Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Moment of Self Discovery

by Annette Dashofy

Two weeks ago I posted here about “Refilling the Well.” Monday, over at my Writing, etc. blog, I posted about how my Mental Health Week went. What I didn’t include there was a major a-ha moment I had on Sunday just prior to my hubby’s return from the wilderness.

On a whim, I followed a link on Twitter to an article in Psychology Today titled Revenge of the Introvert. It’s long, but if you want to read it, click here. I’m not really sure WHY I followed that link. Probably because I’m always looking for insights into the characters I write and psychology articles offer some really good stuff.

But the insight I discovered in this piece hit much closer to home. I learned something about myself.

In a nutshell, the article discusses the differences between introverts and extroverts. I imagine a lot of people might think of me as the latter. I’m president of our local Sisters in Crime chapter, area representative for Pennwriters; I coordinated a writing conference and lead meetings and occasional workshops. I can stand in front of a room and talk without freaking out.

And yet, I am most definitely an introvert. I suspect a lot of—maybe most—writers are.

Introverts prefer to live inside their own heads. Extroverts prefer social activities. Introverts thrive on solitude. Extroverts get bored with too much of it.

I used to think I was shy by nature. That’s what I was always told when I was a child. But according to this article, there’s a difference. People who are shy desperately WANT to connect, but socializing is difficult for them. Introverts simply prefer time alone. (Am I the only one who hears Greta Garbo echoing in my head?)

While reading this article, I also determined something else that explains a lot about the stress I’ve been feeling. Not only am I an introvert, my husband is an extrovert.

Introverts like quiet. Extroverts crave external stimulation. I like to read in the evening. Hubby likes the blare of the television even if he has no clue what show he’s landed on while channel surfing. After being out all day, he wants to stop on the way home to visit friends or family. I just want to go home and shut out the world.

I’ve caught myself saying (only half jokingly) that after I’ve been out shopping, I’m sick of people. Now I know why.

I also now understand why I prefer teaching private yoga classes over teaching groups in a studio. Introverts deal much better in one-on-one situations than with groups.

Personally, I’m thrilled to have discovered this. It helps to understand that my darling husband needs that noisy TV as much as I need to lock myself in my cave.

After reveling in my new self-knowledge, I turned back to my original purpose in reading that article. Now I’m asking myself whether each of my characters is an introvert or an extrovert. How does it affect the way they behave and respond?

What about you? Introvert? Or extrovert? How about your protagonist and antagonist? Which are they and do they react accordingly?


Gina said...

Interesting article, Annette. The phrase than got me was:
Introverts would rather be entertained by what's going on in their heads than in seeking happiness. Their big challenge is not to feel like outsiders in their own culture.
I am definitely an introvert. So are many of my characters. I do try to put extraverts into the mix, too, but until I read your post I wasn't aware that was what I was doing.

PatRemick said...

Very interesting article, but now I'm confused. I always considered myself an introvert -- but this definitely indicates I am not. Can I be a shy extravert? In any case, this is an interesting focus on personality traits. Thanks for sharing.

Annette said...

Gina, I think I was doing that unconsciously, too.

Pat, I'm not sure about the shy extrovert thing. I think that's called internal conflict...great for our characters. Not so much for us!

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Even after reading, I'm not sure. I'm definitely not a loner, but I'm very gaurded about whom I'm with. I love going to a bar or other place and hang with friends, but at some point, too much stimulus overloads me and I want quiet.

Annette said...

Will, there is a line in the article that states "most of us share some extravert and some introvert traits." So you're not alone.

For me, I think it's a matter of what's comfortable and what's trained. I had to train myself to be at ease in front of people, to schmooze and network. My nature is to sit in a corner and observe. And I definitely feel more content with one-on-one situations as opposed to being part of a group. Doesn't mean I don't enjoy hanging out with friends. But after being around a lot of people, I feel drained and NEED to retreat to some quiet place.

I have no doubt for others, the line isn't as clear. My big a-ha moment came in realizing that those quiet, solitary moments that I crave aren't so much a luxury for me as a necessity.

Ramona said...

I'm with Pat and Wilfred--I'm confused. I love social events and big hoop-de-do's, but daily chunks of me alone time is vital to my sanity. (Probably vital to the sanity of the poor souls who live with me, too.)

Becky Levine said...

Definitely an introvert, although I have a bit of that shyness left from when I was a child. I've been wondering whether my being labeled shy as a kid was wrong, but the article does talk about that wanting to be in the social group & I definitely wanted that when I was young. Now I want some of it, but get plenty and definitely need the quiet alone time recharge. Isn't that what baths & books were invented for? Also married to an extrovert. :)

Annette said...

Ramona, you, Pat, and Will are probably the more emotionally balanced ones in the group!

Becky, I had that "shy" label as a kid, too. I definitely prefer being introverted to being shy, though.

Okay, to those of you who are confused, here's a question for you: when you're alone writing, do you feel stir crazy and crave having people around? A friend of mine quit writing fiction because she couldn't stand the solitude. Instead, she took a job in an office doing technical writing, which she loves because of the interaction with others. SHE is definitely an extrovert.

Alan Orloff said...


In fact, I once started a club for introverts, but no one ever came to the meetings.

L.J. Sellers said...

I read the article you mentioned, which talked about a continuum. I feel blessed to be right in the middle. I get energy from being around people, but I'm happy in my own thoughts too. Self-discovery is always a great thing though. I hope it leads to more peace of mind for you.

Annette said...

*snort* Thanks for the laugh, Alan!

L.J., it's more a case of understanding WHY certain things (like having an unemployed husband hanging around the house all the time) have been getting on my (and his) nerves even beyond the expected stresses of the situation.

And, of course, I always love finding material to use in my writing!

Ramona said...

Annette, to answer your question about writing alone, I usually write alone and don't like to have anyone around. I'll go out on the porch for more solitude. But sometimes, I crave going to the library where I can sit in the big public area, tune out all the bustle, and get very productive.

So I guess my definitive answer is: kind of, sometimes. :-)

Joyce said...

I'm definitely an introvert. Although I like going to parties, conferences, etc., I do a lot of observing. I was extremely shy as a kid. I would rather have died than talk to anyone. One of my mother's cousins told her once that he never heard me say a complete sentence until I was sixteen!