“She’s never where she is … she’s only inside her head.” Janet Fitch
We introverts love to wander. Our favorite destination for our quiet explorations is our imagination. No matter where we are, we feel called away by our own thoughts. The words of Anaïs Nin come to mind:
“I’m restless. Things are calling me away. My hair is being pulled by the stars again.”
We grow restless in the here and now, so we let our imagination kidnap us for a while. We dim the front porch lights and go on a fantasy adventure. On the outside we look “zoned out”. Inside, we are bursting with bright ideas and dreams, like an internal festival of lights.
It feels good to wander the deep forests of our imagination. Sometimes, it’s a necessary coping mechanism. Going inside our head helps us avoid overstimulation. We might be in a crowded place, full of offensive sounds and odours. We zone out to escape the chaos.
Another reason we go mind wandering is because we are bored. Maybe, we’re in the middle of a conversation that is about as exciting as watching snails race. So, we check out.
It’s easy for introverts to live our whole life this way, half in the world, half out. In her monstrously famous book Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert recalls the way a friend once described her introverted father. “Your father only has one foot on this earth. And really, really long legs …”
I chuckled as I read this, because it reminded me of my own introverted father. Then I (reluctantly) realized that I truly am my father’s daughter. After all, I’ve done my fair share of ‘spacing out’. My daydreaming seemed to peak in my teens. Nowadays, I still spend plenty of time in my head, but I try not to live there.
There are downsides to constantly being inside our head. The biggest one is that we are not truly present. It’s like we’re sleepwalking our way through life, stubbing our toes, and missing out on important moments. A famous Ferris Bueller quote comes to mind:
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
This whole presence thing is all the rage nowadays. And I’m starting to understand why. To be truly present is to feel our breath, our body, and whatever sensation another person stirs in us. It is that feeling we get when we’re so immersed in the moment that we forget all our worries. For introverts who tend to overthink, a moment away from our noisy mind is bliss.
Usually, we are most present when we are children. Little ones pay closer attention to the world around them. They are more engaged with all the new things they see and feel. As adults, we tend to take our world for granted. Same old roads and sidewalks. Same park. Same insects. Same ocean. Meh.
How to be more present
To be more present, start experiencing the moment through your senses. Relish the feel, smell, and taste of what is happening right now. When your mind starts to wander, bring it back to the subtle or strong sensations of the moment.
If you are someone who tends to be in your head a lot, feeling your experiences through your senses won’t come naturally. You have to consciously practice the art of presence.
Start today by noticing how things feel on and within your body. Notice the texture of your clothing and how it feels against your skin. Bring your awareness to the pressure of the hot water on your body when you shower.
When you are with others, and your mind starts to wander, coax it back to the now by focusing on the sensations on your skin, or the gentle rise and fall of your chest as you breathe.
Over to you
Do you often feel called away by your own thoughts?
Have you become more present, or less present as you’ve gotten older?
Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
As I get older I spend more time in my mind. Bored mostly with surroundings.
I know the feeling, Lorraine! That’s probably why I spent so much time travelling the past few years, but that gets tiring.
I spend my time in my own mind. It’s my favorite place to be, it’s my favorite thing to do. As a kid and teen I spent countless hours in the backseat of cars, with headphones, daydreaming away. No matter how long the trip, I needed more time. I check out during conversations, sometimes even one on one conversations. I don’t do it on purpose. I make myself socialize because I need people in my life but in truth, there are only a few I feel comfortable with – those who talk about bigger things. At parties, the bathroom is a reprieve, where I catch my breath. I’m never in a hurry to leave. Driving or walking alone, headphone in, is one of my favorite hobbies.
I’m aware I seem antisocial. I’m aware my reactions might seem understated or careless. I’m much better spoken with words.
More than anything, I wish and hope people see me for the mountains of good intentions and happy vibes that lie behind my closed mouth and wandering mind.
Julie, it’s like you read my own mind and know my soul. I remember being young and being able to sit and daydream for hours, perfectly content. My daydreams become irresistible when I’ve had a lot of caffeine. In my adult life I recognize this as detachment from the world around me, but like you, I find my own mind is a respite. Just last night socializing with friends I discovered that familiar peace in the bathroom and stayed a little too long.
I`m so happy to be a part of this group, even from Holland! And reading this story of Michaela I suddenly was shocked, because it could be my story! It`s all about me, my feelings. On the other side I feel more and more reassured. When I was a little boy I felt a stranger, mostly feeling so aloof and myself. But since I got her emails and stories concerning introverts, I do not need to be ashamed me of myself (from the Translater!) And living in a senior commune ( I`m 73 years old) , I very often feel called away by my own thoughts. Thankx Michaela for the nice lessons!
Thanks so much for you articles on being an introvert. It is comforting to know that there is nothing abnormal about me and that there are many more people just like me out there. You hit it right on the head with your insight.
You’re welcome, Rob!:)
I definitely became less present as I have gotten older… In some cases, reality can be very, well, not good so to speak, so I often wander in my own thoughts, searching, analyzing, looking for answers… A lot of times I simply wander off, disconnect myself, which can be confusing for the people around me, especially to those who don’t know that I am an introvert. But also, at the same time, I can be very present, very aware of the situation I found myself into. It depends on the situation… Some will require my wandering to take place in order to escape the unnecessary confusion, while other will require of me to be focused and concentrated on the present moment. It also depends on my mood at that moment. 🙂
Great article Michaela, like always. 🙂
Marko, I like what you said: “…I simply wander off, disconnect myself, which can be confusing for the people around me, especially to those who don’t know that I am an introvert.” It really does seem that we are misunderstood, especially in this culture in which people announce their every action and post their lives all over the Internet. And, let alone that many people still do not even know what being introverted (or extroverted) is. It’s interesting how often introverts know that there are differences between quiet people and “loud” people; but many extroverts think everyone is either like them, or just weird.
More stuck in my head
This reminds me of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who spoke about people who are absent when present, and I might add that the same people are often seen as being present when absent. Well balanced thinking introverts tend to be much more creative than most other people.
Thank you, Micheala,
For your thoughts on introverts. It does seem that being in the present is valuable for our life and the loving of it.
Another thought is that we are now in a time of shifting our awareness to a new perspective. This new perspective takes us away from who we think we are now and challenges us to see and experience more of our being in Oneness with All that Is. This perspective asks us to meditate and to begin to shift our perspective from
within where we must focus more frquently. So maybe introverted is our truer state of being.
In my life I find my inner focus to be my salvation and a time of inner growth and increased wisdom. Maybe you too are discovering this great value also?
The best with your book!
I was actually especially in my own head and fiction stories when I was younger. Something in reality then happened that jolted me into the realisation that staying in my head for too long is not healthy. Ever since, I have been aiming to be more engaged in reality and the present by pursuing my interests. Now, I try to integrate both worlds (imagination and reality) by reminding myself that there are also fantastical and mysterious things in reality. And they are the unexplored places and uninvented ideas that I have yet to witness.
My father was also an introvert. And he played classical guitar. He was a wonderful guitar player and spent many happy hours lost in his music but he wouldn’t play for an audience. I think his time alone with his guitar was his way of refueling and of leaving the hectic world behind for a while. There were four of us kids and so the house was always noisy. Looking back I can see that playing the guitar gave him a legitimate way to spend time alone. Cheers!
looking forward to your new book. living alone and sometimes going days without seeing anyone, i of course spend my time inside my head, i love these days. years of thinking that something was wrong with me have all been cleared away now that i have found you. i live in a family of extroverts that cannot accept that i am an introvert or that there is really such a thing. i now accept myself with open arms and treasure the introvert person that i am. thank you
Hi Michaela. What has helped me to become much more present is Tranquillity Training meditation. I do up to 2 hours a day and it has been a godsend to me, not only in helping me gradually regain my health after nearly dying, but also in bringing me back to the world of the senses, as you describe it in your superb article. Toodles, Andrew 007
I think that I’ve gotten better about being in the present, but only when I’m not extremely overwhelmed, which I tend to be all too often. Right in the middle of intense stress I might remember how much I like to feel calm, and sometimes I can purposely slow myself down. I will focus on sensory input to achieve this, like my fingers typing and the sound on the keys, the sound of my “mom voice” as I’m talking to my children, the feel of clothing (or fuzzy slippers!) as you mentioned, the feel and smell of my baby’s soft hair and the cute sounds she makes. My problem, I think, is how quickly and often I become overwhelmed and need to check out. Like in the middle of a trip to the grocery store with my whole family. I should start going alone! I think it’s so helpful to know that I’m not the only one who feels the need to check out (or in) to my own thoughts; to be quiet at work and not share every aspect of my life with coworkers (I’m also a private person). But more helpful is knowing that nothing is wrong with me because I feel this way, and I don’t necessarily have to change it! The biggest challenge is educating the extroverts who DO think there is something wrong with us. I’ve learned so much about myself in reading the experiences of other introverts, and I am so grateful to have this community to reach out to and share with. Thanks so much!!
I’ve found that I’ve gotten more present as I’ve gotten older. My wife and children need me to “be there” no matter how badly I wish to just recede into my mind for stellar flights of fancy.
Extroverts dont live in the present either.They are out of themselves .
Love makes me want to be present when I’m present that’s why I don’t like to show up it takes too much energy. I prefer to be present on the important things . By the way I loved the article can’t wait for your new book! Sending peace ??✌?️
Great article as always! I often feel guilty when my mind wanders when I’m talking to someone and not feeling interested or engaged. I’ll definitely try your suggestions next time!
Being present is a great way to avoid anxiety or worrying about future events that most likely won’t happen anyway, being future focused actually creates the unwanted event(s).
Your destiny is shaped in your moments of decision, fear drives the mind to wander toward the future or the past, not wanting something or being afraid to take action toward a goal because of some hidden thought of an undesired outcome. Remaining present helps you remain grounded and focused on the here and now. Even in relationships enjoying the here and now, helps to overcome insecurities surrounding the “What if” thought process. I’ve gravitated to being more present with age, and as such enjoyed more peace and harmony as well as patience and understanding of others.
Well written and provocative article Michaela.
I was always called shy, as a child. Then I was stuck-up or anti-social. I’m now 70 & believe I could live the rest of my life as a hermit. I can’t stand chit-chat. Spend a lot of time on social media because there are people who talk about what I’m interested in.
i was almost giving up on checking my mail for your posts, michaela. welcome back.
well, i’ve literally been living my whole life in my head since i learnt to talk, always being criticized for thinking too much or “looking confused” or zoned out. really offensive remarks, i dare say. not motivation enough to “change” so i can “fit in” an ever extroverted world. it’s safer in my head, anyway.
It is wonderful to know I am not crazy. I drift away a lot and have thought something was wrong with me, that I was a horrible listener. I do need to practice being present more, but I feel relieved that there are others like me. I definitely am less present as I get older.
I am 17 years old. And the only place i like to be is inside my head. Its not just bliss. Its like an addiction. One question that haunts me is am i finding myself in my fantasies or am i losing me?
Huge revelation. I’m hiding inside my head! I think I know why. Energy management.
On the outside I’m worn out from work, people, lack of “me time”. I’m ducking in, trying to get some internal stimulation going, to carry me through the day.
I’ve really struggled with being too in my head, to the point where everything I cook burns, I break dishes, I forget what I was supposed to do. I go into dream land and a whole weekend will go by. I’ve combatted this by writing notes, but if I space out I’ll put it somewhere ‘where I won’t loose it’ and forget where that is.
But practicing mindfulness every morning when I wake up has changed my life. Buddhism teaches you to tune into your body and breath, to live in the now. I highly recommend doing something every morning that brings you into the present, such as paying attention to your breathing. I have found it a great grounding exercise.
I’m 25 and I am constantly in my head. I tend to journal quite a bit though because if I don’t put my thoughts on paper I forget everything. I am also an artist, so I need these thoughts anyway because it helps me so much with talking/writing through the “idea” that I have at hand.
Being able to come back on earth is a hard task, especially when you feel sleepy, but it is satisfying to be self-aware of how things feel. Thank you Michaela!
I simply love all your write ups michaela..you know me very well..
Sometimes my head is just the only sane place I know..growing up I lived a lot in my head and my family saw me as a snub being aloof to happenings around the house.. but as I got older I have realised that we need to be there for other people. So I try my best to live in the present, to feel what is happening around me and it has helped my relationship with family and friends… although I can’t wait to have my ME TIME when I can recoil and build up lost energy.. that’s why I love Night time when everyone is asleep and every where is quiet… its just the perfect time in the day for me..
Absolutely! It’s all about being in the present, but also cherishing the beauty of your imagination. 🙂 xo
Now, in my mid 40s, I have definitely become more distant and a loner. I marvel at the thought that people (including my spouse) would be utterly shocked if they knew all of the wierd places my mind goes throughout the course of the day (and yes, absolutely more so at night)! At times, when I’ve shared some of these with my spouse, I have come to regret it (because now I am “judged” and an outrage if only in my own mind). I must occasionally share my inner self or else suffer a complete disconnect with the few people I truly love and that love me back unconditionally. The fact that they can still appreciate me with all of my quirks makes me love them even more.
This post describes me. While I can’t afford the luxury of escaping into my thoughts and imagination whenever I want to, if I allow myself to go there it is a very comfortable place.
Introvert Spring has been great for me. The best thing about it is discovering that being an introvert is not a defect, but in reality it is a wonderful framework in which to experience life. I’m very grateful today.