Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Introvert Crash

I've been in a slump for the last two days, primarily because of all the fun I had on Sunday. On that day I went to Bible class, to morning worship, to my wife's office to change clothes, to my part-time job, back home to change clothes, to my friend's farm to entertain a bunch of grade-schoolers, back home to change clothes and on to evening worship. Then back home to "rest."

To an extrovert that sounds like a good day. Lots of action!! Lots of people!! To an introvert like me, it's a recipe for a slump. For years I had noticed that I always had a "Blue Monday," following a Sunday teaching, preaching, counseling, socializing and preaching again.

You would think that for a person who has a depressive disorder, that feeling would be "natural." The odd thing is that this also happened to me when I was feeling really, really good. It wasn't until a year or so ago that I finally had this phenomenon explained to me in a way that made sense.

First, let me explain my lifetime view of my personality. I had always believed that I was "shy" around people and that I wasn't comfortable with being the object of attention. Even though I was a preacher and appeared confident in that role, I still fled to a quiet corner when attending parties or church social events. This is not to say that I wasn't friendly or cordial or attentive toward other people, but I always felt drained after socializing. On Monday, I crashed.

One day, while I was searching for a treasure in a used book store, I found one. I bought and devoured The Introvert Advantage by Psy.D. Marti Olsen Laney. Finally, someone understood and validated my feelings.

Dr. Laney writes, "Introversion is at its root a type of temperament. It is not the same as 'shyness' or having a withdrawn personality. It is also not something that you can change. The strongest distinguishing characteristic of introverts is their energy source: Introverts draw energy from their internal world of ideas, emotions and impressions. They are energy conservers. They can be easily overstimulated by the external world, experiencing the uncomfortable feeling of 'too much.'"

When I read that "They can be easily overstimulated..," I knew that I was on to something. Dr. Laney said, "...they need to limit their social experiences so that they don't get drained. Just being around people can be overstimulating to introverts."

Introverts like to listen more than they like to talk...prefer to share special occasions with just one person or a few close friends...think before they respond or speak...feel anxious about deadlines or pressure to finish something...don't like overstimulating environments (even movies)...feel drained after socializing, even when they enjoy themselves...etc.

I would strongly recommend that both introverts and extroverts read Dr. Laney's book. It is well written, interesting and easily understood. It will absolutely clear up any misconceptions about both personality types.

Not only do I now know myself better, but I also have a greater understanding of my extroverted friends, co-workers and family members.

"Blue Mondays" are natural for me.

["I'm so low that I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime." ]