The holiday season is here! Ho, Ho, Ho and Happy New Year!! Are you feeling jolly and excited? Not me. In fact, I’ve been feeling uneasy since Hallowe’en.
Call me Scrooge if you must, but I’m not really a wet blanket or party-pooper. I like to laugh. I know how to have fun. It’s just that, according to the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, I’m a member of a small minority, an Introverted iNtuitive Feeling (INF) type treading water in a sea of EST’s, i.e. Extraverted Sensate Thinking. When you add my task-oriented, closure-needing Judging (J) function to the mix, the stats say that in your average gathering of a hundred people, I’m the only INFJ in the room.
There’s nothing pathological about my type. It’s simply one of 16 normal possibilities. And it doesn’t mean I’m shy or lacking in certain kinds of confidence. In fact, when I tell people I’m an introvert they often don’t believe me because I’ve learned to handle myself perfectly well in public…as long as I don’t have to be out there more than a few hours at a time! After that, I just want to go home.
The way I’m made creates difficulties for me that others may not see or understand. For example, the batteries of extraverts run dry when deprived of human interaction for very long. So to an extravert, staying home while everyone’s out having fun can feel downright masochistic, whereas for me it’s restorative. Then there are the sensory types for whom the physical world is a buffet of delights. These people find withdrawing from the table punishing. I find it a relief. And thinking types who base decisions on detached logic are usually suspicious of those of us who feel life deeply while I suspect them of being thoughtless and uncaring.
Not only is the world beyond my front door swarming with happy shoppers and giddy party goers this time of year, but I also live with a husband who is an Extraverted Sensate Thinking type. Naturally, our differences create problems for us, although working them out has given us enormous understanding and acceptance of ourselves and others. But one thing will never change: he feels at home in a bustling world I am reluctant to enter. As an INFJ who also has many characteristics of a Highly Sensitive Person, I lack the protective armor that he and others take for granted. Naturally, this can make social situations challenging.
For instance, simple conversations are loaded traps. Beneath the words, my own included, I sense hidden agendas and never know whether to address the conscious or unconscious message. It can be awkward when I make the wrong choice. I’ve been accused more than once of having Foot-in-Mouth disease, and the resultant orgies of humiliation and self-recrimination just make me feel worse!
Another thing: I can see both sides of most issues and enjoy debating and discussing differences of opinion…as long as the conversation stays friendly. But I don’t handle conflict well. Or negativity. In fact, heated conflicts are so distressing that I usually tune out, shut down, or blow up. Fun, huh?
Here’s one more. I love meaningful dialogues that run deeper than the surface. But when I try to steer the average conversation that way, it’s the rare person (usually another INFJ) who wants to go there. Inevitably I end up mentally kicking myself for trying.
These and other traits make for a somewhat burdensome inner life. Don’t worry, I’m pretty tough, and I happily accept the personality I was given as the price for an abundance of blessings. But I think you can understand why I’m drawn to the solitary, contemplative life. And I want you to know this: Like all human beings, I need the comforts and solace of loving families and friends. I especially love private conversations with close friends, and I derive great pleasure from communicating with like-minded people.
So I’ll attend a few holiday parties, schmooze with the guests, and be glad I went. But most of the time I’ll be home reading, writing, or having a glass of wine by the fire with my husband while we listen to my favorite Anne Murray Christmas album. Trust me. I’ll be enjoying myself very much.
Happy Holidays to all. May your stockings overflow with warmth, comfort and love.