An Introvert’s Journey 4

by Evan on 2010/03/28

Early to Middle Adulthood

Leaving Fusion I got to work with a couple of other Christian groups – largely unsuccessfully.

I also fell in love. This was the first time (and so far the only time) I have fallen in-love in the intense and intensely sexual sense of the term. I love my current partner very much, but it was from liking and respecting and being attracted to each other that we got together; there wasn’t that in-love insulated-from-the-world aspect to it. So far my relationship with my new partner is far better than with my first one and my new partner had been in a relationship that started with in-love and ended up including domestic violence. While in-love for me was precious, delightful and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, there can be some unpleasant sides to it too.

If falling in love is a transition to adult-hood then earning your income is more so. I have always done this but in quite unconventional ways and there have been periods of government support too. I have always been on the margins of the economy. This has its pressures.

I have also often been self-employed. This usually involves marketing yourself in some way and this has peculiar difficulties for introverts. For instance, I can happily evangelise for the Myers-Briggs’ Type Indicator or Gestalt Therapy but feel far more constrained when trying to talk about what I do or what I sell. There are added difficulties if one of your chief concerns is authenticity (as is the case for me). Most marketing joyously embraces ‘perceived value’ but for me this smacks of phoniness. [By the way, as I understand it, ‘phoniness’ was a term invented by the early gestaltists – it was describing the special phone voice some people used to make up for the poor quality of early phone lines: it became a metaphor for starchy, proper and lacking emotional tone.] Self-presentation is quite a hot button issue for an introvert one of whose core concerns is authenticity. This is an on-going issue for me. For instance: what if I’m authentically shy? How does this fit with authentically promoting myself? I still am in the middle of sorting this out.

In one way my early and middle adulthood have been about extraversion: learning to negotiate the external world. I was privileged to have the chance to develop my awareness of my internal world up to the end of my 20’s: this was a rare privilege. I have done less well in becoming familiar with the ways of the external world. One way of saying this is that my adulthood has been dominated by finding a way to make my income by doing what I love. Blogging is part of this journey for me.

Being ‘grown up’ sounds like no fun to me. It connotes doing what you don’t really want to do. In his book The Divided Self the author RD Laing has a preface written several years after its first publication. He ends it with the sentiments that the book (originally his Ph.D.) was written by an old young man, that if he is now older he is also younger. I applaud these sentiments. I was way too serious when young – my adulthood in one way has been becoming more comfortable with the childlike part of me.

Finding my own spirituality has also been a theme of my adulthood. I still see myself in the Evangelical Christian tradition i.e. we need to take scripture seriously. (Others in this tradition would violently disagree with me.) The most distinctive aspect of my own take on Christian spirituality is that it is Christian spirituality is physical.

As I was beginning to explore what on earth it would mean to have a physical spirituality – nothing in my evangelical heritage prepared me to even think about this – I had a busy head and some fortunate experiences.

I formulated my central question about physical spirituality this way: if aerobic exercise helps us be less stressed: what movement would help us be more compassionate? At this stage I found a book in my local library called Shintaido – a book about physical spirituality that excited. What’s more they had a group in Australia. Shintaido is a self-development system that grew out of Okinawan karate. For a little while I was intensely involved. It showed me that a physical spirituality was possible. Unfortunately I joined when the group had just been going through a difficult time (due to authority conflicts in my opinion) and the hierarchical Japanese approach didn’t really appeal to me. [Anglo-Saxon Australians have a distinctive attitude to authority. It is something of a sibling society – achievement is recognised and celebrated but people thinking highly of themselves and looking down on others is regarded pejoratively. There is no hereditary class system and treating others as equals is taken for granted. This has much to do with the children of the white invaders being the children of convicts in my view – which also explains a pragmatic acceptance of and dislike of violence.]

I also discovered a book on the Old Testament by Pedersen- Israel: it’s life and culture. This was a breakthrough book for biblical scholarship. It demonstrated that the OT conception of the person was unitary. This meant for me that the body was part of personhood. This gave me a biblical base for my concern with physical spirituality – it was a liberation for me.

This lead me to writing up my own physical spirituality (it currently waits on illustrations). The way I organised it was in body segments going up the body and with different dimensions to each segment. For instance with the feet I began with exercises to get people in touch with the sensations in their feet, dealt with being grounded, and for the spiritual perspective talked about pilgrimage. I also ran some retreats – largely attended by friends – around these concerns.

This brings me pretty much up to date with my journey seen from the perspective of introversion. Any comments you may have are extremely welcome (even from extraverts). It is hard for me to know how much my struggles have been just my own weirdness (which I don’t underestimate) and how much they have to do with introversion itself. I’d love to hear whether you have had similar problems and struggles to mine whether you prefer introversion or extraversion, Evan.

A Pedant’s Post-Script: introversion is spelt with an ‘o’ and extraversion with an ‘a’.

Would you like to feel less stressed?
Could you do with more joy in your life?

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I'm Evan Hadkins. I'm Evan Hadkins. To find out how to live a more satisfying life you can download my manifesto on living authentically. It is a book of exercises to guide you to finding, nourishing and living from the core of who you are.

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