The Truth About Introverts
Did you know that an introverts brain activity is the OPPOSITE of what you might expect?
INTROVERTS NATURALLY "REV TOO HIGH"
When you're an introvert, the electrical activity in your brain (in your neocortex) is naturally firing TOO FAST. That's right! You are chronically overstimulated, according to David Posen M.D. (Author of Authenticity - A Guide to Living in Harmony with Your True Self).
ABOUT TO SCREAM
Think of the RPMs on a car. When you shift into a low gear, while driving really fast, your car's RPM's rev way too high and the car begins screaming at you.
This is similar to what's happening in your brain, if you're an introvert.
Your brain activity is naturally resting at the edge of "about to scream" and the smallest thing can push it over that edge. What you need to do is slow down your car to that "RPM sweet spot" that allows the engine to run and hum perfectly.
This is why introverts need time alone, to lower their level of cortical arousal. They need time to breathe and recharge.
This is also why loud noises and bright lights, when exposed to them for too long, can make you feel anxious or even frustrated (that's us!), and sometimes even trigger your fight or flight response, which unfortunately spikes your cortical arousal level even higher! (Which is why you sweat, panic, feel agitated and why your feet want to head for the exit).
Or why crowds are sometimes too much for you. Or why your kids making too much noise or asking too many questions, can cause you to feel irritated or even angry. You are just being overstimulated.
In David Posen's book, Authenticity, he offers a diagram of three straight lines stacked on top of each other with some distance between each line, describing the introvert and extravert in relation to the sweet spot. It was a great visual, but we still didn't quite get the concept until we visualized the lines moving at different speeds as well. So we took his original concept and added our own spin to it in the diagram below.
Below you will see the Introvert (red) who naturally revs too fast. They are constantly trying to come down (calm down) to the sweet spot.
The Extravert (in green) is naturally flat-lining. They are constantly trying to come up (rev up) to the sweet spot.
(We purposely chose these colours because Introverts need to STOP and breathe and Extraverts need to GO and do.)
AN INTROVERTS STRUGGLE
I spent years hanging out with a friend who almost always made me feel uncomfortable. They were nice, charismatic and even funny, but I always left feeling drained and grumpy and didn't know why.
I often wanted to say no to them when they would ask to hang out again, but I didn't want to hurt their feelings and I also felt like I was being ridiculous for not wanting to spend time with them.
Even if I left the house feeling confident and happy, within 10 minutes of being with this person I felt uncomfortable, anxious, insecure and most of all really confused by my sudden social awkwardness.
When I discovered that I'm an introvert (and an HSP/Empath too! Which we'll get into on another day), I realized why it was so hard to be comfortable around my friend.
My friend was an extrovert and needed different stimulation than I did. They could listen to music, watch tv, and text at the same time, all the while having a conversation with me.
All of which completely overstimulated me, making me feel like they didn't care what I was saying, and most importantly triggered my fight or flight response (because it was sending my "RPM's" through the roof), making it impossible to relax and even function (hence my social awkwardness!)
This friend was able to do all of these external things while talking to me because their brain naturally revs too low.
Referring back to our car analogy: for an extravert it's like putting your car in a high gear while driving really slow... it bogs everything down and the car begins to shake and groan and threatens to stall out. So an extraverts brain naturally sits at the cusp of shaking and stalling out.
This is why they need as many things as possible to spike their brain activity to a comfortable level in order to function. The louder, the brighter, the faster, the more people, the better.
This is also why extraverts are often close talkers, or need to make physical contact when socializing. It's also why some extraverts enjoy a bit of chaos or instigating drama. They are just trying to spike their brain activity, whether they recognize it or not.
THE LIES WE'RE TOLD
The shocking truth about the difference between an Introvert and Extravert has nothing to do with how outgoing they are.
Introverts and Extraverts can both be outgoing and social.
Some introverts actually get mistakenly labelled as extraverts because they enjoy being really social and outgoing. But after awhile they need time to recharge in a quiet place in order to calm their brain activity down from being overloaded and overstimulated.
The difference between the two comes down to ONE THING ONLY, according to Dr. David Posen: Where they primarily get their energy from. Do they need time alone to get energy? Or do they need people?
Once you know this, everything changes. Because you begin to understand why some people thrive at a job that seems to suck the life right out of you.
You understand why your partner is constantly on their phone or wanting to get up and go and can't seem to just relax and breathe. They literally can't! It feels awful to them to sit still and do nothing.
HOW TO HANDLE IT
Personally, being a parent, I get overstimulated often. Daily. Hourly. Nearly every minute. Ha ha, ok, maybe not that often, although it can feel like it sometimes.
But because I know this about myself, I know how to handle it. I've tested a million different ways to calm myself down and found the best way is to just admit it out loud.
I often say to my kids, "I'm feeling overstimulated. I need some quiet time now, ok love?" And the sooner I notice the overstimulation cues, the better I feel, because it increases my chances of not getting pushed over the edge.
I've also told my family and friends about my introversion so that they understand why I sometimes need to leave the room or a gathering early, or when we're all hanging out at a beach fire, why I can often be found taking a walk by myself to recharge. No one questions it anymore.
Knowing this about each other has increased our level of respect because we're no longer sitting in judgment or confusion about each other.
Had we known this about ourselves earlier, we could have made so many different choices in life. From the friends and relationships that we chose, to the jobs that we stayed in for far too long.
So if you are at a job that drains you to the point of depression. Maybe it's just because it's overstimulating.
Instead of resigning, try explaining what you've learned to your boss and see if there's a way you can work in a quieter setting, or take on less stimulating tasks, OR do your job for shorter hours so you don't burn out. If that doesn't work, start looking for work that honours your introversion.
This is exactly what we did. We went from an extraverts job working in customer service with constant communication with customers, face-to-face, which was a recipe for major depression and burn-out (who knew!), to building an online apparel shop that honours every bit of our introversion and passion.
YOU DESERVE TO FEEL LIKE YOU BELONG
If you are still reading this, you are most likely an introvert, a brilliant human being, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with you.
If you feel tense, frustrated or overwhelmed during the day, that's just your cue to step outside by yourself, or to reach out for a hug, or to ask for silence.
Look out for our future posts where we dive deeper into the introverts stealth-like super powers that nobody talks about! We'll also be taking a dive into the best jobs, environments and relationships for introverts.
If you know an introvert who would find relief and clarity from this post, please share it with them.
We are on a mission to bring as much relief and clarity to humanity as possible. Because everybody deserves to feel like they matter, like they belong, and to know that nothing is wrong with them.
Sign up for our newsletter (bottom left in the footer) if you don't want to miss future posts on similar topics!