The Introvert and the Extrovert:
“You always stay home!”

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The Introvert and the Extrovert

The terms introversion and extroversion were first coined by psychologist Carl Jung. Jung defines introversion is an inward-turning of libido away from others. The introvert relies principally on subjectivity — captivated by how and what he or she feels, senses or thinks.

In contrast, an extrovert’s inner life is subordinated to the external environment. The extrovert thrives on interacting with the outer world — different people and varied activities.

Excessive Introversion

Despite being in tune with nuanced inner perceptions, extreme introverts neglect to notice how those around them may feel and think. Even when introverts are attuned to the environment, their focus is primarily on their own internalized reactions to it.

When too little attention is paid to others, it may lead to an inability to empathize with others. Without putting oneself in other people’s shoes, it is difficult to intuit what is appropriate in a given situation. Ironically, despite the focus on internalized reactions, extreme introverts do not have a clear sense of self and awareness of their effect on others.

Extreme introversion can also lead to co-dependence in intimate relations because the introvert often becomes excessively dependent on the other person to act as an intermediary to the outside world.

Excessive Extroversion

Extroverts are generally perceived as normal in our American culture because they are comparatively adept at fitting into society, finding a job and making friends unless they become too pushy, nosy, talkative, or superficial.

Extreme extroverts exaggerate their rapport with others, adjust quickly to different people with the intention of making themselves interesting to those around them. They often lose their individuality to external enticements and demands. Sometimes this effusiveness will be compensated for by the onset of physical ailments, depression, or a feeling of emptiness within.

The tendency to be outward directed is often a symptom of a lack of introspection and awareness of the extrovert’s own subjective condition — e.g., fatigue, hunger, sadness, etc. Extroverts may unwittingly sacrifice their own physical, emotional, and psychological well-being to outward demands or distractions, as seen in workaholism, consumerism and extreme sports.

Jung points out that the extrovert’s tendency to take in more and more of the external world — excessive parties, work, food, or alcohol — can increase a feeling of inner poverty. Suppressing subjective awareness may also result in apathy or being scattered by too many interests. In extreme cases, all conscious action can become paralyzed, as for instance, by a nervous breakdown or depression.

Balance for the Introvert

Intraverts need to balance their inwardness with objectivity by increasing their awareness of and concern for the wants and desires of other people. They need to gradually engage in the world around them, rather than focus solely on their own inner responses. They may want to develop more acquaintances and friends, and engage in more communal activities.

They don’t need to become extroverts. But some ability to be engaged meaningfully in the world around them will actually deepen their inner world.

Balance for the Extrovert

Extroverts need to counterbalance extreme responsiveness to other people and external activities with inner depth. By spending some time alone and focusing inwardly, they can balance their outgoing nature with an awareness of their own inner needs, perceptions, and ideas.

Such inward reflection and solitude will add gravitas, depth and meaning to their relationships with others and their experience in the world.

Gradual Integration

While neither the introvert nor the extrovert should flip to the opposite, a gradual integration of some opposite qualities will bring wholeness to both the individual and his or her relationships. It is more effective to work on developing balance within ourselves than to force change in our partners.

Encouragement not Criticism

However, we can stop enabling the crippling effects of extreme introversion and extroversion in our partners. For instance, we can lovingly avoid acting as an intermediary for the introvert to the outside world by no longer always being the one to deal with people and make phone calls. We can show love for the extrovert without feeding the external frenzy, that is, without encouraging extreme behaviors involved in workaholism, over-consumption, and pursuing endless distractions.

We can also point out how our partner might benefit from bringing more balance to their lives. This, however, must be done with compassion, subtlety and discretion.

For instance, the introvert might compassionately say to the extrovert:

“How are you feeling? I’m worried that you are over-working and will get sick. It would make me happy if you would take care of yourself the way you take care of others.”

The extrovert might say to the introvert:

“I’m worried that you are spending too much time alone. Engaging in some activities with other people might bring you some balance. Why don’t you come with me to town tonight.”

Once we have spoken, it’s important not to control or manipulate the other person. It is self-empowering to recognize what part we play in the patterns of our relationships. Yet, this also lays on us the responsibility to stop demanding of our partners what we have to do for ourselves – gain more balance within ourselves.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read “Opposites attract: ‘Can’t you ever stop and just sit down with me!’”

Read “I’ve fallen out of love with her.”

Read “Enantiadromia: ‘It drives my partner crazy that I’m ‘too’ polite. I think he is too blunt.’”

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“You always stay home!”

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