April 8, 2017

Introverts: Born Or Grown?

In the past few years introverts have been getting a plethora of wonderful research and press.  Many articles coming out have helped people struggling to understand, normalize and be proud of how they are.  It has taken a lot of pressure off of people to act and be like others. But do we really know if introverts are born that way or if their lives create their personality?

When I’m working with clients and try to assess what kinds of issues they are struggling with, one of the things I look for is how much of what is going on in their personality and lives is how they were born and how much is in reaction to their experiences in their family and community.

If a child experiences trauma to their self-esteem by being told they are not valuable or are more valuable than others, this can create a timidity about being seen or heard.  Often this is seen fairly early in life as children approach school age and try to build relationships and social skills with friends and schoolmates.  Because it happens so early it looks like they may have been born with it. As they go through life they may develop more and more social anxiety and self consciousness as they have new experiences which feel like failures.

But if this child also experiences enmeshment abuse or physical abuse or emotional abuse can develop a fear of being seen and heard.  They may have figured out that it was better to hide inside of themselves than to risk being the target of someone’s neediness, criticism or drunken rage.

Whether it is something you are born with or developed, the help looks pretty much the same.  By the time most people come in seeking help, these things have become part of their personality and lives have been built around it.   As adults we have to decide what parts of our behaviors we want to keep and which we want to change.  If how we present ourselves in the world and in relationships isn’t working for us, whether it is nature or nurture, we can choose to make some changes in order to live happier lives.  We can make significant changes and we can also decide to love ourselves as we are.  While we may be limited, in some ways, of what we can or cannot change, I have seen people make remarkable changes in self-esteem, boundaries, becoming more authentic, getting their needs met and moving from living life in extremes to being more moderate.  All of this adds up to a happier self and healthier relationships with others.