A friend pointed me to Jonathon Rauch’s article, “Caring for Your Introvert.”
I sighed a heartfelt Amen! One additional thought on being an introvert:
Career counseling books often suggest that introverts make good therapists and counselors because we enjoy substantive, one-to-one conversations. In my experience, this was not the case. As Rauch describes, I absolutely need time alone to think (worth noting, writing is a form of engaged thinking for me, to an even greater degree than it is a form of communicating.) I can give a presentation without anxiety. There is nothing I love more than an opportunity to share ideas with an interesting person, friend or stranger. Counseling didn’t quite fit the bill.
In some ways, working as a counselor felt like engaging in small talk. The job involved taking in the raw content of someone else’s head and helping that person piece it together. My impulse for helping people who are working something out isn’t to listen to them or talk to them — or even to write to them. It’s to hand them something to read, that is, provide them with some refined thoughts they can use to process their raw ones! I benefitted from therapy myself — largely thanks to one therapist who assigned me reading materials (usually theoretical and academic essays on the issues I was struggling with) and another who gave me inquiries that I could go home and process by myself. The latter therapist even let me hand her pages of writing, the contents of which she would read and work into our discussions.
Psychotherapy today, I think, is an extrovert’s game; the conventions are firmly based on the cultural expectation that “talking things out” is the healthy, normal approach.