Tuesday, February 09, 2010

type matters

As noted in an earlier post I've been reading a book about introverts in the church. The first chapters of it launched several epiphanies, and I read on eagerly as I anticipated a fireworks version of aha's and revelations. Well, they came all right, but instead of them being about the church, the focus of the book shifted to the introvert. It talked about me. The insights were eye-opening, reassuring, and as I recognized myself more and more in the pages that I turned, the pain began to emerge.

I've known for more than twenty years that I am an introvert, and I thank the well-known Meyers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) for the first beams of light that opened some understanding in my life about the implications of what it means to be an introvert. But I had no idea of the depth of those implications, in spite of the fact that I lived them, felt them, and was shaped by them to such a deep and, yes, devastating, affect.

During the past week I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on what I have read (a typical thing for an introvert to do!). What I am learning is breaking open understandings about relationships with significant people in my life: disappointments some have felt in regard to me, laments that I have felt in regard to others and about myself, and the answers to mysteries have begun to emerge and take shape.

The pain that is spilling forth is an accumulation of hurt released by the recognition of something that is a part of me beyond my will or my choosing. It is simultaneously raw and cleansing. The good news is that it is being brought into the light. The healing of wounds can begin while at the same time I can begin to address how to embrace and integrate new knowledge into the person I am and will become.

Years ago, after I returned home from a semester in Scotland during my junior year in college, my brothers and I spent a week in Maine with my father and his girlfriend. One night we went out to dinner, and as were leaving the restaurant to head back to the house a discussion began to get tense. My brothers began to pick at and ridicule me for something I had expressed. I dropped into silence, and when one brother made an especially cutting remark Joan turned from the front seat to face them and said, "you have no idea how deeply she feels!" The car went silent. Had I not been driving I would have frozen in place. But this moment is etched in my memory because I felt seen, understood, and recognized in a way that I don't remember ever experiencing before that time.

These are tender days for me, but there is strength, now, in the understanding that is unfolding. There is so much more to learn and comprehend. There are things I need to learn to do to prevent hurts that, unintentionally, are inflicted on the people in my life. At this moment I can say to any of you that have felt disregarded or ignored by any silence or inaction from me, I am sorry.

I am learning to love myself differently through this awakening. Through that process, I will be able to love you better as well. Bear with me.


The Bug said...

Dr. M is MUCH more introverted than I am (I'm partway down the scale, but he's off the end somewhere) and sometimes I want to say the same thing to people who hurt him - you have no idea how deeply he feels! Of course, he mostly wears his heart right there on his sleeve, being an off the scale feeler too - so mostly people know. But not really. Not to the depth. I'm not like him (or you probably), but I can say from the outside looking in, that I admire his (your) ability to plumb those depths - because that's where true wisdom and compassion are, to me.

angela said...

The first time I took the Myers-Briggs was only a couple years ago and I was awed by it. I was 100% on the introvert scale. By the time I took it the second time it came down a bit but I did realize how profound it was. If only I'd known, I'd not have felt so different as a young woman. Even as a child...

I love your post, wish I could save it to re-read every so often. So many of my family members have felt left out by me and I by them. I'm not sure how it helps that I can explain it now....

But once in a long while someone gets me and I'm really learning to be humbled by that.

Mary Beth said...

ANother 100% I here. And I've had that book on my Amazon Wish List for forever. Hugs to you.

Jan said...

I've wondered about reading that book. I am definitely an introvert, and I remember being INFP on the Meyers Briggs. I was touched by that story of your brothers teasing you and Joan observing your feelings. I also identified with you observing how much you were reflecting upon the book and its revelations this week. THAT makes me want to read it, too. Thank you.

Jayne said...

From someone who is fully an ESFJ, and married to an ISTJ, I so understand this my friend. There is so much room for misunderstanding and pain on both sides. We simply relate to, and see the world in such fully different ways. I think it's very brave of you to be able to explore these issues within yourself, and it makes me love you all the more. Funny thing is that I think I have tended to cultivate more friendships with introverts, and yet, then I feel slighted when it feels as if I am "making all the effort." I also need to explore issues related to my EXtroversion and how that makes me see the world. What a wonderful post!

Jan said...

You reminded me of a funny picture I posted about introversion.

Genie said...

Blessings and prayers for you in your healing and tender awakenings. As a MAJOR introvert myself -- as you know! -- I read your words as those I've said to myself and poems I've written so many times, so I know full well the depths from which they come AND also the heights to which they can take you.

When you've 'processed' this book and its revelations some -- I started to say 'when you've finished processing ...' but introverts never finishing processing! -- you might think about looking into Dr. Elaine Aron's books on the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). I've long thought you had more than a few HSP attributes; most HSPs are introverts, so I think the two books might complement each other. I know when I first discovered there is such a thing as an HSP, it changed my life entirely for the better. Now who I was/am, and how I operate, made sense. Took 40+ years to find that out, but what a huge difference!

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