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Introverts Anonymous: Recovery for Serious People

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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 Or Adam Sandler, the withdrawn, quiet or nervous actor.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.”

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Dr. Andrew Lange

Dr. Andrew Lange served as Chair of the Department of Homeopathic Medicine and Supervising Clinical Physician at Bastyr University in Seattle. He is the author of Getting to the Root: Treating the Deepest Source of Disease. He is the Medical Director at www.saveonlabs.com and practices in Boulder, Colorado. For more information go to www.andrewlange.com.

96 comments

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11:48PM PDT on Aug 2, 2013

Wow really? Disagree with this....

11:47PM PDT on Aug 2, 2013

Wow really? Disagree with this....

11:45PM PDT on Aug 2, 2013

Wow really? Disagree with this....

11:43PM PDT on Aug 2, 2013

Wow really? Disagree with this....

10:36PM PST on Jan 21, 2012

I agree with the previous comment.

9:56AM PST on Nov 17, 2011

I don't think we need to recover from introversion. I think we need to balance both styles within our natures, and know when to borrow from which. I'm naturally an introvert, but have learned to act as if I'm extrovert for some of my work - you have to do this well, to avoid embarrassing others with your discomfort. (In acting, anyway.) But I write as well, and being an introvert can be helpful for that!

Thanks for the piece from Rilke - always a delight!

11:41AM PST on Nov 7, 2011

Thanks!~

6:27PM PDT on Aug 29, 2011

Thanks for the article.

11:26PM PDT on Mar 25, 2011

I'm trying to take this article in the spirit in which it is intended, but I do take exception to the fact that the article implies (or seems to imply) that being an introvert carries more negative traits than positive ones and it is a harmful disorder that one needs to recover from. The problem is not the introvert or the introversion, but other people's (mainly extroverts) reactions and misconceptions about them. We are very pensive, profound and loving people that are capable of loving ourselves as well as others and being loved by others! Since we also think first before we speak, we're less apt to offend others unlike many people (most of them being extroverts). It'strue thatas humans we are a very social animal andthat is the nature of the beast, but that doesn't automatically mean there is something wrong with introverts or that they have afflictions that must be remedied. The more people know about us, I'm sure they'd come to see how really well-adjusted, intellectual and compassionate we are.

Still waters run deep.

11:18AM PST on Nov 12, 2010

The more I mull over this article, the more it rankles. Introverts are well represented among the world's great thinkers, writers, poets, and artists and craftspeople of all types—and with good reason: quiet contemplation is fertile ground for creativity to manifest.

Far from being disengaged, we simply engage in ways that may be less obvious to others. For example, my friends and family are the glad recipients of the many projects I'm inspired to create in my time alone.

And when it's sufficiently important to us, we do choose to engage in more "extroverted" ways. For instance, over years I've spent many months doing volunteer work in a setting where the social life is up-close and inescapable, 24/7. After each stint I return home exhausted and collapse into welcome solitude for several weeks before I'm recharged enough to venture out much again. But the rewards are worth the cost.

The misperceptions about introverts promulgated in this article are far too common as it is, and should be dispelled instead of encouraged.

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