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Beata

Introvert in a Convent

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Beata

I’m an introvert. I enjoy spending time by myself and when I do go out I like to have only one or two friends with me because being in a group of more than 3 people makes me uncomfortable. I also have difficulties getting comfortable in a new place, especially when I stay with friends or family. It takes me weeks to get used to a new environment and I have troubles getting out of my room. I don’t have social anxiety, I’m just shy and a little insecure. 
Having said that, I am discerning a vocation to a contemplative order, with a specific Community and I am worried that me being an introvert and shy will come of as not fitting in with the Community.  I know that being in a Contemplative Order seems like Heaven to people who are introverts but you still have to be around people and get used to a new home. Next month I’m going to stay with this Community for a month. I was there before, I stayed in the enclosure for a couple of days. It wasn’t as hard as I thought but I still had difficulties feeling at home. I was  surprised that I didn’t freaked out at meal times, with so many people around me but there were times when I was relieved to be by myself. 
I talked to a priest about this and he told me that I don’t have a vocation there because I was shy and uncomfortable and that, if I was really called to that place, everything would have been easier. But I am uncomfortable everywhere I go, especially when it’s a place so different from what I know!
Did/does anybody had/has this kind of problems? What’s the best way to handle this situation?
 

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Pax17

Beata, I can only speak to this from a secular standpoint.  I am extremely introverted (INFJ on Myers Briggs) and it has always been difficult to feel comfortable around new places and people.  Large groups are still a challenge.  Generally, I've found that the more I return to new places, the easier it is to relax...the surroundings become more familiar.  If I'm still uncomfortable, then I don't go back.

INFJs are often misunderstood (meaning no disrespect to the priest).  Go visit the community; give things a chance...you'll know if you're meant to pursue a vocation there.

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genesisweavers

Peace to you Beata + I would say - from your self description - that you're a perfect fit to be in a contemplative monastery.  I am also an introvert.  I once said to a Sister (from an active community) who is blind and became a Sister as a sightless person - why is it that introverts are so misunderstood.  Her answer - because there are so many extroverts in the world.  And I might add - our society is now very extroverted and addicted to noise and activity.  I once told a small group of people that I'm an introvert and (really!) they thought I was putting myself down.  Their response:  Don't say that about yourself.  (Almost funny) - but it packs a punch doesn't it - i.e. how misunderstood introverts are.  I'm telling you some of these things with the hope that the message you received from the priest needs to be interpreted.  And my spin on that attitude is - he simply doesn't understand typology.  You will be fine - it will be an adjustment at first but I'm sure if you walk in the presence of God and rely on His grace - you will be a Sister. The contemplative vocation is amesome.  May you be blessed .

john

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DameAgnes

I've always thought it would be hard to be an introvert in cloister. You're always in community.

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genesisweavers

This is a very interesting discussion for me personally because it is a path to understanding ourselves and understanding others.  What's at stake here is making decisions that could impact the rest of our lives if we don't have a clear understanding of our 'operating system'.  (I have recently borrowed this term from the electronic world to understand how my own soul works). 

One of the most prominent pioneers into understanding typology was the great psychologist Carl Jung.  He came up with this 'scale' to determine what the basic dynamics are that make us who we are and who 'the other' is.  The word 'scale' is the most important word in this understanding.  No one is all introvert or all extrovert.  For me personally it determines several important factors like - where do I do my best work? Is it in the midst of lots of noise and activity or is it when the atmosphere is quiet and still? What do I seek when I want to recreate? Is it a solitary walk (for example) or would I like the mall? How about prayer?

The question raised by Dame Agnes would more applicable to an extreme introvert who would probably be a good candidate for the hermit model.  A less extreme introvert should fit nicely into a contemplative life style where the religious would be in an environment of quiet and the work may not be done in a group setting.  In my own congregation (I am a lay associate of the monastic family of Bethlehem) the individual is rarely placed in work situation with another person.  Even in the kitchen the work is accomplished (whenever possible) in a place where there is only one person.  For me personally I think that even if I were assigned to work with someone if the atmosphere was still and quiet the presence of another would not be an issue. 

We have to acknowledge that the society in which we live is top heavy with extrovert needs.  When did it become essential to have music when we do any kind of shopping? And now, it seems to me that the choice of what kind of music is broadcast is consistent with the taste and needs to the employees not the shopper.  In a recent article in Commonweal William Pease who is the first American to present himself to the newly arrived Carthusians in the 1950's.  Here is the opening paragraph of his article:  Does it qualify as a Jungian convergence that two books about the Carthusians and a highly praised film about a Carthusian monastery have appeared in the past couple of years? No greater contrast could be offered to our overdecibeled, multitasking world than a monk's life of prayer and silence.  Is this recent popular interest simply a passing curiosity or does it reflect hope for contact with an environment that could refresh our fragmented spirits?

I share this with you to highlight what I'm saying about the society in which we live.  Not only is the noise and activity levels greater than it should be but there is also a narcissistic element present as well.  That is, I need to have my rock music blasting and I don't really care if this is ok for the rest of you.  (My comment above about who is the music in the retail space really for? - the customer or the employee. 

Sorry if I went on too much here.  These observations are really important to me since I do not feel at home in much of the secular world.  And I would like to also say that a lot of people who have to live in and participate in the secular world may not be at home there either.  The paragraph from Commonweal refers to some of those folks as fragmented spirits. 

The silence, solitude and peace of the cloister is an oasis for many fragmented spirits.  And the people who live there are models of focus and awareness of the inner life that is in stark contrast to secular society.  And (some of them - if not most) are introverts.

may you be blessed

john

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Beata

@genesisweavers Thank you for your input! I am not sure how many introverts are in a Convent. I don't think that God calls only introverts into monastic life. In my situation, however, it's not a question of how or where an introverts fits in but rather a question about feeling "at home" in a strange place. I don't think that my problems with feeling uncomfortable in a new place (or any other personal issues I have) will disappear like magic when I will visit the right Convent. But as @Pax17 said, it's a matter of time and going back there.

@DameAgnes You aren't always surrounded by people. Well, not in the Community I stayed. Most of the time I was working with only one sister or talking with the ND. I don't mind sitting with so many people in silence but that one hour where everybody is talking in a small room was unbearable.  I didn't knew what to do or say. :D 

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Pax17

Small spaces, especially those filled with people, can compound the discomfort.  When I was working, I often attended meetings in very small conference rooms...it was easier to sit and listen instead of contribute.  I can see where an hour of recreation could be challenging. But since that hour is a part of the daily schedule, it will be less difficult once you are accustomed...you start by showing up...:) 

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Nunsuch

This is why there are long formation periods, and discernment on the part both of the candidate and the community. Part of joining any community--regardless of one's personality--is to adjust, and to realize that it's not all about you as an individual. If a particular community is not for you, you either will decide to leave or will be asked to do so. This is not failure, but it is realistic. 

You might want to read Mother Mary Francis' "The Right to Be Merry," about her Poor Clare Colettine monastery. Similarly, Mother Catherine Thomas's "My Beloved" (Carmelite). Both are pre-Vatican II, but both emphasize the joy of their communities, particularly during recreation. If this just sounds like more than you can take, maybe this form of life isn't for you.

It should be noted that, even now, most Trappistine monasteries do not have recreation. See the schedules posted on several websites.

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Carmelite4christ

For 8 years I was discerning a religious vocation. I visited several convents and monasteries, I was much younger than of course. I heard that extroverts may feel more comfortable in a cloistered convent,when someone told me at 22 years of age, I honestly didn't grasp that all, I thought if you were an introvert ( which I am)that you would feel more at home in a cloistered community. I did visit both active/ semi cloistered/cloistered communities. Not many but I visited four different ones. Looking back if I could do a do-over, but also a little older now, I would have chosen the cloistered one. I love silent hours of prayer and listening to god, and silence... I enjoy it very much. The other convents all had different charisms. But all of them had a goal, to serve Jesus in the way, they are called. So, keep on keeping on, the lord wl direct you by his spirit in where he needs you. Most priests are wise, but if your heart tells you you belong In a specific community, you should pray diligently about it. Blessings!!:)

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Yinepu Sanctimonialis

Dear Beata... I've found very interesting always the human nature, and that, the people - with different kind of personalities - how can bear the social stress and the strange and new situations... I am extroverted (ENFP in the Myers-Briggs indicator type) but I have some problems with the new places too...I love my little world, and my personal area that I call home or workplace (depends where I need to be)...and I need some silent period...I can manage the loneliness better than the mass of loud people. And I can spend days with to jump in my books and in interesting articles on the web, and read...But now the most important thing to find your place and inner peace in the community/convent where you live/belong or change something if this impossible with all of your goodwill. I would say you should try to find the balance and build this with patience so give a lot of time for yourself, because in this life nothing happens without reasons, and you have the place there ...And yes to "being in a Contemplative Order seems like Heaven to people who are introverts" stereotype is not fit for everyone, because we are individual creations of the Lord with unique Free Will...And sadly in the past the people have lesser chance to find their places....and we can bless the current ages for their openness. I just wish you some patience and time...I do hope everything will be the best for you...

 

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