Introverts Anonymous: Recovery for Serious People
This past week, I went to see the Red Book of C.G. Jung, the father of analytical psychology, at the Rubin Museum in New York. The Red Book is Jung’s personal copy of paintings and hand written observations bound in a large red leather book. Until recently almost no one was allowed to view the Red Book. He created this book to document a period in his life when he was “menaced by psychosis”. It represents Carl Jung’s personal experiences and his willingness to explore the range of his own unconscious fantasies. Through his ability to see the problems of his life as guides to their solution, he helped establish tremendous contributions to modern psychology. Jung saw the relationship between the myths and symbols of all cultures as a key to understanding how our unconscious expresses ideas. He understood that many of the myths represent the journey we all take to become fully developed human beings.
In 1910 Jung published a paper entitled, “Psychic Conflicts in a Child,” in which he introduced the term “introversion” for the first time. Often we think of introversion in the negative sense. The child who sits in the corner lost in his own thoughts. Kurt Cobain, whose tremendous sensitivity led to his own demise. Or Adam Sandler, the withdrawn, quiet or nervous actor. In many ways these are viewed as weaknesses in a world that values extroversion and explicit demonstrations of power or materialism.
However, introversion produces the results similar to finely cooked meal. A meal that has been carefully planned. Perhaps where days have been spent marinating the food or collecting the spices and ingredients. When the meal is finally served there is no comparison to the fast food, immediate gratification of the extrovert. An introvert may be the child who does not speak until he is two, then produces full sentences with observations long forgotten by others. The introvert in fairy tales is the boy who sits in the corner doing nothing, while his brothers attempt to be arrogant heroes and fail miserably. It is finally the unspoken hero, the quiet youngest son who finds the solution to the problem.
Jung said, “The inner world is a delight for the introvert. He feels at home, where the only changes are made by himself. His best work is done with his own resources, on his own initiative, and in his own way. If ever he succeeds, after long and often wearisome struggle, in assimilating something alien to himself, he is capable of turning it to excellent account.”
The problem with many people who are introverts is they become possessed by their own inner world. They become resentful because others have not understood the thoughts they have never communicated. They make assumptions that only could be grasped by a psychic. And they withdraw further because they assume no one can appreciate the complexity of their efforts.
As a recovering introvert myself, I always wanted to create a two step program to help others overcome their inhibitions in a healthy way. Two of the major ways to balance an introverted nature is as follows: Speak your mind. Don’t be selfish, give of your self. Practice giving without the concern for its interpretation. Take a risk, so that others may come to know you. And finally, no two step program could be complete without dancing. Dancing is a great way to express yourself and communicate with someone else in a way that transcends words. So get out, make a fool of yourself and have a little too much fun.
Perhaps the greatest guide for a recovering introvert is the book, Letters to a Young Poet, by the German Poet Rainier Maria Rilke. He says, “for what I could say about your tendency to doubt or about your inability to bring your outer and inner lives into harmony or about all the other things that oppress you is … just the wish that you may find in yourself enough patience to endure and enough simplicity to have faith; that you may gain more and more confidence in what is difficult and in your solitude among other people. And as for the rest, let life happen to you. Believe me: life is in the right, always.”