I was tempted to title this "My Recurring e-Harmony Nightmare" because that's what it feels like. At first it was humorous. Then amusing. Eventually annoying. And now agonizing. Just when I think it's gone for good, that I've worked through whatever issue it stems from, it returns. Again. And again.
It goes like this: I am 40 (before I was 40, it was my late thirties), I am single, I am depressed, I am feeling my biological clock tick. I feel scared and lonely and desperate. Just when I am going through this panic/dread, I have an epiphany: e-Harmony! But of course! Why didn't I think of that sooner?! I need to get online right now and meet the man of my dreams.
Sometimes it ends right there. Other times just as I'm planning to try it, I realize that I am married and have children...and I am very happy to suddenly remember that. The other night - it had been a while since my last e-Harmony dream - I actually didn't even get as far as e-Harmony, and there was a bit of twist, because this time it was all about wanting children, and being afraid I wouldn't be able to. It was a horrible feeling, so I was whimpering in my sleep, and my husband woke me up and comforted me. That was a better ending than usual, but I still can't figure out why I have this dream over and over, albeit sporadically. It's been happening for the last three or four years or maybe even longer. I would say I've dreamt it at least ten times, about once a quarter, sometimes in clusters, sometimes with long stretches in between.My theories thus far:
1. During my decade long quest for my soulmate, searching for "the one" became part of my identity and purpose in life, so those roots are resurfacing (read more here
2. When e-Harmony came out, shortly after I met my husband, I thought it was really cool, since it used Myers-Briggs personality typing to match people. Part of me was disappointed that I didn't get to try it - not because I didn't think my husband was the right guy for me, but because of my insatiable curiosity.
3. It's somehow representative of all my deepest fears - of unfulfilled longings, unmet expectations, abandonment, inadequacy, etc.
4. It's a sign for me to pray for my single friends and to encourage them to sign up for e-Harmony. I've actually done this. Both praying and nudging.
...Well, when I told my husband what my bad dream was, he had the best explanation yet:
It's so that I'll wake up thankful to God for my family.
If you're a fellow INFJ (or even if you're not), are you always on a quest to find the perfect ______? Do you enjoy the thrill of the search more than actually finding whatever it is? Once you find it, are you on to looking for the next thing? For me right now it's road trips. We've never camped, so I'm hunting for the perfect spot for a weekend getaway - not too far from home, but not so close it's familiar; not too modern but not too primitive (showers); woods and also water; fishing for the husband and swimming for the kids; not lots of bugs or poison oak...and on it goes.
Before I was married, my quest was finding my "soulmate" - that kept me occupied for about a decade...not that I didn't look for other things in the meantime - research (introverted thinking) is the INFJ's tertiary/hobby function. Once I met my husband, the new "thing" became finding ways to celebrate special occasions - anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, vacations - I'm sure that, combined with the spiritual aspect, is what drew me to all things liturgical. I love the concept of making something new out of the old and of building traditions that are rejuvenated by creative interpretations.
What's interesting is that the brainstorming, the planning, and the anticipation often turn out to be more fulfilling than the thing itself. In the case of something permanent - like marriage and motherhood - thankfully that hasn't been true (though I have a strange recurring dream that I'm turning 40 - which I am shortly - and I'm still single, but just when I'm on the verge of hopelessness, I remember eHarmony - this dream is *very* annoying). With short-term quests, though, I sometimes spend more hours researching (and building up expectations) than actually doing whatever it is. I've read that actually most people enjoy the anticipation of a trip more than the trip itself.
INFJs, with our dominant introverted intuition always idealizing, our extroverted feeling making us want to be emotionally fulfilled while pleasing others, our preference for judging that drives us to perfectionism, planning, and getting everything settled, our introverted thinking function that analyzes everything to death...when all that goes into something that will be realized (lived out) with our inferior function of extroverted sensing - it can be somewhat of a letdown. I'm drawn to camping because it taps into that part of me that's not as developed - the hands-on sensory world - and in the best way, by enjoying God's creation. Still, all of my vicarious virtual camping is not going to translate to the perfect family getaway. I will struggle with setting up tents, getting dirty, lacking creature comforts, hearing the kids whining, quarreling with my husband over the best way to roast marshmellows (just kidding), fighting off mosquitoes, hauling stuff around, etc. Most of all, when it's over, I will feel the urge to look for something new to do, but really I'll be seeking something to think about, dream about, look forward to...
If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world. ~C.S. Lewis
I love it when God speaks to me through a serendipity. He often does it through repeated words or phrases that reappear in pairs or clusters - for a day, a week, a season. Some people might argue that my experiences are coincidences or that my mind is finding patterns because that's what it's hard wired to do. Oddly enough, that's exactly what makes yesterday's serendipitous moment profound to the point of transcendence...because it was all about the brain and spirituality, or as the book that started this whole thing calls it: "neurotheology."
About three weeks ago we were on vacation and stopped into a thrift shop where I found a copy of Fingerprints of God: What Science Is Learning about the Brain and Spiritual Experience
by Barbara Bradley Hagerty. I vaguely remembered having read about it and being intrigued, so I was pleased to score such a deal on a relatively new book. Initially, I was captivated, both by the subject matter and the author herself - a "mainstream Christian" (whatever that means) NPR religion reporter on a paradoxically personal and objective quest to explore the relationship between the brain and God.
About halfway into it, though, I struggled with going forward. Two things were happening: 1) my specific belief system was challenged (much like the author herself) by the fact that people of all religions have the same kind of brain activity when meditating or praying; 2) spirituality was defined as having mystical experiences, even though that is not the stuff of day-to-day faith, nor do most Christians (pentecostals aside) have other worldly conversions or supernatural seeming encounters. In fact, many never do.
Still, it was a fascinating topic and I wanted to finish the book, so I kept reading. Yesterday I read about brain scans that scientists studying neurotheology performed on "spiritual virtuosos": Newberg found another peculiar similarity. With both the nuns and the [Buddhist] monks, the parietal lobes went dark during deep prayer and meditation.Newberg calls this "orientation area" because it orients you in time and space: those lobes tell you where your body ends and the rest of the world begins. That is why Sister Celeste (and countless other mystics) described a unity with God, or as she put it, 'God permeating my being' It was the neurological reason that Michael Baine felt a "deep and profound sense of connection to everything, recognizing that there was never a true separation at all."
Later that day, I received some books from my Amazon wish list that I had ordered using a gift card from my birthday. It was a little like Christmas, getting these packages several days in a row. That night, I took a stack of my new books up to bed, and decided to a read a chapter from each - sort of a literary nosh, if you will. In the introduction of one of them, SoulTypes: Matching Your Personality and Your Spiritual Path
, I read this passage: A group of scientists interested in exploring whether there are brain-based differences that determine our religion are using the type of prayer described there to define who is and isn't "spiritual." In all religions, these neuroscientists say, mystical, spiritual moments happen when parts of the brain (parietal-lobe circuits) go quiet, turning off your ability to distinguish between the body and its surroundings. Without sensory data, you feel a sense of being part of infinity or, for the religious, being "one with God." They use SPECT scans to determine whether the person is having such an experience. Building on this research, books such as The God Gene describe how we either are or aren't wired for faith. Kenneth L. Woodward, a religion journalist for Newsweek, points out the problem with this approach:"The chief mistake these neurotheologians make is to identify religion with specific experiences and feelings. Losing one's self in prayer may feel good or uplifting, but these emotions have nothing to do with how well we communicate with God. In fact, many people pray best when feeling shame or sorrow, and the sense that God is absent is no less valid than the experience of divine presence."
As I read that, I had an emotional experience - not of the presence of God, but of excitement over him having clearly communicated with me. He didn't do it through my feelings, an audible voice, or a supernatural sign - he did it through my life. He did it by leading me in one day to two books dealing with spirituality, which otherwise were totally unrelated, yet intersected at this one specific point, from whence they each went in very different directions. God used the second book to reassure me by validating/confirming the very thoughts that had come to my mind while reading the first book. It was especially powerful because it was merely a sidebar, so to speak, in the second book, and I therefore had no way of knowing that topic would be addressed, let alone that I would discover it just at that time!
Since I seem to be writing more everywhere else than my own blog, I figure I'll cross post whenever I write anything of substance or possible relevance to readers (if I have any) and googlers (lots of those!). Here's what I just added to a thread about personality types on The Well Trained Mind forums (pardon the bit of shameless self-promotion at the end but my type is actually the best at counseling others or so I'm told).
I'm a Certified Myers-Briggs Practitioner (and an INFJ), so I have to just mention that the online "tests" and such are not the best way to find out your type. In my training, I learned that even the actual MBTI instrument is only 70% accurate.
The best way to find your "best fit type" is to meet one-on-one with a practitioner who will help you self-select your type, then give you the instrument (that's what they call the authentic MBTI), compare the results, and work with you until you can harmonize them (we're trained in different strategies for that).
Also, if you get deeper into the MBTI, that's where it becomes the most useful. Each letter (preference) actually represents a different "function" which is introverted and extraverted. We all have 8 functions, which we use in a different order. The first four are our conscious functions and the next four are subconscious.
For example, as an INFJ, I operate like this:
Dominant function: introverted intuition (how I internally do stuff)
Auxilary function: extraverted feeling (how I relate to others)
Tertiary function: introverted thinking (my "hobby" function - in this case, analyzing)
Inferior function: extraverted sensing (my least developed of my conscious functions - in this case, "hands-on" stuff)
...and that's all for today's lesson in personality typing! I can't help myself because I've been giving seminars off and on since college, and used to blog about this often. I have a shelf of books - some incorporating Christianity - and a collection of the best website resources. Blame it on my INFJness! We're a little odd, being the rarest type (less than 1% of the population).
Seriously, though, if anyone is interested in a consultation, it can be done long distance - I charge the same price as the online option ($60 plus any long distance phone charges, if needed), but you'll get a real person taking you through the dynamic process instead of a static impersonal report.
(I'm planning to post my previous writings on this subject to the archives soon)
Did you know your church has a personality type
? Chances are, it's similar to yours. Also, some of you missed the memo from way back about the Transformations videos being debunked
. What you should be showing your congregation is Lord, Save Us from Your Followers
(it's also currently on Netflix instant play). If you really want to see revival, then find out what it means to be missional. It's not just another Christian buzz word.
Some weird and dangerous stuff has been creeping into your church via well meaning but misguided homeschooling families who have been influenced by "family" ministries like Vision Forum
, No Greater Joy
, the Duggars, Bill Gothard
(yeah, he's still around) and others who subscribe to a hyper-patriarchal theology (a.k.a. patriocentricity
) that teaches legalism, authoritarianism, and the quiverfull philosophy
of limitless childbearing.
And another thing--please leave politics out of church. We're not all republicans (or democrats). We're certainly not all fans of Sarah Palin.
I may elaborate on these and other church-related topics in the future, but in case it's a while, I needed to get it off my chest now...and get the word out. So pastors, please do your homework and encourage your flock to do the same. It's an uncomfortable place sorting through truth and error within the larger church world (and there are those who are overzealous and hyperjudgemental - I'm not advocating that), but please let's not turn a blind eye to, or unwittingly promote theologies which are unscriptural and abusive. Let's examine our own hearts - as leaders, as churches, as individual Christians who are, as the old saying goes, the only Bible some people will ever read
One last thing...let your people go, and even tell them to leave
, when necessary. After all, they're not really yours anyway. They're God's. And where they go, they are still part of the body of Christ, so please don't act like changing churches is akin to spiritual adultery. That's not Biblical. It also divides and wounds. Wouldn't you rather have them growing elsewhere than withering in your care?
Earlier I tried to correlate the classic four temperaments with the Myers-Briggs types
, but I’m not completely convinced of my original conclusion, and have been revisiting other theories I’ve entertained throughout the years. It is also possible that there actually is no correlation, but being the intuitive feeler that I am, I “sense” there is a connection between the temperaments and type.
First, a clarification: when I say four temperaments, I am NOT referring to David Keirsey’s classifications which are actually based on the MBTI. As I mentioned in my previous post, people have (I believe) inaccurately correlated his system with the classic four temperaments like this: NF=phlegmatic, NT=melancholic, SJ=choleric, SP=sanguine. I find Keirsey’s classifications quite useful, but at the same time, a bit restrictive. I think there are commonalities between people who have any two preferences in common, and in fact, Isabella Myers was more prone to group them together like this: IN, EN, ST, SF. That makes a bit more sense to me since at least two of those (IN and EN) tap into the 8 functions, which is really the heart of the MBTI, and what so few people know about (including me for many years), but that’s a whole nuther topic…
…unless of course it relates to what I’m trying to do here, in which case maybe I should only use the 8 functions to try to make the correlation, and we’ll end up with this:
IN = melancholic (dominant or auxiliary function = introverted intuiting)
IS = phlegmatic (dominant or auxiliary function = introverted sensing)
EJ = choleric (dominant function = extraverted thinking or feeling)
EP = sanguine (dominant function = extraverted intuiting or sensing)
What’s interesting about this interpretation is that I checked it against my personality code
and it still works with all the examples I gave.
The reason I reject the IF=melancholic and IT=phlegmatic is because I’ve known too many INTJs who were clearly melancholic (they’re way too intense to be golden retriever types). And the ISFJs I’ve known have been the gentle more passive types (which is another reason I doubt my original conclusion that IJ=melancholic).
As someone who prefers intuiting, I tend discover new things about my environment over time instead of right away. For example, I’ve lived in our house for almost two years, but just recently realized that the light over the shower gradually brightens the longer it’s on. I had always thought that my eyes were just fuzzy when I first woke up and that they adjusted better once I was in the shower. It wasn’t until I happened to look up at the light and see it getting brighter that I finally figured out what was going on.
I like the cartoon I saw of an intuitive type who’s on his computer, smoke and flames are coming up from the roof, and he’s reading email that says “your house is on fire.” Having sensing as an inferior function makes one prone to miss the obvious.
I was wondering if intuiting children tend to potty train later since they aren’t as in tune with their physical self. That’s been my experience with my first two children, whom I suspect are intuiting types. My oldest potty trained at 3.5 and learned to read shortly thereafter. My middle child is three and is already reading (at least sight reading), but is just getting started potty training. I’ve read that early readers are usually intuitives because of their penchant for the abstract–rather than just seeing literal letters, they get that they are symbols.
It occurred to me that here I am, spouting off my ideas about personality type without any sort of credibility, so I thought I’d provide a window into my background as an armchair personality theorist.
It all began in college when I was given a variant of the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator). I don’t think it was the real deal–nonetheless it pegged me accurately, though I was tied on I and E, and it wasn’t until after graduation when my social life slowed down that I realized I was truly an introvert, though I suspected that all along. Anyway, that initial exposure to personality typing made me eager to learn more, and that’s what I’ve been doing (on and off) for the last 15 years.
In addition to reading about personality types, doing a few seminars for church and school groups, last fall I took a workshop to become a qualified MBTI practitioner, so now I can finally administer the authentic assessment and do it correctly (one of the major reasons why people reject personality typing is because they’ve had an experience where essentially they had their fortune told–i.e. “take this test, here’s your four-letter type, that’s what you are, end of story”). It’s a much more complex process than that. It’s also not one-dimensional, which means those four letters actually need to be expanded into the 8 functions they comprise. Despite all my research, I really didn’t get a full grasp of the 8 functions until I took the workshop, and I’m still learning more about what each one means.
When I say 8 functions, I mean this (we all use all of them, but our four letter types determine the order in which we prefer–consciously and unconsciously–to use them):
introverted sensing, extraverted sensing
introverted intuiting, extraverted intuiting
introverted feeling, extraverted feeling,
introverted thinking, extraverted thinking
I've seen charts galore that correlate the various personality systems with each other, and while I do see patterns (I'm all about patterns), whoever translated David Keirsey's four temperaments (derived from the Myers-Briggs) into the classic four temperaments (melancholic, phlegmatic, sanguine, choleric) must have wanted it to fit in a neat package, and I don't think it does.
The charts I've seen show this:
Does anyone not see the glaring problem here? The classic types are based on introversion and extraversion.
Melancholic, Phlegmatic = Introvert
Sanguine, Choleric = Extrovert
My research and experiences with both systems has resulted in major mind spinning analysis, only to come up this obvious and simple conclusion, which basically says that the classic four temperaments describe how we relate to the world (first and last letters of the Myers-Briggs types):
Who are the controlling types? The cholerics and melancholics (I know because I am the latter, of the NF variety). Who are the laidback types? Sanguines and phlegmatics. Or to use Gary Smalley's original terminology: The beavers and the lions are the intense Type A personalities, while the otters and golden retrievers are light and fun loving. That's not to say they don't have depth/passion--they definitely do but it's expressed differently--that's where Myers-Briggs personality typing fills in the gaps, i.e. the two letter void in the middle that says oh-so-much about our personalities.