Willed introversion, in fact, is one of the classic implements of creative genius and can be employed as a deliberate device. It drives the psychic energies into depth and activates the lost continent of unconscious infantile and archetypal images. The result, of course, may be a disintegration of consciousness more or less complete but on the other hand, if the personality is able to absorb and integrate the new forces, there will be experienced an almost super-human degree of self-consciousness and masterful control. – Joseph Campbell; The Hero with A Thousand Faces
The perfect Saturday for me consists of working out at the gym, (where I can observe people but no one talks to me), reading a good book, writing a little and drinking copious amounts of coffee. I sometimes go to the library or sit in a coffee shop so I can do all of these things at the same time but still without the need to actually interact with anyone. My day job requires me to interact with people continually, either in person or on the phone so by the weekend I’m ready for a little quite time.
Lately I’ve been reading Joseph Campbell’s 1949 classic study of comparative mythology “The Hero with A Thousand Faces.” The basic thesis of the book, as I’ve been able to extract it thus far, is that almost all myth and legend share some major thematic similarities that speak to the core of human psychology. These themes include what Campbell calls The Hero’s Adventure; Departure, Initiation and Return and The Cosmogonic Cycle; Emanations, The “Virgin” Birth, and Transformation.
Admittedly I haven’t gotten very far into the book – I’m only on page 56 – so this isn’t meant to be an in-depth review or study of Campbell’s work by any means but his description of what he called “willed introversion” caught my attention. So much so that I wanted to take a pause from reading and explore the concept here in a bit more detail.
Campbell introduces the “willed introvert” in the chapter on how some hero’s initially refuse their calling, ignore the promptings of God or the gods and fail to depart on their adventure. Jonah, from the Old Testament book of the same name is a perfect example of one who refused his call and became a willful introvert.
The willed introvert can also be someone who is compelled to withdraw by an antagonistic force that is there to prevent the hero from embarking on their journey. Both Sleeping Beauty and Snow White were put to sleep by jealous witches who feared the result if either of these two heroines were allowed to fulfill their destinies.
But regardless of whether or not the refusal and subsequent introversion is a result of the eventual hero’s choice or forced upon them, the results tend to be the same. By withdrawing from the world and pulling away from their call the hero is able to learn a valuable lesson which aids in the completion of their appointed task. They are able to approach things with more clarity of thought, more creativity and more energy than they would have if they had chosen or been able to embark on their task straight away.
Recent psychological research on personality types has begun to scientifically prove much of the same things we have always known through the myths and legends of old. Introversion and introspection, whether natural, chosen or forced upon us leads to higher Emotional Intelligence (EQ), more empathy and makes us better at planning our next move than our more extroverted friends. As a result, contrary to the old school out-going and gregarious techniques we thought would help us “get ahead” it’s actually introverts and the people who are capable of slowing down long enough to see the world in more detail and nuance, who tend to rule the world.
So, as early as 1949 Joseph Campbell was on to something that the myths of legends of old have known for centuries. Sometimes heroes need time to contemplate and plan and taking a pause before moving forward can make us better and more successful.
Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 613-295-4141.