THE BLOG
05/12/2010 05:28 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Solitude for Extroverts: Medicine for the Weary Soul

This is for and about extroverts, those who love them, live with them or otherwise have to deal with them ...

It's a funny thing about extroverts: we give the impression that we love to be surrounded by people and activities all the time. We're generally viewed as the "life of the party" people, the ones with our fingers always on the pulse of what's new, hip, happening and what's next.

But here's a little "secret" about us: it's not that we love to be surrounded at all times, it's that we need to be. And herein, lies the problem.

We'd really like to unplug from it all, but we're addicted to the "high" that comes from being at the center of the universe. The problem is, what goes up always comes down. And like Icarus, attracted like a moth to the flame, we often can't stop ourselves in time to prevent a crash landing.

Extrovert types, according to the Meyers-Briggs Temperament Indicator (MBTI), are wired in such a way that they gain energy from the external world through their connections to people and group activities. Introverts, on the other hand, are wired to turn inward to be replenished. They naturally seek out the company of their own thoughts and require regular periods of silence and stillness in order to be restored.

But extroverts, have you ever reached the point where you simply have to have time and space to yourself or you feel like you'll suffocate and die? Or have you ever found yourself already having crash landed and wondering how you got there? Pay attention. Your body is trying to tell you something.

Here's one of the biggest challenge extroverts face: not only do we want to march in the parade, we want to lead it! We can't help ourselves. We're compelled to lead whatever parade we're marching in, whether it's cheering for the high school football team, leading a troop of Girl Scouts, the church choir, or the free world, we've got to be out in front.

Given our particular and sometimes peculiar configuration, we're so busy being out in front, we don't realize when we've crossed the line. We miss the signals coming from our bodies and inner guidance systems, telling us it's time to pull back and chill out. We understand the concept of "heat", as in all that friction generated by all that activity. "Chilling out" does not compute.

We just keep on going right over the top of the headache, insomnia, pain in the back, neck and shoulders. We don't even notice when the weariness sets in. We think it means it's time to push a little bit harder. It never occurs to us to pull back, slow down, unplug, let our batteries recharge.

And solitude? As in "down" time, alone time, nobody in your space time, no internet, telephone, TV, or even bury yourself in a good book time? It doesn't even occur to us to give ourselves complete solitude.

That is, not until it's too late. Not until we've crossed some inner line and then, stand back! We cannot breathe another breath until we're alone. As in, everybody better evacuate the premises immediately kind of alone.

Last Saturday, the day before Mother's Day, I crossed that line, the one that demanded me to clear the decks, unplug everything, disconnect from it all and chill. I needed time to turn the switch to the "off" position, and do absolutely nothing. I needed time to re-connect with me.

So that's exactly what I did. That is, after the grandpuppy had been picked up, after I swept and washed the kitchen floor, after I cleaned two bathrooms, did two loads of laundry, vacuumed the carpets and dust mopped the wood floors. After all that, I took up residency on the living room sofa and spent the next eight hours staring out the living room window, just hanging out with me. The line had been crossed.

While hanging out with me, the question arose: What is all this activity about? What is all this going, doing, leading, directing, and managing about? Is all that a distraction so I don't have to be with me? Is my own company not enough?

At the core of most extroverts is someone who is not certain that who they are is OK, just the way they are, without having to look good and be charming. OK, I know we all suffer from some version of this syndrome, but some of us have it in spades. Raise your hand if you can relate.

In some way, we all fear we're undeserving and inauthentic, pretending to be someone we're not. Convinced we'll be found out, we think if we show up as who we are, warts and all, we'll be cast into No Man's Land for the rest of our lives, sentenced to be forever alone and irrelevant!

For extroverts, we'd almost rather be dead than feel alone and irrelevant. This is why we're so driven to be at the center of things. Nobody would think to look for insecurity in the ones who appear to be running the show. So much for appearances.

It's not only a question of being insecure, it's also a question of not trusting that we deserve to be received and supported by life. We tell ourselves it's better not to trust than be disappointed when we fall and no one is there to catch us.

It's an interesting strategy: one that works a great deal of the time, has us be very productive and receive a lot of accolades for all that we do. But it's also a formula for loneliness. Not the kind of loneliness we feel when no one is around, but a deeper longing to come home to ourselves, our own spirit, our own soul.

Ironically, the very thing we run from is our savior. Solitude, silence and stillness are the antidotes to our excess of extroversion and all that running away from ourselves and well, life in general.

Solitude Welcomes Non-Extroverts Too

And by the way, if you're reading this and you don't consider yourself an extrovert type, but if the shoe fits, please take this to heart as your own. There will be no passport check at the border. Anyone seeking solitude is admitted. Solitude is such an infinite space, there's room enough for all 7 billion of us at the same time.

Think about it! How amazing is it that every single person on the planet could seek and find their own space of solitude and there's still room left over for all the newcomers joining the planet every moment. That's because it's really an "inside job".

Promise to give yourself at least 30 minutes of silence and solitude every day. Knowing that for some of us, it's extremely challenging to take time just for ourselves, get creative. Find a way. It really is a matter of prime importance that you do so before you become another statistic.

Once you've created a space for being with yourself, try out the following:

1. Lie back, put your feet up, look out the window or just close your eyes and relax.
2. Let go of your thoughts. You don't need to manage or control them.
3. Loosen your attachment to being in charge. The world will go on without you.
4. Trust the silence that greets you in this place of no-thought, no-thing.
5. Take a deep breath and relax into the silence. Keep going deeper into it.
6. Let yourself be received here. Notice how good this feels. Linger indefinitely.

This moment of solitude is what your spirit is longing for. And here's the best part, you are being received into the universe that is already within you. Be received into you, the deep, wise you that waits in the silence, waits in the stillness, waits for you to come home to yourself.

My dose of solitude last Saturday was just what my soul ordered. On Mother's Day, I was ready to engage with my family, and even hosted Mother's Day brunch, lovingly prepared by my son-in-law, with assistance from my two, wonderful daughters. I let them do all the work. And when all was said and done, after they left and the house was quiet again, I went right back to my horizontal reverie on the sofa. Another dose of solitude, please.......

Want more tips for nurturing your soul? Come pay a visit to my personal website and blog at Rx For The Soul.

Be sure to check out my new group tele-coaching Life Fitness Boot Camp (Don't be intimidated by the name. Creating a balanced life could be one of your goals). Our first session begins on May 18th, and continues for 4 consecutive Tues. evenings. Learn more here.

What's your relationship with silence and solitude? What works for you? You don't have to be an extrovert to leave a comment below or Become A Fan or contact me personally at judith@judithrich.com.

I look forward to seeing you on the path, maybe even at camp next week!

Blessings,
Judith

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