Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Radical Introvert Rock Star (yes, me!)

It's important to start internalizing introversion as its own phenomenon, rather than defining it in contrast to extroversion. Because numerically we're the minority, we were raised without an understanding that we are introverts with unique gifts, but rather lacking something. Essentially, poorly developed extroverts.

Take the word "quiet." Sure, I am quiet, relative to extroverts. Funny, though: extroverts call me quiet, even shy, while introverts call me brash, opinionated, silly, and colorful. Personally, I don't feel I'm "quiet." To me, most other people are LOUD! Nonstop babble and chatter is not normal to me. Just look at the natural world. A forest doesn't have any crazy flashing lights and sirens. It's extroverted humans who've created little hell-havens of overstimulation that would shatter most other animals' and plants' nervous systems!

Fortunately, at least now we have the neuroscience to realize that introverts have a vastly different neural circuitry than extroverts (introverts process stimuli and information via different pathways that involve long-term memory and acetylcholine, whereas extroverts' pathway relies more on short-term memory and the neurotransmitter dopamine, getting euphoric dopamine hits at new stimuli). Both are complete beings with a different arrangement of parts.

Not only that, the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and its paradigm of humans as machines, brought about the rise of the Extrovert Ideal, namely the businessman, the salesman. At the early part of the 20th century, enter Dale Carnegie, "How to Win Friends and Influence People," and the beginning of the Self-Help movement, much of which served the Extrovert Agenda by training people to be better extroverts.

Our schools were designed with pods, groups of desks facing one another, forcing kids into extroverted "learning" all day long, claiming that something's wrong if the kid isn't socializing (there were endless conversations growing up between my parents and teachers, that I wasn't social enough, and didn't talk in class enough). I would even argue that the extroverted school and work settings are preventing introverts from learning and communicating in their natural way, and stifling their natural creativity and brilliance, that only come with solitude.

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