Clarissa Pinkola Estes, the author of "Women Who Run with Wolves", has a wonderful tape on the life of the spirit called "The Red Shoes" (available through www.soundstrue.com). Estes, a Jungian analyst and Latina Cantodera (story teller) knows that the soul can never be harmed. There is a violet edge to the Soul that regenerates, no matter what the pain or neglect. But the Spirit is different. The Spirit can be hurt. In some tribes in Africa , children are not to be beaten or humiliated because the spirit will leave their body and run for days into the woods where it must then be chased and begged and cajoled to come back into the child’s body.
This loss of Spirit is a serious thing. There are several ways this can happen in our world. The first is to be over disciplined and over socialized from an early age, before talking or walking. Another is to be taught one point of view only, and that, a narrow one, so that however you define yourself, however hard you try, you will never seem to fit. I think this has happened to most of the introverts in the smallest percentage categories, the categories where we are just 1% or 2% of the general population.
We do not ever hear the world described in a way that makes sense to us. We never hear our natural way of being extolled. Our normal pastimes and interests are not blessed. Our needs are not understood and our reactions are not sanctioned. And so, all too often, our Spirit leaves our bodies.
This is what happens when we hear, almost every day it seems, that there is something wrong with us, sometimes something terribly wrong. We are not friendly enough, we spend too much time alone, we are never going to be successful this way, we read too much, what is wrong with us, we have no friends, we are not invited over, we aren’t dating, we don’t want to join the sorority, we don’t network, we sneak away from office parties as soon as we can, we make a lame excuse not to go at all, and so it continues….
There is an invisible, assumed criterion which we can never meet. We begin to think WE are wrong. We devalue our inner convictions. We mistake our ability to stand alone against the world for a weakness, rather than a great strength. We fail to honor our rich inner worlds, our ability to turn information into knowledge, our need to listen and hear and fully comprehend before we speak. We apologize for our inability ability to “communicate” never realizing that we write beautifully, listen elegantly and have learned to abjure small talk because it is not communicating. We sneak in or apologize for our favorite, soul fulfilling activities, the ones the introverts on my website mention over and over again, the deeply treasured daydreaming, listening to music, writing in journals, thinking (“thinking is a pastime, too!” one introvert wrote me emphatically) or walking, cycling … playing with a pet.
What happened to us as children when we failed to meet every single criterion called “normal”? What happened to us when our natural preferences -- things like staring out the window, sitting at the computer, playing with imaginary friends, collecting stamps or writing in a diary – were ridiculed and despised?
This is stressful and our self esteem suffers. I get letters every day from introverts who say they never felt “ok” before.
In order to support your introverted child or the recovery process in yourself if you are an introvert who tried for two, three or four heartbreaking decades to be something you’re not, let’s look closely and with interest at the four introvert categories with the least people in them. These are the children who get practically no reinforcement for their world view and their way of being unless they are lucky enough to have a parent in one of these groups as well.
Having your ground of being denied like this is stressful. It is my observation that most introverts have been under constant stress from childhood and some even have the behavior of post traumatic shock syndrome, are depressed, or have the illnesses connected with sustained stress such as chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome or fibromyalgia. Let’s look at how each of the four introvert groups react to stress, what stresses them and how we might parent or re-parent these children (and ourselves) successfully.
The four groups are:
INTJ – the Mastermind 2% of the men in the world and 1% of the women
INTP – the Architect, 2% of the men in the world and 1% of the women
INFJ – the Counselor, 1% of the men in the world and 2% of the women
INFP – the Healer, 1% of the men in the world and 2% of the women
The other four introvert categories comprise 5-6% of the population each: ISTJ 6% (Inspector), ISTP 5% (Crafter), ISFJ 6% (Protector) AND ISFP 5% (Composer). If you’d like more information abut these types, visit www.keirsey.com . For percentage of all types, including extroverts, visit HERE.
INTJ THE MASTERMIND
INTJ Masterminds, being rational, are thinkers. When under stress they may become argumentative and disagreeable. Social interaction, never a forte, now becomes nearly impossible. When under stress, they may also appear obsessive about their ideas which become increasingly negative and difficult to control. They may have disparaging thoughts about themselves, leading to feelings of worthlessness, failure and public humiliation, all of which inhibit them from taking further risks to achieve the success they desire and need.
The INTJ, Mastermind, reacts to stress in several different ways. One way is to eat, drink or exercise to excess. INTJs can also act impulsively and express their emotions in an intense and uncontrolled manner. 2% of men and 1% of women in this world are INTJ Masterminds.
An example: INTJs are concerned only with things they think are significant. If you ask them to do something that doesn’t matter to them, you may see all their finest qualities go flying out the window. If it is something significant they are working on themselves, a strong INTJ preference, and you make a suggestion, they may seem inflexible and stubborn. This is because they don’t automatically respect the way others think. They may act in anti-social ways and become emotionally volatile if pressure continues. As a final act of defiance, they may destroy the project or refuse to continue with it and certainly not “in public”. This indicates their confidence has been eroded by obsessive inner criticism. Later on these are the people who fail to perform some of the routine necessities of life because they don’t feel these things are important enough to warrant their attention. i.e., painting the deck each spring, filing their income tax on time.
In childhood terms, your INTJ child may value building with legos but is not interested in learning how to set the table. Further, he or she wants to build with the legos according to an inner schematic which is paramount whether or not it is acceptable or even functional by outside standards. This is how they learn to become “masterminds”. It’s their way or no way. So (1) leave them alone and (2) let them learn by experimenting. Your comments are neither welcome nor heeded. Your detached appreciation is tolerated!
Ways in which an INTJ’s reality is routinely denied:
* INTJs don’t understand your concern that they have friends or learn social skills -- people are important to the them only in terms of their usefulness for a project
* INTJs will not understand it if you present them with a strategy that requires losing a battle to win a war -- producing things of significance matters to INTJs, not necessarily doing what is practical nor do they particularly value “winning”
* INTJs will resist a process of instruction which requires copying others or doing it “like this” as that offends a core value (“did you read the instructions?” is redundant – no they didn’t’ and they aren’t going to!) -- INTJs usually have original minds and great inner drive to produce or create from a place of authenticity
Successful INTJ Masterminds from history include Stephen Hawking, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Sir Isaac Newton and Peter the Great.
INTP THE ARCHITECT
The second type of introvert we are discussing today is the INTP, the Architect. This type, representing 2% of men and 1% of women, is capable of expressing intense negative emotions towards others when under stress.
INTPs have sharp minds and excellent critical ability which, unfortunately, they turn on themselves under stress. They can become fussy and preoccupied with details. This is turn can lead to extreme sensitivity where criticism, fear of failure and feelings of powerlessness are concerned. If stress continues, their minds may freeze up altogether, leading to stage fright, writer’s block and other ways of inhibiting the flow of their normally superior thought concepts and above average language ability.
An example: Most INTP children can’t stand up for themselves verbally under stress. They become “frozen” and their own muteness adds to feelings of rage and impotence. Later on these are the people who can’t finish their PhDs or meet deadlines.
In childhood terms, your child’s behavior may be interrupted at school as disrespectful. At school children are expected to answer when spoken to, even when attacked. Your child needs your support in understanding how impossible this may be and how unfair the suspicion of disrespect because the battle is an inner one not a social one. On a more personal level, you will earn the undying gratitude and loyalty of an INTP child if you are the one in their presence who allows them their silence with unspoken commiseration.
Ways in which their reality is denied:
* encouraging INTPs to broaden their interests is useless and annoying – focus is one of the great attributes of this type of introvert and all introverts
* requiring INTPs to follow-through is counterproductive -- they are theorizers – they like to do things in their head and later on will excel at this while others are employed for follow through (think of a structural engineer or a product design engineer)
* telling an INTP to “lighten up” is cruel – they are hyper critical of their own performance and it’s no use trying to convince them not everything needs to be virtuoso
Successful INTP Architects from history include Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin, Abraham Lincoln and Socrates.
INFJ THE COUNSELOR
The third type of introvert we will look at is the INFJ Counselor. This type can eat, drink and exercise to excess, become critical and fault finding and behave in very materialistic and selfish ways when under stress. They are also capable of slipshod ethics and morality under stress. This is not normally characteristic of them and is a dead giveaway that they are miserably unhappy. INFJs make up 1% of men and 2% of women in the world.
This type is particularly vulnerable to hurt feelings. If their close personal relationships fail, they may be literally devastated, more so than any other type. If stress continues, they feel “unreal”, fragmented and disassociated. They split off from their physical bodies and suffer paralysis due to suppressed feelings. Physical symptoms can be real or imaginary.
An example: An INFJ type shows his or her feelings immediately. These are the children (and adults) whose faces hide nothing. If the INFJ child misinterprets something you’ve said and feels rejected, they will begin a process of disassociating from their physical body. Sometimes it looks like they are standing dead still while their face fills up with color and their eyes start to float. At this point they are starting to push down their feelings and it’s taking all their concentration. If you continue to press your point, they may scream at you, “Leave me alone” or “Get away” because their fluency is blocked to any other form of self expression. What they are really asking for is a “break” or “let up”. They will need to go off by themselves and process or vent when they are older and may return for a discussion when they’ve collected themselves.
Remember that introverts do almost nothing well in the presence of others, particularly under pressure, so allow them the privacy and space to collect themselves. This includes a room of their own with a door that closes. These are the people who later on may prefer to work alone but want to eventually share their work product with a harmonious audience. They enjoy and can tolerate long periods of alone time doing independent research, writing, editing working out and so forth. Artists frequent this category as well.
Try to avoid criticizing their work if possible. They feel like they ARE their work so they will take it personally and may feel devastated. INFJs are among the most people-oriented of all types.
Ways in which their reality is denied
* don’t exaggerate the need for developing independence – INFJs are extremely agreeable and cooperative by nature and prefer to achieve harmony with others while often prefer to create alone
* espousing “win any way you can, but win” or dividing the world up into “winners” and “losers” does your INFJ a disservice -- they have firm principles and an innate desire to serve the common good
* forcing them to be realistic about all their projects -- like all “Ns” they can appear to act impulsively without thinking things through and may be unrealistic as to the outcome but that is not what matters to them … what matters to them is that they are in the process of doing something that is meaningful to them
Successful INFJ Counselors from history are Eleanor Roosevelt, Carl Jung, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Mohandas Gandhi and Goethe.
INFP THE HEALER
The fourth type of introvert in the smallest minority group is the INFP, the Healer. Healers make up just 1% of men and 2% of women on the planet.
Healers under stress can do things to excess, like the other types – eating, drinking and exercise. In addition they can become bossy and domineering and are capable of ignoring others’ feelings when under pressure.
The worst kind of pressure for the INFP is to be in a situation where their ethics conflict with a relationship. In other words, when their desire to please others, even sacrifice for others, is opposed to their need for integrity, they suffer. Under this kind of pressure, INFPs begin to feel “unreal”. They may lose their place in time and space. Never very interested in the physical world, surroundings or possessions, if stress continues, the INFP may lose the ability to make simple observations and choices or to be present in any comprehensible sense of the word.
INFPs can also become restless and perfectionist when under stress. Sometimes it is hard for them to know when they should quit and turn to something else.
An example: INFP children rarely care about physical reality, surroundings or possessions. Because of this they may misplace personal property, leave possessions lying out, scuff or mar furniture, mess up party clothes, etc. These things don’t even get on their radar screen. However, they have undoubtedly learned that these things are important to you and therein lies the conflict and it is a severe and ongoing one.
Let’s say they can’t find something and think they might have left it at school or in the car on the way home. Normally they’d pause a second and then move on to something else. Their love for you, however, says go look for it and act like you really care. Since they aren’t plugged into physical reality, the search for the object quickly becomes stressful. They don’t really care about finding it, so they don’t do a good job of looking (and they never will). This results in greater stress, self-criticism and conflict. Eventually the world spins and they stand still. When asked a direct question about the matter, they answer something abstract and seemingly unrelated. These are all clues that your INFP child is in inner turmoil and utterly miserable. These are the people who later on buy cheap umbrellas so when they leave them on the plane or in the cab on the way home, it doesn’t matter.
Ways in which their reality is denied:
* forcing them to take rigid care of their possessions -- the physical world is not important to INFPs, thus they may lose possessions, break or mar objects and not ever notice – if you try to beat this awareness into them, it will only convince them there is something terribly wrong with them, for they can hardly improve -- instead honor their values and don’t bother buying them lots of “stuff”, particularly not expensive or priceless stuff (!) as they could care less
* cautioning them to be wary and prudent by extrovert standards - they readily identify with others and see the best in them – this is an oft gullible group of folks but thus they will remain and with their gullibility comes some kind of eternal protection for these are the people who love all living creatures
* criticizing them from a place of external authority -- they live in an ideal world, others may not ever meet their standards; further, they may fail to meet their own standards … by the time an outside authority criticizes them as well, it is overwhelming
Successful INFP Healers from history include Princess Diana, Isabel Myers, Shakespeare, Homer and the Virgin Mary.
As you can see, the four smallest groups of introverts, INTJ Masterminds, INTP Architects, INFJ Counselors and INFP Healers can experience frustration in trying to meet the demands of a world set up by and for others. Type categories are based on Jungian psychology and the way to win in the Jungian model is not to try and become something you aren’t, but rather to become more consciously that which you are.
You can support your introverted child by learning more about the way they naturally approach the world. Don’t try to change him or her into an extrovert. This is the ultimate stressor. It can lead to long term loss of Spirit, low self esteem, depression and health conditions associated with long term stress. Some of the signs to watch for have been indicated for each type: excessive eating, drinking or exercise, compulsive self criticism and perfectionism, feeling “unreal” or “lost” in time and space, disassociating from the body, speechless paralysis and cries for help such as “get away” or “leave me alone”.
COAXING BACK THE SPIRIT
How can we coax the spirit back into these bodies? By becoming informed about introvert qualities and making sure they are validated and welcome in the human family. The outstanding qualities of introverted children are: territoriality, needing to wait and watch from the sidelines before joining in, concentrating on one thing or person at a time, thinking before speaking. For a look at introverts’ favorite past times, see my survey results at www.theintrovertzcoach.com/playsurveyresults.html .
Nancy R. Fenn is the IntrovertZCoach. Her mission in life is to raise consciousness about introversion as a legitimate personality type.