Category Archives: Introversion

Static and the Need to Recharge


Like riding on a carousel where everything goes by too fast to focus on…

I mentioned a couple of posts ago feeling overwhelmed, discombobulated, and like my head was full of static after returning from the conference last Monday.  Actually I felt like that during much of the conference as well. Not overwhelmed in the sense of “I can’t handle this!” or “I don’t like this”,  but overwhelmed with input — experiences, places, people, teaching, thoughts, activities.  Much was packed into those five days and I’m not complaining at all, because it was fantastic, but I have been very aware this time of my need for processing it all.

I’ve written before of this sort of thing (archived here), quoting from a book I read a couple of years ago called The Introvert Advantage, by Marti Olsen Laney, PsD. It was the first time I’d heard of the introvert’s  special “need for down time, solitude, time to sift and sort through all the things that have been deposited…”

According to Dr. Laney,

Right-brained introverts (I’m one)… require large amounts of protected sifting and sorting time because they take in so much unconscious information. Without private time they end up feeling confused and fragmented.

The more introverted you are, the more you need a serene environment for processing stimuli and for recharging. Why is processing time so crucial? Without it, you get information overload. New input lands on top of old imput, and suddenly your threshold is reached and you shut down. Crash. Circuits are jammed. Numbness sets in.

She compares this to a bank computer, accepting deposits, allowing withdrawals, processing thousands of different transactions, and temporarily putting them in some sort of electronic holding area as the day wears on. At night bank clerks handle them all in a “batch process”, so that in the morning everything is where it should be.

But what if, she asked, the bank computer didn’t operate at night? The result would be —

Serious congestion and backup. Accounts would be incorrect, your balance could be too high or too low. You wouldn’t be able to make sense of anything. Human beings are the same. If you dont’ have time to process the stimuli you take in, you get backed up and congestion sets in. You can get fuzzy or go blank.”

This is just what I’ve been experiencing over the last few days, not only because of all the things I saw, felt, thought and heard on the trip, but all the things that happened afterward. The house was in chaos, in part because of the replacement of the dishwasher, but also because there were so many things needing or waiting to be done:  unpacking, laundry, dealing with stuff that had come up since I’d left, figuring out how to load and use the new dishwasher…

I’ve experienced the need to process this time, though, not just in the sense of feeling forgetful and discombobulated and like I have static in my head, but also in the way fragments of thoughts, disparate images, snippets of conversations  from the weekend seem to drift randomly through my head. I want to grab hold of them, make sense of them, figure out what to do with them… but they’re gone, replaced by another before I can.

Suddenly I’m recalling the man walking his three huge dogs in the park, or me sitting with royal family in the almost empty restaurant on Saturday afternoon, or waiting at the terminal in the airport for my fellow travelers to debark after me, or the fantastic panorama of cloud and rain and mountain and shafts of light that we saw as we circled the airport in Tucson waiting for a thunderstorm to move on… they go on and on.

And that doesn’t even count the actual lessons taught.

There’s also the sense that all of this relates to my bigger picture, having to do with all the new stuff I’ve allowed into my life as potential “necessary” activities.  I’d just about come to the conclusion before I left home last week that perhaps all these activities were not so needed after all. Now I wonder if  I am literally incapable of doing everything I’m thinking I want/need to.

But so far there hasn’t been time to sort it out. Or perhaps I should say, I’ve not given myself the time to do so…   So that is my plan for tomorrow.


Introvert Problem Solving

Earlier this week I was talking with an introvert friend of mine and we laughed about how hard it is for us to put something in the Lord’s hands and leave it there. Too often, right after we’ve done so, we take it back and start thinking about the problem and how it may be solved, recalling similar things that happened in the past and planning what we can do to avoid those things in the future… Planning that often is obviously futile from the outset. Why do we keep doing this???

That same day, as I was reading through a section of the book The Introvert Advantage by Marti Laney (one, in fact that I excerpted and posted here a few days ago), a sentence popped out at me:

“The introverts’ blood flowed to the parts of the brain involved with internal experiences like remembering, solving problems, and planning.”

Introverts’ blood follows a pathway that engages remembering, problem solving and planning — exactly what I don’t want to do when I give it to the Lord. And suddenly I see I’m wired to do this. Now it all makes sense. I’m not saying these elements are not worthy or useful — they are, in appropriate circumstances. But once you’ve put a problem in the Lord’s hands, that stuff has to be turned off. And seeing that it’s my natural, brain-wired inclination to go in that direction is not only comforting, it’s encouraging. I thought maybe it would be to one of the rest of you introverts out there. LOL!

Introvert Energy Crisis

Quoting again from The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney, PsD., this time her sidebar in the Chapter on Personal Pacing. This is a list of symptoms indicating the Introvert has overloaded, drained away all her energy and is in sore need of rest and solitude to re-invigorate:

Trouble sleeping
Unable to think (recall things)
Unable to concentrate
Unable to make decisions
Confused and Discombobulated (as if dashing from thing to thing in a blur)
Drained, tired, put upon, pooped
Disconnected from self

In recent weeks I’ve suffered from all of this. At the same time. I have introverted and semi-introverted friends who have as well. You begin to wonder what is wrong with you. Am I going crazy? Now, though, when I see this array of symptoms appearing in my life I know it’s time to hold the line and retreat to the Fortress of Solitude for a time and just rest.

Amazing what just a little bit of that does.

Introverts — Different Brain Pathways and Neurotransmitters

Today’s post comes from the book, The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney, PsD. I think I’ve mentioned before (or at least intended to) the fact that according to Dr. Laney and others, introvert brains operate differently than extrovert brains. In brain function studies of introverts/extroverts, PET scans were used to determine the most active part of the brain based on blood flow. The results indicated that:

“…introverts had more blood flow to their brains than extroverts. More blood flow indicates more internal stimulation…

“Second, introverts’ and extroverts’ blood traveled along different pathways. Dr. Johnson found the introverts’ pathway is more complicated and focused internally. The introverts’ blood flowed to the parts of the brain involved with internal experiences like remembering, solving problems, and planning. This pathway is long and complext. The introverts were attending to their internal thoughts and feelings.

“Dr. Johnson tracked the fast-acting brain pathway of extroverts showing how they process input that influences their activity and motivation. The extroverts’ blood flowed to the areas of the brain where visual, auditory, touch and taste (excluding smell) sensory processing occurs. Their main pathway is short and less complicated. The extroverts attended externally to what was happening in the lab. “

These differing pathways for blood flow require different neurotransmitters. Extroverts rely on dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with movement, attention, alert states and learning. Extroverts are not terribly sensitive to dopamine, though they require large amounts of it. Unfortunately, while the brain produces some, it’s not nearly enough. Thus,

“Extroverts need [dopamine’s] sidekick, adrenaline, which is released from the action of the sympathetic nervous systems, to make more dopamine in the brain. So the more active the extrovert is, the more Hap[py] Hits are fired and dopamine is increased. Extroverts feel good when they have places to go and people to see.

“Introverts, on the other hand, are highly sensitive to dopamine. Too much dopamine and they feel overstimulated. Introverts use an entirely different neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, on their more dominant pathway…

“Acetylcholine…affects attention and learning (especially perceptual learning), influences the ability to sustain a calm, alert feeling and to utilize long-term memory, and activates voluntary movement. It stimulates a good feeling when thinking and feeling.

One of the results of all this, is that it takes introverts longer than extroverts to refill their energy well when it’s been emptied, because their nerve receptor sites are slow to re-uptake the neurotransmitter. So we need more time to recover and get tired more easily.  Something I’ve been experiencing a lot lately. Fortunately, Laney devotes an entire chapter to dealing with this, but that’s a post for another day.

Cataracts, Light and Heat

I’m happy to report that my mother’s cataract surgery went very well last Wednesday! (Thanks to those of you who lifted her up in prayer for that.) Post operative treatment included three types of eye drops, each administered a different number of times per day… one four times a day, one three times a day and one two times a day. Since the three times a day drop cost nearly $80 for this teeny little bottle, and my mother had been told it held exactly the amount she would need, she had no ability to get it into her eye without wasting precious drops. In fact, at first she was afraid she’d not be able to get any drops into her eye. So I came over and did that.

Which turned out to be a lot more tiring and disruptive of my writing routine than I anticipated especially given that our temps last week had surged into the triple digits — 104, 105, 106 — even as the dew point soared from 30 something to 57 (It’s 64 tonight, which is very high for us) Moisture from the Gulf of Mexico had finally made it up here with a vengeance. And we still haven’t had a storm at our house (I have to specify “at our house” because people several streets over could well have experienced rain.) Instead it’s just been very hot and humid and our evaporative cooler, is not up to the task of bringing full relief.

I’ve always found it very tiring to run errands, though that seems an awfully insignificant thing to make one tired. Still, there’s something about getting into the car, driving, getting out, going into the store, coming out, getting into the car, driving… etc… that just leaves me blitzed. The garden tour which my mother and I used to take yearly, involved a lot of that, and by the end I could hardly wait to go home and lie down in a dark room, whereas my mother was wishing there were more gardens to visit. I felt like a total wimp!

In fact, when we came out of the surgical center, she fresh from cataract surgery, her pupil dilated as big as the hole in a piece of notebook paper, I was scrambling for my sunglasses whereas she was only reluctantly donning those flimsy sunglasses they give you at the eye doctor’s to slip behind your glasses. The next day she wore no sunglasses at all. And I’m squinting!

So perhaps it’s no surprise that the short jaunts to my mother’s last week to put in the drops did the same thing to me as the garden tour did. I’d leave my darkened house (open blinds let in way too much heat) and step out into BRIGHTNESS! POUNDING HEAT! Get into the car, where the heat is worse, though the light, at least, is dimmer. Turn on the ignition, the AC starts up and and I start moving. By the time the AC’s cooled me off, I have reached my destination. So I stop and get out and HOT! BRIGHT! I go into my mother’s house … cool, dim… ten minutes later I come out… etc. And those weren’t the only places I had to go.

After the second day of that toward the middle afternoon when I had done three such runs and was laying on the couch in the cooler’s breeze, wiped out and bereft of motivation while drinking a glass of ice water, I remembered something I’d read in one of those introvert books.

“Energy creation is the most salient difference between introverts and extroverts,”said Marti Olsen Laney in The Introvert Advantage, “but there are two other primary differences: their response to stimulation and their approach to knowledge and experience. Extroverts thrive on a variety of stimuli, whereas introverts can find it too much…” (pg 20)

“Introverted bodies seem to be particularly attuned to fluctuations in temperature and to the rhythms of light and dark,” she said, on page 265. “At the same time, because they may not sweat as easily as extroverts, innies don’t function well when they are overheated. Every body movement slows to a crawl and thinking grinds to a halt.”

Well that certainly described MY experience! LOL. It was cool to be able to recognize that I wasn’t making it up, and not to have to beat myself up for being so wasted by what seemed like nothing. Instead I gave myself permission to sit on that couch in the breeze from the cooler drinking the ice water until I felt like doing something else. Unfortunately that didn’t include writing any blog posts. Or working on Sky…but it was definitely a learning experience. But really, I’m starting to feel like a mole.

On the other hand… maybe that’s why I’ve set Sky in an underground city…

A Christmas Tradition

When I was growing up, and to this day, my family had a Christmas tradition that was unusual. I say that because when asked what we did “on Christmas” there was always a degree of shock in the asker when the answer was, “we spent all day opening packages.”

Maybe people thought we had SOOO many gifts it took us all day to get through them, but that wasn’t/isn’t the case. We didn’t have a big family — mother, stepdad, sister and me — we had a ritual. A couple of them actually.

The first was Christmas eve where we had lasagne for dinner and then arranged packages around the tree. When all was in the most “artistic” arrangement, we turned off the lights except for candles and tree lights, got some egg nog and sat listening to Christmas music and looking at the beautiful tree. Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Andy Williams’s Christmas album and more recently, Narada’s Medieval type music created a delicious “Christmasy” feeling. Mostly we just looked and sipped and listened and didn’t do too much talking.

All of that, I understand now, are typically introverted pleasures. We were soaking up all the stimuli — tastes, smells, colors, lights, the glory of the tree in the darkness, each individual ornament (and most were unique), the music, the holly berry scent of the candles, maybe a warm blanket…

Next morning we came out, looked at it all and then began our second ritual. One person would be designated the package distributor and each person would receive a gift to open. Then one by one we went around the circle, each opening in turn, noting the paper, ribbon tag, carefully unwrapping the gift in almost the same order it had been wrapped and finally opening the box to reveal the gift within. At which point considerable conversation would ensue, regarding the story of acquiring the gift, or why it was wanted, or other such things, some related and some not… This was not forced on any of our parts. We liked to draw it out and drink it in. To savor and enjoy all aspects of the process.

After a couple of “rounds” we’d go make breakfast and eat it. Then back to finish up the remainder of the packages. By then it was early afternoon and time to start dinner.

Given what I’ve seen in movies as well as what seems to have been the holiday modus operandi for most people who I’ve come in contact with is to rip into the gifts in a wild frenzy all at once, the whole thing over in half an hour.

That seemed so terribly unsatisfying to us, but our way certainly did seem to be “weird.” We’ve continued a reduced version of it into adulthood, though my husband being one of those who, growing up in a family with 8 kids, came from the ripping frenzy tradition had some adjusting to do. He has been tremendously gracious in adapting and taking part in the full spirit of the thing (though at times he does grow drowsy!). Anyway, he reported similar responses from people when they asked and he told them how we did it — weird!

Then, a few weeks ago I opened a book call Introvert Power by Laurie Helgoe, the same day I’d received it from Amazon to read this in the Introduction:

“I was number nine out of ten bright, creative, and mostly LOUD kids. My dad, an eccentric genius, had wall-sized speakers in the living room that blared out classical music. When the family sang together, we sang five-part harmonies of the uncompromising Handel’s Messiah. On Christmas Eve, we had a talent show and family service, and later tore into our presents all at once, paper and ribbons flying everywhere and voices crisscrossing the room shouting out “thank you!” and “just what I wanted!” These are happy memories, because there was a part for each of us. But instead of ripping paper and shouting, I sat in my corner with my pile of gifts and handled each as a treasure, slowly and carefully opening them, preserving the paper and lingering in the delight of discovery…..”

Whoa! I was absolutely astounded. There it was. Just what we did, without all the flying paper and yelling!

She went on…

“However, when there were no gifts to open and everyone was competing for airtime, I felt invisible and became overstimulated and anxious. My anxiety was not about the pressure to socialize; there were more than enough bodies to take care of that. I became anxious because I couldn’t think, and, without my own mind, I felt like I was disintegrating. My solution was to retreat to my room and write. In my solitude I could regain contact with myself and become solid again.”

Thankfully I didn’t grow up with nine siblings, but I have certainly felt this sense of being unable to think, especially recently where I’ve had so many things demanding my attention. But the retreating to my room to write and imagine stories… Yes! I couldn’t wait to get home from school and do that. She goes on to say she wrote science fiction (ditto) and developed secret codes (ditto) to share with her sister (I shared with a friend)… the entire introduction continued in this vein, highlighting things about myself I knew existed but had never really recognized as part of introversion. Nor had it ever occurred to me that there were reasons why I was always exhausted after social interactions, even those I enjoyed,  and that it wasn’t because I was bad, or defective or just plain ornery, but part of how God made me to be.

I have been so excited to read both this book and the other one I ordered, The Introvert Advantage, and I hope to share a bit of what I’ve learned from them both this week. The challenge will be to distill the most important bits from the wealth of things I could say about it all.

New Things

I’ve taught Quigley how to take something into his mouth and hold it long enough for me to take his picture! Isn’t he cute?

Yes, I know I’ve not posted for almost eleven days now. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, having so much to process and do that I’ve not hardly been able to think. My brain has felt empty, fragmented, blitzed. I’ve had no words to offer the world, no words, at least that would make any sense.  In fact, today in my journal I wrote that I felt like a character pulled out of a story. Someone with no back story, no objective, no narrative of events in which to fit, just a character doing things that seem to have lost all relation to each other. Then, a couple of hours later I read almost that exact description in a book I’ve been reading called The Introvert Advantage,  part of their description of an introvert who is suffering from an “energy crisis” as a result of not having “enough downtime.”

And certainly over the last three weeks or so my downtime has been severely limited and/or compromised. I thought of 2 Corinthians 4 and how there’ll be times we will be afflicted, perplexed, persecuted and struck down. One of those words — I think it’s “perplexed” — means to lack resources, at least temporarily. Like the resource of internal energy, and the time to be able to process everything so you can actually think straight…

But, since I see that it’s almost time for me to take my mother to get her shot, I’ll have to save my elaboration for another day (and notice I didn’t say “tomorrow” since I have no idea what the rest of today will bring, much less tomorrow).  I do, however, have a new Jeep, and it is without question an upgrade!  I love it:

A Test for Introverts

When you get on the Internet and go from link to link, that’s surfing the web, isn’t it? I don’t know. Seems like a better metaphor would be bread-crumbing through the web. Or Hansel and Gretel-ing through the Web. Okay, surfing is easier, it just seems a lot more purposeful and shorter than following a trail of breadcrumbs, each leading the next as you wander deeper and deeper into the forest… And then suddenly you sit up, look at the clock and say, “What happened?

It’s almost always interesting, and sometimes it’s actually useful.

Like last weekend. A friend sent me to an interesting essay by Maria Shriver. I think there was a link there that caught my eye which led to another link (Job Tips for Introverts– Find a Career to match your personality traits)  and another (What Your Favorite Dog Breed Says About Your Personality) until I had reached A Test for Introverts

Having already been intrigued by statements in the Job Tips article about introverts, and already knowing I was an introvert, I still wanted to see what their criterion was and what the test about. The Job Tips article pointed out the advantage of knowing yourself and more important being comfortable with that knowledge when you go about choosing a career. Obviously it’s a bit late for me to choose a career, and really my career (if you can call it that) chose me, so the whole thrust of the article was not aimed at me, but I’ve mostly come across descriptions of introversion presented as if it were some sort of aberration or handicap.

Indeed, given that our culture seems to favor extroverts, I suppose it can be regarded as such in the eyes of extroverts. It seems that extroverts have taken over, especially the book industry, with all the advice that’s piled on writers, (generally introverted types, who like being alone a lot,) to get out there and work the room, make contacts, sell your book, pitch it in elevators, go make friends with the bookstore clerks, radio people, TV people, do book signings, tours, seek out the stockers that fill the book racks at grocery stores, make friends with them, sell, sell, sell, network, network, network, etc.


I think I might prefer pounding my thumb with a hammer. But, as I said, I am and introvert. Anyway, in the Job Tips article I came across one book that regards introversion as an asset not a mental defect, and another one entitled Self-Promotion for Introverts!  At last.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. The article introducing the test for introverted personality traits (said test coming from The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney) (advantage? Did it really say advantage?) promises the test will

reveal some interesting facets of your personality – especially if you’re an introvert! For instance, did you know that introverts don’t think of casual acquaintances as friends? And, introverts take a long time to sort out information…and they dread returning phone calls (that’s me!). 

That’s me, too. In fact, all three of those characteristics are me. The test has 29 questions. If you answer true for 20 – 29 of them you’re a “true introvert”. I answered 26 of them true and one more true and false (“I usually need to think before I speak”. If I stop to think before I speak, I often don’t speak at all. So while I might need to do it, I’m not usually at a loss for words and tend to blurt… )

If you answer 10-19 of them true, you’re both, and 1-9 means you’re an extrovert. “You relish variety, have lots of  ‘close, personal’ friends and will chat with complete strangers…”