INFJ Male Bio: University (Age 21-29)
My inner transformation opened me up to life and kickstarted my INFJ development. I was out enjoying my time as a student more by dating, partying and making new friends at University. The more risk taking aspects of my personality I was exploring as well.
My new friends were living on their own in the big city and having their whole lives there. This inspired me to do the same. Moving out was a very hard thing to do, because I felt I was leaving my mother behind.
Despite that feeling I took the leap anyway around age 24 as I figured it would do us both no good if I arrested my development. Living on my own speeded up my independence and was therefore a great decision.
The Real Inner Work
I naturally delved into more books both spiritual and psychological, because of curiosity. The inner transformation (around age 21) brought about a lot of positive changes. However, in retrospect my inner work was just beginning at that point.
Now that I had the awareness it was time to look deeper at the root causes of my pain. But, for a long time I didn’t understand this.
I believed that the first shift in consciousness was some kind of be all end all phenomenon and that if I experienced inner pain again, that I didn’t do it right. Later I’ve learned that subsequent pain in the form of negative thoughts and emotion could be a signal that I was resisting the present moment.
What it also could mean was that there’s more stuff from the past that I hadn’t dealt with properly. Searching for that stuff wasn’t necessary as Life itself presented these deeper layers to look at on its own.
Questioning Your Thoughts: The Work of Byron Katie
The playwright teacher had recommended some great books to read. One that also helped me to look at my stressful thoughts was the book: Loving What Is by Byron Katie (2003).
Byron Katie (2003) calls this questioning “The Work” and requires four questions that you need to ask yourself about what the negative thought is saying.This has the potential to lead you out of the painful reality this particular thought is creating.
It is actually a very powerful tool in seeing how most of our suffering is created by our own thoughts about a specific situation instead of the actual situation. A magnificent aid in my journey and I use it till this day.
Photo by Kumiko Shimizu on Unsplash
Codependency: The Dance of Dysfunction
Dating was frequent during my years at University. Next to casual dating I had been in a couple of long term relationships at this point. It was hard for me to get into a relationship as I did not fall in love easily. Because of my past wounds it took a huge amount of energy to be in one.
My negative experiences with being in a love relationship wasn’t selling me on the idea either. Over the years I started to notice a pattern in the type of women I was attracting due to the hardships I experienced in these relationships.
Not knowing anything of these women initially, in about 90% of cases I found out later on that there were mental health issues, physical diseases, emotional unavailability or certain emotional wounds. Some had traits that could be categorised as narcissistic or dependent personalities.
Gradually by noticing and researching this phenomenon I found out that I might have attracted these type of women, because I myself had mental health issues and emotional wounds. My INFJ childhood trauma was at the base.
On top of that my people pleasing was still compulsive. After some research on the internet I found the concept of “Codependency”. A certain relationship style/dynamic where the person suffering from it, is dependent on someone else’s approval to have a sense of a positive identity. I realized that I have been trying to please or rescue people all my life.
And which type of people would be the best to rescue? People that are hurt and in need. Caring for others comes naturally to people with the INFJ personality or highly sensitive person traits. But, this powerful sensitivity and empathy for others are also our INFJ weaknesses.
Unconsciously, we were actually seeking each other out in a sense, but to my own detriment. For years I actually took some pride out of this role as the “Rescuer” or the “Nice Guy”, while it actually was a protective coping mechanism from childhood powered by the belief that if I make sure everyone is happy, I wouldn’t get hurt.
In reality it was very unhealthy and quite self-serving. As I also was hurt and in need, who was actually helping who? A painful question to answer.
Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash
Toxic Shame: Autoimmune Disease of the Mind
There were recurrent periods throughout this time of my life were I would feel just absolutely terrible all of a sudden. Sometimes I could pinpoint its trigger, which was often intimacy or contact with toxic people. At other times it was less easy to notice, like a certain type of automatic thought or emotion.
This was frustrating as it left me with this agonising mix of feelings of sadness, inadequacy and self-loathing. Some weeks this could simmer for days in the background. Not soon after learning about codependency, I also learned that there was something almost inherently connected to it: “Toxic Shame”.
When people experience frequent and long bouts of shame especially during their formative years, this normal shame can then turn into toxic shame. This means that shame has become a part of ones’ identity and is almost always on the surface causing feelings of worthlessness, disgust and humiliation.
Looking into this description, it dawned on me that this was my experience. I had felt so ashamed during my teenage years and perhaps to cope with this chronic shame I tried to please others in an attempt to feel better about myself and escape those painful feelings.
It is excruciatingly painful to live with toxic shame. Now I understood it was interconnected with my INFJ childhood trauma and INFJ depression.
It is a highly corrosive emotion that eats away at your soul day after day, year after year until it reaches the core of your being and corrupts it. It feels like you are just defective, broken beyond repair and everyone around you knows this too and is therefore also disgusted.
In those moments there is no self-worth, just self-disgust and the feeling of wanting to stop existing to end the torture. The self-attacking thought patterns combined with the venomous emotion truly make it seem like an autoimmune disease of the mind.
John Bradshaw’s (1987) book Healing the Shame that Binds You goes into the origins of toxic shame and how to overcome it. A great book that helps a great deal in grasping this elusive concept and feeling. Especially when you’ve been living with it for so long that it has become normal.
Slowly but surely I began to understand yet another deeper layer to my suffering. It felt like I was slowly going down a flight of stairs with curiosity. Not knowing what will show up, but very eager and open to learn in my quest for more self-understanding and inner freedom.
Food For Thought
What has been one of your darkest days?
What helped you to prevail?
What is your personality type? Take the MBTI test!
Continue to Part 6 of INFJ Male Bio.
Bradshaw, J. (1987). Healing the shame that binds you. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications. Book
Katie, B. (2003). Loving What Is: Four questions that can change your life. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press. Book
For the total list of recommended reading, please go to the Wisdom page.
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