by Debbie Schroder
I seem to need to continue the idea of a summer reading list. I don’t understand why, because my summer is always as busy as the rest of the year. The fantasy of a book and lemonade out on the front porch is just that – a fantasy. I don’t even have a front porch.
But I did read a few great books this summer and one in particular has stuck with me – Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. A number of issues within this book were admittedly kind of self-serving for me. “See, I’m not a bad person because I don’t like meetings,” and “I’m not slow because it takes me a day to process what actually gets said at meetings.” You know, that kind of inner chatter.
Cain also explores the consequences of being an introvert in what is often an extrovert culture in higher education. This Fall, as we prepare to welcome a record number of new art therapy students to our school, I’m thinking about the challenge that being an introvert can be in a school setting, especially a school that values and grades on, participation. Faculty here talk about this issue – what does it look and sound like when an introvert is participating? My observation of introverted art therapy students is that they often have a strong preference for visual communication through their art.
In Quiet, Cain explores the culture of extroversion present at Harvard Business School. She speaks of a United States business culture in which “verbal fluency and sociability are the two most important predictors of success.”
Happily, we’re very open at Southwestern, to very different ideas about what “success” would look like for a therapist. When I think about how a successful graduate of our school might be defined, I keep coming back to the word authentic. And so this Fall, I will once again encourage incoming students to be their own authentic selves, whether that looks or sounds like extroverted verbal fluency or introverted sharing through imagery. Both ways of being in the world are appreciated.
And since I can function as what Cain would call a “pretend extrovert,” I will secretly hope for at least a few real extroverts in my classes so someone besides me will be talking.