The Introvert Advantage: How To Thrive In An Extrovert World by Martin Olsen Lany. Introversion seems to be a fairly new pop-psychology fad, possibly even taking over from the Aspergers/autistic spectrum thing, so thought I ought to get on board. There are other books around like Introvert Power The Introverted Leader, and this possible spoof but Advantage seems to have been the kickstarter.
The view is that introversion is a normal human character trait, not a pathology, but makes it hard to live in a society geared around extroversion.
The book starts off with some fairly interesting content. Lany cites some neurological evidence for the brains of introverts. She claims that extroverts are less sensitive to dopamine, and thus need a constant stream of intense stimulus to be happy. Introverts are allegedly more sensitive to dopamine, which means they're happier in quiet environments, and easily overwhelmed by a lot of stimulus, like a bunch of people talking loudly over loud music at a lavishly-decorated party. Moreover, she claims that another neurotransmitter acetylcholine is more active in the brains of introverts.
However, the rest of the book is less interesting. A lot of the content is fairly standard techniques for managing life and emotion. A lot of them are familiar parts of cognitive behaviour therapy. There's also a lot of life-coach type stuff about managing your time and your interactions with people.
However there's also a certain amount of fairly irritating psychobabble. Lany's into Myers-Brigg personality profiling. which has always seemed a bit cultish to me. She's also keen on the entertaining but flaky Jung.
Also, her main thesis is that as well as being drained of "energy" by social interactions, introverts have less "energy" to start with. A large fraction of the book is spent explaining how important it is to take lots of relaxation time, to not let people pressure you, to delay decisions and so on.
This basically seems to me to contradict the title of the book, and the thesis that introverts are not dysfunctional. On this basis, introverts are highly disadvantaged, working slowly, only at their own pace an in their own time, and requiring vast amounts of time and pampering to recharge themselves. This seems to actually represent a huge introvert disadvantage.
I'm not actually very convinced by the less "energy" overall argument. From observation, it seems to me that if anything, the introverts around me get a lot more done overall than the extroverts, both at work and in terms of personal projects.
I wonder if as a therapist, Lany perhaps sees a lot of mildly depressed introverts, and is lumping in the symptoms of mild depression along with introversion.
The book seems to be written primarily for North American females. A lot of the cutesy terminology ("innie" and "outie") and suggestions for wacky props like Winnie the Pooh watches, may have a distinct irritant value for others.
Also not sure how universal some of the content is. Lany describes extroversion as stereotypically male and introversion as stereotypically female, but not sure that applies elsewhere. It seems to me that in the UK, it's women who are expected to be social butterflies and men who are expected to glower menacingly from behind a pint and sports page.
Overall, I can't rate this book particularly highly in its own right, though it does have some interesting content. The book does provide some interesting insight into this particular trend though.
It's not a return to his top form, but is a lot better than the dismal Steep Approach to Garbadale. Has some of his trademarks, like some spectacular settings and entertainingly creative sadism.
Manages to avoid excessive preachiness unlike some of his recent no-M books, though there is a certain amount of the politics you'd expect.
Tries a little to hard to rip from the headlines: he talks about recent events as "The fall of the City", which may have seemed plausible in the heat of composition. Now though it looks more like "The year the City raped taxpayers extra hard then kept on as usual".
Sadly though the book does carry on his recent trend of weak endings with an unconvincing deus ex machina, hasty tying up of loose ends, and the big issues left unresolved. It's a shame he seems to have lost the knack of good endings: "The Wasp Factory", "The Player of Games", "Use of Weapons" and "Consider Phlebas" were all very strong.
Overall, worth reading for fans, but not the best place to start, and it's not quite worth rushing out for the hardback.
Random. Job voyager interactive graph of US employment trends. Thames disappears from Tube map. Sexual assault prevention tips. Word-stats derived dating rules. Movies webcomic. Carrie Fisher: so what do you look like?
Update [2009-9-17 18:18:59 by TheophileEscargot]:
Brilliant blog: Neuroskeptic. Neural correlates in the post-mortem Atlantic Salmon. The winner is the person whose fantasy sounds best. YouGov cheapo polls for press releases.
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