On this day, ten years ago, my youngest son Talan was born. Since he hates cake, we decided to be creative and make a donught cake instead. I love this young man with all my heart and cringe at how fast he is sprouting up. At over five feet tall, wearing men’s shoes, I know already he’s gonna be tall like his daddy.
What I marvel most about motherhood, is witnessing the gradual process of “becoming” that unfolds. My two boys are very unique, and with each one “they broke the mold”. My oldest was a little “heartbreaker”. At just over five pounds at birth, he was born with a serious heart defect and we almost lost him. Throughout all the heart surgeries and stresses, we’ve enjoyed watching him grow into the young man he is today. Now a healthy sixteen-year-old he’s looking forward to getting his first car and a job this summer.
In contrast, raising my youngest couldn’t be more different. Mind you, I can’t say I honestly love one of them more than the other. It’s just that my relationship with each of my boys is unique unto itself. Talan was fat and sassy at just under nine pounds. The normal and typical activities of caring for a healthy infant were a welcome change. Gone were the stresses of caring for a critically ill baby. Memories of a past miscarriage fresh in mind, I cherished every minute.
As they grew, temperament-based differences led highly varied parenting expereinces. My oldest Josiah, while sensitive and caring had a stubborn streak. He preferred to march to his own drum, and loved asking “why”. Seeking to form his own opinion, I’m proud to say he’s truly “his own person”.
In contrast, my Talan is the gentlest of souls. I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out that he’s an INFP personality like me. Our ability to understand one another is uncanny. From a very young age he’s been adept at picking up on how others are feeling. When he notices I’m down he gives me a hug and says “what’s wrong mommy”?
For this reason, I have to be careful about how I discipline him. He is so sensitive, that if I raise my voice or express too much frustration, this crushes his very soul. So eager to please, I have to set firm guidelines while communicating messages of “you’re better than that” and not “what’s wrong with you”.
Problems along the way, include his tendency to pick up on all my bad habits: stressing too much about failing perform up to a personal standard and an irrational fear of spiders. However, I gladly accept these minor issues, because raising him has been a truly healing experience…..
I love you “piglet”! Thank’s so much for being my son….
As an INFP, my dominant function is introverted feeling and my auxiliary function is extroverted intuition. Together these two cognitive functions depict fairly accurately how my mind works. Introverted feeling is a judging function which acts as an internal compass. It has allowed me live a life on my own terms by listening to my “inner voice”. My auxiliary function, is extroverted intuition (Ne) according to the MBTI. As a perceiving function it describes how we become aware of people, things, events and/or ideas (Myers, 1962). A person’s perceiving function falls on a continuum between two extremes: intuition or sensing (Myers, 1962). Sensors utilize the senses to take in information in concrete and literal terms. Intuition, in contrast, is much more difficult to pin down. Isabel Myers (1962), states it is “[an] indirect perception by way of the unconscious…much too interested in…possibilities…to notice actualities” (p. 51)”. This reflects fairly accurately my own personal experiences. My mind is naturally drawn to big-picture, far-reaching possibilities. I seek awareness of systems of meaning underlying the veneer of appearances. Regarding extroverted intuition, Jung states the following:
“He has a keen nose for things in the bud pregnant with future promise. He can never exist in stable, long-established conditions of generally acknowledged though limited value: because his eye is constantly ranging for new possibilities, stable conditions have an air of impending suffocation. He seizes hold of new objects and new ways with eager intensity, sometimes with extraordinary enthusiasm, only to abandon them cold- bloodedly, without regard” (Jung, 2014, p. 27-28).
definitive qualities of Ne…
What follows is my best attempt at describing extroverted intuition. Keep in mind, as an INFP, my experience of this function, is as an auxiliary support for introverted feeling. In other words, while introverted feeling (Fi) accurately describes my inner world, extroverted intuition (Ne) describes how I make sense of the world around me. As I’ve matured, personal growth has entailed learning to utilize this function independent of the needs of introverted feeling. This has allowed me to see the world for what it is not simply what I feel it “should be”.
My favorite questions as a child were “Why?” And “How come?” Rather than taking the experiences of daily life as they appeared I wanted to understand why they were that way. This desire for explanation goads me forward as I try to make sense of why things are as they are. My boundless curiosity produces a sweeping awareness of history not bound by the present. I look to the past to understand why today is as it is. I look forward to develop an understanding of what’s beyond the horizon. Easily bored by the details of daily life, my mind is elsewhere. Driven by introverted feeling, all things pertaining to humanity’s existence capture my imagination. Asking me to focus on what’s in front of me and take the facts as they appear feels like prison. I become constrained by a narrowed focus that prevents me from examining the possibility around me.
Big picture orientation.
I like fitting the pieces of life into a puzzle that provides a greater understanding of things. My mind is naturally drawn toward the endless task of seeking patterns woven throughout life, as a hidden paradigm. In the area of communication, this means digging deeper. Rather than taking things as the seem, I notice hidden meaning & unspoken motives. As it pertains to society, others’ play by the rules, I ask who made them, and why it applies to me.
In this manner, I see the bigger picture and play with it as a toddler with a new toy. In order to make sense of life from all facets, I flutter between multiple perspectives in a game of “what-if”. The one rule of this game: a momentary suspension of disbelief that requires one to hold a perspective without prejudgment. This illuminates a hidden truth that was previously unknown. With this expanded awareness I’m suddenly goaded further to move ruthlessly toward other vantage points in a never-ending quest for understanding.
“The Healer/Empathist” – understanding others
I like Kiersey’s label for INFP’s as healers, it fits us well. As an INFP, extroverted intuition focuses upon what best captures the interests of my empathist mindset. Guided by Fi, I start first with an natural empathetic drive which is not ignorable. My mind gravitates toward the grain of truth in a person’s point-of-view and tries to acknowledge the feelings which result from them. When guided by Fi, Ne seeks to develop a bigger picture to aid in the journey.
I’m an emotive sponge. My walls are thinner than most others. The inner world of those I encounter echo in my mind. In my family of origin, I have to play chameleon for this reason. I see where they are coming from. I alter my communication to meet their needs. As a person speaking a foreign language, I translate my thoughts into something they can grasp. The goal is getting myself heard by speaking in a way others understand. The process is exhausting….and often a one way street.
Harmony & social justice for the underdog…
As an INFP. I naturally empathize with the underdogs of the world. Driven by a desire for harmony and cooperation in my environment, I fight for inclusion & equality. I hate arguing and avoid it like the plague. With introverted feeling taking the reigns, I’m hyper-aware of the social injustices of the world. As an INFP I have an strong internal drive for independence and individuality. I desire to live life on my own terms, remain authentic and gain acceptance for who I am. I have a strong distaste for blind conformity and close-mindedness.
Shortcomings of Ne…
I love the metaphor of a food log since it describes so succinctly insights of the MBTI. It provides a convenient assessment of our innate cognitive preferences. For example, I hate cucumbers and watermelon. I love sushi. Nothing you can do will change these preferences, they’re kinda written in stone…Mind you, I’m not saying this gives us free reign to be as we are and forego effortful self improvement. Instead, I believe that while we should accept these preferences as innate drives, we can also engage in self-responsibility. In light of this, what follows are a few shortcomings of this cognitive function, in my experience…
Difficulty with pragmatism
As an INFP, my imagination is my favorite plaything. I can get lost within it. Thats largely due to the fact that extroverted intuition is bored with the pragmatics if daily life. Taking things as they appear without digging deeper feels like running into traffic blindfolded. I have difficulty remembering details. I’m an absent-minded professor who’s too lost in her thoughts to bother with the present moment. Consequently, I suck at planning and have difficulty solving problems by working thru facts. I lived my youth as a reformed fuck-up: making rash decisions with no basis in logic to their often ubsurdist conclusions….
Bored with everyday details
My mother is an ESTJ. She was telling me a strange story one day of her long bus trips to school while a college student living at home. How did she spend her time? She would take a mental snapshot of the passing scenery and see how much she could remember. Her other favorite was the alphabet word game using road signs. Honestly, I’m sure there was a point to this story, but I don’t remember it. I only recall this snippet because it seemed so odd to me. My mind literally runs in opposition to hers. I’m usually too preoccupied with my thoughts to even notice such details. I can never remember where I last left my keys. I have to keep a bullet journal to keep myself organized…. And still I manage to miss a few details here and there.
Lost in a world of imagination
When you take the world as it is, based on surface appearance, you’re missing so much. There’s a deeper truth to be found by simply asking “why”. More importantly, I firmly believe the solution to many problems in life can be solved by looking at things differently. Oftentimes we are so intertwined within the problem, we can’t see a solution – until we step back and look at the bigger picture.
Big on ideas without the follow-thru
Yup. This is a big shortcoming of Ne. This very blog is a superb example. I’ve wanted to create a blog for over five years. I have a big plastic bin in my hallway closet filled with ideas. Creating this blog is a big step in a new direction. I’m setting aside plans and pulling the trigger. Nobody may ever read this, but that’s really “not the point”.
How do you “unsee”???
In defense of my shortcomings, as an INFP, I simply ask this question: how do you “unsee” something? If you notice something that is plain & clear, but nobody else is paying attention, should you ignore it? Does that mean it doesn’t exist? Is reality a majority rules concept? What if you try to point out what you see, but nobody listens? Are they ignoring you in favor of blissful ignorance over bitter truth? What do you do?
Your options are limited. You could ignore your own first-hand experience, and blindly appease others. This would yield approval from others but result in hypocrisy and inauthenticity. The other alternative is to play that role as the kid in that fable “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. Daring to live your own Truth may not yield approval. However this isn’t a reflection that you are wrong. They may just not understand where you’re coming from…. And maybe in the end this doesn’t matter….
Myers, I. B. (1962). The myers-briggs type indicator: Manual. Consulting Psychologists Press.
Jung, C.G..(2014) Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 6 : Psychological Types. Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press.
As I mentioned in part one of this series, I am an INFP according to the MBTI: “Myers-Briggs Type Indicator”. Based on insights from Carl Jung’s work, it measures an individual’s preferences along four temperament-based dichotomies. To review, I am an INFP:
I am an introvert who is drawn towards my rich inner world to “recharge my batteries”…
I use intuition, a big-picture, future-oriented perceiving function tp seek out meaning & possibility…
I use the feeling function to make decisions on the basis of my personal values…
I am a perceiver who has a flexible and spontaneous approach to life…
It is worth noting that these four cognitive functions, exist in a hierarchical order in terms of preference. In other words, some of them have a stronger influence on our thought processes than others. For example, the dominant function exists as the ship’s captain, “with undisputed authority to set her course and bring her safe to the desired port” (Myers, 1962, p. 59). According to myersbriggs.org, (n.d.) we tend to trust this function the most & are energized when utilizing it, since it comes naturally to us. As an INFP, my dominant function is introverted feeling. Additionally, since this dominant function doesn’t work in isolation, it is worth noting how the others functions support it. For example, as a feeler, I am driven by personal values without reference to others, as an introvert. In contrast, my sister is an ISFJ who extroverts her feeling function . I would describe her as “miss manners on crack”: concerned with conventionality and not coloring outside the lines. This link provides an excellent discussion of how introverted feeling compares with extroverted feeling. In this section, I’d like to review my own personal experiences with this cognitive function and how it affects my view of the world….
Definitive Qualities of Fi…
mysterious & difficult to define…
“Introverted feeling is determined by the subjective factor…is extremely difficult to give an intellectual account of…or even an approximate description of it…The depth of this feeling can only be guessed at…It makes people silent and difficult to access.” (Jung, 2014, p. 638).
The biggest complaint I’ve heard about INFPs are that they are very difficult to know. I find the above quote from Carl Jung quite humorous. It’s certainly an accomplishment that we make so little sense for someone such as Jung – who is known for his intuitive understanding of the human mind 🙂 🙂 . As I experience this difficult-to-understand nature, there are two perspectives from you could discuss it. The fizzy pop can metaphor might be useful in this discussion. Let’s say there are several pop cans sitting on the counter. Somebody grabs one of them and shakes it up a bit to create extra pressure inside, then places it next to the other cans. I call this the INFP pop can. From the outsider’s perspective, it sits like there, as any normal pop can would, and basically takes up space until someone opens it up and takes a drink. As the INFP, its important to remember that surface impressions don’t scratch the surface of one’s internal reality. In other words, a view from within the pop can is very different than surface impressions might lead one to believe. This is usually a surprise to the unknowing observer who picks up the INFP pop can and opens it up to take a drink….
It’s important to note, I’m not trying to be difficult and evasive when others try to understand me. In my experience it seems instead as if introverted feeling (Fi) and extraverted intuition (Ne) combine to create a contrarian view of the world. As a biracial individual and bullied child, I believe that this “against the grain” mindset was magnified highly. When I think of introverted feeling, my own personal theory of life comes to mind. I believe that reality is a subjective interpretation and not objective fact. As a result, I believe it is important to think for yourself, “by keeping your eyes on your own paper”. Convenient examples of the inherent subjectivity of life can be discovered within your favorite book, movie, or television series. It is through the character’s eyes that the story becomes what it is. What you get is more than a plot line unfolding before you. Instead you get a chance to “wear” a set of eyeballs other than our own, and witness life from a unique perspective….
In attempting to understand this difficult-to-know nature, it is useful to refer again to the INFP’s primary perceiving functions. My primary perceiving function is extraverted intuition which is most effectively illuminated in the Indian fable of the Blind Men and the Elephant. My primary judging function is introverted feeling which inherently honors individuality and the uniqueness of everyone’s experience with an attitude of empathy. Together these functions yield a mine field of perspectives that appears much like a hall of mirrors. Each experiential reality is a creation of self-fulfilling prophecies, whereby we project our thoughts, feelings and beliefs upon the world. How does one begin to communicate this reality? There are truly no words…
marching to my own drum…
“Introverted Feeling (Fi) is the attitude that everything is manifest…in the expression of a soul or life force, in terms of which everything…makes sense. Everything…is the result of a soul expressing its unique nature….each living thing is completely unique, and has unique needs. Every living thing needs to express itself …in its unique way” (MBTI Enthusiast, 2012).
…and that brings me to the issue of personal values as it pertains to the INFP. From my own perspective, I experience my own values-laden reality as a sort of “inner knowing” of what resonates with me based on my current beliefs and experiences. This purely subjective value system, pertains to me alone and is something which I have no desire to impose upon others. Instead, it is reflects my belief that the true key to empowerment is self-responsibility. As I said earlier, “keep your eyes on your own paper”.
still waters run deep…
“Introverted feeling is judgment with an emotional slant that causes the individual to view the object on a subjective level. It is primarily a silent inaccessible function that is difficult to conceptualize….and is entirely individualistic” (MBTI Enthusiast, 2012).
While I may have discussed this quality earlier, it is worth mentioning here again, only because it is so definitive of the INFP’s character. The fizzy pop can metaphor is also pertinent here…. (((and it is worth noting that underestimating the INFP is a big mistake.))) There is much of what makes us who “we are” that is unseen and overlooked. While appearing, empathetic, idealistic, creative, and in our “own” world, there is usually much more going on. You see, the introverted feeling function creates a uniquely personal experience in life where our values give it a unique quality. These values are relevant to our own life experiences and we have an innate desire to live life accordingly As I have experienced it, violating them is a mistake that (at its worst) can cause me to get very very angry. Things can get ugly very quickly….A convenient example of this can be found in my blog posts on “A shameful Parenting Story” or “and Cancer Trumps PTSD”…
An INFP lives in a constant state of becoming….happiest when..our actions move us towards that Ideal….unhappy when… people or…circumstances control our ability to become our Ideal….Our values guides us towards what feels right and away from what feels wrong. An INFP’s subjective values often conflict with external circumstances which leads to a me-vs-them mentality…[this is] the root…of our problems” (infpblog.org, n.d.).
INFP’s feel compelled to uphold their personal values because it feels like a “survival mechanism”. Denying us this can feel like a rejection of what “makes us who we are”. For example, in a follow-up post to the “Shameful Parenting” post, I discuss the concept of “Good Enough Parenting”. In this post, I reflect on my experiences raising a child with a congenital heart defect who was bullied as a child. I consider these unique experiences, and raise him as I see fit, based on his unique needs When someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about tells me this is wrong I get angry. The key for me has been accepting the idea that others might not approve or validate me. The price I must accept for following my own path, is that people may disagree with me.
subjective & empathetic…
Fi leads [one] to live a life based on empathy & harmony…and…see life as a never-ending conflict between souls that are intrinsically different…Fi naturally leads people to favor mercy or forgiveness…This use of empathy [is an]… orientation [which] leads to a resolute non-judgmentalness….(MBTI Enthusiast, 2012).
When I was a kid my parents took me to my first movie. Since my sister wasn’t born yet, I’m guessing I about five years old. This was the mid-70’s, and I was seeing a Peanut’s movie. According to my parents I was enjoying the movie until the scene where Lucy is fighting with Snoopy in a boxing match. Everybody in the audience is laughing, but I’m crying uncontrollably. In fact, it gets so bad that that my parents have to leave the theater. I remember vaguely being so angry that everybody was laughing at snoopy getting hurt. He’s a cute puppy dog after all, why would you want to beat up a puppy dog?!?!
This quality has been with me my whole life. I’m naturally sensitive and experience my feelings strongly – in a manner that is difficult to express. When I reflect on how different I am from the rest of my family, it becomes clear that my “walls” are thinner. I am an empathetic and emotive sponge who can’t help but notice the emotions of those around me. My youngest son is 9-years-old, and displays many of these traits. From a very young age, he has always been sensitive, and I have to be careful when I punish him, that my verbal communication isn’t too harsh. I also have to be aware of any exhaustion, stress, or frustration, because he can read immediately. He reacts with a “what’s wrong mommy?”. He can walk into a room, and know immediately how I feel just by looking at me. The only other person who can do this, is my hubby, (only because he knows me so well).
A discussion of the introverted feeling would be incomplete without discussion of its inherent shortcomings. What follows is a list of issues that perpetually plague my daily existence…
As I stated earlier, INFP’s are know for their boundless idealism. They feel compelled to live by these ideals and protect them – especially when challenged. In some instances this can be a strength. It provides INFP’s a strong motivational force and internal guidance system. In other instances, boundless idealism is unhealthy and destructive – especially when it isn’t anchored onto reality. INFP’s should question the measuring stick they hold themselves to. Are you investing in realistic expectations? While criticism and self-responsibility are healthy – unnecessarily harshness is self-destructive.
The most judgmental type…
A blog post I found recently, makes some interesting points of INFP’s. While we may appear fairly inert and unassuming, something very different can lurk underneath. As INFPs, we are able to see beyond the superficialities of daily experience. What’s frustrating, is these deeper truths underlie superficial experience yet are constantly ignored. However much it acts as a definitive groundwork upon which we build our reality, we engage in a “suspension of disbelief” for the sake of illusory realism. When reading books, or watching movies, Engaging in a suspension of disbelief is useful to enjoy the story as it unfolds. While useful with works of fiction, it has no utility as a life approach. What’s frustrating for INFP’s is a part of us desires desperately to point out that bullshit is bullshit. However doing so can be an egregious violation to others’ feelings, so we say nothing. Our hyper-awareness and empathy create a mental bullshit-o-meter for all that is incongruous and inauthentic. Turning our boundless idealism onto the world when it fails to live up to our expectations can be truly ugly. We can end up judging the world and those in it as we do ourselves.
I grew up with an ESTJ mother and INTP father. They are both college professors who prided themselves on their intellect. As a neurophysiologist my father was great at reducing all thoughts and feelings to brain anatomy and function. I remember being told as a kid “exercise your prefrontal cortex, Kathleen”, whenever I was emotional. There is honestly a part of me that hates being an INFP. In my next life I will be a callous bitch, just to see what that feels like. Living in this life with such a think skin between myself and the world leaves me exposed. Brene Brown’s concept of vulnerability is a terrifying for this reason. However, over the years, I’ve learned how to put the insights of the MBTI into perspective and gain sone self-acceptance. On the one hand, it is worth noting that this personality assessment describes our innate preferences. Trying to change an innate preference is akin to “praying the gay away”. On the other hand, it is wrong to use this as an excuse for our shortcomings. For example, if the MBTI is a food log, I am I sweet tooth. If I were to fully indulge this desire, I would gain 20 pounds in no time flat. Just because I enjoy sweets, that doesn’t mean its okay to treat my body like a trash can.
A horse of a different color…
As I stated earlier, INFP’s can march to the beat of their own drum. In some respects this can be a good thing, if it means an authentic existence based on self-awareness and personal responsibility. However, marching to the beat of your own drum, doesn’t come without a price. Going against the grain means accepting the consequences of “differentness”. For me, in early childhood, I didn’t understand the underlying reasons for my oddball ways. I was insightful enough to realize that “normalcy” was not possible, but still incapable of understanding why. I was highly sensitive and very lonely as a bullied child. All I wanted to do was fit in, but never could. It wasn’t until I grew older that I came to understand I was fighting my basic nature.
“[introverted] feeling progressively emancipates itself from the object and creates or itself a freedom of action & conscience that is purely subjective and may even renounce all traditional values. But so much the more does unconscious thinking fall a victim to the power of reality.” (Jung, 2014, p. 638).
Another thing I hate about myself is my inability to be logical and pragmatic, especially since this causes me to stand out like a sore thumb in my family. You see, this path of illogical unrealism goes way back, to my earliest memories. It appears I prefer to take my current path to its most absurdist conclusion, until I find myself in a world of shit. Here are a few examples, that I beat myself up over as a “REFORMED FUCK UP”…
I was a bullied child, because others could tell I was the perfect target. It took years before it truly sank in that their opinions don’t matter. I allowed these unresolved hurts to exist as self-fulfilling prophecies well into adulthood….
I was in a“very dysfunctional relationship”for four years in college. I put up with all his bullshit simply because I took to heart everything my bullies said about me. The reality of my true worth and what I have to offer in a relationship existed within me as fact. Just like The Wizard of Oz story, I had the ruby slippers all along. I just needed to believe in myself.
I made a series of stupid educational career choices in a desire to prove myself as “good enough” and successful in the conventional sense of the word, only to create failure after failure. It wasn’t until I understood that success meant accepting my basic nature, that I was able to create forward progress
“Let go of me you f*cking bastard. You have no right to keep me here!!!”
As she attempts to swing her frail legs over the bedrail for the umpteenth time I caution her to be careful. She is surprisingly strong, despite her small size. Fueled by a determination brought about by delirium, she has her mind set to: “get the hell outta here!!”
Assigned as a “safety advocate”, my job is to prevent another fall. I gently placed her legs back in bed and straightened her sheets. She responded with a series of punches and kicks.
“Maggie, don’t do that, I’m just at trying to help,” I respond.
“Go to hell!” She screeches while picking at her I.V. Lines.
Grabbing hold of her hands so she’s unable to pull at her I.V., I remind her:“Don’t do that or you’ll bleed.”
While covering the lines with kerlix, I divert her attention to what’s on t.v. A look of disgust forms on her face as she responds: “You know what, you’re a f*cking idiot. I’m getting the hell out of here and you have no right to keep me!”
As she swings her legs over the berail again, I try to reorient her. Feeling like a broken record at this point, I ask her:“Maggie do you know you are?”
Ignoring my question she responds, “Oh get out of my way you moron!”
“You’re in the hospital because you’re sick, remember?” I ask, praying for a glimmer of recall from within the reaches of her foggy brain.
Sadly my efforts prove futile as she looks at me with disgust “Oh shut up, You’re a liar!”
As I swing her legs back in bed, she grabs my arm and starts wringing it like a damp wash rag. Her beautiful cherry red nails dig deep into my skin, as I wince in pain. Noticing this, a devilish grin forms on her face. She digs her nails in even deeper. Small crescent shaped marks form up and down my arm.
Unsure of what my options are at this point, I decide that verbal discussion is pointless. She has no desire to hear what I have to say. My heart throbs in my chest as I struggle to defuse a situation that is becoming increasingly unmanageable. I decide to let her continue kneading my arm like silly putty despite the ensuing pain. At least this way, I reason, she’s not trying to get out of bed….
After 40 minutes of this, the nurse finally brings in a shot of Haldol. Before too long Maggie finally falls asleep. It is 2:00 a.m. Now alone with my thoughts I struggle to stay awake. Desperately in need of caffeine, I’m afraid to drink my stale coffee, since it might make me pee. I really need to use the bathroom, but am afraid to ask for a break. Short staffed and without a tech on the floor, the nurses are on edge. I decide to hold off on that a while. Alone with my thoughts now, the room is pitch black. I stare absent-mindedly out the window and watch as the four-way stoplight rhythmically flickers leaving red streaks on the rain-soaked pavement.
Since this is my third 12-hour weekend night shift, I’m physically and mentally exhausted. My mind wanders onto thoughts of housework and unfinished assignments. A mental piss-moan session ensues as I consider all that life requires of me. As a full time student, I also work for a large hospital-system float pool & often feel like a dumping ground for everyone’s frustrations, worries, and concerns. My goal is to provide good care. I try to remain empathetic, but frequently struggle. I ‘m exposed to extreme situations. The people I care for are not feeling well. Consequently, patients like “Maggie” often use me as an emotional punching bag. They’re frustrated, feel like shit, I’m readily available to take it.
However, I’m often not allowed to say what I feel. The emotions build up inside. During my evening with “Maggie”, I try to remember that her behaviors are symptomatic of delirium. This is not the loving wife, mom, and grandmother her family described to me earlier. After several shifts like this the frustration can overwhelm me.
Grateful to sit for once, the events of a previous shift enter my mind. I was the only tech with 26 patients on a pins floor. All vitals were q4, everyone was a daily weight, and call lights flickered like a Christmas tree. The cherry on top of this fine sundae, were all the lazy nurses I worked with. One in particular had a patient that was pooping hourly. She refused to change him. As the end of the shift neared, she asked me to change him for the umpteenth time. Since I was the only tech on the floor, I was already swamped. I wondered if she noticed how busy I was. Still, I smiled and bit my tongue.
sick & tired
The stories in this post do not represent a specific patient I’ve cared for. Instead, I’m hoping to provide a small taste of what I deal with as a CNA for a large hospital system. I try my best and pray for strength on my way to work. I struggle to hold onto the meaning in what I’m doing as a direct care provider. Still I’m worn out, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. As a wife, mother, and healthcare worker all I do is tend to the needs of others. Today I’ve become the summative reaction to the needs of others.
MBTI stands for “Myers-Briggs Type Indicator”. Based on Carl Jung’s work “Psychological Types”, published in 1921, it was first developed by Isabel Myers (1897-1980) and her mother, Katharine Cook Briggs (1875-1968) in 1943. Utilizing Jung’s insights as a jumping off point, Myers & Briggs wanted to design an instrument that would allow individuals to develop an understanding of critical aspects of their temperament. I’ve taken this test several times in my life, and find the results quite fascinating. It has been quite useful for me in my academic pursuits, career aspirations, and personal relationships. As I understand it, the MBTI much like a mental food log. It describes how we interact with our world, recharge our batteries after a long day, how we intake information, and what we do with it. I’ve taken these results two times in my life, once in college and a second time when seeing a therapist. I am an INFP, my sister is ISFJ, my father is INTP, my mother is ESTJ and my hubby is ESTP. When reading my own description I find it does function in describing well how I feed my mind and what I do with that information. Additionally, studying temperament-based differences within my family has been helpful in understanding our relationship more fully. In this post I provide an overview of the INFP personality type, based on my own personal experiences….
Introversion or Extroversion??? (recharging my batteries)
In the MBTI Typology system,extraverts are naturally drawn of people and things whereas introverts are naturally drawn to their own inner world of thoughts and ideas (Myers, 1962). In other words, as an Introvert, I recharge my batteries after a long day, by reading, blogging, or drawing. At the same time, I can become quickly drained after an extended holiday visit with the extended family (where I have little time to myself). Its important to note that this doesn’t mean I’m shy, antisocial, or unfriendly. It just means that I need time to myself after a long day. My mother in contrast, is an extravert. She draws energy from the world around her and participates in an array of social groups and activities. In her art, my mother analyzes the outer world in acute detail and tries to represent this as accurately as possible I, on the other hand, utilize it is a form of self-expression. My goal isn’t to strictly adhere to my senses. Instead I hope to depict my unique way of viewing the world.
Extraverts appear outgoing. Introverts appear quiet and reserved.
Extraverts are comfortable working in groups, introverts work well alone.
Extroverts have a wide range of friendships and know lots of people. Introverts prefer to take time to know people well.
Extroverts can jump into an activity with little reflection on underlying motives. Introverts can spend too much time reflecting on motives and are delayed in moving to action.
Intuition or Sensing??? (perceiving the world)
The MBTI Typology system, describes perceiving as a “process of becoming aware of things or people or occurrences or ideas” (Myers, 1962, p. 51) in our world. We have unique preferences regarding how we prefer to take in information from the world around us. This determines how we gather information from the world around us, and what tends first grabs our attention. Sensors prefer to intake information through the five senses. For example my hubby is an ESTP personality type. As an ESTP, his primary function (more on this later) use extraverted sensing. This means he lives fully in the present and is acutely aware of the physical reality of the world around him. When talking with him, you get are acutely aware of how the world looks through his eyes. He is concerned with what is actual, present, and readily discernible from the world, with the use if his senses. At his best, this makes him grounded in reality and fully present in the “now”. This is makes him the idea partner-in-crime as a key stabilizing force in my life. At its worst, this function can tend to be short-sighted. Only seeing readily observable factors from the senses, the less tangible aspects of experience do not exist until it smacks them in the face. This has been a key source of frustration in the relationship with my sister and mother.
In contrast, I prefer intuition which Isabel Briggs Myers (1962), describes as an “indirect perception by way of the unconscious, accompanied by ideas or associations which [can be discerned from] the perceptions from the outside” (p. 51).My father and I use our intuition, a perceiving function that is interested in attending to the underlying meanings and patterns that can be observed. As a future-oriented perceiving function, it is focused on possibilities. In this respect, rather than observing sensory details from one’s immediate environment, it is big-picture oriented.
Intuitives remember events more as an impression of what happened in terms of the underlying meaning that was most significant. In contrast, sensors remember in excruciating detail a snapshot of the events as they unfolded based on what the senses told them.
Intuitives solve problems by leap between possibilities while utilize underlying meanings and patterns, to determine on the most ideal alternative. Sensors work through the facts and pragmatic details until they understand the problem
Sensors focus on the present moment trust first hand experience. Intuitives trust their impressions and underlying systems of meaning as a true reflection of what is going on.
Sensors focus so much on the facts that they fail to understand future possibilities until the reality of their inevitability smack them in the face. Intuitives focus so much on possibilities that the pragmatics of everyday life escape
Thinking or Feeling??? (making decisions)
In MBTI typology, judging refers to a process of “coming-to-conclusions about what has been perceived” (Myers, 1962, p. 51). Thinkers utilize a logical thought process to come at an impersonal and rational decision. Feelers utilize values to bestow value on various options in order to produce a decision that is highly personal. As a result, the decisions thinkers produce are derived on principles that can be thought of universal or basic truths. They are impersonal, yet consistent and logical. In contrast, a feeler’s decisions are based on points-of-view involved in the situation at hand. In this respect, they are much more concerned with values and subjective points of interest. My parents, for example are thinkers, and can be described as logical, objective, rational, critical, firm, rational, pragmatic, and impersonal in their decision making. While their decisions have a universal level of understanding that can be understood by all involved, something critical is missing. There is a failure to understand and respect personal values, or the emotions of those involved. For all their wisdom as intellectuals with advanced degrees, they are unable to grasp a human intelligence that allows them to relate to others and appreciate perspectives outside their own.
Thinkers enjoy the sciences, where logic prevails. In contrast, feelers have a people oriented communicative perspective.
Thinkers notice inconsistencies and seek a rational perspective. In contrast, feelers are concerned with systems of value and are concerned with well-being and harmony.
Thinkers make decisions with the head and believe the truth is more important than tact. In contrast, feelers believe there is something to be said for how you communicate something and act on the basis of compassion.
Thinkers fail to consider the feelings of others, and are sometimes perceived as indifferent or uncaring. Feelers are perceived as idealistic and struggle with logic.
Judging or Perceiving??? (interacting w/ the world)
People have two basic attitudinal orientations in their daily interactions with the world. Judgers tend to utilize judgment as the MBTI typology defines it, in their daily lives (Myers, 1962). As a result, judgers prefer to live in a predictable and logical world and are decided and judgmental in their interactions with the world. In contrast, perceivers reserve their judgment for themselves and do not hold the world to the same standard. They are open-minded and tend to take things as they come. As a result, perceivers tend to be curious and exploratory in their daily interactions with the world. It is also worth noting here, that according to this personality typology system our preferred judging and/or perceiving preferences guide this attitudinal orientation. For example, I am an intuitive and perceiver, therefore, I utilize intuition in my interactions with the world, and tend to reserve my feeling function as a deciding function for my own life situation. In contrast, my mother is an ESTJ. As a result, she leads with the thinking function and utilizes this in her interactions with the world….
Judgers are task-oriented and have a preference for control and pragmatism. Perceivers are open-minded and take things as they happen, as a result they keep plans to a minimum.
Perceivers approach work as a form of play and are creative in their plans when moving forward. Judgers are slow to make changes in life and create careful lists and detailed plans before taking action.
Perceivers can tend to leave things for the last minute, while judgers opt for slow and steady progress.
Myers, I. B. (1962). Theory on which the indicator is based. The myers-briggs type indicator: Manual (1962). (pp. 51-64) Consulting Psychologists Press. doi:http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.bellevue.edu/10.1037/14404-006
As a mother, therapy student, and healthcare worker, it seems the majority of my time is spent in the care of others. As a Healer INFP personality type this endeavor suits me for the most part. However, as time has progressed, I’ve come to the realization that I’m becoming an adaptive reaction to others’ needs. I have so little say in who I am becoming. Everybody’s “baggage” tends to pile up after a long week. When I review the endless needs, thoughts, feelings, and desires of those I provide care for, an “F’d” up hall of mirrors presents itself. Within each individual’s worldview are a set of perceptual distortions That I become lost in. I am unseen behind what is projected upon me….
Cumulatively, these experiences are much like “The Emperor Has No Clothes” fable. What I like about this story is it represents effectively the notion of pluralistic ignorance: “a socio-psychological phenomenon that involves a systematic discrepancy between people’s private beliefs and public behavior in certain societal contexts” (Bjerring, et al, 2014, p. 2445). This aggravates me to no end. As I see it, pluralistic ignorance is the perpetuation of bullshit. It requires us to pretend the king is not naked. Effectively, in the context of the social situation, truth becomes bullshit and bullshit becomes truth. A part of me feels compelled mention that the king is naked. However, memories of ostracism hold me back. I stay quiet while my thoughts scream at me from inside. Underlying a plastered smile, is a mind filled with aggravation.
Developmental psychologist, Jean Piaget studied cognitive development and believed it emerged in stages (i.e. sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, formal operational). In his theory, is the concept of schemas, defined as building block of knowledge that allow children to interact with their environment (Piaget, 1952). Schemas provide mental representations of the world and help us make sense of what we encounter. Through a process of assimilation and accommodation, we incorporate new information in order to refine our understanding of the world. (Piaget, 1952). Žvelc, (2009), also notes that since they provide a representation of ourselves and others, they have a profound affect on our interpersonal relationships.
What I find interesting about this concept, is it mirrors insights from Thomas Kuhn’s book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” (Kuhn, 2012). According to Kuhn, academic fields tend to operate on an implicit set of beliefs and assumptions or “paradigm”. Paradigms are explanatory models of belief systems that guide the progression of knowledge within a scientific field. New insights are utilized to expand the prevailing paradigmatic explanatory model – until something unique is encountered. This anomaly produces a crisis – and eventually a new paradigm, (much in the same manner as Piaget describes with schemas). These views of cognitive development and scientific discovery both provide a Hegelian dialectical perspective of progress.
In his book, “Frame Analysis”, Erving Goffman seems to describe social frames as constructed schemas of interpretation (Goffman, 1974). They provide a socially constructed agenda-setting framework, that give us a background for understanding social interactions. This allows us to engage in impression management. Much of this occurs outside of our awareness, at a subconscious level. For example, personal experiences are imbued with social meaning in ways we are often do not realize. Goffman’s theory is very dramaturgical in nature and provides a convenient way of examining our daily interactions as “performances”. Essentially, as his theory asserts, our experiences are organized on the basis of social constructs which provide us meaning. In order to function in the social world, we must frame our experiences within this meaning system.
In his book “Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy”, Eric Berne, (1961), provides a theory which is useful in analyzing social interactions. His theory uses the concept of life scripts to describe a set of “unconscious relational patterns” (Erskine, 2010, p. 24). Developed in childhood, they are relational patterns that reflect our attachment history and are repeated throughout life. Scripts exist within limbic memory and influence our thoughts, perceptions and behaviors. Finally, they provide “a generalization of specific experiences and an unconscious anticipation…that will be repeated throughout life” (Erskine, 2010, p. 22). Berne uses the term “transference phenomena” (Ereskine, 2010, p. 15) to describe this repetitive nature reflected through our relationship history.
Schemas are building blocks we utilize to understand our world in early childhood. Goffman’s frames exist as an adult corollary, providing a means of impression management. Finally, Berne’s scripts tie these two concepts together by allowing us to understand how our interactions are influenced by early childhood experiences. Much of what we understand about the world, are assumed to be matters of fact. We expect others to see as we do with socially relevant meaning systems that can act as a guide for our interactions with one another. We expect others to comply behaviorally with this system of meaning regardless of whether it contradicts that individual’s true nature or lived experience. We are disappointed when they do not comply for failing to validate this perceptual construct. Kuhn calls contradictory evidence an anomaly (Kuhn, 2012). Piaget (1952), asserts it is either assimilated or accommodated. Berne (1961) uses script analysis to understand how social constructs influence our understanding of these relational anomalies. Overall, these concepts describe effectively how pluralistic ignorance is self-perpetuating.
As a contrarian, I feel it is important to note that “objective fact” and “common sense” are terms that often do not mean what we think they do. They also happen to be highly overrated. What is often perceived as “common sense” is instead a requisite deference to a schema-oriented social framework. Objective facts frequently constitute lying by omission, when you consider their presentation edits out the fact that our experience of reality is Inherently subjective. As a biracial individual, I have a lifetime of experiences with cultural relativism to back up this idea. Things are never what they appear to be and we need to dig deeper…
What about the radical notion of thinking for myself and to hell with what others think? There is something to be said for honoring my unique experience rather than bowing down to the bullshit perpetuated by “conventional wisdom”.
Berne, E. (1961). Transactional analysis in psychotherapy: A systematic individual and social psychiatry.
Bjerring, J. C., Hansen, J. U., Pedersen, Nikolaj Jang Lee (2014). On the rationality of pluralistic ignorance. Synthese, 191(11), 2445-2470. doi:10.1007/s11229-014-0434-1
Erskine, R. G. (2010).Life scripts: A transactional analysis of unconscious relational patterns. London: Karnac.
Goffman, E. (1974). Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience. Harvard University Press.
Kuhn, T. S. (2012). The structure of scientific revolutions. University of Chicago press.
Piaget, J. (1952). The origins of intelligence in children (Vol. 8, No. 5, pp. 18-1952). New York: International Universities Press.
Žvelc, G. (2009). Between self and others: Relational schemas as an integrating construct in psychotherapy. Transactional Analysis Journal, 39(1), 22-38.
For a recent assignment, I was required to select a self help book that pertained in some way to the subject of career counseling and provide an overview of it. As a Brene Brown fan, I chose to revew her latest book, “Rising Strong”. A Grounded Theory Researcher, Brene’s self-books provide a summary of findings from interviews with research participants, utilizing a Narrative Therapy perspective. From a personal standpoint, I’ve really appreciated Brene’s books, since they summarize my own path of self-development. Underlying this process of personal growth, was an inexplicable “stuckness” that feels much like a “vinyl record with a needle stuck in a groove, repeating the same sound over and over”, (Ingram, 2012). Brene’s method of addressing this issue of stuckness, is to utilize a storytelling approach. It is by claiming ownership of our life story, that we can find an underlying system of meaning woven throughout it (Brene, 2015). What I appreciate about her books are they appear to follow the author’s progression of growth. For this reason I feel they are really worth reviewing below…
So What Does Forward Motion Look Like????
In the book’s introduction, Brene Brown describes how all her books fit within as part of an overall picture towards wholehearted living which she defines as follows:
“engaging in our lives from a places of worthiness…cultivating the courage, compassion, connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘no matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough’” (Brene, 2015, p xix).
Brene describes in her latest book “Rising Strong” how each book she has published, fits within an overall picture of wholehearted living. Understanding this concept has been essentially for me to become “unstuck” and get off the hamster wheel. It has taught me to understand how I get in my own way and develop a live a life that at one point had been “impossible”. So what does forward motion – away from where we are to where we want to get to – look like?? To answer this question, a quick review of key concepts from Brene’s books is useful here….
STEP ONE: Listening to Shame…
Defined as “an intensely painful feeling that we are flawed, and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging”, (Brown, 2006, p 45), the concept of shame is first introduced in her book “The Gifts of Imperfection” (Brene, 2010). Here, we are guided through a discussion that encourages how the concept of shame is woven throughout our personal life narrative (Brene, 2015). As an individual with PTSD, this was an especially laborious process and the subject of several years of therapy. However, what I discovered is that these feelings of shame pertain to messages I’ve received throughout my lifetime about what “good enough” means. In retrospect, I realize I’m someone who has been running towards a preconceived notion of what this has meant for me. simultaneously, I’ve been running away from what unwanted identities, comprised the messages of shame from others, (I’m not pretty enough, I’m not smart enough, etc). Recognizing this has allowed me to accept myself as I am as good enough right now. The journey now isn’t about getting to a place I believed was necessary to be “good enoug”. Instead good enough is now. I can finally relax into the moments of my life and be present to enjoy it more fully.
STEP TWO: Being Vulnerable…
In her second book, “Daring Greatly”, Brene defines her concept of vulnerability as “having the courage to show up and be seen when you have no control over the outcome” (Brene, 2015, p4). Vulnerability has produced a sense of vibrant fear in me. Yes, I am aware that vulnerability is crucial for full engagement in life or,”Being all in” (Brene, 2012, p. 2). However, unresolved traumas throughout my life have taught me otherwise. Vulnerability produces fear because it means I have to be seen, and risk criticism or judgment. Being “perfect and bulletproof are seductive” (Brene, 2012, p. 2) for exactly this reason. The practice of vulnerability in an uncertain world has taken time for me. The first step happened as I addressed old hurts. The second step came as I learned to become more secure in who I was and validate myself in ways others hadn’t. In time, the fear of vulnerability has gradually subsided.
STEP THREE: Growing from Failure…
Overcoming shame and becoming vulnerability can be difficult when you stumble and fail. However, failure, as Brene notes in her latest book, “Rising Strong” is an inevitable part of progression though life. For this latest book, Brene (2015) gathered stories of sucess in a series of interviews to uncover any commonailties. What she found were narratives mirroring Joseph Campbell’s (2008), book “The Hero with a Thousand Phases”. In the first act of this book, the main character finds himself in a situation, which is the onset of a new adventure (Brene, 2015; Campbell, 2008). The second act finds our hero in a situation in which he has to take drastic steps to solve his dilemma (Brene, 2015; Campbell, 2008). The final act finds our character doing what is necessary to achieve his goal, resulting in a conflict resolution (Brene, 2015; Campbell, 2008). In sum, her latest research has uncovered stories of success arising form failure as a learning opportunity to along a spiritual path towards wholeness. The final section of this post provides a brief overview of these steps:
Rising Strong: An Overview
“If we are brave enough, often enough, we will fail; this is the physics of vulnerability. Once we fail in the services of being brave, we can never go back. Courage transforms the emotional structure of our being” (Brene, 2015, p5).
In her latest book, “Rising Strong”, Berne (2015) provides an overview of how to move past failure. The first step, known as “The Reckoning”, (Brene, 2015, p37), involves acknowledging our story and accepting responsibility for our narrative role. The second step, known as “The Rumble” (Brene, 2015, p37), involves taking ownership of our story and involves an honest examination of it. Along the way, we’re forced to acknowledge truths and erroneous assumptions. Finally, Rising Strong process involves a “Revolution” (Brene, 2015, p37), and involves rewriting our narrative and learning from our rumble to create a new story. What follows is an overview of the steps in this narrative process….
STEP ONE: “The Reckoning” (Brene, 2015).
In her discussion of “The Reckoning”, Brene (2015) states: “you either walk into your story and own your truth or you live outside your story, hustling for your worthiness” (p45). Brene, (2015) notes that fear and trauma often complicate our efforts to claim ownership of our story. To explain this desire to resist our life story, she utilizes the concept of chandelier pain as an exquisite and intolerable hurt which one cannot ignore (Brene, 2015, p16). Rather than owning it, it isn’t uncommon to medicate, numb it or stockpile it. Taking time to work through the unresolved traumas in my own life has been critical to the initiation of forward motion in life. In order to “get unstuck” this was an absolutely essential step for me.
STEP TWO: “The Rumble” (Brene, 2015).
The next step in growing from failure involves examining our life story, and how we have created it as the narrator. This process, which she calls “The Rumble”, (Brene, 2015), mirrors narrative therapy. She encourages readers to examine the stories behind our emotions. As I’ve said often throughout this blog, there’s a big difference between thing through your feelings and not with them. I believe this is what Brene is speaking of here. What stories, believes, and thoughts underlie your emotional responses to life events? What triggered the emotions? How does this narrative exists as a self-fulfilling prophecy, by creating the life experiences which reflect it? The section ends with an overview of questions that might be useful in examining our narrative: (1) what do I need to understand about the event? (2) What do I need to learn about from other people in this story? and (3) what do I need to understand about myself in the context of this story? (Brene, 2015, p92-93). Finally, Brene (2015) states this process simply begins with an attitude of curiosity and willingness.
STEP THREE: “The Revolution” (Brene, 2015).
The final step in this process of growing from failure is revolution: a “no-turning-back” Brene, 2015, p 254) stage. This “revolution” involves a renewed sense of clarity this process starts once insight is put into practice (Brown, 2015). In a step-by-step manner, this process involves a gradual change as we create new stories based on altered narratives. A convenient example, would be my latest (and successful attempt to lose weight). Rather than chasing a physical ideal based on what I considered to be “good enough”, I’m instead assuming “good enough” is now. The result is, a sense of peace in which self-care is the priority, and getting there occurs one step at a time.
I owe a debt of gratitude to Brene Brown for helping redefine the concepts of failure and success. When I was younger, success was always a “then point” where I could work my way into being “good enough”. Success was conceived of as a state of invulnerability, in which I was delivered from my own shame-laden life story. Failure, in turn was what I didn’t want to be in the present. As I have (long since) learned, success requires us to examine our past and any underlying narratives. Acting on these insights on the road to success, taking a chance not knowing the outcome, and risking failure. This means acting on faith, that the journey contains the lessons we need to find our way there.
Brown, B. (2006). Shame Resilience Theory: A grounded theory study on women and shame. Families in Society. 87(1), 43-48.
Brown, B. (2008). I Thought it was Just Me: But it Isn’t: Telling the Truth about Perfectionsim, Inadequacy, and Power. Gotham.
Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection: Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are.Center City, Minnesota: Hazelden Publishing.
Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. London, England: Penguin.
Brown, B. (2015). Rising Strong. Random House: New York.
Campbell, J. (2008). The hero with a thousand faces, 3rd ed. Novato, CA: New World Library.
Ingram, B.L. (2012). Clinical Case Formulations: Matching the Integrative Treatment Plan to the Client. (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.