I shared a post a few weeks ago on how self care helped me shake off the pressure I felt from the self development industry to be an extrovert. I alluded to what an extrovert and introverts were like and mentioned briefly the work of Dr. Elaine Aron in researching the nerveous systems of Highly Sensitive People for the past few decades.
There has been a growing online dialogue around these terms in the past few years for which I am grateful. The more these ways of being are talked about and familiarized with the better for everyone. Today I’ll share to that dialogue with what I understand thus far.
Keep in mind that being completely introverted or extroverted are two unhealthy extremes on a scale. No one is completely on either one unless they are in a mental hospital. We all need to some degree a measure of both to be able to function in society. Here the work of Carl Jung explains how traits of introversion and extroversion play out in a person’s way of thinking, feeling and sensing.
For now let’s dive into a little of the science of what is a basic neurological a human driver. The neurotransmitter Dopamine is in charge of creating a rewarding experience. When our brain releases Dopamine our body tells us “That was good, do more of that”. We need it to experience focus, concentration, productivity and make plans and reach goals. When low on Dopamine we are apathetic, have foggy thinking and feel socially anxious. You can find out more about it here.
Both extroverts and introverts have the same amount of dopamine in the brain. The difference according to this article in the Huffington Post is in the reward network of Introverts.
A person that is dominantly extroverted gets energy from being around people. Their sensitivity to dopamine is fairly low and so they need more interactions and stimulation to get that feel good experience. They are at their best when meeting new people and being in stimulating environements.
Predominantly introverted people have a high sensitivity to dopamine so it takes very little for them to get that reward experience. Being around people even if they are enjoying themselves is draining. Being in a stimulating and novel environment over stimulates their dopamine receptors having them feeling overloaded quicker, tipping their feel good experience into anxiety.
Highly Sensitive People
Highly sensitive people according to Dr. Elaine Aron are sensitive to their environment as well as who is around them. They exhibit higher levels of sensation sensitivity, empathy and deeper information processing. According to her this is a demographic of 20% of the human population including hundreds of animal species. Here is a link to a summary of how a person with his unique physiology is different those without it.
According to the research of Isabel Myers Briggs. Almost half of our population is introverted. Over 70% of those introverts are HSP and the remaining 30% are extroverted.
Here is a little picture I made to help understand it better.
There is overlap according to the research. Highly Sensitive extroverts are in a unique quandary since the very thing they get energy from is the very thing they need a break from. Here is an interesting post from Kelly who blogs extensively on the topic of high sensitivity and has interviewed people who consider themselves extroverted HSP’s. Here is a great article as well from Psychology Today that shares some tips to best work with these characteristics.
I am in the overlap of introvert and HSP, no surprise as to why self car has been such an intense and critical theme for me int he past few decades.
Take this quiz to find out where you are on the spectrum!
In a society like ours where being outgoing has been promoted for generations and being more thoughtful and quiet has been seen labeled as sad, seemingly dumb and slow has caused much harm. I know I have personally been labeled those things until I finally speak what I really think and the eventual gasp of surprise always ensues that I had that much going on inside. This global dialogue is mending ways and bridging gaps.
Extroverted/ Introverted Cultures
I know for me having been in small town culture in Mexico regularly and periodically been in small towns and villages in India I always felt more at home there then here in the states because of this very topic. My more contemplative nature was always seen, accepted and even celebrated. I see now how it’s because mainstream, fast paced lifestyles and paradigms had not yet penetrated those parts of the world. That has been changing in the recent years of course.
Makes me wonder why much of our society spends so much money on vacations to desolated and exotic places? I know many people work for vacations. Its like they hold their breath for that promise of relief while excitedly planning till they can finally exhale in some faraway place. Are they actually closet introverts needing that break?
What if our society had embedded in its work culture time for quiet and rejuvenation. W0uld we be pining as much as we are for that much needed vacation time away from our lives?
What do you think? Let me know in the comment section below. If you found this post helpful don’t forget to share, like or comment. Thanks for stopping by!