I am going to write about a situation that is unlikely to happen with a flexarian attitude and that is that any person can be fixed either totally introvert, extrovert or ambivert. These terms are to be found along a continuum that we are all sliding up and down throughout our lives. We are neither one or the other but rather are more inclined to one. We may be more inclined to one end than the other but doubt that adopting the label will be very helpful. However, as a tool used towards an understanding of ourselves and others I feel it should be compulsory that all human beings are taught about this fascinating personality theory. I will not say too much more about being an ambivert as that is just a term that has been invented to describe the middle of the continuum where “supposedly” perfect personality harmony and balance may be found and has been added to the mix only recently. One of the men I consider a true intuitive genius Carl Gustav Jung was the first to use these terms for describing personality variances and ambivert was not one of his. I will remain true to the original.
It should be noted also that western societies tend to celebrate extroversion much more than introversion and may even expect it for one to be considered normal. Anyone that tends towards introversion will know this all too well from growing up in the west and know how it feels to be thought of as inferior because of personality type prejudice. I am one of those and have only recently through a better understanding of this subject accepted myself and others better, also coming to understand my life and relationships so far much clearer.
Where do you put your attention and get your energy? Do you like to spend time in the outer world of people and things (Extroversion), or in your inner world of ideas and images (Introversion)?
Extroverts are energised and comfortable around people, when stated that human beings are all gregarious they were obviously talking about extroverts. They love to spend time with others, as this is how they recuperate from spending time alone or hard at work. The term “being a people person” describes an extrovert. They are at their most charged and passionate when they are around others. A quiet night in for them would entail about half a dozen friends or family and they just love spontaneous drop-in visits. They love people. Some will love others with compassion and a genuine interest whilst for others company is like a fix and the opportunity to perform in front of an audience. Extroverts are often lively, warm, funny and the life and soul of any gathering. They can also be very demanding, particularly for those more introverted. They love centre stage and are prepared to do anything to keep the spotlight on them. For many this is not a problem as they can be charming and very good company if a little intense. There is the possibility of them becoming a pain in the arse and needing to take a chill pill now and again.
Extroverts find it easy to meet new people, walking into most situations and comfortably chatting immediately. By the end of most gatherings they have made new contacts and swapped details for future social interactions, thus ensuring a constant supply of people to energise them. At the same time, they have probably ignored their partner as they have been too busy making new friends.
Extroverts do not like their own company and as such become bored very easily. Repetitive tasks will cause them to deflate unless they can be turned into something more interesting like the promise of attention or status for performing well. With the concentration span of a gnat (strange saying! How do they know?) compared to introverts.They share their thoughts as they think them which can be very confusing as a conversation becomes a matter of others accompanying them in their thought process. Analysing out loud is par for the course for extroverts and as such what they say is often not the finished product or even close.
Extroverts tend to have a wide circle of friends and will put a lot of energy into those friendships which are ‘current’. They are not particularly picky with who they are friends with, quantity over quality every time. All may join the party. They have many friends, but their definition of a friend is very different to that of an introvert but nevertheless rewarding for all parties.
Introverts will love only a very few people in a lifetime and then only in small doses which they will need to control. Unexpected drop in visits are rarely welcomed no matter who you are, even if they are doing nothing. Nothing is a very real something to an extrovert.
Even when familiar with large groups of people introverts are not overly keen on too much attention. Okay in a bar seated with a group but likely to be either listening or engaged in a deep conversation with one, maybe two others. They often don’t say much but when they do it is well thought out and worth listening to. Although quiet they can still enjoy their time, that is their way. The party is inside their heads. The behaviour of an introvert is often similar to someone who is shy, but shyness can be found in introverts and extroverts, there is no connection. An extrovert may overcome shyness for singing or dancing with alcohol or drugs but no amount of either will change an introvert into a singer or dancer if that is not how they are.
I know this for sure as I have been pushed and prompted to join in dancing at clubs for years and years but whatever my physical state I have always felt uncomfortable and avoided what I consider to be the humiliation. Fine for others just not for me thanks.
My biggest problem is often extroverts pressuring me to be like them, thinking I am miserable or boring because I don’t feel the need to dance. I still love and feel music inside. Music is a huge part of my life to this day.
I avoid social gatherings because of the feeling of being a misfit due to lack of understanding even though I now know better. Introverts focus mainly on their own internal world and are quite oblivious to what is going on around them. My wife hoovering and the dogs barking, “How can you read a book with so much noise?” is the question. I don’t even notice when I am engrossed. It is because whilst introverting we have an astounding knack for shutting the world out and are happy in this self-imposed isolation.
It is perfectly possible for an introvert to be lonelier in a crowded room, such as the social gatherings I mentioned previously than on their own. It can be very tiring to have to pay attention to other people for any length of time, an introverts definition of boring, but they can concentrate on ‘things’ that interest them for ages. They tend to pursue solitary hobbies and pastimes rather than seek to be involved in groups or team games. Introverts need engagement inside their heads.
Because of their cautious nature introverts can be painfully slow to develop relationships. When they do the relationship will be a strong one that often endures for the rest of their lives. They will have a small circle of close and trusted friends that they would do anything for, even if they don’t see them from one year to the next. Introverts go for quality over quantity when choosing friends. Not needing to spend endless hours with friends to reinforce the relationship. They hate small talk but appreciate the value of small talk for testing whether others are agreeable or not. However, the introvert hating small talk may well seem disagreeable when first experienced. Introverts mostly like to keep their ideas to themselves until they have thought them through. They can be very uncomfortable being made to speak about something they are not sure about. An idea can percolate in an introvert’s mind for a very long while until it evolves into something they consider worth sharing. Debating an unfinished idea is not their way of figuring something out, in fact it will distract and even confuse them.
In relationships they may not be forthcoming with their feelings, particularly verbally. Expecting that much can be assumed and left unsaid. They communicate better in letters and cards, or in gestures. Actions saying more than words. All is contained within for the introvert and they may need some prompting for it to reach the outside world at which time the depth may be astounding.
Developing an Understanding
Extroverts often describe introverts as boring ‘Norman no mates’, while they themselves are often described by more introverted others as shallow and loud. These perceptions can have a big effect in any kind of relationship.
This is the way it can work; introverts can get lonely when they are surrounded by people they don’t know or in busy places.
Extroverts get lonely when they are in their own company.
Introversion isn’t antisocial, it is just that the social way is different and not considered normal in our extroverted society. Socialising will involve people that are known, and the conversations may be deeper and in smaller groups or one to one. Listening and observing also plays a bigger part in the social life of an introverted person.When a relationship between the two types exists, there is a need for both to recognise each other’s needs.
The importance of privacy for introverts which will seem like solitary confinement to an extrovert and the love of gatherings for extroverts which will feel like an invasion for introverts – no matter who the company.
Introverted behaviour is territorial. Introverts need their own space; private places both in their environment and in their mind which they will defend strongly. And maybe not the shed at the bottom of the garden as is depicted in many sitcoms. But that is better than having to face situations that are considered turbulent for an introvert.
Introverts in a relationship with an extrovert need to be aware of the importance of arousal and stimulation. No matter how alien it may seem to them, their partner’s focus is on the world outside of them, and as you may have gathered already, sameness becomes invisible and flattens an extroverted personality quicker than popping a balloon. An unchanging environment and life in general to an extrovert quickly becomes boring because of its lack of stimulation and the fact that it throws them back on their own inner resources and that is not where they like to live. It does not mean they are bored of their partner, only that there is not enough going on. Although it can lead to conflict unless both partners are aware of the other’s needs. Some variation is needed, even some spontaneity in the social calendar. An awareness that both will benefit from a little of the others world is also vital. And there is much personal growth to be found in the attraction of such opposites. However, it does require working together with understanding.
Another example showing that good relationships are never easy, but worth the effort. Extroverts are more open, and one can see how the silence of an introvert could be misinterpreted by the extrovert as deceitful or showing a lack of trust or a holding back from intimacy. It is difficult to understand that a person can be so different from ourselves, but it is a fact. As with all opposites, there is the potential for each partner to balance the other and for the relationship to be mutually fulfilling and a learning experience for both.
Open minded understanding not labelling from one’s biased viewpoint is what is needed. Neither is right or wrong, good or bad, just different and very interesting. And we all have moments of the opposite type and are unaware because it is our unconscious shadow revealing itself. What better than our partners alerting us to our shadow moments.
Extroverts will not need too much prompting to talk about themselves with very little, make that no censorship. To extroverts an introvert will appear secretive. They will not usually talk about their problems When the extrovert is sharing, and the introvert is not this can make the relationship seem very one-sided. This will be the time when an introverted partner may appear the most withdrawn. With patience and understanding the introvert will learn to share more.
As I have mentioned already with my 30+ year marriage, opposites attract, and you will often find these two types in relationships, and they often complement each other. I will talk more about making it work when discussing how Julie and I benefit from one another. Although with such a fluid concept and many of us fluctuating between the two, the figures I have seen state that 75% of the population is extrovert, while 25% is introvert. It explains a lot about our culture, and everything about game shows, reality television and the hunger for celebrity status which an introvert will find alien or fascinating at best. At least in the first part of life our society is made for extroverts and maybe the figures reflect that necessity for us to show extrovert behaviours. I know I would say personally that I naturally have introversion tendencies as a boy and young man I showed all the signs, but I became more extroverted to get through the first part of my life. I was pushed into situations by parents that assumed I would outgrow my personality as was the lot for introverts and maybe still is. All through my extrovert years I was made to feel like I was strange for not wanting what others all obviously wanted.
All of my earliest memories are traumatic situations that I encountered or was pushed into by normally, but lovingly ignorant parents attempting to make me normal.
That is an extrovert society and we must watch out for introverts more and realise and value the differences. I am now settled back into a mostly introverted personality style. The time for reflection comes to us all in the second part of our lives and that it would seem is when introverts come into their own. I know Julie and I having knowledge of Jung’s typology improved matters in my life when Julie grasped how unnatural it is for me to venture out into the world or how I opt so readily to being alone and Julie realises she is often my bridge to the outside world and I no longer fight my natural tendencies believing I am just boring or odd. In contrast I am Julie’s “inner guide”, both equally daunting places for the other. We are aware it is vital to be accepting of the others type and grateful for the support each of us lends in areas of potential discomfort. For me, it explains Julies hyper-willingness to “pop” here, there and everywhere at a moment’s notice for human contact and for Julie, my need to plan and prepare like a trip to the local store is a major event.
I have not actually made it to our local store in eighteen months (over 3 years now) of living here. Online shopping does makes introversion much easier. We are also aware that we can develop accordingly in order that we not be dependent on one another for our wholeness. It is a challenge to become more balanced by facing those situations that will expand us and it is good to know we have an understanding other to support our growth. This has not always been the case and our relationship has arrived at this point because of hard work, tenacity and eventually an awareness that there is so much more to us than the accepted norms. Different paths on a shared journey. Previously in the first part of life I created a physique and fake personas aplenty to hide behind and see me through all kinds of situations. We all do that, and it is important to develop a strong ego. Reflecting now, I never really fooled myself and I was most uncomfortable and struggled with many simple situations that I thought were tough for me because I was a little “special”. Situations such as going to the bar for a drink in a pub or bar or any public situation that I thought exposed me to others and made me feel awkward. On the rare occasion that I overcame my fear I did feel exactly that, exposed and awkward. From my perspective, in a society where extroversion is the norm we need to understand introverts better and recognise their unique attitude and contribution to society. I firmly believe that Jung’s personality typology should be taught in schools as part of mass education and to a degree that it is really and finally understood, not used as a label of what is good or better than being another way. This would aid in mutual understanding and help young people find a place in the world at an early age as opposed to feelings of alienation and self-loathing in attempting to be what we are not. Or living in way that is unsuited to who we are to please significant others or a system that ignores a large section of the population.
How many young people would be on a different path if they knew their real strengths and didn’t grow up being led to believe they are weaknesses or abnormal behaviours?
If you have read book 1 of the getting better series, you will know that I personally spent precious years of my life drinking too much and eventually taking drugs just to feel comfortable (numb) in an extrovert’s world. I reflect on the number of times I just felt invisible. How many of our children feel like this? I got lucky and chose life over death at the critical moments later in my life.
Three of my friends made a different choice and are no longer with us. Tragic!
Many more are not so lucky and would love to become truly visible to their loved ones and others more aware of difference. There are fewer sadder feelings than being invisible to the ones you love and that purport to love you, simply because they are unaware of your needs compared to theirs or you feel like an oddity in an extrovert’s world, struggling to breathe.
To Summarise – I have discussed the opposite ends of the spectrum and as with all opposites the sweet spots are to found somewhere in between and the flexibility to adapt is all important. The flexarian attitude is to think of introverting and extroverting as verbs as opposed to nouns and to adapt accordingly. Our comfortable place is all to do with physiological arousal and we can learn to be better out of those comfort zones without becoming hyper-aroused. It is just wise to extrovert when public speaking or to introvert when reading or meditating and all that falls somewhere in between. Mastery is to know ourselves and to adapt to our environment or to change our environment if it is not serving us well. Personally, I have learned to operate outside of my comfort zone is such a way as to fool others into thinking I am comfortable when extroverting. This is primarily with public speaking and I have competed in physique shows also. It is not possible to introvert in nothing but a pair of speedos with ones favourite music to pose to. The thought sends shivers down my spine now. On the flip side Julie loved competing in the physique shows but struggles to sit and do nothing and is never to be found alone. Julie searches out company and I search for solitude. Introverting lends itself well to philosophizing. Thankfully! Because my brain never shuts up. Whereas, once upon a time if I asked Julie what she was thinking about she would often say “nothing” – That is impossible for me to grasp until I understand that she is not focused on inside but rather on connecting outside. Julie has learned to see herself inside over the years and has become more aware of her thoughts as I have become more aware of my external world . Julie still needs company to energise and be Julie. Julie-ing as we call it. And I need a well controlled environment to energise and Adam(VERB).
Jung’s typology explained my life and my visibility to myself and Julie and importantly made Julie more visible to me. I am also much more accepting of others being just how they are – as opposed to how I think they should be.
I owe the vastly improved quality of my life to psychology and to the genius of Carl Gustav Jung in particular.