What Kind of Introvert Are You?

Are you an introvert? It depends on which book you read. Here’s a sampling of the various conceptualizations of introversion in pop culture [1]: Preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments: Quiet by Susan Cain Preference for concentration and solitude: The Introvert’s Way by Sophia Dembling Rechargeable battery: The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney Thoughtful-introspective

Are you an introvert? It depends on which book you read.

Here’s a sampling of the various conceptualizations of introversion in pop culture [1]:

Historically, there has been just as much confusion in the psychological literature. Carl Jung originally defined introversion as a focus on one’s “inwardly directed psychic energy”. However, in the 30s, the psychologist J.P. Guilford showed that various attempts to measure Jung’s conceptualization of introversion resulted in multiple, distinct factors. In other words, there didn’t appear to be a single dimension of personality that captured all of introversion.

In the 60s Patricia Carrigan echoed this point, arguing that introversion was not effectively captured by a single scale. She cautioned that if the phrase introversion is to continue to be used, “care must be taken to specify its conceptual and operational referent. What appear to be minor distinctions between the various conceptions may in fact be crucial ones.” In the 70s, the heated debate continued, with a much older Guilford arguing with H.J. Eysenck over whether introversion can possibly, or even should, be captured by a single scale.

All seemed to be settled in the 90s with the emergence of the “Big Five” framework of personality. The five main factors of personality– extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and intellect/imagination– were empirically derived based on what patterns of behavior tend to go together within individuals. Under this framework, introversion is merely defined as the opposite of extraversion.

In the Big Five framework, extraversion comprises two main aspectsenthusiasm (reflecting sociability, positive emotions, and warmth) and assertiveness (reflecting the tendency to take charge, become a leader, and captivate attention). The common factor seems to be high sensitivity to rewards in the environment— which due to the highly social nature of humans throughout the course of human evolution, most prominently consists of rewards associated with social attention.

Therefore, under the dominant personality framework in modern psychology, if you score low in enthusiasm and assertiveness, you’re an introvert

Here’s the problem: the Big Five framework forces a definition of introversion onto people, many of whom do not conceptualize introversion in the same way. For instance, one study did a comparison of common-sense/everyday notions of introversion and ‘scientific’ conceptions of introversion. They found that the most prototypical characteristic of introversion, as identified by the general public, was the following item:

Clearly, many people equate introversion with introspection. In the Big Five framework, however, this item is classified as part of the intellect/imagination domain of personality, not the introversion domain. So there’s a serious mismatch between folk definitions of introversion and scientific definitions. People who view themselves as introverted because they are highly introspective are being told by scientists: “You aren’t really introverted based on patterns of covariation among the general population.” To which everyday people rightfully respond: “WTF?” [3]

As noted personality psychologist Jonathan Cheek told me, “by invalidating the ordinary language meaning of introversion by defining it solely as the opposite of Big Five Extraversion, the Big Five researchers are guilty of Psychological Imperialism [4].” Influenced by the seminal work of Jung, Guilford, and Carrigan, Cheek and his colleagues have decided to take a different approach, by focusing on the phenomenon of introversion on its own, free from having to be force-fit into one scheme or another.

As Carl Jung said, each individual is ultimately a unique crystal, but type theories can be helpful for navigating social life. Embracing this Jungian philosophy, Cheek and his colleagues argue that when people use the term “introversion”, they should never just use it by itself. Instead, they argue that researchers should put a specific modifier in front of the term. What modifiers could be used?

In her masters thesis (written under the advisement of Cheek), Jennifer Odessa Grimes defined four meanings of introversion: social, thinking, anxious, and restrained (which happens to form the positive acronym STAR). It’s possible to score high or low on either of these flavors of introversion. For instance, you could be low in social introversion by preference but not be particularly anxious in the presence of people. Or you could suffer from crippling social anxiety, but still have the desire to be highly social. Or any other combination of these four meanings of introversion.

By this point you’re probably wondering what kind of introvert you are. Well, you’re in luck. There’s a new test for that.

7 important tips to manage aggression in children

Manage child aggression: To develop a sound value system, tell them stories. For very small children, stories should be pleasant, free of fighting and violence, about animals and nature, sharing and caring. When they are five or six, it is okay to introduce stories with good people and ‘bad’ people.

child, who wanted to be perceived as the strongest of all, would speak loudly, look angry and hit everyone to prove his strength. When his grandfather came to visit, he behaved in the same way with him. However, his grandpa was never agitated and just smiled at his actions. The child was bewildered as he was only used to getting yelled at for what he did. The more he was yelled at, the stronger he would become, is what he thought!

Grandpa shares the Buddha story

The grandfather asked him if he would like to hear a story and the boy agreed. “Once upon a time, there was an enlightened master called Buddha. He travelled across the country teaching people how to be peaceful. Once while he was going through a forest, a tribesman called Angulimala came to him. He was a frightening man. He wore a garland of fingers of people whom he had sacrificed so he would be the strongest and feared the most. He wanted to have Buddha’s finger as the hundredth and complete his sacrificing ritual. Buddha smiled at him and said, “I am happy to be of use to you”. There was no trace of fear in him. Nobody had ever smiled at Angulimala. No one had ever spoken to him so kindly. The very presence of Buddha did something to him. Angulimala felt very weak for the first time in his life. He felt like a feather in front of a mountain. He realised that real strength is in having unshakable calmness, peace, and in compassion. He fell at Buddha’s feet. He was changed completely.” The child listened to every word from his grandpa with rapt attention.

Look out for the media children are exposed to

When you feel helpless or weak, the need to assert your strength comes out as violence. Where do children get the idea of violence? They see their parents, neighbours, friends, so many programmes on TV or videos on the mobile phone — all this exposure leaves impressions and has a strong impact on the minds of children, more than we know. They are sensitive even to suppressed violence. If you are angry inside but still act as if everything is okay, children will know it.

Handling aggression

Children get angry or show aggression for seemingly very silly reasons. But the real reason is something else, a sense of insecurity that has crept in somehow. That is why in olden days, parents would never show anger in front of a child. They would not even argue or use harsh words. Public display of anger was considered a weakness. Today, anger and aggression comes up at the drop of a hat. Any minor difference of opinion is enough to prompt the arrows to fly. We don’t know how to draw a line between expressing a difference of opinion and displaying aggression. If your child is aggressive, look into your own lifestyle. What are you doing? Are you yelling at your housekeeper or at your pet? Are you yelling at your own spouse? Or any one for that matter in front of the child? Are you sad? What is your reaction? And it does not matter that out of the 365 days, you have acted in aggression may be only a couple of times. Those few days are equally important for the child. This is why we need to meditate and practice pranayama or deep breathing techniques. Heyum Dukham Anagatam — stopping the misery before it comes — that is the benefit of yoga, because in life prevention is better than cure.

Engaging children in meaningful activities

The other important thing is to engage them in meaningful activities, and sports that allow them to channel their energy constructively. Just playing video games or watching TV with no physical activity only increases restlessness and makes them prone to aggression. You will notice that the day your child has more screen time, the more difficult he or she becomes to handle. Encourage them to go out and play, engage with real people, run and fill their lungs with some fresh air. In the olden days, movies were classified as suitable for watching only under parental guidance. Parents would control what a child can see. Today, it is a common occurrence that the elders are all engrossed in watching soaps on TV and are oblivious to the child who is also watching and taking in all the exaggerated emotions that are projected. It is very important to be sensitive about what their tender senses are exposed to. They should not be bombarded with heavy impressions.

What kind of stories are we telling our children?

To develop a sound value system, tell them stories. For very small children, perhaps around three or four, stories should be pleasant, free of fighting and violence, about animals and nature, sharing and caring. When they are five or six it is okay to introduce stories with good people and ‘bad’ people. Every culture has its stories of heroes who protected the innocent and fought villains who were up to no good. Through these stories they understand that the purpose of strength is to protect and not to hurt. They learn that the hero, the stronger one, is calm and collected.

While it is important to reprimand anger, it is equally important to recognise when they are gentle and appreciate them. When I was a child and would sometimes get angry, my grandmother would ask me to go to a certain corner of the house and leave my anger there. She would say that the angel in that corner would take the anger from me and go far, far away. I would believe her, go stand there and in a minute, come back smiling! Schools today don’t teach children how to deal with negative emotions. This is an important aspect of moulding the character of the child. Teachers should be strict about encouraging the right attitude in children. They should recognise the strength of a child who is able to walk away from a fight and not just react and hit back. They should reward and give attention to calmness in a child. Many times, an aggressive attitude in a child comes out from simply wanting attention. So, you can teach them by ignoring their sulking or shouting, and praising them and giving extra attention when they are well-mannered. And parents should give teachers the space to discipline the child if necessary. It is okay if your child has been naughty and the teacher has disciplined him or her. Parents must encourage reverence towards the teacher. If they say, “Who is he or she to tell my child what to do!” the child will not listen or respect the teacher anymore. When this happens, learning stops.

Food is important

The food that we give to our children also has a role to play. Too many sweets, fried food (like chips) and oily food increase restlessness in a child. Also, their food must be freshly cooked as far as possible and not packaged items kept in cold storage. Encourage them to enjoy fruits as much as chips; perhaps one chip-one fruit can be the deal! Where possible, it is advisable to avoid food products made from genetically modified grains and vegetables. The food has a direct impact on the mind and when consumed over a period of time, has a definite impact on the nature or attitude of the child.

Above all this, as parents, it is important to spend quality time doing ‘nothing’ with your child. Just sitting with them without looking at our mobile phones, giving complete attention to what they have to say, just being with them 100 per cent gives a great sense of security to the child. An insecure child is more likely to succumb to aggression than one who feels secure and attended to.

Teach children that the one who smiles come-what-may is stronger.

Show them when to stand up for what is right, and when to walk away from a fight.

As much as you can, protect their innocence.

As much as you can, give them pride in non-violence.

True friends

“Good friends care for each other…close friends understand each other, but TRUE FRIENDS stay forever…beyond words, beyond distance, beyond time…!”

Many of us have friends in our lives over the years. Some friends we make as children and then lose contact as we grow older. Other friends we make as adults and stay in touch with as long as we are in close proximity to and it is convenient to keep in touch but then over time one moves away or busy schedules slowly pull us apart and we start to lose touch.  Those friendships fall into the “good friends” or “close friends” as the opening quote cites. But then there is that last group of friends – those we call true friends – they are those we have a mutual caring about, and we understand each other’s hearts, and where bonds are formed between us that span any distance in proximity and where the bonds run so deep that no amount of time apart or lack of words will change the way we feel about that friend. These are our true friends, and when one comes into your life cherish it!

As a child our family moved often and so I was constantly making new friends each place we moved. Often the contact was lost with friends in past locations, although my memories of them were treasured. As an adult it is often harder to find the time to form those deep friendships outside your immediate family members because we are all trying to juggle a million balls in the air with work and church and service and community all while trying to give our greatest attention to our own children and spouses  where it rightfully belongs. And as a single mother for many years of my life it was even more difficult to make time for friends because playing the role of two parents by yourself while also being the sole support of your family was overwhelming to say the least.

But even during those challenging years there were individuals during that time who came into my life that I consider my truest of friends. They are individuals who saw me through tough times and who always saw the best in me despite any of my shortcomings. They picked me up at times I was down. They stood by me when I felt alone. They taught me things about life and about myself with patience and understanding. They lifted my children’s spirits and made them laugh when they were going through tough times of their own. They forgave at times when I was grumpy or obstinate. They loved me without judgment and without expectations. They gave me hugs, even at times that I may not have deserved one.  These true friends were individuals who were there for me…maybe not always in person or in word every time, but always in heart…and knowing that helped me through incredible challenges throughout the years.

True friends just do that – they help us grow and change for the better.  They support us in good times and bad. They can make us laugh when all we want to do is cry. And no matter how far apart time and distance may cause us to grow from one another, and even if death takes one of them from this world to the next, we always have the comfort of knowing that these true friends are still there for us, even if only in spirit, cheering us on and wishing us the best, because that is what true friends do for each other.

“A strong friendship doesn’t need daily conversation, doesn’t always need togetherness as long as the relationship lives in the heart, true friends will never part…”

When someone is genuinely your true friend they leave an impression on your heart that will never go away…not with time and not with distance. True friends secure a place in your heart forever.  I am forever grateful for the true friends in my life, both those who are alive and those who have passed away, thank you so much for being my true friends!