Susan Cain’s recently released book, The Power of Introverts, is causing considerable chatter. I have not read the book, but I watched a video of Susan giving a talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3yyeJ1jaGDU&feature=share. I identify with what she says. Like Susan, I am an introvert. I first remember becoming aware that I do not receive the same pleasure from social interactions as other people do when my mother threw a surprise party for me during one of my adolescent birthdays. She invited a number of kids from my class at school, planned games, served cake and ice cream, etc. All the normal birthday party stuff. It was one of the worst days of my life. Even my mother was confused. She could not understand why I was withdrawn and miserable. The only happy moment was when the parents came to pick up our guests. No one verbalized it, but at that time everyone became aware there was something wrong with me. Much later in my life I discovered my malady had a name… introversion.
Interestingly, unlike many other “social ailments,” society’s response to the problem has little detrimental affect on the individual. Introverts generally prefer to be left alone, so when they are excluded from social activities, they are actually happier. This is okay for the individual, but it is not best for society. Susan Cain’s research has demonstrated that introverts often have the best contribution. She asserts that the world would be a better place if we equally value the “man of contemplation” and the “man of action.” She notes that all the world’s great religions create space for people to be quiet. Religions expect that revelation comes in the “wilderness” or on the “mountain.” She believes we should not dispense with all the group work that has become mainstream. However, she exhorts her followers to also value quiet time alone.
Christian tradition has long valued the disciplines of silence and solitude. These practices are largely lost in our hurry-up world. Would it not be ironic if secular research leads us back to these truths?
As for me, with Nancy gone these three weeks, I am as happy as a clam as I work out of our quiet house. Sure, I miss her and I will be delighted when she returns, but in the mean time I enjoy the time alone.