I definitely prefer the “Culture of Character” to the “Culture of Personality” as expressed in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. And, according to scientist Jerome Kagan, twentieth century developmental psychologist, I believe I’d consider myself to fall into either the category of “high reactive (20%)” or the middle category of “between high or low reactive (40%).” I was a quiet teenager with a serious, careful personality who loved ideas and hated injustice. I lived in books, reading voraciously. When I’m reading or listening to a good story, that story often plays inside my head like a movie.
Carl Jung’s descriptions of introversion and extroversion match Kagan’s finding for a high proportion of his adolescents. In addition, the psychology of temperament and personality apply. Susan Cain states, “Temperament refers to inborn, biologically based behavioral and emotional patterns that are observable in infancy and early childhood; personality is the complex brew that emerges after cultural influence and personal experience are thrown into the mix. Some say that temperament is the foundation, and personality is the building.”
I would easily fit the broad definition that Cain uses for introversion. And my life has definitely been easier since I built an extrovert persona for work and socializing. I’ve learned to turn my experiences into stories, condensed and emphasized for impact. Dating wasn’t easy following my divorce, but I now have a few really good stories and nobody needs to know how nerve-wracking it was or the extent of my adjustment and mistakes. Too much knowledge gives other people too much power … which can be used in unexpected ways, good or bad.
My family didn’t try to change me much. I had a series of friendships beginning in grade school that consisted of one or two in my inner circle and a few of their friends in my outer circle. I read and made art and thought and explored nature and bonded with animals. I was QUIET. I enjoyed solitude. For me, this book and its ideas were timely. I can’t make myself care about the trivia of daily living much, but I certainly care about ideas and ideals like equity and justice. I can’t say I’ve always felt like I fit in with others, but I’ve managed to find jobs that fit fairly well and a few people who appreciated me or aspects of me. I think I’ve done okay being quiet in a loud world.