Revenge of the Introvert

28 Sep

By Laurie Helgoe

After ten years as a psychologist practicing psychodynamic psychotherapy, I reclined on the couch of my own analyst feeling burdened by my chosen work. After a day of seeing patients, I was drained. I had been trained to listen at many levels—words, emotions, unconscious disclosures—and I took all of that in and sorted it out in my mind. I was good at helping others discover and pursue what they wanted out of life. But at day’s end I had no resources left to do it for myself.

Then I heard myself say: “I don’t like being a therapist.” Pause. “I never have.” I loved the study of psychology. I didn’t love seeing patient after patient. I was perpetually overstimulated, busy decoding everything I took in. Plus, I wondered why I couldn’t tolerate the large caseloads my colleagues took on willingly.

Suddenly I felt free, loosed from expectations that never fit. And just as suddenly, I felt I could say no to the demands of others. I could even say no to being a therapist.

As a card-carrying introvert, I am one of the many people whose personality confers on them a preference for the inner world of their own mind rather than the outer world of sociability. Depleted by too much external stimulation, we thrive on reflection and solitude. Our psychic opposites, extroverts, prefer schmoozing and social life because such activities boost their mood. They get bored by too much solitude.

Over the past two decades, scientists have whittled down to five those clusters of cognitions, emotions, motivations, and behaviors that we mean by “personality” factors. Extraversion, and by inference introversion, is chief among them, along with neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness—psychology’s so-called Big Five.

cont’ article here

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