Book Club, Week 4: Chapter 4 of Quiet

December 4, 2012

Susan Cain opens chapter 4 with a bold question: Is temperament destiny? She then goes on to discuss reactivity in infants and children and its relationship to introversion.

In the past, I’ve read a bit about reactivity in the context of high sensitivity (which Cain discusses in chapter 6) — and reactivity is always of interest to me. It is the one characteristic of HSPs (and, now, introverts) that I don’t manifest. When my mom read Quiet, we discussed this chapter quite a bit because, per all historical reports, neither of us were high-reactive babies or kids and yet we’re both introverts now. Not only that, I can remember thinking and feeling very deeply about ordinary everyday events as a child, and that’s more typical of the high-reactive — but I wasn’t overly excited by the unfamiliar. I always say that I just don’t have the “stimuli-based sensitivity” — for example, I can work for hours in a busy cafe, with the television on in the background, or in a room where people are having boisterous conversations — but that raises the question: Is my introversion nurture, not nature?

It’s not simply A or B

Kagan put it best in his interview with Cain:

Every behavior has more than one cause. Don’t ever forget that! …It’s really important that you see, for behaviors… there are many routes to that.

Chances are, our introversion is not 100% nature or 100% nurture (or even close). This seems obvious — and yet we all like simple “if this, then that” cause-and-effect relationships, and the interplay of nature and nurture introduces a lot of ambiguity. We can’t, as Cain says, “reduce an introverted or extroverted personality to the nervous system its owner was born with.”

How do you see the interaction between nature and nurture in your introversion (or extroversion)? Are there any experiences in your life that you believe contributed to your temperament as an adult?

Free will and what we choose

Given this interaction, Cain shifts the question to “how your inborn temperament interacts with the environment and with your own free will.” In other words, reactivity may not an introvert make — but a high-reactive child (and adult) is more likely to seek experiences that reinforce introverted qualities. Cain also touches on the importance of role models and environment when one is growing up; if temperament influences the activities we choose, it follows that the activities available to us are important. And furthermore, the parenting we receive is vital in determining whether our reactivity is an advantage or a hinderance.

What are some examples of experiences that you believe you chose because it reinforced your natural temperament or traits?

Now what?

Next week, we’ll dive into chapter 5 — the companion to chapter 4 — and answer that very question. We have the biology we have, for better or worse — and our childhoods were what they were. Can we now change our own destiny?

Filed under:

Book Club

(add yours >)

  1. I highlighted so many parts of this chapter! This was my favorite so far.

    I thought over and over again as I read this chapter about my clients. Working with women with fibromyalgia, most of my clients are stuck at home because of their pain and fatigue.

    I began to wonder how many people with chronic illnesses are introverts.

    With fibro, you can be ultra sensitive to bright lights, noise, stimuli… It makes you want to go home to somewhere comfortable and QUIET. So, over the course of time, you end up preferring the introverted lifestyle. You end up being recharged by being alone, and drained by being around other people.

    Very, Very interesting chapter for me.

    • That’s so interesting, Tami. It makes you wonder how many of them were extroverts before — or if there’s some kind of biological link between a susceptibility to autoimmune illness and introversion. That would be a really fascinating thing to case study!

  2. BTW – have you seen the TED talk that Susan Cain did?

    Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts

  3. I’m loving your blogs on Quiet! I’m reading the book for a work book club and am enjoying bringing the ideas from your blog when it’s my turn to lead discussions. Have you written a post on chapter 6? Can you share the link? I love your insight! Thank you so much.

    • Hi Stephanie! Unfortunately, I only did the first five chapters of the book for book club. But I wish I was part of your work book club and could join you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>