I want to talk a little bit about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which classifies people according to their personality traits. I know that some people take the MBTI very seriously and some not at all. I think the MBTI can be a useful tool to understanding ourselves and others. Sometimes we assume that everyone thinks or feels the same as we do, or we think those who are different are “less”–for example, that someone who is more emotional is weaker–without understanding that people are different, and being different doesn’t mean being less. Learning that people think differently helps us understand and appreciate them.
I am an INFJ, which is one of the rarest, deepest, and most complicated of the personality types. INFJs tend to value the MBTI because it helps us understand and value our gifts. Since we are the most misunderstood Type, the MBTI helps us feel understood.
INFJs are very deep, complicated thinkers who think in metaphors and patterns. We are imaginative with a rich inner life. We are very paradoxical, living in the midst of opposites. For example, we are very introverted but need connection with others, we are logical and very emotional at the same time, we are very protective of those we love but struggle to protect ourselves, we can be very quiet if we don’t feel comfortable but talk a lot when we are comfortable, and so on. We care about others and are observant and intuitive about people. We tend to be very empathetic, gentle, and understanding–to the point of being empaths who feel what others feel and hurt when they do. This makes us good listeners and we tend to be the counselors in relationships. However, because we feel so deeply, the chaos, cruelty, and suffering in the world can drain us, exhaust us, and even make us sick. We despise cruelty, manipulation, and deceit. We have strong principles that we live by and we value integrity and justice. We try to help people reach their potential with no hidden agenda of our own. We tend to be writers. Here are a few memes describing INFJs. It’s easier for me to share them then to try to describe us in words. You can see how my INFJness has resulted in me caring and writing about things like abuse.
As an INFJ, I observe the people I love–especially EJ. I try to figure out when he needs support and encouragement, when he needs a bit of fun or more rest, when he needs my strength. I do things like snowblow the driveway even though it tires me because I know he is more tired after a long day of work and the snowblower hurts his injured back. I am fiercely protective of EJ and even though I hate conflict, I will defend him against toxic, abusive people, including standing against all of my family or all of his.
Many times I am strong, but sometimes my strength gives out and I feel like I can’t be strong anymore. As one INFJ article said, “As much as we cherish the depth of our relationships, these interactions can really drain us. If we don’t find a way to relieve the burdens placed on our heart, soon enough, our legs will start shaking under the weight of them.” I try to be careful who I confide in at these times. I know there are some people who cannot physically handle the stress of others’ problems. I, also, can feel stressed and sick by suffering in the world so I totally understand. When the suffering in the world becomes too heavy I limit my exposure to the news, etc., for a bit. But there are many people who are uncomfortable with “negative” emotions such as sadness, fear, questioning, struggle. They want everyone to be always HaPpY and ♪♫singing♫♪, and never struggle with anything. They say things like “You need more faith,” or “[Non-happy emotion] is sin.” I personally believe God gave us a range of emotions, and appropriate emotions–such as deeply grieving when a loved one dies or feeling anxious when facing a serious illness–is normal and healthy and isn’t necessarily indicative of a lack of faith.
I love Psalms 107: 23-31 because it describes sailors who experienced a terrible storm at sea:
“For at his [God’s] word the storm-wind arose,
lifting up towering waves.
The sailors were raised up to the sky,
then plunged into the depths.
At the danger, their courage failed them,
they reeled and staggered like drunk men,
and all their skill was swallowed up…”
Despite all this stormy terror, the Bible says that the sailors “saw the works of Adonai, his wonders in the deep.” In other words, they didn’t lack faith. They experienced His wonders. I often learn and grow tremendously through difficulty, and I value the freedom to honestly struggle, even though things can get very scary and emotionally messy at times.
People who expect everyone to always be STRONG and HaPpY are extremely unhelpful to me. I rarely confide in them because rather than make me feel connected, they make me feel isolated in the dark. Rather than make me feel strong, they make me feel weak. I prefer to confront my fears (sometimes with shaky sword) than pretend they don’t exist. I prefer raw, honest emotions to a happy mask and advice that says: “Hey, you need more faith! Just praise God! Don’t ever let them see you cry!” I like this Brene Brown video about empathy:
As an INFJ, I can be strong, but sometimes my strength gives out. Anxiety, fear, sadness, exhaustion, can build up and up and up and I need to have a release. Sometimes I do it in writing. Sometimes I spend a day crying. Or ranting. Often I feel emotional and weak when I feel overwhelmed, but “ranting” in order to release inner pressure is one of the INFJ characteristics. One article said this:
INFJs tend to pick up on other people’s emotions and in some cases absorb them…Unfortunately, by focusing on others, we end up neglecting our own problems. When left alone, those problems become a pressure cooker waiting to explode. When it’s time for us to explode, we need someone to unload to. We need to discuss our feelings and work through what’s stressing us out. Otherwise we feel like we are being edged out by others’ problems and that we don’t matter. Take the time to hear us out when we need to rant—even if it’s about a problem that you told us to fix about one hundred times already and we ignored your advice. If you listen to us, we will be forever grateful. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been emotionally distressed over a simple problem because I let that warning light above my head become critical.
One of the many things that I love about EJ is that he understands my need to “rant” in order to release emotion so he listens to me. And listens and listens. And cares. This is invaluable.
I’m writing about all this to lead up to sharing that life is becoming a bit scary and messy right now.
EJ has been really struggling with some health issues that we felt could be side effects of the medications he is on or could be the result of a more serious problem. These issues are affecting EJ’s performance at work, which is very difficult for him because he’s always been a hard-working, skilled, and valued employee and now he feels as if he is not.
The symptoms having been becoming more problematic so yesterday I went with EJ to his doctor’s appointment. I told EJ that I was in “Protective INFJ Warrior Mode” and that I was going to insist that the doctor doesn’t just give him yet another medication to try. It’s time to get to the bottom of this. EJ knows that usually I am quite quiet and nonconfrontational, but my “Protective INFJ Warrior Mode” can be quite fierce at times. He joked to a co-worker when he left work that he was going to his doctor appointment to referee. But I was like, “I’m going to do this.” And my “fierce “Protective INFJ Warrior Mode” isn’t confrontational–unless there’s no other option. Usually it’s just firm and determined. The difference is that in the past I found it difficult to speak up, but now I do.
I was prepared to be forceful if the doctor didn’t listen to me. In fact, I didn’t sleep the night before because I was practicing my beliefs, arguments, and counter-arguments in my head. During the appointment, I just calmly and firmly stated that I know some of EJ’s medications are quite dangerous and could cause serious side effects and I was concerned they were causing his problems so I wanted him off them. I told the doctor that I was also aware that his symptoms could be indicative of a serious illness so we needed to get to the bottom of this. I told her that I know that many doctors are opposed to alternative medicine, but I think that it might be helpful to consider them in order to treat his pain without drugs.
Surprisingly, the doctor listened to me and agreed with me. She said EJ’s meds could cause the systems he is struggling with, so she took him off all his meds because she wants to sort of do a system flush to see if his issues diminish/disappear when he is off them. She said his symptoms could also indicate a more serious health issue so she is ordering an MRI. And she said that rather than calling different treatments “alternative medicine,” she’d prefer to call them “complementary treatments.” She encouraged EJ to try some of them. While the ones I suggested might/might not help him, they certainly wouldn’t hurt him, she said. So EJ and I will be discussing what steps to take and changes to make.
Of course, these health issues dredge up all sorts of anxiety, including intense concern for EJ’s health, worries about how we will survive financially if EJ can’t work, and–worse case scenarios about how I will make it if EJ dies. My body is thrumming with stress, and EJ is struggling too. We used to feel stronger and more resilient, but we both feel battered by years of dealing with abusive people, JJ’s cancer, and other difficulties. We never feel as if we can catch our breath or balance before being hit with another difficulty. So I am having a few meltdowns–crying, ranting, writing, etc.–to release the build-up of emotional stress. I’m trying to do it without being a burden to anyone else.