Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Introvert Day Redux

I linked to this article last year, but I want to do it again for those of you who 1. Missed it or 2. Just need the hope of solitude this holiday season. The author is writing on January 2nd, and proposing it be called "Happy Introvert Day" for those of us who have survived all the hectic energy and invasive social interactions of the holiday.

Let's be honest friends. We all love our family and friends and church families, and we relish the meaning of the holiday season, but it's not exactly the time of the year that many of us shine.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Introverted Brains

In my research, especially as I mingled with Christians on the conservative side of the spectrum, I found that many still wonder whether introversion is sinful or a distortion of God's intent for humans to be social and outwardly focused. I spend a fair amount of time in my book dispelling those myths from a theological and psychological point of view. But I have also been doing a lot of reading recently about the physiology of introversion.

Traditionally introversion has been identified by its behaviors. Martin Olsen Laney, author of the foundational book The Introvert Advantage, identified three main behavioral patterns: 1. Find energy in solitude 2. Processes internally 3. Prefers depth over breadth. In chapter 2 of my book (title and release date still forthcoming) I discuss these expressions of introversion, but I'm now adding a section that examines recent research that introversion and extroversion are actually hard wired into our brains.

Psychological and neuroscientific studies have discovered three main differences between introverted and extroverted brains:

1. Introverts have more naturally active brains than extroverts. Though introverts often have an aura of calmness on the surface, their brains are abuzz with activity. Thus, they require less external stimulation than extroverts, and too much outside stimulation can cause them to feel overwhelmed.

2. Second, blood flows in different paths in introverted and extroverted brains. Introverts have more blood flow in the brain, but it moves in a different path than extroverted blood. The blood in introverted brains flows to the areas that are focused on internal things like remembering, problem solving, and planning. On the other hand, the blood in extroverted brains flows to the areas used for processing external activities and sensory experiences.

3. Introverts and extroverts have different chemical balances in their brains. Extroverts require more dopamine, a neurotransmitter (a chemical substance that transmits nerve impulses) that is produced through motion and activity. They are less sensitive to dopamine than introverts and thus require more of it. Introverted brains, on the other hand, are dominated by another neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, which is important for long term memory and a feeling of calm. Acetylcholine is the neurotransmitter of the parasympathetic nervous system, which reacts to stress with a "rest and repose" response. Dopamine, on the other hand, produces a "fight or flight" reaction to stress.

I go into these things in greater detail in my book, but it is becoming increasingly clear that introversion is not a mere social construct or learned behavior. We act as an introverts because we ARE introverts in our genetic makeup.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Introverted Preaching Unveiled

Here it is. The first sermon of what I hope will be many about introverts in Christian community. I ease my way into it a little, and I don't actually use the word "introvert" until around minute 12, so be patient. This sermon combines elements of chapter 5 (introverted community and relationships) and chapter 9 (introverts in church) of my book. It takes a larger look at how and why we participate in Christian community, and how common models of involvement in the church may be unfriendly to introverts (and others too). Let me know what you think.

It might be a little slow to open if you play it directly from this page. Download it for faster playback.

"The Goals and Perils of Community Life"

La Verne Heights Presbyterian Church 10/19/08

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Statistics

Continuing the conversation from below, that studies show that 50.7% of the population is introverted, here is a link to the findings of a study that interviewed over 900,000 people. It gives ranges rather than precise numbers. Introverts are between 47-55% of the population, and more men are I's than women.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My favorite search ever

Someone found my blog yesterday by googling "introvert asking for a dance."

It's off the topic of my blog a little, but let's help this guy out friends. What is your advice? How does an introvert score a dance?

Monday, November 10, 2008

New resource

Here is a psychologist/life coach who is focused on helping introverts thrive in work and in their personal lives. This link will land you on the "free stuff" page which includes a short pdf file you can request that has some really interesting stuff about the physiological differences between extroverts and introverts. I don't profess to understand the chemical differences and brain pathways and such, but I still find it fascinating. There is also a bi-weekly newsletter you can subscribe to.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Narrating

I was thinking the other day that if I were a character in a story, I wouldn't be the protagonist or antagonist or sidekick or even a major character. I would be the narrator. I might be a narrator like Alfred Hitchcock who occasionally shows up in his own stories, but I would still play the narrator. Even as I'm writing that, it sounds boring, but I think it's true. But I'm the guy who enjoys standing outside of the story and observing the characters interacting with one another. I like to look for patterns and trends and I like putting the actions and habits of others into words. I don't usually get bogged down in the details of the story, but I like the macroscopic lens. I'd like to think that I see things that others, embroiled in the plot of the story, don't always see with the same clarity.

I've come to realize that I actually enjoy reflecting on most of the experiences I've had than I do having the experiences themselves. I enjoy being around people, but I tend to walk among the fringes of a community, observing and reflecting. I'm not sure how much of this is inherent to my introversion, and how much of this stems from my passions as a writer. I interviewed this week at a wonderful church, but I left feeling like I may be a better fit as a quasi-outsider than as an insider leading people in the action of the community.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Introverts and Elections

I read a blog the other day that said that absentee voting is for more introverted types who are allergic to crowds. What's your take on that? I, for one, on the far side of the "I" scale, wouldn't dream of voting absentee in a presidential election, but can't wait for the electric energy of a crowd lined up to cast their vote tomorrow!