Thoughts and Feelings Get Together

Georgina wanted the black and white puppy she’d seen at the pet store when she went by there earlier in the day. Her partner, Kat, suggested that they do research on the dogs with the best temperament. Georgina said, “I know I’ll love it no matter what!” Kat said, “No matter how much you love it, if the dog has a poor temperament it will be trouble.” Georgina relented to Kat’s need to do the research but secretly swore that she was not going to agree to any dog except that dog. She was already thinking up names for it and imagining cuddling with it on the couch.

Georgina was familiar with Kat’s tendency to research every little decision they made. This always seem to delay things and it was usually not until Georgina put her foot down with a deadline, or went ahead with something, with or without Kat’s approval, that things got done.

Kat felt that Georgina was impulsive and did not think things through. It was Georgina who pushed for the house they bought because it was near the trains. This was ludicrous to Kate, but Georgina said it brought back memories of a train trip she’d done with her grandfather when she was young and now that he was gone it was comforting to her to hear the trains. Kat loved Georgina and was often intrigued by her ways of looking at the world but felt that she was not always practical and did not always consider all the options before acting.

In the world of personality types, Kat and Georgina were displaying several aspects of the Myer’s Briggs Personality Types, which is a typology based on Carl Jung’s theories. Myer’s Briggs Typology suggests that each person’s characteristics or preferences, tend to fall within four types. They are either Introverted or Extroverted; Sensing or Intuitive; Thinking or Feeling; and Judging or Perceiving.

In two previous posts, Sensing and Intuitive Partners and Introverts & Extroverts in Love, I noted some of the differences that might arise within a relationship when individuals possess characteristics of differing types. In the example of Kat and Georgina, I am looking at some attributes of the Thinking and Feeling types and of the Judging and Perceiving types and how they might interact with each other.

Georgina has characteristics of a Feeling type. She prefers to make decisions based on her emotions. She notes the way she feels about something and allows that to guide her as with the cute puppy or the house by the trains. Kat prefers to make decisions based on logic/thinking. In general, our society tends to give preference to, or reward thinking processes over emotional ones.

For a feeling person it can sometimes seem that others, who prefer the Thinking mode, believe them to be irrational.

As a counsellor, I find that the individuals I talk to, tend to have some extreme relationships with their emotions:

  • Some tend to deny them completely, distract from them and operate primarily from a thinking mode while devaluing or minimizing any feeling that squeeze out. In some of these cases, physical health issues can arise and there are questions about whether this is related to unexpressed emotions.
  • Other times, people will suddenly find themselves struggling with feelings of panic that seem to come out of nowhere, after years of always being “fine.”
  • On the other end of the spectrum are those who are overwhelmed by their feelings and struggle to maintain the calm expected of them by their families, co-workers, friends and the general public. This is more difficult for those who have a history of trauma or ongoing intense life stressors. In these cases, the urge to yell, scream, or cry loudly may not be inappropriate considering the intensity of their experiences and life situation, but, because strong expressions are not given much space in our culture ,it can be extremely distressing to experience them and to feel the need to hold them in.
  • For some who have felt overwhelmed by emotions, and life, and have had regular emotional outbursts in response to this, expression of strong feelings does not always result in catharsis. Sometimes it can escalates the intensity of the feeling.

This may be because life circumstances continue to be intense (for example, an LGBTQ2S teen living with homophobic parents, or a woman in an abusive relationships with someone whose they are financially dependent on).

OR It may be because the person has not developed tools to manage uncomfortable feelings and just continue to erupt, without trying to consider the places they have control in their own lives. This can also happen when a parent or caregiver has modelled this response to life stressors and they have adopted this way of responding.

When escalated further, some people become at risk of self-harming, suicide attempts or doing harm to others. Fortunately, there are effective therapies for regulating emotions and managing these types of intense responses to emotions. (See Dialectical Behavioral Therapy). Sometimes medication and/or hospitalization is necessary to ensure safety, and when therapies are not effective. However, it is always necessary to consider the current life situation of an individual to see if changes in environment would impact their emotions positively (for example taking a child out of a school where they are being bullied, acknowledging and not minimizing the experience of someone who is suffering from emotional abuse from a partner, etc.)

These are, of course, extreme situations. When there is trauma or intense stressors, even the most logical and thoughtful type can express strong feelings towards their situation, themselves and others.

For those who prefer to use logic in decision making, having someone in your life who reminds you of other important aspects of being can provide balance.

Sometimes, the most important decision is the one that feels good on a gut level.  There is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ type. All are necessary to bring breadth and balance to our lives.

JUDGING & PERCEIVING TYPES

The Judging and Perceiving types of the Myer’s Briggs Typology, speaks to the tendency to prefer closure versus the preference to keep all options open.

In the above example, Kat appears to be more of a Perceiving type, being cautious in her decision making, wanting to ensure that there is enough information before making a move. Georgina exhibits Judging traits, at times, being unable to wait for Kat’s process and going ahead and forcing closure.

Again, both are important perspectives. It can be good to seek a lot of information before making a decision. If Kat were a Feeling person she might be paying attention to her feeling about a decision, waiting to see how they shift and change over time, looking for nuances before making a decision on something. For a perceiver, once a decision is made, they may still be looking for more information, just in case they missed something.

This becomes a problem when decisions get delayed to the point where a deadline is missed, or others are kept in limbo. The level of distress/anxiety felt around decision making time can also be problematic or, if there is a pervasive feeling of uncertainty and a continual second guessing of decisions already made At its worst, this can play out as chronic rumination, going over and over things and feeling deeply uncertain about life decisions or be plagued by on-going, unfinished projects.

For someone with the Judging trait, making strong decisions and not looking back can be a strength or it can present as impulsivity.

The other problem those with the Judging trait can encounter is offending others who should have been involved in a decision but weren’t, due to lack of process. The Judging person risks prioritizing outcome over process and may miss important aspects of interconnection and information along the way, resulting in poor decisions.

We all need each other. We need diversity to fill in our gaps and the areas we cannot see clearly. Finding that in a partner is a rare treasure.

 

For more on accessing feelings check out An Emotionally Conscious Resolution

For more on managing intense emotions read When YOU are the Volcano – 7 Ways to Care for Yourself

For more on couples see 10 Habits of Highly Successful Couples

See also Jealousy in Relationships

 

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