karl Jung (1875-1961) defined it in his seminal work Psychological Types (1921).  He identified three innate aspects of everyone’s personality:

  • How you get your energy for living (Introversion, Extraversion)
  • How you take in information (Sensing, Intuition)
  • How you make decisions (Thinking, Feeling)

In the 1940s, two followers of Jung, Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers, identified a fourth aspect of personality:

  • How you relate to the world (Judging, Perceiving)

They developed an instrument called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to help people identify their innate psychological types. Today the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is one of the most commonly used and best regarded psychological instruments in the world.

I am going to cover here only the first aspect Jung identified, Introversion and Extraversion, because that is the third leg of my stool.

Introversion does not mean you are shy; Extraversion does not mean you are outgoing. There are shy Extroverts and outgoing Introverts.

As Jung, Briggs, and Myers identified Introversion and Extraversion, they are two different ways (or preferences) of getting your life’s energy. You are born with these preferences. They are both good ways of being. You do not change your basic preferences, but you can, at least to some extent, change behaviors associated with them.

Simply put:

Extraverts draw their energy from engaging with other people and their environment.

Introverts draw their energy from within themselves.

To identify which preference you have, you could ask yourself:

At the end of a hard, stressful day, would you rather:

  1. Go out and unwind with friends at a bar,                         OR
  2. Go home, pour a glass of wine, and enjoy a quiet evening with a good book.

Here’s another situation:

You are at a large party, and you know only a few of the people there. Would you probably:

  1. Circulate around the room to meet and talk with new people,      OR
  2. Stay close to the people you know and talk with them.

If you are an Extravert, you probably would pick the first answer to both questions. If you are an Introvert, you probably would choose the second answer.

I say “probably” because for some people those choices might be reversed. Remember, there are shy Extraverts and outgoing Introverts.

I am a shy Introvert. I get my energy from within myself, and in social situations I’m  more comfortable with people I know than with strangers.

Introversion and Extraversion even can be detected in how we move our bodies.

Extraverts, drawing their energy from the people and environment around them, tend to move more than Introverts, Extroverts may tap a foot or drum fingers while sitting, or shift position frequently, or get up and stretch or move around the room. as if they are extending feelers out to their surroundings.

Introverts, who draw their energy from within, usually sit more quietly and for longer periods without much body movement. Introverts also may smile less than Extroverts.

In the same vein, Extraverts tend to listen more expressively than Introverts. An Extravert listening to someone might lean forward, smile, give head nods, say “I see,” or give other facial or body signals that he or she is hearing and reacting to the speaker.

An Introvert may do little or none of that, leaving the speaker wondering what the hell the listener is thinking about what the speaker is saying.

Being introverted, I tend to be a stone-faced listener. That can be a problem with people who don’t know me, and was, early in my city government career.

My boss was the city manager, and I had a lot of contact with the seven city councilors. I had cordial relationships with most of the councilors, but there was one, a very extroverted person, who did not like me at all. The city manager, who understood me very well, took me aside one day and did me the favor of explaining the reason for this councilor’s dislike.

It was my stone-faced listening. The councilor would talk to me and I would give no visible reaction, which the councilor interpreted as indifference or hostility.  (Truth was, such an extroverted, dominant personality intimidated me. And when I’m intimidated, I do shut down.)

 From then on, when I talked with that councilor, I gave lots of listening cues. I leaned forward, I nodded, I said “uh-huh,” and “oh, I see.” Things gradually improved between us. Later, when I ended up working on a project for the councilor that especially called on my skill set, we became friends.

I will always be grateful for my boss’s intervention early in my career on an aspect of  introverted behavior I needed to change. It was some of the best coaching I ever got. I continued working on my listening skills, and in time active, extroverted listening became second nature to me.

This is an illustration that your preference doesn’t change, but your behavior can. I was and always will  be an Introvert, getting my energy from within. But I can change introverted behavior when it’s not working for me.

Growing up, I knew nothing about Introversion or Extraversion. I knew nothing about depression. I did know I was shy and anxious, and that wasn’t a good thing. I knew I liked to be alone a lot, and I thought that  was a good thing. I still do. But now I understand that I do better if I’m not alone too much, as I was too often in the past. Some of my worst bouts of depression came when I lived alone. I’m living with a partner now, and I need that.

Learning about my Introversion also helped me understand why I had difficult relationships wi th my parents when I was growing up. My mother and father were Extraverts; my older sister and I were Introverts. My mother and I clashed a lot over privacy: As an Introvert I wanted lots of it. As an Extravert and a mother she felt I should have little of it. There was a lot of drawer snooping and pocket searching and diary reading that led to anger and raised voices.

This Introversion-Extraversion example of privacy attitudes is extreme, because there were a lot of other reasons my mother and I clashed on a lot of things.  It is true, though, that Introverts and Extraverts may have different ideas about privacy.

Introverts tend to be bad at spreading gossip. That is because If you tell something to an Introvert, he or she  may consider the message intended for him or her alone, not necessarily for anyone else.  Extraverts hearing the same message may consider it interesting information to be shared with others.

I have been burned by this difference several times, talking to a friend about something I considered personal and confidential, only to discover later that the friend told other people. I considered this a breach of confidence. The friend, for whatever reason, did not. I learned from those experiences that if I talk to someone about something I consider private and confidential, I need to say that.

I was not able to embrace the strengths of my Introversion when I was younger because it was so pathologically entangled with my depression and shyness. Now that I understand my depression and shyness, I love being an Introvert. For me, it’s the only way to be.

 

Thank you for reading this post. If you like what you read, you can follow my blog and get notification when I do a new post.

Marjorie Beck

 

 

You Can Say Something Sucks Now

I’m showing my age. Once upon a time the word “suck” was shorthand for something you weren’t to say in polite society.

In my high school and college days, I was very much into folk music. I subscribed to Sing Out! Magazine, must-reading for folkies back then. There were many folk music album reviews.

In October 1966, Simon and Garfunkel released their brilliant album, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Not really a folk album, but for some reason it was reviewed in Sing Out! I thought the review sucked, and decided to write a letter to Sing Out! saying so. I considered myself rather a social rebel at that time, but being shy, I rebelled mostly in writing.

The letter was short and to the point. I don’t remember the reviewer’s name now, so I can’t quote the letter exactly. Here it is.

     Dear Sing Out!

Your review of  Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme sucks. Perhaps Mr. (reviewer} just doesn’t understand poetry?

Well, they published the letter. But it read, in publication:

     Your review of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme . . . .  Perhaps Mr. (reviewer) just doesn’t understand poetry?

Such language delicacy wouldn’t happen now. People say something sucks all the time. I still say it sometimes. People say “fuck” all the time now, too. I say it sometimes, but only with people I know won’t be offended. I don’t consider “suck” and “fuck” my always go-to words, as many people seem to these days. Those words are meant to have shock value, and I think they just get boring when they’re used all the time.

Well, times change. As I said, I’m showing my age.

Thank you for reading my blog.

Marjorie Beck

 

My Three-Legged Stool

My depression is one leg of a three-legged stool. The second leg is shyness and anxiety, and the third is introversion.  Depression, shyness, and anxiety are disabilities to be managed. Introversion is not a disability; it is an innate part of  who I am and is to be understood and embraced.

Today’s post is about shyness and anxiety.

Growing up I was morbidly shy and anxious.

How shy and anxious were you?

 I was so shy . . .

When I was a Camp Fire Girl in Seminole, Oklahoma and it came to time to go door to door selling candy, I would stand on the front porch and pretend to ring the doorbell, wait a few seconds, and leave.

Later, in Norman, Oklahoma my mother gave me a coupon from a beauty salon that offered a shampoo, haircut, and coloring all for $20. Quite a bargain, and money was tight for us in those days.

At the salon, the stylist gave me the shampoo and coloring but not the cut, and I was too shy to ask why no cut. When the shop then charged me $60 instead of $20, I meekly paid the $60 and was too shy to say I was supposed to get a discount. My mother had a hissy fit when I got home, because it was her $60.

When I was in a store looking for something, I would scour the store aisle by aisle rather than ask a clerk for help. If a clerk did ask, I would say “I’m just looking, thanks.” Anything to avoid talking to a stranger.

In a room full of strangers I would stand in a corner and hope not to be noticed.

I was so anxious. . .

I would lie rather than admit I’d made a mistake,

or done something bad,

or didn’t know something,

or couldn’t do something.

I feared I would appear bad or ridiculous or inadequate,

and quite likely provoke my mother’s wrath.

Hooray for Paxil!

When I started taking medication for depression in 1997, my doctor prescribed Paxil, which was developed initially for social anxiety, and later prescribed for depression. It proved a lucky choice for me.

A reaction many people have when they start depression medication is “I’m the me I always wanted to be!”

And so it was for me.

In addition to working on my depression, Paxil started eliminating my social anxiety. This was an effect I had not anticipated, and it surprised and delighted me.

I started asking for help in stores. I started cheerfully admitting  it when I didn’t know something or had done something wrong. I even sometimes made small talk with strangers. An amazing transformation.

Being who I always knew I could be is so much fun.

So that’s the second leg of my three-legged stool. My shyness and anxiety reinforced my depression in lethal ways. Now my shyness and anxiety and depression still show themselves from time to time; they are, after all, thought to be at least partly genetic. Medication alone doesn’t fix everything.

But for me medication plays a big part in the way I can now manage these two legs of  my three-legged stool. And, as Martha Stewart would say, that’s a good thing.

Still to come: The introversion leg of my stool. Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading my blog.

Marjorie Beck