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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Getting to Know Me, Getting to Know All About Me

It seems to me in order to identify what makes me happy, I ought to know myself pretty well. Really well, actually. I embarked on this quest long before I decided to do this happiness project but I've recommitted to it recently, understanding it to be important to the process. It all started with a gift card for an intuitive reading. I filled in at a meeting for a colleague and as a thank you he purchased an hour long session with a woman named Debbie Shley. After a few scheduling snafus, Debbie and I got together one Friday afternoon in August.

I had determined to give her nothing ahead of time. If she wanted to sell me on the idea of intuitive readings, she'd really have to work for it. My e-mails to her were succinct and dry. I didn't use expressive punctuation. I removed the automatic signature at the bottom of my e-mails that told her I was running a marathon with TNT. I didn't talk about my work schedule. I gave her nothing.

When I arrived at her home in Ladd's Addition I had no idea what to expect. A turban? A crystal ball? Cards? Mood music? Incense? A velvet covered chaise lounger? My coworker, who knew I was heading out for this appointment, encouraged me to just relax and enjoy it. "Don't be a bitch," she chided. "Worse case scenario - she's a complete quack and you get a chuckle out of it all when you look back on it." Good point, I thought and I did just that. I relaxed my mind's muscle and began thinking more freely. One thing I've learned in my years as a recovering Christian is close mindedness gets me nowhere. So why was I so skeptical of this experience? No, I didn't expect Debbie to have any incredible insights into my psyche, but for years I'd been wishing I could afford to go to therapy - not so much because I am traumatized and in need of shrinking, but rather because I love to talk about myself - so at the very least, this was an opportunity to spend an hour discussing my favorite topic: me.

Debbie's home overlooked one of the rose gardens grown within the turnabouts on the confusing diagonal grid of streets that make up Ladd's. We sat in a second floor bedroom, looking out at the sunshine and the flowers and she took a deep breath, paused (for dramatic effect, I thought smugly) and then said, "Do you know why I rescheduled a couple weeks back? It wasn't because I was unwell." I gave her a "I have no idea and am not terribly interested" shrug of the head and she said, "I couldn't get a read on you. You're quite the caged off cynic!" I gave out a quick, awkward and a bit too loud, "HA!" She had me pegged already - after all my hard work to disguise myself, or perhaps because of it. "It wasn't until about 3:18 p.m. this afternoon that I finally started getting anything from you at all." And that was right about the time Mindy chided me to loosen up and enjoy the experience. Weird.

Our session ended up lasting for two full hours - it was really incredible. After she sat there and told me about myself for 45 minutes the questions started pouring out of me (Along with the tears, I'm ashamed to admit - but! She kept encouraging me to allow myself to be sad [see Rules By Which to Live] and boy did I ever!).

She asked me if I'd ever taken the Meyers-Briggs Personality Test, and why yes, I had, just a couple weeks prior with my roommates as we sat around the kitchen table late one evening. She encouraged me to pick up the book Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types to learn more about myself, an INTJ. The entry says:

INTJs are the most self-confident of all the types, having "self-power" awareness. Found in about 1 percent of the general population, the INTJs live in an introspective reality, focusing on possibilities, using thinking in the form of empirical logic, and preferring that events and people serve some positive use. Decisions come naturally to INTJs; once a decision is made, INTJs are at rest. INTJs look to the future rather than the past, and a word which captures the essence of INTJs is builder - a builder of systems and the applier of theoretical models.

To INTJs, authority based on position, rank, title, or publication has absolutely no force. This type is not likely to succumb to the magic of slogans, watchwords or shibboleths. If an idea or position makes sense to an INTJ, it will be adopted; it if doesn't, it won't, regardless of who took the position or generated the idea. As with the INTP, authority per se does not impress the INTJ.

INTJs do, however, tend to conform to rules if they are useful, not because they beleive in them, or because they make sense, but because of their unique view of reality. They are the supreme pragmatists, who see reality as something which is quite arbitrary and made up. Thus is can be used as a tool. Or ignored. Reality is quite malleable and can be changed, conquered, or brought to heel. Reality is a crucible for the refining of ideas, and in this sense, INTJs ar the most theoretical of all the types. INTJs see reality as the pawn of ideas: no idea is too far-fetched to be entertained. INTJs are natural brain-stormers, always open to new concepts and, in fact, aggressively seeking them.

INTJs have a drive to completion, always wit an eye to long-term consequences. Ideas seem to carry their own force for INTJs, although they subject every idea to the test of usefulness. Difficulties are highly stimulating to INTJs, who love responding to a challenge that requires creativity.

INTJs can be very single-minded at times; this can be either a weakness or a strength in their careers, for they can ignore the points of view and wishes of others. INTJs usually rise to positions of responsibility, for they work long and hard and are steady in their pursuit of goals, sparing neither time nor effort on their part or that of their colleagues and employees. INTJs live to see systems translated into substance.

As mates, INTJs want harmony and order in the home and in relationships. They are the most independent of all the types. They will trust their intuitions about others when making choices of friends and mates, even in the face of contradictory evidence and pressures applied by others. The emotions of an INTJ are hard to read, and neither male nor female INTJ is apt to express emotional reactions. At times, both will seem cold, reserved, and unresponsive, while in fact INTJs are almost hypersensitive to signals of rejection from those for whom they care.

The most important preference of an INTJ is intuition, but this is seldom seen. Rather, the function of thinking is used to deal with the world and with people. INTJs are vulnerable in the emotional area and may make serious mistakes here.

Yep. That's me. Almost to a tee. I'm more emotional than this description lets on, but as Debbie said, "Categorize a person like this and you're bound to chop off a few fingers and toes here and there." And she pointed out that just because I feel emotions strongly doesn't mean they're apparent on the outside, which is more what this description is saying. "Allow yourself to be sad sometimes, Kristina! It must be exhausting to walk around smiling the way you do!" Yep, this is me, for better or worse.

My two hours with Debbie were emotional, but strangely not exhausting. I was on my way to Opal Creek for the weekend and she encouraged me to store all our conversation away and just get out into nature and allow myself to recharge. "That I didn't get intuitively," she said, with a little twinkle in her eye, "I know you work for Opal Creek and Dave told me you are quite the devotee to the cause. You wouldn't be if nature weren't restorative for you - that's the INTJ in you!"

So off I went and had the most beautiful weekend I've ever had in Opal Creek in the three years I've worked there.

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