Do you consider yourself somewhat of a loner? And how do you feel about finding yourself in that category? I have noticed that people who are loners, or who feel like they are more introvert than extrovert often feel ashamed to admit it....as if there is something 'wrong' with enjoying solitude. North American culture seems to be dominated by extroverts, and introverts often find themselves being goaded into 'loosening up', 'hanging out', 'getting with it' and even being viewed as strange. As I searched the web for an image to illustrate this post, I discovered that loners are described as 'twisted' and 'geeks'. Yes, people with mental illness are often loners. However, many very normal, well-adjusted people have an innate preference for alone time. I'd like to look briefly at what is right, okay and advantageous about being an introverted type or loner.
In my professional work I have observed that introverts are often more reflective and more prepared for the difficult work of looking within. Introverts are often more observant and more likely to have actively confronted the existential challenges of life. Introverts and extroverts who are in relationships often have difficulty coping with the other's behaviours.
None of us are wholly introvert or wholly extrovert. Many extroverts know how to balance their enjoyment of reaching outward and find ways to build quiet, reflective time into their outwardly-focused lives. Many introverts have observed how to 'play the game', fit in and have developed a 'pseudo-extroversion' that they can enjoy in social situations.
If you observe carefully, you can spot an introvert/pseudo-extrovert at a social gathering. They enjoy all the exchanges, laughter, commiseration with everyone else ... but now and then they will take a little break and go stand alone on the balcony, go to the bathroom, wander over and gaze at the art on the wall. The make-up of their nervous system needs to take a little break from all the incoming stimulation. After a little break, they will rejoin the gathering and participate and enjoy like everyone else.
I was pleased to discover the following article which illustrates that introverts have nothing to be ashamed of in their particular way of relating to the world around them. In fact, there are many advantages to being introverted, just as there are to being extroverted. Even if you are not an introvert, you may have a partner, a child or friends who are - and this article may help you better understand them.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Where do you think you fall on the introvert/extrovert continuum? I am a definite introvert, with well-developed pseudo-extrovert skills. Many friends find it difficult to compute when I say I am an introvert. I do enjoy conversation, learning, laughter, exchange, emotional intimacy....but I must carve out my alone time - 'must' being the key word.
So here is the little article - let me know what you think!
"Field Guide to the Loner: The Real Insiders Loners are pitied in our up-with-people culture. But the introvert reaps secret joy from the solitary life.
By Elizabeth Svoboda, published on March 01, 2007.
Miina Matsuoka lives by herself in New York City. She owns two cats and routinely screens her calls. But before you jump to conclusions, note that she is comfortable hobnobbing in any of five languages for her job as business manager at an international lighting-design firm. She just strongly prefers not to socialize, opting instead for long baths, DVDs, and immersion in her art projects. She does have good, close friends, and goes dancing about once a month, but afterward feels a strong need to "hide and recoup." In our society, where extroverts make up three-quarters of the population, loners (except Henry David Thoreau) are pegged as creepy or pathetic. But soloists like Matsuoka can function just fine in the world—they simply prefer traveling through their own interior universe.
Loners often hear from well-meaning peers that they need to be more social, but the implication that they're merely black-and-white opposites of their bubbly peers misses the point. Introverts aren't just less sociable than extroverts; they also engage with the world in fundamentally different ways. While outgoing people savor the nuances of social interaction, loners tend to focus more on their own ideas—and on stimuli that don't register in the minds of others. Social engagement drains them, while quiet time gives them an energy boost.
Contrary to popular belief, not all loners have a pathological fear of social contact. "Some people simply have a low need for affiliation," says Jonathan Cheek, a psychologist at Wellesley College. "There's a big subdivision between the loner-by-preference and the enforced loner." Those who choose the living room over the ballroom may have inherited their temperament, Cheek says. Or a penchant for solitude could reflect a mix of innate tendencies and experiences such as not having many friends as a child or growing up in a family that values privacy.
James McGinty, for one, is a caseworker who opted out of a career as a lawyer because he didn't feel socially on-the-ball enough for the job's daily demands. He has a small circle of friends, but prefers to dine solo. "I had a bad cold over the Thanksgiving holiday, but that spared me from having to go to my brother-in-law's," he says. "I'm not a scrooge; it's the gatherings I dread." Matsuoka feels his pain: "I can't do large crowds with a lot of noise," she says. "It's stressful to maintain positive interactions and introduce yourself 20 times. I really have to turn on my motor to do that."
Matsuoka, who is divorced, is open to romantic relationships, but "whomever I'm with must know that at least one day a week I need to lock myself in my room and stick feathers on a sculpture," she warns. Artwork is a form of meditation for her. "I get completely sucked in. It clears my mind until nothing disturbs me." While a few studies have shown a correlation between creativity, originality, and introversion, perhaps more striking is the greater enjoyment introverts seem to reap from creative endeavors.
Amanda Guyer, a psychologist at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, has found that socially withdrawn people have increased sensitivity to all kinds of emotional interactions and sensory cues, which may mean that they find pleasure where others do not. Guyer separated child subjects into "outgoing" and "reserved" groups and then had them play a game in which they had to press a button in order to win money. The reserved subjects showed two to three times more activity in the striatum region of the brain, which is associated with reward, than did the more outgoing ones.
Previous MRI studies have shown that during social situations, specific areas in the brains of loners experience especially lively blood flow, indicating a sort of over-stimulation, which explains why they find parties so wearying. But Guyer's results suggest that introverts may be more attuned to all sorts of positive experiences as well. This added sensitivity, she speculates, could mean that people who are reserved have an ability to respond quickly to situations—such as coming to your aid in a moment of need—or show unusual empathy to a friend, due to their strong emotional antennae.
(P.S. Don't forget to enter my giveaway! Details are in my January 25th post.)