What is inner action?

I asked myself the question this morning, “Why am I so resistant to just doing things?”

One answer that arose was that this is an extroverted way of thinking.

Extrovert – an ‘outgoing’ person; a person predominantly concerned with external things or objective considerations.

Introvert – a ‘self-centered’ person; a person predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things.

ORIGIN mid 17th cent. (as a verb in the general sense, turn one’s thoughts inward: from modern Latin introvertere, from intro- ‘to the inside’ + vertere ‘to turn.’

There is an expectation in Western society to ‘do things.’ And this takes for granted that ‘doing’ involves external action. There is also an expectation that whatever one ‘does’ will accrue some external benefit, like making money, cultivating influence, learning a new skill, meeting people, etc. In other words, there is a linear progression implied in any external action. If I do A, it will lead to B, and if I put A and B together, I will reach the goal of C.

The expectation that ‘doing something’ will ultimately confer some benefit drives people into busi-ness.

Business – ORIGIN Old English bisignis (see busy , -ness ). The sense in Old English was [anxiety] ; the sense [the state of being busy] was used from Middle English down to the 18th century, but is now differentiated as busyness. The sense [an appointed task] dates from late Middle English, and from it all the other current senses have developed.

At the height of the ‘Roaring Twenties.’ President Calvin Coolidge coined the phrase, “The business of America is business.” The actual quote was, “After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world. I am strongly of the opinion that the great majority of people will always find these the moving impulses of our life.”

American society promotes and glorifies extroversion. If you are not ‘doing something’ (defined as engaged in an external action that will accrue benefit) then you are nobody and nothing. ‘Doing nothing’ is viewed as the ultimate evil, sin, curse.

I once had a neighbor who literally worked all the time. And because she worked all the time, she was resentful of people who didn’t work all the time. My long periods of not working, or working part-time, eventually created a rift between us. She used to say to me, “You never work.” While this was technically untrue, it was the ‘image’ she chose to maintain of me, an image that did not jive with her workaholic lifestyle.

“Work your fingers to the bone and whaddya get? Bony fingers.” This has always been my take on the whole business of busy-ness. My life has proven that whatever I need comes, and that ‘what comes’ has nothing to do with busy-ness.

I may find value in separating ‘the act of doing ’ from the external expection of busy-ness, business, work. Some writers, most notably Mary Daly, started using the phrase ‘to be’ and the action ‘of being’ to separate the inner authentic movement of life from the external expectation of ‘action for the purpose of accumulation or reward.’ My desire for action (to do) must be integrated with what I define as meaningful participation or engagement in the rhythm of my individual life.

How does an introvert engage in action if the action is not external? What is inner action? Investigating this is my work.


2 thoughts on “What is inner action?

  1. Strange..I was just talking to an American friend yesterday about the intensity of being American, of doing doing doing. She prefers it here in Ireland where we work to live rather than live to work…though it has to be said that is changing, especially in the cities.


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