Mind Matters: Introverts and extroverts

I don’t know if Mickey or Minnie Mouse are introverts or extroverts, but certainly Disney World, with its multitudes of people and ubiquitous sensory stimulation, is the extrovert’s heaven. Recently, I, the introvert, spent a few days living in this altered reality which my son likened to being in that, now old, movie, “The Truman Show.” Remember? That was the film where Jim Carey’s life was, unbeknownst to him, just one big scripted and directed stage set.

Introverts, of course, can enjoy fantasy rides and roller coasters with the best of the extroverts. However, lots of people and an overload of stimulation depletes an introvert’s energy while bolstering the extrovert’s. One of my daughter’s friends who was with us laughed at how he, the extrovert, was enjoying soaking up our energy.

The psychiatrist Carl Jung, as well as many others, have addressed the issues of introversion and extroversion for years. Recently, however, Susan Cain has written “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.”

In a culture, such as ours, that holds extroversion in high esteem, it is refreshing to find a book extolling the virtues of — yes — introversion. Introversion should not be confused with shyness. Says Cain, “Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating.” Hence, although some people can be both shy and introverted, it is just as likely that they can be shy and extroverted. Cain cites Barbara Streisand as an example of the latter.

Despite their differences, though, Cain attests that to others, shyness and introversion appear the same. Where the shy person may fear speaking up, the introvert’s reticence is due to feeling overstimulated. The result, however, is that such people may be ignored in the din and clamor of a noisy world that rewards the “alpha status.”

Cain begins her book by telling the story of a woman of quiet wisdom. In 1955, after a long day bent over an ironing board in a Montgomery, Ala., department store, Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat in the “Colored Section” of the bus for a white passenger. The bus driver has her arrested.

Her quiet civil rights protest ushered in a chain of events that coincided with Martin Luther King’s non-violent civil rights movement. Rosa Parks has been described by those who knew her as a soft spoken woman—both “shy” and “courageous,” and with “quiet fortitude.”

While Rosa Parks appears to have been an introvert, Martine Luther King may have been her extroverted counterpart in the struggle for civil rights. Cain informs us of the complementarity of their actions. MLK was a stellar orator, able to inspire many with his eloquence. Rosa Parks’ quiet courage likewise moved many to action. And so it is that Cain urges us to recognize the need for both introverts and extroverts. We need both to better the world.

* Kayta Curzie Gajdos holds a doctorate in counseling psychology and is in private practice in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. She welcomes comments at MindMatters@DrGajdos.com or 610-388-2888. Past columns are posted to www.drgajdos.com.

 

 

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About Kayta Gajdos

Dr. Kathleen Curzie Gajdos ("Kayta") is a licensed psychologist (Pennsylvania and Delaware) who has worked with individuals, couples, and families with a spectrum of problems. She has experience and training in the fields of alcohol and drug addictions, hypnosis, family therapy, Jungian theory, Gestalt therapy, EMDR, and bereavement. Dr. Gajdos developed a private practice in the Pittsburgh area, and was affiliated with the Family Therapy Institute of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, having written numerous articles for the Family Therapy Newsletter there. She has published in the American Psychological Association Bulletin, the Family Psychologist, and in the Swedenborgian publications, Chrysalis and The Messenger. Dr. Gajdos has taught at the college level, most recently for West Chester University and Wilmington College, and has served as field faculty for Vermont College of Norwich University the Union Institute's Center for Distance Learning, Cincinnati, Ohio. She has also served as consulting psychologist to the Irene Stacy Community MH/MR Center in Western Pennsylvania where she supervised psychologists in training. Currently active in disaster relief, Dr. Gajdos serves with the American Red Cross and participated in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as a member of teams from the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Now living in Chadds Ford, in the Brandywine Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Gajdos combines her private practice working with individuals, couples and families, with leading workshops on such topics as grief and healing, the impact of multigenerational grief and trauma shame, the shadow and self, Women Who Run with the Wolves, motherless daughters, and mediation and relaxation. Each year at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA she leads a griefs of birthing ritual for those who have suffered losses of procreation (abortions, miscarriages, infertility, etc.); she also holds yearly A Day of Re-Collection at Temenos.Dr. Gajdos holds Master's degrees in both philosophy and clinical psychology and received her Ph.D. in counseling at the University of Pittsburgh. Among her professional affiliations, she includes having been a founding member and board member of the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Pittsburgh, as well as being listed in Who's Who of American Women. Currently, she is a member of the American Psychological Association, The Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the Delaware Psychological Association, the American Family Therapy Academy, The Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the Delaware County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board. Woven into her professional career are Dr. Gajdos' pursuits of dancing, singing, and writing poetry.

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