Slices of Life...Living quiet in a noisy world

I am an inside-my-head type of person. I often have complete and satisfying conversations involving just me, myself and I. My inner monologues can be captivating. (Oh yes they can.)...

I am an inside-my-head type of person. I often have complete and satisfying conversations involving just me, myself and I. My inner monologues can be captivating. (Oh yes they can.)

It’s not a case of me being the most interesting person I know. Far from it. It’s more about how I process the universe. I have to mull things over in my head like a hundred times. Talk amongst myself. Then they start to make sense. Sort of.

Some would say this makes me an introvert, and I guess they’d be correct.

Trouble is, I live with mostly extroverts. (I suspect one child inherited the introvert gene from me, but he’ll be OK.) The rest of my family likes to surround themselves with music, TVs (note plural), Netflix, Snapchat, Reddit, live feeds and video streams 24/7. For my sensory junkies all this stimulation creates entertainment, news and communication. For me it creates distraction.

And we haven’t even touched on face-to-face verbal communication. When they speak to me, they expect me to listen (rightly so, I suppose). But if I’m having an inside my head moment, I may not hear them at all. “What? Could you say that again? I was thinking about something.”


I used to believe this was pretty pathetic - the fact that I had a tendency to tune out my own kids and husband. But I did a little research on the “I” word and discovered I may be an introvert, but I’m not the only one.

Researchers estimate that between 25 to 50 percent of people are introverts. That means there are others out there - like me - ignoring their kids while they have full-fledged debates inside their own brains. It’s comforting to know I am not alone (even though I’d probably rather be). At least that’s what I tell myself.

Psychologist Carl Jung popularized the concept of introvert nearly 100 years ago. An introvert is more aware of her inner world, while an extrovert gains awareness and energy from the surrounding environment. There is scientific evidence to back Jung’s theories. Brain scans show that introverts process information differently than extroverts. We talk to ourselves. Extroverts talk to each other.

But it’s not simply an either/or issue; most people are a combination of the two - me included. Shades of gray (matter).

Being an introvert is not what most people might think. Despite the need to be by ourselves occasionally, introverts are not antisocial. We like people. I love people, especially the extroverts who live with me. There are just instances when “Mama needs a little alone time” (to listen to the voices inside her head).

Extroverts thrive on high levels of external stimulation. I do not, which explains why I hardly ever touch the remote control - unless it is to turn off the TV. Extroverts love parties, crowds, small talk and working the room. This summer, my family had the opportunity to march in a couple of parades. My husband, the extrovert, waved and smiled and talked to people. Lots of people. I walked the route, feeling as comfortable as an introvert in a parade.

It’s not all bad. Introverts and extroverts compliment each other - which might explain why so many marriages are made up of one of each. Opposites attract.

And while introverts might be perceived as shy or withdrawn or standoffish, we are also known as thoughtful and introspective. We pay attention to detail, are good at reading other people and are perhaps less likely than extroverts to put our foot in our mouth. (Although I can’t personally vouch for that one, unfortunately.)


So the next time you’re streaming video, talking on the phone while chatting with three friends and you glance across the room and notice someone sitting alone, looking content, deep in thought, without a smart device in sight, realize you might be experiencing a rare sighting of the elusive introvert - a person living a quiet life in a noisy world.


Cloquet writer Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright and author. You can read more and follow her column on the Slices of Life page on Facebo

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