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Nancy Okerlund
Volume 2, Issue 8, 04/24/08

Going on Vacation

As you're reading this, I may be scuba diving. And I may not.

My sister and brother and I are on the island of Cozumel, Mexico. My brother fell in love with scuba diving several years ago and has become masterful at it.

For at least two years he's been trying to round up our extended family to go off together and check out diving. So far it hasn't worked. I think he decided to take the bull by the horns and make something happen. In January he invited my sister and me to go to Cozumel with him for a week in April and we said yes.

I said yes to Cozumel but not necessarily to scuba diving. Fifteen years ago I spent a week snorkeling not too far from there and I loved it. But as a friend put it, identifying with my ambivalence, being that far underwater would be "a stretch" for her. A stretch is right!

Before I understood how introverts are put together, I probably would have been squirming with this dilemma, and not very kindly toward myself. Wanting to be a good sport, probably defending my right to say no thanks, but secretly labeling myself a party pooper.

I'm still squirming, but with compassion.

It's not that introverts and scuba diving don't match. For all I know, introverts are attracted in droves. After all, it's a quiet activity, not done in crowds, no small talk involved :-).

But let's not forget these introvert bodies. In our brains we have a higher blood flow to the frontal lobes, the area that promotes thinking before acting. And our favorite neurotransmitter (brain chemical) is acetylcholine, which has the job of saying "let's think about it." (The acetylcholine pathway is long and it's known to require overnight processing to store and retrieve information.)

Plus, of the two sides of the autonomic nervous system, we predominate on the parasympathetic, which is about slowing down and relaxing. (Extroverts predominate on the other side, the sympathetic, the action side.)

So introverts are designed with busy brains that like to think and reflect about what we're experiencing. A couple weeks ago an extrovert whose husband is an introvert said to me, "Introverts lots of depth there." Our nervous systems accommodate our busy brains with a slower pace. Too much stimulation too fast overwhelms the "operating system".

We need time to ease into new situations. We enjoy what's familiar. We're fascinated with the world, but we relate to it quite differently than extroverts. It's why we're known as the quieter, more reflective ones, who tend to move at a slower pace.

As you read this, I'm more than halfway into my week in Mexico. My busy brain and introvert body have their hands full: the luxury of a whole week with my sister and brother. My rusty, fledging Spanish in a world of Spanish speakers. Pesos. Snorkeling. Tropical island life after a winter of snow banks. (And sleeping in a strange bed!)

If I'm scuba diving, I'm glad I'm being watched over by an expert who loves me, because if I meet a shark I'll probably have to think about it.

End of food for thought on to some practical ideas:

A Practical Idea for Introverts

Remember to love yourself up when you're in unfamiliar territory (even a new restaurant.)

A Practical Idea for Extroverts

Compare notes with an introvert in your life about sleeping in an unfamiliar bed.

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