There was once a velveteen rabbit,
For many this is a sentimental story about a childhood fantasy or the fantasies of childhood. One reviewer even describes it as a book �for any child who has ever thought that maybe his toys have feelings�.
This interpretation is a bit off because it misses the point about introverted children. To an introvert, it is not a question of whether toys have feelings. The story depicts a reality where the child�s feelings infuse the toy with life. We know because of this that the child is most assuredly an introvert.
Relating to objects and people is an inner, subjective experience for an introvert. It is as though they bring an object into their inner world in order to relate to it. Since introverts give energy when they relate (extroverts take energy), there is an infusing quality to the attention or focus of an introvert which is an �active� quality in relating. In other words, introverts can infuse someone or something with love whether or not it is alive -- or reciprocated.
I once had a friend with whom I fell deeply in love. His feelings were not the same and so he told me it was not possible that this feeling I had was love. In order for it to be love, he said, it had to be mutual. To me, that was the most absurd thing I�d ever heard and I continued to love him for a very long time. It made no difference whatsoever that he did not love me back. He existed as something inside myself and I did not need to possess his physical body or even to ever see him again, since this was his wish, for this to be complete experience. I know this is impossible for an extrovert to believe.
A gifted introvert with an excellent understanding of this phenomenon is Hans Christian Andersen. Andersen has described the basic qualities of introverts very well in many of his tales, the most familiar of which is �The Ugly Duckling�. Two other fairy tales that express the quintessential qualities of introverts are �The Red Shoes� and �The Little Mermaid�.
Please separate in your mind for a moment, the Andersen and Disney versions of �The Little Mermaid�. Disney movies get at the truth in fairy tales about the same way Whoopi Goldberg gets at your typical homeless experience.
�The Red Shoes� is in the public domain now and can be viewed at Red Shoes. �The Red Shoes� was one of my favorite stories as a child and I was later fascinated with the movie starring Moira Shearer. It is a morality tale on the surface but underneath it is a story of passionate obsession. The ability to become obsessed is a characteristic of most introverts. It is closely associated with our exalted powers of concentration and ability to focus.
Warren Buffet, the world�s best investor, is an introvert. If you read many of his statements about investing, you will discover that much of his success is based on his ability to refrain from taking action such as frequent buying and selling of stocks. It is his intensity which keeps him focused in spite of distractions. Buffet also has the typical introvert�s ability to �stand alone against the crowd�.
�The Little Mermaid�, in its original version, is tale of unrequited love that is almost too painful to read. Andersen describes the anguish of worshipping from a distance that is all too familiar for introverts, who suffer in the extreme at a disadvantage because the depth of their feelings finds no avenue to the outer world. You can read The Little Mermaid here.
According to the Myers-Briggs� Type Indicator and the Keirsey Temperament Sorter II, there are 8 different types of introverts. Hans Christian Andersen was an infp introvert, which Keirsey calls the Healer. Keirsey describes the infp introvert this way: �Healers live a fantasy filled childhood, which, unfortunately, is discouraged or even punished by many parents. These individuals are capable of an exalted kind of love which transcends the ability of most others to understand�. Wishing to please their parents and siblings, but not knowing quite how to do it, they try to hide their differences, believing they are bad to be so fanciful, so unlike their more solid brothers and sisters�. They are swans reared in a family of ducks.�
Once I was teaching a class and asked my students about their relationships. When his turn came, a quiet man in the front row said he was currently separated from his girlfriend but he spoke of his great love for her and mentioned her beautiful qualities. I asked when he had last seen her. �Ten years ago,� he replied. Everyone burst out laughing (I�m sorry to say). These extroverts would put it this way: If you can�t be with the one you love then love the one you�re with.
Dante Alighieri, the Italian poet of the Middle Ages, first saw his immortal beloved, Beatrice, when he was 9 years old. She died when he was 25 and their love was never consummated. After marriage and family, at 37 years of age, Dante was exiled and began to write �The Divine Comedy�, a masterpiece in which Beatrice represented his soul and inspiration.
I try to explain to my extroverted friends and clients, it is not necessary to possess a physical body to love someone, any more than it was necessary for the velveteen rabbit to be real to be loved.
A client of mine loved his grandmother dearly. When she died, he could have had any of her possessions but he took only the quilt from her bed. He used it for picnics, to watch tv, for the dog to lie on and for extra warmth in the winter. It began to wear and he was happy because he was loving it real.
An introverted client, Margaret, lived near the woods in New Hampshire as a child. She spoke to the woodland creatures that came into her yard with great delight. One day her older brother decided to play a trick on her. He got the neighbor next door to take a squirrel tail and run it up the side of a tree while talking to Margaret the whole time as if it were the squirrel. Margaret was enchanted. She fell for it, hook, line and sinker.
Later her brother broke the news. Margaret�s reaction? It didn�t make any difference to her if the squirrel was real or not. It still talked to her!
One of the greatest gifts you can give your introverted child is to cherish this ability he or she has to love something real.
� Copyright 2003 Nancy R. Fenn