Hi. I am Linda. I am an introvert.
Yes! An in-tro-vert.
This is a wonderful, simply illustrated article on what it is like for an introvert to process information. It is just simply put: different from that of an extrovert. According to Susan Cain, the mother of all introvert-information out there, the modern pioneer in advocating introvert's rights, says that it is often seen as something shameful to be an introvert in today's extrovert culture. In schools, extroverted children are prized, even though introverted ones get better grades. Susan says that Western society has always favoured the man of action, over the man of contemplation.
On the website Psychology Today in an article about introverts and extroverts, the percentage of the two types are divided in a very vague way. They write that extroverts make up 50-74 procent of the population while introverts are 16-50 procent.
They explain the main difference between extroverts and introverts as having their brains wired differently. The front part of an introvert's brain is most active, and stimulated by solitary activities while the back part of the extrovert's brain is the most active and is stimulated by sensory events coming from the external world.
A chemical know as dopamine is released by our brains whenever we experience something positive. It is an automatic reward center which makes us feel good. Extroverts need more dopamine to feel an effect, while introverts have a low dopamine threshold. They don't need a lot of stimulation to feel rewarded.
When it is explained like that, I don't feel so weird about it. I do feel weird though about needing to spend time alone after being "out" and I always felt weird as a child for wanting to spend hours alone. Back then I of course didn't know that I was an introvert, I just knew I had a strong need to be alone, and I knew that people around me thought it was weird, so I was kind of ashamed of it.
I remember one summer when we were at our usual beautiful island in the Swedish archipelago off the coast of Blekinge. I had my best friend visiting me and we were together 24/7, plus we were with my family, and with friends. One evening I just couldn't handle it anymore. I jumped out of the window, and ran all the way to the wooden pier, by the little beach, where we spent all those long summer days. It was early evening, and the summer light was soft and long, as always in Sweden. It would last until nearly midnight. I kicked my sandals off, and went to the far edge of the pier, and just sat there, and felt the pier being rocked by the soft movement of the water, and I can still hear the sound of the swallows and the squeaking sound of the boats where they were tied to the pier. Unfortunately, the peace didn't last for very long, as they all came running, stressed, looking for me. They probably thought I was suicidal or something.
I loved reading books, and I much preferred to read Nancy Drew-books as a 7 year old, than to be out playing with the other kids. I had such a vivid imagination, that whatever was going on in my head was more than enough to keep me occupied.
I still love reading books, although these days I mostly read children's stories to my boys before they fall asleep. I am hoping my love for books and stories will transmit to them, by showing my own love. Books and stories have always been my best friends and companions in life and some of them I carry with me forever. I can experience a book so deeply, so widely, that sometimes I am unsure whether it happened in reality or it was something I "just read."
I remember one time I was reading a book that captivated me so strongly, that I forgot where I was. I was sitting on the overground train in London, back then it was called the "Silverlink", and it was my favourite way of travelling in London. You didn't have to go down into the depressing underground and you didn't have to be stuck in traffic on a double decker bus. The Silverlink cut through all of north London; all the way from around Chiswick in West London, to Kensal Rise (where I lived) to Camden and then direction east, all the way to Dalston. It even made a stop at Euston road so I could skip across to my university, SOAS. Amazing. Some of the best parts of London connected through a train filled with daylight, and all you saw from the window was greenery and backyards. The soft parts of town. The bright. The back. The uncensored. The brown bricks and the chimneys and the endlessly green rain-soaked gardens with wooden fences that were caving in from years of rain.
So I was sitting on my bright spot at the Silverlink and I was reading a book, set in Burma. It was "The Glass Palace" by Amitav Ghosh. As I had already travelled to Burma, it was easy for me to picture the surroundings and the settings of the book. I was deeply inside the story, and at one moment someone asked me to move my feet from the seat opposite me, and I looked up, completely disoriented and lost. I had to look around, shake my head, and look back at the person who was speaking to me, to understand where I was. I had actually been to Burma. And it was confusing to look up and see the insides of the train. It didn't look like a Burmese train. I'd been in Burma, for real, and that person asking me a very reasonable question had shaken me out of my inner trip.
I would go insane, though, if I spent all my time alone. I also feel inspired by people. In fact, I really resonate with Oscar Wilde's words "My own business bores me to death. I prefer other people's."
I love meaningful meetings, soulful connections, hearing other people's stories. What drains me, is meaningless conversations. "Hello, how are you? Great, and you? Fantastic!" That sort of thing. Empty words, nothing, seeing a lot of people in one big event, and saying nothing of substance to anybody. Quantity, rather than quality.
I love interesting, weird, strange people. The ones that stand out from the crow. I can usually spot them from kilometres away. Once I "feel" a connection with someone, it's like it was always there, and will always be there.
When I come home after a day of having a lot of those meaningless conversations, which unfortunately has to happen in my life, I love to darken all windows, and take a shower. It feels as if the water washes off the energy of other people, and clears me up. Then I put on my favourite music. Music heals me so deeply. And I write. Journal. Or clean the clutter of my house. Cook. Organise. Write lists. Straighten my head out. Practice yoga. Do a meditation. Yoga nidra. Watch a movie. I can sometimes do this for up to 24 hours. Especially lately, when the kids are with their father, I love not leaving my home for a full 24 hour cycle, and re-energise the core of my being.
After that time, I'm ready to go out again, and pick up new impressions from the world.
Sorry if I sound strange. I have accepted that this is what I need to function in this world. I used to escape on very long journeys in my 20´s, alone, to faraway places, and just be alone. Now that I have kids, it has to be super efficient and in short, much appreciated moments only.
That's how I manage. Maximize the introvert-time. Dark apartment, soft music, water and books.