July 4 is set aside yearly to celebrate our declaration of independence. As Americans, we highly value independence. We often take our rights for granted. We expect, assert, demand, stand up, and speak out. The American dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are legend around the world and our lifestyle is attractive to some and repulsive to others because of our independent stance.
When I was delivering seminars to large groups across the country, I noticed an interesting phenomenon. As we moved more deeply into the experience, the group as a whole displayed two distinct attitudes. A large percentage of the participants would ignite, become actively enthusiastic, alert, participatory and clearly on the ride. From a presenter’s point of view, this would be the time to start congratulating oneself and then pump up the volume to get the rest of the troops on board. Instead, I started to get curious about the quieter ones. I noticed a pulling back, a reticence and hesitancy that wasn’t as easily discernable because of the rapid-fire participation of the outwardly expressive people.
The benefit of presenting seminars for as many years as I have is the opportunity to discover and explore the not so obvious aspects of group dynamics. There is a critical time when the new learning experience starts taking hold and beginning its transformational magic. At that time, the extraverted, outgoing personalities get more outgoing. At the same time, the introverted, introspective people get more internal, recede into themselves and start deeply probing into their fears and apprehensions, asking new questions that begin to highlight dormant parts of their self-awareness.
The extroverts display their excitement about knowing the answers so that they can climb the heights and reach for the stars while the more introverted plumb the depths into new internal territory to deepen their self-understanding.
Extroverts would be better served by letting go of collecting answers in favor of asking themselves deeper questions. Introverts would fare better if they let go of self-questioning in favor of owning and valuing those answers they have already discovered as workable for them.
Usually, the extroverts get recognized and encouraged to continue their turned on, enthusiastic climb towards more, bigger and better. The introverts get advised to get over their reluctance and simply dive headfirst into the exuberant end of the pool. Therefore, they often quietly make themselves wrong, commit to goals they don’t really care about and try to hide the sinking, depressed feeling that envelopes them when subjected to the ranting of manic, supercharged, I-want-it-all and I-want-it-now energy.
Our society values extroversion, action, positivity, upward mobility and independence. We hold introversion, negativity, contentment with our present moment and dependence as suspect and problematic experiences to be altered, figured out and fixed. When independent is held as good and dependence as bad, we are forced to lie to ourselves about the fact that we are dependent as well as independent. When we value our extroverted behaviors and devalue introversion, we are unable to access the skill of introspection and therefore can never grow into our true wisdom and self-knowledge.
Those of us who define ourselves as independent simply have a case of “selective perception.” We conveniently minimize or take for granted all the people and situations that support and sustain us in our pursuit of happiness. Those of us who define ourselves as dependent are deluded also. We fail to lay claim to our strengths, unique gifts and contributions, often because of the denigrating habit of self-invalidation and defining our worth in terms of external monetary production.
When we broaden our perspectives to acknowledge that we are both independent and dependent, we can begin to cultivate interdependent relationships. When we embrace masculine/feminine, active/receptive, power/service and introspection/extroversion within ourselves, we can then take on the challenge of establishing mutually beneficial empathetic relationships with our loves, our families, our friends and neighbors.
We can create more peace and harmony personally by broadening our self-definitions. By broadening our nationalism to a world vision, we can value and extend respect to all people, in all countries inhabiting our globe.
Susan McNeal Velasquez teaches small group seminars locally on the how to “Unleash the Power of Your Intuition.” Learn more at: susanvelasquez.com