woman reading“For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: “I’m okay, you’re okay—in small doses.” ~ Jonathan Rausch

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.

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  1. Cas says:

    I truly enjoyed this article. I recently found my self becoming and introvert due to Multiple Sclerosis. It has left me with cognitive issues, so I have problems keeping up with conversations. SO hence I have gone from extrovert to introvert!  Its not so bad really. I find I listen a lot more than I used to ,so hence I learn a lot more about people than I ever have. SO please extroverts, give us a break if you have some introvert acquaintances. We may have reasons why we are quiet beyond what you know, and it is really amazing to be in here watching and listening to the world around us..  

  2. Bernadette says:

    Thank you, Ian! I can relate to many of these things. I definitely prefer to express myself through writing and think of the best conversation lines … 3 hours after the conversation has ended!

  3. Margaret says:

    What a fascinating topic to open up within Soulseeds Ian. I see myself as somewhat of an introvert, wanting to express what is going on all the time in my head when in groups, but rarely getting the opportunity because someone else is more confident, quicker at popping the words into play, or lacking the confidence eventually to really try to speak when others are better at it. I will follow ths series with deep interest.

  4. Kellie says:

    You just made it okay to be an introvert!  Great piece. 

  5. […] I wrote last week, I’m growing to accept being an introvert. But that doesn’t mean I can’t sometimes surprise […]

  6. KW says:

    Looking forward to more on the subject.  I wonder, what can an introvert do to help themselveswhen suffering from depression.  One of the remedies that others in health related fields is a strong emphasis in broadening one’s social life – get around more people, connect, make friends.  I started doing so because I felt something must be wrong w me if I don’t have more friends and socialize more.  But when I imagine myself sitting across from a friend or would be friend over lunch, I imagine a boring coversation as often is the case or the other person talks more about their interests.Only I do get lonely as I often feel I wish I had some closer friends I really connected w to talk to when I’m hurting and vice versa.  

  7. Kelli Roig says:

    THANK YOU! This describes me to a “T” and I’m so glad we’re talking about introverts openly. I wouldn’t be anything but an introvert, and enjoy my time alone.Namaste!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I am an introverted woman.  Sometimes I feel an enormous pressure to be  the quintessential  extrovert. I expend enormous amounts of energy maintaining a bubbly personality to avoid social awkwardness, and it’s excruciating.  After working with >/= 5 strangers in a day I  go home and ignore my phone/significant other and either read or just sit there quietly. I really appreciate this article because it helps me remember what I am,  that it’s ok and that I’m not the only one.  thanks

  9. Andrea says:

    I didn’t realize until just now that I am an introvert!  People express their beliefs that I am an extrovert , I think, because I am courageous in meetings and speak up for what I believe in – but they don’t know that it is usually after much contemplation and decision making that I am able to do this.  As a supervisor, I am one to go to the silent people to see what they think in lieu of more input from those who talk freely.  I thought the needing to be alone and the conversations in my head were anti-social behavior.  And yet I enjoy the company of a good friend and quiet small group conversation about a deep issue.   I feel better now about this whole thing and will be exploring it!  I believe I am fairly psychic (or pychic as Ian has said Jung calls it – hee hee) and would like to explore this side of me also.  Thanks, Ian!

  10. RS says:

    KW,  you raise a very interesting point about introverts, depression and social connections.  I would also like to read more about that topic.