It was in the summer of 2004 that I read a book on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator in connection with work. In that book, I very strongly identified with the INFP type (Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving). I had never before found anything external (to myself) like the INFP description, which connected so deeply to my innermost feelings and revealed to me the true self deep inside me, and that it is real and authentic, and even valued by some people in the world, and the world of work.

In the summer of 2004 I was in a problematic predicament, a difficult situation and state. My mental and psychological problems within myself, which I tried to deal with on my own without outside help, had reached a critical state. My external life was not growing, as I had difficulty looking for work or even wanting to. I was on a quest to find my true self and to purify it, to connect with God and to free myself from the pain within.

Being myself has been complex and complicated. Part, or possibly most, of it has to do with me being an INFP male.

Within my heart, I long for wholeness, connection, love, peace, and deep friendship. But I grew up with a disconnect between myself and others as a result of a childhood experience of loss, which I never communicated to anyone until I was over 20 years of age. I just didn’t think anyone could relate, and I wasn’t always sure that the experience had been real.

My full story was a long story. For now I’ll just refer to parts that come to my mind as I write about being an INFP male.

INFP… what does that mean? My primary mode is “introverted feeling”. So when I’m looking at someone else, I’m feeling emotions or thoughts inside that have to do with what I’m guessing the other person is feeling. When I was young, this was like a very vivid and uncontrolled dream. I would feel physical sensations as if I were in a dream, but I was awake. I would feel emotions but they weren’t based on my experience. Instead, they were a reflection of what I saw others doing. If I saw someone fall and scrape a knee, I would almost feel pain on my own knee in the same place. If I saw someone treating another person badly, I would feel sadness and emotional pain for the person receiving the bad treatment. This was all automatic and on by default since I was a young child. This was my default way of perceiving others around me: emotional connection, or empathy. So as an INFP male child, I was immersed in a world of automatic empathy, with little ability to filter it.

As I grew older, I learned that not everyone experiences the world this way. Not everyone is empathic. Some people are thick skinned and much less sensitive. They are not bothered by things that bother me deeply; they just don’t care. I learned to understand intellectually that they are different and they don’t care the way I do. I learned to adjust to being around people like that, and to keep boundaries around myself to protect myself from negative emotions and interactions I don’t want. I no longer feel like I have to help others just because they are experiencing a time of need, or a negative emotion. I’ve learned that those feelings that I feel when I see others’ pain and emotion are not my own feelings. They are not about me, and I can disregard them when I choose to.

What does it mean to me, to be an INFP male? It means that though I care deeply about people and am very sensitive, I live in a world where guys and men are not supposed to cry or show much emotion. It’s fairly natural for me to hide my emotions around those who I’m not close to. As an INFP male, there have been few people I really feel connected to. And when I’m out and about, I feel the feelings inside me and don’t show them on my face. When I do show my emotions on my face, they really show and people pick up on them. When I’m out and about, I don’t want to have the confusing interactions that often result from me showing my emotions, so I keep them to myself, and when I see others having an emotional response to me, I normally disregard it, ignore it, and move on. It’s difficult because I don’t always understand what others are doing/thinking socially, but I usually have an emotional response and much of the time it’s way too personal to show. So I’m an emotional person walking around with a stone face, unexpressive and rarely talking. I see a lot, I feel a lot, and I keep it to myself. This applies to when I’m out at stores or at coffee shops, as well as when I’m out at work. Only at home do I feel like I can open up a bit. So a lot goes on inside, but not much gets expressed, and I don’t feel connected at a deep level. Rather, I’m connected on a surface level in terms of doing my work and getting paid. It’s not all bad and I’ve learned that this approach works for me. Meawhile, I keep returning to the deep feelings inside me, which rejuvenate me.

There’s more in my thought about being an INFP male, but I’ll write more later because this post is lengthy. I would welcome responses from anyone with thoughts on this, especially INFPs and others interested in the MBTI.

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