I’d like to talk about extroverts and introverts and my theory that they are both results of experiencing head trash. And actually, we are all destined to be ambiverts, which is the term given for people who are a bit of both, and that those that are stuck at either end, either extreme extroverts, if that’s such a thing, or even introverts that
simply just experiencing head trash that makes them want to spend time at that end.

The presence of opposites in this way, and the way that we might like to live at one end of a pair of opposites, is a symptom of head trash. And it’s something that I see a lot in the work that I do. So let me just give you an example.

A lot of people have they value freedom, and so they work very, very hard to get freedom there. Like they may be they want to set up their own business, they want a lifestyle business because it affords them freedom. They maybe like to travel places because they don’t want to have be stuck in one place. They want the freedom. So they have these pursuits that are in play in their life because they’re seeking freedom. But in doing so, maybe they’re trapped; they’re trapped in this cycle of seeking freedom. And so there are these interesting opposites are at play. And I see the freedom-trapped thing affecting so many people. When we are able to clear the excess emotional energy around both ends of that spectrum, we can then allow both opposites to exist side by side – to coexist – which then enables us to dabble in both. There are moments where we want to feel free, we want to have the freedom. But there are other times where you might actually be trapped. Let’s say in your job. We need to be at our desk from nine to five and so you could say that you’re trapped at your desk, but that’s not a very helpful way to be. Maybe you can actually be at your desk and feel free because you know that by doing your work, it gives you the money to give you the freedom and the choice to make choices in your life. And so it changes how you feel about what you’re doing.

It’s not the actual situation that you’re in. It’s how you feel about the situation that you’re in. It’s how you’re responding to the situation that you’re in.

I’ve been working with somebody recently who has an enormous amount of freedom in her life, her husband has a very, very good job, so she doesn’t need to work. So she doesn’t have the financial restrictions that are forcing her to do a job. He’s given her the choice to be able to say, “Hey, you know, do whatever you want, I’ll support you.” And so those people who have to do a job and earn money would look at that and think “Wow, look at all that freedom!”. You know, she doesn’t have children so those with kids might go “Wow! oh, my goodness, look at all that freedom you have!” And yet she feels incredibly trapped in her life.

What’s interesting about that is that there isn’t a situation that’s fixed that we can look at and go “Yep, that means that you’re trapped!” or “Yep, that means that you have freedom.”

You have people that have been trapped physically in prisons, and yet they can talk about how that hasn’t made them feel trapped or they they feel like they’ve got freedom of the mind they can explore the mind and and incredible things have been achieved in the mind. For people that have been stuck in prison – we read about Viktor Frankl and Mandela  – and about where they got to in their mind, yet they weren’t able to physically go anywhere. So these ideas of freedom and trapped are really just concepts and it’s how we respond to these concepts.

Anyway, I veer from the point that I wanted to make in that I think the idea of extraversion and introversion are basically the same things at play. And the reason that I, again, there was somebody else I was working with, she described herself as an introvert. As she was telling me this she was saying that whenever she goes out and sees people she finds it incredibly draining and very, very exhausting. And this is what you hear when you hear people say that they’re into it. In fact, this is the definition of introvert introverts and extroverts.

Introverts say that they find being among others being very, very draining. They drain their energy they need to go home to recuperate, to recharge, to recharge the batteries, because people being around people is simply too energetically draining. Yet the extroverts find that being on their own is draining, and they need other people to feel like they’re energised. So they get they get drawn to social situations, they’re always out. They always want to be the life and soul of the party, because they are they get energy from that. Whereas the introverts are avoiding all that.

Now, just going back to this lady that kind of that I was working with. She’s saying that she’s got a reasonable level of anxiety going on in her life. And the reason that she feels that she’s got this anxiety is because other people annoy the hell out of her. So she gets incredibly drained from just being around other people that she just finds irritating and annoying. So whatever they might do, it just completely annoys her. It doesn’t matter what those things are.

The fact is that when she’s in a social situation, she gets drained emotionally because everybody around her is triggering her. They’re pushing her buttons. They’re bringing an emotional reaction forth within her that is draining. And so obviously she retreats home because home she’s not getting those triggers. She’s not being drained by these people pushing her buttons.

Would she be drained in the same way if she wasn’t getting her buttons pushed?

We all know that being in an emotional situation  – if you come out of watching a really good film that’s had you in tears –  it can feel quite exhausting. A heightened emotional experience, whether it’s positive or negative, can be draining. It can feel like you’ve been through the mill a bit. So it’s understandable that if you’re in a situation where you’re being triggered, or maybe you’ve got level of anxiety when you’re around people. You’re worried about what you’re going to say. You’re worried about how people are going to perceive you. You’re worried about being judged. So you’ve constantly got these worries and anxieties that at the forefront of your mind. You’re feeling shy, you don’t want to introduce yourself. So you’re comfortable space in your home, where you don’t have to face up to some of these fears that you have. And that’s completely understandable. And a lot of people experience that.

I think if you can work on reducing some of these fears, and these anxieties that come from social situations, then social situations just won’t be as draining.

Now, let’s look at the other end for a minute. Let’s just kind of play with this and see where we go this. Let’s go to the other end and look at the people that are extrovert.

Why are they being so extrovert?

Maybe they’re out there socialising every night of the week, meeting friends, doing things, having people around them all the time, because they don’t want to be on their own. Because sitting on their own is something that they really struggle with. They struggle with being with themselves. They struggle with, maybe the thoughts are having in their head. Maybe it feels a little bit too chaotic in their head and they just need distractions all the time. They prefer to be focusing on a conversation with somebody with a glass of wine in their hand or being being distracted by connecting with others. And because they’ve got a reasonable level of confidence, then they’re comfortable being in that social situation because they, they find it easy to engage with people, they find it easy to strike up a conversation. They find it easy to make social, like everyday chit-chat. And so for them being in a social situation, eases their own background fears and anxieties because they can kind of ignore the other anxieties and fears they’ve got and they can kind of distract themselves from them by being social by talking to others by listening to what other people are doing in their lives and, and doing things.

But maybe just maybe, the extroverts are just escaping being on their own. So I’m just going to share a personal piece here.

I used to be described as an extrovert. I don’t know if I still am and I don’t really care. But one thing that I would really struggle with was taking public transport, let’s say for a, I don’t know, 15-20 minute journey without my headphones. So if I had to go on any kind of journey where I had to just sit with myself for anything longer than five or 10 minutes would be a real big deal. I mean, I’d struggle with it and I’d have to go back home. If I’d walked out the house without my earphones or headphones, I’d have to go back home to fetch them because the thought of being on a bus or a train for 15 minutes or more without my headphones, were something I just felt I couldn’t cope with.
When I look back with hindsight, which is always a wonderful thing, I think well, “What was going on there?” And now I understand the mind a lot better with the work that I do, I look back and think “Well, that’s because the chaos that was in my head was just too much for me to handle”.

Being on my own without anything to distract me from it. It was just too much. There wasn’t a an overriding thought or fear. It wasn’t like I was being dominated by dark thoughts or anything. It was just it was all too much in my head is all whirring round way too much and feeling chaotic and total lack of peace – for want of a better word – it was just messy, noisy distraction. And this this sort of whirring round of negative emotions was really unsettling. I could feel it. Whereas I could easily distract myself from kind of tuning into that by just playing music. And then I didn’t have to worry about what’s going on in my head, I could just focus on the lyrics, focus on the music, focus on something that was basically a distraction from what was going on in my head.

Whereas now when I’ve now cleared a lot of my head trash. We always have a lot of head trash. So don’t get me wrong, I still have lots more to go. We all do, right? It never never ends. But now I can sit with myself. I can sit in silence for an hour, I can sit on my own for hours, and I’m fine with that. I don’t feel the need to distract myself with ringing somebody to have a conversation or meeting somebody for a drink or filling my diary with lots of social events because I just don’t need that level of distraction anymore. I’m okay with being with me. And so maybe now if people were to meet me, they might label me as an introvert because I’m quite happy with my own company. But you know what if there’s an opportunity for party meeting out meeting those people, I’m there with bells on because I love that too.

And so actually, I’m defined maybe as an ambivert. I like the being of my own. And I like being in social situations, but you know what, I can take both I can do both really easily. And that is what neutrality is about. Neutrality is a concept that I talked about in the book, Clear Your Head Trash, and it’s where you’ve cleared the energetic the emotional excess of head trash stuff at either end of these opposites. And you can basically sail along and do both and dabble in both easily and depending on what the situation calls for.

So going back to the introvert-extrovert thing. For me when I hear introverts, you know, I was listening to one of my favourite podcasters I’m not going to say her name, but I love her to bits. And I listen to her show all the time and she had a new book launch and she was doing a Facebook Live. She talks very openly about being an introvert. She does lots of speaking and she talks about how it drains her so much and she doesn’t like the networking around it. Anyway she was doing a Facebook live as part of launching for her book and she shared on the Facebook Live how it was so hard for her the day leading up to the Facebook Live. It was really hard for her because she getting very worried about it. She was getting nervous that she had a G’n’T when she was on the Facebook Live I think she’s known for liking gin but you know she’s not an alcoholic by any means. But I think that helped her cope with doing the Facebook Live. She had a whole day in advance thinking about that now.

You know when you think about what an introvert is they don’t like being with other people. Well, a Facebook Live isn’t with other people. You’re on your own in front of your computer. But what you are experiencing is what other people are going think… “What if I say the wrong thing? What if what I say comes out silly? What if …. what if… what if…  and you have all these worries about judgments and what people think. The same would happen if you’re in a networking environment or you went socialising.

It’s not the presence of other people, that’s draining her, it’s her head trash that’s draining her. That’s present, whether there are people there or not. It’s the idea of social interaction. It’s the idea of socialising. It’s the idea of putting yourself out there. It’s the idea of saying something to strangers and wondering what they think, worrying about what other people think.

Let’s take this back to kind of the idea of people that don’t like going out networking or and speaking. You hear a lot about speakers talking about when they go and speak at a conference. I often hear about introverts, how they find speaking – a lot of introverts do public speaking –  and a lot of introverts will talk about the fact that they will need to put a day aside after their speaking gig to recover because they’ve had such an energy crash. They need to bring themselves back up and they need to adopt some self care to make sure that they don’t burn out because it’s such a crash to them.

And I think that’s a really interesting thing to think about – especially in the context of head trash – as opposed to introversion being this fixed thing that somebody is and then they can’t change.

I think what’s going on with introverted speakers, you’ve got two things going on there that are really interesting. You’ve got the public speaking piece, which I think affects anybody doing public speaking. I’ve done a lot of public speaking and I’m comfortable doing it and I feel confident doing it. But that doesn’t mean that in the moments leading up to getting on stage, I don’t experience the flutters, the nerves the “Oh my god, am I going to say it wrong?”. And so for me, in my early days as a public speaker, I might be nervous. Let’s say if I was speaking at midday, I might be nervous all morning. I might struggle sleeping the night before being a bit nervous.

Whereas now my nerves will probably only kick in maybe half an hour before going on stage. As I’ve become more confident as a speaker – I’ve worked on my head trash – I’m less bothered. I know that if I do make an error, I can recover. I’m less worried what people are thinking in that moment. And so the speaking piece, I’m much better able to handle that. And I do believe that’s a lot down to having worked on my head trash around worrying what other people think, and worrying about not being taken seriously.

But the other thing that happens when we’re doing public speaking is we’re basically on high alert. Our adrenaline is pumping really fast and giving us what we need to be super alert. It’s helping us to remember what we want to say, to be  highly focused and concentrate, to pick up the questions that may be coming from the audience. Basically, you’re ‘on it’ for however long you’re speaking. If you’re speaking for half an hour or an hour, you’re basically on it and you have to be on alert and it’s this adrenaline alertness that is basically creating the crash. We all know that if you would do to one hour driving on the motorway at high speed that adrenaline – I’m not saying speeding, but I’m just saying if you do motorway driving for an hour – that that is tiring. You know, after that you’d want half an hour to sort of chill out with a cup of tea and, and relax. But if you had three hours of motorway driving, that would exhaust you. When I was commuting three, four hours a day, my goodness, how tired was I? And I just got used to that. That’s what a lot of people are commuting at that level. And it’s exhausting. I only realised after I’d stopped how exhausting that was.

So, this being on and being alert is exhausting. You do get a crash from adrenaline. Now imagine the introverted speakers and not only if they got that normal performance crash going on, that most people will have. But they’ve also got the emotional crash that comes from feeling so nervous for maybe a day before they go on stage. So you know, whereas I might be getting really nervous for like an hour before stage. So I’m kind of you know, the end required in being nervous is quite significant. Imagine doing that for a whole day before you speak. So of course, you’re going to get like a massive, massive crash, you’re going to need a day, the other side to recover from that, because you’ve been kind of wringing yourself out for a whole day in advance. And so naturally you’ll need to recover.

Whereas if you weren’t as nervous if you weren’t as worried about what people thought, if you were more comfortable making mistakes, if you were more confident in your ability to recover, if you have made a mistake, if.. if…  if…. I could go on. Everybody’s got different head trash.

By working on the head trash, by working on clearing the fears that you might have around social situations about talking to people that you don’t know, about being visible, about putting yourself out there, basically, there’s a lot of fear behind that. And if we can work on the fears, work on the anxieties, and they’ll be less emotional investment going on, which means it’ll be less exhausting for somebody be putting themselves in that situation. I mean, somebody who does have fear or anxiety around those things and also puts themselves out there despite of those things. I mean, there’s a lot of courage there. It’s to be saluted. It’s a great thing that these people are doing that despite their fears and anxieties and the discomfort that they have, by putting themselves out there and being visible, that they they still do it. And yet, but they recognise they need to take a break.

Well, how about if the break they didn’t need to take such break just by working on the head trash? And I really do believe that introverts could just identify what it is they what it is, they don’t like about being in social situations. What is it that drains them? Is it the questions they might get from people? Is it worrying about what other people think? Is it worrying about whether they’re going to sound silly or not being taken seriously? What is it about being in a social situation that is draining for them?

And now those are the items that then you need to work on in terms of clearing your head trash. And the same goes to the extroverts. What is it about being on your own that you struggle with? Is it that your mind can’t sit still? Is it you get really bored and you can’t sit still? Perhaps you just need to do something you can’t literally stop. And so it’s the distraction of social that really attracts you to being with others.

Because by only by working on those things, I think that you can then find a happy medium where you can dabble in both, whenever you need to. You know, if social situations comes up, you’re like  “Yeah!, I can go out, get the party, I’ll do whatever I can rock up and, and be there and put my best self forward without it being a major effort”. You do it effortlessly, as opposed to it being really hard work for you to do that.

And similarly, if you get an opportunity to have a night in or time to yourself that you can enjoy that experience and make the most of it. Because there’s joy in those moments too. There’s intuition, creativity, productivity, all sorts happens in those moments when you’re on your own with no distractions, but often it’s our own head.

That is the distraction which is why some people really struggle to do the things that require them to be on their own.

So those are just my thoughts around introverts and extroverts. And I would love to hear your thoughts whether or not you agree, maybe you disagree and think I’m talking utter nonsense. And that’s absolutely fine because everyone’s got a right to an opinion, but this is I just believe that if there are introverts out there that don’t like being an introvert or would like to be more extrovert, then I think there’s a possibility that I think that’s possible for those people to make the shift and move nearer to being an ambivert, which is the happy medium of both.

So I hope that this is interesting to you do let me know what you think I all is.

Alexia Leachman
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