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MOTM August 2012
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I don't think this is an INFJ problem.

There's a lot of material out there on this subject, most famously the book by Daniel Goleman called "Emotional Intelligence." There's been a number of books and research written on the subject since the original book in 1996. That would be where I would start if you are really interested in figuring out why you seem to have blind spots in your own self-perception.
 

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I think you've answered your first question even as you ask it:

I can feel what others feel, sometimes to the point I can't be sure what is mine and what isn't , but why do I have so much difficulties to understand my own feelings ?
what do you do about it?
I wish someone could look at me and tell me exactly what I am doing in the arenas in which I'm successful at not allowing others' feelings into me. Internally it seems to have something to do with consent but I wonder if I have barriers that I'm not even consciously aware of at this point, set up when I was young.

I think it s relate to our Fe directed outward.
It can be. But keep in mind that "empaths" (or whatever word you choose) are not all INFJ. Fe isn't about emotions directly, it's about external values/value systems. I suspect that it intersects with feeling others' emotions because it orients our attention outward in certain ways.
 

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Probably because we don't want to. I've found myself relying on my empathy time and time again because it has helped me avoid my own feelings -- it's easy to be angry with someone else than my sad for myself.

INFJ's have an tendency to drown in a sea of emotion when we feel like that sea is calling us. We feel because we have to feel and because we feel feeling is a duty, it's difficult to understand because we don't choose to feel to the depths we feel.
 

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Hm. I personally think a lot of people struggle with emotions, generally, especially difficult ones. I don't see the world as a place where there is a high enough regard for emotional intelligence or psychological turning-inward and, frankly, I see in some cases where there can sometimes be social attitudes of condescension towards that which is too emotional. If people are systematically instructed by social mores to view emotion as a "lesser" thing, to feel shame in it, then the tools for understanding and managing emotion, the tools for putting emotion to it's best understanding and greatest use, then the understanding of emotion will generally be lacking, and the importance of its presence in humanity will always be somewhat misunderstood and under appreciated.

I think that's part of it. Speculation of course.
 

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MOTM August 2012
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A lot of it is because people are not very good at understanding their own emotions. Many times how they conceptualize an emotion deals with the context of when the emotion was first created, or a singular event that an emotion is tied to. For example, I don't know that people are naturally fearful of being on airplanes or flying or roller coasters, for example. But I think there can be a profound difference if that emotion or affective response (heart palpitations, sweating, etc) are labelled as good or bad. The person who defines the experience as exciting will undoubtedly feel differently about the experience and further experiences than the person who defines it as scary. Objectively flying on a plane is neither scary or exciting its all in how the event is interpreted.

I think many people do not spend a lot of time understanding the ways in which they interpret their own feelings. Sometimes they just accept someone else's definition of how they feel (or ought to feel more likely) and that then informs how they feel about things themselves. If accompanied initially by a nervous person on a roller-coaster, you might very well take on the same notions about the experience as the other person if you aren't careful to understand that the other person's perspective is simply his perspective. You see this clearly with neurotic parents who produce children with similar neurosis. The hangups of the parents become defining characteristics of the children (who either operate in concert or in contrast to the parents). If one has a reaction to something, how do you define it? Based on what? How do you know what you are experiencing is a bad feeling or a good feeling? Or love, lust, affection, desire, or any other label that we place on it. Those things are all by nature both informed by standards placed by the outside world (for example the world dictates there must be a difference between love and hate) but also highly subjective to the individual (in real life the differences between love and hate may not be so striking on an individual level).

The other thing is that I think there is a tendency, especially among men, to want to intellectualize feelings, which are by nature not intellectual. That is why in Jung's typology Jung separated the feeling function from the thinking function. If feeling is the logic of the heart, so to speak, telling us things like what we find beautiful or ugly, or whether or not we like something, there is really no intellectual language to express these things. You can't intellectualize love for example. Calling it a bunch of chemical reactions does not change the experience or the vicissitudes of it. Nor does it mitigate the heartbreak of lost love. So people who are prone to want to intellectualize everything are especially prone to problems of understanding their own feelings because they are trying to understand them from a perspective ill-equipped to deal with the nature of feeling. Like trying to use physics to describe jazz. This is again why Jung said that a person strong in thinking struggles with feeling (why INFPs have an inferior thinking function and ESTJs an inferior feeling function).

The uber-extraversion of Western Culture (especially American) doesn't help either where ideals are often placed outside of the self. Even introverts get so tossed around by the machinations of the world around them, the rat race, trying to succeed, keep bills paid, get an education, etc., that there is often little time in this culture for a lot of deep introspection. The kind that would be necessary to have a good command of our own internal states. This work gets left to psychologists, and clergymen. To poets and artists and is basically left out of the practical thinking formulaic world ideal so prevalent in the West.
 

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Probably because we don't understand our own feelings. We search of ´Who am I?´ for so long. What we mean to ourselves becomes unknown.
 

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This may be you trying to take on others feeling to push away from your own,
Maybe subconsciously you're trying to distance yourself from a reaction that could be caused by exploring your own emotions,
I found that when I was at my most insecure I gave up my emotional independence to feel others,
But it's a balancing act.

I feel that I am very good with understanding what I feel,
But sometimes I prefer to ignore it
 

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There's a certain relief when you open up to yourself and accept the reality of what's inside once you crack your own shell. Empathy should not be a hindrance to your own understanding, it just takes recognizing what is put upon you as opposed to your own inclinations. Perhaps you are struggling with self-honesty? In regards to understanding self, the reasons for everything, though they may seem complex at first, can be very simple... you must look at not only past events but every reaction you've personally had and what led up to what. Maybe just time will correct this for you, but also perhaps you aren't ready to take that magnifying glass and point it at yourself. Once you understand yourself, only then will you really begin to attempt to understand others. If I could give you a suggestion, don't feel pressed to face anything or like you have to know until it's the right time... we all have our own pace and certain things need to take a thorough process to grow correctly.
 

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It's Fe and Fi, the latter is probably just underdeveloped which wouldn't be all that surprising.

I think most INFJs grow up not knowing who they are, or why nobody understands them, or why they're frequently feeling like shit; I like to believe that I developed a rather strong Fi because of that.

I see a lot of INFJs around my age constantly wandering about, bouncing between relationships, etc. I don't think Enneagram has much to do with it personally, as most INFJs appear to identify with Enneagram 4; wouldn't that just mean they strongly value their individuality/identity/uniqueness, and not that they automatically receive godly intrapersonal skills? Like I said, most younger INFJs that I see are constantly changing, trying to find themselves (and it's not just small changes and experimentation you would expect to see in most young people, they're usually drastic/extreme overhauls in personality and/or interests).

INFPs are generally much better at understanding themselves than we are, we're usually way better at reading other people.
 

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@LiquidLight

Does the neurosis bit you're talking about relate to what Jung had to say on "transferrence"?
 

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MOTM August 2012
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@LiquidLight

Does the neurosis bit you're talking about relate to what Jung had to say on "transferrence"?
No transference usually happens in a therapeutic setting. The therapist becomes a substitute or projection of the patient.

Transference: a type of projection in which we project old parent issues, usually symbolically incestuous, onto the therapist. Resolved, libido then is released from the mother imago (the incestuous object) and flows down and activated archetypal imagery. Jung paid attention to the projection of archetypal contents (like making the therapist a god in dreams), often first projected onto the parents, in order to focus the client inward and separate the ego from the collective unconscious ("objectivation of impersonal images") while opening up the dialog between them. Clients can also form a transference attachment to their own unconscious. Unlike Freud, Jung thought therapists cure in spite of, not because of, the transference.
Also seen as a third chemical arising of the combination (coniunctio) of two: the therapist and client.

Male therapist, female client: therapist's anima interacts w/ client, and her animus interacts with his. Similar to the artifex working with his soror mystica. When this happens, it recalls the archetype of the marriage quaternio or cross-cousin marriage. Severing the transference projection doesn't break off the kinship libido.


What Jung was saying is that whatever issues or hangups or neurosis a parent has will affect a child in some way. The child may either pick them up (so you end up with multiple generations of people with the same problems for example) or the child may move against them in rebellion. Either way the focal point is still the initial issue that the parents had. You may find children of abusive parents parent their own children in a profoundly different way, but because of their own experiences may run the risk of going too far the other way. Being too laissez-faire and not providing any framework out of fear of being perceived themselves as tyrannical as their parents were. On the flip side, they could turn out just as abusive or quasi-abusive justifying it with "well it worked for me in my day," or "kids these days have no discipline," or some other belief that is probably a distortion of reality based on their formative years.

In the NLP world they like to use the jargon deletions and distortions. I think these are pretty good representations of what people do who have pronounced issues. Jung said that most neurosis arises from the need to avoid 'real' pain. But often the perceived 'real' pain is only a worry. An exaggeration of a hyperbolic negative outcome (many people tend to think in catastrophic outcomes not checking the logic or probability. They just experience a strong feeling. The person is distorting reality, or deleting out information that doesn't fit their model of how the world works. This is why the person who wants the girl but thinks he'll get rejected continues to fail. He is distorting all women (because of a belief about himself) to basically see him as bad as he sees himself. Deleting out all the instances that run counter to this notion. You often see this clearly when people get in religious (and especially) political fights. Tons and tons and tons of beliefs about the way the world works that are based solely on deletions and distortions. Because the world doesn't actually work the way most of us believe, then (to continue the NLP analogy) you have a choice to either expand your way of looking at things and broaden your horizons to see that things might be different than how you perceive them, which is usually the goal of most clinical therapy - to help one see the light. Or you can do what most people do, wanting to avoid the challenge, and double down in your own self-perpetuating rut.

Because children are very, very well attuned to the emotional environment of their early years (moreso than their parents are) they are more apt to pick up on inconsistencies in behavior of their parents or incongruence. The problem is the child has not developed intellectually enough to be able to process these things into a proper context, and so the reaction of the child becomes a coping mechanism (and later may become a belief structure). For example in Daniel Goleman's book he writes about parents that are overly punitive and judgmental on their kids without taking into consideration the child's emotional state or way of looking at things, often so the seeds of a child who in response either emulates the parents (becoming fiercely judgmental and antagonistic themselves in life) or takes on a defeatist mentality in which nothing they do will ever be good enough, which also can follow someone through life if not checked. If the parent is uneasy around people of different ethnicities, or has low self-esteem because of her own, the child may very well be shaped by that disposition as well (even if it may come out as say a crusader for racial equality).

This gets at the heart as to why so many people have such a hard time understanding their own feelings (or erroneously blaming them on Fi or Fe or The Devil, or Karma or whatever). Many of those strong feelings, the things we react to strongly were formed early in childhood and have become largely habitual responses to certain situations. They become 'normal' even if they are objectively atypical. So when you begin to challenge why a person feels the way they do, you often run up against a litany of beliefs ("its because of this," or "because I hate it when..") and in exasperation you might end up with a solid "I don't know." It's much easier to recognize those things in other people with the aid of outside perspective than it is to referee your own thought-processes.
 
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