Blog Archives

An Undiagnosed Killer of Marriages

Differences in personality types can have a lot of effect on marriages.  I respond to the outer world emotionally first.  My husband responds with logic.  I am an extrovert, so I tend to react openly immediately. My husband is an introvert and he only responds after much thought. When I would get either excited or upset about something and babble over  about it, he would sit back, cross his arms and put on his “here come the judge” face.  After several moments of waiting, I ‘d get frustrated, either disappointed that he didn’t share my enthusiasm or angry because he was looking judgmental.  And unfortunately his first logical problem solving response is to focus on the practical problems or negative aspects.  After some years of marriage, without realizing it, I began to try to push his buttons just to get him to express a feeling of any kind.  The problem with this is the introverted thinker may go years without responding openly to provocation, only to one day reach overload and either explode violently or simply leave and not look back. Fortunately, since we had five young children, I recognized my pattern before my husband reached overload. I have since realized that when asking him for a yes or no decision, I need to give him plenty of unpressured time or he will play it safe and just say “No.”  The same with arguments. I now state my case and go wash dishes or do something else while he works out his response, and then gets back to me.  Unnatural as this is for me, doing this brings much better results and lessens conflict.  I’m pretty sure that it is a total shock to one of the spouses, when marriages disintegrate  from unrecognized inborn differences such as these.

 

 

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Becoming Free to Hear God

I just want to reiterate my theme song: We are all born different.

I don’t have expertise in much, but personality differences have been my area of specialization since the early 1980’s. I used to be a consultant on their implications for marriage relationships, teaching/learning styles, approaches to spirituality and even management skills.

We are different in both what and how we take in information from the outer world
We are different in how we process what we take in.
We are different in what we value.
So, we are different in how we respond to what we take in.
We are incredibly different in how we communicate.
We are different in how we live in the world……whether goal driven, pleasure driven, influenced by others or our own built in agendas.
We are different in whether we are focused on the present moment, the past or the future.
Words have different meanings and even a totally different impact for each of us.
It is an absolute miracle that any random group of us can agree or act in concert on anything, even in the same family, church, culture or country, never-the-less across cultures, religions, and nationalities.

However, both my studies and experience have shown me that after midlife we have a natural inclination to grow and develop more in the opposite strengths and orientations. So, age may have its perks and probably the greatest of these is a greater potential for peacemaking.

Here is a part of my personal journey that hopefully illustrates this possibility.

In my mid-forties I was accepted into a three year course of preparation for Lay Ministry.
A part of it was taking a battery of tests ranging from IQ to personality tests. Then we were given feedback on areas that might be problematic for ministry.

I was told that I had two areas with a potential for limiting my effectiveness in ministry.

#1. My IQ was high enough that I most likely always assume that I am right in any conflict of opinion. This is a weakness, because no matter how smart anyone is, no one, but God is right all the time. And….(here is the zinger) the most necessary quality for hearing God is humility.

#2. I was over sensitive and thus, easily offended.(My humorous, but pitiful first gut level response to this was, “If you know that, why would you hurt my feelings by telling me?”)

It has been a long and somewhat painful process of integrating these truths into my conscious responses to life.

Several years ago, I got into a conflict with my church’s Minister and the leadership of the church. This culminated with a woman Elder telling me that I was just an unhappy person who was never satisfied with anything. Frustrated, hurt and angry, I left organized religion for about two years. During this period I focused on trying to listen to God and my relationship with God became much closer and more fruitful. This culminated in the realization that I was, in fact by nature, both extremely idealistic and a perfectionist. These traits have a good side; I have been at times a change agent for the better. However, since no person or organization is perfect, they tend to make me critical of pretty much everyone and everything.

The realities and practical limits of an imperfect world filled with imperfect people, including myself, are like a pebble in my shoe. Coming to grips with the reality that in this life, we can only inch toward any ideal, never reach it, is as painful for the idealist as accepting the call to change is for the pragmatist. The ultimate challenge for all of us is becoming free to hear God in each situation. Sometimes God’s choice is a matter of timing, sometimes what seems good, may need to be let go to make way for something better as yet unseen, sometimes more time is needed for grace to change other hearts.

This is my prayer variation: “God, help me to change what you want me to change, to accept what you want me to accept, and to hear which you are calling me to do in each situation.”

Here are the challenges that I am still in the process of learning on how to hear God:

#1. I must let go of the assumption that my way of seeing an issue is the best or God’s way. It might actually be, but I cannot see the whole picture or the long term effects like God can, so I cannot make my opinions into idols.

#2. I must consider the realities or practical limits of the situation and be willing to inch toward or even let go of what I consider the ideal.

#3. I must let God heal the hurt behind the anger that any conflict carries with it, such as feeling unappreciated, rejected, like a failure, or somehow inadequate.

#4. I must trust that God is in every situation and can teach me and others what we need to bring about spiritual growth and good out of what seems so wrong.

#5. It may be necessary for us to take time and space to heal our wounds, but we need to avoid burning bridges. Sin isn’t feeling hurt or angry or even needing time away from a situation.

Sin is refusing to take the time to seek the grace and do the work needed to reconcile, however long that may take.

Zombies, Vampires, and Black Holes, Oh My!

I realize that I harp on the inborn differences in personalities, but to me this is a key to at least not judging ourselves or others harshly, even if we can’t understand where they are coming from.
I explore the world with my intellect (ideas, not my eyes and not my heart), but I RESPOND to the world from my feelings and values.
Every personality has strengths and weaknesses. And there is an upside and a downside for every personality trait. Responding to the world immediately on a feeling level makes people warm, friendly, mostly kind and caring. But it also makes us vulnerable to hurt, resentment, fear, and depression. We don’t have a protective layer of logic between the world and our hearts. We are “thin” skinned.

It takes grace to become able to minimize the fallout for those closest to us. Though it helps us if they can just hear and accept our feelings, it’s easy for us to fall into garbage dumping on those who love us enough to listen. We have to work to find a balance, so that we don’t overwhelm them with our neediness.
It takes time to develop strength in our weakness( our logic and analytical skills.) But eventually with time and grace, we can develop coping skills and find strength at our core.

And the less needy we are, the freer we are to be loving.

I’ve never been into the Goth thing, the Zombie thing, or the Demons thing, etc. Probably, because I have enough trouble coping with my own inner demons and dark side.
I don’t think anyone has a black soul, but I heard a description once that made me think that I and others might have an inner “black hole” like the ones in space that suck the light out of their surroundings.

The description was: ” A bottomless pit of needs and wants.”

I decided that for a considerable number of years that described me perfectly. And since being needy prevents us from being loving, it explained why I had trouble even loving myself, never-the-less others.

Discovering that God was alive and well and loving us all unconditionally, even us “Bottomless pits of needs and wants,” helped free me to begin depending on God and grace instead of other people and circumstances. And that is what fuels the lifelong process of learning to love both yourself and others unconditionally. With grace we can grow into the unique, imperfect, but more and more loving person God created us to be.
I am definitely in God’s slow learner group, and may never become as loving as many other people do, but I trust God and the process enough to believe I will reach my personal potential, however limited that may be. And that is all I am called to do.

Compassion or No One’s Playing with a Full Deck

From when I was quite young, I stayed stressed night and day over the possibility of being scolded for anything. Unfortunately, even if a fellow student was scolded, I also hurt for them, literally. My stomach would ache.  As an adult when a friend was going through a painful divorce, it seemed almost like I was going through it myself. In many ways this made me compassionate and I tried always to relieve others’ suffering in any way I could.

But, my life became controlled by an underlying need to relieve suffering of any kind, my own, my friends’, the world’s. This sounds like a good thing, and at times it undoubtedly was. But suffering is an inevitable part of life, everyone’s life. And a lot of suffering is self inflicted and perpetuated by attempts to escape it, rather than experience it and learn and grow from it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Compassion and fear of our own suffering may be two sides of the same coin.

Over the years I learned that I could not protect my children from suffering. And after a couple of friends, that I tried to give emotional support, ended up committing suicide, I gradually accepted that I am not God and cannot control life for anyone.

Eventually, I also recognized that some people become addicted to being victims and are bottomless pits of needs and wants that no one but God can fill.  I can be kind. I can share insights I’ve gained through my own struggles. I can bring a little laughter into the lives around me. But ultimately, each person’s journey is uniquely tailored to the process of making them into the people God created them to be…no more and no less. We can all only play the hand we were dealt and no one other than God can judge how well we are doing that.
Each person is born with their own set of genetic strengths and virtues. The thing we often overlook is that each strength has a corresponding area of weakness. Our pattern of growth will build on the strengths, but also will involve facing our weaknesses and allowing for them. We can develop survival skills in those areas, but they will never be our gifts.
That means we need one another. That means at times we must set aside our strengths and avail ourselves of the opposite set of gifts of other people. This is a dying to self of sorts. It involves suffering and humility. Not an easy task, but definitely part of becoming a couple, a family, a friend, a community, a nation, a world.

In other words, none of us is playing with a full deck! And we can help one another in partnerships, but not in dependency relationships that keep us from growing.

Compassion calls for not only kindness, but the capacity to accept suffering as part of our own lives and of life in general for everyone.
It comes down to the age old prayer: God help me to change what I can, accept what I can’t change and the wisdom to know the difference.

The Trap of Depression

I need to start with a disclaimer. My struggle with depression and the things that have helped me may not help anyone else. And there may be things that would have helped me more. I also believe that we are born with different chemical balances and that stages of life like puberty, pregnancy, and change of life can cause balances to get more out of whack for some people.(How’s that for medical terminology.)
Also, when the chips are down, I do believe deeply that I am loved, just as I am, by the only One who actually makes much difference at my stage of life and that means I know I am not alone when down in the pit of despair.

Depression is the emotional equivalent of an abscessed tooth. Self-hatred is a judgement and judgment is like cement that sets emotion into stone.The one thing about emotions is they are normally changeable, but self-hatred for being depressed locks us into the depression.

Those of us who have high, possibly unrealistic, expectations of ourselves and of life are vulnerable not only to depression, but particularly to a sense of failure and inadequacy that triggers self-hatred.

Depression is painful. And pain of any kind both saps our energy and centers us in on ourselves. (Remember the abscessed tooth.)

My first step for getting out of the mire of depression is to accept it. That doesn’t mean wallowing or giving up hope. It means accepting the reality of it, like we would an excruciating toothache, and cutting ourselves some slack by prioritizing and minimizing our obligations to the world. When we first experience the darkness of despair, we may need to stop our everyday world and get off for a time, but as we learn coping skills
we can lower our expectations and at least continue functioning in areas of our strengths. Eventually, if we get smart enough, we quit trying to give 120 % in our up times, so in the down times we can just slow down the pace a little and cope.

I’m convinced some of the problem is cultural, patriarchal, in fact. In the old hunter/warrior society emotions were considered weakness. We have to shut out empathy to kill a deer or a person. When we have to do these things to keep our family, village or tribe alive, we learn to compartmentalize our feelings. I’ve noticed that generally men handle women’s anger much better than our tears. I’ve known husbands that told their wives to stay in the bathroom to cry. I knew a seasoned Army Staff Sergeant, a veteran of two wars, who asked to be transferred from a safe cushy posting to a dangerous no frills one, because all his officers were women and they cried at Staff meetings. I could understand his reaction, but couldn’t help but wonder if all the officers in the various armies sat around crying would it cut down on wars?

I’m personally convinced that tears are a healthy release for tension and possibly one of the reasons women outlive men.

However, life goes on even when our every movement is like wading through quick sand and having to make even the smallest decision sets off panic. If we had an actual abscessed tooth, we would cut ourselves some slack and so would the world. But at this point in our culture, unless we are hospitalized, we and the world expect us to continue just as we usually do.

Some of us seem to be born with personalities that see possibilities, usually ideal scenarios, not necessarily based on life’s realities. We are not always easily identifiable, we may take on disguises such as Goth attire or metal appendages and flaunt the dark side to hide our fragile dreams of being heroes and our inner fear that there are no heroes.

Sometimes, we hide behind sarcasm or cynicism.

But, the truth is almost all humans are ordinary. We aren’t qualified to be extraordinary or called to save the world.

We are called to give a cup of water to the thirsty, a smile of welcome to the outcast, a hug to the discouraged, a piece of art to call attention to the beauty of the world, or a poem to remind us of others’ suffering, a song to soften hearts, laughter to lighten heavy hearts, even the gift of our honesty about our own failures to share our freedom to be a fallible human with others.

The list goes on and on and doesn’t require heroic measure or extraordinary talent.

I seem to have been born one of those with big dreams, high hopes, and many ideas. Unfortunately, I am lousy at detail and loathe the boredom of repetition, so my dreams and ideas remain just that, dreams and ideas. I’ve always hurt for others, worried about the whole world, and still sometimes have to work through the paralysis of depression when I can’t fix life for those I love who are in pain. It has taken me a long time to admit that it was hubris to think I could save the world or anyone in it. And that struggling with that delusion kept me from doing what I actually can do.

I used to not go to funerals because I couldn’t think of anything miraculously healing to say and feeling others’ sadness sent me into depression. Then, when my own father died, I realized that each person there represented someone that cared enough to come and that it truly helped me to know that his life mattered to others. They didn’t need to say anything.

My son, Tommy, when he was about three, taught me that you don’t have to say anything to help people feel loved. He would be doing his little boy thing and would suddenly stop and come over smiling to pat my hand or shoulder and then just go right back to what he was doing.
I called them “Tommy pats” and eventually when I saw a rainbow or caught all the green lights when running late, I called those, “God’s Tommy pats.” And even now, Julian and I will often stop and give each other a smile and a “Tommy pat.”

Once, when I was overwhelmed by fear of the lifelong consequences of a bad decision by one of my children, I poured out my heartbreak to my friend Paige. She simply wept with me. It’s hard to describe how much that helped me. Someone cared enough to feel my pain with me. I wasn’t alone inside it.

So, what I finally know now, is that when I am depressed because I am not extraordinary or heroic and even perhaps have lost it and made life darker for someone else, I can humbly do the ordinary. And if we all do these little things, no one will go thirsty, or be alone in their sorrow, or feel unloved. And we all, even the depressed, will experience the reality of the Psalm that says, “But then comes the morning, yesterdays sorrows behind.”

Life is Hard

But it is hard in different ways for each of us, because we are different from one another. Ask any mother of more than

one child. They will tell you we are all born different. Some babies are quiet and placid, but solemn.  Some are quiet

and calm, but smile and laugh easily.  Some are hyper-active even as infants lying on their backs in a bassinet.  Some

are hyper-sensitive to sounds, startle easily, and react to change. Some are tuned in to their inner world,

reacting very little  to their environment. Some are quite independent, while others need more cuddling, attention

and support. Some are excitable, with an inborn tendency to over react to both positive and negative experiences.

Many children as early as two or three have vivid imaginations. Some both empathize and identify with story book

characters,  often later believing themselves stalked by the story book monsters.  Others are thrilled by the vicarious

terror, but don’t identify with it.

When my father read me stories about children being lost or animals being hurt, it would upset me so much that a

happy ending didn’t make it all right.

Watch how differently children and adults react to shows like America’s Funniest Videos.  Some wince or even cry, as

if everything is happening to them; others are detached and amused, whether the event is real and painful for

someone else or not.

Each personality trait has an upside and a downside, each dominant trait we have gives us both

strengths and weaknesses.  I’ve worked with  tools for measuring and illustrating this, such as the Meyers-Briggs Type

Indicator and the  Enneagram, but for this short article it is simpler to use more life experience descriptions.

A person who is very aware of and sensitive to their own feelings may empathize with others, championing the

underdog or the vulnerable, but will tend to over-react to slights or criticism, real or imagined.

As a child I was equally excitable and responsive to happy and sad things .  When I

was three, I was so excited about Christmas that when I finally was taken in to see my toys under the

tree, I threw up on them before I could even play with them.

In my anxiety filled teen years, my stomach rebelled to even mild stress and I learned to not eat all day before just

going out on dates. Unfortunately for my dates, once I was out, I calmed down and got voraciously hungry.  I was

not a cheap date.

As an adult I often experience  sheer joy over  even small things such as the beauty of nature,  children’s laughter,

my grandchildren’s curiosity about the world, but I also experience extremely dark times over my own failures or

the people I love’s pain.

Even traits we consider wonderful have a down side.  People with high IQ’s tend to assume they are right and often

are not open to other’s opinions, but the reality is that no one is right all the time.

Years ago, I attended a workshop where slogan and affirmations were posted on the walls.  One that simply jumped

out at me was, “I am competent and loveable.”

 My immediate reaction was, “No. You can’t be both.”

In my experience the really efficient people are task oriented.  They are both competent and persevering.   They

focus on the goal, prioritize the details, and plow ahead,  often over people who unwittingly get in their way.  Many

things would not get accomplished without this type of person, but they may alienate so many people along the way

that in the long run their effectiveness will be diminished.

Personally, my greatest value has been ideas that help people in general and my focus has been on relationships.

Physical details, particularly about machines, don’t show up on my radar most of the time.

I once had a secretarial job that involved a lot of detail and working with elaborate and expensive office machines.

I was a total disaster.  Luckily, I realized this and left after three months. I am sure everyone there breathed a sigh of

relief.

But later I had a much higher paying job as a director that involved recruiting volunteers and bringing in training

programs for them, creating and organizing new programs, and doing publicity for these.  I was successful at this in

spite of it involving a lot of detail, because I was good at recognizing, recruiting, and supporting people with the skills

that I don’t have.

I wasted a lot of angst in my early life expecting to be equally good at everything.  I taught first grade and one sweet

little girl simply would not do her math homework. When I finally confronted her over this, she looked at me with her

big brown eyes and said sadly, “Oh Miz Norman, I’m good at reading.  Do I have to be good at everything?”  My gut

level response was, “Of course.”  Luckily, I stopped and thought about it.  Finally, I said, “No, you don’t have to be

equally good at everything.  But you need to at least learn survival skills in math. If you don’t know basic math, how

will you be able to shop?”  She thought about that for a minute and decided I was right.

I’m pretty sure she didn’t go on to become a mathematician, but hopefully she is out there somewhere shopping and

keeping her checkbook balanced.

She actually freed me of the belief that I was stupid, if I couldn’t easily excel in everything, and to accept that I had to

work harder at some things just to survive.  I now try to do the things I want to avoid first, but in spurts, followed by

shorter breaks  doing things I enjoy or find easy. This is  a method of motivating myself with a reward and

encouraging myself by doing something I can do easily.

I tend to envy people who live in the present moment. They seem so carefree, since they are not over-burdened by

 past mistakes or wounds and don’t worry much about the future. In fact they hardly think about the future at all.

They are happy, optimistic and fun, but the downside is that they are often oblivious to possible consequences of

their choices in the moment.

I have always tended to focus on the future, imagining its wonderful possibilities. Sometimes this has helped me be an

agent for change and to plan ahead for a lot of eventualities.  But I also end up living in a picture perfect world in my

head.  Then when reality doesn’t measure up, I don’t persevere if I see that I can’t achieve the ideal I have

pictured.   I think that a  lot of my life has been lived by the motto, “If at first you don’t succeed, don’t make a

fool of yourself, try something else.”  Now in my later years my life challenge is to learn to persevere even through

failures and to accept that nothing is perfect.  At seventy-six I still haven’t quite gotten there , but I have made a lot

of progress.

I am emotionally volatile. In the early years of our fifty-six years of marriage, my husband said I could go from

bubbling with joy to total despondency faster than a speeding bullet. And sometimes when I fell into one of my

feeling pits that make doing anything seem like struggling through quicksand, I would become almost paralyzed. But

along the way I discovered that I can continue to function even when depressed, if I cut myself some slack by

prioritizing and only doing what is completely necessary. And, if I don’t waste time and energy by beating myself up

over this trait, I pull out fairly quickly and can go longer periods without becoming a bottomless pit of wants and

needs.

People like me should be assigned a counselor at birth.  At several crisis points in my life I have gotten counseling,

some good, some not so much.  But good or not, because I’m all about evolution, on the grand scale and the

personal,  once I recognize that I’ve bogged down, I persevere at finding what I need to work through it.

  And I’ve come to see that we all evolve in different patterns of stages and in a circle.  For instance at a different

time in life, I and others like me, begin to focus temporarily on being more task oriented people. And the task

oriented people will at some point do just the opposite, thus developing skills in our weaker traits.

The good news is that in our later years we find it easier to become reasonably competent in our weakest

areas. (Easi er, not easy, because in order to do this we must let go of our strength, a kind of dying to self.)

And for me that means being able to accept imperfect reality and to be willing to persevere in inching toward

becoming the unique, though imperfect, person I was created to be.  And along the way are times of  lovely peace,

great joy,  unmeasurable love, and sneak peaks at what the journey is all about.

Conflict Resolution: Just Cutting People Out of Your Life Is Conflict, Not Peace

A women’s group at my church, known as The Doves, is having a Scripture based class on Conflict Resolution. Several people have stopped coming to our church because someone hurt their feelings, sometimes even just because someone seemed to ignore them. But when I invited them to the class, they said they didn’t have any conflicts to resolve.

In the past avoidance was one of my favorite ways of escaping conflict. I have shared before about getting my feelings hurt, then just cutting people out of my life, and even letting them die before ever resolving or reconciling. These people didn’t even know they had hurt me, because it was unintentional. With age I have gained a new perspective on many things, and I deeply regret abandoning these friends.

During the first gathering of the new class, a lot of unresolved hurt came out, even with each other in the class. But almost no one spoke in anger or in judgment. We simply admitted our feelings of hurt and listened when people explained a situation from another viewpoint or when someone pointed out the good in the offending person.

No one is perfect and we all bump into each other. Most times when we get seriously offended, it is because the other person has unwittingly blundered into an area where we feel particularly vulnerable.
Some people deal with the world mostly through logic and fact. And often are unaware of their own or others’ feelings. Since truth is their highest value, they do not automatically understand the effect it might have on another person’s feelings.

On the other hand, many of us simply see the world through our feeling values and respond to it straight from our feelings. Often, we have great difficulty working through them to logic.
For those whose values are truth, fact, and logic, even ordinary everyday conversations with feeling types are like exploring a minefield without a map.

Learning either how to say the truth tactfully, or when it might be more diplomatic to not say anything, is a serious challenge for them.

For those of us who live in our feelings, it helps to become aware of areas of insecurity and try to become free of them, and failing that, to learn to risk telling others how what they said made us feel. At least in a long term relationship, this will give the truth and logic partners a map of the minefield!

I have a friend who told me that when she was about six or seven, there was a rich little girl who came to their Sunday School in fancy clothes and white Mary Jane shoes. My friend was jealous of the little girl and took advantage of every chance she got, to scuff the bottom of her shoe across the pure white top of her Mary Jane shoes.

Sometimes, we really consciously mean to hurt others, but most of the time it is either inadvertent or an unconscious response.

I discovered late in life that I quite often scuff people’s Mary Janes in more subtle and less conscious ways, but it still leaves people feeling diminished. Most times before the last decade or so, I was not conscious of it, and sometimes the victims didn’t even know exactly what made them feel scuffed.

For conflict resolution to become an effective tool, it first takes commitment on everyone’s part and a willingness to become self-aware, even uncomfortably so.

Our group cares about each other and most of us have learned to love even the people we don’t always like. But still it’s a scary venture into our dark sides.

Prayer and knowing we are loved unconditionally, at least by God, will hopefully give us the grace to learn to use this tool for peace. All prayer for grace for us is greatly appreciated.

Once Again He Has Come

Christ came this Christmas for me in a moment of clarity.  He came when I recognized with deep joy that my husband and I finally “get” each other.

We were total opposites in personality, in upbringing, in spirituality, in interests, values, in our ways of responding to people and life. Our sense of humors differed, our ways of expressing and receiving love also. It has been a challenging fifty-four year journey, side by side, but never quite together.

Today, Christmas day, I realized that a few days ago for the first time, he actually heard something spiritual I wrote and responded spontaneously from the heart, and today I also realized that I see the physical world in new ways(his)and frequently now laugh out loud when I have spontaneous humorous images flash into my mind when I read or hear certain things, just like he has tried to explain to me over the years.  The gift of our seventies has been shared laughter.

When I reflect on the ways we’ve changed, I think it took more than just accepting how each other are, it took actually learning how to see through each other’s eyes and hear with their ears; for him to be able to feel with me and for me to become able to step back from feelings and see things logically. For him to be able to express love and for me to be happy showing it in small acts of service.

We are far from perfect at this, but we have broken through the walls of self and begun to experience being one.

Isn’t it amazing that life and love begin anew so many times and that it’s never too late to love in new ways?

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for coming once more, with your gifts of love.

Taking Criticism

Some of us react to the outside world straight from our feelings. It’s our personality.
We were born that way. We didn’t choose it. That makes us warm, caring, enthusiastic,
empathetic, but also sensitive.
We may be able to move to logic eventually, but our first response is emotional.
If we also happen to be perfectionists, this makes us very vulnerable, particularly to
criticism.
Those of us who express our inner selves through art, writing, music, photography, etc.,
are particularly sensitive to criticism of our creations. It’s as if our very souls are up for
evaluation. Any editing or suggestion for improvements seems like total rejection of whom
we are.
Sadly, since nothing and no one are perfect, often our inability to deal constructively
with editing, criticism, even teaching, can defeat us by preventing our developing skills to
enhance our natural talents. Often, we simply give up and put our energies into something
that doesn’t make us feel so vulnerable. Usually something that we either don’t value as much
or doesn’t expose our inner selves, so not being perfect at it doesn’t destroy us.
We can end up with boxes and closets filled with our creative output, either never completed
or never exposed to other eyes. Maybe we risk sending something off once every ten years, but
when the 99 % inevitable result is a rejection letter, we quit risking for another ten years.
I’m 75 and a lot of what ends up on this blog was written some time ago.
The sad part is that I had affirmation in college from teachers and later got several things
published, but in between received some rejection letters, at least partially because I
sent them to inappropriate publications. Each rejection sent me into years of either not writing
or at least not risking trying to get published.
I explore the world with my intellect. I see connections between ideas, implications,
possibilities. On the Meyers/Briggs Type Indicator this indicates that I process information
with my Intuition. I focus more on the conceptual, than the concrete.
However, as a Feeling type my first response to the world comes from my emotions
and values. I can think and analyze logically, but that will not be my first or strongest response
to experiences or ideas.
There are other aspects of personality that influence us, like Extroversion/Introversion, which
describe where we tend to focus, on the outside world or our inner world.
And Judgment/Perception which describe whether we tend to stay focused on gathering
information or move quickly to decision or action.
I am grossly oversimplifying personality type as described by the MBTI, but for the purpose
of this article, it should be enough to help us recognize that there are particular recognizable
differences in how people deal with life.
Another aspect I’d like to emphasize is that there’s a natural upside to each tendency, but also
a natural downside to each that present unique challenges to each type. This is both a shock
and a gift once we recognize this. It’s a shock because we tend to believe our way of being in
the world, if not the only way, is the best way. Recognizing that every personality type has built
in strengths and weaknesses, challenges us to reevaluate many opinions and to become more
humble about our limits and our need to listen to others.
No more than about 15 % of the population are like me. It was actually a great relief to
discover that. Do you remember the Sesame Street song, “One of these is not like the others.
One of these doesn’t belong?” Well most of my life that described how I felt. Type has
explained a lot.
However, it doesn’t excuse everything. We do develop throughout life and should find it
easier to become more proficient in our weaker areas as we grow older.
But knowledge is power. If we can recognize the aspects of our natural personality that are
creating road blocks for us, we can work on finding ways around them or team up with others
whose strengths are where we are weak.

For me blogging is a way around my weaknesses in handling details, taking rejection, and                                          persevering at one long task.

I probably need several different blogs: one humorous/serious one on aging; one humorous
one on moving to the country; one humorous/serious one on a fifty-four year marriage to my
total opposite in personality, a serious one on growing spiritually through all of the above.
But for now, just having an outlet for past and present thoughts on all of these, either as they
hit me or as cleaning out files brings them to light, is a great motivator. And who knows, maybe
I’ll live long enough to gather my materials into those categories and attempt to publish them.
I have also discovered that many writers share major aspects of my personality. Since many
bloggers are writers or artists, there’s a fairly good chance that there are a significant number
of bloggers who speak my language. So, it may be easier to find an appreciative audience.
I need to share one very relevant experience. Years ago, I applied for a three year lay ministry
program. As part of this, we were given a battery of psychological tests, including IQ tests.
Then we were given feedback about any areas that might cause us problems in ministry.
I was told that I had two areas of potential weakness. One was that I had a high IQ and
probably always thought I was right in conflicts of opinion, but no one was right all the time.
The second was that I was oversensitive to criticism, though he admitted he thought there was
possibly a gender skew to the tests, since way more women tested high in that area.
I realize that what I’m about to share, does not reflect well on the IQ part, but does
really illustrate the problem. I went home very angry. My gut level first response was, “If they
know I’m so sensitive, why would they tell me that!”
This eventually made me deal with my oversensitivity as my problem, not the rest of the
world’s! Sometimes we are our own worst enemies.