In a previous article I used the illustration of a family living next door. In it are two little girls – one being neglected (introvert) and the other (extrovert) getting all the attention. We asked what effect that neglect would have on the way the child felt about herself. Clearly there would be massive self-worth issues and all the potential for developing sophisticated defensive techniques. We suggested that this is what many of us have done to our introvert. We simply didn’t know it was there, or if we did, we had no idea what to do with it. That neglect has had an effect. It has coloured the way we feel about ourselves. It can produce a multitude of issues. Now we need to ask how those effects can be remedied.
At the risk of stating the obvious, we must recognise that there is a problem. We can become so settled in a particular way of operating that we instinctively feel it is easier to keep the status quo rather than taking the risk of ‘delving into the unknown.’ It is infinitely better to meet and get to know our introvert now in relative calm rather than waiting until the pressures of life weaken our ability to keep our introvert in check. If we wait we may find ourselves battling with those pressures plus years of residual emotions - at the same time. That is not easy.
We need to treat the two (or three) temperaments that we have as very distinct people in their own right. It is the only way we will take them seriously - especially the introvert. Failure to do that leads to a vague awareness that there is another set of feelings somewhere in the background of our consciousness rather than someone with their own complete set of thoughts and feelings. It is as definite as being introduced to someone and then taking time with them to get to really know them. And this is the key to beginning to value yourself. Just as talking to your friend and wanting to be with him gives value so you need to treat your introvert with the same care, respect and understanding.
How do you do this? Stand back from yourself. You will start to pick up the difference between the emotions of the extrovert and introvert. There is a naturally deeper feel to those of the introvert. It is like another voice coming through. You will begin to understand the patterns of the years that have kept the introvert in captivity. Teach your extrovert to be polite and stand back and let the introvert speak. Create space for him, put weight on what he feels, engage him in conversation and listen to his advice. Don’t allow the extrovert to snatch the reins back, instead allow the introvert to influence your decisions.
You don’t have to do this on your own. You are on a journey. As you walk along imagine your temperaments (two or three) as individuals walking with you – and the Lord walking with you. Sometimes it will just be the Lord and at other times people who love the Lord will also be walking with you. Let the conversation happen and let the Lord be the ultimate arbiter of what is good and wise – after all, he is the ‘Wonderful Counsellor’ (Isaiah 9:6). He will give proper weight to the thoughts and feelings that need to be acknowledged and he will give you the wisdom to know what to do with what you think and feel. He is committed to helping you live in the fullness of who you are.