Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I Want to be Alone or Introversion for Beginners

I read this on Martyn Clayton's blog and he very graciously allowed me to re-post it here. I think it has some wonderful information.

“Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat any time and be yourself”
Herman Hesse

Working from home I’m sometimes asked ;“Don’t you get lonely ?”by people who clearly would be lonely if they had to do the same. The simple answer to that is , no I don’t. Not at all, not in the slightest, in fact quite the opposite. I love working alone, I love working from home. I love the isolation and the need to be self-disciplined. I even get a sense of excitement as I begin each working day wondering what kind of possibilities it might turn up, what ideas I might have, how existing projects might develop.The short periods of time when I haven’t worked alone I’ve been unhappy, bloody miserable in fact. Working with other people leaves me feeling drained, restricted, limited and verging on the depressed. My ideas dry up and I feel bored. Just as I imagine people who love a busy work environment and the input of colleagues would hate working from home. It’s different strokes for different folks. Sometimes people refuse to believe that I could be happy, presuming I must be in denial or ill, or quite possibly mad.It always used to puzzle me as to why I preferred to work this way. I even wondered in the early days if there might be something wrong with me. Surely it couldn’t be ‘normal’ to want to spend so much time alone, particularly where work was concerned.The breakthrough for me came when I took a psychological profiling test as part of a college course. The test revealed that I scored very highly on the introversion scale and the description of the responses of a typical person fitting this profile read as if they had been written just for me. So, should I choose to accept it , I had a name for the way my head worked, but what kind of a name was it ?Introversion. It made me think of serial killers ,fifty-something blokes who still lived with their mothers and hermits. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the way my brain’s wired.Since then however , the more I’ve researched the subject, the happier I’ve become about this one particular accident of birth. There has been a shed-full (introverts love a good shed) of scientific research into the subject beginning with the psychologist, Carl Jung back in the early 20th century. Although he focused primarily on sensing, intuition, thinking, and feeling; introversion and extroversion were important components of his mental or psychological traits theory. Although most people will exhibit traits of both extroversion and introversion in the daily lives, there is usually one dominant trait that usually reflects how an individual prefers to operate in the world. The introvert's main focus is within his/her head, in the internal world of ideas and concepts; the extrovert's primary focus is on the external world of people and activities. Introverts get their energy from themselves and are drained by people; extroverts get their energy from other people and are drained by being alone.The two don’t sit in polar opposition, but instead run along a scale. People in the middle of the scale illustrating equal measures of introverted and extroverted qualities are known as ’ambiverts’ . My other half, who is also an introvert is less introverted than me, but an awful lot more introverted than the average extrovert. When she returns from her bustling working environment she needs plenty of quiet downtime apart from the rest of the world to recharge her batteries.One reason why introverts tend to get such a bad press and are so generally misunderstood is because we are in the minority. Definite introverts represent only one in four of the general population, but interestingly represent a majority within the exceptionally gifted. There are good evolutionary reasons as to why the population should break down in this way. The division has been described as one of ‘warriors’ (extroverts) and ‘counsellors’ (introverts). For a society to survive it needs the players in the field, and they need to be numerous and ultimately expendable. The warriors need the advice and inspiration of the counsellors if they are to fully understand their world and what is required of them. Without introversion the stock of great world literature, art and scientific discovery would be severely denuded and humanity would still be living in the dark ages. To be a Newton or a Darwin you need to be able spend hours, days, weeks, months, years in your own company totally possessed by the single ultimate idea that will change world history. Extroverts would find that impossible.This is all well and good you might be thinking, but isn’t this introversion just an excuse for shyness , social phobia or downright rudeness ? That would be presuming that introversion is somehow a ‘personal lifestyle choice’ like whether or not to get married or have kids. The key point in all of this is that introverts are born not made. Scientific research into the brains of introverts and extroverts has revealed some key differences in the way they are wired. These differences have even been spotted in babies. The information as to which orientation their baby’s brain has revealed has been kept from the families so as not to prejudice the child’s upbringing. As the children grow, sure enough they begin to clearly exhibit behaviour patterns that mirror their brain patterns.Introverts have more blood flow to their brain and more blood flow indicates greater stimulation. Anytime blood flows to a particular part of your body, after a cut finger for instance, the area becomes more sensitive. Introverts’ blood also flows to different parts of their brain particularly those associated with remembering, internal thoughts and planning. Not only does introverts’ and extroverts’ blood travel on separate pathways, each pathway requires a different neurotransmitter. Extroverts have a low sensitivity to the brains ’happy drug’ dopamine. They require vast quantities of it to enable themselves to function and it is released through experience, activity and sociability. It acts as a reward circuit - do something the brain enjoys and receive a reward of happy juice. Introverts on the other hand have a much shorter dopamine pathway and are highly sensitive to it. Rather than seek out dopamine hits, introverts have to limit the amount of the chemical released to maintain a balance. Introverts often talk of ‘feeling overwhelmed’ by experience , extroverts are frequently bored. Whilst the introverts dopamine pathway is shorter than the extroverts, the pathway of another key neurotransmitter is longer. Acetylcholine is the oil that makes the memory machine function. It is the chemical that switches on the deep REM sleep and initiates dreams. It helps the brain recover from exertion and the utilisation of our energy stores. The introvert brain is wired to seek out more energy conserving acetylcholine and less experience seeking dopamine if it is to be kept in a state of happy equilibrium. Introverts need quiet time alone if they are to keep functioning.Which brings me back to working from home. Technology used to be enemy of the introvert. It was technology that made factory hands out of shepherds and coal miners out of peasant farmers but it’s now technological advance that is opening up opportunity for the introverted to fashion their own working world. It’s no surprise then that one of the chief drivers of this change and the wealthiest man on the planet, Bill Gates, is himself an introvert.Introversion is a dark continent for the average extrovert. Introverts can’t be up to any good spending all that time locked away can they ? They can’t be truly happy ? It just can’t be healthy can it ? A confusion exacerbated by the fact that introverts who have arranged their lives to suit their orientation do seem happy. As they need less dopamine to be content, they often appear blissfully so when compared to the average extrovert. On the other hand an introvert forced into an extrovert model of the good life is a miserable creature. As too is an extrovert ignored, rejected or forced into a lonely existence by circumstance. Understanding how your own brain and those of your loved ones are wired would appear pretty vital in promoting good mental well-being. A square peg will never slot into a round hole no matter how much you try and force it.So if you suspect you have an introvert in the family, don’t try and force them into group activities or endlessly ask them if “they’re alright” (they’d be quite alright if you’d just shut up for a bit) but try instead to value them for who they are. They may well be a genius, or will at the very least have something interesting to say if they trust you enough to share it . As a general rule they are not about to murder you in your bed , in fact the profile of the serial killer is generally that of the “rejected extrovert” not the introvert. We just couldn’t be bothered with the extra hassle.


Blogger Janie said...

This is an interesting essay, some of which I had not known. Could it be possible that introverts are both born and made. Meaning, if the trait is there at birth, environment might help define it and settle it. After all, there are different classes of introverts. Do you think that enviroment might change class?

I wanted you to know that I read this blog all the time. It's the first time I have posted.

May 04, 2006 7:01 AM  
Blogger Bailey Stewart said...

Oh no! Now I have to post more. LOL

I think it's both. You see children who are very quiet and introverted early on. Then you see some that become more introverted the older they get. I think that the tendency to be introverted is there at birth and that life experiences contribute as to which way they turn out. I was more of an ambivert as a child and things happened to push me to the more introverted side. It's that old nature v. nurture debate.

May 04, 2006 7:08 AM  
Blogger Bailey Stewart said...

Oh, and thank you.

May 04, 2006 7:09 AM  
Blogger Brandy said...

I agree with your above comment. When I was a child I showed introverted tendencies that did deepen the older I became. Other people exhaust me. It doensn't matter if it's extended family or not. (My kids exhaust me for different reasons.)

May 05, 2006 6:19 AM  
Blogger Bailey Stewart said...

Yep, you were definitely introverted from early on.

May 10, 2006 8:03 PM  
Blogger Danica/Dream said...

Huh, how come i just realized you have this blog too? Am I a big dummy or what? Interesting, since my post today is about being an introvert. :)

May 12, 2006 10:33 PM  
Blogger Bailey Stewart said...

Because I forget its here too.

So, were you born an introvert or did you become that way?

May 13, 2006 4:18 AM  
Blogger Loreth Anne White said...

Eve -- I LOVE this article on being an introvert, have you seen it?

(I'm one -- energised by being alone, drained by being with too many people, too often. I think that's part of being an empath -- too much sensory input??)

May 13, 2006 6:23 PM  
Blogger Bailey Stewart said...

Loreth - thank you for the article, it was very interesting and I encourage anyone else who stops by here to read it.

I understand the need to recharge - I need it so badly.

May 13, 2006 7:15 PM  
Blogger M.E Ellis said...

I'm an introvert. Call myself a home-body or a hermit. I like being around immediate family members but since becoming a serious writer I'm finding it more difficult to tolerate visitors and outside people.

I also found myself asking if I am weird or missing out in life. But no, if I'm happy as I am, then that is better than doing what others see as right, and being miserable in the company of too many people.

When I do go out and speak to others I tend to be crazy and off the wall - a kind of release, letting it all out. But then it isn't long before I long for home. I haven't been on a night out for around four years.



May 19, 2006 3:08 PM  
Blogger Susan Abraham said...

Hello Eve, I wanted to come and say hello to you. As I see you all the time at Kelly's. The way I used Kelly at Sara's. I think you were very pretty as a little girl. I doubt I was that cute. I was sorry to read in your profile about your mum and I hope she is well at the moment. Eve, on this scale, my prayers are with you. I think you write very well with an acute sensitivity that is so finely-tuned. I was especially drawn you to your post on 'My Story'. Take care and have yourself a lovely weekend.
god bless

June 09, 2006 4:46 AM  
Blogger Susan Abraham said...

Hi Eve,
I'm so happy you came to visit. You must tell me what your writing ambitions are. Here's to our friendship and your mum's peace.

June 09, 2006 9:08 PM  
Blogger Shesawriter said...

I'm introverted, believe it or not. I stay to myself, value my privacy and get real irritated if any of that is violated. My DH is the gregarious one. I did't used to be this way. I changed over the years. I blame it on my kids. They've driven me mad.

June 21, 2006 4:42 PM  
Anonymous tony said...

I liked reading your blog
you are a good writer
you have the knack for it

July 04, 2006 9:26 PM  
Blogger Bailey Stewart said...

Thank you Tony, I appreciate it. I'm close to shutting this one down though because I just can't devote the time to it, as you can tell from the date of the last entry, but I'm glad you enjoyed it.

July 05, 2006 6:39 AM  
Anonymous Susan Flemming said...

I'm an introvert too. I don't just enjoy along time, I need it. Not only in order to write, but for my emotional well being. Being around too many people does tend to drain me. Thank goodness I have an understanding husband and children. They allow me that time.

September 05, 2006 12:40 PM  
Blogger ivan said...

Herman Hesse is cool. Till you come across the Kama Sutra.

September 06, 2006 2:18 AM  
Blogger Karma said...

I've been trying to figure out for years if I'm an introvert or an extrovert, and reading your post helped me, although I'm still confused. I like being alone and am drained by being around strangers, but I do better when I spend time with people that I can really talk to (although preferably in small groups). Still, there are times in my life when I'm really confident when I become an extrovert. But even then, I really value alone time. Maybe I'm a middle person as you described....

October 02, 2006 9:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband is an introvert and I am an extrovert, and it is really difficult meeting each other on happy ground. My family doesn't understand and often feel that he doesn't care about them, or that he doesn't like them, or that they've done something to make him upset at them. But I know it's not that, he just prefers to have minimal interaction. I know, deep in my heart, that he is a kind person, and would do anything for them (and me) if that was required. I just wish that I could manage his (and my family's) expectations. Your article really helped to reinforce what I know to be true about my husband, but forget from time to time when I am feeling sorry for myself about not having a husband to accompany me to all the social events that I like to do! It will be interesting to see who our daughter takes after! Already, she seems to want to have friends over, and get together with friends, so perhaps she will be an extrovert (her best friend is her daddy, though!)

August 27, 2007 4:14 PM  
Blogger Edward Ott said...

Love the sub-title.

May 13, 2008 7:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


April 18, 2009 8:46 PM  
Blogger Bailey Stewart said...

Whoa. Get a life.

April 18, 2009 9:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am the lonely extrovert mentioned in this post. In my family of origin (there are 5 of us) I am the extrovert. My parents and two siblings are introverts to varying degrees. After years I have learned to be perceptive of others feelings and dispotions. I try to reign myself in if I am around an introvert and I chastize myself if I have made an introvert uncomfortable. I go out of my way to make sure everyone is comfortable. Yes, I make mistakes and might put one on the spot (usually my sister) but I quickly pick up on it and will appologize. I love my family of origin. But I am so loney in that family. And the loneliness has gotten worse now that I have my own family and own children. My household is loud and rowdy. I married an extrovert from a family of extreme extrovert. All three of my kids lean toward extroverts on the scale. Goodness, I find myself having to retreat from time to time (and I consider myself an extrovert!) lol Anyway, having this family makes me really mourn what I never had and never will have with my family of origin.

December 19, 2010 6:28 PM  

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