I was feeling a lot like Zhiro last week. My anxiety kept getting larger and larger, fear and doubt and despair becoming an overwhelming mass that sat in my stomach like I’d eaten something poisonous that needed to be expelled. Yet every time I tried, I’d be stopped by well-meaning friends who wanted to fix the problem with advice. Advice that only made things worse, because I was already feeling overwhelmed and incompetent, so not only was I failing to do what I knew I needed to do, but then I felt I was ALSO failing at the things THEY wanted me to do. And the feelings in my stomach grew worse. It happened with everyone. Cory, my closest friends, and even my therapist. They were all trying to help, but few recognized, including myself, that such an approach was actually adding to the problem.
It wasn’t until I read an article that talked about how stress manifests in different Myers Briggs Typologies that I realized what I really needed. I showed this to Cory (who found it eerily accurate for his typology as well) and we were finally able to talk in a way that helped the tension ease.
What was the solution? Well, I am an INFJ. The piece of the article for my type that really jumped out at me was, “Let them express their thoughts and feelings. Understand that they may be irrational. Don’t judge them.”
I realized that, sometimes, I need to be given the space to be a completely Irrational Person. At the time, I know that the words that are coming out of me are completely irrational. It’s not that my Logical Mind can’t hear and evaluate those thoughts. It knows. It’s highly aware. In fact, it’s deeply embarrassed that I would say such things and absolutely MORTIFIED that it can’t get me to stop. Nor can it wrest control back so that it can talk instead. Because when I’m really stressed, that Logical Mind gets stomped down by overwhelming FEELS and it doesn’t get to run the show anymore.
The reason advice only adds to this stress is that the Logical Mind starts shouting, (to nobody, locked in my head) “I KNOW! Don’t you think I’ve TOLD HER THAT?? What do you think I am, STUPID? Well, SHE might be STUPID. I guest that means we MUST be STUPID. Otherwise the Self would be listening to ME right now BUT SHE ISN’T.”
I think the reason everyone is so quick to jump in with advice is because the piece of me that is talking SOUNDS like it’s a rational mind. It isn’t. It’s a wounded animal that’s learned how to talk human. If a dog was howling and whining and scratching you wouldn’t say to the dog, “Hey, I think it’s time we talk about your business plan.” Yet that’s what people do with my wounded, emotional, Irrational Mind, because that mind learned a long time ago that if it uses WORDS then at least people will notice it. And being noticed is better than being in pain alone, right?
So what I need is for people to listen to the EMOTION of that wounded animal seriously…but not to take any of the words it says with any degree of seriousness. For people to let me be a little bit insane, but not to think that represents me ALL the time. To view my madness, but not judge me mad. Just…mad-for-the-moment. So I can get the emotions out, and they don’t sit in my stomach any more.
And the best part? That Irrational Brain has a positive quality that gets to come out when it’s given some space. It’s where my sense of humor lives. The irrational mind has a deep appreciation for the absurd. So where the Logical Mind feels shame and guilt and anger at all the crazy emotional thoughts, the Irrational Brain, once it’s no longer being poisoned by trying to contain all of those feelings, can look at those melodramatic statements that felt so true a second ago and say, “Actually…that’s kinda hilarious. Also, let’s pretend to be a T-Rex for a moment. RAWWR MY ARMS ARE SO SHORT! THEY ARE MADE FOR HUUUUUGS!”
Freeing up that Irrational Brain to play and run around and laugh and see the world for a silly place where things don’t really matter as much as they might sometimes seem is a wonderful thing. If the Logical Mind is in charge all the time, it would like that part of me to sit quietly in the corner and not move or speak or do anything really, can’t you just behave? Why do you have to make this so difficult for me? Do you like torturing me, is that it? Is it?
And the Irrational Brain points out that this is a remarkably ludicrous and illogical line of thinking for somebody that claims to be Logical, but OH MAN does the Logical Mind NOT APPRECIATE THAT.
The Irrational Brain needs a playground. It needs somebody to just listen and nod and understand that even though these feelings might SEEM like the end of the world RIGHT NOW that everything will probably be okay in a few minutes if we just let those feelings come out. The Logical Mind wants very much to be seen as an adult, but the Irrational Brain is a child, and that’s actually a valuable thing. It doesn’t need to be turned into a “cold-blooded vulcan.” It just needs some space to breathe and not be told to “grow up” when it does.
Do you have a Logical Mind and an Irrational Brain, or do you experience things differently? How would you describe your experience? What value have you found in aspects that might at first seem to only have draw-backs?