First, I must credit two people for kicking the thoughts following the next couple of sentences out onto the stage. First, Susan Cain and then Gareth Cook for their wonderful framing of introversion in Scientific American! Being one of those, myself, I must confess to having been engaged in the struggle of rediscovering introversion over my early years.
Being raised, as I was, I spent hours at a time out on horseback checking the cattle. At one level feeling the roll of my horse’s gait kept my thoughts rolling around so that I could explore those in all kinds of directions. In another, I also knew a sullenness heavily joined into my apparent timidity. Sitting on the tractor pulling a disc behind me meant to ready the field for a replanting of wheat gave me hours beyond necessity to play away upstairs. It also gave me time to mull over my repeatedly being trounced by those assertive people.
I was also raised in the conflict between a strongly extroverted father and deeply introverted mother. Oh, I’m certain that the ‘shit’ I was shoveling in the corrals was often matched to what I waded through between them. Not all of it was the aftermath of basic conflict between personality styles, but a good share was. Watching my mother play out the same style natural to me set the stage for how I first dealt with people.
Unfortunately, mom had learned to defer to the unnatural dominance too many extroverts live out. Introverts, also, mistakenly learn to see their need to quiet time as somehow wrong because of extroverts tending to run the show. Out of mom’s deference arose a counterbalance where she underhandedly manipulated. At one level that sounds terrible but in my career that life experience paid off.
Mom and dad’s actions generated a mix of positive and negative results which coupled with my adolescent depression taught me a distorted humility of shame! Now, before you assume I hide in the corner, know that my dad pushed me out of the house, as I said above. He even, in the midst of his own negativity, insisted that I get out there and do things. Putting those two dynamics inside the same person generated a dissonance I now lovingly know.
It took several years, after leaving the ranch, to begin turning my own long trodden mental sod over, like I did each late summer preparing the soil for the next planting. Freeing up my introversion from mom and dad’s misshaping of it was best served by breaking free from crediting them with having caused the problem. My only needed step was to, unforgettingly, lay my history aside. So doing encouraged me to discover abundant strengths of which I’d never caught sight of before.
Sidestepping the myth that introversion feels too much like cowardice enabled my actually intervening in psych-emergencies in people’s homes, out on the street with cops and occasionally in the milder environment of an ER. So, people introverts can and many are already doing the same things every one of you extroverts are doing. We simply come at those on a different road.