The Care and Feeding of INFPs, part 3
Our OCD comes from over-thinking
INFPs think too much. We’re information gatherers. The strength of our Perception score determines how far into overdrive our secondary cognitive function of External Intution (Ne) runs. INFPs with high Perception scores get stuck in the “what if”.
When we get stuck, the external doesn’t get processed by our Introverted Feeling (Fi) so we don’t move on. We lose touch with our Ideal and our Ideal Self. We start losing track of those things that we have built towards that ideal life we wanted. We start getting anxious that our tenuous grasp on our ideal life is slipping further away so we fall into OCD behavior.
For example, when I was in my early 20’s before I had a girlfriend and learned how to have balanced relationships, I would over-think situations meeting girls. Was this person a potential girlfriend and not just a friend? Was that an I-think-you’re-cool-smile or was that an I-wish-you-would-ask-me-out smile? What action I took depended on how I interpreted body language, word choice and all the minute details of my interactions. A brief phone call or a passing hello turned into hours of analysis later.
Ideally, I wanted girlfriend who loved and understood me. My over-thinking was causing that ideal to slip away. If she was the one, shouldn’t this entire process be natural and I shouldn’t be obsessing? The more I obsessed, the more un-ideal the situation was becoming. To lessen my anxiety, to stop thinking so much, I attempted to control my external environment by imposing order. I would be obsessive about washing dishes or putting books a certain way. A myriad of little quirks sprung out of nowhere all because I was over-thinking a relationship that didn’t even exist yet.
Obsessive compulsion is caused by anxiety. INFP develop that anxiety because when we get stuck in thoughts that we feel are moving us away from our Ideal. It’s much like being stuck in traffic when we have to be somewhere. Where we have to be is our Ideal. Being stuck in our heads is analyzing the traffic. Are the cars starting to move? Maybe we won’t be that late. Maybe we’ll give it just a couple of minutes. We look for more information instead of deciding we have enough information to move on.
If we had decided that we’re stuck, we could have made new plans, called and rescheduled. Instead INFPs hold onto this Ideal destination whether it’s the perfect person or the perfect job or the perfect life. We think we can still have that perfection if we can impose some order through repetition of sometimes quirky behavior.
OCD behavior is exhibited in many different ways among INFPs. Usually, the OCD behavior has minimal impact to our lives during our over-thinking phases. Eventually INFPs let go of whatever is taking so much energy. However, if that over-thinking phase persists too long, INFPs have a tendency to shut down.
1. Refusal of the new. INFPs love experiences especially new ones in areas we enjoy. If an INFP loves trying new restaurants and turns down the opportunity to do so then it’s a sign that the INFP is over-thinking. We turn down new experiences we love because our brain is too busy to enjoy the new experience. If we try something new when were in an over-thinking phase, we’ll miss out because we’re only partly present.
2. Control of environment. For me, it’s massive cleaning. For others, it could be organizing of the trivial. INFPs will try to compel order onto things of little consequence. The reason why we act upon things of little consequence is because we know that if we make a mistake, it won’t matter.
3. Withdrawal and isolation. INFPs ignoring important relationships is the biggest sign of trouble. INFPs do need alone time, but if we feel more tired after the alone time then our thoughts are too preoccupied to let us recharge.
The only way INFPs can break out of the over-thinking/OCD cycle is to make a decision. We need our Fi to kick in to determine if something feels right or wrong. You can’t make that decision for us but you can make it easier for a decision to be made.
1. Impose order for us. Do the laundry, wash the dishes, take over the trivial or better yet get them done when we’re not looking. If an INFP can’t get caught up in OCD busy-work, we’re forced back into our heads where we’ll have to confront our issues.
2. Bring perspective. You bring perspective by living your life not ours. I like hearing about how other people live and approach their life. People that are passionate about how they deal with problems and how they embrace successes, give me something solid that I can relate my life against. Seeing someone living their life in front of me creates a sharp contrast to living in my head that’s causing the disruptive OCD behavior.
3. Make us a better offer. Offer us a distraction. When the INFPs that I know are in over-thinking mode, I get them out. We do stuff like hiking, dancing, going to a bookstore to get them out of their head and into their bodies. Offering distractions isn’t difficult because we don’t want to be alone in our heads during these phases.
It’s only when INFPs over-think for extended periods that cause disruptive OCD behavior. Most of the time, our OCD comes across as mild quirks. Those quirks don’t go away. You’re just stuck with them so enjoy.
The Care and Feeding of INFPs