People are social animals – we rely on each other for survival, romance, friendship, entertainment. We cling to our parents, develop non-familial bonds with others, and fall in love. It’s through cooperation that we form tribes, build and break civilizations, and advance.
But the way we interact with each other is different on an individual level. Some people love to gain new connections, meet new people, bring people together, and love the feeling of a crowd. Others prefer to resign themselves to the comfort of being with a few close friends and are harder to get to truly know. They prefer quiet corners and simple nights.
These are the opposites on the spectrum of extroversion and introversion, a personality distinction first truly explored by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. Like most Jungian-derived concepts, today’s definition and understanding of extroversion and introversion aren’t totally reflective of what he meant, but the basis is the same – people exhibit different tendencies and personality traits that can be classified as extroverted, or introverted. Over time, we’ve come to better understand exactly what that means.
What Is Introversion?
Estimates for introversion are all over the Internet, but there are few reliable sources to pinpoint exactly how many people have introverted tendencies. Some researchers claim it’s an even split, with about half of all people leaning towards extroversion, and the other half towards introversion. Others claim that introversion is rarer.
Whichever it is, more modern thinking suggests that trying to classify people as introverted or extroverted is a little misguided – it’s more apt to say that behavior is clearly introverted or clearly extroverted and that people can exhibit a lot of both.
Introversion isn’t shyness, and neither does it refer to social anxiety. It’s possible that people with shy characteristics and/or social anxiety may be naturally introverted, but that doesn’t mean introversion causes or is directly linked to anxious thoughts and behavior.
Shyness is a clear discomfort with social interaction, due to ineptitude. Stronger forms of shyness dip into anxiety, where discomfort and awkwardness turn to fear and worry. Introversion, on the other hand, is simply a behavioral preference and doesn’t necessarily have to do with being awkward or incapable of mimicking extroverted behavior.
There are ways to test personality that take introversion into account, although most of these tests have debated validity and accuracy. The most common ones include:
- The Big Five Model
- The Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory
- The 16 Personality Factors
- The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
When you’re described as an introvert, it doesn’t mean that you behave almost solely in introverted terms. It simply means that most your social behavior is introverted, especially in relevance to the current context: group therapy.
Group therapy is an obviously social activity and a difficult one for quite a few introverted personalities. If you’re a very private person, then the idea of sharing your thoughts with others – or even indulging in their experiences – is discomforting. Clearly, addiction recovery can be discomforting – but it shouldn’t be a negative experience. If you’ve overcome the initial awkwardness of group therapy and still can’t get into it, then there are a few things you can do.
Making It Work for You!
The goal for anyone going to group therapy for their addiction is simple: you want to get better. And if you’re struggling with feeling comfortable in your group therapy setting, then the best course of action is to talk to the therapist or manager and make your request. There’s nothing wrong with not sharing anything you aren’t comfortable with in a group setting, and therapists know to respect the boundaries of their individual patients.
Of course, they aren’t mind-readers, either. In a group setting, therapists must cater to the group first, and the individual next – by sorting things out and discussing your therapeutic preferences, you can make group therapy a more permanent addition to your treatment path. Try this the next time you’re up for group therapy:
- Talk to your therapist. A therapist’s job is to cater to their patients, and as one of them, discussing your issues with the therapy might help your therapist either better adjust their approach or refer you to something more helpful.
- Listen to other people’s experiences. It can be hard for some introverts to listen in on what they consider other people’s private matters. But given time, you might find yourself getting closer to the people you’re in therapy with, building important bonds.
- Opt out of group therapy in favor for other group activities. Group activities are a wonderful way to beat addiction and work on long-term sobriety – they allow for reflection, support, motivation, and the sharing of mutual experiences to better contextualize and understand your own mind and the nature of your addiction. However, if therapy isn’t for you, then something else – like a sport or a book club – might better suit you.
In time, you might feel the urge to share something. To talk about how you feel, to reveal what your experiences have taught you. Opening in group therapy isn’t just about helping others through your own words and thoughts, but it’s about chewing through your experiences and reliving – and reflecting – on how you’re changing during recovery. Addiction is a harsh beast, and overcoming it requires a lot of personal growth – acknowledging and exploring that growth in a group setting can solidify it and give you a much better self-awareness. It can also help you be a lot more honest and open with yourself, and help you shoot down negative thoughts and focus on the realistic, more positive thoughts that the road to recovery can produce.
Of course, not everyone has to go to group therapy or rely on it as a form of reflection. If you’re adamantly private, then going to therapy on your own or even finding reflection in meditation, mindfulness exercises, creative endeavors like painting and writing or physical activities like yoga may be more ideal.
It’s important to be able to think back and think over what you’re feeling. But how you choose to do that is entirely up to you – and it’s perfectly fine not to share your thoughts if you feel they’re no one else’s business.