Monday, December 28, 2015

Easy Like Sunday Morning

Generally speaking, relationships should be easy. 
Now, I don't mean you will never have to put in effort, or that things can always be smooth and conflict-free, or that there aren't going to be speedbumps and detours and challenges in any significant Relationship. It would be unrealistic to suggest that. Humans are complicated and messy and relationships necessarily grow and change over time, which can be difficult to navigate on occasion. 
Key words: on occasion. 
*In general*, I think it should feel pretty easy to be with and connect with someone you're in a significant Relationship with. I mean this in a "easy like Sunday morning" kind of way. In a "I can easily understand what you're trying to say to me" kind of way. In a "it is easy for me to remember why I love you". In a "you easily make me feel seen and valued in a way that I can equally easily receive". 
I think it is reasonable to expect that *more often than not* there should be a sense of ease to the connection. I think a lot of us waste a great deal of time and energy in relationships that do not provide us with this sense of ease, and which actually more often add stress and undue frustration to our lives. I would invite you to consider the value in languishing in a relationship that feels like a lot of hard work all the time. I just don't think it's necessary or healthy or likely to provide longterm, sustainable happiness. 
If you feel like it constantly costs you a great deal of energy to make yourself seen or understood by your partner, it might behoove you to ask yourself in a very serious way if this is the right relationship for you. If you feel that it's like navigating a veritable minefield to communicate what should be a relatively straightforward need or want to your partner, it might be a good idea to consider that perhaps you are not well-suited for one another. (Or at the very least that you might need to seek some kind of outside help to learn how to talk to each other in a way that doesn't feel so difficult.) 
I'm not at all saying you should give up on a challenging relationship without making concerted effort, especially if it's a longterm relationship or if you have children together or have committed your lives to one another in marriage. And I am quite sure there are many people who are perfectly content with their relationships just as they are, easy or not. A lot of people will never even consider that maybe they should not be with this person. I'm not advocating we all get divorced at the first sign of trouble. 
But...if you're not partnered, or if you're in a casual dating situation and considering whether to take it further, or if you are open to taking a real inventory of your current Relationship, I am gently suggesting that when you're in the right relationship, you will find that you simply breathe easily. You can communicate easily. The other person speaks your language and *sees* you clearly. There is a naturalness, a flow, *an ease* to the connection. Conflict is done well and with respect. There is a fundamental kindness to every interaction. 
If you're interested in such things, the ones hallmarked with this ease are the kind of relationships that will sustain you and meet your need to connect deeply. These are the sort of relationships that will allow you to be your most authentic selves and to be vulnerable and intimate in a profound way. Relationships rooted in ease of connection will naturally allow for each of you to grow and change. My advice for the new year would be to pay attention to where and when and with whom you feel easily connected, and to prioritize that feeling. Seek it out. Find people who feel easy to be with and stick with them. They're your people.

Advice for the New Year, Vol I

Advice for the New Year, Vol. 1: 

Dig a path to yourself.

By this I mean, take an inventory of your life and get clear on who you are and what you want and where you want to go and who you want with you when you get there (and who you don't). 
Humans are so dumb sometimes. We do the opposite of what will make us feel good because we think that it's what we are *supposed* to do. We stay in jobs or relationships or situations that don't serve us because we don't know what else to do. Or because we don't want the people around us to judge us. Or because it appears everyone else has their shit together and we don't want to admit that we basically don't. 
The truth is: very few people actually have their shit together or have any idea what they're doing. At least very few people that I know. 
Okay, rephrase: I do know that there *are* people in the world who are simply content, satisfied, and moving in a predictable, traditional trajectory of life between birth and death. These people are actually probably way happier than most of my people, but...
BOOOOOR-ING
I don't find those people very interesting and I'm rarely writing/speaking to them when I advise. Because my people are the messy ones who make everything harder than it has to be. My people are the ones who take 17 detours on the path from point A to point B instead of just forging forward. My people are the ones who are restless and searching and aspiring and who need to be reminded DON'T WORRY, YOU ARE DOING OKAY. 
So, to my people (and as you're reading this you can determine if you're one of my tribe or not by whether it resonates or sounds ridiculous): 
I advise you to get clear this year on your deepest desires. Tune in to the frequencies you have historically ignored. Connect with the people you love in a more profound and intimate way. Say all the words that you mean, out loud (if you don't know how, take my communications class!) <---- shameless marketing) Look for ways to be actively happy each day. Identify and adjust the places where you're showing up inauthentically. Get to know your realest self. Introduce that self to the people you love. If you don't have enough of "your people" in your life, go out and find them. Be real, be happy, do you. 
DIG ALL THE WAY IN. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Personality Type 101

So...a lot of people ask me about this personality type stuff, so I'm going to break down a couple of things about it real quick. Some of it I may have covered on that previous post that I never followed up on. smile emoticon
Mind you, this is **strictly** my opinion and I'm sharing what I understand about it through my own experiences and my own (mostly intuitive) use of it. I'm NOT certified in MBTI, I have never even formally studied it and I don't actually want to, mostly because I think parts of it are bullshit. My understanding is probably more closely aligned with Carl Jung's ideas (the MBTI originated with him). So, take my explanations with a grain of salt, but understand that it totally works for me and my purposes. 
Here are a few things to consider: 
1) Tests results don't actually mean anything, including the free versions online and even the official full battery MBTI. I say this because people often answer the questions based on any number of factors including how they want to be perceived, the work that they do, the relationship they're in, how they've learned to or adapted to be, etc and then they declare themselves this type. This contributes to the idea that MBTI is like a horoscope and that "we can all find something in each type to identify with". Sure, that's true, because we are all complex individuals, but that is not going to help me to gather information about and respond to who they *actually* are in their most natural state. So if someone is like, "I'm an ESTJ because I took the official MBTI at work 8 years ago and that's what the test said" when they are CLEARLY a misaligned ENFP (perhaps having adapted to doing a job better suited for an ESTJ) it doesn't do me any good to respond to that person like they're actually an ESTJ just because they claim to be, because my advice or response is going to fail to resonate with who they *actually* are. So, my #1 rule about this stuff is "Never Trust The Test Results". 
2) Now, that doesn't mean the tests don't give us information. My instructions for someone who's never looked into this at all would be to take several different online free versions and compare results. I don't think it's necessary to pay money to take the official one. I would also add that it's IMPERATIVE to answer the questions from your most natural, reflexive, authentic self. Like, imagine if there were no outside pressures and you weren't in a relationship and you didn't have a job or kids or any other role to play or set of expectations to live up or in to, THEN how would you respond? I know that's sort of challenging considering you're never going to be free of all of that, but do your best to answer from THAT place. You can also take a couple on your own and then sit down with someone who *really, really* knows you and have them answer the questions with you and see if that changes the results. Now that you have an assortment of possible types (or you've typed consistently the same, which is a fair indicator that's your true type) you can google and read about each of the types that came up and see which one is the *best* fit. I can virtually guarantee that one of them is going to make you go "OH SHIT THAT IS SO ME HOW DID THEY KNOW". If none of them make you do that, my guess is you're still bullshitting yourself in the questions. Sorry, friends. As much as we are all snowflakes, I really do think most everyone can be typed into one of the 16 categories. 
3) You can't be "sometimes x type and sometimes y type". That is not a thing. The reason I say that is because the types are archetypes and they all use a different set of cognitive functions (called the Functional Stack, if you want to nerd out on it) and I don't think this changes even though you definitely grow and evolve throughout your life. So my thought is: you may TEST as sometimes one and sometimes another type, and you may BEHAVE as sometimes one and sometimes another type, and you may be living way out of alignment and as such you may not have found your true type yet (all of which is legit) but who you actually ARE AT YOUR CORE (I believe) can be considered a relatively fixed temperament. In other words, any number of factors can influence how we show up in our lives, but our truest self has a set of preferred ways of being that this stuff can really help us sort out and bring to the surface. 
4) Part of my issue with the MBTI as a tool is that the test creates false dichotomies that I think lead to mistyping. Particularly in the case of the P vs J thing. When I learned about the cognitive functions, what I found out is that the P and the J aren't *really* discrete categories. Jung didn't even include these two as options; they were added later when Myers and Briggs formalized his ideas. The P and J actually only serve to clarify what aspect of your temperament is extraverted, or shown first to the world. 
Let me try to break that down further: 
So, if the function that gets extraverted is a decision-making function (Thinking or Feeling) then you're going to be a J (Judging type, which in this context merely means "Deciding") whereas if the thing that gets extraverted is an information-gathering function (Sensing or Intuiting) then you're going to be a P (Perceiving type, which in this case just means information-gathering). How this gets confusing is that, for example, INFJ and INTJ are both dominantly intuitive types, because they both use Ni (Introverted Intuition) as their dominant (most natural or reflexive, which maybe uses like 80% of their cognitive energy) function, but because what gets extraverted (shown first to the world) is the Feeling or Thinking functions, respectively, they are considered J types. But those decision-making functions are actually secondary (aka auxiliary) and so the typical qualities of a "J" type may not actually show up that much. (I'm an INFJ and my desk is always cluttered, my apartment is messy, and I don't care that much about time- all typically "P" things, which might lead me to test as an INFP despite - archetypally- clearly fitting the INFJ type description way more than I do the INFP). INFJ and INTJ are *actually* by definition dominantly perceiving types. So when you take the MBTI, you may not have enough "J" tendencies to show up as a J which could lead to being mistyped because of this false P/J dichotomy. 
Another way this can screw things up is something like this: somebody says for example "sometimes I'm INFJ and sometimes I'm INFP" (which is not a thing, remember). But I get why they say this, because without understanding the P/J thing and the functional stack, it seems like INFJ and INFP should be very similar. And so according to the test, they could go either way because they don't have a strong P or J preference. But INFJ and INFP are actually functionally opposite, because their functional stacks look like this: 
INFJ: Ni Fe Ti Se
INFP: Fi Ne Si Te
INFJ and INFP *actually* have nothing in common, in terms of the direction of their functions. So you are *definitely* going to be clearly one or the other when you read a robust description of each one and think about them as discrete *archetypes* vs thinking of them as a set of dichotomies. 
DOES THIS MAKE SENSE? 
I KNOW IT IS REALLY CONFUSING AT FIRST SO DON'T PANIC. 
Next lesson to come if anyone's interested.

Classes on this stuff:

PERSONALITY TYPES 101 TBD

If you want a one-on-one conversation about it: http://millercounseling.blogspot.com/2016/12/new-service-distance-coaching.html

Friday, December 18, 2015

How to emotionally protect yourself: Advice for ENFJ

Oh, hello my dear ENFJs! I didn't forget about you. I'm just slow sometimes! I really appreciate and love you; you're some of my very favorite clients/friends/loves of all time. I hope my slowness didn't hurt your feelings. 

ENFJ functional stack: Fe Ni Se Ti

So, the usual caveats are relevant here: some of these will resonate with you, some of them won't. No one is exactly the same, and we all have different needs/desires. But, I'll start with the biggest thing, which if you are truly an ENFJ will for sure ring a bell: 

1) ENFJ, my friend (and I say this so very lovingly, because I know what a good place it is borne of) you've got a serious case of Major Boundary Issues. If there is one specific hallmark ENFJ has that clues me in that that's the type I'm dealing with, it's a general lack of or difficulty with boundaries. This may pop up in any number of ways, but most commonly manifesting as a lack of boundary between your emotions and the emotions of others. So let's say item #1 on our agenda is just to get clear on the fact that you're not naturally well-suited for establishing clear boundaries. It's your Achilles heel. It's the place you falter the most in your quest for genuine soul happiness, deep and sustainable satisfaction at work, balanced love and friend relationships. 

2) And next let's also clarify that these issues occur specifically because you care so much about other people and you so much want everyone to be safe and happy and cared for. I emphasize this part because I need you to know that there's nothing wrong with how you are. The world needs people like you, because you help us all out so much and you provide so much love and support. You are the givers and teachers and most generous lovers of humankind. You are inspirational! And I know that you really get a lot of genuine satisfaction out of providing all the love and support you can, and sometimes it feels like you have endless capacity to provide. It's just that...well, this lack of boundaries very often ends up making you feel shitty in the long run, (for a variety of reasons) and we don't want that. 

3) I need you to understand - deeply. in your bones. - that identifying and correcting your difficulty in establishing and maintaining boundaries is not an act of selfishness. It is not harmful to others. It is an act of self-care, self-love, and self-respect. You are setting an example for the many people who look up to you, because truly it is only through loving and caring for yourself that you can effectively sustain the love and care you want to provide for the people in your life. People look to you for guidance for any number of problems, issues, concerns, etc. You can practice and model solid boundaries with a little bit of mindful adjustment. Remember that the world does not need you to martyr yourself. There's a reason the flight attendants say to put your oxygen mask on first. 

4) So, let's start with a plan for emotional boundaries, or the fulcrum at which the feelings of other people can overpower or even become your feelings. It's basically like having emotional hypochondriasis: if you are too enmeshed in others, you can literally begin to manifest the emotional state of the people around you. You may be super happy one day, like everything is going great and there's not a cloud in your emotional sky...and then you may meet for coffee with a super negative friend who complains the whole time. And then you may spend the rest of the day in a funk you have no identifiable reason to be in. Meanwhile, your friend  feels so much better after spending time with you. You know why? Because that Negative Nancy has vampirically sucked the very joy from your veins, and you let him/her do it. You veritably offered your neck for the joy-sucking. This can happen to you so easily if you are not mindful of and actively protecting yourself against this risk. This is especially dangerous for your emotional state if you partner with someone who is very dark or very emotionally needy. You can fairly easily find yourself in an effectively parasitic relationship in which you are the sole source of happiness or positive emotion for another person or even a whole system (family/work/friend group). You may not even realize you're being drained because the siphoning makes you feel so useful and important. 

5) I use this metaphor most often in my work with ENFJ clients: in your most natural state, you're basically swimming around in a sea of feels with nothing to protect or inoculate you. You are just floating around, nakedly exposed to the detritus of everybody else's emotional states. And not only are you exposed, you're like, super welcoming. You really, really love swimming in other people's feels (and holding people up and helping them not drown, etc); it's your most reflexive way of being. Asking you to not do that is like asking a bird not to fly. And so you're totally used to everyone around you bumping up against you and getting all up in your personal space and wrapping their hungry emotional tendrils around you. It feels like home to be enveloped in other people's feelings in this way. You understand it. You can handle it! The problem is: if you are not careful, you can be entirely swallowed up and not even notice for a long, long time. ENFJ has no natural defense against being swallowed up by other people's emotional needs. So you need a net, and stat. 

6) That said: it won't be easy to change. It will feel really weird at first. You will worry about being selfish, because you're so incredibly used to being selfless. So to begin to ease into establishing boundaries for yourself, first imagine yourself wrapping a net all the way around you. The reason I suggest a net as opposed to a wall or some less permeable barrier is that a net will still allow for emotional ebb and flow, because I would never advise you to stop doing that part. You love the fact that you can feel what people around you are feeling, and tune in so deeply to the needs of others. That's, like, what you do. I'm decidedly not asking you to be someone else, and I know you would never be happy if you weren't deeply engaged with the people in your life. It's just a matter of not allowing their feelings to infect you, drain you, or in any profound way change your feelings for the worse. 

7) Next, the most effective mantras I've found for ENFJs are these, and I revisit them with ENFJ clients and friends often: "That is not your problem" and "You don't have to care about that." 

Say it with me, friends: 

THAT IS NOT YOUR PROBLEM. 
and 
YOU DON'T HAVE TO CARE ABOUT THAT. 

Grant yourself complete and total permission to accept these as valid perspectives as often as you wish, because they so totally are. Not everything is your problem to solve, not everybody's issues are your concern, and not everything requires you to give any fucks at all. No matter how used to being invested and involved you are, or how much people are vying for your attention and concern, it is up to you where you put your attention. Again: you do not have to give any fucks about things you do not give any fucks about. Permit yourself to give no fucks. Particularly if your fucks have been exhausted by things you actually do and should and can care about and in which you should invest said fucks. (e.g., your partner or children). 

8) So, here are some examples: let's say your friend calls you every day to complain about the same shit he's been complaining about - and not changing- for a year, and so far you've been taking his calls every time, and advising him in all the ways you know how, and providing endless free cheerleading services. Well, at some point you have every right to identify the fact that you have nothing left to say to him about it. You are tired of talking about it. You are entirely out of fucks to give about this particular issue. And so you can say to him, with all the love and respect in the world: "I love you, friend. And I love helping you, but you do not seem ready to change this. I have said all I can say about it. When you have a new perspective on it, or are ready to change the situation, please get back with me and I'd love to talk with you again." And then stop taking his calls for a little while. You know why you can do this? Because IT IS NOT YOUR PROBLEM. And because, boundaries. 

9) Here's a trickier one: let's say your mother (or MIL, or sister, or father, or some other close family member) meddles in all your business. She is constantly bugging you about your life, asking when are you going to do this, why are you not doing that, why don't you just, saying "you need to" and "you oughta"...and you are frankly exhausted by it. It hurts your feelings. It makes you feel like a failure, or like she's criticizing you, or like she's just being nosy and you don't like it. Whatever, it makes you feel really not good. With all respect, you have every right to say, "Mom, I love you so much. I know you are coming from a good place and you want me to be happy. But when you do/say ____, it makes me feel ____. So would you be willing to try approaching me ____ way instead?" (I know it gets trickier when it's your family, especially a parent, but I'd like to remind you that you do have a right to boundaries and to engaging in relationships that generally feel good to you, and if something feels bad, there are ways to respectfully address that.) If your mother or close family member is unwilling to honor a boundary, you also have the right to disengage from them. I'm not saying don't talk to your mom anymore, but I'm just saying that you don't have to be quite as enmeshed in the relationship. This is a radical idea to some ENFJs, so it may take some getting used to! That's okay. Just start considering it. 

10) Unrelated to boundaries, you are incredible at picking up on exactly what people are feeling and detecting what they need, and being very, very considerate as a result. Sometimes you can get your feelings hurt when people fail to consider your feelings in this same way. I totally get it. I'm an INFJ; a similar thing happens to us too. In your case, it's that dominant Fe (Extraverted Feeling) function that makes you so good at this. Fe is all about being aware of and feeling the feelings of others; unfortunately, not everybody uses their Fe function well or at all. So, it would behoove you to cut people some slack here. I know it sucks, but it's a fact that not everyone is as awesome about this as you are. Your skill at intentional consideration is unparalleled. I'd invite you to continue to set a good example of this, because it does still bring you and them joy, but perhaps temper your expectations of others, because really only your co-ENFJs (or perhaps your INFJ, ESFJ, or ISFJ friends/loved ones, all of whom use Fe either dominantly or secondarily) are going to be as tuned in to you as you are to them. Everyone else, you will very likely/often have to use actual words to tell them what you need or want from them, rather than wait for them to provide it intuitively. It ain't happening, so don't keep setting yourself up for disappointment by expecting it. We have to realistically assess the people around us and to some extent accept them the way they are. And most people, sadly, are not quite as amazing at practical care as you are. 

11) This includes appreciation and validation. I know how much you need/want to be appreciated. You give and give and give and give and give some more, and I know you give because you want to...but I also know that there's a tiny part of you that really needs to be acknowledged for how much and how well you give. Maybe just a tiny part, and maybe just some of the time, but the hunger for it is there and I see you craving it. Some of you may be getting this need met, and that's great. But if you're not...you may feel like you have to ask for it, which can feel a lot like fishing for compliments sometimes. You may accidentally find yourself humble bragging, or doing a weird passive-aggressive "did you see what I did there?" kind of thing, or any number of acrobatic measures to be like LOOK AT HOW AWESOME I AM PLEASE but it's only because you really just want to be seen and appreciated and aren't getting that need met. So learn to ask for it in a way that is very direct so that you don't unintentionally come off differently than how you intend. Maybe just tell your partner: "I need you to notice all of the things I do around here" or tell your dearest friends or family members honestly: "I really appreciate when you acknowledge how great our friendship is because I put a lot of energy and love into it" or simply, "I need validation sometimes" or "I need you to be proud of me" ...or just actually straight up brag on yourself, which is (btw) totally acceptable. You have every right to announce to the world, "Here is what I accomplished, and I'm super proud of myself!" Just don't wait for it, and then be sad it doesn't come without some prompting. Again, not everybody is super good at these things the way that you are!

12) Okay, so you probably already know you can be a little much sometimes. I mean that in a very nice way, and frankly I specifically love your too-muchness. But then again, I am a feelings person, and an iNtuitive Feeler at that, and I love to externally process all my and your stuff, so that's probably why I see you, get you, and love you for this. That said, you can be a little much to people who aren't feelings people, or who aren't external processors, or who don't want to talk all the time. So I'd just advise you to maybe remember that, and be self-aware enough to tune in (which you're so good at) and respond to when you're being too much for that particular person right then. And don't take it personally, because your "too much" for some is equally going to be "just right" for others. 

13) You are awesome. You are charismatic and inspirational and supportive and loving. We all LOVE having you in our lives. But don't let us love you to death. Don't let us be vampires, because we totally will if you don't stop us. Learn to tell us when to back up and give you space, because we (most of us) will also do that if you show us how and hold us accountable. You can set an amazing example for all of us in how to be supportive and loving and appreciative and validating...while also maintaining really solid boundaries. 


Here is a post you can share with your partner to help him or her understand you better: 

http://millercounseling.blogspot.com/2015/03/care-feeding-of-enfj.html

www.millercounseling.org

New offering: http://millercounseling.blogspot.com/2016/12/new-service-distance-coaching.html




Thursday, December 10, 2015

ENFP: How to be the very best- and truest- version of yourself

Hey there ENFP friends! You're my favorite, you know. You're everybody's favorite! (I know you know). You're delightful to be around and I really appreciate you. I just wanted to get that out of the way so that you know I'm coming at you from a really warm place. 

Here are some tips to make your life a little easier, and also for you to make the lives of those around you a little less frustrating. Some of this is going to apply to you, some won't, but I have had a lot of ENFP clients and friends over the years, so there do seem to be some themes to your behavior, so hopefully you find some of it useful.

ENFP functional stack: Ne Fi Te Si 

1) The singular mission of your life is to figure out who the fuck you actually are, and then just be that as best you can. Some of you probably feel like you're pretty authentic most of the time, and that's great. You may be one of the well-developed ENFPs who has solved the ENFP existential crisis early. Good for you! BUT. For those of you who are still working on that or haven't even named it as the fundamental crisis of your identity, wellllll....sorry, love. Here we are. Here you are. Here is the story of your life. 

2) See, the thing is: you're brilliant at socializing. Truly incredible dexterity in this department. Unparalleled, maybe. Genius, certainly. But (isn't there always a "but"?) because you tend to be so good at fitting in anywhere and being a social chameleon and doing whatever is needed from you at any given moment, you may take that too far. You may get so engrossed and tuned in to what everybody else wants/needs from you that at some point (often in midlife) you may look around and just literally can't find your true self. This is a really scary moment for ENFPs and it may look a lot like a midlife crisis. Whenever it happens, if it happens, it's like the real you got left by the wayside and is out trying to hitchhike its way back home. And sometimes it (you) doesn't get picked up right away because you don't know where to look or you don't know that you need to be looking. Which means the real you is out wandering the lonely highways of your internal landscape, lost and alone, and you are in the world just bullshitting through everything. Learning how to stop bullshitting is the key to your best life. You have to go out in your dusty old car and drive around as long as it takes for you to find the hitchhiker that is your true self and bring him/her home. And then you have to teach your true self how to stop getting lost. You have to integrate even the parts that aren't so good. Your true self has to feel loved and accepted and validated and welcome in order to be willing to stick around. 

3) Let me bring that out of metaphor and give you a little more practical advice: if you at any point find yourself feeling fractured or inauthentic or vaguely unhappy, go to therapy. It could just be that you're living the life intended for some other type and you need help finding your way out of that life and into the life you are suited for. You are meant for warmth. You are meant to connect with people and support them and help them be their best selves. But it could be that you went into banking or some cold corporate job when you should have gone into teaching or counseling. Or maybe you married a steady, practical, duty-fulfilling ISTJ when you'd be much happier and feel more connected with a warm and affirming ENFJ. Maybe you were in the military and you've had to learn to set aside all your feelings and emotional needs. Maybe you grew up in a family that didn't encourage your growth into the ENFP you were supposed to be and now you feel like you are just generally out of sorts. Maybe you're simply feeling unseen and unvalidated. Or maybe you just don't feel good but you don't know why. Go to therapy. Find a therapist who is an NF and who can see you for who you are, and who won't be fooled by your spectacular skill at bullshitting, and who will challenge you to figure out how to live more authentically. It is worth this effort. You will feel better. Being seen is where it's at. 

4) If you won't go to therapy, (dudes, I'm looking at you) then my next suggestion would be to use your realest, truest, deepest, most authentic friendships as safe spaces to explore this question of who you are. Externally process all facets of your identity crises. Make sure you always have people in your life you never have to put on any airs for, that never need you to be anything but you, and who are willing to accept whatever new "you" may emerge over time. This is especially important if you are in a work or love situation that is not a good fit for you, and if you are consistently required to be something or someone you really aren't. Because ENFP can end up not only spiritually fractured, but legitimately depressed if you don't answer the question of "who am I?" - and live accordingly- in a timely fashion. The distress to your psyche this disconnect causes can pop out in any number of ways that can cause real discomfort or pain (or a series of bad decisions with real consequences, the most likely scenario if you're out of alignment and don't know what's happening) in your life. 

5) Please know: the real you is a beautiful thing! A well-balanced ENFP is an amazing, loving, generous partner and a wonderful parent and a supportive friend. When I call you out on bullshitting, please know I am saying that for your own good. I'm not calling you a liar, or a fake, or a bad person. I know that some of it is just that it's so easy to morph into what you intuit people needing from you. That's your superpower. You know what every social situation calls for, and you know how to make people like you, and you know all the right things to say or do. You can detect a hidden need, and effortlessly provide it. You can make people feel seen and accepted and loved in ways they have never felt before. You love being that person. And most of that comes from a good place, because you genuinely want to be all the things to all the people, and you genuinely like making people happy. But some of it is also about needing to be validated, needing to be admired, and needing to be loved, which then makes what you're doing about you and not about the other person. And so sometimes this tendency can slip off track and become something that is ultimately damaging or misleading to another person, which I know you don't want to do. (I hate to use the word "manipulative", but sometimes you just have to call a thing what it is, and a misaligned ENFP is truly masterful at manipulation). And so what I would invite you to consider is the possibility that you can totally still make all these things happen, because it's so you to be loving and supportive...it's just that once you've fully integrated and emerged to live authentically, you will also be really happy doing it. You will be able to do it from a better, kinder, healthier place. You will do it because you want to, not because you feel compelled to or need to. You will feel good doing it because it will align with your idealistic values. 

6) Now, while I'm on the topic of values, let me say that I do find the ENFP ability to rationalize rather remarkable. Y'all can really work yourself into some fascinating ethical conundrums by way of your "ends justify the means" logic and your reflexive conviction that rules don't really apply to you and that you alone hold the vision of what is good and just and right. Like, the reason ENFP can be an effective politician, for example, is because you are fundamentally good, which sets you apart ideologically from most other politicians and allows people to generally trust your intentions. But your overall effectiveness - whether in politics or life in general- lies in your ability to envision the forest in its full idealized glory...and completely ignore the trees, because details. (Who has time for details? Not the ENFP!) You are inclined to favor the greater good, and to justify any number of minor ethical transgressions in the interest of a decent overall outcome that aligns with your vision. I get it. I kind of admire it, really. But (again with the but) sometimes you can be a bit of a bully when it comes to what you think is best, and you can sometimes fail to consider the ramifications of relentless pursuit of your vision. The advice here is to remember to ask other people to ethics-check you. To put an extra set of eyes on your work before it goes out the door. To keep people on your advisory board who will call you on your shit and be like "No. You can't do this." Sometimes you need to just be shut down. Sorry, ENFP. I know you don't like it, but you are not always right and sometimes you miss big chunks of concrete information in your haste to realize your vision. Pump the brakes sometimes, or at least hire/keep people to pump them for you. 

7) Let's get back to the whole "living authentically" thing. One thing that can help you live more authentically is if you consistently allow yourself space and time to just be. You don't always have to be answering to the needs of others. You don't always have to be championing a cause or entertaining people. You are actually one of the more introverted extraverts, which means you do need some time alone. You do need time to reflect and feel and sometimes wallow in your darker feelings. You're very sensitive. Sometimes you need to just give in to that sensitivity. Give yourself this gift. Learn to say "No, I actually don't have time to get that done" or "I'm sorry, but I am taking the weekend off from everything and will respond to you on Monday" or "I cannot handle one more fucking thing right now" and then just sit down and be quiet and disconnect from everything/everyone. You have the right to this. You deserve it. It's what you need. 

8) Speaking of needs: Make sure you're getting your very real need for physical touch met. This is the ENFP bread & butter. You have to touch and be touched a lot in order to feel balanced. It's not necessarily about sex, but that's part of it. If you find yourself in a relationship where things have gone cold, you should know (well, you probably do know, so maybe I should say your partner should know) that this puts you at great risk of infidelity. And I know you'll feel horribly guilty if you cheat on your person...(or you won't feel guilty, and then you'll feel guilty that you don't feel guilty, but one way or another you'll end up feeling bad). So. Don't cheat on your person, but do say: "I need this." And don't be ashamed that you legitimately do need it. ENFPs love to cuddle and nest and be close. You are some of the most tactile people I have ever met. You snuggle your babies, your partners, your friends, your pets. Physical affection is what you do. It's who you are. 

9) That said, if you are an ENFP for whom this does not resonate, check out your history for clues as to when/why you shut this need down. Because I'd say it's pretty much a nonnegotiable need for any healthy ENFP. So if you don't feel like you really need it, it's more likely that the need probably got thwarted somewhere along your life trajectory. Maybe somebody withheld affection from you for a long time. Maybe you had to learn to live without it. Maybe your primary caregiver or a partner or someone shamed you about the extent to which you need it. Maybe somebody called you "needy" or "clingy" if you're a woman, or if you're a man, said something emasculating about your touch-hunger. Who knows. What I do know is you should try and find your way back to this. You will nourish yourself by engaging in physical touch with people you love and care for. 

10) This last one is really for the sanity of all of us who are not ENFPs: Please respond to people in a timely fashion. Let me repeat: RESPOND IN A TIMELY FASHION. I know you don't not do it to be disrespectful or to avoid contact or for any nefarious reason, but it is nonetheless incredibly fucking annoying to the people who are trying to talk to you or get answers to time-sensitive questions. The funny thing is you hate people being being mad at you, right? It makes you feel all icky and bad when you're "in trouble" with anyone you care about (sometimes even with people you don't care about) so in order to avoid that thing where people are annoyed with you all the time, just shoot a quick text or email back when you see the message. Don't just glance at it and respond in your head, or assume they probably know you're busy, or assume that because you don't care if people reply to you right away (because you're totally cool with people being busy, or forgetting, or whatever- you tend to be very forgiving and understanding) that other people similarly don't care. THEY FUCKING CARE. Thank you on behalf of the whole world. 

11) Just be you. All you. 100% authentic you. You're awesome; you're also brilliant, and interesting, and generous. People love you. People will love the real you just as much, if not more, as they love the millions of not-quite-authentic versions you've invented and offered them. Trust me. 

Here is a post you can share with your partner that might help them relate better to you: http://millercounseling.blogspot.com/2015/02/care-feeding-of-enfp.html

If you want to talk more about this : http://millercounseling.blogspot.com/2016/12/new-service-distance-coaching.html

www.millercounseling.org

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

How to be an INFJ in a world that isn't made for you.




Oh, my dear little INFJs. How complex you are! How difficult to explain. Luckily, this advice is for you, which is way easier than trying to define you to someone else. It definitely helps that I am one of you! And to disclaim, not all of this stuff applies to me, as not all of it will apply to you. We are all individual snowflakes, of course. But there are some themes I've noticed in my personal & professional relationships with other INFJs, so here are some tips to navigate life as an INFJ: 

1) You have to make yourself known. I know it's easy to get all "woe is me, nobody understands me" (which is a legit thing btw) but there's something to be said for doing the work to consciously allow yourself to be seen by the people closest to you. You are an onion, and as such it can take years for a person to peel back all the layers of you. And you do want this, right? You want to be seen and understood, right? It is true that you are deep and complicated and can be kind of messy to distill down, and I don't know that it's really a thing to be all the way known, but ultimately you can at least be as known as possible if you allow it and actively invite people in to your world. 

2) Speed up the onion-peeling process by offering up access to what you instinctively would prefer people would just know to dig for. Accept that they don't know, because a) most people are not as intuitive as you are and b) you are a treasure island and they have most likely never visited one of those before. Instead of punishing them for not knowing where to find the gold, give them a map. Help them dig. Sift through what they help you unearth; it's likely some of it you didn't even know was buried there. You can discover it together. 

3) Be mindful of the vibe you're giving off. I know you are at your core a warm and loving person, but let's face it: you can be kind of prickly sometimes. So remember that nobody wants to snuggle with a porcupine. I know that the prickliness is hiding a gooey center, but I only know this because I have VIP insider access. Most people don't know this. If what they see is a bunch of sharp edges and pointiness, they are not probably going to stick around to find a way around that into the beautiful garden paradise your prickliness protects. They are simply going to assume you do not want them in your space, which sometimes is true but often is not. 

4) You have to intentionally make yourself appear open and warm and inviting to the people you actually do want in your space, so that they know it's safe to approach you. Most people are not going to take liberties with you, because they will intuitively sense that you are not someone to take those liberties with. (Although the ones that do are often the ones you love best, because they are brave and undaunted by your forcefield. They bust right in like "you're going to love me, deal with it" which you secretly like. These are gonna be your ENFP types, most often.)

5) Your interior life can be likened to a beehive. Your brain is buzzing alllllll the time. You've got worker bees in like 20 different flower fields at once, working on all these beautifying projects, doing their own thing, and the queen bee (aka your actual conscious mind) can barely keep up with everybody's comings and goings. In other words, you don't even know what's going on in there much of the time, because it's impossible to be conscious of it all at once. You're constantly taking in and sorting information and moving it around and changing your mind accordingly without even being aware you're doing it. You can come off pretty inconsistent because of this (see: capricious, mercurial, moody). You know that's not really what's going on, but you have to tell people where you're at in real time lest you appear wishy-washy and confused/confusing. 

6) You cannot possibly expect most people to keep up with you and how your mind works and how all over the place it can be...while also making perfect sense to you. The degree to which you experience (suffer from?) ambivalence is much greater than most others, and most people will not understand it. Ambivalence is when you feel equally powerful but totally contradictory things at the same time. It's like, "I feel this way, and this opposite way at the exact same time" or "My instinct is to respond this way, but then when I really think about it, I think this way is probably better, but that other way sounds good too, and both are true." You really have to clarify how you feel before you try and include most people in your process or they'll be like "what the fuck are you even talking about". Because once you get the frustrated "WTF" response, your feelings might get hurt because you might feel like "nobody understands me". 

7) Keep people on your advisory board who are good listeners and keen at reflecting back to you what you're saying. You do not have an internal feelings function that works well, so you need to externally process your emotions before you can really know how you even feel. Don't mistake your brilliance at tuning into other people's feelings for any kind of competence at interpreting your own. You kind of suck at that. You need people to check you on your particular brand of crazy. You need people who know you well enough to bypass your defensiveness and hold up a mirror for you to see where you might be making a mess. 

8) On that same note, have at least one friend who can keep an eye on your relationships for red flags you might miss or ignore. Because again, you're unparalleled at seeing what's going on with other people's relationships and intuiting dynamics and hidden agendas, but you can be pretty terrible at doing this for yourself. You tend to want to believe the best of people, and can be pretty laughably naive in this way. When you get in your feels, you cannot be trusted to be rational. Keep people on your team who know this about you and can gently bring things to your attention. Give them a pass to be harsh if necessary. 

9) That said, please always trust your INFJ magic. Because it's real. It's legit. You are magic. You know things no one else knows, and you feel things no one else can feel, and you can predict what will come to pass with remarkable accuracy. You are hyper-intuitive in a way that almost literally seems like magic. You may think about people just  before they call or text you, or dream about something that comes to pass, or ask exactly the right question because you already know the answer without knowing how you know. Your incredible intuition is a thing to behold. It is your superpower. Trust it. Know that your gut is usually right. Don't be bullied into second-guessing yourself. You know what's going on well before anyone else does. 

10) Be careful with your superpowers. Your gift is making other people feel truly seen and held in safety. When you tune in to a person fully, they completely fall in love with how that makes them feel, which (you know) really has nothing to do with you, but everything to do with that feeling. However, it would behoove you to be careful with this, because people are much more likely to feel close to you than you feel close to them, and you can be inadvertently hurtful because they may think something very special is going on when really you're just being how you are

11) In other words, know that you are not like most people. It takes you a long time (or a very specific and wonderful dynamic that speeds the process) with a person to really feel like you are being seen, but that isn't the case for most others. So when you turn your warmth on a person, they will feel like the sun is shining on them and only them. And it is, but that's because it's just how you are. Your warmth and deep humanness and the comfortable space you provide people to be their authentic self is a thing that connects them to you almost effortlessly. You come off to others as wise and knowing and deep, and it will make them feel like you understand them more than anyone ever has. Which is probably true, but it comes so naturally to you that you may not realize it's making that person feel like they are incredibly special to you. They may be kind of special to you, but in a way that like 85 other people are *kind of* special to you. Be aware of this disparity, and don't unintentionally create a bunch of one-sided relationships where either a) there's a major disconnect in how you feel about each other or b) you end up feeling like they are just taking from you and not giving you anything back, when they don't even know that's happening at all. You may not feel like doing this is costing you energy, but in the end it's not a great dynamic for you or for them. 

12) Do NOT EVER respond in anger, to anything. Your superpower allows you way too much access to people's inner soft spots to be trusted with any kind of angry response. You can be mean as fuck when you're hurt or angry, and once you say the awful things you instinctively just know to say, you cannot ever take them back. Bite your tongue, love the person you're mad at enough to take a breather, and come back to talk when you are thinking more rationally. Learn how to manage your feelings and think about them objectively. Learn to shut it down once you get emotionally hijacked, because you are uniquely able to wound people to the core, and you don't really want to be responsible for that kind of damage. You are fundamentally a kind person, so when you feel angry, just STFU for a while. 

13) I know you feel like an alien a lot of the time. Like a square peg in a round hole. Like you don't belong here. Like you're trying to color in some bullshit lines that you don't even understand. Like maybe nobody will ever "get" you. Like maybe that's not even a thing. I feel you. It's rough out here for an INFJ. You are so tender, and so tough, and so soft, and so hard, and so clean, and so messy, and so extraverted, and so introverted, and so warm, and so cold, and so brave, and so scared...all at the same time...that it's just hard to be you sometimes! TRUTH. But know this: that complexity, that confusion, that awareness of your fragile humanity, that ability to see the fragile broken human inside others, that is your gift. You are the ones that make everybody else feel like they are okay. You are the ones that show people by example and word how to navigate this fucked up world. You are inspirational. You have wisdom to share that the world needs. You have a completely unique voice that the world is dying to hear. Use it. Lead. Speak. Teach. Don't let your fear of vulnerability (because once that onion gets fully peeled, then what? then you're naked! exposed!) override the desire to be known. Let the world know you. You're amazing. We need you. 

INFJ functional stack: Ni Fe Ti Se

Here is a post you could share with your partner to help them understand you better: 

http://millercounseling.blogspot.com/2015/02/care-feeding-of-infj.html

www.millercounseling.org

If you want to talk more about this: http://millercounseling.blogspot.com/2016/12/new-service-distance-coaching.html

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

How to be a happier INFP

So, first of all, it should go without saying that not all of this is going to be applicable to every INFP's situation, right? So, if a few aren't relevant, it doesn't discount your whole life or mean anything about your identity. These suggestions are based on a pretty broad swath of INFPs I have known, both personally and professionally, and the struggles that seem to be most common. 

1) Stop being so hard on yourself, INFP! You are never going to be perfect. Perfection isn't even a thing. You're going to make mistakes (plenty of them) and accidentally hurt people's feelings and do the wrong thing and generally make a mess sometimes, and it's okay. You don't need to hide in the corner and self-flagellate when you do. You don't need to spiral into a pit of despair. It is entirely possible - and much healthier - to address whatever happened, apologize or clean it up, and move on. You're never going to be perfect, but you're good enough. I promise. 

2) Repeating: who you are is completely, totally okay. You may feel like you have no defenses in this cruel, cold world, but don't hide who you are. You may feel almost like there's something fundamentally wrong with you; you're so sensitive and have so many feelings. It can be overwhelming and you may want to hide it, but I would argue that we really need people like you, so let us see you. The world needs people who are soft and tender-hearted and gentle and who accept others in all their quirky ways. Hold that kind of space for people; that's your gift. I know you aren't going to be able to let everyone in indiscriminately, but trust that there is value in exposing your truest self to the ones who matter. 

3) Practice using words when you need to withdraw. Tell the people around you "I'm feeling overwhelmed and I'm going to need some time to myself" rather than just disappear on them and cause worry. Use words to say "I feel depressed" or "I am sad" or "This hurts me" instead of pretending like you're fine but suffering on the inside or worse, shutting down and being unreachable. When you do it this way, the people who love you worry about you. They worry they did something wrong, or that you don't love them, or that there is something terrible ailing you. But sometimes it's nothing, right? You just need to be alone for a while. Say that. Let people know you. Teach people how to treat you, and what you need, and how you are. 

4) Work on not taking everything so personally. Sometimes criticism, while hard to hear, is helpful; it's how we grow. It rarely means anything about who you are as a person. It is rarely an indictment of your character. When you feel criticized or hurt, think through what the person meant by it, what their intentions were, whether it's something to be upset about. Think about whether they might actually have a point, and then use the feedback to make some changes. But skip the part where you absorb the criticism and feel unnecessarily bad about yourself for having stuff you need to work on. We all do.  

5) On the other hand, related to the previous suggestion, you can also practice using words to say when something feels bad to you instead of pulling inward to lick your wounds. Just say "That hurt my feelings". This one is particularly hard for male INFPs, because of course we socialize men to be tough and whatnot. INFP dudes, here's the thing: you ain't that tough, and that's perfect. That is exactly right. You don't have to be tough in the traditional hyper-masculine ways the world expects. You march to the beat of your own drum anyway, so you can be revolutionary when you set an example for other men in your life that it is safe to be emotional, to be sensitive, to say "that hurt my feelings" instead of resorting to the anger or stonewalling we have come to expect from men. 

6) You are very slow to make decisions, presumably because you want to make sure you have all the information you need, but the byproduct of this is that you almost always wait too long to do something you know needs done. You are likely to languish in bad relationships far longer than you should or stay at that job you hate because you are afraid to do the wrong thing, or of being hurtful, or you aren't positive you did every single possible thing that you could to make the situation work. I get it. The problem is though that you sometimes drag your feet even when you really do know what to do. It doesn't serve you. It just wastes your time, and other people's time. 

7) Sometimes you take too long with decision-making because of fear of failure. To this I say: fuck it. You're going to fail sometimes. That's fine. You can handle whatever comes next. See #1. 

8) Most of you have had your heart broken at least once, and while that's true of most people, it can be particularly hard on an INFP. A broken heart at any point in life can make you quite reticent to open back up to anyone (ever again). But remember that you love connecting. You love being in love. You love seeing and being seen in a meaningful way. You love deep conversation and intimacy. You love shedding your protective layers and just being yourself in all your tender glory. It just scares the living shit out of you because it requires you to open up more than you feel safe opening up. It involves the little emotional turtle inside of you sticking its head out of the shell and staying out despite the very real fear, the very real risk in doing so. Vulnerability is absolutely required. Sorry, boo. I know you don't want to hear it, but you are going to have to take risks. Every.single.time. Love is always a risk. It's worth it. 

9) Stop feeling so guilty all the time. You know, I've said many times that guilt is the least useful emotional response. It's like, "I'm going to be sorry over and over and over and over and over and over" even well past the time when being sorry even makes sense anymore. Knock it off, INFP. This guilt and shame stuff is for the birds. If you feel bad about something, address it, fix what you can, ask for forgiveness, and then offer that forgiveness to yourself...and move on. There seems to be some macabre fascination for INFP in wallowing and rolling around in the muck, often in piles of things that aren't even yours to own, much less to take responsibility for. INFP has a reflexive guilt/shame response that is super damaging. When you find yourself feeling guilty or ashamed, drag that feeling out into the light and examine it. Is it legit? Is it reasonable? Do you deserve it? If you asked someone else about it, would they look at you like you were crazy for even thinking about this? 

10) Line up a team of trusted advisors to check you on your shit. I know you don't usually need that many friends (side note: most INFPs only keep 1-3 truly close friends at a time, and many describe themselves as a "lone wolf", although I suspect that is partly resignation vs. preferred way of being) but you definitely need a system of checks & balances, or else you run the risk of descending into one of those negative cycles at any time for no good reason. You need people around you to bounce ideas off of and get feedback on. (Or a therapist can work for this too). You need someone to remind you that you're being too hard on yourself. INFP is an internal processor, so you may not think you need this, but you do. Talk your stuff out, out loud. It's the only way to keep your tendency to be way too hard on yourself in check. 

11) Ask people questions. You tend to be a passive communicator, but I know you're genuinely curious about people. I know that anything anybody ever wanted to tell you would be received happily. I know you love being a trusted confidant. I know you want people to feel safe with you. But my tip is this: don't just wait for them to offer information for fear of being "intrusive" or "nosy". The truth is most people love to talk about themselves, and would love to have you probe into their innermost selves in that lovely way you do (when you do). But you have to ask the right questions. You have to actively pull people out in order to show them you're curious about them. 

12) It's important for several reasons, but one reason this is important to do is because you are incredibly imaginative. Which is a good thing, except when it's not. Sometimes you have a tendency to make stories up in your head, so sometimes you maybe don't ask questions because you've already filled in the gaps and written your own version of what the person is telling you. The problem is, you made that up. It's not actually true. You have to ask what is true. You can't just go working off your invention of the person/story/whatever. Especially if you're trying to connect with a person who needs you to ask questions to draw him/her out. In order to really get close to someone, you need to stop making up stories about them and actually ask/listen instead. 

13) Another thing about that imagination of yours: you tend to be a bit anxious, and as such you'll work through all the worst case scenarios in your head and sometimes get yourself quite worked up when in fact everything is okay. You may react to something as though the worst case has already happened, because the world in your head is so real. But...it's not. Don't let yourself go off the rails of the crazy train without consulting someone on your advisory board. 

14) Be you. INFP, you are amazing. You are kind and loving and gentle and sensitive and all of those sweet things. You are only like 4% of the population, but I wish there were so many more of you. You hold space for the rest of us to be as fucked up as we are, and you love us anyway. I just wish you would learn to love and accept yourself the way you love and accept us. 

xo

INFP functional stack: Fi Ne Si Te

Here is a post you can share with your partner to help him or her  understand you better: 

http://millercounseling.blogspot.com/2015/02/care-feeding-of-infp.html


If you want to talk more about this: http://millercounseling.blogspot.com/2016/12/new-service-distance-coaching.html

www.millercounseling.org