Recently, I met up with a couple close friends I haven’t seen for quite a while. We sat clustered around a table, sipping good coffee and catching up on life- two of my favorite people and I. It was a delightful experience. Mostly. Conversation was flowing, smiles all around, and then… I happened. Oh yes I did.
Here’s what went down.
Somehow, the topic of personality typing and Myers Briggs came up. Ok, I brought it up. It’s one of my most favorite topics at the moment (because who doesn’t enjoy indulging in a little thinly veiled narcissism now and then?), and also, it happens to relate with why I started blogging. Which of course we’re going to talk about because when you’re a stay-at-home parent looking for “new life news” to share, and your options are:
- A mind-numbingly boring description of endless laundry, bodily fluids everywhere, PB&J all day everyday, a perpetually messy house, sleep woes, non-educational videos, the words “No! and Stop!,” and the occasional precious moment the joys of keeping children alive.
- A shiny new blog!
It’s a no-brainer. For everyone’s sake, we’re gonna go with the blog, which also conveniently includes personality typing.
I didn’t even see it coming. You never do.
My friend enthusiastically exclaimed something like “Oh I love Myers Briggs!” Then she cheerfully told me her type: INFJ. My type.
I said: “No way really??? You’re an INFJ too??? This is FANTASTIC!!! How wonderful! I’m so happy to know another INFJ! Let’s talk alllll about our INFJ-ness!” Smiles! Hugs! Rainbows!
Here’s what actually sauntered rebelliously out of my mouth:
“Really? No, I don’t think so. You seem much more like an INFP to me…”
And right then and there, I turned into my worst nightmare:
A Big Fat Arrogant Jerk.
I condescendingly launched into a mini lecture on the nitty-gritty details of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator: how there’s actually 8 different cognitive functions, and it’s not just about what letters you are but about the cognitive function stack…. blah blah blah, arrogant, superior, patronizing BLAH.
As I continued to blather on, I could feel “it” happening. That horrible, horrible facial expression, the one I so readily recognize in others when they speak while feeling defensive: the muscles around the mouth start to tighten, stretching the lips upwards and outwards, and the nostrils flare ever so slightly.
The effect is a grotesque little look that’s a cross between baring your teeth like a savage crazy animal, and the involuntary face you make when you encounter a particularly noxious stench. Like your words might be polite but your face is very subtly saying “I’m about to rip your head off… and I smell poo.”
While this horror was manifesting itself on my face, an inner voice desperately wailed, pleading: “Nooooooooooo! Oh no no no no… Stop. Stop now! You have the tight-mouth-poo face happening! Not good not good! You’re being a jerk! Abort! Abort!
Eventually, I managed to get myself under control. Back into alignment with the person I desperately want to be who I am: the person who never says the wrong things, or is offensive, or gets publicly hijacked by emotions. Thank heavens.
But then, right on cue, the other voice started to kick in: “How could you say something like that? You know better! You never tell someone they’re wrong about their personality type! How presumptuous! You are such a jerk! They are probably thinking ‘Wow that was rude and weird, what was that about?’ You terrible person! You need to fix this!”
So I managed a glib little, “Hey I’m sorry about that. I can’t believe I broke the first rule of personality typing: you never try to tell someone they’re wrong about their type! Ha ha ha! And then threw in something clever like, “You BE your INFJ self!” *Big cheesy smile*
My friend was gracious, and seemed to laugh it off (I hope). On the outside, so did I. On the inside though…
I did not.
My Downward Spiral
This seemingly trivial thing was EATING ME UP INSIDE. I wanted to shrug it off like I imagine a normal person would, but I just couldn’t. As the day went on, that feeling was there, gnawing in my chest, and the thoughts ran through my brain, over and over and over, like a broken record:
You did something wrong. Fix it. Did something wrong. fix it fix it. Did something. fix it fix it fix it. Something wrong wrong wrong. fix it fix it fix it. Wrong. Fix it fix it….
I’m convinced I suffer from self-diagnosed undiagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) (this particularly insidious type, to be specific). And let me clarify: I mean the real kind, not the flippant: “Ha ha, I’m like, sooooo OCD because I, like, have to straighten any crooked pictures I encounter,” which apparently afflicts everyone.
No, the kind where something trips an alarm in my head and the sirens start blaring at full volume, all systems grind to a halt, making it impossible to function or think of anything else. As in my brain starts rapid firing and going into overload. As in I feel physically nauseous, and my mind frantically scrambles to figure out what I need to do to fix this and make it all go away. The fact that I am fully aware this is an extremely disproportionate, abnormal response matters not.
I’m embarrassed to admit that this happens so often, my husband and I have come up with a term for it: “Spiraling.” For example, “Honey, today I messed up and [fill in the blank with some minor, real or imagined wrongdoing or faux pas]…. and now I’m ‘spiraling.’”
Down Down Down I Go….
So I spent that afternoon and evening “spiraling” away: mentally berating myself, replaying the scenario, thinking of how I could’ve done things differently, as if simply imagining it could alter reality, and constructing a thousand different variations of a follow-up text message apology to send, maybe even complete with an explanation for my poor behavior:
I’m SO sorry, again, for being a jerk by questioning your personality type! You see, I thought about it and realized I reacted the way I did because, well, I suspect I’m an Enneagram Type Four (yet another intriguing personality typing system. But careful there Alice, that’s a deeeeeep rabbit hole! Click here if you want to fall in), so I have this awful and inexplicable need to be different and unique, so I couldn’t accept we were the same personality type, because I need to be a special little snowflake! But I was probably just so wrong, and, oh have I said I’m sorry? Cuz here’s my “do-over,” what I wish I would’ve said: [Insert “Smiles! Hugs! Rainbow!” reaction here].
Is reading that making you anxious? Revolted? Reconsidering reading this crazy person’s blog? Because, eeeww… Icky! Yeah, me too! (But hey, you’re either feeling significantly better about yourself or crying tears of joy to know you’re not alone, so… you’re welcome? Read my blog, feel better about yourself! New tagline perhaps?)
Yet the mental torment is so strong I’d do just about anything– including sending an over-explaining text that reeks of insecurity and neuroticism- if I thought it would end the internal turmoil.
Yeah, I’m a disaster human being.
Good thing God loves disasters human beings.
God Rescues Me From My Spiral
In the not-so-distant past I probably would’ve sent that text. *shudder.* But I am pleased to declare that this last year, the Lord has been doing mighty works in this area of my life.
So before doing anything, I prayed. I asked Jesus to show me what was going on, and did I really need to offer another apology or explanation? Here’s what He said:
“You ARE free.”
Free. As in that very moment, on my knees before Him. Not “You will be free… after you send that apology text. No. I was free, now. I didn’t have to do anything to be free from those tormenting voices and thoughts. Could I still send an apology text? Sure, if I wanted to. Not because I had to. Not because I needed to.
I had been stuck, trapped in a rapidly deteriorating vortex, and His voice calmed the storm, like this:
Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. Matthew 8:24-26 (NIV)
I believe the disciples knew Jesus could save them. Otherwise, why would they have implored Him to do so? But knowing wasn’t enough. Likewise, merely knowing we can find freedom through Christ is not enough. Here’s the key:
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17 (NIV)
I was free because the Spirit of the Lord met me in that moment. I simply cried out, and He came. Jesus himself was present, and He rebuked the mental storm that threatened to consume me, and instantly it was still and silent before Him.
Wanna know what happened next?
I went to bed, slept soundly… and never ended up sending that text.
Because with Jesus, I am free. Free to be an insensitive, arrogant jerk at times, who says the wrong things. Free to be offensive and lose control of my response… or my face. Free to be imperfect. Free to not live up to my own idealized version of myself. Free to genuinely apologize, let go and move on. Free to be present in the moment, to speak up and engage rather than withdraw and hang back out of fear of making mistakes. Free to live the full life God promised.
You can be free as well.
The next time you find yourself in the storm, however that might look for you, whether it resembles my struggle or is completely different, I urge you to pause and simply cry out for Jesus. He’s already there, waiting to rescue you, waiting to rebuke the storm, waiting to offer you freedom and peace.
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.” Psalm 91:15 (NIV)
So call on Him. He’s waiting to be with you.
I hope you were blessed by this letter… and I hope you laughed! If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it!