Journeying Toward Wholeness

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Extrovert vs Introvert: How Does Each Experience Depression?

July 31st, 2017 · extrovert vs introvert

Extrovert vs introvert: of any of C.G. Jung’s concepts, these two are probably used the most, with the greatest impact.

Most of us have some understanding of extroversion and introversion. They are actually very complex concepts, but we can say that extroverts are people primarily energized by their interaction with other people, while introverts are those who are primarily energized by their time spent alone.
These are valid concepts, but they lead to a lot of unwarranted misconceptions and stereotypes. One area where this becomes brilliantly clear is in the discussion of extroversion, introversion and depression.

Isn’t Introversion the Same Thing as Depression?

No, it certainly isn’t! Yet the stereotype of introversion might lead us to think so. It’s commonly thought that introversion is the same thing as shyness. As Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: the Power of Introverts helpfully points out,

Bill Gates is quiet and bookish, but apparently unfazed by others’ opinions of him: he’s an introvert, but not shy.

Barbra Streisand has an outgoing, larger than life personality, but a paralyzing case of stage fright: she’s a shy extrovert [italics mine].

Shyness, being fearful in a social situation, gets confused with introversion, which is about being motivated to spend time alone, and perhaps motivated to seek out different types of social interaction than extroverts. Introversion is about what matters to the person, in terms of relationship to themselves and to others. Depth psychotherapists know that it is not at all the same thing as shyness, and it certainly is not the same thing as depression!

Well, Aren’t Introverts more Likely to Get Depressed Than Extroverts?

Not really. Introverts actually like being alone. This can lead to their being seen as having more depressed or negatively inclined personalities. Yet, actually, this perception stems from an extroverted culture’s assumption that introverts feel sad, depressed or enervated if they didn’t get to spend enough time with people. That’s valid for extroverts, but it’s not appropriate for us to project those same feelings on introverts.

However, introverts often do spend more time thinking and analyzing than extroverts. If they get stuck in thinking and analyzing in such a way that they perpetually ruminate on the dark side, this is a pattern that can feed depression, as research by Yale’s Susan Nolen-Hoeksema shows. But then, as we will see, there are particular characteristics of those who present as extroverts that can lead to unique pathways to depression as well.

Can Depression Ever Make Someone More Introverted?

Sometimes, people who have a hard time looking at the more reflective, introverted parts of their lives can find themselves compelled to do so when they lapse into depression.

For instance, Jungian Analyst Dr. Warren Steinberg observed that, in his practice, a great many people who experienced depressive disorders were actually living extremely extroverted lifestyles. For a significant number of these individuals, Steinberg concluded, extreme extroversion developed as a defense in childhood environments where, in his words “Behaviour other than submission to the parents’ construction of reality led to the threat of the loss of love.”

Such individuals become hyper-attuned to responding to the needs of others, and to keeping the peace. They learn to avoid introversion, or looking within, both for fear that what they may discover in the unconscious may bring depression, and also for fear that even paying attention to their inner lives may frighteningly threaten the love and acceptance that they receive from parents and others.

Individuals suffering from this type of depression actually need to learn to be more introverted. They may well need to come to terms with the fear of loss and sense of emptiness they associate with attunement to their inner selves.

extroversion-introversion

Extrovert vs. introvert: each has its own unique experience of depression. In each case, the path out of depression may well involve a greater experience of the opposite. For introverts, that may entail greater experience and connection with the outer world, while for extroverts, a greater connection with the introverted inner world may be what is needed.

In depth psychotherapy, greater personal exploration of introversion and extroversion is often a key part of the individuation process of the human individual.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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© 2017 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Connection: The Psychological Importance of Social Interaction

July 3rd, 2017 · importance of social interaction

The psychological importance of social interaction is hard to over-estimate. It’s fundamental to the creation of the individual self.

importance of social interaction

Girls with Heads Together Hugging — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

We live in an age that greatly prizes independence and individualism, the cult of the self-centered and fundamentally disconnected and isolated individual. It would be a serious mistake if we took these ideas to be the essence of what Jung meant when he used the term individuation. Jung and subsequent Jungians like Dr. Michael Fordham had a much more nuanced and complete picture than that!

Happy Interdependence Day

Americans will shortly celebrate Independence Day, as Canadians have just celebrated Canada Day. Such holidays in western democracies are often associated with celebrating individual freedom and unfettered independence. That’s valid, but in our time, it’s equally important to celebrate the web of interdependence existing between human beings, and to acknowledge that interdependence has a fundamental role in creating human individuals.

The importance of social interaction is emphasized by findings in contemporary neuroscience. To choose one example among many, the 2002 research of Prof. Tzourio-Mazoyer of Université Bordeaux has underlined the vital role of early smiling exchanges and proto-conversation with the mother in bringing online the area in the left hemisphere of the brain that will ultimately become the seat of language.

Neuroscience insights are supported from another scientific angle. Healthwise, isolation from other people is a recipe for illness. Prof. Beverly Brummett of Duke University in 2001 established a linkage between social isolation and poor survival in patients with coronary artery disease. More recent studies have established linkages between low quality or quantity of social ties and depression and anxiety, development of cardiovascular disease, repeat heart attacks, autoimmune disease, high blood pressure and cancer.

Individuation is NOT Splendid Isolation

Jungians are famous for stressing the individual as distinguished from the undifferentiated mass. This is valid, but such “individuation” doesn’t happen out of the blue, nor does it occur with individuals who are social isolates.

Famous English post-Jungian Dr. Michael Fordham postulated the existence of a “primary self”, which exists at birth, but which only develops through the process by which the infant engages and interacts socially with the outside world, most particularly the mother. Jungian James Astor tells us that only an adequate fit between mother and child enables social development to take place. This “fit” is an essential beginning to the whole further social aspect of the individuation process in the individual.

importance of social interaction

Eros as a Fundamental Creative Energy

Jung often spoke of what he called eros, the principle of psychic relatedness. To “individuate”, to move towards wholeness as a person, Jung tells us, it’s essential that we live out our eros, that we be deeply connected with other human beings. Like the best modern writers and psychotherapists, Jung was fully aware that our movement towards psychological wholeness cannot take place if we are isolated, cut off, or atomized. In the words of the prominent Jungian Adolf Guggenbuhl-Craig, eros is the attribute that makes humans loving, creative and involved.

This attribute of eros is central to the psychological importance of social interaction. To be connected, to be involved in a deeply heartfelt way with others, is basic to who and what we are as humans. It’s crucial to becoming who we most fundamentally are, on our journey towards wholeness.

The seed of our eros is planted in our earliest connections with others. For the vast majority of human beings this relates to the primary connections with the family of origin. Often, strengthening the gifts and healing the wounds of early family connections is a key part of the work of depth psychotherapy.

Contemporary depth psychotherapy fully acknowledges the psychological importance of social interaction for creating and sustaining the individuation process of the human individual.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst

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© 2017 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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