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Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Hidden Life of Introverts and Extraverts: What Goes on Behind Your Eyes?

The holiest of all holidays are those
Kept by ourselves in silence and apart;
The secret anniversaries of the heart,

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Hidden Life of Introverts and Extraverts

When the topic of introverts and extraverts arises we often focus on how we interact with one another or how we appear in the outer world. But what about that part of us hidden in the rich world behind our eyes? 

As an extravert who enjoys interacting with the world around me I'm always surprised to see just how often I retreat into my inner sanctum to avoid being seen or heard. Like the introvert, I like to have a 'womb with a view' in which I can look out and observe but you can't see in.

Just the other day I watched myself methodically delete all political emails asking me to take an opinion poll although I definitely have opinions. Now you may think 'so what'-- this doesn't mean anything...many people would do the same. 

But I know the truth about what goes on behind my eyes--this extravert is hiding and withholding herself from the world. And this discovery got me thinking about what else this extravert is reluctant to put out in public. 

Confessions of an Extravert: 'What's the truth about what goes on behind my eyes? I'm hiding and withholding myself from the world. And even when I'm interacting with you in the outer world, I know one of the best places to hide is in plain view!'

The Reluctant Extravert

'A Reluctant Recluse' is not a term most of us would associate with being an Extravert--yet sometimes that is exactly what I observe in myself. Although I am clearly an extravert with a preference for spending more time in the outer world interacting with people and taking action, I have extended periods of time when I hide from the prying eyes of others and hole up by myself to collect my inner energy.

When I'm resting from the world:

  • I don't answer the phone or emails.
  • I spend the day with my own thoughts--sometimes writing a blog post.
  • I immerse myself in art projects. 
  • I go for walks with the dog alone.
  • I wave hello at other walkers rather than verbally acknowledging them (okay this is the extravert that needs to acknowledge other's presence).
  • I listen to what others have to say without revealing what I'm thinking.

As an ENFP (Extraverted iNtuitor Feeler Perceiver), I'm a primary iNtuitor who uses intuition in the outer world while saving feeling for my inner life. When I need time to sort through my feelings--that's when I secret away to my inner world to hold my own counsel--just like an introvert.

The Happily Ensconced Introvert

Ahhhh...and how about cracking open the secret life of introverts? (Sorry for the temporary intrusion....this won't hurt too much.)

The inner world IS the preferred world of the introvert where you can 'hold your own counsel', and carefully think through what you think so when you DO share your thoughts you present your ideas fully formed with none of that messy stuff the extraverts show. 

For introverts the inner world is your safe haven. Spending more time behind your eyes inside your head affords you the independence of thought you value without interference from others.

When I reached out to a few of my favorite introverted friends for a quote on what goes on behind their eyes, this is what I got back--after 24 hours of 'thinking on it':

Confessions of an Introvert: "What goes on behind my eyes? Hmmm. Interesting. I'll have to think about that. And think and think and think and think and think. At first blush, this comes to mind for your confession"---

Confessions of an Introvert: "What goes on behind my eyes? That's for me to know and you to NOT find out."

Confessions of an Introvert: "Perhaps you mean--What secret extrovert habits and/or desires do I, as an introvert, have?"

"Well …

… every once in a while, like maybe when the third day after a full moon falls on a Friday, I'll wish I were a hail-fellow-well-met type who loves being out with people doing stuff. Or I'll wish I had a big, close, messy, noisy family. But then I start to break out in hives and so go back to my book.

The Quiet Side of Life

Everyone needs times of quiet and solitude in their lives--not just introverts.

As Extraverts who prefer to live our lives in the outer world acting to change the world through interacting with, and influencing others--we need to retreat into the inner world for calm and quiet. Because we are 'energized' by engaging in the outer world withdrawing from it provides us the solitude necessary to reflect and refresh our life perspective.

As Introverts who prefer to live more of your lives in the inner world mulling over your thoughts and ideas privately, you can better understand the world around you when you have more time alone. As Introverts you are 're-energized' by retreating into your inner life. 

The truth is we all need time away from prying eyes where we can sit quietly with our own thoughts without interference from others. This is our secret and hidden life that affords us the privacy to engage in whatever type of thought play we wish to engage in.

And although you have a preference for introversion or extraversion, to live a balanced life you need to spend time in both worlds. Your preference for introversion or extraversion simply determine where you prefer to spend more time--in your head or interacting in the outer world--but it doesn't determine if you need time for solitude or interaction with others. We all need both.

Are you an introvert or extravert? 
What goes on behind your eyes?  
What do you do for quiet, solitude and independent thought? How do you balance your need for interaction with your need for solitude and quiet?

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For more than 30 years, Susan Meyerott has been helping people lighten up and step over invisible barriers to change one step at a time. She speaks to your heart, puts you at ease, and makes changing easier than ever before.

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Jean | said...

Sue, you didn't interview this INFJ; but I might have answered very similarly to the introvert who said: "… every once in a while, like maybe when the third day after a full moon falls on a Friday, I'll wish I were a hail-fellow-well-met type who loves being out with people doing stuff. Or I'll wish I had a big, close, messy, noisy family. But then I start to break out in hives and so go back to my book." :D

Susan J Meyerott, M.S. said...

HaHa, Jean--isn't that the best quote? The lovely ISTJ who gifted me with her quote is a wonderful writer who makes me laugh.

Stephmrz said...

I love this article and the distinction made about WHERE people like to be when they get charged up (the significance of location and place on one's own state of being), and the reference to how alone time is essentially not solely an introvert quality. As I try to figure out my own slot in the personality category, I am more convinced that along the continuum ( not necessarily black and white... introvert vs. extrovert), I lie somewhere in the middle on a fairly consistent basis ( or equally erratic). Shy, yes, but so interested in human thought and condition (and the outside world!). But also absolutely thankful for the special moments alone and inside.

I guess I'll call myself an introvert with extrovert qualities. :)

Susan J Meyerott, M.S. said...


You might consider the MBTI types--INFP or INFJ--both with preferences for introversion, iNtuition and Feeling--and a focus on the human condition.

As for figuring out which side of the fence you prefer to sit on--introvert or extravert, think about your learning style--do you prefer to jump right in and start doing something (extravert) or do you prefer to think, think, think....and then think some more before you share your thoughts in the outer world (introvert).

Happy playing with who you are! Lightarted Sue