There’s a lot of confusion out there about the nature of the ‘extroverted introvert’– that seemingly rare bird that has become more common now with the right pair of specs. I recently read a Facebook article that wittily cataloged the ambivert’s maddeningly endearing contradictions and as a member of this tribe myself, I thought I’d illuminate our ways a bit further with a few analogies and examples.
Ambiverts are a bit like the ubiquitous hybrid cars we see and don’t hear these days–the Priuses or Telsas of the personality set–only, imagine these cars arrived like 30 years before their time. Do you remember the movie ‘Back to the Future’ where Michael J. Fox’s character Marty McFly travels in a DeLorian to 1955? It’s like that!
With its vertically opening doors, tinted windows, and of course, it’s wildly different fuel source (plutonium!), Marty’s vehicle looked more like a space shuttle than a car. But even more, Marty himself represented that seemingly alien nature of being between two different worlds.
Ambiverts represent this too–a conundrum that doesn’t fit as neatly now, but will make so much more sense in the future, a trendsetter, so to speak, harnessing the best of the old energy system with the quiet sustainability of the new, honoring both the earth and reaching like a rocket (sometimes!) for the sky. In the past, we often relied on solid introverts and extroverts to team up and creative innovative change, like Susan Cain rightly points out. And this will still continue, but my guess is in addition, we will also see more of these hybrids out there. In so doing, we will come to understand how we are all trying to figure out the maddening contradictions of being fully human!
I can’t help but picture the way the audience delights and then stops speechless when confronted by the strange mix of Marty’s music. Starting with the basic blues of old-school rock-and-roll, he quickly shapeshifts through Pete Townsend’s windmills, Angus Young’s ecstatic floor-squirming spasms, and Eddie Van Halen’s trance-inducing triplets, all to the seeming horror and consternation of the audience. On a dramatic level, the extroverted introvert mystifies his/her friends and family with their capacity to both quietly accompany and then step out, seemingly out of nowhere, for a virtuosic moment of pyrotechnics.
One can’t help but think of Whitman’s refrain here from Song of Myself, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.” What ambiverts do on any given day (and often throughout one day itself!) is highlight the natural tension and contradiction of all of us, trying to belong and be part of the group while trying to stand out, have a voice, and declare our uniqueness. As my mentor Jungian analyst Donald Kalsched says in his book Trauma and the Soul, we all have a dual destiny, between this and another world, attempting to find that connection through the mystical third that holds the tensions and possibilities together.
Ambiverts hold a piece of the psychological puzzle that stands to help all of us become the best versions of ourselves, showing how to more fully develop and harness the power of our inner and outer capacities. As an X-ennial, I can’t help but see the benefits of bringing the best of the analog and digital together in this way–of quietly rocking out! As Marty says, “I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet–but your kids are going to love it!”