“I think I’m a weird combination of deeply introverted and very daring. I can feel both those things working.”
Characteristics of creative people noted by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, based on his research, include this:
“Creative people tend to be both extroverted and introverted. We’re usually one or the other, either preferring to be in the thick of crowds or sitting on the sidelines and observing the passing show.”
He adds, “In fact, in current psychological research, extroversion and introversion are considered the most stable personality traits that differentiate people from each other and that can be reliably measured. Creative individuals, on the other hand, seem to exhibit both traits simultaneously.”
I’m not sure what he means by “simultaneously” – maybe it’s more a matter of different traits are prominent at different times. And I don’t think it is necessarily true that people in general are simply “one or the other” – people are often complex and not easily or accurately classified as strictly one or the other trait. Especially creative individuals, as Csikszentmihalyi notes.
What is introversion?
Introversion is not the same as shyness or high sensitivity, but those qualities can be experienced together or interact with each other.
Many shy people may limit social interactions to reduce anxiety, but psychologist Elaine Aron notes: “Because HSPs (highly sensitive persons) prefer to look before entering new situations, they are often called ‘shy.’ But shyness is learned, not innate.”
In her post Introversion vs. Shyness: The Discussion Continues (on her blog The Introvert’s Corner), Sophia Dembling writes: “The two get confused because they both are related to socializing – but lack of interest in socializing is very clearly not the same as fearing it.”
Linda Silverman, director of the Gifted Development Center, explains, “Introverts are wired differently from extraverts and they have different needs. Extraverts get their energy from interaction with people and the external world. Introverts get their energy from within themselves; too much interaction drains their energy and they need to retreat from the world to recharge their batteries.”
She also notes, “People can be extreme extraverts, extreme introverts, or a combination of both. Since extraversion is the dominant mode in our society, there are no ‘closet extraverts,’ but there are many ‘closet introverts,’ people who are so ashamed of their introversion that they try to be extraverts.” (From her article “On Introversion”.)
Some intriguing research
In his post After the Show: The Many Faces of the Performer, Scott Barry Kaufman relates that psychologist Jennifer O. Grimes interviewed musicians at several major summer metal rock tours, including “Ozzfest.”
Grimes found that all of the musicians showed interest in physical activities but also reported requiring “alone time.”
Kaufman also notes, “The introverts in her sample seemed adept at using introversion and extroversion in various facades to manipulate their appearances to the various circles of friends, acquaintances and others. As Grimes puts it, musicians were adept at ‘juggling multiple faces’ (I really like this way of phrasing it!).”
He also reports that psychologists Gil Greengross and Geoffrey Miller “compared the personality traits of 31 professional stand-up comedians and nine amateur comedians against the personality traits of 10 humor writers and 400 college students. They found that the comedians (both professional and amateur) scored on average the lowest in self-reported extroversion, even lower than comedy writers!”
There is something about being on stage, in a role of actor or musician (and maybe public speaker?), that shifts the experience of introversion – something I have experienced as an actor in a small community theater production years ago. But I tell myself I’m “too introverted” (and shy) to do more of that sort of performing.
Also see my earlier posts :
The Complexity of the Creative Personality – which includes a link to the classic book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced me-high chick-sent-me-high).
Quote of Helen Hunt from LA Times 9/10/2000. Photo from her movie “Then She Found Me” – in addition to acting in a lead role, she was also Director, Writer (screenplay) and Producer.
Cognitive Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D. is a co-author (with James C. Kaufman) of The Psychology of Creative Writing.