Myers-Briggs and the Complexity of Self Through Novel Writing

This is going to be a particularly personal post. This semester has been more than a little overwhelming for me, I move about in a city I don’t know so well and don’t know too many people inside it. I’m struggling but not depressed. I’m lonely and simultaneously elevated in my love for what I’m doing. I just applied to Grad school, will be applying for assistanceship, and get along with classmates and professors just fine (if a little over exuberant and puppy-like sometimes). I just handed in three essays, a blog post, an abstract, and read nearly four books in the past week. I have a presentation tomorrow. I have two essays due the week after break, two more books to read, a proposal to write. I am happy here. This finally feels like me. I am not happy here; I have no friends inside my bubble.

I haven’t written on my novel in nearly a month.

ENFJ is my Myers-Briggs. I recently made an incredibly difficult decision to change the boundaries of a relationship in my life, and it has been sending ripples through me ever since. I did it for selfish reasons. ENFJs make up (assumedly) 4% of the population. INTPs make up 2%. INFJs make up less than 1%. ENFJs tend to run along a need for Harmony (as the article suggests), meaning they try to help everyone out around them without expectation a return, and I’m no different. So understand that it is absolutely natural for me, when I come across a meme that says, “Remember what your friends did when things got rough: 1) They left, 2) They stayed, 3) They put you in it,” to think of how I impact my friends; whether I left, whether I stayed, whether I put them into it. Whether we’re still friends and respected.

Only today did I look at that meme and, after scrolling past thinking, “Yeah. I’m messing up a lot,” did I go back and look at it for myself. Really look at it, and think about my friends who have been there for me, who have left when things got confusing or difficult, and who did their parts in pushing me down.

As an ENFJ I don’t have many core friends. I think “strange” things most don’t, find connections between people and ideas that come across as far-fetched and “odd.” I’ve been told my whole life similar things. I think, because my father was accepting of my thoughts and my brothers were of similar personality, I had an audience through which to develop a healthy relationship with my personality type. Without it I’d be an alcoholic hating myself and working as some kind of an accountant or money-dancer, I’d assume.

I realized my writing currently reflects a kind of desert. It is an almost viral ecosystem of words and thoughts playing off each other, with grand schemes and several story arcs superimposed together. Dream sequences and growth and complex ideas doing battle on proverbial planes of fire. But the human aspects of this book struggle to find connection: a young woman without a partner who yearns for one; an older man without a partner who yearns for purpose.

In this book there is a desert of love, where people interact because of environmental needs, each a complex machine of survivalism in parts and desperately reaching for growth in others. I see no romance in my book. These characters wait. Wait for what? Wait for me.

The secondary effect of ENJFs is Perspectives, or a love of a depth of understanding through multiple viewpoints(as discussed earlier); I love to fall into thought processes that grow out of Harmony. I delve into perspectives of “what if” like a great art gallery waiting for me to study brush strokes or media. I eat paintings I paint in mimic of the actual thing, and find meaning through that digestion. I’ve existed in my secondary plane for a long time. It is, as the article states, my “co-pilot.” The thrill that trills in the mouths of songbirds on my self-tree are almost as joyous as the humble rush I get through helping others find their way, find their purpose, be their potential.

The “10 year old self” is Sensation, which I’ve been scratching at for months. As the article explains, it is a thing that usually sits in the back of my chest, a thing used to share experiences through alcohol, sugar, caffeine, physical intimacy, hikes, team sports, etc. Lately I have indulged it more than before; drinking a beer alone, caffeine when I don’t need it to focus or work, etc. It is an artificial thing for me, a thing I ultimately feel I do not deserve.

My book is a book of over-sensation. But with a lack of love. With a lack of romance. With a lack of physical intimacy. Lack of Harmony. I do not have the power to help this friend. I am at the whim of time, distance, and other relationships. I am at the whim of my friend. For two years I have been unable to help this friend the way I want–wholly–and it has built to a point of change.

So in this I’m trying to explain how my book is a mimicry of my life, in all the areas my mind finds important. In eating the contents of this book I, I find I can look at myself without looking at myself; it is a psychological simulacrum with all the symbolic parts in place. I see the nerves, the veins, the muscle, the bone without the skin. Without the telltale aspects of “Chris,” and with all the parts that make up me. “What is wrong? How do I fix this? What is right? How am I thriving? How am I dying?”

Yes, bias affects me in this. No, I am not perfect in my construction of facsimile. My “3 year old self” is Accuracy, the problem solver in me,  the least developed part that constitutes “Monkey Brain”: see a problem, poke it with a stick, whack it with a hammer, fix what needs fixed. Simple, selfish, painful, often self-destructive. If I stay there long, depression will hold my hand.

So. Much like how I saw the meme and finally said, “What about me?” So too did I think of this in a recent relationship, when my psychological process stepped into Accuracy. When this person said, “What about me?” for the first time in a long time, I did not react. It is a painful thing, and painful to look back on. Even now, if I had the chance to do it again, I would not; because I have recovered a little and crawled back into my Co-Pilot place of Perspectives and depth. My need for Sensation is fulfilled by pain and thoughts of metaphorical tearing.

Perhaps now I can push out of this space and write love into my characters. Create a third for Mael, a purpose for Susursal. Susursal, the helper. Mael, the Perceptive. This third could be Sensation: a man of sense, of action, of movement and intensity. Perhaps, in reverse, I could write myself a little more whole. A therapy.

Who stands beside me when I am at a point of breaking? I feel selfish in saying this. A little guilty.

What about you? Is this how you handle things?

Chris

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