The Theory of Introversion

“In an extroverted society, the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is that an introvert is often unconsciously deemed guilty until proven innocent.”

Introversion occurs on a spectrum so every introvert is different. However, the concept is one and the same.

Social étiquette in our society is designed by and shaped for extroverts, hence it is to no one’s surprise that introverts are easily misunderstood. Declining invitations, setting personal boundaries and leaving the party early can all be seen as rude. Many no longer remember how to say ‘no’ without feeling overwhelmed with guilt so they say ‘yes’ when every fibre of their exhausted being was saying ‘no’. Pleasantries, politeness and niceties are poured out to the point of depletion. Then guilt comes when there is no more energy to be nice.

Are they rude? Were they trying to hurt you? Is it wrong to slip away and restore themselves? In a world where personal space is a premium and ‘no’ is one of the most feared words in the dictionary, it is no wonder that this is considered rude.

The concept of introversion and extroversion was developed by psychologist Carl Jung in the 1920s and used widely in personality tests and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

Science has uncovered that thinking processes are much longer for a introvert than they are for an extrovert. Introverts take the current stimulus back into their long term memory to compare with their past experiences, then they analyse the pros and cons of the stimulus before processing the information. On the other hand, extroverts process the stimulus into information right away and use talk and socialisation to analyse the stimulus and their reaction to it.

“It is very difficult for an extrovert to understand an introvert-” even though extroverts are easy for introverts to understand. This is because extroverts spend large amounts of time working out who they are with people while introverts recognise themselves alone and hence, extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion. They assume that company, especially their own, is always welcome and cannot imagine why someone would need to be alone.

So here is the introvert’s inner workings.

The innate qualities most introverts share are a love of introspection, a need for solitude, and a slower, more focused communication style.

Introspection is as natural as breathing for an introvert. Roaming the limitless landscapes of their own imagination or daydreaming are all part of their inward growth.

The outside world often feels like an assaulting force for introverts and is frequently overstimulating. Turning inward is their means of survival as much as it is a source of comfort. Contemplation on their principles of life, quietly and slowly analysing the world without external assault brings meaning and direction into their life.

The introvert’s desire for solitude is more than a preference. It is crucial to their health and happiness. They grow weary from social interactions rapidly and require alone time to restore themselves. Introverts are often pressured in social situations to the point of exhaustion. After that they just feel guilty for being irritable and grouchy and incapable of being ‘on’ all the time.

An introvert’s brain is very sensitive to dopamine and they require less of it to feel happy. So if there is too much talking or noise, they shut down. Extended periods of socialising (more than one hour) become exhausting and so are surprising and adrenaline rushes. An extrovert, however, has a different neural-pathway that responds positively to large doses of dopamine.

That is why solitude is essential for an introvert to recharge and why they are content and energised by silence.

An introvert prefers to communicate through the written word and figure things out better through thought than through talking about it. Introverts often walk around with many thoughts in their heads, often debate with themselves and prefer deep conversations but they stumble when it comes to polite talk, mindless chatter or discussions that are content-free.

The introvert brain processes everything in their surroundings and pays attention to all the sensory details in the environment, not just the people. The more crowded the environment, the more draining the experience.

Introversion is a personality type that draws strength and satisfaction from the inner world. Being hyper-sensitive to the outside world, they take in the data and experience very quickly and are ready to go back home, recharge and process it all. There is no ‘cure’ for introversion and introverts do not evolve into extroverts.

We can only dream that someday, when our condition is more widely understood, when perhaps an Introverts’ Rights movement has blossomed and borne fruit, it will not be impolite to say “I’m an introvert. You are a wonderful person and I like you. But now please shush.”

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