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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Introverts - Part 2

Those who keep track of such things tell us introverts make up something between forty and fifty percent of the population. Fifty percent seems the more logical estimate, forty percent the more apparent one. We tend not to notice introverts. Needless to say none of us are one hundred percent of either. America is said to be extrovert nation. Sweden, a land of introverts, although I really have not noticed that since my arrival. Only thing that comes to mind is, locals don’t say Hi, to strangers. If you venture a Hi, (hey-hey, here in Sweden) to stranger in passing, they will ignore you. Outside of that, people here seem about the same as in the States.

What do these two terms really mean? Carl Jung’s book, Psychological Types ( 1921) was the first to describe Introvert and Extrovert as the building blocks of personality. He defined introverts as being drawn to the inner world of thoughts and feeling, and extroverts to external events, the world of people and activities. Personality psychologists are still arguing over his definition. Some say it’s outdated, others think Jung got it right. All agree introverts do best with less simulation and extroverts with more.  Extroverts find large groups and new people exciting. They enjoy cranking up the stereo. As a ninety proof introvert I found my fourteen years as an inner city high school teacher the most stressful time of my life. 
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So when did this all come about? Susan Cain has provides some answers in her book, Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. She takes us back to the turn of the twentieth century and Dale Carnegie. Some of you my age may remember the name, and his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People.
America was shifting from a culture of character to a culture of personality (Warren Susman). The word, personality, did not exist in English until the eighteenth century. The very idea of having a good personality was not common until the twentieth century. Americans started to think about having a good personality and became captivated by people who were bold and entertaining. “Every American was to become a performing self.” (Susman)
The Extrovert Ideal

Perhaps it was Carnegie who got us started on the road to a cultural evolution that changed who we were, and who we admired. Americans began to worry about how others perceived them. A Pandora’s box of new anxieties was opened. Susman lists a group of words used as character goals for the nineteenth century and compares them with those of the twentieth.

Nineteenth Century

Golden deeds

Twentieth Century

The 20th century goals are more difficult to obtain if you aren’t born with them.

In the middle twenties we began idolizing movie stars. Who better to exemplify twentieth century goals? We elected one president, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California. Clint Eastwood was sheriff of Carmel, CA 1986 to ’88.    Amazing!

More to follow.
Next -The Dating Game

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