What is Introversion?


Introverts are often described as more cautious, more private, and more reflective than extroverts. Sometimes they are stereotyped as more shy and isolated. A common jungian idea is that introverts get energy by being on their own, while extroverts get energy around others. This also implies that introverts lose energy around others and that extroverts lose energy on their own. In neuroscience, there is a network called the top-down network. This network is opposed to the bottom-up network, which is used by extroverts.

Top-down processing

If introverts are top-down processors, that implies that an introvert is someone who starts off in their own world. What do I want to look for? What am I interested in? When they know this, they will look in their environment for information that relates to what they are interested in.

search-96This is a little like looking at the world through a magnifying glass, or like being on google. All you see is a search bar, your primary focus is the thing you want to search for, and everything else is filtered out. The priority for the introvert is the compass or the worldview map: What do I want to do? Where am I pointing? Who am I? What do I know?

In a conversation with an introvert, the introvert may rely more on information, logic, or values from the inside, and then find evidence around them to support it. The extrovert may focus on what they heard, saw, felt or got evidence for in their environment, and then they have an inner reaction to it.

Because of this, you could say that introverts are subjective. They focus on information around them relevant to what they are thinking about. Everything outside the introverts subjective priority is taken in unconsciously. This means outer information is still important to them. It’s absorbed and synthesized and understood unconsciously. A lot of what is said is processed later, especially when they are on their own.

As you read this, you may find yourself relating to this, even as an extrovert. We all use the top-down subjective network from time to time. So what is it that really makes a person favour this network and mode of operating?

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 Do warning receptors make you more introverted?

The explanation may be found in the mind’s warning receptors. In your mind, there are receptors that trigger when you make a mistake. Extroverts have fewer of these receptors, and introverts more of these receptors. When the warning receptors are high, our brain is telling us to use the top-down mode of processing, and to partially detach from our environment.

We become more careful, reflective, and nuanced. How introverted or extroverted you are depends on overall how many warning receptors you have. But there’s more to the story. Take the personality test below to get an estimation about if you are more introverted or extroverted.

Personality test (v2)

Introversion: Beyond outgoing or shy

Consider that when we say you are introverted or extroverted, we’re not interested in if you’re outgoing or shy. You can grow to be more outgoing or you can become more shy, it all depends on your environment and your upbringing. Sometimes introversion or extroversion may play a role in it, but it’s not the answer. The real answer rests in how you think: not in how you behave.

There are four different forms of introversion. We all have our introverted sides, areas which trigger more warning receptors, so you should take the time to identify in which aspects you are introverted, and in which you are extroverted.

Four different forms of introversion

There are four different forms of introversion. Introverts who need more time to express themselves and their inner world to others. Introverts who need more time to think and reason about the world and why they are here. And introverts who need more time to ensure that they’re right and that they know what they’re talking about. Lastly, introverts who work hard to remember and maintain their sense of identity.

“I need to know I’m making the right choice.” an introverted thinker might say. They may postpone decisions and they may take a long time to think about a decision, and they may withdraw from others to make sure they’ve got the right answer. The important priority for them is to be accurate – the desire to be right comes sometimes at the price of efficiency. There may be issues here with being improductive, and sometimes they can miss decision deadlines without realizing it. But these types are often described as intelligent, logical, and rational types.

An introverted feeler may say they need time to warm up to others. “Is the other persons intentions pure? What do they want? Can I trust them?” they may ask. The goal here is to know that you are allowed to express yourself. The desire here is to be a good and authentic person. The desire to be pure here may sometimes come at the expense of avoiding relationships and being intimate with others.

An introverted feeler may often be prone to fantasies and daydreaming and sometimes they may prefer the daydreams over reality. They may prefer to fantasize about a good relationship than to have an actual relationship, or they may get turned off when reality isn’t as pretty. But at their best, introverted feelers can be described as authentic, pure, and humane.

An introverted sensor can be described as restrained. Habit-oriented and traditional, an introverted sensor may be described as reliable, trustworthy, and watchful. The introverted sensor may think “Is it safe? Will it hold? Will it last?”. The priority here is sustainability. They want to preserve the past and good experiences for the future. If they’ve had a good experience in the past, they want to be able to live it out again, every day, making it into a tradition.

Introverted sensors cherish the good things of the past and take care to make sure there is a past for tomorrow as well. They can sometimes be described as boring or rigid, because they may fear taking risks, or they may say no to something good, because they worry it won’t last.

Introverted intuitives are at worst sometimes called aloof, obsessive and isolated. They seek original answers and insights inside their own head and hope that their own contemplation and reasoning will lead to truth and heightened awareness. This is an existential introvert. They may seek their own personal explanation of how the world works and what their purpose is.

They are often interested in the future and in predicting what will happen before it does. At their best, they are like natural mentors, able to find answers to difficult, complex issues of life: for example if there is a life after death? Why is there war and how can we create a world without war?

Integrating your introversion

Roughly these differences can be described as learning styles. You have areas where you are more cautious and careful, and the path to learning is by embracing and trusting that process and finding ways to integrate it with the rest of your needs. For example, an introverted intuitive may need integration with extroverted intuition to unlock higher awareness. And an introverted sensor may  need extroverted sensing to find a higher state of pleasure and bliss.