As INFPs, we live in an internal dream world of our ideals where everything exists the way we think it should be. When reality forces us to wake up, it feels a little like dying.
Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying, wrote that people experience five stages of grief when they are confronted with significant loss like receiving news of terminal illness. As the real world begins crowding into the INFPs idealized world, INFPs realize that we have to let go of the our idealize version of the world. In doing so, we move back and forth through the stages until we wake up.
Stage 1: Denial
“If I can’t make a living doing what I love then I’d rather be dead.”
The denial stage manifests as avoidance of facts. Denial is wanting the Reward without knowing the Rules. Denial is wishful dreaming while refusing to look at how those dreams manifest.
INFPs in denial believe that writing their first book will somehow automagically translate to being able to eat and pay rent as a writer through some series of serendipity. INFPs in denial believe that if the right person was in their life then everything will work out.
INFPs in denial know their desired Reward such as “I want to write books for a living” but can’t answer questions about the Rules such as “do you know how much an average Times bestselling author makes?” They don’t want to know the answer because the answer brings them closer to waking up.
The denial stage can only exist if the INFP lives in a protected environment such as living at home or at college on their parent’s income. I don’t know any INFPs who work two jobs to pay to college part time that are still in the denial phase. INFPs start moving out of denial phase about 6 months after they started paying rent and stopped doing laundry at their parent’s house.
Stage 2: Anger
“I think the world is too materialistic.”
The anger stage manifests as placing blame. It’s the world’s ideals that are screwed up. INFPs believe that the world is too shallow, materialistic and uncaring to recognize the awesomeness of the INFP’s individuality. INFPs in the anger stage have few friends and work at jobs they feel is beneath their natural talent. Bad relationships are always about the INFP getting mistreated in some way. It’s never the INFPs fault for choosing crappy people for relationships.
The Anger stage last as until the INFP gets tired of feeling alone and disconnected. Angry people make poor friends because it’s always going to be everyone else’s fault. I find that most Angry INFPs are lonely INFPs.
The Anger stage stops when the entitlement mentality stops. Just because an INFP feels that they’re special or talented doesn’t obligate anyone else to recognize this. INFPs moving from the Anger stage realize that they’re not entitled to their Rewards and have follow the Rules for those Rewards like everyone else.
Stage 3: Bargaining
“I don’t need a fancy house or money to be happy.”
The bargaining stage manifests as settling. I don’t think any INFP would turn down the keys from someone who just drove a truckload of money to their front doorstep. INFPs are dreamers. We have an ideal of what our perfect world would be like. However, trying to achieve that ideal involves risk. Our grand plans might fail. So we settle for the safer route. Bargaining stage is about eschewing those things the INFP doesn’t need instead of fully committing to the things they really want.
Bargaining stage is about reaching contentment, not fulfillment. INFPs bargain with themselves by trying to figure out their minimum standard for happiness. Bargaining minimizes being hurt. INFPs tell themselves that even though they didn’t get what they wanted, at least they got what they needed.
Bargaining stops when they INFPs re-evaluate their life. They see not being unhappy isn’t the same as being happy.
Stage 4: Depression
“I don’t care about those things.”
The depression stage manifests as inaction. Depression occurs when a person feels that the things they value in life are beyond their control of achieving. That’s why I keep reiterating that a person’s level of happiness is directly related to the amount of control we feel we have in creating the life we want. If an INFP feels that finding the right person is luck then meaningful relationships is beyond their control. Eventually, they give up by not taking any actions to form relationships.
The INFPs in the depression stage have had repeated bad outcomes which leads to learned helplessness. Their experience has taught them that no matter what they’ve tried to achieve personal happiness, it never works out because of other people, the situation, the way the world is and other external factors beyond their control.
It should be noted that the depression stage doesn’t always manifest itself with classic symptoms of emotional depression or dysthymia (chronic low-grade depression or moodiness). INFP idealism can turn the depression stage into martyrdom. INFPs don’t see it as not taking action towards happiness. They see it as surviving despite the fact that the rules of the world are not in their favor. They are proud of the fact that they can persevere by continuing to do what they’ve always done. They’ve become very successful at not achieving their personal success.
The depression stage ends when the INFP accepts full responsibility for all the crappy people and situations in their life.
Stage 5: Acceptance
“It’s my fault.” “I’m responsible.”
The acceptance stage manifests as accepting personal responsibility. Saying
“it’s all my fault” “I’m responsible” takes the control from the external and gives it back to the INFP. We accept that all outcomes come from our actions.
Acceptance is recognizing that we never fail, we get bad outcomes. We keep changing our actions until we get the outcome we want. Waking up isn’t about letting go of our dreams. It’s about wiping the sleep from our eyes and making those dreams real.
Change made on: April 29, 2010
I changed “It’s my fault” to “I’m responsible”. Something Brian Tracy, a motivational speaker said, made me want to change this. The word fault denotes blame and is always past focused. The past cannot be changed. Saying “I’m responsible” is future focused because from this point forward we accept that we are in charge of our lives.