I’ve just watched Susan Cain’s talk at TED on “the power of introverts.” Perhaps ‘the power of introversion’ might sit better with me. In my case the subtitle is, ‘the power of introversion, whilst dealing with obsessive compulsion, ADHD, solipsism and goodness knows what else.’
Her three key points unlocked understanding about the part of me that thrives on introversion. I phrase it like that because I acknowledge that we are not ‘either/or’, we are all ‘both’ on the extrovert/introvert spectrum.
1. Stop the madness for constant group work. My italics, because she rightly explains that chatty exchanges of ideas benefit both extroverts and introverts, but introverts need time and privacy to finalize their opinions. He-he <grins self-indulgently>. This validated a stand that I took in the last semester of my Masters degree at Griffith. They kept wanting us to work ‘collaboratively/collegially’ with other students. I kicked back against this and refused in one project because: i) I felt it was a sop to students who wanted to cadge off hard-working, highly graded others (yeah, me); ii) who works like that in journalism?; and iii) being me, I didn’t get accepted into the group where the cool kids were (two cute women and a French guy [stop judging me!]). It made for some good drama in our tutorial group. The tutor gave in, but I had to do three times as much work to get my usual ‘A.’ So, thank you Susan Cain, I’ll take justification for my scratchy persona where I can find it. She’s right ‘tho.
2. Go to the wilderness. This time she’s really right. Whether it be forty days and forty nights, meditating under a Bodhi tree, meeting Gabriel in a cave, all great wisdom comes from some sort of connection with nature. OK, there are exceptions. Karl Marx spent a lot of time in the British Museum Reading Room and bonking the maid (allegedly) and Freud listened to people who were lying (telling the truth?) on his couch. Whatever. It’s good to get into a forest, walk along a beach, climb up high and get an overall view. My analytical mind says that it is simply engaging that part of the brain that goes deeply in search of truth, what neurologists call the ‘God spot.’ My hypnosis training whispers that by turning our eyes upwards at forty-five degrees we access Alpha brain waves. Memo to self: the real power is the physical experience of being in nature – keep in mind Henry David Thoreau and ‘Walden.’
3. Take a good look at what is inside your own suitcase. “… the world needs you and the things that you carry.” Susan comes on stage with a bag of books that epitomize her world, a world that she created and found inside herself. She began her talk by explaining that, as a child, she thought it was natural for people to sit around together reading books. Being thrust into the world of extroverts was viscerally unsettling. It’s good for both extroverts and introverts to share who they really are, what their influences are, what they truly believe. Being open frees us all from the chains of ‘normality’ and ‘conformity.’ This is about being vulnerable and facing our inner shame. For more on vulnerabilty, watch Brené Brown and Google her talk on Shame.
When I was a child, around nine I think, I came down with a sickness that kept me away from school for perhaps two to three months. During that time, my mother made sure that I had lots of books. My reading improved incredibly and when I returned to school, I was ahead of the rest of my cohort (been wanting to use that in a sentence for some time). Wherever we went, I used to read out aloud the signs and adverts (this was the 1950s, not so much neon). Now I’m glad that I had that time on my own and that my mother encouraged me to use it in the way that I did. Interestingly, shortly after I won a scholarship to a grammar school. When this was announced, the males in my primary class used to bail me up after school and intimidate me. I learned to run, up to a track that ran along the base of the Quantock Hills. The guys tried to follow me but always gave up as they got further away from their homes and closer to mine. I guess this was partly because of my introversion and newfound studious demeanour, partly because I lived outside the village. Later, I became one of the class clowns, seeking to win approval through humour (I’m not much of a runner). Susan Cain has helped me understand that early immersion into my own world and to forgive those who feel threatened by inner space. Her book is ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts.’