I wish that being an INFP meant that I am always in touch with my emotions and that they always make sense to me. And as a result of this emotional honesty and literacy, I would have a healthy and robust emotional life.
Unfortunately, due to cultural, societal, and biological influences, I find that I’m more prone to the emotional blockages of anxiety and depression.
I am skilled at articulating what’s going on inside of me. But when it comes to negative feelings, I often try to hold my emotions underwater for too long. I try to keep my head down and ignore them. I don’t want to feel angry, envious, or frustrated. Who does?
However, as an INFP, when I block the energy of my emotions, I cannot put on a pretense of being healthy. Blocking emotions can cause a lot of mental and physical damage to anyone, but especially to INFPs due to their sensitivity to emotional landscapes.
The physical damage can mostly come from muscle tension. When we’re trying to stave off difficult emotions, we tend to clench our shoulders, jaws, and butt. When unchecked, this can lead to intense muscular pain. Our breathing becomes shallow or we may even hold our breath, which in turn can affect our heart and blood pressure. All of this tension can also cause digestive issues. To understand more about the physical damage of unaddressed emotions, I highly recommend checking out the book The Body Keeps Score by Bessel van der Kolk MD.
The emotional damage can also be quite severe. Sadly, if you look at any list of “famous INFPs” they include many who had serious emotional problems. When I bought my first journal when I was ten, my mom was worried, telling me, “Don’t write anything in there that you don’t want others to find out about.”
I understood where she was coming from, but I needed that emotional outlet–that void to scream into with a pen and still feel heard. Although I knew the risks, I knew that keeping the emotional discomfort within me would be just as bad as being “found out.”
As an adult, my reasons for blocking emotions still stem from a fear of being found out. Like, “I can’t let others find out that I’m angry or jealous, scared, or uneasy! How terrible.”
We fear being “discovered,” although everyone has experienced these emotions at one point or another. We just like to deny that we have felt them as if we’re somehow above that. And this fear of being found out cements the idea that emotions are hazardous materials that cannot be handled.
And unfortunately, when we work hard to ignore negative emotions, we also succeed in tuning out more positive emotions such as contentment and gratitude. So ignoring emotions can be the start of many problems.
Listening is the Start of Healing Emotional Blocks
As an INFP, it’s important to resist blocking and ignoring our emotions. Our emotions aren’t trolling us. They’re conveying important messages that need our attention. Sometimes we may not like what they have to say, but once we learn how to listen to them and interpret them, the result is living a much more authentic life.
At the start, it’s hard listening to the messages of our emotions on our own. It’s almost like we need an interpreter. Often that interpreter takes the form of a therapist, but it can also be a friend you trust or even your journal. Journaling or talking with someone can help us to see our thoughts from a different angle, and doing so can help us to begin to see what our emotions are trying to tell us.
If you need some journaling inspiration for listening to your feelings, I recommend checking out the Eggshell Portal by Imi Lo. The web pages there provide a nice starting point for reflecting on the meaning of emotions.
Early in the pandemic, I lost my job. Like everyone at that time, I was in survival mode. Right after my last day of work, I switched to helping my husband with his business without missing a beat, or at least, so I thought.
This month I got my first acupuncture treatment for my sore neck and shoulders. During the evaluation, it was determined that my left shoulder tension could have a connection to the stress of the sudden loss of my job. It was like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. While I was being massaged, the acupuncturist asked me, “Did you really like your job?”
The moment I said “yes,” was the moment I realized that I had lost a meaningful part of my life. On the way back home, for the first time in almost two years, I cried over losing my job. I was worried that being sad about it would somehow make it seem like I was blaming my employer for something beyond their control. But I realized that even though the situation was understandable, it didn’t make it any less sad.
Accept Holding Conflicting Emotions
Sometimes we take an all-or-nothing view of our feelings. I believed that I couldn’t be both deeply sad and deeply appreciative. But emotions aren’t boxes. They’re more like the blending of colors in a painting. Brightness can flow into the darkness with the muddiness in between.
A turning point in dealing with my chronic pain was realizing that pain and misery don’t have to go hand in hand. I can experience pain and be frustrated with it, but I can also feel joy and happiness at the same time. My heart is big enough to hold both, and so is yours.
Building awareness of holding multiple contrasting emotions is a great way to start clearing emotional blockages. The positive emotions make it easier to find ways to soothe the negative ones.
For the INFP personality type, using the explorative power of extraverted intuition can help with this. Even if it’s difficult, try new things, no matter how small or simple. Experiment with new foods, styles, and places. Take time to do a deep dive and learn about something that you’re curious about. Find books, movies, TV shows, and music that make you laugh or even smile just a little. Then if you feel safe, share stories of your new adventures with friends, family, or even with an online audience. Or journal about them.
By doing this, we’re not trying to ignore or completely distract ourselves from negative emotions. The goal is to make room for both.
Happiness is more painful when we’re just painting a smile on and playing a role, just to get on with it. But being honest about negative emotions and being aware of how they interplay with the more positive sides of ourselves leads to feeling more real.
And being able to feel joy while accepting the pain of life can lead to something a bit better than happiness. I’ve found that these are the seeds of growing contentment.
Have thoughts on this post? 🤔