Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Does Writing Suit Your Personality? May 9, 2014

Writing has always suited my personality.  One of my earliest memories is of folding pieces of paper together to make a book. When I was ten I was 30 pages into a novel before I tore it up in disgust because I had no idea what I wanted to say. As a teenager my favorite thing to do when I got home from school was to write plays.

Today I can sit down at my computer and, with only a few breaks in between, get up eight, nine, or ten hours later with little awareness of how much time has passed, feeling excited and utterly rejuvenated.  The next morning I can’t wait to get back to my computer.  When I was working on the manuscript for Healing the Sacred Divide I ran this marathon three or four days a week for almost three years with only a couple of months off in the summer.  For two of those three years, I had zero input about my writing from any living person. It was just me, my Self, and my computer.

Obviously, this way of life is not for everyone.  Our friend Howard enthralls all who know him with fascinating stories about his very unusual and interesting life.  People are always telling him he should write a book and I think he finds this idea attractive…but not enough to actually do it.

Carl Jung’s theory about personality types helps explain why one person can be very well-suited to writing while another is not. He found that two basic attitudes affect the focus of our attention. Extraverts are primarily oriented toward the outer world of people and objects; introverts toward the inner world of concepts and ideas. Jung saw these attitudes as mutually complementary and believed both were necessary for maintaining a balanced personal and social life.

In an article about the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, Wikipedia cites these major differences between the two types: 1) Extraverts are action oriented, while introverts are thought oriented; 2) Extraverts seek breadth of knowledge and influence, while introverts seek depth of knowledge and influence; 3) Extraverts often prefer more frequent interaction, while introverts prefer more substantial interaction; and 4) Extraverts recharge and get their energy from spending time with people, while introverts recharge and get their energy from spending time alone.

Of course there are lots of extraverted writers and plenty of introverts with no interest whatsoever in writing. Moreover, both types struggle to complete writing projects because of myriad other issues such as education, financial limitations, attention deficits, self-confidence, self-discipline, time constraints related to work and relationships, and other personal preferences. But understanding our basic attitude toward life greatly enhances our chances for success with writing or any endeavor.

I’m a strong introvert and my friend Howard is a strong extravert.  I love what Dr. Judith Rich says about her extraversion, “We E’s live outside the cave and struggle to find our way in, while the I’s live inside the cave and struggle to find their way out.” The bottom line? I love my cave and resist leaving it. I enjoy being alone. I like sitting uninterrupted at my computer for hours. I like working in perfect, luxurious, soothing, rich-with-possibility silence:  no music, no people, no phones, nothing to distract or interrupt my thoughts.  But Howard?  Cave-dwelling doesn’t suit his personality. He likes stimulation, activity, conversation. His passion is story-telling, not story-writing.

If you’re not sure what kind of work suits your personality you might ask yourself a few questions. When I was a child, what did I want to do in my spare time?  If your answer is  “Read” or “Watch TV,” you might find a clue in the subject matter of your favorite books or programs. What was my favorite subject in school? Which did I enjoy more: playing outdoors or indoors?  With friends or alone? What would my ideal work scenario look like?  Do I work best with noise or quiet? Am I an extravert or an introvert?

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks 

 

Confessions of a Reluctant Holiday Reveler December 18, 2013

My Idea of Holiday Fun

My Idea of Holiday Fun

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.

My books can be found at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Diesel Ebooks and Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Gender Wounds: Feelings and Emotions February 12, 2013

emotionsWe’ve all heard people say that men are out of touch with their feelings and women are too emotional. Are these observations true or are they stereotypes? If they’re true, then why? When we try to answer these questions we face the problem of not being sure what we really mean when we use the words emotions and feelings. In my effort to raise more awareness about gender wounds, I’d like to begin by clarifying these terms.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines feeling as 1. The sensation involving perception by touch. 2. An affective state of consciousness, such as that resulting from emotions, sentiments or desires. 3. An awareness; impression. 4.a. An emotional state or disposition; emotion. b. A tender emotion; fondness. 5.a. The ability to experience and react to the emotions; sensibility. b. feelings. Sensitivities; hurt his feelings. 6. Opinion as distinguished from reason; sentiment. 7. An impression produced by a person, place, thing, or event. 8: An appreciative regard.

Emotion is defined as 1. A complex and usually strong subjective response, as love or fear. 2. A state of agitation or disturbance. 3. The part of the consciousness that involves feeling or sensibility, as in a choice determined by emotion rather than reason.

As these definitions show, sometimes we use the word feeling to mean an emotional state or emotion. At other times we mean sensitivity. And sometimes we mean the ability to experience and react to our emotions, or sensibility. The word sensibility seems key to this discussion. Two definitions that apply are 1. The ability to feel or perceive, and 2. Mental or emotional responsiveness toward something, as the feelings of another; being sympathetic.

Everyone feels and everyone has emotions. Yet attitudes toward emotions seem to differ between men and women. Recently a male friend half-jokingly voiced the common criticism that women are too emotional. People sometimes cite Myers-Briggs data to support this belief, but the Thinking (T) and Feeling (F) indicators are about how we organize information to make choices, not judgments about whether we’re overly emotional. The data simply indicate that the majority of women (75.5%) prefer to make decisions in a personal, values-based, emotional way (F), whereas men (56.5%) prefer to decide in a logical, objective, unemotional way (T). Is there something inherently “wrong” or undesirable about either of these positions? Is women’s preference for subjective value a feminine wound? Is men’s preference for objective logic a masculine wound? Or are both preferences appropriate in differing ways and situations?

Later in the conversation my friend mentioned being angry about something in the news, so I said, “You’re angry about a lot of things, aren’t you?” “Yes,” he readily admitted. When I responded, “Anger’s an emotion, isn’t it? So aren’t you being emotional too?” he was quite surprised. He said he’d never really thought of his anger as being emotional! Yet teachers and students alike often report that boys are more prone to being agitated and creating disturbances, i.e. being more emotional, than girls. Why hadn’t he recognized his own emotionalism? Why did he project “being emotional” onto women?

In summarizing what I’ve said so far, I find five areas for discussion: 1) What do women mean when they say men are out of touch with their feelings? 2) What do men mean when they say women are too emotional? 3) If everyone has feelings and emotions, why might women experience and react to their emotions, i.e. have more sensibility to emotions, and men have less? 4) Why do we perceive emotional differences between the genders in terms of “good” and “bad” stereotypes? 5) How can we overcome damaging gender stereotypes?

I’ll share my thoughts about these questions next time. Meanwhile, I’d love to know yours.

 

Does Writing Suit Your Personality? August 9, 2011

Writing has always suited my personality.  One of my earliest memories is of folding pieces of paper together to make a book. When I was ten I was 30 pages into a novel before I tore it up in discouragement because I didn’t know what I wanted to say. As a teenager my favorite thing to do when I got home from school was to write plays.

Today I can sit down at my computer and, with only a few breaks in between, get up eight, nine, or ten hours later with little awareness of how much time has passed, feeling excited and utterly rejuvenated.  The next morning I can’t wait to get back to my computer.  When I was working on the manuscript for my next book I ran this marathon three or four days a week for almost three years with only a couple of months off in the summer.  For two of those three years, I had zero input about my writing from any living person. It was just me, my Self, and my computer.

Obviously, this way of life is not for everyone.  Our friend Howard enthralls all who know him with fascinating stories about his very unusual and interesting life.  People are always telling him he should write a book and I think he finds this idea attractive;  but not enough to actually do it.

Carl Jung’s theory about personality types helps explain why one person can be very well-suited to writing while another is not. He found that two basic attitudes affect the focus of our attention. Extraverts are primarily oriented toward the outer world of people and objects; introverts toward the inner world of concepts and ideas. Jung saw these attitudes as mutually complementary and believed both were necessary for maintaining a balanced personal and social life.

In an article about the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, Wikipedia cites these major differences between the two types: 1) Extraverts are action oriented, while introverts are thought oriented; 2) Extraverts seek breadth of knowledge and influence, while introverts seek depth of knowledge and influence; 3) Extraverts often prefer more frequent interaction, while introverts prefer more substantial interaction; and 4) Extraverts recharge and get their energy from spending time with people, while introverts recharge and get their energy from spending time alone.

Of course there are lots of extraverted writers and plenty of introverts with no interest whatsoever in writing. Moreover, both types struggle to complete writing projects because of myriad other issues such as education, financial limitations, attention deficits, self-confidence, self-discipline, and time restrictions related to work and relationships. But understanding our basic attitude toward life greatly enhances our chances for success with writing or any endeavor.

I’m a strong introvert and my story-telling friend is a strong extravert.  As Dr. Judith Rich says about her extraversion, “We E’s live outside the cave and struggle to find our way in, while the I’s live inside the cave and struggle to find their way out.” The bottom line? Cave-dwelling doesn’t suit my friend’s personality and writing just isn’t his passion.

If you’re wondering what to do with the rest of your life, you might want to reflect on these questions: When you were a child, what did you choose to do in your spare time? Are you an extravert or an introvert? What kind of work best suits your personality?

 

Entering the Mystery of Myself February 8, 2011

I’ve been trying to understand myself for most of my adult life. I first became aware of this idiosyncracy in college. One day I was in the library browsing through the psychology section and came upon a book about personality types. I was as thrilled as if I had discovered a treasure map. Or the key to the weathered door of a mysterious hidden garden. Or the holy grail!

I found an empty table and sat down to read, glancing around self-consciously like an adolescent devouring a book about sex. I’d spent my teens masking my insecurity and self-doubt with a persona of poise and confidence and didn’t want to blow my cover.

It was everything I’d hoped for. The first part was a lengthy questionnaire.  I savored each question the way an oenophile relishes each sip of wine, rolling it this way and that to consider every nuance of flavor. Like a writer of wine labels I suffered the delicious agony of indecision over which subtlety had priority. Like a reluctant suitor I hesitated to commit myself. Rarely had I enjoyed myself so much.

When I was finished I tallied my answers and arrived at a number which took me to the description of my particular type. My key was in the door and I was standing on the threshold. With a mixture of excitement and apprehension I prepared to enter the mystery of myself.

But what I read disappointed and puzzled me. To this day I do not know the title of the book because I was afraid to write it down in case someone should go through my papers and see it, so I can only paraphrase the essence of what I recall. It said something like this “We are not sure who you are. You are like a tree with many branches reaching into the sky. A flock of birds flies to the tree and perches on the branches. Then without warning they scatter and fly away in all directions.” I imagined the tree barren of leaves, silhouetted against a gray winter sky. The birds were black. Crows, perhaps. Or ravens. There was no garden.

At one level this seemed a terribly romantic image, but as I read through the other descriptions I grew increasingly uncomfortable.  Mine was the only one with no clear answers. What did this mean? Was it a good thing or bad? Did it mean my personality was gloriously flexible and open to whatever life might bring, or did it mean I was so flighty and unformed that I was vulnerable to whichever way the wind blew? Was I some sort of mysterious nature child, part grounded in the physical world and part free to follow the truths of my soul, or did I simply have no more substance than a ghost or puff of smoke? Did I have an old soul or an extremely young one?

I see now that this was one of the defining experiences of my life.  For the first time it occurred to me that I had absolutely no idea who I was. That’s when the hunger settled in, and I’ve been trying to satisfy it ever since.

If you recognize this hunger in yourself, do yourself a favor and check out this site about the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator. Based on Jungian psychology, it was responsible for my first major breakthrough into the mystery of myself and has provided an enormously useful framework for my inner work ever since.

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide through this Amazon link and at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

Among the Walking Wounded April 1, 2010

Lately I’ve been thinking about the many wonderful people I know and love who are not oriented to psychological introspection and have trouble understanding why it’s so important to me. This one is for them.

Thinking psychologically does not come naturally to most of us, partly because it requires a certain distancing from worldly distractions that absorb our time and energy. Solitude is uncomfortable for extraverts whose batteries run dry when deprived of human interaction, and withdrawal is punishing to sensory types for whom the material world is a laboratory of delights awaiting experimentation.  “Why would I want to waste my precious time looking inside myself or beneath the surface of things?”  these people wonder.  Why indeed?  According to the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, I’m an introverted intuitive treading water in a sea of extraverted sensate types.   In short, everyone’s not made like me. 

Moreover, there are the realities of everyday living. Many people regardless of personality type are content with their jobs and/or service to their families and communities. They ask themselves, “What’s the point of trying to understand myself better? I have work I love and people who love me and I’m making a valuable contribution.” They are fortunate to be this comfortable with themselves. I have often wished I were like them.

Some find all the purpose and meaning they need in religion. Although their lives are no freer from problems or suffering than anyone else’s, where they are feels so much better than where they were that they simply do not need to keep looking.

But for a minority of people, and I am among them, our work, relationships, and religions are not enough. We don’t know why. We didn’t ask to be this way. Some of us don’t notice the disconnect from ourselves until mid-life. Before then we are too busy scrambling in the outer world to hear the inner dissonance. But then one dark night we find ourselves thinking, “Is this all there is?” and the longing sets in. I assure you this makes us feel selfish and ungrateful, especially if we have been gifted with good health, good fortune, and loving families. The guilt causes some of us to struggle mightily to dismiss a hunger that feels inappropriate.  

But ignoring our yearning for completion only makes us feel worse. Call us morbid-minded perfectionists if you will. Call us the walking wounded. But we know there’s a darkness inside us because we can see its effects, and that knowledge is too painful to bear without trying to do something about it. We may walk many roads, but the only one that doesn’t eventually disappoint is the path to self-knowledge and consciousness. I know, because when I began studying Jungian psychology and working with my dreams the healing insights started popping up everywhere and they’re still coming.

Psychological insights are magical elixirs for people like me.  They open our minds, affirm our worth, expand our choices, heal our suffering, bring light to the darkness, enliven our senses, teach us to love, spark our creativity, and help us be who we are meant to be.  Life its own glorious self is more than enough for many people, but among the walking wounded, Socrates’ assertion that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’ is the profoundest truth we know.

 

 
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