Six or seven years ago when my eyes first fluttered awake, I was drawn to individuals who had similar core values and beautiful ways of expressing them. I reveled in layered conversations rich with introspection and feelings regarding the human condition. I sought safe places to practice being the real me. The old definition of introvert (shy, reclusive) left my vocabulary and a new one (renews in solitude, faceted inner-world) took its place. Guitar lessons and writing classes were my sanctuaries for self-discovery and self-practice. The people who gathered there became my closest friends, confidantes and teachers. Because of them I felt strong and supported enough to grow into the person I am today. I felt brave enough to follow my own energy.
Those friends and influencers are still my intimates, the ones I go to for unconditional acceptance and insight. Even if I don’t see them often, their words and gestures are imprinted on my spirit.
No more safety dance
Wholeness is not achieved by cutting off a portion of one’s being, but by integration of the contraries.
― C.G. Jung
In the last year, new perspectives have developed. I’ve felt the spark of and learned to appreciate opposite temperaments and contrary ways of thinking. I’d even go so far as to say, I crave differences.
Ten reasons I crave contrast and temperament differences:
1. The presence of new relationships in my life. I’ve felt the spark and energy of mixing introversion with extroversion or people-oriented with task-oriented. The synergy is impactful.
2. The introduction of the Myers-Briggs inventory and its framework for explaining how mental processes and personal development occur.
3. I am burned out on myself. I’ve written, noodled, experienced and stressed about every nuance of being an introvert and sensitive. I want a reprieve from my own conscious experience.
4. Introverts, extroverts and sensitives come to me with questions and uneasiness about their relationships with someone who is their opposite in some way (ex. introvert/extrovert, thinker/feeler). I want to learn other ways of thinking and being in order to help others.
5. Within my own home there are significantly different personalities. In order to find peace I need to learn how to create common grounds and sensitive solutions to everyday confrontations.
6. I find myself more and more interested in helping others in person instead of sitting, reading and writing.
7. I want to taste the other side. I want to experience the electricity of going out of my comfort camp.
8. I want to meet more people and build relationships.
9. I want to learn from extroverts, left-brain types and leaders.
10. I want to allow my unconscious, less mature abilities to emerge.
Friends and lovers
The other night I met with my group of writing sisters. This is a group of women I cherish, admire and from whom I receive validation. I would do anything for any of them. Our temperaments are all similar but one thinker with a lot of common sense in the group repeatedly blows my mind with her logical clarity. My own way of being is short on logic (full of dreaminess, possibilities and people empathy, but short on logic). Her friendship adds another facet to my personality. She’s taught me how to prep a house for sale, look at my divorce differently and get objective about child rearing. I appreciate her opposite approach to many things.
After writing group I planned to make a call on the drive home to someone new I had never met or spoken to before. Dating is one way I push myself out of coziness. I figured the conversation would be rather anti-climactic and maybe even tiring after the prime affirmation and sharing time I’d just experienced with my women friends. I was more than pleasantly surprised. My new extroverted friend with a big bass voice had me laughing within five seconds of the conversation’s start. We talked about serious matters (his father recently passed away) but also had plenty of joking and levity. I contributed equally to the banter. I rose to his level of energy and it felt amazing.
A recent New York Times article about marriage included this line, Americans now look to marriage increasingly for self-discovery, self-esteem and personal growth. We’re not just looking for care and comfort anymore. We have the luxury of choosing partners that help us grow.
Tolerating is not the same as appreciating
C.G. Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist whose personality theory is the foundation of the Myers Briggs inventory, said we choose partners to expand who we are. He also said we bring more and more of our unconscious into the light as we expand.
The Myers Briggs philosophy is based on self-awareness and appreciation of differences. Last week I watched a webinar on Type (Myers Briggs way of categorizing personality patterns) and Relationships. The speaker said that we are often drawn first to people who have similar personality preferences because it’s easy to be with them. It requires less effort and energy to be around them, but the real sparks occur when we meet someone who has one or more different ways of seeing the world, making decisions or getting energy. These are the people who help us expand.
The speaker also made it clear that merely tolerating a friend, child or lover’s differences is not enough. This will eventually lead to resentment. We need to appreciate each other’s differences in order to expand. Two-way respect is the perfect soil for growth. Appreciation comes with awareness, practice and the ability to laugh at yourself.
When you stop growing you start dying. — William S. Burroughs, Junky
The bottom line is I want to do something meaningful and I won’t be limited. My curiosity needs feeding and my fascination with relationships provides the learning path. I’m joining professional organizations, sitting on panels and networking. I’m asking questions and requesting feedback. It’s scary but good. I am in between comfort zone and complete foreign territory and I like it. As I appreciate other’s differences my own less developed skills emerge and dare to spread their wings. In the end, I’m more able to help others expand as well.
Are you willing to be a little scared? Have you grown from knowing someone completely different from yourself?
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