Sunday, February 22, 2015
Intuitive Feeling Men
If you read "Care & Feeding of the Intuitive Feeler, Pt 1", you already know that the NF deeply desires connection.
This is true for both women and men, although generally, NF energy (especially INFP and ENFP) could be considered feminine energy. I don't mean that male NFs are feminine, just that they innately have qualities typically assigned to femininity (e.g., nurturing, empathy). The thing about male NFs, though, is that oftentimes, they don't even know they're "feelings" types at all. They often find out only when their lives are in full crisis-mode. My theory on how this happens is that we socialize men to be tough, stoic, etc. We teach men that being "sensitive" (empathetic, emotional) is bad, that nice guys finish last, that crying is for girls. And so this often stifles the innate tendency of "sensitive" men to be present in their feelings, and to learn how to get their emotional needs met effectively and in a healthy way.
Male NFs who are not in touch with their true natures are usually very unhappy. Imagine living fundamentally out of alignment with your true nature most of the time. It is a lot of work! They may be inclined to abuse drugs, alcohol, pornography, sex, or overeat (basically, anything to numb all the feelings). They may be selfish, cold partners, or they may just fake their way through their relationships never really feeling quite right. (*The one place they sometimes can feel safe being open and vulnerable is with their children, so they often take great pride in their fathering abilities and are remarkably good dads). If they don't have kids, they may often just put all of their energy into their careers, thinking this is just the way it is. Feeling silly that they have an ache, a longing, for something deeper. Walking around with all kinds of unnamable feelings they couldn't talk about anyway, because "men don't talk about" these things. Wondering vaguely why they are so unhappy, what is missing, is this all there is?
So a man may come to me in therapy presenting with, say, having cheated on his wife…(this is the most common one) and he's feeling really guilty. He doesn't see himself as the "cheating type". He's always been a "good guy". He is genuinely confused as to how this happened, and wants to repent, heal, go back...but when pressed, he may admit that the affair was a profound experience. It may be that the affair (no matter how brief or long, and regardless of whether it is still going on) was actually one of the greatest, most deeply moving experiences of his life. With exploration, what usually comes out is that he didn't feel "connected" to his wife, (either because they grew apart, or because they never had a deep connection to begin with) and he found/met someone with whom he "profoundly connected". Now that he's gotten a taste of that, he doesn't know what to do or how to reconcile his previous life with this need he didn't even know he had. Now he has all of these feelings and desires and needs and feels overwhelmed.
Existential crisis in the making here.
What I'll quickly deduce and suggest is that the affair is not the issue. The affair is a manifestation of a deep unhappiness/lack of connection. You did a shitty thing, of course. That is true. I don't offer excuses for disrespecting your marriage, but I will say that having cheated doesn't make you a bad person or mean you have an irreconcilable marriage. The issue is that you, sir, are a stunted Intuitive Feeler. We will start there.
So (in this example) the man came to me thinking he had a clear-cut problem that needed a solution: I cheated on my wife, and now I need to know what to do. Men often want quick fixes and are uncomfortable with the idea of therapy, because of course it will involve digging up the bones in their emotional graveyard. They are attracted to my "solution-focused" orientation because they think that means I'm a magician and can solve their concrete real-life problem in a few hours. (With an SJ or NT, this is often the case. We will take a relatively linear approach to a problem, move from point A to point B, and solve it. Clean. Simple.)
But what happens with an NF is that we start talking about abstractions like authenticity and honesty and love and connection, and we begin exploring "what makes me happy" and all of that touchy-feely stuff men profess to loathe, and next thing you know, radical changes are taking place in this man's life. His entire identity can shift. He softens, opens up. Sometimes there is crying.
Sometimes, I end up doing couples' work with him and his wife and she gets to meet the man she always hoped he was. Sometimes, they end up with the connection he has been missing. Sometimes, though, they find that they make better friends than partners. Either way, this man has begun the process of understanding himself and what he needs. He begins to grow into the person he really is. It's an amazing thing to witness.