It’s a game…12!

When I went through my weight loss process I was incredibly open minded.

I considered all kinds of possibilities: if I didn’t want to stop eating but felt bad about my weight, maybe the answer was to stop feeling bad about my weight?

Maybe my objections to being overweight were just cultural conditioning?

This kind of thinking helped break down my old thought patterns. Even though I eventually concluded that it wasn’t simply cultural conditioning, or a desire to look more attractive to others.

What was it?

In the end it wasn’t about health or attractiveness. What it came down to was that my appearance didn’t match how I felt about myself; and that disconnect between feeling and appearance was the real source of my discomfort.

In much the same way I’ve felt the same kind of disconnect between how I feel about myself and my whole reality.

I’ve only met a couple of people in my life who share this feeling. Most people have areas of life where their expectations don’t match their reality, but for me it is a deeper and more pervasive sense of incongruence.

I used to find some solace in philosophical skepticism because for all we know we really might just be brains floating in jars (a standard philosophical thought-experiment). Reality might not be real. And that thought brought me comfort.

Finding congruence

When I looked in the mirror I felt discord. When I look at reality I feel discord.

Through attempting to understand weight loss I eventually discovered that the discord was already in me. I already felt bad about aspects of life, and I used food as a distraction from it. But the distraction only perpetuated the bad feelings, giving them physical form in weight gain.

Being overweight was a physical representation of my discord.

(As an aside, dis-cord means negation of the heart, from the French.)

I didn’t resolve my discord, I just decided to stop distracting myself with food and by letting myself feel the discord instead I changed my eating habits dramatically and lost weight as a result.

The same process also relieved chronic pain I had suffered.

Surely the same principle applies on a global scale: the discord in reality itself is a representation of the discord in me.

The many things that bother me are distractions and externalisations of something already within me.

Don’t blame external conditions for “making” me feel discord; I already felt it, and denying it has pushed it out into external manifestation.

Reality is therefore doing its job perfectly. It is perfectly reflecting what I feel inside – even if I don’t like it.

Don’t blame reality for something that I’m projecting into it. If reality changed right now I would still feel discord.

Making peace

I like knowing that the discord is in me rather than in reality. I’ll be glad to stop feeding discord into my reality. I’d prefer to just feel the discord in myself directly rather than create external conditions for me to blame.

Either way I feel discord, so I might as well keep it simple and just feel it directly. And in saying that, I notice that I reach out subtly for distraction, in much the same way that I used to look to food for distraction. I subtly reach out to my external reality for some kind of distraction from my own discord.

I appreciate noticing this subtle dynamic. I’d prefer to just feel the discord rather than try to distract myself ineffectively. I’m curious as to how reality will look and feel if I stop using it in a flawed attempt to escape from discord.

It’s okay to feel discord if that is what I’m feeling. It’s healthy to allow myself to feel whatever I’m feeling rather than trying to escape it, which doesn’t work anyway. I appreciate my growing conviction that reality has in fact been perfect in its reflection of my discord. It’s up to me to not project my discord on reality – reality itself has never been at fault in this dynamic.

I’ll end the post here even though it feels unresolved, because I can see that it is better to accept the unresolved feeling than to push for some kind of resolution. Let’s call it the resolution of being okay even if things feel unresolved 😉

Fixing a melancholic

Harry Potter is an excellent allegory for how a melancholic engages with the world.

The contrast between “normal” life and the melancholic search for meaning is wonderfully depicted in the revelation that a secret world of witches, wizards, and magic exists alongside, but carefully hidden from the muggles.

The quick derogatory explanation that Harry’s aunt, uncle and cousin are muggles – that the whole of Harry’s small world up to that point is a muggle world – immediately validates Harry’s deep dissatisfaction with life.

Breaking a melancholic

Melancholics correspond to the MBTI types ENFP, INFP, INFJ, and ENFJ. The combination of intuition and feeling typifies the melancholic temperament.

For NFJs, feeling is externally oriented, seeking harmony with others. For NFPs, feeling is internally oriented – arguably the most mysterious and introverted of the cognitive functions.

INFPs have introverted Feeling (Fi) as our dominant function. It’s hard to describe, but imagine your feeling state dominating your conscious experience prior to, and seemingly independent of, any other aspect of experience.

Imagine watching a movie with an intense soundtrack that dominates and overwhelms everything else, including dialogue and visuals.

This soundtrack is inescapable.

The health of an INFP might be viewed as a function of the coherence between the soundtrack and the rest of the movie. If the two don’t match, there is dissonance that reverberates through the score, and the INFP is then caught in a feedback loop where the only option is to shut down, retreat, sleep it off.

I’ve spent most of my life trying to live “normally”, while the soundtrack plays heavy, leaden themes that wear me down. The thought of living a “normal” life….the thought that a normal life is all that there is, all that is possible, is deeply destructive.

The soundtrack of introverted feeling informs me constantly that this is not what I want. But through my formative experiences and my subsequent worldview I’ve persisted in this unwanted direction.

Suppressing the dominant function

A dominant function can’t be truly suppressed in the sense of eradicating it. But if a soundtrack continues long enough in monotonous tones of protest, you can learn to ignore it for the most part.

The functional stack of an INFP is introverted Feeling (Fi) , extroverted Intuition (Ne), introverted Sensing (Si), and extroverted Thinking (Te).

Learning to ignore my Fi, I turned to the lesser functions and tried to live through Ne, Si, and Te.

This matches the common experience of neglecting one’s dominant function in favour of the inferior function, a stage of life that IIRC corresponds to the 20s-30s.

My inferior function of extroverted Thinking is all about efficiency and goals. Te-dominant people revel in achievements and outcomes; but Te in the inferior position is a far more modest and limited version.

Ignoring my Fi, I tried to view life through the lens of Te. This translated into a very uneasy, irritable and stressful form of goal-directed motivation, and an intense, acute, but wearying analytical mindset.

I describe this as a “problem-solving” attitude to life. At one stage I even looked to problem-solving as a possible strength or “vocation” in life. But problem-solving didn’t leave me with any lasting solutions. I could critique and analyse and deconstruct, but it wasn’t fulfilling, and it wasn’t creative.

Rehabilitating introverted Feeling

What I’ve been working towards (now that there’s nowhere else to go) is the rehabilitation of Fi.

Positive-thinking has been instrumental and life-changing in this respect; it might be more accurate to call it “positive-feeling” since how I feel is the first indicator and measure of the thoughts I am thinking.

But the goal-oriented mindset has been deeply ingrained in me. I even approached “feeling better” from a goal-oriented, problem-solving perspective.

Yesterday I realised that like everything else, engaging in a problem-solving attitude doesn’t bring me lasting solutions, it just attunes me to further problems. If I really loved solving problems, the good news is that there is no end to the available problems to solve.

But since a problem-solving attitude is wearying and detrimental and ultimately unsatisfying, it’s time for me to find something else.

Enjoying life

You can try to enjoy life as the solution to a problem, or to achieve the goal of “feeling better”. But to really change, I have to stop trying to solve problems or achieve goals and instead start enjoying life for the sake of enjoyment.

The difference is profound. Seeking to enjoy life tunes me in to all the things I can enjoy. It lets me forget about “keeping score” with whatever problems I’ve been trying to solve or goals I’ve been trying to achieve.

I feel physically different, because ignoring Fi introduced unnecessary tension into my mind and body, and employing Te was an additional effort.

I can honestly say that in the past 20 or so years I haven’t “let go” of that problem-solving attitude except for occasional instances of revelry or relaxation.

20+ years of internal conflict, unnecessary effort, and unremitting tension come to an end when I choose to enjoy rather than solve, and appreciate rather than answer.

I feel rejuvenated, because I’m judging by different criteria now. The considerations and concerns of extroverted thinking don’t matter at all to introverted feeling. At most, they’re my fourth priority instead of my first.