August 5th, 2007 by Sonja

There was quite a bit made of a very good article about the care and feeding of introverts over on Brother Maynard’s blog awhile back. I found the article fun and funny. I loved it and shared it with BlazingEwe. During a phone call. We laughed and laughed … we two introverts together. While my family listened in.

They did not find it funny.

They are not introverts.

In particular, LightHusband is not an introvert. To his everlasting credit, he tries very hard to understand me and my introversion and he does well with it. But it’s exhausting to both of us. It’s exhausting to my family.

Most people think that introverts sit in a corner and don’t speak; hermits in the public square as it were. The classic shy retiring violet, a wall flower. But that’s not Carl Jung’s version of introversion. As it’s described, introverts need downtime to “recharge their batteries.” Extroverts, on the other hand, recharge by being with people. Introverts are drained in their exchanges with people. I love people and hanging out … but it also drains me. It particularly drains me because I’m also iNtuitive and Feeling and Perceptive. So when I have interactions with people, I’m working on many different levels and I go home and process, sometimes for days (depending on the emotional level of the encounter). This is a problem for me, because most people consider the event over and done with … I usually have a lot of questions afterwards that I didn’t ask then and there because I couldn’t.

Or … here’s another description. LightHusband works from home. He has an office in our basement. It’s a lovely quiet office lined with bookshelves and painted pale green. Did I mention how quiet and calm it is? He has made a concerted effort lately to actually work in his office rather than in the family room where I have to overhear his phone calls in addition to the children all day long. This morning I went down to talk to him about something. At the end of our conversation he admitted to me that he hated his office. He drooped in his chair and said, “I’m going to try and motivate myself over the sound of my ears ringing.” I looked around and said, “What! This is the best room in the house! How could you not work in this room?!” Then we laughed at each other and with each other.

He can pick up and go on a trip, come home and reintegrate back into life just like flipping a switch. I have sidle into and out of my life slowly making sure there are no booby traps or anything.

More recently, Bill Kinnon at Achievable Ends riffed on this and linked to some very funny descriptions of the sixteen personality types. The INFP was more apt than I’d like to admit … and Friends really is a stupid show, even if I do watch it in reruns every now and again.

Still, though, I have this thing … I have to process slowly. It can take months sometimes. Some examples. It finally occurred to me that I/we had been released from our CLB. It happened during the final meeting I had with the leadership (sans my husband who was part of the team). One said that the vision for the church had always been theirs. The other person affirmed this statement by saying that the vision was good. I was rocked back on my mental heels thinking to myself, “I thought a church’s vision came from God and that anyone could give voice to it.” I said nothing at the time. I was too shaken. I’ve pondered that scene often though. Remembered the nuance. I realize now that the question in my head was a release. It was a trigger from God saying, “You are finished here. There is no more that you can do or say.” There are many times I find myself in that awkward position. Shaken. Unable to speak. Something of grave import has just occurred and I ought to speak, share something. Instead I find that I must process and think. Speaking into the moment means I will say something dangerous, or foolish or heartless. But not speaking leaves others with the mistaken impression that I am in agreement or have assented with them. Or at the very least do not disagree with them. I have attempted processing and thinking into emotionally intense situations … it ends very badly.

I think this might be especially true because I am a woman. Women do not do well being introverts. We do not do well being introverts who process for long periods of time and who need time to think things through in emotionally intense situations. Culturally, we are expected to be able to navigate emotional situations with ease. We are expected to not become angry. An angry woman is seen as a domineering bitch, but an angry man is seen as taking control of a situation. In any given situation the woman loses, the man wins. So as a woman who struggles with navigating those waters; navigating emotionally intense situations without a safety net is particularly uncomfortable for me. It brought me up short to read this in ch. 2 Patterns: spatial observations of Organic Community:

This “encouragement” may also be quietly reinforced within church leadership structures. Perhaps we’ve successfully forced everyone into some form of a small group. This in itself might be okay if we recognize that many kinds of groupings can serve the same role as “small groups.” Instead, the pressure continues when small group leaders are told that if intimate connections are not taking place within their groups, their groups are failures. We need to bear in mind that the most accurate word to describe the process of forcing intimate connection is rape. (p. 46 – italics the author’s)

“The most accurate word to describe the process of forcing intimate connection is rape.” I’ve been considering that sentence for the month or so since I read it. I’ve been reading it and rereading it in it’s context. Thinking about the times I’ve been forced to be in more intimate connections with people than I was comfortable with and praying for forgiveness for the times that I’ve asked it of others. Pondering, as I am wont, how to strike a healthy balance so that intimacy may be won and adversity lost.

8 Responses  
  • Che V. writes:
    August 5th, 200711:20 amat

    I kept nodding in agreement about being an introvert…then I got to the part about “forced intimacy”…and I cried.
    So that’s what it’s been, all those times with the pastors and leaders, and others who I “should” be accountable to…
    When I left my church, I left because the pastors wanted me to submit to them, about my social life.
    They thought, as a newly divorced woman, that I was a loose cannon, bound to make so many mistakes. And I did make mistakes, but through it, I realized that I didn’t really know God, and I couldn’t accept what others had to say about Him anymore. I had to know Him MYSELF!
    And that scared the socks off the pastors! They couldn’t accept that God was talking to me, so I must be “deceived”!

    Sorry, your article still pushed some old issues up! But maybe now, as I think about this, there might actually be some more understanding.
    And maybe, I’m not as crazy as I’ve felt!

  • Erin writes:
    August 5th, 20071:39 pmat

    Yep, that’s me. INFP and I think “Friends” is stupid, too.

    I completely relate to this post. One problem I run into, and maybe you do, too, is where you are talking about taking a long time to process something and everyone else has moved on….I am told I am stewing or wallowing in something when I am simply still trying to work through it.

    Love this post.

  • The Boar’s Head Tavern » writes:
    August 6th, 200712:13 pmat

    […] Bill Kinnon reacts to a post on Women Introverts in the Church. I think there is much going on under the surface of “forced intimacy.” I’m not an introvert last time I checked, but this experience described by Sonja as small group rape is something that has bothered me ever since I’ve been an elder. There are issues of power and domination going on that I do not fully understand. But I certainly sense them. Sentimentality can be very aggressive. […]

  • Shauna writes:
    August 6th, 20071:21 pmat

    I’m a fellow INFP who thinks Friends is stupid (incidentally, one of the type sites says that Phoebe is an INFP). I hate that feeling of knowing I’m expected to speak–usually when I’m in a small group, either in a work or church context, and I’m up next in the circle–but am not ready to do so yet because I haven’t yet captured and sorted through the jumble of ideas and feelings and thoughts spinning around in my head. By the time I’ve processed the idea and feel confident about speaking, the conversation has moved on to a different topic entirely.

  • aBhantiarna Solas writes:
    August 6th, 20079:19 pmat

    Che … when we think we’re crazy we are actually at our most sane!! But I’m very glad you’ve found us so that you can reassure yourself periodically.

    It is amazing to me how a woman’s marital status is threatening to many segments of the population even now in the “oh-so-enlightened” 21st century.

    Erin … I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told to quit stewing/wallowing in something and just move on. LightHusband keeps telling me to stop giving up days to things. On a certain level he’s right, but on another, I take in so much information at any given event it takes me that long to process it all.

    Shauna … amen! And I always knew Phoebe had the most profound things to say on Friends!! Welcome to the circle here. What a fun thing to find that you homeschool as well. I’m going back to see your answers to the great questions on your site.

  • Ceste writes:
    September 8th, 20074:19 pmat

    All I can say is thank you. I’m passing this on to all my friends & family, but especially to the extroverts who are still scratching their heads seeking to understand us. Amen to processing!!

  • carol tinsley writes:
    September 20th, 20088:55 pmat

    hi, im a strong believer, i recently ,1yr,have been dating a guy who im sure i wanna be with,being former pyschology student,it was hard for me to accept his family summary of him just being crazy, only to seek the hand of God to learn that he is introvert, which no one has determined in life before,he is fearful by simple disagreement(over a pc of gum)lol,seriously though, he simply shut down, as u can tell im a strong extrovert.what is the advise when he shuts down for days at a time, then comes bk as if nothing has happened, but i have noticed he comes bk better….help

  • trinity writes:
    September 20th, 20088:58 pmat

    wow , how do u handle such a situation when u have a wonderful person in ur life that no one seems to understand

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