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Professional Christian Counseling
 
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Understanding Introversion


An Introvert's Lexicon
The following is meant to be a humorous look at the world from an Introvert's point of view.

WORD

Extrovert's Definition

Introvert's Definition

Alone, adj.

Lonely.

Enjoying some peace and quiet.

Book, n.

1) Doorstop.

2) Paperweight.

1) Source of comfort.

2) Safe and inexpensive method of traveling, having adventures, and meeting interesting people.

Bored, adj.

Not frantically busy.

Stuck making small talk, and unable to escape politely.

Extrovert, n.

A nice, normal, sociable person. Never surprises you with anything weird.

A boisterous person who may be very nice, but who is somewhat exhausting to spend time with. Usually not too deep, but fun.

Free time, n.

A time when you do group activities. (See Introvert's Definition of work.)

A time when you read without interruption until you're in danger of going blind.

Friend, n.

Someone who makes sure that you're never alone.

Someone who understands that you're not rejecting them when you need to be alone.

Good manners, n.

Making sure people aren't left all by themselves. Filling in any silences in a conversation.

Not bothering people, unless it's necessary, or they approach you. (Sometimes you can bother people you know well, but make sure they aren't busy first.)

Home, n.

A place to invite everybody you know.

A place to hide from everybody you know.

Internet, n.

1) Another medium for advertising.

2) A place where geeks with no life hang out.

A way to meet other introverts. You don't have to go out, and writing allows you to think before just blurting something out.

Introvert, n.

One of those who like to read. Moody loners. Be careful not to tick them off; some of them are serial killers.

One who shows a perfectly natural restraint and caution when meeting new people. One who appreciates solitude. Often, one who enjoys reading and has a philosophical turn of mind.

Love, n.

Never having to do anything alone.

Being understood and appreciated.

Music, n.

Background noise.

Something with a tune and lyrics which may be moving and intelligent, or may be drivel.

Phone, n.

Lifeline to other people - your reason for living.

Necessary (?) evil, and yet another interruption. Occasionally useful, but mostly a nuisance.

Reading, v.

A chore that a teacher makes you do when you're a kid.

You have to do it in secret and pretend you don't really do it, or people think you're strange.

Shell, n.

Something you find on the beach.

What people relentlessly nag you to come out of. Why do you have to leave it, if you're happy there?

To go out, v.

Requires at least two people, and the more the better. Constant chatter, loud music, sports, crowds, and food consumption are all fun components of going out.

Can be done alone or with others. Enjoyable if there's some point to it; i.e., in order to see a band, a movie, a play, or perhaps to have a stimulating discussion with one or two close friends.

Work, n.

Having to read, write, listen, or concentrate on anything.

Being pestered every five minutes about something trivial, and not allowed to concentrate.



Next let's take a more serious look at some differences

Extraversion (70-75% of population)

Introversion (25-30% of population)

Energized by what goes on in the outer world

Energized by what goes on in the inner world

Need to talk to clarify what they think

Need to reflect before they talk

Can be seen as accessible and understandable

Can be seen as subtle and difficult to know well initially

Difficult for them to just sit & listen

Work quietly without interruption

Often work to change he world

Often work to understand the world

Interests often have breadth

Interests often have depth

Interaction

Concentration

Sociability

Territoriality

Multiplicity of relationships

Limited relationships

Expenditure of energies

Conservation of energies

 

 





Counseling For Introverts


Introverts have unique abilities because they are oriented to life from a different perspective than extroverts. These differences show up in counseling. An introvert will benefit from a different approach to counseling than an extrovert. Many introverts suffer because they do not understand themselves and they are not understood by the other 75% of the world who are extroverts. Introverts have less of a need for prolonged superficial contact, but they do have a need for deeper connections overall. Both males and females can be introverts. During this article, I may refer to one gender or the other at any given time, but unless otherwise noted, the material applies equally to both females and males.

The Introvert’s Strength

An introvert is predisposed to be comfortable with their inner world. Introverts have a rich inner life, so they do not need the external stimulation that an extrovert craves. An introvert with developed self-understanding will draw strength from their personality. Well developed introverts can deal competently with the world around them when necessary, but they do their best work inside their heads and hearts, in reflection (introspection). For introverts, meaning comes from within and it anchors them in the midst of all that happens in the world.

In counseling, an introvert will usually appreciate a counselor who assigns homework, reading, and study. An extrovert might initially appreciate a more action-oriented approach that gets them doing something so they can learn the principles. While an introvert will benefit from an action-oriented approach, she will first benefit most from study and reflection. In an actual counseling session, an introvert will not have to work as hard to mine their internal feelings and thoughts. An introvert has access to all the pieces, but may need counseling to help put the thoughts and feelings into words and to reframe them into a positive context. Along with introversion’s strengths come some weaknesses, which could be what ends up bringing the introvert to counseling in the first place.

The Introvert’s Weakness

An under-developed introvert suffers doubly. He does not naturally connect with the world and has not figured out how to how to connect with himself. Left alone, his introversion proves harmful. With only the one ability, introspection, he may overuse this ability when trying to deal with problems. For example, introverts are great reflectors, great at replaying a situation over and mining a single experience for more feedback. But taken to extreme, reflection can become a painful re-examination, causing further psychological harm.

An introvert may believe that going through an experience in great detail will eventually result in figuring out what went wrong, or finding the insight so it “all makes sense”. He may get lost in the idea that he can heal himself. Thus an introvert is especially prone to the prideful notion, “I do not need anyone else; I am self-sufficient.” After all, introverts naturally require less constant and less frequent contact with others. An introvert can starve themselves of relationship if they do not face the truth that, despite their reduced need for superficial connection, they have a great need for regular deep and meaningful communication with others. Without practicing “talking out” their inner life, the introvert will remain under-developed.

What are Some Common Concerns that Introverts Bring to a Counselor?

* Self-Esteem – An introvert’s parents may not have known how important it is to talk to their introvert’s inner world – beyond interacting with what the child verbalizes. An introverted child needs a parent’s involvement in a different way than an extroverted child. An introverted child needs someone to help them develop their inner world through one-on-one feedback. The introvert will suffer from low self-esteem without a developed inner world. Counseling is an excellent place to further this internal maturation to the degree it was not accomplished.

* Disconnected from Others – Introverts can be lonely. This may seem surprising given that introverts require so much alone time, however, introverts with low self-esteem may tend to spend too much time alone. Spending too much time alone will reinforce the problem, that he does not have meaning or purpose. It is impossible to feel purpose without connection with others.

* Disconnected from Self – An under-developed introvert may not understand how to access his internal world. He does not know himself. His internal world is a gold mine waiting to be discovered. Counseling can help him develop his natural strengths.

* Shyness – Shyness is evidence of the introverts under-developed social skills and/or under-developed sense of self. There is a difference between an introvert that requires down time and an introvert that avoids most personal encounters. The former is in tune with her capabilities; the latter is avoiding the development of her capabilities. If fear and anxiety or involved, then the introvert has some work to do. If an introvert compares herself to extroverts, she will likely internalize the belief that something is really wrong with her. The more this happens, the more she will feel shame – for who she is, not just for what she does (or does not do). Recovery begins with realizing introversion is a legitimate personality type. Recovery ends with the ability to enjoy socializing appropriate to one’s temperament.

* Perfectionism – An introvert may be especially hard on himself. This can be especially true if he is already isolated. A perfectionist lacks self-acceptance. Counseling can help by providing an objective perspective on the his introspection.

Tips on How Introverts Can Get the Most out of Their Counseling

Everyone is different, so even among introverts, some may appreciate these tips to different degrees. But overall, the tips should help introverts make the most of their counseling experience.

  • Bring a notepad/journal to session – take notes
  • Speak up when you need more time to reflect on the current theme, or have a more important concern to discuss
  • Let your counselor know when you are starting to share your private thoughts – that typically no one else hears
  • Let your counselor know if you are having a hard time sharing your private thoughts
  • Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings
  • Reflect on what happened in session during the week – write down what you are learning
  • Make a list of new questions or concerns and bring it with you to your next session
  • Ask your counselor for direct feedback
  • Be willing to try something new or different that you may not otherwise consider
  • Push yourself to find and develop relationships – start with other introverts





Some Places to Learn More