Thursday Thoughts–INFJ traits that don’t suit me

checklist-2077021_640I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs test a lot of times over the years. The first time was probably over 20 years ago. I was an INFJ then. I was an INFJ when I took an online test last week. In fact, only once have I ever not had a result that wasn’t INFJ.

I spent some time last week, though, reading descriptions and listening to youtube videos about INFJs. There are SO many videos on INFJs! Indeterminate numbers of ways you know you’re an INFJ when videos. And then there are videos calling out people who aren’t INFJs. There are videos wondering why everybody wants to be an INFJ.

I was flabbergasted. Amazed. Confused. I had no idea that this was a thing. Why would someone so want to be a certain type that they’d mistype themselves? And why on earth would an INFJ make youtube videos? This does not seem like an INFJ thing to me. I mean, I don’t even like to put categories and tags on my blog posts because then people might find them. Seriously. Not calling attention to oneself is basic INFJ type behavior and a huge problem in my life.

Naturally, since I read and listened to how everybody wants to be an INFJ I started to wonder if I am one. Not that it matters in the long run, but I don’t like mislabeling myself. So I read and read. Apparently, INFJs tend to talk in metaphors. And that made me think I am definitely not an INFJ; I don’t talk in metaphors.  I really suck at coming up with metaphors. Or at least I thought I did until I wrote a blog post about how the sound of a lawnmower tastes *green. A day later, I stopped in the middle of making a point in a facebook comment by using a metaphor and thought, yeah maybe that description has some merit.

Long story short, I’m an INFJ. I don’t know about all these other people. I only know about me. But there are two things that you always read about INFJs that just do not line up with me.

1  All these descriptions about INFJs mention soft-spoken people. Frankly, I don’t know how that aligns with any Myers-Briggs type, but apparently, people think INFJs are.  I am not. I inherited a deep voice from my Dad. I have a loud laugh which I make no attempt to quiet because laughter is infectious and should be shared. I can be very quiet in a loud group if I’m lost in thought or just soaking in what everybody’s saying. And I rarely speak forcefully unless I feel impassioned or it’ll get a laugh (laughter is huge for me. It’s life for me). I am not softspoken. At all.

I’m not shy either. I used to be. I was very shy as a child, painfully shy. Then I read Dale Carnegie, realized that it’s rare for strangers to want to hear about you–mostly they want to introduce themselves–and I was freed. I want to learn things about strangers, and I don’t want to talk about myself to strangers. That was eye-opening for me.

So maybe most INFJs are softspoken. And maybe that’s because INFJs are all about harmony and making sure everybody is feeling good. But me, I do that by making jokes, passing around hugs, asking people how they’re feeling and then making stupid jokes again. I can play the extrovert with gusto, as long as I have hours, days, weeks to recover. If someone else wants to take center stage, I am happy to pass it off. But if the best way to make others comfortable is to be silly myself, I’ll do it, and it’s pretty hard to be both silly and softspoken.

2  Tidy–INFJs are supposed to be tidy. No. No I am not. I hate bad smells. I can’t ignore those. I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night to move trash into the garage because the smell is bothering me. But I don’t need things to be put away.

Again, I look at the reasoning behind that. INFJs are supposed to be super sensitive (that whole NF thing) including to external stimuli. Noises? Yup. Smells? Yup. But things being out of place? No.

Here’s the thing, I’ve been writing since I was 14. When I write–I assume all writers are like this, but maybe not–I am in the story, so much so that I don’t notice other things. Even when I edit, I’m in the story. When I’m not writing but thinking about the story, I’m still in the story. I get up from my computer to switch laundry over, I am mostly still in my story.  Years ago I was writing a book that took place in Colorado in June, July and August. I was working on this during the middle of a New England winter. It was March before I actually realized it was one of the snowiest winters on record. I’d been shoveling snow–I was just so lost in my book between storms that I barely noticed it.

Years later, a couple of stories came to me out of nowhere. I had to write them, and I was lost, lost in those characters. I got into no less than three fender-benders during that time. Kind of hard to keep your mind on the road when you’re living in 1885.

I don’t generally notice messes in my house or my car. On the other hand, big changes in my environment are jarring, even good ones. We really need to get work done on a bathroom, which we’ve been saving up for, for years, but I haven’t yet called anybody on it. Talking on the phone–oh the horror–to strangers–even more horrible!–to come to my house and rip stuff up? It’s torture. I like when things are prettied-up for sure. But to get there is disruptive and disturbing. Honestly, I don’t even move furniture around. I considered long and hard about the optimal place for the furniture. Why would I move it to a less optimal place? It doesn’t make sense.

That. Right there. That’s an INFJ thing. At least it seems so to me. If you’re the MBTI type that completely analyzes things including all the emotional implications, then when you’ve made a decision, it’s the right decision. I’m not moving the furniture unless some kind of big change has happened. That’s rare.

So yeah. I guess if you’ve read this far, you’re wondering how this is at all helpful to you. Well I guess I’d say this–if you’re not sure about your Meyers-Briggs type (and you care), look at the reasons behind the descriptions. For example, it is entirely possible to be a soft-spoken extrovert. Or a shy extrovert. Your upbringing could make you both of those things. Still, you might absolutely love to be with people and actually get tired when you’ve been alone too long (and I have no idea how that is possible, but it’s a thing). You’re an extrovert no matter what people say. It’s not how people see you–it’s how you feel. And that’s a really NF thing to say, and I don’t know how in hell I thought I could be an S or T.

*Green–When I told my husband that the sound of a lawnmower tastes green I got a very, very strange look, even after all these years together. He said things don’t taste green. Yes. Yes they do. Salad, asparagus, green beans all have a similar “green” taste, in the same way that beef, lamb and some cuts of pork have a similar meaty (red) taste. When you hear a lawnmower you will often get the smell of freshly cut grass. Smell is a hugely important part of taste. Therefore, the sound of a lawnmower tastes green.


Thursday Thoughts–I Feel Sounds, I am an HSP


I have read about HSPs over the years–a highly sensitive person. I have a wonderful, treasured friend who is one. It’s more common, I believe among INFJ’s than other Meyer-Briggs personalities, and no matter how many times or ways I take that test, I am an INFJ.  I’ve taken the test for an HSP a few times and I never really hit all the marks. It seems one of the biggest signs of being an HSP is a dislike of loud noises. I don’t dislike loud noises at all. And I actually like crowds.

I don’t want to be an HSP. I mean, it kinda sounds good because hey, you’re really sensitive and maybe people should be kinder to you or something like that. And special maybe. But HSPs are always die in horror movies and they are rarely the hero in a survival story. I kind of want to be the hero. I mean a lot, actually. I want to save the world. I am, after all, an INFJ and we always want to make a difference.

The last few months have caused me to change my mind on if I am an HSP for a whole bunch of reasons, though. (and I am not happy about this). The sticking point is the noise thing.  Do loud noises bother me and I just don’t admit it? No. But sounds, all sounds affect me. I listen to a white noise maker to sleep at night. It has to be the white sound because the sounds of the ocean and birds or a forest, or any of that is not uniform. Any change in sound drills into my head. It’s not just a focus issue. If I snore, the snoring becomes part of my dream. If my husband poofs (which isn’t quite snoring, but an actual poofing noise) it comes into my dreams. I cannot push these things away.

Chipmunks bug me. They sit outside my window and wake me up sometimes or interrupt me when I’m writing. I open my window and yell at them to shut the hell up. The sound of the heat coming on in the winter wakes me up. The sound of the air conditioner changing from fan to cooling wakes me up.

So I started thinking of this post as I was lying on the sofa napping a little. In the background was the sound of somebody mowing their lawn. I like that sound, even when it comes and goes. I can sleep to that. The sound of a lawnmower, I realize, smells like fresh cut grass. It smells like sunshine and tastes green, and it feels like warmth and relaxation and satisfaction all at once. The sound of a lawnmower is emotion.

For me, sounds are emotion.

The sound of crackling bacon is the smell of bacon and the smell of orange juice and coffee. It’s the color of sunshine and the feeling of joy and intellectual excitement. It’s my sons and husband and I sitting around the breakfast table after not seeing each other in a while, happily exchanging new thoughts and new ideas and laughing. It’s the feeling of life flowing through me because these are the people who get me. Who understand overload and too much sensitivity and appreciate it and love me for it, not inspite of it.

The ticking of a clock is the feeling of emptiness. It’s white and cool. For some people the sound of a ticking clock is anxiety, but not for me. If I can hear a clock ticking it’s because everything else is silent and my mind is quiet and empty. Sometimes that’s bad, but sometimes it’s relief. It’s always empty.

The sound of crickets smells like sun-heated dirt cooling down, midnight blue and the green of vegetation. It’s a warm summer breeze and the feeling of mystery and excitement and sex.

The sound of thunder is the smell of steam and tar rising from a sidewalk or driveway.  It’s warm and welcoming. It’s the feeling of excitement and wonder and joy and love. It’s my Dad and I when I was a little girl standing in the open garage, watching lightning streak across the sky. I was safe; I was with my Dad. And he understood the wonder, and so there is always joy and love.

The crinkling sound of the heat in heat registers, the sound of the furnace, is the sound of anxiety. It smells like heated dust and brings on fears of big bills and not enough money to pay for it.

So. There it is. For me sounds have a feeling. Yes, I can walk into a noisy crowded room without trouble, because I have my bubble up and to hold off the emotions of all those people. I don’t know them. I don’t have to know them. I am not responsible for them, but I am there being part of humanity, feeling somewhat connected. Honestly, small groups can be more stressful for me because I generally care about these people and I need to feel their emotions. I have to drop my bubble and feel. That’s not what most HSPs will tell you. They prefer small groups. But I am an emotional sponge, and I’m incredibly pain sensitive, sounds have emotion, and my mood can change when the sun goes behind a cloud. I feel it all. I am an HSP like it or not. Everything for me is emotion. Not sure what I’m going to do with it, other than to stop fighting it.

Oh, and my favorite sound? Not sure, but the sounds of waves crashing is pretty darn high. (and is white and green and blue and smells like salt air and peace and hope.)

P.S. Do sounds have emotions to you? I’d love to hear about it. Sincerly! Please add them to the comments.

6 Things to Know about Introverts

introverts unite t shirtSo in my dystopian series (The PostPlague Series), the government uses a Meyers-Briggs type of test to place kids in appropriate schooling and later in appropriate jobs. The protagonist, Neri, is very much an introvert, while many of the people she deals with are extroverts. In my dystopian world, Extroverts tend to rule, and if you want money, that’s the game you have to play. Needless to say, Neri is not a fan of this, but she has always played by the rules.

To some extent, I write about this through experience. I am very much an introvert.

For years, that has been a rather unpleasant word, synonymous with “nerd” or “awkward” or “shy”. Because of this, introversion is misunderstood, even to introverts. Many people won’t label themselves introverts because of the negative connotations. I think this is a mistake. Understanding what makes you tick, why you feel and behave in certain ways, makes life much easier to manage. You can look up introversion and find all sorts of things on the internet, but for those interested, here are six things about introverts that I want people to know, because I think it is often misunderstood.

6 (yeah, I’m doing that backwards countdown thing). Introverts are not necessarily shy. I certainly am not, and I am only rarely socially anxious. Granted, these were traits of my childhood and early adulthood, but it’s not true anymore. I actually enjoy social functions. A lot. Many introverts do. Just go to a writers’ conference (most writers, but not all, are introverts) and walk into the nearest bar. You’ll find lots and lots of writers gathered together drinking, laughing and having a very good time. We introduce ourselves to each other and we do enjoy each other’s company. On the other hand, I also know some shy, socially anxious extroverts; that’s got to be a whole ‘nother hell.

5) When you ask me a question, and I don’t answer immediately, I am not being rude. Generally I’m not confused. I like to take my time because

a)I am thinking hard about what you said. Many extroverts process out loud. I suspect that most introverts do not (but I do know exceptions to that rule, too). I’m not sure about other peoples’ reasons, but I don’t process out loud because I don’t think in a straight, linear way. My brain jumps all over the place and grabs all sorts of little bits of learning to process with. If I were to say what I’m thinking out loud, you’d be beyond confused. You’d think I was certifiably crazy. So for both our sakes, I keep my thinking to myself.

b) Once I’ve come up with an answer, I want to put it in terms that are easiest for you to understand in order to get my point across and move the conversation along. It’s not that you can’t understand my thoughts because I am oh-so-intelligent–that has nothing to do with it–but coming up with a metaphor about the desert, for example, for a person who has lived his/her whole life in a rainforest and has never even heard of a desert, will do nothing but confuse. Also, I absolutely, 100 percent, do not want to hurt or irritate you. Certainly not on purpose, and not accidentally either, so I try to measure my words.

And I’m not only talking about deep conversations. Introverts can all-too-easily turn a light conversation into something deep. If you ask something as simple as “Do you want to get some coffee?” I might hesitate because I’m considering some article I read just that morning on coffee and how it has some kind of new beneficial properties for some illness that you are currently dealing with. And I might wonder if I should tell you about it, or if that would sound pushy. Maybe you don’t want to talk about your illness today, but maybe I think it’s very useful information and I really would love to see you get better. I sit there considering a good way to tell you about how coffee is good for your illness without upsetting you. While I do this I am sifting through information: everything I know about your illness, everything I remember about your responses in the past, what I remember about other people’s responses in similar situations, and everything I know about your life as it is right now. It’s a lot quicker than you’d think but, still, three minutes later you’re staring at me like I’m the densest person you’ve ever known and I’m thinking, “Man being an introvert is a lot of work!”

So the truth is I (we) can answer more quickly. Truly. But sometimes if you give an introvert the time he/she wants to process, you’ll get a much more interesting and satisfactory answer. It’s worth it! (Sometimes. Other times, we are just way overthinking, and your interruption is necessary. Kind of like electro shock therapy.)

4) I love extroverts. Truly, honestly, deeply. Some of my favorite people in the world are extroverts. Without the extroverts in my life, I might never leave the house. Extroverts are exciting and fun and know all sorts of cool stuff that they, more often than not, have learned through experience. Most of my knowledge comes through reading. Honestly, I could and maybe I will, write an entire post about how I love extroverts. But for now, suffice it to say there is no introvert/extrovert war. When we work together, we compliment each other and are at our best.

3) I can get just as jazzed by social functions as ambiverts and extroverts. Yes, even large functions and I know many introverts who feel that same way. I like people and I like meeting new people as long as I have had plenty of warning and rest beforehand. I will hold my hand out to random people at large events and introduce myself and start conversations. If I’m with a lot of people who I am pre-disposed to like, like other writers, I will have a blast. I can easily bounce from group to group, laugh and joke and all of that. When it’s over, I could still be bouncing and very excited and you might even convince me to go to an “after party.”  The crash will happen however, and once it comes, I need QUIET. Seriously. Don’t talk to me. I will snap or blubber. And the larger the event, the more time I need in my cave. Extroverts, on the other hand, (I believe) will want to do it again the next day. Or the next week. Me, I’m thinking maybe next year.

2) There is a scale of introversion to extroversion. Ambiverts are in the middle. Some extroverts are happiest when they’re with people almost all of the time. Others, most of the time. Some introverts need time by themselves a few hours a day. Some a couple days a week. Some, like me, function best with three or four day long swaths of comparative silence (sometimes that “silence” though, includes family members who don’t interrupt my thinking much) between days of interaction (and interaction could me a couple of doctor’s appointments).

Also, that scale changes. If I’ve been out a lot for a few weeks–for me that would be 3-4 times a week–I want a week or more alone (or with my husband, who I’m so comfortable with, it’s sometimes better than being alone). If I’m stressed because of something going on in my life, I need more time. Extroverts, I believe, but are the opposite. If there’s too much activity for several weeks they might want a night or two home. But most often they’re fighting loneliness and boredom, not information overload. It seems to me that the first reaction an extrovert has to stress is “I need time with my friends to unwind.”  For me, the idea of going out when I’m stressed will make me ten times more stressed.

And finally, the number one most important thing I wish people would understand is

1) My gut reaction to any invitation out is almost always “no”. It is not you. I like you. I like being with you. That’s why you’re my friend. However, introverts can become easily overwhelmed through social interaction and when I am overwhelmed, I do not like myself. I get flustered or grumpy, or I just plain shut down. You do not like me when I’m like that, either, trust me. So an introvert’s gut reaction is always “no.” Even when we say yes, in our heads we are still saying “no.”  And if we don’t respond to you right away, it’s still not you. It’s us, being introverted. This is the number one thing I want people to understand about introverts, because we don’t want people to stop inviting us out–we do like people, remember? But mostly because we don’t want to hurt a friend’s feelings. We just cope differently.

So please, please understand if that introvert friend of yours says “No” or hesitates, it’s not an insult. Most likely you are loved. And you can be especially sure they like you if they say “yes” more often than “no” (or, gasp, initiate an outing or party!). Most of all, if you care, you might try asking again, gently. Sometimes we can be coaxed out of our little caves with a “Just come along. You don’t have to talk.” or “Come and take your own car. You can leave early.” To an extrovert, that sounds like disinterest. To an introvert, it’s the language of love.