Since my last post I haven’t really done much, but mentally, I feel like I’ve been around the world two or three times. That’s the beautiful problem with my introverted intuition and thinking. It goes so far from home and returns only to wonder what transpired while I was away. I am supposed to report my progress to my amazing INFJ coach, but all I can return with is a kind of blank stare and a strong desire to be able to communicate better.
The last time I met with my coach, she caught me and my impulsive family-analysis tangent, challenging me to really ask myself what I wanted. Of course I had no idea – I was in that place – that place where my family life becomes the platform for all of time and the nature of life. That place where my identity hinges on the dissatisfaction of being a child. That place where I am not really me at all – I’m the problems that others generate around me.
I didn’t want to accept my coach’s words, particularly because I can feel the hurt from my family so badly. That part of me feels resentful and angry for carrying the burden of my two older sisters and parents. Mental health is a big problem in my family and has spanned across generations. My mother’s side is made up of intuitive feelers with a love-hate relationship to the New Age movement that has only culminated into dysfunction.
I found this rock in the park the day after meeting with my friend. It spoke to me. (See below.)
I tried to think of something I really want, and all I could think of was material objects. I don’t have my own desk or workspace and I want more art in my room. I pushed myself to follow through and get those things for my home, but they were pricey and made me feel antsy as I spent all that money. I told myself to wait and figure out the money stuff later, when I was less anxious. Over the weekend, I bought a really pretty black desk for myself at Target. On Tuesday, after class, I sat down with a documentary about Einstein and physics (for my introverted thinking child) while I put together the desk. The space was beginning to form.
The class that I’m referring to is a class that I’m teaching about the spiritual quest and Sukkot and all that wonderful Jewish business that I love and hate at the same time. I have had the extraordinary luck to meet another Jewish INFJ that isn’t as young and confused as I am. We take Wushu together and so I reached out to her to teach this class with me when my old co-teacher dropped out.
Is it just me, or does that rock in the picture above have a pattern that looks a lot like this Chinese character for metta (lovingkindness)?
I could tell she was an INFJ immediately from her heroic use of Introverted Intuition pared with amazing extroverted feeling. Teaching with her is like making my poetic visions become reality. Our conversations together are amazing. It’s the first time I feel like I can talk intensely about life with someone without thinking in terms of ‘solving problems’ or ‘forcing happiness’ into a place where it plainly doesn’t belong.
After a morning coffee meeting with her, I got an email telling me that I didn’t get a job I applied for. I’ve written out how I don’t care about that job and how I suspected I wouldn’t get it, but I could feel the sadness and anxiety returning.
In the spirit of my friend’s very sisterly energy, I felt like I deserved to take care of myself. I started to construct an Active Imagination conversation out loud. I chatted with my hero for advice, my good mother for comfort and praise; I tried to reconcile the child’s hurt feelings and negotiate with the animus. My spirit told me that it wanted more money so it could express itself. I told my spirit that we would never be able to really express ourselves in a full-time job with tons of travel. My spirit told me that it still felt worthless. I told my spirit that it would see its worth through painting, and that together we could really see our worth if we weathered through this. I stopped at an art supply store and bought acrylic paints, while calling upon my inner workhorse to get us home safely.
My coach has talked about my inner workhorse before, and in the past it looked like the ghost horses of the dead kings in Lord of the Rings. But at this moment, it looked like the happy horse of the Chinese Calendar. I was born in the year of the horse and this year is the year of the horse.
After passing through the most dangerous part of the city, I finally reached my home street. At the corner there was a surprise waiting for me. Someone had decided to dump all their furniture out for free. There was a beautiful painting of nature, a desk chair, a giant mirror, a bedside table – all things that I have felt like my animus was nagging me to buy. At that moment, despite the heatwave and the lack of food in my belly, the animus jumped out and helped me to carry loads of heavy furniture into my car by myself. I snagged the things I wanted.
My first painting is titled “Green is a Good Color”.
When I got home I felt on top of the world. I had promised myself I would paint with my new acrylics, but I could tell my boyfriend was anxious about me not getting the job. I asked him why and he admitted the money thing was still getting him too. The high from the moment encouraged me to work it out with him painstakingly.
The conversation was difficult and we still aren’t totally coordinated with our tracking, but it completely melted the stagnancy of our relationship and moved us forward. I knew that my inner cast of characters had to work on their relationships with Mischa as well as myself. Finally, when all was said and done, I made a beautiful painting, which I’ve posted here.
(We had met with a couples coach over the weekend, but the conversation only became inspiring after the call. It was like a symbol of intention for us that we followed up on.)
I told my INFJ friend about this incident the next day, since we teach on Sundays and Tuesdays and plan in between. She was very excited for me and my painting. One thing I like about my new friend is that she doesn’t take care of me, but she inspires me to take care of myself. When I feel frazzled, she knows it whether or not I want to hide it. On the flip side, when I want to take care of myself, she wants to as well.
We planned out an amazing class for Tuesday, which we orchestrated beautifully. The theme was forgiveness and the Jewish New Year. We took a beautiful blue scarf and string lights and recreated a river so that the students could toss their sins away. Before the class started, I felt jittery and fearful that my friend could sense how scatter-brained I was, but a couple interesting things happened. First, a student of mine came to talk to me about a girl who is being mean to her. I gave her a heart-to-heart about the burden of being empathic and how to assert herself. At times in the conversation, I felt doubts in my advice because she was pausing a lot. Finally, we decided to sneak into a room with a piano and she sang for me. Her voice was amazing, and I’m a music snob.
During dinner (which we share with the students) we were eating Panda Express and this student got a fortune cookie that said “You seek council from someone very wise.” She showed it to me, and I was amazed, because I had gotten the vibe that she didn’t totally feel heard by me.
I decided to get a fortune cookie myself, just being whimsical, and so after our amazing class, I opened it up. It told me to stop being so suspicious of others. I realized with a smile that I was being suspicious that my INFJ-friend felt uncomfortable around me.
I decided, after reading my fortune cookie that I would settle the night somehow. We pulled off an amazing class and yet I was only just starting to appreciate it after I gave myself permission. We decided stop at a tea house and call upon the gods of chamomile, lavender, and one of those mind-bogglingly good conversations that a person rarely gets in life.
During our chat, she gave me a special necklace that she had once been instructed to pass on to her soul partner. She realized in our conversations that that partner needed to be a sisterly parter rather than an intimate one. I decided in exchange to give her my own special token, a small clock I once grabbed from my grandmother’s apartment after her death. After our exchange, it felt like I had finally learned what archetypal sister energy feels like. It’s a combination of respect and warmth, but lacking hierarchy and neediness. The boundaries are firm and happy to be there.
Being with my new INFJ friend was very helpful when I decided to try and understand why my coach was taking the position that she was. I realized that people like my INFJ-sister are the true relationships I seek in life, and that the obsession with family only comes from a place of wanting to feel the untarnished archetypal energies of a family in the spiritual sense of the word. I have wanted to feel a true sister all my life, but sister for me is a difficult word. My sisters have mental and physical illnesses that prevent them from capturing the warmth that I experience with my friend. My parents are similar.
My coach gave me a good lead, telling me to read James Hillman’s The Soul’s Code. Hillman doesn’t look too favorably upon excessive attention on family dynamics, which I think is a healthy perspective to balance out my rampant oscillating mind. Reading Hillman made me think more about the strange voices in me that are called upon when I interact with certain kinds of music and poetry. Thanks to Hillman and my INFJ-sister’s giant embrace of self-care, I had the bright idea of linking intimacy with Nina Simone songs and let me say, it was a bright idea. I’ve never felt that kind of exchange with Mischa before. (Wink, wink.)
The day after my meeting with my INFJ-sister, my real sister called me to tell me she had finally met a ‘normal’ guy and fretted about how she’d never be normal. I tried to use the same techniques I use with my students – complete mindfulness of speech and attitude – but when I expressed gratitude for her openness and willingness to share her soul, she accused me of psychoanalyzing her.
That’s fine. I know the word ‘soul’ can be a turn-off.
But it gets worse. I called her up the next day, because she wanted to make travel plans with me for a family reunion we are having in October. When I told her I needed to make plans for both me and my boyfriend (who is basically part of the family after 6 years of relationship with me), she flipped out. She told me that she wanted us to be “single” together (even though I haven’t been single in 6 years) and was angry I was taking him. I think in the moment what ran through my head was “Mischa and I are practically married – I really don’t understand why my sister can’t see that. Why would she ever think I wouldn’t bring my boyfriend?” I remember pausing after she screamed at me and then I said, “well, that’s how it is.”
“Do you hear yourself?” She kept asking. The more that she asked, the less I could hear myself. I felt a violent force come over me as I screeched back. “I can’t talk right now” was what I heard, but she heard something radically different.
My sister, who can transform me so quickly from kind mystic to evil witch, decided to call me a cunt behind my back after that sticky interaction.
The C-word is a horrible word for me. Throughout my life I’ve been called a c-word by the worst of people. The bullies in junior high called me a c-word. My roommate’s boyfriend in college, for instance, was lying in her bed naked and drunk one night, while I was trying to sleep for an early class the next day. I told him to leave and he called me a c-word.
In a way, just like all bad things in life, the c-word is actually quite helpful. Nothing smells of ridiculous more than a person so cruel that they are willing to use that word. When I actually deserve criticism, it usually sounds very different. But the c-word tells me that its owner has tipped over the edge into delusion.
When my sister used that word, I of course reacted wrathfully in the beginning. I spun out of control. I was heinously angry. I sat down to write a long letter to my oldest sister in hopes that we could team up. I ranted and raged to my boyfriend, who felt confused in his attempts to take my side but also support my growth and clear vision.
The first night of affliction, I worked it out with the help of my INFJ-sister’s energy and the kindness of my boyfriend. While raging in response to my sister’s words, I held my INFJ sister’s necklace and became regrounded when I recalled her energy and the way she crafted poetry to express the mucky parts of her soul. This strategy worked for one night – I deleted my email to my oldest sister and had a heart-to-heart with her about how to appropriately respond to the Borderline behavior. I wrote a beautiful poem about my reflections on my sister’s actions (posted below).
Like a wild boar
thrashing angrily in mud
blood pours from scratches
born from wooden splinters
from the gates of prison
he learns he is a pig
small and ripe
he has no tusks
he has no horns
he squeals loudly
and all the animals tremble
as he calls in the storm.
He knows he will die tomorrow
He knows not how death will treat him.
Death stands beyond the gates.
Once he shook his head
He remembers a time when
he played games with pigs who squeal loudly.
A bolt of lightning
a grinning farmer
these were his omens.
Yet today he stands in stillness.
The thrashing sounds surround him.
Death sheds no tears.
He stands wearily while watching squirming flesh.
They approach him frantically.
And in his cool, quiet sphere,
he wonders if the fires of hell
burn solely because pigs thrash.
What disappointment awaits
the screaming cries of pork.
He is not so exciting, death.
The little turtles are sitting spot in the center of the photo.
Meanwhile, Mischa read my oldest sister’s response to the email more carefully and pointed out how wise it was. I read through it myself and was startled by its ability to be neutral and still call out the truth. I felt humbled in that moment, because I was parading around on a high horse, trying to make alliances and instigate more. I let go in that moment and felt truly, genuinely happy.
The next day, my confidence was still high but was being tested. I found out that my oldest sister had in fact gotten that email edited by my mother, who is in the same mental category as my middle sister for me. I was so disappointed by that detail. I wanted to know that my oldest sister could be that way without the help of someone who tries to pacify everyone. Luckily my positive interactions had encouraged me to go the park and enjoy my meal with Mischa. I was learning in that moment – learning how to eat again, learning how to be a human again. My sister called me again, and I could see how massive this struggle was for me. I had to stare at turtles to maintain my composure as I wrestled with my sisters’ angels.
Despite the pain of those couple days, I was doing exceptionally well. I started to read Hillman’s work and his metaphors about growing down into life felt like a physical reality for me. I could feel the ground more beneath my feet. Martial Arts went well. I couldn’t stop smiling the whole day and channeled a kind of authoritativeness that I rarely can tune myself to.
However, I still felt unsettled. My aches and pains were starting to creep back into me. I knew I needed to take care of myself, but the trickster was back, making me procrastinate and get caught up in things like returning stupid things to the store or read mindless computer articles.
This morning, the trickster had his ultimate revenge. I set my alarms to wake me up in time for T’ai Chi in the park, but I did it in an unreliable app on my phone. The alarms never went off and I slept right through it. I had to go to a piano lesson today, which always sets me on edge because I don’t have a lot of confidence in my piano playing let alone my ability to teach. I know I’ve been unconsciously fretting about this lesson for quite some time with a strong internal belief that I’m failing somehow. I had posted something on Facebook during my good-mood period asking other teachers for help, and their responses did validate me but didn’t get me good insight.
I should have known that my introverted feeling witch in me came back to test me once again. She had been waiting, reading to pounce on something. I of course turned to my close friend in Burma, an ENFP that I think I torment a little too much, and basically recreated the witchy behavior my sister had been using against me. I trapped him into a conversation about my sister and as he gave me his perspective, I attacked him. I was so angry that I even cried.
But I had to go to my piano lesson!
In a last ditch effort, I decided to take a bath with epson salts and aromatherapy oils. I closed my eyes and tried to begin an active imagination dialogue. My perspective was shifting, but I think something in me didn’t want me to recognize what I did to my friend until I could resolve the piano lesson. I realized in the bath how my introverted feeling witch was in fact the same essence as my inner rager. That’s a little monster that lives in me and creeps out when people are being pushy and telling me to do things that I know are bad for me. Usually I just suppress it until it transforms into a figure that beats me up. In relationships where I am allowed to express myself, however, it keeps its form as an attacker.
Clarity comes to me amidst the blur…
When I realized that these characters were all the same, I recognized how much my ruminating doesn’t actually help me that much. When I analyze things, I disguise the true figure behind my words (my emotions). Some people benefit from this, but I’m just not such a great thinker that I can separate my emotions from my philosophizing.
After leaving the bath, I was still feeling antsy and upset. I knew that I could handle this lesson so long as I had the right energy about me. Time and time again that’s all this boils down to.
I did some deep breathing and turned on some Bossa Nova (Baden Powell to be precise). I allowed myself to drum away on my steering wheel and tried to summon up all the happy universal energy that I had been in for the last couple of days. The student lives near Malibu, which gave me a chance to look at nature and see the beautiful mountains around L.A. As part of a previous plan, I brought play-dough to the lesson and a cool lesson strategy emerged that worked quite well. So long as I was playfully engaging in extroverted sensing, I could weather through this moment just as I did the other moments.
The success was irrefutable. Everyone was happy coming out of that lesson.
But it was when I came back home that interesting realizations started to form. On my drive back, I was listening to this Brazilian music and I suddenly realized that my animus is like a jaguar more than it is like a Golem. My relationship to my cat says it all. She is a mean cat, but that’s what I love about her. The way she can go from being adorable to biting someone in a matter of seconds cracks me up. Her bloodthirst is something I am all too familiar with.
Water talks to us through light.
Driving back home, staring at the Pacific Ocean glittering in front of me, I felt the universe was putting furniture on another corner for me. Beauty had been restored and brought me to my computer where I apologized to my friend and remained very open about my witchy behavior.
I looked on Facebook and I realized that my middle sister had posted some cute links on my page and gave her own response to my question about the music student. I knew she was trying to trigger me again, since I had been lucky enough to find a good resource for families dealing with Borderline’s affect on people. She was rebounding.
I sent my oldest sister a photo of all the messages from middle sister and she texted me back with similar information. Apparently my middle sister had written an apology note on a napkin and gave it to my oldest sister’s new boyfriend at work in a very public space. My oldest sister asked me what the plan was.
“Well, she’s scrambling right now. If we respond to her at this moment, it will be like giving the cat a treat after it bit you.” I was emerging from a space where I had to work with my animus, and it felt very appropriate to bridge that metaphor of a jungle cat to my sister. I thought of T’ai Chi and this post, which I had read earlier this week during my happy period.
I did some T’ai Chi myself, in that moment. “The plan is to be aware of her calls for response and when it happens, swish and flick. Every time she tries to get good or bad vibes from you or me, I want you to do something really nice for yourself that you don’t share with anyone but your VIPS.”
Take the energy and let it flow.
My oldest sister responds, “So what you’re saying is….were hoping for attention from Middle for an excuse to get a massage?”
“That’s precisely what I’m saying. Go play Nina Simone’s Wild is the Wind while you do the dirty. It’s amazing. Lolz.”
When you let synchronicity be the guiding light for your life, a silly week of emotional drama feels so much more magical. INFJ OUT.