INFPs and Work-Related Stress

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Well, I think—I think—I may just have perhaps over the last week induced a fever through work-related stress.

Yes. An actual fever. A low-grade one of 37.5°C (99.5 °F), to be exact.

I mean, I knew I was wildly stressed-out; after all, not only did the job  entail plenty of draining chit-chat in the form of customer service, but it was also quite physically strenuous, as I was on my feet all day, with only one break in-between, walking around the store. I knew, as the weeks passed, that my stress levels were building. That I was pushing myself too far. That dealing with people non-stop, day after day, would take its slow, but terrible toll, on me, especially wrangling with less-than-polite and sometimes downright sweetly-mean customers.

The signs of stress started off innocently enough. A painful pimple here and there, which I put a little cream on and hoped would go away. Some small, devilish canker sores on the inside of my mouth. Then things started to upgrade themselves, and I woke up one morning with a searing, throbbing pain on either side of the back of my mouth, and discovered my gums had swollen there, become red and painful and inflamed.

By the next sunrise, the fever came on, and I found myself bedridden and calling in sick for work, my body aching all over and a headache pounding at my temples like a hammer.

That was Wednesday. It’s Saturday now, and I have finally recovered enough to be able to sit at my laptop (after buying an extendable keyboard, since the letter “t” has stopped malfunctioning on the laptop’s keyboard) and write. I still feel pretty bad, to be honest—my gums are still swollen and painful enough for me to feel as though my body is quietly torturing me, and I still feel a little shivery—but the need to write came upon me like an insatiable urge, and I had to do it.

Look, let me just say it: INFPs are fragile creatures. What I just wrote about is a clear example of just how delicate people like us can be. And I’m not the only one. Lots of INFPs I’ve read about, or who have reached out to me through this blog, suffer from career dissatisfaction and unbearable, work-related stress because of our gentle personalities and fragile souls. That’s a fact.

We are not as strong as other people, not mentally or physically. And by physically, I mean our constitutions, our immune systems. We are soft, and sensitive. Stress can strike us down just as bad as any virus, and a spiteful word or look is enough to cut us to the bone, or make us feel physically sick. There’s simply no way of getting around it—trust me, I’ve tried.

Actually, you know what, I don’t think I’m making it clear just how fragile a lot of INFPs are. Sure, we have our books, our big, powerful imaginations, but all of that is spiritual, cerebral. Everything else that makes up a human being, in us, is soft and delicate beyond belief. Fear of the meaninglessness of life is enough to exhaust us. In case that still isn’t clear enough—if we just spend too much time thinking about life and death, we get tired. Our souls get tired. Our will to live, and be happy and animated, shrinks. As a highly sensitive person on top of that, places like brightly-lit shopping centres or loud and busy roads add extra stress, bombarding my senses until I want to just curl up under some blankets somewhere and hide, and lose myself in a daydream.

A quiet, simple and slow life is the healthiest life for us to lead. I, for one, when allowed to at my own pace, take everything simply, slowly and quietly. I do not type these words with the crazed fervor of someone struck by the creative muse—in fact, even when struck by the muse, which happens rarely, I still type at a relatively steady pace. When left to my own ends, I am the tortoise, plodding and slow, gentle and soft, in everything I do. Wolfing down food too fast makes me feel ill. Too much high-intensity cardio exercise contributes to stress build-up in my body (which is why I always jog for short intervals, never run at high-intensity for a long period of time). Sunlight after a bad or average night’s sleep is horrific, which is why I much prefer the night, and rainy or cloudy days. I don’t race through books. I read them slowly, savouring the words, sometimes re-reading sentences because they’re just so pretty. I am quite skinny, pale, and perpetually absent-minded.

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Whereas the modern workplace? Bright, artificial lights. Loud voices, raised in chatter and talk. Constant verbal communication, and, if you’re working in customer service like I am at the moment, never-ending false cheeriness. Physically strenuous marching up and down the store, to tackle customers, move from one display shelf to the next. Long hours spent standing on my feet at the cash register. No-one there understands me, so I have to employ my acting skills and pretend I am talkative and robust just like the other employees or run the risk of being told by my boss to “to put in more effort”. Really, if it wasn’t for the money, I would have tossed in the towel long ago. Probably my first week. But I gritted my teeth and stuck with it—I needed to help cover living expenses, and pay for upcoming nursing school fees—and sort of muddled through the whole thing in a kind of painful daze, and then everything just blew up and I found myself lying in bed, feeling like a corpse, and staring at the ceiling.

Am I going to go back to that job after I’m better? Yes. Probably. I don’t know. For a while, I was on government benefits, but that was a pittance, and getting the money involved applying for job after job, engaging in interview after interview, and it was simply not a good way to live for the long-term. I don’t think anyone would want to live on government benefits for an extended period of time. Not only is the money not enough to cover basic needs, not to even mention school fees or supplies, but you feel rotten while you’re on it, with the sense that the government is breathing down your back everyday, nudging you to be a good, hard-working citizen like everyone else, you lazy “dole bludger”. I want to contribute to society like everyone else.

It’s just difficult to find a proper job suitable for people like me, INFPs, that allows us to be both compensated for work and not severely taxed by the requirements of the position.

I am seriously re-thinking my long-term goal of becoming a mental health nurse. At the very least, if I do continue pursuing that path, I can only work part-time. After this job, at a busy pharmacy in a customer service role, I have become all too aware of my limits.

Which brings me to the question: what should I do with my life? How should I earn a living, when all I really like to do is daydream, write and read?

Obviously, being a professional writer comes to mind, but that’s out of the question for now—I’m still writing, but none of the books I’ve sent out have received any replies from publishers. As for this blog, well, while it has built itself up over the years, traffic isn’t high enough for me to warrant buying a domain name and getting any money from advertisements.

I did consider starting a Patreon for my blog, dreamerrambling.wordpress.com, so that people can choose to donate, if they want, for each blog post I put out, even if it’s just a dollar. To somehow try and become self-employed, through the expertise and knowledge I have accumulated over the years about the INFP personality, based on research, personal experience, writing on this blog, and talking to other INFPs. In my imagination, I fancy myself a kind of INFP guru, or fairy godmother, who whisks a magical wand and—writes about secrets inside the hearts of INFPs, the daydreams, the struggles and tears, the love and joy.

These are all possibilities, Tenuous ones, I must admit, because I don’t know if I have the readership to do such a thing, or if anyone would be interested at all in donating or supporting my blog posts. Or how exactly to go about offering services—maybe advice columns?—that would be enough to create my own business and become self-employed. Really, I have no experience in anything of the sort, and kind of find myself expecting it to fall over on its face if I try, like a puppy taking its first steps.

In the end, as with everything in life, and in the healthiest possible way for INFPs, I will take it slow, and steady. I will be quiet, and gentle about things, as I naturally am, and we will see what comes of it. I hope you are all in good health, and doing much better in your lives than I am.

—Dreamerrambling

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You Are Miserable Because You Are Controlled

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I figured it out.

Today, when I woke up this morning, I figured it out.

One of the main reasons why people in our society feel so miserable a great deal of the time is because we are not in control of our lives. Instead, we are controlled by many other forces, money being the cardinal one. Money is needed to survive: it is needed for food, shelter, water electricity; all the amenities of a modern existence; and those who reject this paradigm, the necessity of money, are left homeless and to fend for themselves. In the end, all it is a method of exchange. You work for your food, your house, your electricity—people grew your food, built your home, take care of your water and electricity. As long as we are reliant on society and other people, and their efforts, and cannot build our own homes, grow our own food, harness our own water and electricity, the basic necessities of life, we are slaves to money.

How so? We take jobs that corrode our very essence. We smile, and pander, and grovel, at supervisors and superiors, in the desperate hope that we can get into the good books of someone in a higher position of authority. We have to live in conditions where we are unhappy, with people we find hard to spend time around, because we rely on them financially. Everything we do that makes us miserable, eventually, someone along the line, boils down to the necessity of transferring numbers into your bank account so you can use those numbers to purchase goods and services.

The thing is, to survive, and prosper, and be happy, there are few goods and services that we need. A roof over our heads. A bed. A desk to sit at so you can work, depending on what you do. Paper. Pens. A source of clean fresh water. Food, fruits and vegetables, and grains. Electricity for light to see by and heat to cook with. Enough clothes to keep warm. A library nearby where you can borrow and read books. All the appendages of modern existence—holidays, cars, decorations, treats, clothes, gadgets, why, they’re all entirely superfluous, and unnecessary.

Therefore the key to happiness for dreamers, and to anyone else who feels miserable when they are controlled by money, is to regain control of your own life. And that, my friends, is the crux of the issue. It is difficult. First off, unless you have seeds, and your own patch of land, a steady source of water, you can’t grow your own food. Which then means you need to buy it from the supermarket, where the food is often packaged in environmentally harmful plastics and injected with all sorts of chemicals. Building your own house, in a city, is sheer impossibility; not only do you need your own land, but you need to have the skills, material and time to connect it to the municipal water pipes and electricity grid. Clothes, paper, pens—those perhaps can be asked, or begged, from people, if they are absent. Very quickly it becomes clear that there is a reason people are such slaves to their jobs, even if it makes them feel miserable to be controlled in this way, because, well, if you think about it, what are the alternatives?

That is why everyone desperately wants to start their own business. To have your own business, and to be self-employed, is one step up from having a job, as you are more in control of your income. You determine, based on your efforts and the value of your product and how you market yourself, how much you earn. Many people do achieve this. I think, if someone could make it work, it could be a good, if not perfect, solution. However, I do believe the ultimate form of control is not require money altogether, spending part of your time gathering water and growing food and maintaining your shelter, but devoting the rest of your hours to hard work that is meaningful to you.

I don’t have the answers. Just a tiny revelation, that struck me when I opened my eyes this money. I asked myself, “Why I am I unhappy?” “Well,” my brain said, “you are unhappy because you are financially dependent on your mother.” “And why am I financially dependent on your mother?” “Because you can’t earn money. And because you can’t earn money, you feel as though you have no control in life, buffeted by wherever the dollar signs take you. You are afraid of homelessness, so you will bear being abused just to keep a roof over your head, just like millions of people across the world, who work in jobs that are pointless and not meaningful and not in alignment with who they are but which they keep because, well, they need the money.”

Misery stemming from slavery to a method of exchange is not a new suffering. Money runs the world; it is the oil that keeps the gears running and working, even if some of the cogs are turning for no reason at all except the sake of turning. From this point onwards, I see four options for myself and other dreamers in regards to regaining control in my life.

One, is to work part-time, at a job that we can find relatively bearable, and have our bodies live on less so our hearts can live on more.

Two, is to somehow use our skills and talents to provide a service or product that other people might want, and therefore become self-employed.

The third is to live in your car or a homeless shelter—living in one’s car, is frankly, more preferable, as it is safer. That way, you eliminate one of the greatest drains of money in life, rent, or mortgage payments, thus freeing you up to devote the rest of your financial resources on food.

The fourth is for all INFPs and dreamers to get together, somehow, and somewhere, lots of kind souls working together, in a commune, using our intelligence and creativity to get by. Perhaps living in an apartment we share, where some people cook, other people work a couple of hours here and there, some gather water from park taps or grow some food in the backyard, the bills are all shared and we all live frugally, and spend plenty of time working hard to pursue our interests. Sort of like a modern-day tribe of ten or so people, where everyone works together to survive. And I have a feeling, if the right people are chosen, we will feel comfortable around each other, even me, because we’re all kind and empathic and soft-hearted and hard-working.

Now, each of these, compared to getting a traditional job, save the first option, seem particularly difficult, hard or complicated. Living in your car means you will have to be parked near a gym for water and showering facilities, and finding an electricity source, to charge your phone, or to cook or boil food, will be problematic, not to mention the safety hazards of essentially sleeping out on the streets in the night.

Self-employment is far from easy, too. You have to get very good at something, enough good enough for people to want to hand over their hard-earned cash to obtain it—and that is hard. It’s also, let’s not forget, risky: some months you might earn enough to sock some money away, and some months barely enough to live on. That’s probably the reason why people who seek financial independence have multiple income streams, wherein they work at a traditional job, perhaps part-time, but also have a website where they earn money from advertising, a side business, another job online etc. Online friends of mine have also suggested working on selling items on sites like Etsy, or online jobs like freelance writing, or being a virtual assistant.

As for the INFP commune, well, why not? Some part of me feels as though it might be more of a fantasy than a reality, and perhaps the reality of living together, with lots of other people, even if they are also dreamers, won’t match up to how I see it in my mind. There’s also the fact that INFPs tend to be scattered all over the world, so we can’t get together in the first place. I live in Australia, and so far have only spoken to one Australian INFP online, and two individuals is hardly enough to make up a proper commune and spread the duties of survival.

The thing is, when something is very meaningful and necessary, like growing and tending to crops, or gathering water, the people who undertake those tasks actually feel happier doing them. To do them means they are surviving. Whereas the office worker, trapped in a cubicle working at meaningless reports and spreadsheets, is much more unhappier, as her work is disconnected from what is truly meaningful and necessary, even if it leads to the same result, which is survival. In essence, the problem of modern society is that there are a lot of “bullshit jobs” we have fabricated, where meaningless tasks are engaged in by millions just to keep the system running and the financial elite in a position of power. So much of the world is in a bad state, artificial and forced. No matter what we do, it is best if it allows us to connect to nature, to Mother Earth, and our deep desires, such as to create Art or help others; that will bring the power back into our own hands, and therefore, happiness.

It’s hard. I mean it: it’s really, really hard to find an alternative to surviving in society, and living a meaningful life, apart from simply slotting yourself neatly into the system. But I think it is time we started listening to our guts, and our hearts. If something is making you depressed and miserable, then obviously it is not good for you. As humans, we are the only species who willingly poison ourselves—dependence on companies and other people for food mean we don’t know what goes in them, what pesticides were used, etc.–and willingly put ourselves in situations where we are unhappy and miserable for hours on end, thinking we have no other choice.

No other creature on earth lives this way. A bird will peck at a piece of food, and if it doesn’t like it, instinctively move away from it. A bird, if given the opportunity to leave its cage, will fly out in a jiffy; but if the bird, like humans, have been conditioned to stay in the cage, even when the latch is open, then it will never be free, because it will have created its own cage, and those take much more effort to break open.

I don’t know what I will do, but I do think that identifying the problem is the first step towards solving it. There is a solution, somewhere, somehow; it may not be easy, but it certainly exists. There is always a solution. I am tired of the lack of control in my life, tired of having to depend on my mother, and the world, and society. Taking an unconventional path may be more frightening and unsafe, the way barred by brambles and crowded with lurking beasts, but at the end there may be a beautiful garden, more wonderful and luscious than one can possibly imagine. As an INFP, as a dreamer, and most importantly, as a creative person, a writer, using my creativity to find other ways to live and survive is just as important as employing it to write books and stories.

After the altercation with my mother yesterday, I realised just how precarious my position is as a financially-dependent daughter who has long overstayed her welcome, and how, in the end, we often have no-one to turn to except ourselves, our own will, and our own grit. All I know is that I want to be in control of my own life, without sacrificing my integrity or being forced to engage in meaningless tasks that make my soul recoil, and that if I find the key to unlock this door, on the other side lies, if not happiness, then at the very least, peace. Do you?

And I think the community that has built up around my blog, although small in the larger scheme, is still meaningful, and important. We, as dreamers, as introverts and sensitive creatures, the odd and the offbeat, the misfits and misunderstood, who understand each other, should put our minds together, and comfort and reach out to each other, in order to build unconventional yet personally satisfying lives. We can’t live the life society has set out for us, not if we want to be miserable and anxious and unfulfilled; we simply must at least try find another way, another path. We are in control of our lives, our every thought and word and action determining our future and who we become; and if have lost some of that control, then we simply must regain it. We can. I can. You can.

A Dreamer Tries To Help: Q&A

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Since the birth of this blog two years ago, I have received quite a few messages, through comments and emails, from other lost, lonely and struggling souls – many of whom who identify with the Myer-Briggs Personality Type INFP, but also people who are simply sensitive, often introverted and feel as though they do not belong.

It has become very apparent to me that this world pushes some people to the fringes of society – and if we’re honest with ourselves, we’re happier living on the edges than amongst the throng.

We belong in the corners and the crevices, behind the secret doors and within the hidden alcoves.

However, despite liking being “different”, it does make surviving in society difficult. Sometimes very, very difficult. And there are a lot of us experiencing those difficulties. So I thought I would start a weekly Questions & Answers post, where I transpose a person’s message for help onto a blog post and try and answer it as best as I can.

That way, it will help the person who is asking (or sometimes wailing out into the ether in despair) and also anyone else who stumbles across my blog who might be struggling with similar issues.

In my head, I have sort of, well, “anointed” myself as a little, quiet supporter for misfits all around the world. A warrior, fighting for those who are too sensitive, too quiet, too strange, and who do not belong, kitted out in silvery armour etched with gamboling kittens and books, and my trusty sword named Edgar Allen Poe – please, do not laugh, he is a rather sensitive sword (which makes battles rather tiresome, mind you, as he never wants to hurt the enemy, which completely defeats the purpose of fighting in the first place, in my opinion) and you will most likely hurt his feelings and I shall have to deal with the mess. Do know how badly sword-tears rust metal?

Edgar, however, approves of subterfuge tactics, which do not actually involve shedding blood, like encouraging and helping other misfits with words so that we can rise up and silently take over the world. Or at least feel a little less sad, tired, and alone.

This whole thing, really, was mostly his idea, conjured up so he could wriggle out of fighting our enemies, like Mean Corporations Who Care About Money Instead Of People and other Selfish, Heartless Nincompoops. Fortunately, it was a good one.

Songbird asks:

“I am an INFP female, 55 years old, but, in all honesty, not only do I not ACT my age, I certainly don’t FEEL my age, and I don’t look my age, either. I feel very much like I did when I was about 9 years old. I can remember my feelings of “not fitting in”, and how in the world to try to “look and act the part” so vividly; it’s because I feel those same feelings, now.

I crave time alone. I got exhausted on phone calls. I love to talk when the conversation is interesting, but I am so passionate and have such a hard time trying to explain myself and I feel so misunderstood that my talking is perceived as “excessive”. Although, I talk no more and quite often less than friends when we are talking together.

It’s just that THEY talk about the things that they all understand and want to talk about–things that I don’t really care about, understand, movies that I haven’t seen and don’t want to see, tv shows that I have never watched and have no interest in watching, etc. I want to discuss an amazing book I’ve read and how that book actually spoke to me, stuff like that. Sometimes I feel like I am being looked at like I have lobsters crawling out of my ears.

It is VERY, VERY hard being an INFP. When I get “labeled” a “talker” or “eccentric” or whatever, I feel that I have been somewhat permanently, dismissed.

I am also a musician, which just seems to compound the problem. I am extremely artistic and creative. I have taken on the “this is who I am, and if you don’t like it, too bad” attitude, and it works for me for a while, but deep down, in my heart of hearts, I just feel misunderstood. I am becoming worn out with dealing with people. It is getting to be just too much trouble to try to deal with. I would like to go back to teaching music in my private studio and not have to put up with he politics of dealing with a public school setting or all of the women that are found in same.

I have had my feelings hurt countless times, and I have forgiven, but I am at the point now that I am ready to not only forgive, but to just move on.

I am just too tired to continue to try to put forth the effort to fit my “square and eccentric self” into this round hole of “normal existence in day to day life”.

I love VERY deeply. I care very, very deeply. I do NOT give up on my passions and I am a champion for the children that I teach. They need me very desperately, a many of them have no one else. The problem is, I have poured out so much that I am beginning to feel that I need to be re-filled. If I were to try to explain ANY of this to anyone else, they would actually believe that I had lost my mind.

So, I just don’t even try. I just continue to suffer in silence. I have always, and still do, LOVE small spaces and to be closed in, by myself in the dark with only soft light, where no one really knows where I am, and I can read my book, by myself. I can have my dog with me and just sit back and read.

All of these things would literally make others want to look for the closest mental hospital to check me in to.

I am just so tired. Does anyone else feel this way? If so, and I’m sure that you do, how do you cope? What do you do when you get so hurt and laughed at about “talking too much” when you suddenly believe that you might have picked up on something in a conversation that you can relate to and explain yourself?

What do you do when you are so deeply hurt in your workplace and so close to retirement that you just can’t really leave? I am at a complete loss and I am actually thinking that I would much prefer to stand behind a bar in a restaurant and serve mugs of beer to people that I don’t have to get so “close to”, I can “chat” a bit if I have the energy, or not, and then, at the proper time, I can leave with my purse.

Any suggestions from anyone???”

Dear Songbird,

I feel your pain.

When I say “I feel your pain”, I don’t mean it lightly, the way some people do when they say it which often makes you annoyed at their insincerity: I honestly feel your pain, because I have gone through the same kind of pain.

Though I am a little younger than you are, I have been told that I am wise beyond my years – of course, you may disagree – and hopefully I can give you some suggestions to ease your suffering.

First of all, there is nothing wrong you with you. You just have a heart, one a little more powerful than most, and a personality which does not mesh well with the rest of society. There is nothing wrong or strange about wanting to sit in a dimly lit room with your dog, where it is quiet and safe, and read, preferably for the rest of your life. There is nothing wrong or strange about caring very deeply, or feeling too much.

Your problem is that you are burnt-out from prolonged, unfulfilling interactions with society. No-one understands you, and when you reveal your true self, even just a brief glimpse of it, you are subtly rejected, which, being sensitive, stabs you to the core. You yearn to speak on subjects that matter to you – the books you read, the world of the imagination, philosophy – but no-one else seems the least bit interested, and you are left alone and baffled, unable to form a connection with anybody.

What you have to realise is that you will never receive the validation and understanding that you crave from most of the people you meet. It simply isn’t possible; it’s like trying to describe what a jungle is, exactly, to a fish. So my advice is – and this is based on experience – don’t even try.

I, myself, have launched into effusive bursts of talk, only to be looked at strangely, my skin burning with shame and rejection. To protect yourself, then, stop letting glimpses of your true self seep out, because people who reject your true self don’t deserve to see it. If you must interact with people who do not understand and never will an atom of your being, then act. Play pretend. Make it fun, which will make it less tiring; see it as game, a secret show you are putting on that only you know about.

And then exit from the interaction, as quickly and politely as possible. Any friends who don’t understand you and just drain your energy – cut them from your life. For once, be a little selfish, and take care of yourself, and spend your time doing things you like to do, rather than talking about things you have no interest in.

But what if, as in the case of work, the unfulfilling and prolonged interactions are constant, and exhausting?

There are a few solutions to this.

One, is to start carving out as much alone time as possible at work, by eating lunch in your own office or classroom rather than with everyone else, or even escaping into the toilet cubicles with a book.

It’s best, I’ve found, to establish a shy and retiring persona in the eyes of others, as that way there is less expectation that you will be talkative and chatty, and you will be less exhausted.

You can also make excuses to avoid interactions with people (there is no shame in this as it allows you to preserve your own energy), either by professing you are unwell and are therefore not in the mood for talking (say it as politely as possible, not bluntly) or that you are very busy, and “exceedingly sorry that you do not have the time to chat.”

In addition, you can try and spend more time with your students, who are, because they tap into your empathy, perhaps a little less draining to interact with than the women at your workplace. To stop letting phone-calls deplete your energy, you can try (though sometimes you simply must answer some calls, as per the requirements of your job) to use Text Messages and emails more often.

However, in the end, these are merely attempts to put Humpty Dumpty back together using plastic tape. It doesn’t solve the problem, which is that you are a retiring and extremely introverted person forced into an environment that requires you to be extroverted on a daily basis. It’s like forcing a man who can only walk two miles a day due to lung problems to run a lap of his entire town in under five hours. It’s agony, like you are screaming inside every minute of the day and will do so until you retire – trust me, I know.

Thus, if you follow these tips, you are still going to be tired – just less so. You might even become more stressed and tired because people might start thinking you are aloof or snobbish, or asking where you start disappearing to all the time, and why, exactly, you aren’t eating lunch with them anymore or answering their phone-calls. If you think you can tolerate work by inserting these little “breathers” into your day, then everything’s good, and you will be able to wake up in the morning without feeling miserable.

However, chances are, if you are anything like me, the only true solution to your problems is to find another job, where there is less pressure or need to interact and put on an act.

As musician, this might mean, as you said yourself, opening a studio and teaching students one-by-one or in small groups privately, which eliminates co-workers and where the only interaction you have to withstand is with your students and their parents.

You could also try seeking a job with a different organisation, perhaps a smaller one, with less people and less pressure to talk, where you just teach, finish the lessons, and then go home. At the time, you should try and sock away more money into your retirement fund so you could perhaps retire earlier, and sink into the solitude you crave, and try live on less, so you can, for example, work only part-time and still survive.

I would not look longingly towards retirement as the gateway to peace and serenity. I don’t know where you live, but here in Australia, both women and men retire at 65, so it’ll probably be a good decade or so before you can leave the workforce. You need to find peace and serenity now. Finding a job more suited to your social needs, saving away more chunks of money so you can perhaps retire earlier – or have more freedom to hop from one job to another in order to find the right fit – and perhaps working part-time is the best way to do this.

As for not being able to find anyone to relate to, you could start a blog to pour out your feelings and experiences, as I did, or join a forum where you can meet other INFPs (like Personality Cafe), in order to fulfill your need for meaningful interaction without the downside of having your energy drained.

It’s also Okay to be a loner. Offline, I do not have a single friend who truly understands me, and, partly due to other issues unrelated to being an INFP, spend much of my time alone, or simply with my siblings who, having grown up with me, are well-acquainted with my eccentricities and do not reject me for having them (even though they don’t understand me).

If you don’t have any siblings or family members where you can be yourself, that’s fine, too. What I have realised, finally, after many years of pain and loneliness, is that you don’t need other people to understand you or validate you. In fact, if you’re very honest with yourself, you don’t even truly need to talk philosophy or books with other humans; just enjoying the books or thinking about life is often rewarding enough.

As long as you are spending your time in activities that bring joy to you, like reading, and understand and validate yourself, that is enough. The world has over seven billion people in it. It’s impossible for everyone to have someone understand them, and the truth is, no-one really understands or truly validates anyone; we’re all trapped inside our own universes, filtering the world through our own minds; we’re all extraordinarily unique, and some part of us will always be a secret to other people.

Even the people who you see fitting in, laughing cheerfully and happily, have moments when they are alone and they feel as if no-one in the whole world truly understands everything that goes on inside their heads. As INFPs, we are just aware of this alienation a little more keenly than other people, and because often we are markedly different from the majority, the loneliness and lack of validation is compounded. And besides, sometimes, we don’t even understand ourselves! Being human is funny like that. It’s all a grand mystery, and we’re stuck right in the middle of it.

I truly hope this helps you in some way, even if only a little, and I would love to hear how you are as time goes on. Take care. You are not alone in your suffering.

Love,

Dreamerrambling

If you have a question yourself – or perhaps a lament – you can write a comment, or send a message to my email, dreamerrambling@hotmail.com.

I can’t promise that it will get answered (sometimes questions overlap; sensitive and shy people tend to struggle with similar problems) on this blog, but I always make a point to try and reply a private message to every email I receive.

Perhaps I could make this Q&A a weekly sort of thing – it feels so grown-up and professional! – what do you think?

I do love helping people with their problems; it makes me feel like I am doing my part to ease suffering in the world even though I don’t have wherewithal to tackle big issues like starvation yet. There is so much suffering in the world, and if I dwell too long on that fact, I can’t function, so I try my best to focus on what I can do. Tears don’t help anyone; action does.

If it weren’t for my anxiety, I think I would have loved to be a counselor, though perhaps the sort of counselor who heals people through words or talks over the phone rather than in person. I’m better at solving other people’s problems rather than my own, which is both funny and sad, like so many things in life. Well, it’s always a possibility, even if it seems an impossibility at the moment — obstacles are also funny like that.

I love all of you. I love humanity, and I love people (at least from afar; I like watching people a thousand times more than I like talking to them) – it’s just there’s a lot of good mixed in with the bad, and the negative is often harder to ignore than the positive. Just yesterday there was an article in the news about a teenager inculcated with terrorist ideologies who shot a civilian near police headquarters in Sydney, and the dark cloud of that event still has not left me. It’s frightening, on a personal level, and it’s saddening. I will never understand why people hurt, kill, torture, exploit. Never.

PS:

Edgar would like to communicate to everyone the following message:

“Words are stronger than swords.”

It’s true, in a sense, I guess. Words can change minds, which changes lives, which then changes the world. But I do think some people in the world respond better to a knife at their throat than an appeal from thousands of suffering people – don’t you?

INFPs And Earning A Living

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Sometimes, I feel as though asking a monkey to build a Ferris Wheel using only banana peels would have a higher success rate than finding an occupation INFPs feel comfortable in – apart from, of course, the quintessential “I want to be a writer” spiel that sends parents all over the world into heart attacks at the kitchen table. Our personality perfectly predisposes us to the task – imaginative, creative, with a natural love for words, for thinking and pondering and spending great periods of time alone – and it’s been a firm belief of mine for a while that a great deal of the books in the world were written by INFPs.

When it comes to making money, however, we seem to hit a wall, against which most of us will beat our fists at for a great deal of our adulthood. I, myself, even if I did not have the anxiety and sensory issues preventing me from pursuing a traditional pathway for the time being, find it terribly difficult to slot myself into the machine. I think there a few reasons for this. One is that we are free-spirited creatures – occasionally a little too free-spirited. This not only spurs us to rebel against authority and tradition, it has other darker sides: procrastination, never committing to anything, flitting through life thinking we are free when in truth we are only sabotaging ourselves by not following a schedule and working steadily month after month in order to become an expert in whatever field we have chosen. But most of all, this means that the thought of someone – be it the government, or a teacher, or boss – monopolizing our time, forcing us to spend our days as they see fit in order to earn “money” we see all too clearly as being a sham, just paper collectively agreed to possess value, doesn’t sit right with us. In fact, it sits so very poorly that sometimes the necessity of earning a living in this world feels like a noose around our neck, tightening by the day.

Though some among us do end up making a living as writers, most of us do not have that privilege, at least not yet, and must “clock in the hours”. Thus, we end up in three possible situations. One is where we work at a tedious and usually stressful job that takes a toll on our hearts and our mind while pursuing our interests, like writing, or philosophizing, in our spare time. Another is that we end up dependent on others to keep a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs, as is the case with my life right now, living with my mother despite having reached adulthood this year and struggling with some psychological and sensory issues. The final situation is a compromise: we find something in our daily jobs to love, such as the connection or bonds formed with customers, and thus find ourselves able to bear it even if the other tasks involved in the job make us want to tear our eyes out. There is, in fact, a fourth scenario, which is that we end up homeless, extravagant little hippies living out of the back of caravans or in cars, and on the dole (if we’re lucky), despite the deep well of kindness in our hearts and our high intelligence.

However, none of these situations – and I am sure I don’t have to point out that the last is particularly unpleasant – are ideal, and sometimes not even tolerable. First, working at a job that wears away at your soul is going to have consequences, ranging from chronic fatigue syndrome, depression and panic attacks. Make no mistake: you are going to be miserable, and most likely bored out of your mind. Look, we’re quiet creatures who are energized by solitude and quiet contemplation – and most jobs either require extensive contact with people or are stressful, filled with phone calls and paperwork. Depending on someone for your livelihood can be just as miserable, and I speak this from experience. For one, you be plagued by skin-peeling guilt almost every second of the day for not financially contributing to the household and gradually see yourself as a useless, lazy excuse of a human being, even if you suffer from mental issues or have been unable to find or hold down a job due to your natural introversion or inability to tolerate workplaces. Our independence is also important to us, and it is impossible to feel independent if someone else is paying the bills for you – or, in my case, buying the groceries and even helping me borrow my library books. What’s more, INFPs need to be occupied in personally fulfilling work at all times, regardless of whether it brings in an income or not, which is why, although I do not have a job, I am taking free online courses and pretending writing is a full-time job (your imagination can do wonders for fixing your procrastination issues! A favourite of mine is to pretend I am in jail, and all I have is a laptop without internet, or a pencil and paper, in order to get myself writing). As for holding a job we acclimatise ourselves to, teasing out the good parts while tolerating the bad, well, once again, eventually, it takes a toll. Homelessness is the worst option of the lot, though living in a caravan or a car, if you do not struggle with any mental issues, can be, depending on your personal tastes, a viable method of existence.

Compounding this problem is the fact that our natural skills and abilities are not prized by the modern workforce, and are sometimes even liabilities rather than assets. We are highly empathetic, highly independent, highly scatter-brained, highly idealistic, highly imaginative, highly melancholy and highly introverted – almost the exact antithesis of the kind of person society values: extroverted, charismatic, charming, bold, a go-getter, cheerful, good social skills. All we have really going for us is our creativity and writing skills – hence why so many of us gravitate towards writing as a possible career path – but, as we all know, getting good at writing takes time, and you often need to support yourself in other ways as you build up your skills. So basically, what you have is a group of people who are creative, philosophical, sensitive and kind who find themselves without a place to call home in the world.

Granted, some INFPs do end up landing in jobs which are the right fit for them, such as roles in non-profit organisations perhaps involving writing, or as a freelance writers – but they’re rare, and those INFPs who are successful today in a field they enjoy often went through similar struggles due to their personality type before they hit their sweet spots. So what do we do? Where is this elusive home that everyone else seems to find and for which we seem to be forever seeking?

It’s different for every INFP, but I believe that our only true homes are our own minds and imaginations, the one place in the entire universe where we can be entirely free – yet another reason why writing is so natural an activity for us. What this means, however, is that anything which exists beyond the boundaries of your mind – basically, the rest of the world – will never live up to your expectations, and never satisfy you (this is true for everybody, on some level).

Thus, the only solution to living the life we want (once again, not applicable to all INFPs) is to find a way to live inside our minds as much as possible, where we are the happiest and often find the greatest fulfillment. Now, there are probably people out there who will disagree with this conclusion, because it seems to suggest that INFPs should, instead of going out there and truly “living”, retreat into their imaginations and escape reality. But they do not understand that it is only in the realms of our mind do we feel truly free and happy, nor the joy wandering through the labyrinth of our own thoughts brings us. The true reason why we find it so hard to find a place in this world is because we are internal rather than external creatures; we are organisms of the mind and the heart, rather than the body. Therefore, as dreamers, centering ourselves more in the mind and the heart, where we naturally feel the most comfortable, is the truest path to happiness.

I don’t know exactly what you would find most fulfilling – it doesn’t have to be writing, not all INFPs are natural-born writers or love writing, we’re all different – but chances are, it’s connected to the heart or the mind in some way, in that it is something that engages your creativity, imagination, and natural empathy for other living creatures. As long as you make sure whatever you are doing comes from either of those two spiritual organs, you’re on the right path.

The good thing is that your mind and your heart can be engaged no matter what task you are doing or where you are in life. If you are working at a job you dislike that burns your soul a little more with each day that passes, then use your imagination to free yourself. Escape during meetings, while waiting in line for the photocopier; it will be enjoyable, and make the time fly by much faster whilst also exercising your creativity. This will be easier if your job does not involve much higher-order thinking. Pretend you are a djinn, forced to do tasks for your unbending master, trapped by shackles made of crisp dollar notes. You can also use work time, as surreptitiously as possible, to write, or engage in whatever task that fulfill you. For example, write on used office sheets, or finish the work you do very quickly and write during the rest of the time while pretending to be doing company work. Be creative: write in office diaries, on Post-It Notes. It’s not unscrupulous – much of the workforce is set up to waste your time on meaningless, dull tasks just to spool some extra numbers into your bank account and keep you occupied, and if it’s possible for you to find a loophole, a rambling little path away from the highway, then, by all means, take it. No matter what your situation is, use your creativity to try and make life fulfilling for you, while still allowing you to keep a roof over your head.

For those of you who are unemployed and on the dole, living in caravans or cars, or dependent on another for food and shelter, the same principle applies. Just because you don’t have a proper “job” doesn’t mean you can’t keep yourself busy. It’s easy for INFPs to fall into procrastination and laziness, as we’re easily distracted by anything that flies by our way, and, with the Internet, the air is now filled with swarms of interesting flying things. Reading books is much easier than writing them; thinking about philosophy much easier than putting philosophical concepts into practice; imagining a flourishing garden easier than getting your hands dirty and planting one. Often for us, like most people, the more time we have, the more we squander it. So don’t. If you’re not in traditional employment, make sure you are still constantly engaged in productive and meaningful tasks, whether that is writing, or reading up books on Psychology, building your own freelance writing business, planting some spring onions in pots along the grimy windowsill of your caravan – anything other than being idle and wasting your time. Doing so will also help beat back the guilt that will swamp you for not working and contributing to society, because technically you are working, working very hard indeed, only you are not being paid for it yet.

Also, I would recommend you try and save your money and not purchase unnecessary items – not only will it help the environment, but the less money you spend, the more money you save, and the more money you save, the more freedom you will have. Don’t eat out, buy second-items and less-processed foods, save up for items that truly contribute to your well-being like books. This shouldn’t be particularly difficult, as most of us are quite content with very little, and have little desire for extravagances or luxuries. Pinching pennies doesn’t make you a cheapskate – it makes you smart, and environmentally aware. Consumption in the world is at an all-time high, flushing the environment with our toxins and wastes, and the consumerism model of a constant cycle of using and discarding just isn’t sustainable in the long-term. Besides, the best things in life, like friendship, literature and the imagination, are free, anyway.

What’s more, the more money people like us have, the better of a world it will be, because, being kind folks, we’re more likely than any other group of people to donate to charities and help people if we have the resources to. If more of the world’s wealth and power was concentrated in the hands of INFPs (unfortunately most of us only seem to make our fortunes through artistic fields, like writing and film-making, notorious for their low entry-rates), there would be less suffering on Earth. Take J.K Rowling, for instance, a famous INFP – she is no longer a billionaire because she gave away so much of her money. In that sense, we almost have an obligation to try and accumulate as much wealth as possible (out of all MBTI types, we tend to earn the least due to our natural skill sets – bankers earn more than psychologists – so it’s a tough call), to the best of our abilites, in order to help the people who need help, rather than let wealth pile up in the bank accounts of the greedy, selfish and less philanthropic, where it sits there, an untapped resource, doing nothing and helping no-one.

There are no easy answers, but armed with our hearts and our minds, our imagination, creativity and kindness, we can fight back, and carve out lives true to ourselves and make the world a better place in the process. We are often intelligent and discerning, able to see easily into the workings of society, the shams of the modern-day world (the crowning jewel of which is the economic system), yet powerless to change the terrible things we see, and often the most oppressed group of people by the system itself. You are not alone, however; a small percentage though we may make of the world population, we do actually number in the millions if you take the total world population into account. So, in reality, there are millions of good people, idealists and dreamers, INFPs, out there, who all feel alone, and like they are the only pure and good souls in the world, the last moral bastions of society, when it’s just that we’re a little spread-out – and it is this dispersal that reduces our power.

With the Internet, however, that no longer has to be the case. It’s cliché, I know, but it’s true: alone, we are weak; together we are strong, stronger than our wildest dreams. Can you imagine what it would be like if we formed a global network of INFPs through the internet, leveraging our combined strength to help each other and do good in the world? INFPs are, in essence, an untapped resource of kindness in humanity, and have been up, until now, being soft, shy, retiring, unseen, brushed under the carpet, our voices drowned out by louder ones. You must stay strong – for yourself, for other INFPs, and for the world (and really, when I say “INFPs”, I am in actuality referring to anyone who is extraordinarily kind and idealistic; the MBTI just allows us to find like-minded people more easily). Take heed my advice on making money so you will be able to survive in society whilst maintaining your sanity. I will do my part, continually honing my writing skills so that one day, when I am a published and established writer, I will be able to leverage my economic and social power to help you, to help any suffering people in the world, and to help and bring joy to as many human beings as I can over the course of my life. That is what making money means for INFPs: to allow us to survive so we can seek personal fulfillment and improve the world.

If you need any help or support in life, no matter what the issue is, please feel free to contact me at dreamerrambling@hotmail.com. In the past, I’ve not been the best at replying to emails on time, but these days I am making a conscious effort to check it more often, and to try and reply to every message that I receive, especially from INFPs who are struggling. Please, however, do not be disheartened if it takes a few days. You are NEVER alone; every single INFP existing in the world today, including myself, suffers along with you, and understands you. Let us support each other, and, in doing so, support the world.

INFP Careers

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**If any of you who read my blog or are just stumbling across it are needing any life advice or guidance, especially if you are sensitive, introverted or a dreamer and feels a little lost in this cold world, please send your Skype username to dreamerrambling@hotmail.com. Though I can’t guarantee I can speak with everyone, I will try my best. These sessions will be free, as I’m just going to be practicing my life coaching skills and developing my own techniques and learning how to talk and counsel people. Thank you for helping me practice and taking me a step further on this new little journey of mine, and I hope that I can help you in the process too. Please no spam: I don’t want to find myself contacting any creepy people, so it’d be good to send a message along with your username telling me a little about yourself. Thanks. Keep dreaming.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an INFP (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling & Perceiving) in possession of a conventional occupation must be dissatisfied with their life.

Okay. That may be an exaggeration. Perhaps you’re an INFP reading this who is perfectly content with your job and life, and to that I say, kudos to you. I envy you from the bottom of my heart because you have achieved something which I feel I will never attain.

After surfing through the internet and wasting my life for an hour today, I came across many plaintive posts in various forums from INFPs who were lamenting their lot in life, in having so wayward and unconventional a personality that it precludes them from finding a job that they like. My heart fingered out waves of sympathy from my chest through the computer and across cyberspace, in a futile effort at commiseration with these gentle, creative and lost souls.

Choosing a career is the bane of my existence as an INFP. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a lazy person. Well, I do procrastinate excessively but I don’t want to be one of those indolent people who laze around on their couches all day watching television and living on welfare because they’re not bothered to get off their keister and do something with their lives.

I want to contribute to society. I want to help humanity. I want to play my part. I want to make my life meaningful.

But it is just so difficult to find a career or job that would be fulfilling. I feel like Sisyphus pushing that massive boulder up the hill every time I contemplate the issue. The thing is, many of the occupations adored by INFPs are few and far between, hard to get into and even harder to make a living at. I’m talking about writers, artists, film directors – you get the drift. I can think of no better personality type suited to the stereotype of the starving artist. But those jobs can’t put money on the table, can they?

Here’s where the trouble starts. I am the epitome of paradox and have a love-hate relationship when it comes to writing and money.

I know there are many writers who are making a decent living out there, whether through journalism or freelance or whatever. But I am so riddled with low self-esteem and bereft of belief in my own abilities that I don’t think I could possibly pursue a career as a writer, my ultimate dream. Why? First, because I believe that I don’t have any talent when it comes to writing, that there are scores of more brilliant literate folks across the globe that can do the job better than me. This self-doubt gnaws at me everyday. Two, because I come from a low-income background and have my mother to support. I’m not fortunate enough to have parents I can depend upon for fiscal means. I need money. Without the sense of security (and by security, I mean knowing that I won’t starve and be sleeping on a flea-ridden bed in a run-down house), I feel like a ship that hasn’t been moored, just sailing off to goodness knows where across the turbulent seas. And pursuing writing? It’s too much of a plunge, a risk. I’m too much of a coward. I don’t want to be poor, I don’t want to be homeless and live on the streets, I want to provide for my family and writing seems like a frivolous hobby that sucks away time better spent on churning out dollars.

At the same time, my idealized brain yearns to give myself fully to the craft. To become a starving artist and to hell with everything and everyone else. But even I know that’s not realistic and its selfish. Then there’s the fact that I don’t give a damn about the luxuries that money can provide. All I need to survive is a roof over my head (preferably one which I own, I like the thought of having my own place rather than renting a dwelling for all eternity), enough money to cover the basic amenities such as food, water and electricity, a mountain of books, a laptop and an internet connection.

This post was meant to be logical and cohesive but its just turned into a puerile ramble, as it always does. I’m just trying to say that I’m so lost in life right now. I realize that society needs accountants, lawyers, businessmen, doctors and that when it comes to survival the creators of art are kicked to the curb. But I know, deep inside my heart, that I have something to offer. INFPs are sensitive, compassionate, full of warmth, see the deep truths in life, are creative, good at inspiring people and bringing their own kind of magic to the world. But we’re just fragile faeries gobbled up by the bugs of society. I feel worthless because I’m not interested in the hard sciences that make planes fly and bring water to our homes. I’m interested in the imagination, the wonders of the mind and the transcendence that art can facilitate.

I want a job that’s meaningful.

I want a job that has minimal social interaction, preferably one-on-one.

I want a job where I can utilize my creativity.

I want a job that requires sensitivity and compassion.

Surely there must be some job out there that could be half-way perfect? Surely my abilities aren’t worthless and the only path in my life is to become a philosopher who drugs themselves to death or an artist who claws through life of poverty. Surely there must be some job out there for introverted, creative and sensitive people.

Surely?