I often use the phrase recovering introvert when referring to someone who has spent his or her whole life existing as an extrovert, yet whose make-up is that of an introvert and is only discovering this later in life.
In Susan Cain’s book Quiet, she touches on this. She mentions the number of introverts who actually live their lives as extroverts, having either absorbed early on in life the expectations to extrovert, and/or decided early on that extroverting was necessary to survive and succeed.
The book has yet to be written about the journey home for the person with the temperament of an introvert who has lived his or her life as an extrovert. I would suggest that for many, a midlife crisis or the requirements of a healing crisis are the systemic cry for internal reorganization. Through the crisis the individual is required to change the source of his or her compass settings from those gained by outward orienting to those gleaned from inner listening.
The path of recovery is different for every introvert. However, there are themes that tend to emerge along the road home.
There can be a chronic, low grade depression that the individual may never even have named. This depression may erupt in the course of the healing process. The depression can often result from a complex combination of factors that include an imbalance in brain function, nervous system stress, emotional self-sabotage and an overriding or underlying soul level despair.
There can be a lifelong feeling of being an impostor, of insecurity and a feeling of acting most of the time. A chronic feeling of life being an effort.
One of the most challenging parts of the work for the recovering introvert is that he or she has done such a good job incorporating the beliefs, views and words of the extroverting world, that it can be nearly impossible to hear his or her own authentic voice, to perceive through his or her own lens.
Every introvert I know who has been compelled through crisis to this reclamation has come out the other side with a sense of inner trust, a renewed connection to life and a heightened understanding that the world of extroverts is just that- a world, not the world.