Introversion Interrupted

As Alice Cooper's belted for years, school's out for summer. My kids have now been home for two full weeks. And I just realized that I'm already hitting an overload point. That little reality brought up the dreaded Guilt Monster. I went around and around in my head about how I must be an awful parent. What good mother could harbor what amounts to resentment toward her children for being happy, active kids?

Before I let the ruminating about being a horrible mother pull me under, I guided myself through a little troubleshooting about the situation. I quickly concluded that my angst is likely due to my tendency to introversion.

I'm not a stay-at-home mother. I'm a business owner and brand strategist who works from home. My husband works also works with me, in a different room, doing different things. For about nine months out of the year this means that we each have our own workspace free of the distractions of other people, at least between 8am and 3:30pm on school days, the perfect set up for working with introversion.

When I speak of introversion and extraversion I'm not equating those terms with shyness and being outgoing, respectively. I'm referring to the ways each of us directs our attention and where our energy flows – mostly inward or mostly outward. With a strong tendency to introversion, I naturally seek time alone to hunt for information, play with ideas, analyze options or contemplate situations. By contrast, if I were oriented to extraversion I'd tend to energize myself by being with other people, by being out and involved in activities, brainstorming and conversing. While I do these as well, I feel most comfortable when I have long stretches of self-directed time to myself.

For example, yesterday I spent an almost embarrassing amount of time evaluating my array of nutritional supplements, optimizing the specifics and looking for ways to reduce the cost. That might sound like torture to some, but I enjoyed the time alone exercising my brain.

A less goal-oriented and more typical way I like spend my time is simply exploring and contemplating. I could spend hours alone drifting from reading literature to sinking my teeth into nonfiction to meditation to sketching or writing. I come out energized, ready to go. If I spend an equal amount of time going to an event with friends or family or to one of my kids' school events, I'm ready to vegetate in front of the television or go to bed.

This way of being – hunting and gathering, evaluating, analyzing and arranging information then ideating and creating with it – is ideal for the brand strategy work I do for clients.

Note: if you consider yourself to have a tendency for introversion but none of the above sounds like you, don't sweat that detail. Other parts of your psychological type play a role in how introversion or extraversion manifest in your life.

When my children are home, my trips out for errands are no longer solo. Time sitting in my workspace is frequently and irregularly interrupted by their wants and needs...for, you know, parenting. The coveted long periods of self-directed time alone are less available or predictable. Putting this together for myself, that my introversion isn't being fed, has brought me relief. First, I realize I'm not rejecting my children, I've simply not adjusted to allow myself the quiet, contemplative time I need. Second, I see that I can partially solve my overload by scheduling some time to be energized.

This is why I like the Myers-Briggs framework for psychological type. When I feel out of sorts or incongruent, I can look at my type (INFP) and find some clues to what is going on and how I can help myself.

Full disclosure: if you didn't already know, I'm an MBTI® Certified Practitioner, meaning that I'm trained and authorized to administer and interpret the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) which I will vehemently insist is not a test but simply a tool for self-discovery that must be verified through other means. Ideally you'd work with a certified practitioner. (No, I'm not trying to sell my services, though I be happy to help you. I use the information for myself and within other projects.) The result of taking the MBTI is not the end of the story and should never pigeon-hole a person. Misuse of the tool and rampant flawed imitations online have tarnished the reputation of what can really be done with MBTI. I have more soapbox on that, but I'll leave it there for now.

What most people don't know about the MBTI is that there are versions beyond the simplest. The MBTI II helps break down each of the four letters into five facets each. So yes, it's entirely possible for someone who is outgoing to be considered an I (Introversion preference).

You: Being More Effective in Your MBTI Type is a great resource for understanding your specific type and for understanding the five facets within each of the four letters of a type and how they interplay. For instance, the Extraversion and Introversion the facets are:
  1. Initiating-Receiving
  2. Expressive-Contained
  3. Gregarious-Intimate
  4. Active-Reflective
  5. Enthusiastic-Quiet
I have what is considered pure type. All of the facets of all of the parts of my type are true to INFP. For introversion, I have a strong preference for Receiving, Contained, Intimate, Reflective and Quiet. That tells me that that I'll need to be aware of when I'm incongruent with these and that I'll need strategies for dealing with the incongruency, included accessing the other facets.

So I think I'll chat with my family about my needs, helping them to understand that I'm not pushing them away but that I need time to re-energize. Maybe I'll schedule time on my calendar – a few hours every few days – to have closed door working or contemplating time. I'll also ensure that I meditate daily as that's a quick and effective way for me to get energy. And as I have out-of-the-house activities I'll follow up with space for climbing into my introversion cave.