The Myers-Briggs personality profile test is probably one of the most widely known and used tests. One of it’s 4 metrics is I(ntroverted) vs. E(xtroverted). It may not come as too much of a shock that I come out very I(ntroverted).
I always saw this as meaning that introverted people didn’t enjoy being around other people but preferred to be solitary. I have recently learned that this anti-social trait is not what this metric points to at all. Instead, it simply means that one processes emotionally/mentally/spiritually what is happening to them in an internal way (internal dialog with the self vs working it out with others). It doesn’t mean that the person is in any way anti-social. In fact, a person could be a very big people-person; yet be extremely introverted. Even more interesting is the realization that the commonly understood anti-social aspect is actually an unhealthy expression of introvertedness if one is too solitary or feels alone in their emotional/mental/spiritual work or lack good social skills.
Being afraid of others, afraid of risk in relationships, desiring to escape into controlled worlds of our own making (addictions to computer games, pornography, alcohol, and many others are good examples), afraid of socializing, or adversity to other people isn’t suppose to be what an introverted person is at all. I realized this because I recently met a very integrated and healthy introverted person in my work here at the hospital. What surprised me about this person was that he is a very public minister of almost 20 years; yet is extremely introverted – probably more so than me. Yet, he saw that introvertedness as a tool for his work with himself, his family, and the people he met; not a hindrance. For him, understanding his own introvertedness allowed him to help others process how tragedy, joy, hope, or fear felt or worked internally on a person. He could very accurately and amazingly zero right in on what sorts of things were going on inside himself and others when they were going through all kinds of life-changing events (both good and bad) by how it was affecting the internal workings of the person (mind/emotions).
When we go through a difficult time; sometimes emotions can well up and overwhelm us for what seems to be no real reason. Other times, we have an experience that rocks our life – to the point we can’t work or eat or sleep – but we don’t know why we are in that state – or how to process or recognize the emotions that are underneath it. What this guy showed me, what healthy, integrated introverted people can bring, is how one can make sense of life events by being very attuned to the internal state(s) these events bring. Yet are mature enough not to become slaves to those internal states. It helps them recognize when things are happening to them or others from an internal psychological/emotional/spiritual standpoint and then process through them. This is in contrast to extroverts who might have the same experiences but can only work them out in the interactions and in the context of other people. Both are equally healthy and functional ways of processing what happens in our lives. Yet, both methods are simply the starting points of our natures. If one simply stays in those modes (introverted people who pull into self-centeredness/away from necessary and healthy relationships with others or extroverted people who losing their personal responsibility for actions or identity by always referring it to others), it becomes unhealthy and destructive.
Which one are you? How do you processes what happens in your life? Have you really become healthy and integrated in that expression? Can you step beyond your initial tendency to embrace to the larger reality of how that is just the first step in a two-part process