Tag Archives: introversion

The Quiet One

La Porte dr l’Enfer a ete dressee dans les jardins du musee Rodin (The Thinker at the Gates of the Inferno and the Museum in Rodin)

My quietness has a man in it, he is transparent
Frank O’Hara, “In Memory of Feelings”

The Quiet One

I don’t have the words so in silence I stand
While everyone’s words are a radiant band
And the conversation lives all around me
But my silence is the one thing it cannot see
Quietly I realize my greatest fear
I dissipate into the atmosphere
With ease they shout and even scream
While I’m caught in this silent dream
They draw to them every light and color
Trying to verbally eclipse one another
While I fade into darkness, shadow and night
Merely a shape illuminated by their light

But in the dark corners of this private hell
Where the quiet ones so often tend to dwell
Look closely, you might just see a quiet man
One who few take the time to understand
Slowly drifting from their lusty laughter
Unwelcome in their happily ever after
Trapped by the words that will not come
That will not pass his leaden tongue
Desperately desiring that wordy key
Which unlocks the palaver’s mystery
The speakers’ words seem to simply glide
While his slow forming thoughts continue denied
Verbal impotence has come like a sudden attack
Their parlay continues as he fades to black

If you approach him for a tête-à-tête
Enter his silence and dwell there a bit
Seeking the thoughts that the silence may hold
If only the words were somewhat more bold
Would you encounter shadows and night?
Or would the thoughts unspoken be equally bright
For sometimes the quite voices screen
Rare beauties that are but seldom seen
The mind too full for conversation to proclaim
Whose inner world galaxies might contain
But the crowded world in conversation bright
Will never quiet down to see their light

Living Brave Reflection 5- Some Ways to Effectively Shame an Introvert

Smoke 1

I have been a pastor for almost twelve years and prior to that I had a career as an officer in the U.S. Army, both of these fields are frequently dominated by extroverts and require a level of social interaction that can be challenging for an introvert. Yet, both of these careers have times where individual learning is required, deep soul searching decisions need to be made, creativity is valued, and, especially in the leadership role, can be lonely places. There are a lot of gifts I brought to both of these vocations and yet there is a set of criticisms I’ve heard throughout my life that came to the surface reflecting upon the strategies of disconnection that were discussed in session five of the Living Brave class which Brené Brown has been leading me and many others through.  I could talk about the ways in which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable, but what stood out to me this time was the way the same set of comments made me feel disconnected and in that place of shame, and how the other person probably never thought about the comments in the first place.

Introverts are not shy, insensitive, cold, reclusive or any of the other adjectives that frequently get associated with introversion. Introverts draw their strength from inside and from reflection rather than from interaction with people. For many introverts, social functions may be enjoyable but extremely draining at the same time. They have probably been taught that their introverted nature as a personality trait is “somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology” as Susan Cain can voice in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that can’t Stop Talking. Many, like myself, have invested a lot of energy and effort into becoming more social, in trying to learn how to interact with a noisy and often superficial world. They may feel uncomfortable mingling, but they learn how to do it anyways. They engage a world that is designed to fuel an extroverts need for continual stimulation by retreating for long enough to recharge and re-engage. They bring incredible gifts of creativity, the ability to listen deeply and a storehouse of knowledge gained from both reading and reflection. Many, despite their best intentions to blend in are singled out as not quite fitting in with the rest of the noisy crowd.

The following are not scientifically validated but rather come from my own experience as an introvert in extrovert dominant fields. They are things that create strong shame reactions within me because they highlight the disconnection that I may already feel in various moments. Especially in times where I have made incredible efforts to be social and engaged, expending immense amounts of social energy, hearing comments like the following make me, and I would guess others as well, want to retreat to a safe space, lash out or hide behind a social mask that is more extroverted than I may feel:

  1. If only you were a little warmer, relaxed, less serious. This is one of those I’ve heard many times and every time it is painful. More painful than it should be. I remember I was once going through an evaluation where many extremely positive things were said and then this was my area for personal growth. For all the work I had put in to being outgoing this made all the previously good things disappear in my mind and had the critic in my head going for several days. I am a very kind hearted individual but for many reasons I am not a person who will ever be carefree, happy go lucky, or bouncy. I can fake those things for a short time but it feels really inauthentic to me. I am the person you want in a crisis because I don’t get rattled easily but the other side of that is that I don’t get excited over small things. Yet, the comment reminds me that for all my efforts to fit in I have somehow failed to live up to the expectations of others.
  2. You are such an intellectual. On the one hand, when did being an intellectual become a bad thing. I get what the comment is trying to say, that I can live in my head and I am comfortable thinking things through academically and find it interesting. Frankly, I like that I can have internal conversations with authors and books and ideas and it helps me think. I also understand that most people are emotional beings who occasionally think rather than thinking beings whose emotions sometimes drive them. I tend to be more comfortable in the rational, intellectual space like others are in the spontaneous, emotional space. I also understand that we are living in an anti-intellectual culture that thrives as much on charisma as it does on substance. Yet, the comment still can be a shaming one. It drives home the reality that as engaged as I may want to be that I do not fit in. I may have attempted to adapt how I talk about something to a level I hope others can engage and it is a comment that highlights to me that I have still failed in that endeavor.
  3. Why can’t you be more like ______who is an extrovert. We all have times where we are compared with someone else in an unfavorable light. Comparison takes one quality in you and compares it with what may be the best quality in someone else. To be honest, I’m probably my own worst critic on this one. It is easy for me to compare myself with others who relate to others seemingly effortlessly while it frequently involves work for me. I spend more time with the issue of comparison in my previous Living Brave Reflection.
  4. Intentionally or unintentionally excluding from conversations. We all seek connection, even though it may be more challenging for some. Sometimes introverts feel very alone in a room and feel like they have to break in to the conversations that are already going on around them. Most find a way, but it helps to be invited in to a conversation. There are situations that are just easier for extroverts and sometimes it just takes the willingness to see the person nobody is talking to, invite them into a conversation and then allow them to be themselves. Many people know what it is like to be the one on the outside of all the conversations and it is a place that ultimately none of us want to be. We all seek those connections and a sense of belonging.

Not of One Mind

The Dragon Writer by 25kartinok@deviantart.com

The Dragon Writer by 25kartinok@deviantart.com

I argue with myself each day
Of what to do and what to say
Do I act polite or misbehave
Act the fool or face try to save
Each choice comes with voices who
Each try to tell me what to or not to do
One voice tells me to be responsible not risky
Another I seem to rigid and be more frisky
Another says just be you regardless what they think
Yet all these different voices can drive me to the brink
Sometimes I wish my thoughts weren’t quite so loud
But sometimes these dialogues can make me proud
For sometimes I solve all the problems of the world
And in the cacophony new insights are unfurled
This inner debate within the courtroom of my mind
Produces some amazing judgments and inspiration find

Neil White, 2015