I recently began watching a YouTuber named Frank James. Between you and me, I don’t think Frank James is his real name. I think F[rank] stands for Feeling and J[ames] stands for Judging, two of the four letters that make up INFJ. Anyway, I don’t recall exactly WHY I started watching his videos but I did search for INFJ either on YouTube itself or on Google or DuckDuckGo and his video channel came up in the search results. I do remember looking on Twitter for INFJ and literally found diddly squat in terms of real information. Why did I look up INFJ, you ask? Short answer is once upon a time I took the Myers-Briggs personality quiz and determined that indeed I am classified as an INFJ – and upon reading the description of an INFJ I was pretty amused at how accurate it was. I even went so far as to email it to an ex, who proclaimed it to be “spooky accurate.” But hey, keep in mind that when you answer the Myers-Briggs quiz you must be painfully honest with your answers, and don’t answer with what you think you should based on some other criteria. Just be plainly honest with yourself, and accept the outcome!
Next, let’s ask why Frank James and not one of the other dozens of YouTube channels about INFJ? Well, one reason — and this is me being super honest — even though he is way, way too young for me to look at with a romantic eye, he’s cute. And he has great hair. He has nice blue eyes. Shrugs. So yes, I said, “self, this guy is cute and he has a video on INFJ, and his name is made from the initials (no I really didn’t think that immediately, but maybe after watching the second video) and hey he has several videos on INFJ, so let’s give it a shot.” Here’s another reason, and this one is actually FAR more important to me that the fact that Frank James is easy on my eyes: he talks to his camera and he literally lays himself out there for anyone and everyone to judge. All you non-introverts maybe don’t get just how hard it is to put oneself out there in such a raw open format, then sit back and wait to be abused. You’re like, hey isn’t that what YouTubers do? A lot do, yeah, but you may also be stunned to know (I was) that there are channels where all of the dialogue is a funky computerized voice reading a script. Sometimes they have a static image for you to stare at. This is like the worst sort of pod cast. I can’t drop this crap down into my toolbar while I look at other stuff (like email) whilst listening to that computerized voice mispronounce common English words, I have to stare at a piece of crap image. No, thank you! I will depart from that video in a heart beat and erase it from my viewing history, never to return. Frank James on the other hand is at least (1) a personable fellow who actually talks to his viewers, opening himself wide to praise and critique in equal measure, (2) he talks about a topic that I enjoy and (3) he’s easy on the eyes.
Now, let’s talk about what is truly really important to me: the topic of INFJ. Hmmm, is that really what is important to me? Mostly, but not entirely. If you look up there to the title of my blog post, it asks “What is real and what isn’t?” and <— that is what is important to me in this post. So let’s talk about it and how it relates to INFJ. It occurs to me that some of you need the back story, so I present you with INFJ factoids as I understand them:
Introversion / Intuition / Feeling / Judging. On the surface those words don’t sound very appetising, like a bland casserole your grandmother threw together. But, psychology is weird like law is, using words that don’t quite mean what you think they mean, at least not on the surface. Introversion (versus extraversion) relates to how a person “focuses their attention or gets their energy” or more plainly put: how we interact with the world around us. Intuition (versus sensing) refers to how we perceive or take in information. Feeling (versus judging) refers to how we prefer to make decisions based on the two former actions. And Judgment (versus perception) refers to how we “orient ourselves to the external world”. Clear as mud, yeah?
INFJ’s are introverts, quiet, and interact with fewer people and being in social situations expends our energy rather than energises us. Using our intuition, we focus on the abstract rather than the factual concrete information, we see or look for the bigger picture or future rather than immediate realities. When I’m working on a project at work, not only do I project myself out into the future to see where a project is going and what potential it has, I also focus on nitpicky details, typically finding errors that others missed (a trait that my employers heretofore have loved). It annoys me when I’m given a task where I’m not meant see the end product. In example, “please print these documents for me.” Okay, my brain says in response. Will do. Internally I am browsing the content. What is this document? What does it say? What case does this relate to? Is that a typo? Okay, now I SEE where you’re going with this. I cant just print the damn document and be happy. Nope. Not me.
Feeling preferred to “thinking,” INFJ’s tend to value personal considerations above objective criteria. When making decisions they tend to give more weight to social implications than to logic. I have to say it’s because logic, while necessary, isn’t the only part of the human puzzle. You can’t reject your feelings, or another persons feelings. If a person is fearful because a fleet of warships are aimed in their direction and they want to knee jerk and just start bombing them preemptively, the voice of calm diplomacy must step in. If a person is caught with the rare golden cookie in their hand, the voice of cold logic says they are guilty and must die. Well, empathy must step in and determine if this person’s life is truly less valuable than the gold cookie. Both of those examples are ridiculous (at least the latter is) but, my point is empathy is a crucial factor in an INFJ’s decision making. And empathy is all about emotions.
Judgment is preferred to “perception.” I struggle a little with this because whilst I am notorious for looking for and establishing routines that create super efficiency, and creating structure that makes my life less stressful, I do have an issue with commitment. I am famous for saying, “let me ponder that,” especially when I’m not sure how I FEEL about doing a particular thing. To be perfectly honest, I need some time to do my own special brand of peering into the future and making sure it’s the right choice. If I see nothing but black emptiness, it’s probably the wrong thing to do, or I need more time to think about it. I will make decisions based on my gut intuition about a thing even when their are NO facts in evidence to support my gut feeling. And this may be because I tend to be stuck in the two middle aspects of the INFJ puzzle. NF.
Okay, now that I’ve given you a wee bit of background on INFJ, let me guide you into the world of the Empath. As if it weren’t bad enough to have people actually say that the Myers-Briggs Jung theory is absolute bunk, it is beyond annoying to read that Empaths are considered to be paranormal. One day the rest of the world will catch up, but in the meantime, we will operate under the assumption that Empath = paranormal. I am a theory. Nope, I am a hypothesis. Please, please don’t confuse empaths with empathy. While both have to do with emotions, they are not the same.
It’s super hard to describe an empath, but the most basic description would be we are people who not only intuit the emotions of other people, we actually absorb their emotions into our body. Their emotions can become ours, replacing ours altogether, especially for the novice who hasn’t learned to “block”. We also internalize the pain of others. In my particular case, let’s say that you have an injury. It could be fresh or old, you could show me or tell me, you could allude to it or shove it in my face. I am going to feel pain in my body. It isn’t in the same spot as your pain (that’s called mirror touch). My “empathy pain” occurs in the area that spans from my upper thighs to my rib cage. It’s a throb of pain and it does indeed hurt. This even happens to me when I watch violence on TV, or when a there is a scene where someone is injured (unless it’s obviously fake). In fact, I actually really don’t like watching violence. There is an exception, at least one that I know of: Supernatural. For some reason, most scenes comes off as being so fake that it just doesn’t faze me (or I can ignore how it bothers me). Anyway, I will experience pain at just the idea of someone else’s real pain. When I’m around someone who is in a panic, if I’m not on my game and can block them, my heart beat races and suddenly I feel panic too. Now it becomes a battle of fixing this person’s situation so that their panic will abate and I can calm down. I truly hate this aspect of my life, and it can literally make me very angry and even make me feel suicidal. I want the frustration and panic to END. When I’m around a happy bouncy person, I am happy too. When a bitchy person pretends happiness, I see the fake. When a person lies, I know it. When a person is depressed, so am I. When they are chatty, so am I.
This makes me a wonderful girlfriend, wife and lover. I know all your emotions. I validate you. I know when you are upset, lonely, sad, happy and I know what you need. I get into your private thoughts and I peer deep into your soul and see your motivations and your flaws and your future. It is downright creepy and wonderful at the same time.
But when I walk away and go to a place where you aren’t, I come back to me, or I come back to me plus whomever I am now around. And my emotions aren’t yours anymore. <—this is what I meant by the title of my blog post. What is REAL and what isn’t? When all I am is a sponge or mirror of the people I’m around, where is the true me? Even my dreams aren’t my own for the most part. I’m usually plopped into the middle of someone else’s reality. And when I watch Frank James have an existential crisis, I know exactly what is bothering him and what he needs to hear. This is why INFJ’s are called the Counsellors and the Healers. But when you combine my INFJ qualities with my Empath qualities, it is an exhausting merry-go-round for me. In terms of a personal relationship, the day will come when I wake up and say, “hey, self, when is this relationship going to be about you?” And you whom are now destined to become an ex, have been given every opportunity to turn a little of that empathy around for me — now I have to enroll you in the 12-step plan for letting me go.
Meanwhile, I go back to being a blank slate. I enter the emotional void. This is where depression lives, in this black empty formless void of no one else’s needs and emotions. Yes, I have work and all the people there who come to depend on me. Yes, I have my children who also need me in the ways that children need their mom. But when it’s just me and the keyboard, or me and a cryptogram, or me and the manuscript, or a book, or knitting, or whatever, it can be lonely AF.
A mirror with no one looking in.
My goal going forward is to figure out how to happily occupy my formless void without putting another face into the empty mirror.