On Being an Introvert or Highly Sensitive Person: A guide to boundaries, joy, and meaning – Ilse Sand

On Being an Introvert or Highly Sensitive Person should have had me saying, “Me, too!” on every page. I was really excited to learn some cool new things to celebrate about being an introvert. I haven’t read any books about sensitivity so was hoping for plenty of lightbulb moments. Unfortunately I was disappointed. I felt this book read more as an introduction to introversion and sensitivity rather than an in depth study on either topic.

I expect that if you haven’t read anything about being an introvert you would gain new insights. However I’ve recently read Jenn Granneman’s The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World and Debbie Tung’s graphic novel Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert’s Story, and I personally found these previous reads more enlightening and uplifting.

Ilse Sand developed two tests for this book to use as a guide for where you sit on the introvert/extrovert scale and how sensitive you are. By testing myself I wound up with a score of +56 on the introvert/extrovert scale, where +64 is as introverted as you can get, -64 is as extroverted as you can get and around 0 means you’re ambivert (a new word for me). The sensitivity scale is much the same, except +40 is highly sensitive, 0 is moderately sensitive and -40 is ordinarily sensitive. My score for this one was +29. I’m not as introverted or as sensitive as it’s humanly possible to be but I’m right up there so while I think that should’ve converted to a “Me, too!” extravaganza while reading this book, I just didn’t feel it.

There’s nothing that wrong with this book but I lacked a connection with the writing style, which may be due to it having been translated from Danish for this edition. I found some of the sentences and phrasing clunky and there were some instances where I felt the writing could have benefited from another sentence between thoughts to connect them more cohesively.

There were a few parts I found cringeworthy, especially those where it read as though introversion is an excuse to sit on the bench of life rather than it being something to be celebrated. I doubt very much that this was the author’s intention so it may again come down to something being lost in the translation.

I quite enjoyed the information explaining Carl Jung’s work distinguishing personality types, Elaine Aron’s research into the highly sensitive character trait and Jerome Kagan’s studies into high-reactive children.

The author made good use of personal anecdotes and quotes from her work as a parish pastor and psychotherapist. I wondered why it was necessary for some examples to be fictionalised and others used anonymously as there weren’t any skeleton in the closet revelations.

Some readers may baulk at reading this book knowing it was written by an author who has worked as a pastor but I didn’t find it preachy. The examples that included the author’s church were primarily used to explore the differences between the introverted author and the church’s previous extroverted pastor. The serenity prayer was included, as was a reference to making something an idol in your life.

I encountered one of my pet peeves in this book on three occasions that I can recall, where the author tells you that you really need to know something and then rather than telling you this life changing piece of information, they refer you to one of their other books. Personally when someone does that I deliberately avoid the book they’re plugging but that could just be my stubborn showing. If you write a book well then I’ll seek out your other books myself, but if you tease me with the possibility of insight and then rip it away unless I buy another of your books, then I tend to search for that information elsewhere.

The author’s foray into mental health conditions towards the end of the book seemed to come out of left field and as someone who’s experienced PTSD I found the following sentences a tad weird coming from a psychotherapist,

“If you are extremely afraid, for example of the anger of others, you should be aware that you may have PTSD. If you do not remember it, ask your parents whether you were subjected to violence when you were a child.”

People, just because you have fear doesn’t mean you have PTSD but if you do think you may have PTSD please seek help from a medical professional!

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Jessica Kingsley Publishers for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In a culture that ranks sociability and extroversion above the introverted traits of deep thinking and being alone, Ilse Sand shows how to find joy and meaning as an introvert or highly sensitive person. She debates whether these traits are caused by nature or nurture, and shows how someone like this can organise their life to keep them content. The advice and instructions are also quite applicable to people who are temporarily or, for some other reason, in a sensitive situation – for example, because of stress, trauma, or burn-out.

It describes the introverted personality type and the highly sensitive trait, highlighting the strengths that come with it such as good listening skills and rich imagination, and suggests ways to overcome the negatives such as the need to avoid overstimulation and over-critical thinking.

Including advice from other introverts or highly introverted people, and two self-tests for sensitive and introverted traits, this book gives readers a deeper understanding of introversion and high sensitivity and gives those with these personality types greater faith and courage in their own talents.

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