An hour from now, I am going to a social event, my first one in about a year and a half of the pandemic isolation. There will be people with whom I cut ties at our last zoom meeting, when I had a meltdown of sorts (in what I recognize now as a typical INFP incident), people I like to see from a respectable distance, and people who have not seen me as a trans woman before. Also, I no longer drink, and I will opt for the sparkling water instead of a glass of wine. I will most likely escape after an hour, which will be easier because this is not at someone’s house where I would feel pressured to be polite and graceful in making an excuse for leaving.
I’ve been told many people have issues similar to that with “reentry,” resuming a daily life of being exposed to interactions with people. It’s not that I’m afraid to catch one of the COVID variants that could come back with some of those who already fly around and stir the big virus pool. It’s really that I’m back in a world that needs to be managed.
Recently, after having a few interactions that were disturbing, I returned to reading passages in the book, Please Understand Me II. In it is a guiding questionnaire to figure where you may fit in the four-axis personality and character scale known as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The first time I took the Myers-Briggs, administered by a therapist, I was definitely IN, but as the therapist pointed out, I was only hinting at TJ. INTJ would be your typical Computer Science major, like I was. I figured out lots of things with this therapist, but not everything (it’s taking me decades), and I didn’t have a chance to revisit the questionnaire (especially because I was ESL in the language of feelings and emotions at the time), until about 15 years later, when I still remained 100% Introvert, but the last two letters had shifted to NP. Reading the description of Plato’s Idealist and other subclassifications in the book somehow didn’t satisfy me, because that was challenging my career choices and also the marriage that was coming into a big crash ending. Decades later, now, after discovering so many things about myself, reading about it is making a lot of sense.
Last night, I went back to another very useful book, The Introvert Advantage, which I had found so useful that I had made a presentation about it to a group at a retreat. In it was not only information about who are introverts, but also strategies on how to live better lives without feeling bad about not being the life of the party. Last night I saw that they had made studies on how we (introverts) think and interact, how the pathway in the brain is different, which I had sort of skimmed through before. But I just had had the experience of a couple of meetings with a person who was “making my head spin” and I needed to figure out how that was happening.
I have always been easy prey for con people, salespeople, and Catholics (because I was raised in a very Catholic environment, and there were fanatic Catholics who took me as their project when things were falling apart – I have recovered from that). The thing I figured out last night was that I respond emotionally to certain words and situations, and I don’t have time to process, so my response is usually to end the interaction with buying whatever it is they’re trying to sell me. In the past, I have had to cancel memberships and payments pledged the day before. When there’s a more personal involvement, it provokes a storm in me, I become obsessed with how to reconcile the need to break the relationship and that of creating harmony around me. It takes a lot of time, and the anxiety can be very high (I start fearing that the person will find ways to be back). I’m not surprised that some of us can develop mental illness from being exposed too much. In my case, I think I figured it’s better to hide, yes, but to tell the intruder that I’m stressed out at the moment.
So… I continue writing this 24 hours later. I went to the event and I was happy at the end. I wore a dress I made, no leggings because of the warm weather (I made sure there were no apparent hairs!), a pair of sandals I rarely wear, a hat (that I made as well) I always wear because I have a seriously bald spot. Most of the people I talked to had fared well in the sheltering-at-home, as I had. Most of the people had not seen me in a dress before (I used to wear mostly sweaters and tight pants), and many expressed being happy to see me be out. Only one person acted like I didn’t exist, but then I realized that this had been our situation ever since we had met. I resisted dwelling on that person as it would break my happiness with the event. That is an INFP characteristic to want harmony around us, but relearning about that allowed me to ignore the thought that there remained at least one person who was not happy with me. I turned the feeling around: they have never connected with me. In fact, there was a time when they should have, as the leader of the group, checked on my well-being, and they never did. I left the group without explanation and they never asked why.
So it’s all good. The key was to stop thinking about how I could have made this relationship better, when it is in fact meaningless. There is no purpose in trying to be a nice person to everyone, and constantly wondering if I disappoint them. That just makes me vulnerable to salespeople and con men!
And most importantly, I came out as transgender to so many people by just being there, that I have gained self-esteem overnight. That was a major event!
p.s. I just found out that the book Please Understand Me II by Kersey is an improvement of the Myers-Briggs test, which has been criticized for leading to inaccurate assessment of people in work environments. So go to https://keirsey.com/ to find out!