Sadness of the Introvert

The client of a psychotherapist wants to change from being an introvert to become an extravert. She feels left out of lively conversation and wants help remaking her personality. Can someone really change personality at will?

Probably not.  Temperament appears to be an inherent part of who we are. We can overcome shyness (which is a kind of fear) and learn conversational skills as well as growing into ourselves over time. But our basic nature is unlikely to change very much.

Looking more deeply, the emotional source of this woman’s desire to remake herself is sadness. She feels sad that she can’t think of clever things to say in conversation. She feels lonely as she sits silently when others seem to be having a better time.  She concludes that the source of her sadness is the introverted nature of her personality  and hires a therapist to help her change.

The key here is the decision that introversion is the problem and that extraversion  the solution. This woman can surely point to other introverted people she knows who lead perfectly satisfactory lives even without the engaging nature she longs for.

Sadness is a legitimate and universal emotion. If I were this woman’s therapist, I would address the sadness head on. It’s okay to feel sad, even very sad sometimes. Everyone does. By honoring that feeling we honor ourselves. Once we can accepting ourselves as we are, we have a foundation on which to grow in the direction of our choice.

This woman would be better served in thinking about how the personality she has can work in the world than in trying to change herself. How can an introvert like me arrange my life so that it works better socially? Whose model can I copy? What advice would I give to someone else in my situation?

We all endure sadness. By honoring the feeling when it arises, we are able to pass through the pain of it and move forward to begin to create the life we want.

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