Thursday, May 7, 2009

that awareness helps. a LOT.

so, i'm an ENFP. but that's not the only way to understand or categorize who i am as a person.
i'm also a native texan. i'm a male. i'm a first child. i'm a first grandchild. i'm a first son. i'm a product of families with patterns of addiction, emotional illness, sexual abuse, depression, borderline personality disorders, and dysfunctional dynamics. i'm a child of divorced parents. i was a child in the 1960s. i'm an american. my parents were both raised in texas. i have a younger sister. i have had one stepmother, three stepfathers, and more stepsiblings, seriously, than i can remember or name. my lineage includes stoneworkers, carpenters, farmers, mathematicians, entrepreneurs, engineers, and manual laborers. both of my parents were raised southern baptists. i am heterosexual. i lived in 18 different homes by the time i graduated from high school.
and so on.
all of these are factors that psychologists and personality tests and psychiatrists and self-help tools would take into consideration.
none of these are factors that a biblical understanding of the human experience would be aware of.
none of these are factors that would be apparent to someone just having a conversation with me.

i didn't see how a number of these factors had worked together in my childhood and youth and young adulthood had contributed to the person i was becoming. i didn't know birth order had an effect on the kind of person i would become. i didn't know emotional illness and depression and addiction in my ancestors had an effect on the kind of person i would become. i didn't know that it was part of an ENFP to want to learn everything, and not to process details, and to avoid conflict, and to be naturally adept at interacting with people, and to be prone to internalize negative feedback.
but throughout my adulthood i've been learning more and more how these things aren't just pieces of data, but that each one had an effect on my work habits, or the way i saw myself in relation to girls or boys, or how i handle stress, or how i understand love and sex and ambition and illness.

i just thought i was responsible for everything that i felt, and everything that i chose, and that when i failed or made mistakes - or when i FELT i had failed or made mistakes - it was because i was (and my labeling or understanding at the time depended on what phase of my life i was in) a sinner, lazy, a fuckup, weak, stupid, ADD, male, not working hard enough, or just not getting it.
i'm aware, now, that there are an uncountable number of components that contributed to the the kind of person i've become, many of which i had no control over, and many of which told me things that weren't true.

and that awareness helps. a LOT.
i don't feel so crazy. i don't beat myself up so much. i mean, i still do, but not nearly as much as i did for years and years.
and knowing these same sorts of things about my wife and about other people helps me see them not through the lenses of my experience and models and expectations, but as people with their own lists and their own models and their own stories and their own truths. and so i honor them, and seek to understand them, and have compassion for them.
which comes from honoring and understanding and having compassion for myself.

you have your own list like this one.


lisa carlton said...

Beautiful, real, honest. I am really struck by your last paragraph- when we can start to look at eachother as people with their own lists and stories- there is such power in that. Of course, I can only be humble enough to do that if I first make and live into my own list and story. Thanks for sharing this and for being you- living into your own lovely story.

mike said...

You are talking about mental health, and beneath that you are talking about spirtual health. My life is a cacaphony of circumstances, influences, genetic predispositions and events. I have no hope to understand or control without help; as long as my objective is understanding or control without help, I am frustrated, lost and unhealthy by definition. When I look out - beyond myself - the situation is even more baffling and complicated - the need for help more critical. Jesus gave such a simple remedy: "Love God, Love others." There is no other way; "my way" is at best a dead end and at worst no way at all. Yet we resist and rebel and lash out and thrash ourselves and each other so violently... thanks for reminding me.

nonprofitprophet said...

here here! well said. ~npp

INTJ said...

You are cool

DM said...

the beautiful, poetic, rambling, emotional rant from the ENFP.

the three word, emotionless, anonymous response from the INTJ.