I’m pleased by the recent interest in introverts; both because I AM one and because it’s helped to dispel some myths about introverts.
Being an introvert is more than OK; introverts bring something beautiful and unique to the table. I want to affirm introverts, and write something helpful about the spiritual life of introverts; the unique ways we think, meditate, communicate, relate and live. I suspect this is going to take more than one article.
What Is An Introvert?
Being an introvert is not about being shy; that is a separate trait. Being an introvert or an extrovert is about what gives you energy. After a long and tiring week, an introvert will get re energized by time alone or with small groups of close friends, an extrovert will get re energized by meeting new people and parties.
No one is all one way or another. We are all on a spectrum of introversion and extroversion, and we can change from one situation to another.
You tend more to introversion if some of the following are true for you…..
You get impatient with small talk.
You tend to let your phone go through to voice mail.
You cringe at the audience participation part of comedy shows and events.
You don’t cope well with surprise guests.
By the way, how many introverts does it take to change a light bulb? None. They prefer the lights off. If the lights are on, people might drop in.
You prefer one on one conversations to large group discussions.
You enjoy solitude.
You prefer low levels of stimulation.
You listen well.
You love take out meals and quiet restaurants.
An introvert walks into a bar. “What’ll it be, buddy?” asks the bartender. “Pitcher of beer. To go.”
You find it easier to give a talk to 500 people than mingle after the event.
You prefer to express yourself in writing.
You think of all your best comebacks while lying in bed later that night.
You sit on the end of a bus seat, hoping no one asks you to move over.
You prefer lectures to discussion style seminars.
You are more interested in the big picture and ideas, than facts and details.
You rarely join groups.
The sign outside of a community hall: Introverts club has been cancelled due to lack of attendance.
Laurie Helgoe, author of Introvert Power; Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, said
Extroverts want us to have fun, because they assume we want what they want. And sometimes we do. But “fun” itself is a “bright” word, the kind of word that comes with flashing lights and an exclamation point! One of Merriam-Webster’s definitions of “fun” is “violent or excited activity or argument.” The very word makes me want to sit in a dimly lit room with lots of pillows—by myself.
Introverts have fun, just in different ways, with smaller groups and for limited periods of time. Then we need to get back to the cave and recharge, which is also a form of fun for introverts.
Introverts And Spirituality
Carl Jung described introverts as energized by their inner world and extroverts as energized by the outer world. He also said that the inner world is where the treasures of spiritual awakening are found. So this would seem to suggest that introverts have an advantage when it comes to spiritual practice. Not necessarily! Here are some of the challenges for introverts.
An introvert may find meditation and mindfulness more difficult than an extrovert because we have SO much going on in our minds. Inner reflection is easy for an introvert, but inner stillness is another matter.
An introvert might not experience straightforward, unambiguous gratitude or joy responses to external stimuli like a beautiful scene in nature because we have so many thoughts about it.
Gatherings like church, yoga classes or book groups are generally geared to extroverts, leaving introverts either isolated, uncomfortable or unwelcome.
But, due to our comfort with ambiguity, our creative inner life, our ease with internal visualizations, and our sensitivity to subtle (what Jung would call “psychic”) cues we experience life beyond the surface, beyond stereotypes, and beyond the five senses. This gives introverts unique access to the unconscious world, which is a world of mystery, wonder and imagination.
Speaking personally, I’m occasionally frustrated, sometimes misunderstood, but generally excited, by being introverted. The more I embrace my introversion, the more I see myself as a mystic.
This is where I find myself at the gateway to a whole world of reflections. I will return to these reflections soon. Hopefully I have opened up the exploration for now. Let me leave this piece with a beautiful description of introverts and mysticism by the early twentieth century Christian mystic, Evelyn Underhill,
Contemplation is the mystic’s medium. It is an extreme form of that withdrawal of attention from the external world and total dedication of the mind which also, in various degrees and ways, conditions the creative activity of musician, painter and poet: releasing the faculty by which he can apprehend the Good and Beautiful, and enter into communion with the Real.