Confessions of a Reluctant Holiday Reveler


My Idea of Holiday Fun
My Idea of Holiday Fun

The holiday season is here!  Ho, Ho, Ho and Happy New Year!!  Are you feeling jolly and excited?  Not me.  In fact, I’ve been feeling uneasy since Hallowe’en.
Call me Scrooge if you must, but I’m not really a wet blanket or party-pooper. I like to laugh. I know how to have fun. It’s just that, according to the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, I’m a member of a small minority, an Introverted iNtuitive Feeling (INF) type treading water in a sea of EST’s, i.e. Extraverted Sensate Thinking. When you add my task-oriented, closure-needing Judging (J) function to the mix, the stats say that in your average gathering of a hundred people, I’m the only INFJ in the room.
There’s nothing pathological about my type.  It’s simply one of 16 normal possibilities. And it doesn’t mean I’m shy or lacking in certain kinds of confidence. In fact, when I tell people I’m an introvert they often don’t believe me because I’ve learned to handle myself perfectly well in public…as long as I don’t have to be out there more than a few hours at a time! After that, I just want to go home.
The way I’m made creates difficulties for me that others may not see or understand. For example, the batteries of extraverts run dry when deprived of human interaction for very long.  So to an extravert, staying home while everyone’s out having fun can feel downright masochistic, whereas for me it’s restorative. Then there are the sensory types for whom the physical world is a buffet of delights. These people find withdrawing from the table punishing.  I find it a relief. And thinking types who base decisions on detached logic are usually suspicious of those of us who feel life deeply while I suspect them of being thoughtless and uncaring.
Not only is the world beyond my front door swarming with happy shoppers and giddy party goers this time of year, but I also live with a husband who is an Extraverted Sensate Thinking type.  Naturally, our differences create problems for us, although working them out has given us enormous understanding and acceptance of ourselves and others.  But one thing will never change:  he feels at home in a bustling world I am reluctant to enter.  As an INFJ who also has many characteristics of a Highly Sensitive Person, I lack the protective armor that he and others take for granted. Naturally, this can make social situations challenging.
For instance, simple conversations are loaded traps. Beneath the words, my own included, I sense hidden agendas and never know whether to address the conscious or unconscious message. It can be awkward when I make the wrong choice. I’ve been accused more than once of having Foot-in-Mouth disease, and the resultant orgies of humiliation and self-recrimination just make me feel worse!
Another thing: I can see both sides of most issues and enjoy debating and discussing differences of opinion…as long as the conversation stays friendly.  But I don’t handle conflict well.  Or negativity.  In fact, heated conflicts are so distressing that I usually tune out, shut down, or blow up. Fun, huh?
Here’s one more. I love meaningful dialogues that run deeper than the surface.  But when I try to steer the average conversation that way, it’s the rare person (usually another INFJ) who wants to go there.  Inevitably I end up mentally kicking myself for trying.
These and other traits make for a somewhat burdensome inner life.  Don’t worry, I’m pretty tough, and I happily accept the personality I was given as the price for an abundance of blessings. But I think you can understand why I’m drawn to the solitary, contemplative life.  And I want you to know this:  Like all human beings, I need the comforts and solace of loving families and friends.  I especially love private conversations with close friends, and I derive great pleasure from communicating with like-minded people.
So I’ll attend a few holiday parties, schmooze with the guests, and be glad I went. But most of the time I’ll be home reading, writing, or having a glass of wine by the fire with my husband while we listen to my favorite Anne Murray Christmas album.  Trust me.  I’ll be enjoying myself very much.
Happy Holidays to all. May your stockings overflow with warmth, comfort and love.
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42 Responses

  1. I don’t celebrate Christmas anymore so if you take out the last paragraph of this article, this may as well have been written by me! 😉 Thank you for sharing this Jean! And yes, I surely know you will be enjoying yourself very much! Much Blessings…Namaste…♥♥♥NadineMarie♥♥♥

    1. I totally understand your unwillingness to celebrate Christmas any more. There’s very little of the holiday’s true, i.e. mythic, Spiritual/Soulful message left in collective awareness. I’ve come upon a compromise that works for me. I celebrate its true meaning in my inner world while participating in family festivities with children and grandchildren who still find meaning in it; but I haven’t given up hope of helping them see its deeper meaning. 🙂 Thank you for writing. Wishing you warmth and love this winter and a hope-filled rebirth in the new year. Namaste, Jeanie

    1. And thank you for responding! Actually, I think of myself both ways. “Rich inner life” usually rules, but this time of year I’m more aware than usual of “Burdensome one.” 🙂

    1. Hello, Katrina. I find it fascinating that having the same personality type has led us to almost the same place: blogging about symbols and the inner life! Your blog Symbol Reader is a treasure chest for people like us! Thank you for sharing your wealth. Warmest greetings back to you, my sister.

        1. Oh dear! There goes my Foot-in-Mouth disease again. Okay, I read Monika in a comment to you on your latest blog post, and somehow it got converted, without my knowledge, into Katrina! Go figure. Sorry. 🙂

  2. I am an Extravert (ENFP) and I react to everything you are saying about the social interactions, deep conversations, hidden meanings etc as a sister under the skin. I wonder if it is the N/F in you (us) who reacts to the world of S/T as an interesting, loving but ultimately, tiring, challenge. Myers Briggs offers us a complex model and a vocabulary to help us explore the many ways in which we engage with the world but I think there is still work to do on the E/I dichotomy.
    Much of what I read about extraversion is written by introverts and I think there is a gap in understanding what extravert energy is really about. It is about externalising processes such as thinking. Extraverts often talk out loud to themselves (even have conversations with absent others out loud who reply – out loud…madness beckons!!) in order to process, rehearse, test etc., their ideas. Extraverts are often adept at crossover conversations, they conversationally multi-task if you like – and indeed need that shared energy in order to grasp ideas as they come tumbling out – but they can do this all alone with themselves (the other) in the kitchen. The adage – ‘don’t speak until you have something to say’ has to be flipped for extraverts.
    Certainly when E is combined with F the social dimension is an imperative but that is not to say it is not just as exhausting for extraverts as it is for introverts. Differently so perhaps, but exhausting nevertheless, and particularly when combined with N. The difference, In my experience, appears to be that while E/Fs in company with others respond with externalised energy they also need to withdraw into their own private and personal space for respite and re-charging. The issue seems to be ‘in company with others’ and this is where I think the challenge for Introvert/Extravert relationships is greatest. Once with ‘another person’ the extravert has to engage externally- there is no choice.
    The introvert, on the other hand, engages internally. This can be exhausting for the extravert who often feels they are doing all the work. It is rare you will hear an introvert apologising to an extravert for not talking enough – yet you will often hear extravert friends apologising to introvert friends for taking over the conversation, talking too much.
    The situation can be exhausting for both. On long car trips with my introverted husband I suppress my external response to his quiet presence all the way – talking only when I simply cannot suppress comments such as the weather, the countryside, the music etc. I fall out of the car exhausted and he is supremely relaxed. He has not felt any compunction to engage externally whatsoever. He has been enjoying our quiet companionship!! Whereas, when travelling with my extravert daughter we have covered issues about world peace, the actual price to humanity of cheap goods and the latest celeb scandal before we have left the drive. My poor husband is then exhausted!
    Extraverts don’t need others, or the party life, to replenish their energies. They can be completely happy and fulfilled on their own. However once, they are with others (even only one other) that external energy switch is thrown and they are social in a different way from introverts. We are social animals – all of us, introverts and extraverts. We just engage differently when together.
    I love your blog and have passed on much of your wisdom to my students. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas and feelings and wonderful photographs,
    Blessings for peace (as in quiet drink with good book) at Christmas.
    Maggie Roux
    (a sister grandmother Crone who has ambitions to become a fully fledged Hag)

    1. Thank you, Maggie! Discovering the MBTI opened up a whole new world for me, but I have never delved into it as deeply as some, and there are many connections to make and holes to fill in my understanding. You’ll note that in another comment, Andi makes the same observation as you that the N/F connection in the MBTI still needs some work.
      Two of your comments especially, have given me wonderful insights:
      “The issue seems to be ‘in company with others’ and this is where I think the challenge for Introvert/Extravert relationships is greatest. Once with ‘another person’ the extravert has to engage externally- there is no choice.”
      “Extraverts don’t need others, or the party life, to replenish their energies. They can be completely happy and fulfilled on their own. However once, they are with others (even only one other) that external energy switch is thrown and they are social in a different way from introverts. We are social animals – all of us, introverts and extraverts. We just engage differently when together.”
      And I loved your story about how different it is to take long car trips with your husband or daughter! I admire your thoughtful restraint when you’re with your husband and know what a magnificent gift your quietness is to him! My dear extraverted husband offers me the same gift on long trips too, and I cherish it. But I never realized until your comment how difficult it must be for him. Fortunately for both of us, we’ve discovered audio books, which satisfy both our needs quite well. He feels no need to talk back to the narrator because he’s enjoying the story, and I feel no stress because the narrator doesn’t expect any response from me! Yes, it’s definitely the “in company with others” thing that presents me with the greatest challenges.
      Blessings to you my new teacher/grandmother/Crone sister!

  3. Hello Jean,
    A happy and blessed Christmas to you and yours. I do miss your observations and muses ….
    I have a somewhat unrelated comment to offer around your wonderful description of your gifts, and the classification (INFJ) that you are applying to these gifts in using Jung’s typology with an MBTI lens. For those perhaps unfamiliar with the letters which seek to capture the essence of Jeans type, if the dominant function (Intuition – N) is introverted as she ‘intuits’ it is, then Jeans second (auxiliary) function (Feeling – F) will, according to the MBTI outcomes, be extraverted.
    It seems at least to me Jean – (forgive my projection) – that although your self-observations point to your comfort with the gift of introversion combining both Intuition and Feeling, that your auxiliary gift of Feeling lies in the introverted mode, rather than in the extraverted mode which INFJ prescribes it must be. Your beautiful story of your last few weeks suggests an introverted top type couplet at work. If this is indeed the case, this fits with Jung’s expectation that the attitude of an individual’s leading two conscious functions will be the same. Jung theory and the support for this view emanate from his foundational work ‘Psychological Types’. Dominant and Auxiliary will customarily sit in the same attitude … in your case the attitude which you delight in … introversion. Your description of your gifts and preferences seem to fit more appropriately with introverted feeling (IF) as auxiliary, rather than extraverted feeling (EF). The latter is not related to how you answered the instrument responses, and prescribes the alternate attitude of extraversion for your auxiliary gift, which although correct in some cases, was not Jung’s expectation.
    So although, (as the wonderful and unique person not to be replicated in the history of womankind) you are more than your two top functions can reveal,  in your post I get a much stronger ‘sense’ of Introverted Feeling as a conscious preference, with Extraverted Feeling somewhere further down the hierarchy of eight function attitudes. What is without question, is the way you engage us in your lovely INF style … thank you!

    1. Hello Andi,
      Thank you for taking the time to explain this rather complicated (to me, anyway) aspect of the MBTI. My understanding of it does not go as deep as yours and Maggie’s. I not only forgive your projection, but welcome it! It’s absolutely spot on! My sense is that my ‘gift’ of Feeling does, indeed lie in the introverted mode, which explains a lot. I definitely tend to want to hide strong feelings, at least the ones that make me feel vulnerable (either because the people I’m with don’t share them or because they will reveal a side of me I’m still uncomfortable about.) I didn’t realize that the MBTI diverged from Jungian theory when it comes to the attitude relationship between the dominant and auxiliary functions and find that fascinating and refreshing news!
      Thanks again, my friend. Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and blessed Scottish Christmas. I’m reminded of the Stuart plaid tartan blanket I bought in the 80’s when we built our cabin in the North Carolina Highlands. I’ll have to bring it out for some cozy fireside reading when we go there this winter!

  4. Thank you for the interesting post – likely will be a comfort to those of us who are happy to be away from the bustle for whatever our MBTI. We head West on Friday for Santa Fe and Taos for a week.We love the “vibe” of yet another Latino/ Native American part of USA. Let’s get together after the holidays – just the two of us . Merry Christmas! Love to you both and all the Raffa family! XXQ

    1. Dear Que,
      We will definitely get together after the holidays. You are one of the people I was thinking of when I wrote about enjoying deep conversations with like-minded friends. I know how much you’ll enjoy these towns which are favorites of mine as well. I imagine them to be glorious places to be this time of year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and Cicero! Love, Jeanie

  5. Thank you for a wonderful, seasonal, thought-provoking post.
    Oh just the image of you there all snuggled up under a blanket looks like a perfect way (says this INFP!) to spend the holidays indeed! A roaring fire and a good book would just about complete my Christmas happiness…..but oh! Wait! Ho Ho Ho! there’s my santa-loving, socialising, more outgoing partner to consider…!
    It’s interesting how many of us introverts have more extroverted partners isn’t it! Obviously a complimentary fit. Interestingly, we both work as therapists, one with the mind and the other with the body. My opening line on our first date was ‘well that’s mind and body taken care of…’
    Ten years later I still smile to remember, how ‘knowing’ a Soul can be.
    Wishing you a Merry Christmas and may 2014 be filled with much love, light and laughter.
    Deborah x

    1. Hello Deborah,
      An excellent point about how so many couples share the introvert/extravert dichotomy! It’s certainly a complimentary fit for my husband and me. I especially appreciate his extraversion at social events because it takes so much pressure off me! In fact, his confident outgoing personality is the first thing that attracted me to him.
      I love your opening line on your first date! We met when we were only 18 so I didn’t have the presence of mind, knowledge or confidence to express my sense that we were good for each other, but my Soul absolutely knew it right away. We both did, obviously!
      Sending you warmest blessings for Christmas and the coming year. I look forward to many more conversations with you and my other like-minded internet friends then and through many seasons to come.

  6. Thank you! Good to know I’m not the only one. Found out years ago I was an INFJ but so nice to have someone articulate the experience for me. Am off to a full afternoon and evening of “socializing” not my comfort zone but at least it’s with some like-minded people.

    1. You’re very welcome, Marie. It is good to know we’re not alone, isn’t it? Have a lovely afternoon and evening with your friends, and may you wake up refreshed and fully restored in the morning! Jeanie

  7. Jeanie,
    First let me say that it’s interesting how we preceive people; I always thought you were an extravert; outgoing and very friendly………you had me fooled.
    As we end this year, I wanted to extend a note of appreciation for your dedication in writing these blogs. They have been very insightful, not to mention, enjoyable. Wishing you and Fred a wonderful New Year.

    1. Hi Fern,
      I know, I hear that often. 🙂 I have a lot of empathy and a powerful need for harmony. But when I’m with people my intuition and feelings are constantly bombarding me with strong, often conflicting impressions. It requires enormous mental energy to process them all and still interact appropriately with others. This is why I get exhausted so much more quickly than an extraverted sensing thinking type would in the same situation.
      Thank you so much for your expression of appreciation. I dearly love this blog and the beautiful souls it attracts.
      Wishing you the warmest blessings of this season.

  8. This could easily be me, almost entirely… And I always feel reassured to recognize others who are similar. I’ve never gone the Meyers-Briggs route of exploration, however, I was ecstatic when I studied Ayurveda and found out that my bodily composition of elements (prakriti) reflects my personality, and helped me understand myself more clearly. Anyway, beautiful post–thank you for sharing so that none of us feels so odd. 🙂 Blessings!

    1. You’re welcome, Darla. And thank you for mentioning the study of Ayurveda. I had no idea it contained insights into one’s personality. There are so many systems of thought, both ancient and new, with so much to offer in our search for self-knowledge– tarot, astrology, mythology and other folk literature, alchemy, Taoism, Buddhism, I ching, dreamwork, and personality tests of all kinds, etc. It’s wonderful that information about them is commonly available on the internet today. Hopefully a time will come when no one has to feel so odd any more and we can revel in the paradox of our uniqueness in Oneness!

  9. I’m with you here: “Like all human beings, I need the comforts and solace of loving families and friends. I especially love private conversations with close friends, and I derive great pleasure from communicating with like-minded people.” I need lots of alone time and my favorite social interactions are with one or two friends (or family). I love to dance, so sometimes that’s fun, but otherwise parties don’t do it for me. I thought I was an extrovert when I was younger, but although I play the social game well and enjoy it to some extent, I’m always grateful to be home and alone. Friends think my home is isolated, especially in the winter. I like it that way. Thank you for another stimulating post. Blessed Solstice to you and that handsome King of the Day.

    1. And I’m with you. I used to think I was an extravert, love to dance, play the game well, enjoy it to some extent, and am always grateful to be home and alone! And my summer home is isolated and I like it that way! Well I guess this helps explain why we liked each other the moment we met! That and similar interests…. Blessed Solstice to you from the King of the Day and me, my dear friend.

  10. I’m pretty much in your camp. I heave a huge sigh of relief when the holidays are over. But, winter without Christmas is a dismal prospect, like Narnia: always winter and never Christmas.

    1. So lovely to know another INFJ, Emerald. There seem to be many of us “here” at Matrignosis. Blessed Solstice to all who visit this little island in the cosmic sea! Jeanie

  11. INFP here, Jeanie… And the warmest thanks for what you have given of yourself over the year. May you and yours have the best of times over the festive period. Susie and I will be retreating to the Scottish Isle of cumbrae over new year, with you on kindle and paper to keep us warm! Long may you shine

    1. You’ve got me smilin’ Brian! I thank you for that. And for your beautiful, soul-sustaining poetry which never fails to stir my thoughts and warm my heart. It’s no surprise to me that we’re similar types. I’ll be sending you and Susie warm thoughts and wishes from my island of serenity to yours this holiday season. Blessings.

  12. Jeanie, thank you for your sensitive, open-hearted post. I resonate with the way you feel, the INF-ness of it. In fact, one of my favorite poems, “After the Dinner Party,” by Jane Kenyon, says it for me. I quoted it on my website to introduce my Self Portrait, Reading Series. It says in part “At dinner I laughed with the rest, but in truth I prefer the sound of pages turning, and coals shifting abruptly in the stove.”
    I wish you a peaceful Christmas (even among the tumult of family) and a new year filled with blessings, and love,

    1. Thank you, Phyllis! I love that line from “After the Dinner Party!” It’s perfect. I’m not familiar with Kenyon’s work but will definitely check it out. I also wish you a peaceful Christmas and a loving and blessed New Year, my friend. Jeanie

  13. New follower of your blog who happens to be INFJ and HSP…Funny thing is – I started to read blog without reading this post. I started from 2010., J thing:) But I sensed “INF” vibe:)
    I agree, finding about MBTI five years ago certanly opened my world, too.
    I like dream parts, I am looking forward to learn more by reading blog.

    1. Yeah, starting from 2010 is a J thing! And are you a perfectionist too?
      I just saw a film of an interview with Jung in the 50’s in which he talks about the Intuitive iNtrovert. He says they’re (we’re) one of the most difficult types because they have intuitions which are subject to the subjective. They see unusual things and people don’t understand them and think they’re crazy so they keep things to themselves. That’s why it’s hard to understand or get to know them.
      “They have a very difficult life, but are very interesting.” I smiled when he said that. It felt good knowing I was known and understood by him.
      Welcome to my blog. I’ll be writing more about dreams soon.

  14. Yes, I am afraid I am perfecionist. And control freak in disguise, but I am working on that…
    I like that part in your text about seeing both sides os issue. I often find myself in trying to defend A’s side in front of B. And B’s side in front of A. Little bit chaotic…
    Before MBTI I thought I am weird, I was most of the time ashamed of myself. Finding out description of INFJ was “aha” moment. From that day I try to embrace my good sides.
    And subtitle of your blog is perfect! “Think psichologically, Live spiritually.” There is no path to myself that can exclude God. Or path to God that can exclude myself. At least that’s the way it works with me.
    Please forgive if my English seams odd, it is because it is not my native language.
    Have a nice week!

    1. I also defend A’s side in front of B, etc. I don’t want to argue or be contrary; I just want to help B understand A. But sometimes these efforts are misunderstood. I’m glad you like the subtitle of my blog. The way your spirituality works is also how it works for me. There’s no doubt in my mind that Jung had a direct line into the collective unconscious when he devised his personality type theory! It’s been a miraculous gift to so many people…. Blessings, Jeanie

  15. Hi Jean,
    Another soulful article…. I guess I am also one of ur type……… luv 2 do the occasional partying scene…but internally ever contemplative mode is on….peeling layer by layer human interactions…. right…at times , its so draining…….so occasional glam parties lifts d spirit n soul 🙂

  16. Hi Jean,
    Another soulful article…. I guess I am also one of ur type……… luv 2 do the occasional partying scene…but internally ever contemplative mode is on….peeling layer by layer human interactions…. right…at times , its so draining…….so occasional glam parties lifts d spirit n soul

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