Monday, October 17, 2011
The Introvert, The Extrovert, and The Ambivert (and The Writer)
The traits of introversion and extraversion, made popular in the writings of Carl Jung, are not clear labels of personality. Different people fall into different places on this continuum, but in general the extrovert seeks her stimulation outside of herself and finds energy in contact with others. The introvert, conversely, is drained by too much social interaction and finds energy in quiet contemplation. The introvert is focused more on the mind.
Jung suggested that introversion and extroversion are determined by the direction of the flow of one's psychic energy: the introvert's energy flows inward, the extrovert's outward. Hans Eysenck, on the other hand, hypothesized that introversion and extroversion represent the degree to which one is interactive with other people.
The ambivert is the person with tendencies toward both sides of the continuum (in some ways they are extroverted, and in some they are introverted). The ambivert enjoys social interaction, but also highly values time spent alone or in silence. According to Wikipedia, about 68% of the population (or most people) are considered to be ambiverts, while extroverts and introverts are even distributed at both extremes.
So where does the average writer fall on the continuum? Again, I quote from Wikipedia:
"Introverts are people whose energy tends to expand through reflection and dwindle during interaction. Introverts tend to be more reserved and less outspoken in groups. They often take pleasure in solitary activities such as reading, writing, using computers, hiking and fishing. The archetypal artist, writer, sculptor, engineer, composer, and inventor are all highly introverted. An introvert is likely to enjoy time spent alone and find less reward in time spent with large groups of people, though he or she may enjoy interactions with close friends."
Having heard tales of exuberant writers' conferences and all of the connections made in the Bouchercon Bar, I am confident that not all writers are introverts. Speaking only for myself, however, I find conferences particularly draining. I love meeting new people, but I would never seek them out without the organized opportunity of the con. Once I am there, I tend to get headaches almost immediately, (maybe it's the fluorescent lights?) and when I return home, it takes a full three days to get over my exhaustion. Therefore I would put myself firmly toward the introverted side of the scale.
Introversion and extroversion are potentially inherited traits, since extroverted and introverted behaviors have a link to brain function (introverts have more cortical arousal than extroverts). I would call my own family and background an introverted one, despite the fact that all of us enjoy being the center of attention now and then; ultimately we were satisfied with internal interaction rather than needing to seek the external.
This is still true of me; I never crave clubs or concerts. In fact, the older I get, the more I am averse to the thought of any large crowd of people. I might wish for a higher level of extroversion, since extroverts report a higher rate of happiness than do introverts.
Where do you fall on the continuum? Are you, like most of the population, an ambivert?