When I was doing some research about my personality profile (INFJ), I came across an interesting article about The Tin Man.  In the Wizard of Oz, the four main characters are said to represent four temperaments: Improviser, Stabilizer, Theorist and Catalyst.  The INFJ falls under the fourth temperament, Catalyst, which is what the Tin Man represents.

The Tin Man Poses For Camera
How YOU doin’?

Something not to be overlooked about the Tin Man is how he is made of impenetrable metal, not flesh. This is a powerful symbol, meant to draw your attention to something important about this character. When Catalysts get emotionally injured, they tend to erect psychological “barriers” to avoid suffering further damage. It’s a completely understandable reaction. The paradox is that the same barriers which protect them from getting wounded will also act as barriers that inadvertently preclude them from feeling loved.

That’s certainly been my experience, which is why I’m so loathe to let those barriers down, because no sooner than I do someone quickly uses the opportunity to stab a dagger in my face, and thus the walls quickly go back up again.  As much as I want to experience love, I hate leaving myself vulnerable because I can’t think of any past examples where I DIDN’T get hurt as a result of letting my guard down.  I’m very suspicious of people, and sometimes it’s difficult to tell who I can safely trust, though the safe course of action obviously would be to trust NO one.

As much as I’d love to confide in others and reveal my deepest thoughts, my tendency is to keep others at arm’s length and leave many details about my life shrouded in mystery.  In a way my blog helps me find a middle ground to all that, where I can express my thoughts freely (for the most part) behind of veil of quasi-anonymity.  It’s one of the weird things about being an INFJ: we’re far more expressive in writing than we are speaking, and many of us would eschew talking to people on the phone, but have no aversion to texting someone all day.  I wish more people were like this, as I love to instant message and communicate by text, but I’m surprised (even in light of all the new ways we can communicate on the Internet) that so few people actually do this.  It’s one of the reasons why I struggle with dating:  so much of the communicating has to be done on the phone or in person, forcing me to interact in ways I’m not comfortable doing, especially when I’m with people I don’t know well.  I hem and haw and stutter and just can’t seem to find the words I want to say, but with instant messaging (IM) and email I fire on all cylinders.  Very few are willing to meet me halfway though, even on job interviews when I ask if we can communicate by IM/email/text as an accommodation I’m still forced to talk on the phone.  To actually type out words seems to be too much to ask of certain people.

Still, as time goes on I hope to find kindred souls who appreciate the power of the written word, as well as the effort I make to talk to them freely and comfortably, just as I do now with the people I care about the most.

The price of being an INFJ

INFJs I think are especially sensitive individuals, not in the sense that it means we get easily offended, but that we have a natural ability to absorb and read energy around us in a way that many people can’t.  We absorb so much in fact, that there’s a limit to how much stimuli we can experience before it becomes too much to bear, and we need to withdraw into solitude to escape from the overload of sensations we sometimes feel.  While this describes many introverts, I think INFJs are even more keenly sensitive to our surroundings, and we can quickly detect changes in mood and behavior long before others do.  When there’s negative energy or conflict, we don’t merely sense it, we’re actually experiencing it as well (like being in a middle of a storm).

While others can take people and things at face value, INFJs experience intuition at a uniquely high level that can’t easily be understood or verbalized.  We just KNOW things, even in the absence of any foreknowledge of the subject at hand.  It’s also why we can detect disingenuity in people’s behavior and words so quickly, or as Obi Wan Kenobi would say, we sense a “disturbance in the force.”  Such intuition can’t be experienced in a detached manner either, somehow we’re also absorbing the negative energy we sense, giving us a feeling of dysphoria that doesn’t stop until the deception ends, or we remove ourselves from that environment (usually the later).

This is not a personality trait that many people can understand or relate to.  One of my Facebook friends in fact dismissed a recent post where I commented that INFJs “see fake people” as the result of me projecting my personal bias onto others, not due to any innate ability to read others.  Her flippant disregard belies a fundamental ignorance of what INFJs experience, and I’m sure most of us would candidly admit, far from seeing this as some sort of superpower we can brag about, it’s actually a burden we wish we could TURN OFF.

It’s like having eyes without eyelids.  There’s no way for us to merely shut this off and block what we intuitively feel, even when we desperately want to give people the benefit of the doubt.  The overload of negative energy/stimuli becomes so overwhelming that the only way to get a reprieve from it is by dissociating ourselves from its source, either by seeking solitude or the company of a very small circle of friends and family we implicitly trust.

My experience at the Grand Canyons was such a good example of this too.  In the early morning I managed to find a quiet spot near the edge and enjoy the views in peace.  I closed my eyes, and I could feel the canyon’s winds gently blowing past me, the sounds and echos of birds, animals and plants moving in perfect harmony, while my nose were permeated with the smells of damp earth and swirling pollen.  I felt at ease and at peace.

Grand Canyon View from Rim TrailAnd then the crowds came.

Obnoxious, braying, loud and boisterous, they continued to swarm past me as I tried to regain the short-lived moments of peace I had experienced only minutes earlier.  It wasn’t enough to shut my hearing aids off:  I could still FEEL them.  Crazy, chaotic energy disrupting my inner world with its poisonous darts.  I literally did not feel at ease again until I left the Canyons and drove the through the Navajo Nation on the way to Colorado.

Rarely does a day go by when I wish I weren’t the way I was, that I could be more detached and numb to the world around me.  I’d probably have a FAR wider social circle of friends and associates, as well as being a happy go lucky person with no sense or awareness of the evil that surrounds him.  Ignorance as they say, is bliss.

I wish I could be that person sometimes.  But it is what it is.

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