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emergent sensitivity

February 9, 2013

I’ve read a lot of biographies (and a few memoirs) recently where the subject was clearly an NF. But the biographers themselves probably were some other temperament, because they often described the subject’s behaviors, and journal writings or letters, as being “histrionic” or “melodramatic” or “overly mythologizing”. And yet, when I read the writing excerpts themselves, or about the behaviors, to me they seemed, well, normal. Not exactly “ordinary”, though, as our culture is rather toxic for NFs.

So many introverted NFs (that I read about) seemed to have had such a hard time, I thought maybe extroverts might fare better. But the ones I read about, not so much. (The most recent one being Sylvia Plath. I think she was an ENFP.)

I’d like to read a biography about an NF artist or writer written by a fellow NF. Not just because hopefully they’d be more sympathetic, but because they might be more insightful. Why is it that we have such a hard time? Why do so many of us struggle with debilitating depression? Why do so many of us choose suicide?

Invariably, in these biographies of NFs, the subject’s struggles with relationships, other people’s expectations, celebrity, depression, etc., are treated as though they are very specific to the person and their context. That can’t be the whole story.

Some years ago, I ran across an article on the web detailing how most organizations, and especially most bureaucracies, are heavily populated by ESTJs. And the higher you go in rank, the more likely that person is an ESTJ. So much so, that essentially bureaucracy = ESTJ-friendly haven. So, temperament wise, organizational cultures prefer SJs, then NTs, then SPs and NFs.

All of my most toxic bosses were ESTJs or ISTJs. Notice how ESTJ is the complete opposite of INFP, my personality type. Which means we are each other’s psychological shadow type. Not a good place to be, when you’re the one with no power, status or prestige. (Or allies.)


During my tenure as a commentor on the original Slacktivist, I encountered Genderbitch’s post about 4 types of tactics employed by social activists — Nuker, Appeaser, Logic Bomber, and Emoter. The Slacktivist community was dominated by Logic Bombers, who were respected by everyone, and liked by most. There were a few Nukers, but they were often chased off, one way or another. People loved them or hated them; no one was indifferent. There were a lot of Appeasers; they tended to be well-liked. For a long time, I was the only Emoter who commented regularly. As far as I could tell, a lot of people pitied me. I did have admirers, but I usually found that out when they talked to me in person, or emailed me privately. In public, that is, on the board, generally I stood alone.

The good news is, I worked through a lot of my PTSD-related issues. I got to the point of integrating my traumas into my personal narratives, so that I could write about them without having a meltdown. I told my stories so often, I got sick of them. And gradually, I realized part of my problems stemmed from how I told my stories. So I changed that, experimented. The more insights I had through writing, the less I cared how other people would react. (Which was really good, since a lot of times no one responded at all.)

Being pseudonymous, both before I had my own blog, and after, gave me a way work the kinks out of my thinking about my problems without committing to airing them in my own space. My own personal safety was part of the reason I did things that way. But also, my old friend, fear.

I wanted my blog to be about art and writing and psychological alchemy. I wanted it to be positive, and uplifting, maybe even inspirational. If I dragged all this ugly unresolved stuff into it, the result would be messy, contradictory.

Since I’m a P, and fairly laid-back, I tend to forget that I have a blindspot about trying to control/manage how people see me. But it was in full force here on my blog. At Slacktivist, however, I was absolutely messy and contradictory.

I did try Logic Bombing, but it seemed to require a way of thinking and arguing that it I couldn’t quite figure out. Nuking was even less suitable for me. To do it successfully, you have to be adept at contempt, and my heart just wasn’t in it. Of the other three tactics, Appeasing was by far the easiest, but I refused to do it on principle. It seemed too much like being forced to grovel to people who mistreated me.

It took me a long time to figure out that there was something specific I was trying to do with the way I talked about my past and my present. Something that only Emoting could do.

I’m still not quite sure what it is. There aren’t words for what I would say, my omnipresent issue.

But trying to keep parts of my life artificially separated definitely was actually hindering what I was trying to do.

Which is probably another reason why I got stalled on the whole issue of the second blog. It needs to fit organically with my life, but the way I originally conceived of it, it didn’t. So I couldn’t move forward.


Carl Rollyson, in his book American Isis, about Sylvia Plath, wrote: “To make yourself your own material is both exhilarating and exhausting. The exposure can be gratifying but also denuding.” (p. 209)

Unlike so many of the NF writers I’ve read about, I don’t want to use fiction to explore my own issues. I participated in Nanowrimo 2011, where I planned to write about someone who is not me. I couldn’t figure out how to do fiction. I don’t think it’s a good fit for my talents.

And I also think writing about what really happened serves my interests best. But I’ve come to realize that there is a larger purpose, beyond just my own healing. I feel like I’ve completed an apprenticeship, and have begun my journeywork, for this unnamed, unidentified Life’s Work Project.

What I thought I could do with developmental editing is part of it. A lot of things are part of it. But they’re still all puzzle pieces that don’t fit together. Yet.

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