I think it’s safe to say COVID-19 has dialed up the anxiety, sent emotions into overdrive and pushed the majority of people “in the grip”.
According to the Myers-Briggs Company, being in the grip is when you “exhaust all the energy of your dominant function and your psyche flips into the opposite inferior function.”
For each of the sixteen Myers-Briggs personality types, there is an inferior functioning preference. This means out of all eight personality preferences, one of them is your least favorite. So based on your four-letter type (ISTJ or ENFP for example), you hold the key to what your favorite letters are AND what your least preferred letters are. This is the letter that shows up in your personality when you’re stressed out or “in the grip.”
This knowledge is power, especially at a strange time like the one we’re currently living through.
You know when the gas light comes on in your car to let you know when you are about to be empty and eventually running on fumes or shit-out-of-luck if you don’t get to a gas station?
That’s what your least favorite letter should be doing for you. When you notice your least favorite letter showing up in your behavior or thinking – that is your signal that you are in the grip, out of balance, and need to get yourself back in balance.
Here’s what each Myers-Briggs type can do to get out of the grip:
Your least favored preference, intuition, is going to try and get you to focus on the scary unknown. To fight that and get back in balance, stick with what you DO know. What are the facts? What is your concrete reality? What is here and now? Use your introversion and take the time to write everything down. When you ground yourself on what is concrete and keep your focus there, you won’t allow your brain to run wild with negative possibilities.
In addition to the recommendations for ISTJ above, be aware that your natural preference for Feeling is where you belong. Don’t lose your ability to seek harmony and strive for positive interactions. When you’re “in the grip” you might be called for a more doom and gloom way of being, but don’t fall for it! Your self and the rest of the world need your empathy and compassion right now.
Slipping into indulgent behaviors like binge watching TV, overeating and online shopping is going to be tough not to do during a period of social distancing. Know that this might be an “in the grip” outlet for you and set comfortable boundaries for yourself. Try to plan your meals for the week and set a limit for how much time you will allow yourself to spend watching TV, on Facebook, etc. Don’t be a fun sponge for yourself, but also don’t overdo it to the point where these activities are feeding your stress and not serving you at all.
In addition to the recommendations for INFJ’s above, try not to get zoomed in on details in your home you normally don’t consider or think are important. For example, this time of social distancing does not necessarily mean you need to clean or fix all the corners of your home that you’ve never noticed before. If too much attention is given to the least favored Sensing, INTJs might find themselves playing “intellectual games”, raising frivolous objections to abstract issues. Don’t drive yourself crazy trying to make sense of this strange time, or others’ reactions and choices. Stick with your innate drive and organization to focus on accomplishing whatever serves you right now.
With your least favored process being extroverted Feeling, be proactive in identifying and understanding what your emotions are during this difficult time. Try writing down any feeling you notice showing up and jot down where it might be coming from and why. Even if it doesn’t make sense to you, try to get it all out on paper and feel what you need to feel. If you don’t stay in-tune with what emotions you’re experiencing, you might find yourself in a situation where they come up all at once taken out on someone you love. And that’s no fun. I recommend using this feelings chart (sounds lame, but trust me) to help identify what you’re experiencing, then use that introversion you love to write it out and feel what you need to feel.
Are you being kind to yourself? If you’re not being kind to yourself, you’re not going to have the space to be kind to the people you’re isolated with. Take the time to take care of yourself and do what you need to do to feel positive and appreciative of what your body and mind are capable of.
Try not to create negative stories of doubt about yourself and others. The opposite of being critical is being accepting. If you notice yourself slipping into the grip and becoming critical of yourself and others, write down a list of what you and others DO have or ARE ALREADY doing “right”. Shining a light on what you have to be grateful for in this time is going to keep you in your natural positive state of mind, and out of the negative gloominess.
When you’re in the grip it may be tempting to distort scenarios to make it seem like you aren’t really cared for. This straight up isn’t true! You are reading this article which means you’re already interested and invested in yourself. Keep in mind that because you prefer extroversion, you gain energy from others. During this time of social distancing, make it a priority to connect with the people you love and care about in your life. Their energy will hopefully lift you higher and remind you of all the good you have attracted in your life.
Don’t get lost in negative possibilities. Stick with the here and now, what you know to be true. What can you do to remind yourself of what you know? Stay with the here and now, what is. This is where you shine! Try your best to avoid reading all the articles that may be sensationalizing or painting a baseless and negative scene. Stick with reputable resources and do whatever you need to do to be at peace with the here and now.
If you notice yourself zoomed in on details, it may be time for you to zoom back out to where you prefer to be. In your natural state, you are the ideas people – thinking of possibilities for people (ENFP) and possibilities for systems (ENTP). When you are distracted by the facts and opinions flying around, this will hinder your ability to see the big picture like you normally can. It’s likely that you’re wanting to help people or businesses at this time, which is fantastic! If you notice you’re becoming overly stressed and wound up though, maybe it’s time to have a brainstorm or come up with an idea that’s not related to the coronavirus at all. It’s all about balance.
Stay in tune with what you’re experiencing right now. While you may be physically alone, you are not alone in the grand scheme of things – we all have far more in common right now than we ever will. Get clear on what it is you’re feeling by journaling or turning to a virtual coach or therapist. If you want to be seen, you need to make yourself visible. By gaining clarity on what feelings are coming up, maybe you can discuss with a close friend or loved one to process.
In addition to the recommendations for ESFPs above, know that when you’re in the grip you may have the tendency to get lost in self-doubt. You are enough. What can you do to remind yourself that you are enough during this period of isolation? Is it writing or speaking affirmations to yourself? Maybe even writing them down on sticky notes and placing them in spots you will see throughout the day. Keep your self-worth high and remind yourself that you are more than enough.
Lead with love! When you’re most in alignment, you are helping people or seeing the possibilities for people. When you notice your inner critic or become agitated easily by others, remind yourself to choose love. Your only job is to give and receive love. Do what you can to release worry and any guilt.
I know it sounds fluffy and I know it’s some vanilla advice right there, but listen. When you are wound up and in the grip, it’s likely because you’re moving too fast either mentally or physically. Give yourself permission to do absolutely nothing but breathe. Bonus points if you can go outside on your porch or sit near a window for fresh air.
Knowing your least favored letter is knowing your limits. Be kind to yourself.