In high school, I took the Meyers-Briggs test and landed exactly in the middle on the introversion/extroversion scale. I was an XNFP. When I took it again later in life, I landed firmly on the Introvert side – not even close. This was due, I think, to just knowing myself and my needs better than I did in my teens. I was a great “pretend extrovert” as Susan Cain puts it in Quiet. I was so good at pretending to be extroverted that I even fooled myself.
By the time I started training in Feldenkrais, I was well atuned to my introvert side. I didn’t socialize much or ask questions in group discussions. I got very quiet. It all felt impossible to muster that public persona in the Feldenkrais training space. For a while, I was baffled by this. In other classes, away from Feldenkrais, I am often the first to speak, the first to answer or ask a question – but while training in Feldenkrais, I felt a need to be very quiet. “Why?” I wondered.
Then I read Marti Olsen Laney’s book The Introvert Advantage and began to understand the biology of introversion. Introverts are wired differently than extroverts. Our neurotransmitters are different but also the way our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems work are quite radically different.
Awareness Through Movement and Functional Integration both work best when a person is able to sink into a parasympathetic state. The atmosphere of training is such that we spend a lot of time in that quiet learning space. And for me, it is an effort to pull myself back out. It can feel violent almost to have to talk with people and negotiate in a social way after time in that state.
There are a lot of times that I love being social. I can be the last one to leave a party. But it is an enormous amount of stimulation and I will need a long time to recover from talking to a lot of people. One of the pleasures of training for me was to give myself permission to rest, to ease into the stimulation of other people slowly.
I started to think about this introversion effect in Feldenkrais work because our holiday party at the Feldenkrais Institute began with an Awareness Through Movement exercise. I love Awareness Through Movement. And I love parties (sometimes.) But the introvert in me was baffled by the idea of beginning a party with an Awareness Through Movement lesson.
The impulses for these two activities come from such wildly different places in me, it seemed absurd to begin a party with a deep dive into my parasympathetic state. This order probably makes all kinds of sense to an extrovert. It probably feels like a great way to start a fun night. It quiets down a noisy system and allows the extrovert to get grounded, to feel more connected and present when talking with people – for me, I could use the Awareness Through Movement lesson much more on the other end. After a night of overstimulation, I could use the quiet of an Awareness Through Movement lesson to calm me down.
But that would probably be a weird party. I’m pretty sure I’d dig it, though. I could gather all my extroverted energy to really engage with a party and then recover with an Awareness Through Movement lesson at the end. It would be like having a fun rager of social engagement and then having everyone sit down and read a book together for a while. Mmmmm. Quiet.
by Emily Davis, FGNA Feldenkrais Practitioner