Inspired Feeling for INFP-Melancholics

When an INFP’s introverted Feeling function (Fi) is working well it integrates the auxiliary Ne, tertiary Si and inferior Te perfectly.

When Fi isn’t working the other functions come into play without balance or support and we end up grasping for genius ideas (Ne), trying to remember what worked before (Si), or looking for some kind of irrefutable logic to apply (Te).

How to use Fi (and why we don’t)

Fi at its most powerful is like an actor becoming a role he loves and knows inside and out.

Fi is knowing how things are supposed to feel and it draws on the other three functions to inform it.

Using Fi in this way is powerful but can feel a little fake. Being able to slip in and out of different roles or characters with ease seems too easy or strange, and we can feel insecure about our authentic self.

For example, when I learned to sing in a choir I simply imitated the kind of voice I was “supposed” to have. It took some confidence, and giving myself permission to do it. From my point of view I wasn’t singing with my voice, just imitating the inspired ideal of voices.

But for me that’s what singing is.

Singing in a small church choir was a pretty low-stakes game, and that’s why I could give myself permission to “pretend” to be a singer.

In other areas of life when it seems like the stakes are higher INFPs risk doubting and distrusting their Fi ability.

For example, in martial arts we’re warned against being someone who looks the part but has no true skill or power.

An INFP can take this to heart and reject the Fi approach, searching instead for a more authentic or objective basis of skill.

Building trust in Fi

I think without practice our Fi abilities fall into two categories. There are low-stakes contexts where we use Fi easily, and for that reason don’t prize it.

Then there are higher-stakes contexts where we distrust Fi because it feels unreal. And because we distrust it, we don’t practice it or explore it. It remains dormant or dislocated.

I think the answer is to learn to engage Fi and remain inspired by it even while practicing and improving our skills.

Imagine you’re learning to play the violin. You already have a Fi image of what it looks like, the feel of a highly skilled violinist.

But you don’t have the basic skills yet, and the gap between your skill level and the Fi image of playing like a concertmaster or world-renowned soloist is….embarrassing.

So instead of drawing on that feeling, you think “I’ll practice until I’m good enough and then I’ll start acting like it”.

But it won’t work that way because you’re rejecting your most powerful function out of embarrassment and fear. The fear of “who do you think you are?”

Practice with Feeling

The solution is to do both. Stand inside your Fi image of the highest skill and accomplishment, and bring that to your practice, no matter how basic or beginner-level it is.

Use the Fi to keep you inspired and engaged, facing toward your goal. And instead of looking like a fool or coming across as pretentious, you will bring to your practice the focus and sincerity of the very mastery you desire.

When a master of one instrument comes to learn another they don’t blush and cringe at their mistakes. They don’t cower and slouch like they have no idea what they are doing.

They bring the full bearing of their existing mastery into the practice, with the openness and patience of one who knows they have much to learn.

Anything less is self-sabotage.

Can everyday life be joyful?

I was taught as a child that I could only relax when all my work was done for the day.

I was taught by example that everyday life is full of unwanted chores that you put off as long as possible until you can no longer ignore them.

I learned that it was impossible to feel good so long as these chores awaited you; and yet they were endless.

On my own I concluded that there was no joy in this kind of life. But at the same time I accepted this “daily grind” as reality, something that had to be escaped or overcome.

This is my resistance to everyday joy

In order to find joy in everyday life I must let go of these beliefs. Yet when I do, I face the underlying thought that these chores must get done, and by refusing to shoulder the burden I am being lazy, selfish, and inflicting harm on others.

If joy comes, I can’t accept it unless all my “work” is done. And my work will never be done – it restarts each day and some of it carries over.

So joy is simply not compatible with everyday life, unless my circumstances change somehow.

First change your thoughts

I’ve been working for two years at learning to feel better, so I know already that changing my thoughts is more powerful than trying to change my circumstances.

So what thoughts can I change to feel better and let go of my resistance?

I’ve already shown myself twice before that supposed burdens can be transformed if I look instead for what I want, what I appreciate.

For example, instead of thinking that the dishes have to get done and no one else is going to do them, I started to think about how much I love a clean and tidy kitchen. If I then choose to clean, it’s for the sake of something I love and appreciate, rather than a burden I must bear or else be labelled lazy, selfish and somehow morally deficient.

Another recent example was getting my 1yo daughter to sleep. For a year I could only think of it as something necessary, regardless of how difficult or burdensome it might be. I was the only one who could rock her to sleep, so it was up to me to shoulder that burden or else be totally irresponsible, selfish, and a bad parent.

What changed was that I found a thought that felt good: I’d love for her to learn to soothe herself to sleep. I was able to set aside my resistance for the sake of this positive goal, and help her learn to soothe herself.

Extrapolating to everyday life

The stuff of everyday life can be transformed if I allow myself to find positive thoughts instead of old patterns that feel burdensome and self-accusatory.

Starting at the beginning of the day, my morning routine can be because I love getting up early, feeling clean and refreshed, and enjoying my coffee, rather than the burden of being up early enough to get everything done.

I can enjoy my kids’ company early in the morning, and get my son ready for school because I want him to feel secure and safe and cared for, and to learn by example how to care for himself.

I can enjoy the walk to school because it’s lovely to be outside for some exercise with my kids, stretch our legs and get some fresh morning air.

I can enjoy taking my son to school because I want him to enjoy learning and interacting with others and working out his own preferences in life.

I can come home and enjoy relaxing in my home with my wife and daughter. I can write blog posts that inspire me and work on articles that feel good. I can do research into things that interest me and work out my own preferences and where I’d like to go next.

I can tidy the house – if I want to – because I love having a clean and tidy home. It’s not a burden that must be shouldered, it’s not something for which I am judged and criticised. I love the feeling of a clean and tidy home, but it’s okay for it to not be clean and tidy. And it’s okay to let my wife tidy if she wants to.

I can plan dinner because I love our evening meal together. I love cooking for my wife and kids. I love their enjoyment of my food. But it’s also okay to let my wife cook if she feels like it. And its okay to get take-out occasionally too.

I can pick up my son after school because I love being there for him, to hear about his day and how he feels, to say hello to some friends and bring him back home. But I can also let my wife do it sometimes if she wants to.

And the evening together can be a time when we enjoy watching things together, playing games together, reading stories together. It can be a time for fun and enjoyment rather than the last hours of burden and work.

Finally, we can put the kids to bed and get some sleep ourselves, not because we are worried about tomorrow’s burdens, but because sleep is so good for body, mind, and spirit. Sleep is true rest and it’s something we can love and enjoy for itself.

Letting go of old resistance

I can retell the story of my day and like a miracle transform endless burdens into continual joy.

I can gently remind myself as often as necessary that these daily activities are only as burdensome or routine as I make them out to be in my thoughts.

I live and work and think and play and sleep at home. I’m home so much, it’s time to let home be the place of joy and love and happiness I’ve always wanted it to be.

I want my everyday life to be joyful, and I think I know now how it can be.

I don’t feel depressed anymore

Last night it suddenly hit me that I don’t feel depressed anymore.

I’ve been so focussed on feeling good I didn’t even notice. But there it is: I don’t feel depressed!

Twenty something years of focusing on things that felt bad, enough to make my emotional “average” a negative one.

Two-ish years of learning to feel less bad, then better, ramping up into my thirty day Happiness Challenge and now my easy-going “feel good all day” theme.

So yeah…there it is. Who would have thought that the secret to no longer feeling depressed was to focus on feeling good instead?

It’s obvious in hindsight, and it also seems incredibly easy and straightforward now too. I know it didn’t always look that way, and that’s also testament to this amazing change.

For anyone else suffering from depression, well, I was deeply cynical about this “positive thinking” stuff too. But I can appreciate now that I have steadily and consistently trained myself to focus on thoughts that feel better and better, with the promise that it’s my thoughts alone which create my reality.

A cynical view is that my depressed perspective was “reality” and I’m now simply deluding myself.

But I can’t pick out a single thought that would constitute “delusion” now, nor is there a single thought responsible for my better mood.

I just feel better without even trying, but I know that this is due to all my work retraining my thoughts to uplift me rather than bringing me down.

Feel good all day 2

The garden where I sometimes sit to write.

I love having this extreme goal, this ideal of feeling good all day.

Melancholics are idealists: it’s ideals and meaning that excite us.

Feeling good bit by bit gradually doesn’t excite me. I love all or nothing ideals, even though I know they usually contribute to gradual progress.

An outside observer might say I’ve made gradual changes over time, but the thought of gradual change just doesn’t inspire me enough to commit to it!

I want the excitement of a great ideal and an enormous goal and an absolute accomplishment to move me.

“Feel good all day” is not only all of that, it’s also vague or general enough to keep my creativity flowing without fixating on precise outcomes.

Happiness Day 29

Find your inspiration.

I can’t believe it’s been 29 days of focusing on happiness!

I’ll save the recap for tomorrow’s post because today I’m inspired to write about inspiration.

Inspiration is life, my friends.

It comes from the Latin for “breathe into” or “blow upon” like when we blow on the embers of a fire and it springs to life.

But you can’t miss the allusion to Genesis where God created humanity by breathing His spirit into the clay form of the first man.

We are divine spirit in a physical body, and when we feel inspired it’s like we’re receiving a fresh influx of that life-giving breath.

Forget about problems! What inspires you?

Today some contrast helped me to remember an old fear I’ve been keeping alive.

It’s the old fear of not understanding instructions, not knowing what I’m supposed to be doing, and so failing and falling behind and losing hope.

I took those experiences to heart at a young age and resigned myself to having to work things out on my own, in my own way.

I resigned myself to never really understanding, and never succeeding in the “proper” way.

I’m so glad this memory came up, and I’m really appreciating all the work I’ve done to feel better this past month.

Because it only took me an hour or so to allow the answer to come.

All those experiences of “failure” and “not understanding” were about other people’s tasks. School projects, friends’ games, parents’ chores: they were all about being a follower.

Never did I fail at something I was inspired to do! Never have I failed to understand something I actually care about.

Choose your focus

For years I’ve blamed myself for failing at all these “important” things. And yet the real problem all along is that I had no interest in these things in the first place. They were never important to me.

And if you live your life focusing on things that don’t inspire you, of course you won’t succeed. Of course you won’t feel good. Because deep down you don’t even care!

I didn’t care, but I thought I had to care, and so I kept pushing myself and feeling worse and hating it more and blaming myself.

Tell a new story

Well now I know, and I understand perfectly what I need to do. I need to tell a new story that omits all the useless crap I never cared about, and focus instead on what actually inspires me!

I want to look out at life and see a landscape populated by sources of inspiration only.

I want to wake up eagerly wondering what inspired activities I’m going to do today.

And I want to be very deliberately conscious of how good I am at everything I do.

Because I’m no longer going to waste my time on things that don’t inspire me.

I’m going to devote myself to things that feel good, fill me with life, and make that divine spark within me grow bright.

Writing for fun, profit…and a desperate need for approval?

So i wrote an article and it was picked up by my editor, which means success! Money! Well done!

And today my wife mentioned that it’s May 4th tomorrow: Star Wars Day, and I immediately thought I could write another article and repeat that feeling of success and income and achievement.

Except that the moment I started it felt like a dry uphill battle. And then I started feeling physically uncomfortable and I started feeling some pain.

Okay. Let’s stop. This is pretty clear feedback.

For a number of years I’ve wanted some kind of formula for success – a task or work I can throw myself into and be applauded and rewarded for it.

But when I try, when I think “this is it!” bad things happen.

I really should just admit that I’m acting out of something negative. But it’s so enticing! I can just imagine this being the start of a whole series of great articles that build and build and bring me success and pride and please the people around me too.

I’ll be fitting in, finding my place, pleasing my superiors and placating those who’ve worried about me.

I’ll finally have an answer for the people who’ve demanded to know “what are you doing with your life?”

This is pretty cool contrast

I really don’t want writing to put me in physical pain, and I know there’s an issue here that would really benefit from my focus.

And I suspect the issue is: thinking that I must do something to win approval.

I’m actually really well accustomed to not feeling approved of, so much so that I sometimes leap at the chance to help people important to me.

But that’s still operating under the false premise that I require other people’s approval in order to feel good. I might have given up on it, but I still feel the weight of that premise.

All good feeling comes from within

Back to basics: it’s not our circumstances that make us feel good or bad, it’s the thoughts we focus on and their relative degree of alignment with our inner being, our “God’s eye view”.

Thinking that I need other people’s approval feels bad because it is not true and it is resistant to the love and appreciation that already flows to me from within.

My impulse to write another article was an attempt to use action to change my circumstances so I could feel better. That never works.

But that doesn’t mean I should resign myself once more to living without approval.

Feeling comes first

The only reason I wanted approval in the first place was because I thought I would feel good if I had it, and I believed I would get it if I found some work I could take pride in and earn money from.

Let’s go positive with this.

How would it feel to have approval of all the important people in my life?

It would actually feel really good.

But here’s the thing: In the moment I imagined that approval and felt that good feeling, I was simply allowing a good feeling to flow from within me.

That good feeling was always accessible within me. I just disallowed it because I thought I actually needed others to provide it.

In that sense does the feeling of “approval” ever come from others? No. It always comes from within us. It is our own allowing of approval to flow.

Count Your Blessings Day 8

My little girl has now soothed herself to sleep three nights in a row plus two day time naps!

I cannot fully express how much relief this brings me!

Never again will I have to rock and bounce her til she falls asleep!

Never again will I fight exhaustion to get her to stop crying!

This is so amazing. This is a miracle! And I owe it all to changing my focus from the burden of “getting her to sleep” to the love and appreciation of “helping her self-soothe to sleep”.

This is life-changing. When I look back on this Happiness series, I look forward to appreciating all over again how a year of sleep-deprivation and struggle so easily gave way to our 1yo learning to fall asleep all by herself.

And all it took was for me to be so exhausted I had no choice but to allow things to improve.

Yep. It was my own resistance. I was so set on being diligent and “in control”. I wanted it to be easy, but found it easier to put in effort than to actually focus on feeling better.

This is profound.

Rocking her to sleep I felt good that I could make things easier. But it was the relief of managing an unwanted situation, not the relief of moving towards a wanted one.

The truth is that I spent a lot of my past focusing on the unwanted and trying to escape it. I didn’t put much effort into defining what I did want.

The positive aspect is that I had great faith everything would work out. I would find the one answer that would fix everything.

But I kept fixating on the problems rather than the solutions. I kept picking at the question and all the evidence of unwanted things in my life. I kept reminding myself of why I wanted to escape, rather than looking at where I was escaping to.

In other words I was trying to manage all the unwanted things in life rather than moving toward the wanted.

Managing the unwanted implies acceptance of it, keeping it alive even while trying not to suffer from it.

Focusing on the wanted is like entering a totally different reality. Changing “I don’t want to go!” into “I want to go there.”

It’s a melancholic thing to not really know what you want. But it just takes us a little longer to make our minds up, work out what is possible, and finally resolve to push beyond that!

Our feelings don’t recognise limitations or impossibilities. It just takes us a little while to accept the truth and power of those feelings!

Temperament and introversion vs feeling good

I found the perfect Abraham-Hicks video discussing what “low energy” really means, but first here’s how I found the term and its associations with temperament and introversion.

Energy vs social interest

One of the historic two-factor personality theories used combinations of energy and social interest to describe what are essentially the four temperaments.

Melancholics are low energy, low social interest and I love this depiction because it captures my past experience in ways I otherwise struggled to convey.

After all, “I’m tired” implies to most people a prior cause of tiredness, but I would feel tired even if I had done nothing that day.

“I’m always tired, for no reason” implies to most people some kind of chronic ailment 😅

But “I’m low energy” is unfamiliar enough of a term to wrong-foot people and it immediately implies the converse: some people are just “high energy”.

“Social interest” is equally brilliant because I’m too polite to say “I don’t like socialising” and anyway it’s not strictly true. I just don’t feel the “pull” that some people evidently feel to be surrounded by others.

And keeping energy and social interest distinct is brilliant too because cholerics will get it immediately and stop asking, recognising themselves as “high energy” but also “low social interest”.

But that’s not temperament!

Here everything gets turned on its head, because if you’ve ever seen me in full flight of ideas and inspiration you would never consider me “low energy” and if you ever saw me with the right person at the right time you wouldn’t peg me as “low social interest” either.

That’s why I referred to the Abraham-Hicks video at the beginning, because in it a woman describes her life-long struggle with feeling low energy, depressed and suffering physical pain.

In other words she sounds like a melancholic.

But the Abraham response is not that some people are simply low energy by default.

Feeling low energy is the feeling of resistance.

Abraham uses the analogy of sitting awkwardly and cutting off the blood flow to your foot or leg. It feels weird and uncomfortable because you’re impeding the flow of blood and life-giving oxygen and nutrients to the cells in that part of your body.

Likewise, feeling low energy, depressed and in physical pain are symptoms of negative beliefs about various subjects or about life itself. These habits of thought are obstructing or limiting the flow of energy, which is the essence of good feeling.

Personality differences

Nonetheless Abraham does mention that some people are especially focused with their thoughts. The woman in the video just happened to have gotten off on the wrong foot earlier in life, and had devoted her highly focused mind to resistant thoughts instead of good-feeling ones.

So there is evidently some degree of individual difference. It would take perhaps more time for this woman to change the direction of her focus, to train her powerful mind in better-feeling thoughts.

But as Abraham gets her to acknowledge, it’s not as though every moment of her life has been full of consistent and unrelenting depression or low energy or pain.

And I recognise that in myself. There are subjects where I’ve felt so good my feet don’t touch the ground. There are social interactions I do seek out and enjoy.

There are countless moments throughout the day where my once iron grip on misery slipped right off. There have even been times when I’ve had to work hard to regain that deathly serious focus on feeling bad!

Even a melancholic can be happy and “high energy” if their day consists of one exciting and satisfying subject after another.

And all it takes is some practice and some focus in the right direction, retraining our powerful minds for happiness.

This new understanding of “low energy” doesn’t negate differences in temperament. In fact it raises the truly exciting question of what life might look like for a melancholic who has learnt to stay in alignment with his or her own energy!

INFP-Melancholics and the Excitement Question

A great way of understanding the four temperaments is by looking at what excites each temperament.

Cholerics are excited by accomplishment, achievement, and ambition.

Sanguines are excited by nice things and good experiences.

Melancholics are excited by ideals and meaning.

Phlegmatics are not strongly excited by anything.

Phlegmatics are considered easy-going because they are not easily excited and they also don’t form long-lasting impressions.

That leaves melancholics in the awkward position of being not easily excited, but still forming long-lasting impressions, including the impression of not being excited by much!

INFPs are the most melancholic of the melancholics. We go through life slowly realising that we are not excited by much, and trying in our own way to get excited about the same things as our non-melancholic peers.

The Excitement Question

We tend to look at excitement as relative to other temperaments.

I like nice cars, I wouldn’t say no to a new one. But that level of excitement in me barely registers in contrast to genuine car enthusiasts.

Conversely, I get very excited by reflecting on the meaning of life, the best way to live, the nature of reality, and similar subjects that leave many people entirely disinterested.

We could just say that different people are excited by different things. I might feel out of place at a car show, while others would feel similarly out of place at a university library.

But we could point out that there are more cars than libraries, and that many people go through life quite happily avoiding libraries, whereas even those who love libraries might need a car to get them there.

In other words, these sources of excitement are not equal in this world. The things that excite melancholics are perhaps rarer and less widely valued than the things that excite other temperaments.

Must melancholics be depressed?

Melancholy has become synonymous with depression, and depression can be inversely correlated with excitability.

Cholerics would be depressed if their ambitions were stymied at every turn, their accomplishments went unrecognised and their achievements had no bearing on their station in life.

Sanguines would be depressed if bereft of social interaction, outings, engagements and all the nice objects they love.

Phlegmatics would be depressed if thrown into the spotlight, made to deal with conflict, while all the rules were cast aside and ignored.

And melancholics are often depressed because our ideals and desire for meaning are not widely shared, nor taken seriously unless in service to the values of other temperaments.

At least, that’s what I would have said in the past. It’s not my fault I’m depressed, it’s a function of living in a society dominated by non-melancholics.

But does it have to be this way?

You create your reality

I’m now accepting that it doesn’t matter what other people do or how friendly or unfriendly society looks to be.

I’m the one creating my reality, and if I keep telling a story of disenfranchisement and melancholic alienation, then I’ll continue to suffer accordingly.

This is where the excitement question gets really exciting!

Instead of complaining that society doesn’t value meaning and ideals, I can rejoice that I know more clearly than before what does excite me!

There is nothing stopping me (but my own thoughts) from turning all my attention and energy to the ideals and meaning that excite me.

Isn’t that…ideal?

I’ve learned from the Abraham-Hicks teachings that it really is just my own thoughts that create insurmountable-seeming barriers and boundaries to my happiness.

Life is not ideal? People don’t value meaning? BS. That’s just a story I’ve learned to tell, and then kept on finding evidence to support while ignoring anything that contradicts it.

Happiness is possible for melancholics, of course it is! We are the ones undermining and squelching the amazing joy and satisfaction our ideals and feelings provide us. We’ve learned to do this — we can learn to build it up instead.

The feeling of freedom

I saw some kid sitting against a fence by the bus stop waiting for his bus.

Seeing him there alone and waiting, somewhere to go but no hurry to be there, reminded me of a feeling I used to have.

The feeling of freedom. The freedom of no cares and no worries, walking out into the world and feeling existence surround me.

Feeling my own solitude against the world. The isolation and potential of nothing I need to be doing.

Having kids, a home, a wife; people and things to come back to. Yes, they tether me. But they don’t have to.

Freedom is a mental condition. Driving a car can feel like freedom, or it can be a tense, white-knuckle experience.

You can relax behind the wheel and hit some kind of zen-like trance where everything feels connected and flowy.

So why not relax behind life? Loosen your grip on the reins or the wheel, take your foot off the brake. Trust your instincts, trust the journey, trust the flow.

The world is still completely free. It never changed from when I was young and solitary.

I’m still alone, but I also have people I care about, and do you think that’s not part of the flow too?

It’s not my efforts or worry that keep the world going. My heart won’t stop beating if I let go nor will I forget to take my next breath.

If I’m tied down, let the ties do their work! Relax and know that nothing I want will drift away or be lost.

I’m just another ingredient in this beautiful medley. Counting heart beats or following my breath, I’m free to be just a piece of this grand composition that is living me.

That’s what freedom means. Life is loving me and not an atom of my whole experience needs my work to hold it in place.

And on the contrary there are many many wonderful things waiting to join in if I just give them the space to enter, and my willingness to appreciate what they bring.