Archive | February, 2012

Extrovert or Introvert?

26 Feb

Most of my readers will say, “An extrovert is loud and talktive, and an introvert is quiet and reserved,” and they will be right to some extent. However, you may want to understand a little more about each of these aspects of personality type.

First of all, it may interest you to know that both terms come to us from the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator via the work of C.G. Jung, the eminent Swiss psychologist of the early 20th century. Jung called this aspect of personality type a person’s “attitude toward the world.” More practically, the Extrovert-Introvert category tells us where a person’s psychological energy comes from.

Thus an Extrovert gets his or her energy from everything outside himself — things, events, other people. In the office or at home, being with another person usually sparks an Extrovert’s energy to speak up and have a lively interchange. Extroverts like to talk and often talk as a way of processing their thoughts and feelings. When you listen to an Extrovert talking about some project s/he has in mind, do not automatically conclude that the Extrovert will do exactly as s/he has suggested. This is just the Extrovert’s way of running ideas past others. Extroverts like to talk and generally do well at attracting an audience. In the United States, Extroverts make up 75% of the population.

Introverts, on the other hand, get their energy from their own internal world — ideas, feelings, “hunches,” and self-reflection. When one asks an Introvert a question, there is a characteristic pause for reflection before one hears a reply.  Because Introverts get their energy from inside themselves, they are usually more independently minded than Extroverts.  They are commonly thought of as “shy,” but in fact the better term would be to say that they are reflective.

There are all degrees of Extroversion and Introversion. Some individuals highly prefer one attitude over the other. Then again, others have only a slight preference for E or I and can easily be extroverted in one situation and introverted in another.

To illustrate the two preferences using a real-life situation, I share the vignette of an Introvert and an Extrovert being invited to a party. Let’s say they are partners or even married to each other. As their therapist, I suggest that they go in separate cars, because this is the way it plays out. The party may begin at 8 PM. As each arrives he or she greets the hostess and begins to settle in. The Introvert usually finds a small group of one to three other persons and enjoys sharing within this group. An extreme Introvert may find him/herself spending the evening with just one other person.

However, as 10 o’clock approaches, the Introvert finds him/herself being drained of energy. At a pre-arranged signal, the Introvert lets the Extrovert know that s/he is going home and thanks the hostess. Once at home, the Introvert puts his/her feet up and reflects on the events of the day. Soon she finds herself happily relaxing and falling off to sleep.

Meanwhile the Extrovert is continuing to enjoy him/herself and is gathering an ever larger audience, sharing anecdotes from his life and “war stories.” After the Introvert has left, he continues entertaining his audience to his own delight as well. In fact, he finds that his energy is continuing to increase. However, before he knows it, the clock is striking midnight and people are beginning to drift off. Finally he realizes that the party is winding down, thanks the hostess and drives home. However, he is ever ready to talk some more with his partner, whom he is surprised to find sound asleep!

Which portrait fits you better  — the more popular Extrovert who claims 75% of the U.S. population — or the more reflective Introvert, who represents a mere 25% of American citizens?

A Little about Bullying

14 Feb

Bullying is a topic that has recently become quite newsworthy, as youngsters report horrific tales of being emotionally shunned, verbally abused, or even physically beaten, largely because they are different from the majority of students. It is sad to think that until recently this behavior had gone totally unrecognized in our school system. Now the first steps are being taken to look at a pattern of behavior which has caused so much harm to so many young people.

However, bullying is by no means confined to grade school, high school, or college. It is alive and well in the workplace. Even in social gatherings you may come across a person of this ilk.

What does a bully look like? Well, don’t expect to identify him or her by any physical characteristics. A bully can come in any shape and be of any age. The key behaviors that identify a bully are

  • S/he belittles others. This may be in terms of their education, their work performance, their mode of dress or any other factor. Sometimes the bully will not do so directly but spread a rumor that eventually gets back to the victim.
  • The bully usually gets into some position of power, whether that be at work, at home, or in some civic organization, for example. In this setting, the bully can control how things are done and can utilize his/her manipulative tactics to turn people against one another.
  • The bully feels entitled to put others down because of his/her superior education, social standing, political power, or whatever makes up the cornerstone of the bully’s self-beliefs.
  • The bully works tirelessly to create disharmonyand mistrust among those beneath him/her. This is done either by outright lying or by “tweaking” the truth. Make no mistake, these half truths are lies — and sometimes more dangerous to society than an outright and obvious lie!
  • The bully wants to “look good ” in whatever setting s/he finds himself. To the neighbors a family with a bully looks picture perfect. To outsiders the bully in a workplace setting looks like a boss with the company’s best interest at heart.

Many people wonder why bullies engage in such convoluted and complex behaviors, reinventing the truth only from their own perspective. Although the bully looks like the one in power — and that may be technically true — this person is definitely not EMPOWERED. The following list of characteristics of bullies is not meant to create empathy for bullies’ behaviors or for readers to feel sorry for such individuals. In fact, that would not be therapeutic treatment for them. However, a deeper look into their psychology might help make sense of their behavior.

  1. The bully actually is a very frightened individual. S/he perceived him/herself as powerless as a young child. Whether that was because of a small stature, because of a perceived lack of power in a dysfunctional family — whatever the cause — the bully is trying to make up for this terrible feeling of being out of control by taking control of his/her outer environment, usually to the detriment of others in his/her world.
  2. The bully uses lies to control other people and get an ever greater sense of control in his/her life. Of course, this perceived sense of control will never be enough.
  3. The bully thinks only of his/her own needs. This is technically what we would call narcissism. This person does not recognize the needs of others as valid or worthy of being fulfilled.
  4. The bully ends by believing his or her own lies. This individual has told so many lies about a particular situation, that s/he may get the versions mixed up and thus trip herself up. It may also be the case that a bully’s self-talk is so persistent and ongoing in her own mind that it actually becomes “truth” for that person.

An excellent resource for examining the bully’s behavior in greater depth is M. Scott Peck’s book, “People of the Lie.” Although written around 30 years ago, the book consists of compelling case studies of narcissistic behavior in “normal” families, in which “looking good” is the most important factor as the family interfaces with the community.

Survey: “Coming of Age: Lives of American Women, Ages 50 – 70+”

6 Feb

Jean Eva is working on a new project, which will examine the current lives of women in this age group. She will study women’s responses to the above-cited questionnaire in terms of their current life situation and how they got there. The result will be a psychological study of challenges older women have faced and how they have dealt with these issues.

Jean Eva would love to have your input. You may do so by downloading the long form of the survey on her website and then mailing the completed form to her (directions on the page “Survey: Coming of Age” on Jean Eva’s website, You may also take the short form of the survey which is available online for the next month at

<a href=””> Click here to take survey.

Thank you so much for your input. I think you will derive benefit from reflecting on your answers to the questions!