Friday, 3 February 2017

Thought for the day: helping

I'm starting to question what I do. Even when I'm not volunteering, a lot of people tell me about their suffering, or ways in which life, and other people, have been cruel to them. I don't have to tell them what I do, and usually I don't: somehow, they just feel that they can talk to me. When I went on holiday to Croatia last year, a couple of people I'd never met before talked to me, separately and at great length, about how life hadn't been fair to them and how they felt about it.

I try to treat people with kindness. In my own small way, I try to compensate for the fact that the world is often cruel and unkind to those who least deserve it.

That's all I have to say for today.

Dance!

Last night (Thursday), I danced kizomba with a good friend.  It's far from being my favourite style of dance, but something strange happened.  I hadn't tried to present a good frame; I forgot about being technically perfect for a moment; I danced with a friend, and it just felt good to dance with a friend.

She followed everything I did, effortlessly, without fault.  That doesn't surprise me.  As much as she seems to want to credit me with being a good lead, she's an excellent dancer, and that makes things so much easier for me.  I didn't have to wrestle with an uncooperative partner; I didn't have to correct a partner who had wrongly anticipated what I was going to do.  I could just dance, because I trusted in her ability as a dancer.

I've heard people talk about dancers having a connection, and I think I understand what they mean.  The nervousness that I usually feel on the dance floor had gone.  It felt like a dance that might happen spontaneously, in an informal setting.  Though I stuck to the basic moves I know well, it felt like I'd known them for a lifetime.

The way I dance is very much affected by how I feel.  Without going into a whole load of psychological theory about cognitive functions, I operate via how something feels to me, or how I feel about it, more than most people would.

In a corner of the room, towards the end of the evening, with my legs already feeling like they might stop working as they should, it felt good to dance.  Actually, it felt great.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Who do I talk to?

As I start to write this, it's eleven o'clock at night, and I've just got back from a bachata class where I sat through a number of songs without getting up to dance.  You wouldn't know it, but I'm sat here crying, desperately trying to maintain my focus on the screen, and generally feeling quite emotional.  At the same time, I feel it's wrong to be this way, because I was born into a time when we were told that men didn't cry.

I hugged a friend earlier.  We don't have the kind of friendship in which that kind of physical contact happens, but she told me something that made the hug feel appropriate.  Actually, if I hadn't responded in that way, I would now be cursing myself for not responding in the way I should.  The hug was a very honest expression of what she means to me as a friend, and an equally honest response to what she had to tell me.

Unfortunately, a hug isn't just a hug for me.  I hide a lot of what I feel from the world.  I waited until I was alone before I cried.  I waited until I was alone before I let the full weight of my feelings hit me.  In public, it's like I'm wearing a mask which hides what I'm feeling.  A hug can send that mask crashing to the floor, where it shatters into a million pieces (I also wrote that last bit in a response I made to a question on Quora - I think the imagery sums it up nicely).

So, I'm sat here, overwhelmed by emotion.  This is the part of me that no one sees.  I've heard from a number of sources recently that I should be more open, and I'm trying my best with that.

A good friend asked me, just last week, who I would talk to if I needed someone to talk to.  It's a question I've been asked a number of times.  The answer is that there are people who get little snippets of what's on my mind, but I'm still quite protective of my inner world, as it were.  Instead, I do things like sitting here, alone, and just trying to come to terms with the fact that I've allowed myself to become an emotional wreck.

Do you want to know something?  Being an emotional wreck seems to be just what I need right now.  I'm alone, so I don't have to feel embarrassed about it, and so much has happened over the last number of months that any one of those things could have seen me feeling like I feel right now.  There's a sense that I need to feel like this, that this is some kind of release.  Maybe if my friend could see me, she'd wish she hadn't told me her news at this time, but I actually should be thanking her.  Maybe she'd get another hug.

I'm releasing a whole load of repressed feelings, and to my mind, that's healthy.  This seems to be my way of dealing with things.  I'm sorry if this post is disjointed but, considering what I'm feeling right now, to me it seems surprisingly eloquent.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Thought for the day: introversion

When someone says I'm the quiet, reflective type, or the strong, silent type, I know what they're talking about. Sometimes, I wish I could be different. I often question whether, if I'd had a more outgoing nature, I'd be spending quite so much time alone now. The world seems to favour those who are more open, vocal and better able to promote themselves.

Sometimes, the loneliness affects me more. This is one of those times. A week ago, I was still with the woman I love. The key point is that being around other people doesn't always cure the loneliness. Sometimes, being a part of the crowd can feel like the loneliest place on Earth. Yeah, it's the old cliché about being alone in a crowd. The happy medium is talking with someone, one to one, who gets it. The nature of this thing is that you often still find yourself listening more than you speak, but having someone there who understands is beyond value to you.

A lot of people don't understand. They talk, and talk some more, and become frustrated by the lack of response. There's no question that I'm listening, but I suppose the defining quality of this thing is that we don't JUST listen: we carefully consider what's been said (and, in my case, a load of stuff that hasn't been said) before we even think about formulating our own reply. I'm not saying that other people don't think before they speak, though it sometimes seems that way, but us quiet types probably spend more time considering what's been said and how to respond. In conversations where people interrupt each other, cut each other off and talk at the same time, we don't stand a chance.

Some sources compare introversion to the battery on a mobile phone, and say that an introvert's energy quickly drains in social situations. That's true to a point, but I'd say it depends on the type of social situation. I know a few people who don't drain my energy. Sometimes I need to disconnect and take time to think about things, but some people allow me the space to think, as though they somehow understand how much it's needed.

If there's too much noise, too much external stimuli or other environmental cues, then I'm more likely to feel drained much more quickly. I'll probably leave, if that's the case, but I'll wish I didn't have to leave.
 
I hope I've explained this well.  According to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, I'm a particular type of introvert, known as an INFJ, so others may experience introversion in a different way.  My hope is that what I've written helps someone, though, whether they're an introvert or someone who is trying to gain a better understanding.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Party!



Sometimes, you find yourself outside your comfort zone. Sometimes, you've stepped so far away from your comfort zone that you can't remember where it is any more. At that point, it's all too easy to focus on that uncomfortable feeling, rather than give yourself credit for the courage you've shown.

I don't ever forget how terrified I was, walking into that first modern jive, salsa, bachata or kizomba class, though. I don't forget because, honestly, I've just become better at hiding it as time has gone on. What gets me there is the fact that, much against my expectations, I love to dance. Also, the people I've met and got to know are so nice that, when we dance, or if they come to talk to me, the fear goes away for a while. A few have even managed to break through to the point where I dare to ask them to dance. So, when one of those people invites me to a Halloween party, there's the sense that not going along would be letting them down. Knowing that the proceeds from the event go to charity, I'm even more likely to attend.

If I don't go, the thought that I might have had a good time will play on my mind. After all, a number of people that I quite like will be there. The worst case scenario is that I turn up, and sit alone, not having the courage to talk or ask anyone to dance. Actually, the worst case scenario is that I feel completely overwhelmed and have to leave early. It's a very real possibility, and I don't expect anyone will understand. Maybe they'll think I'm weird, because I showed up to a party but wasn't really there in any way that was meaningful.

Thankfully, this being a Halloween party, I have the option of covering my face, and that helps: it'll get me through the door, anyway. I have to accept that my courage may fail me at some point, but that's okay.  There's a good chance that I'll actually have a great night.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Imbalance or, how I'm feeling

Someone wrote about how I'm feeling...

http://www.infjs.com/threads/the-burnout-cycle-of-infjs.16708/

Then, I saw something written by a friend, and the feeling intensified...

https://sarahangkawijaya.wordpress.com/2016/07/20/to-a-beautiful-woman-who-smiled-at-me/

One of the kindest things that anyone has ever said about me is that I don't know how much I help people.  I couldn't help thinking about this a few days ago, when I was at a dance, and a couple of friends were telling me to stop replying to my messages, at least for a while.

The problem is that, to a greater or lesser extent, I love everyone.  I'm not talking about the gushing, romantic love that you feel for your partner because, frankly, that would be weird, and more than a little problematic.  What I'm talking about is a tendency to care for others and be deeply affected by what they feel.

There are people to whom I willingly give my support.  I'm privileged to call a lot of these people my friends.  They are good, kind, generous, supportive and patient people.  There's a sense that I couldn't do enough for these friends because, as someone recently said of me, they're probably unaware of how much they help me.  The problem is that not everyone is so good.  There are people who abuse my good nature.

Where I'd disagree with the post about INFJ burnout is the need for validation.  I have a need to feel hope, though.   The world can seem like a cold, uncaring, unforgiving place.  If I spend too much time with people who demand my empathy and positive regard, and I feel I haven't received enough of these things myself, then the temptation to write the world off as a bad place and limit my contact with other people is strong.

The piece by my friend made me feel sad initially, that such expressions of acceptance are, for her, a rare occurrence right now.  Then, I felt hope, because at least one person refused to respond with fear, hatred or anger.  As the post mentions, in that area, there are more than enough reasons, historically, for the local population to feel those things.  Maybe the world isn't such a bad place.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Disconnecting

The counselling skills course is coming to an end, and I knew the end was coming.  People move on, and that's not unexpected either.  Then, you start to realise that, even if you stay in touch, you'll never meet in the same way, or under the same circumstances, again.

I felt the same way when a year of studying the Welsh language came to an end.  In some ways, that was even harder, because people drifted away during the course, leaving a very small class.

I know it's that whole INFJ thing again.  I unintentionally pick up a lot about people, without trying.  At the end of a study year, especially in a subject like counselling, I feel that I know my fellow students.  I think back to that first class, when few people, if any, knew each other.  Friendships develop during the course, and then...

I know the social conventions.  I know that people don't understand how I see the world.  No one understands.  If I told people that I see the beauty in everything and everyone, they might suggest that I seek help.  Still, I detect warmth, sensitivity and other great qualities in certain people, and I wish I had a way to tell them that I see those things in them, without breaking the social norms or freaking them out.

What they see is someone who doesn't express these things.  Would I say that it might be nice to just hang out with them and chat some time?  Could I tell them how much I'd love that?  No, definitely not.  So, people don't know whether I even see them as a friend.  At most, I'll have the courage to say something that's very much an INFJ thing:

"If you ever need to talk, you know where I am."

That's the INFJ way of saying something we know we can't say, for fear of going against what's expected by those who don't see the world in the same way we do:

"I sense that you're a good person.  I see that in you.  I'd like it if we could get together some time, maybe, as friends, and just talk about things - anything, really.  I enjoy your company." 

Of course, you can't say any of that.  You're aware that most of your behaviour can be wrongly interpreted as flirting anyway, so telling someone that you like spending time with them is tantamount to booking a hotel room for the two of you, in their eyes.

How about saying you consider them to be a friend?  Whoa!  What if they don't say it back?  Or, worse, what if they say it back, and that talent you have, as an INFJ, for picking up what people are really feeling tells you that they don't mean it?  That's not just rejection.  That's the worst kind of rejection!  Besides, social norms dictate that, if you say any of that, they'll think you're a bit weird as well.

Play it cool.  That's the way.  There's no risk of rejection then.  People will walk out of your life, but at least you can believe they could have been friends.  No one will understand.  Only another INFJ would really understand, and you know how rare those are.  We're the loneliest people in the world, and yet we spend so much of our time making sure that others don't feel alone.