Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Internalizing, introverts, injuries, Ichiro

In this post I will avail myself of the opportunity to combine two loves: introversion and baseball. Yesterday's renewal of baseball season stirred some thoughts about how introverted athletes cope with the incredible pressure of the spotlight.

I am a die-hard Seattle Mariners fan, and Ichiro Suzuki is one of my favorite athletes. My educated guess is that he is an introvert, though no doubt there are also some Japanese cultural components that affect his demeanor as well. Ichiro is exceedingly composed and cool, showing little outward emotion or excitement. Yet last week he was diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer, which doctors surmised was at least partially caused by stress.

Laurie Helgoe, in her book Introvert Power, says that introverts seek out mental health services more that extroverts and also tend to carry stress and pain in a different way. Introverts internalize stress, taking it into themselves, and not coincidentally, are at greater risk of health problems like ulcers.

I say in my own book that I think our internalizing tendencies can be both good and bad; good, because in conflict, we may be calm and tactful about what we say, bad, because our internal monologue can cut deep into us and burn away at our sense of self-worth and emotional well-being.

What are your thoughts? How do we combat the adverse effects of our internalizing?