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Thread: Unhealthy ISFJs

  1. #11
    triple nerd score poppy's Avatar
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    I have an ISFJ friend who is much the same way, but no amount of NTJ reasoning is soothing to him. I've found it's best just to listen and try to be as loving and accepting as possible. They'll work on the problem their own way eventually.

    My mother is also an ISFJ, but a fairly optimistic one. Same thing applies when she's in a bad space mentally and emotionally, lots of affection (though it's not always easy for us Ts to give). Actually though, because I am typically not affectionate, very simple gestures (a hug out of nowhere, a card, a little gift) seem to really resonate with her (by which I mean she may or may not engage in frightening displays of crying and affection ). So yes, the positive reinforcement thing is a good one.
    "There's no need to be embarrassed about it, Mr. Spock. It happens to the birds and the bees!"

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    Senior Member Lambchop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by saslou View Post
    Lambchop, that was seriousy powerful and some things hit home with me there. *Phew*

    OK i am thinking a group hug. Please.

    Derail over. Sorry.

    Back to the topic in hand.
    Awww...you guys are so sweet -- I love my board friends. Definitely group hug!

    Okay, enough of this mushy crap. Carry on!

  3. #13
    Pumpernickel
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lambchop View Post
    Hello!! I am an ISFJ and also a mom -- in addition to growing up with a very abusive father, so I will throw in my .02 here. Well, it might be .03, but I'm gonna anyway! I've also been through many years of counseling in order to become more healthy, so I can see both sides of the coin. I might get slammed for this, but I think it's hard for people to really know what's going on inside an ISFJ unless you have been really close to one or you are one. And we're not all the same....in terms of what function we use most (mine is Ti for example and I'm pretty sure Giggly's is Fi or Fe) or our level of healthiness or the experiences we've gone through in our lives. My sister is an ISFJ as well, but a whole other ball of wax. But, I digress.

    An unhealthy ISFJ has a very low self esteem. I can tell you from growing up with a very verbally abusive father who was negative ALL the time ("You got 5 A+'s and a B??!!" Let's talk about what you did wrong to get a B!"), it kind of becomes a way of life for you. Your internal critic goes on overdrive and you constantly feel like you're not good enough. Other people tend to take advantage of you and you let them. In doing that, you reinforce your own low self esteem -- because if you were worth something, other people wouldn't take advantage of you. It's a bad cycle. I am glad I worked my way out of it. However, I STILL feel like everything that goes wrong is my fault sometimes when I'm stressed out or hormonal. That's part of an ISFJ that is part of our nature, I think. An unhealthy ISFJ is going to have a tough time setting boundaries. They aren't sure what appropriate and healthy boundaries are or how to make them. So they end up resentful, but feeling like they can't do anything about it. They can be very pessimistic. When they get feedback from other people, they tend to ignore the positive stuff and focus on the negative stuff. But they do this ALL IN THEIR HEAD. And they have exceptional memories. You could say five nice things and one bad thing to them and they will focus on the bad thing and beat themselves up with it. They can pull something out of their memory from a long time ago and continue to focus and berate themselves for it. (I'm talking about unhealthy ISFJs here, although we all have our little down times.)

    Because your mom can't set healthy boundaries and she puts her family first, YOUR problems become HER problems. She feels responsible for them and for all of you and worries, etc. Although she may have seemed surprised when something good happened for you or you achieved something, it's not because she doesn't believe in your or isn't happy for you, it's because she EXPECTS the worst. That way, when things go bad, she is "prepared" in her mind. Some of these things are hard to articulate...especially to other personality types. I guarantee that she loves you more than anything (I would do ANYTHING for my kids and husband) and she does want you to be happy. Even when I was at my unhealthiest, I wanted those things.

    Here are my ideas on what you can do to help. I don't know if she's thought about counseling or done it, but that might help her. However, it is not YOUR job to "fix" her. So: Make sure you tell her that you appreciate her a lot. It is important to her to feel appreciated. Tell her thank you when she does things for you. Or just for the family in general. Maybe get her a card to tell her how much you appreciate her. And maybe you don't have the emotional connection thing, but I can tell you as an ISFJ mother of two boys (one is 18 and an ENFJ - just one away from you) that my kids can't tell me enough that they love me. I took my oldest son to work today because his car is in the shop...and I grumbled about it a little bit. But he sent me a text from work later, saying how much he appreciated it...and that made all the difference for me. When I make dinner and the boys say "that was great, thank you", it means a lot to me. My oldest knows that I LOVE peanut M&M's and he brought me home some as a surprise the other day. I cherish the fact that he knows me well enough to know what I like..and that he thought of me. I honestly don't know how comfortable T's are with those kinds of things, as I'm surrounded by F's (I need more exposure to T's!)...but you are asking, so I think you are willing to do what you can.

    Does she have hobbies? Show an interest in a hobby she has. We like to feel like we've helped others, so ask for her advice in situations. If you take her advice, that will be an even bigger thing for her. She will feel positive that she "helped" you. I'm also partial to hugs and physical affection.

    Your mom probably has some work to do on herself, if she's willing. I have learned over the years to not let other people take advantage of me (I couldn't be resentful if I "allowed" it!), to set boundaries and be okay with saying "NO" when I needed to. When I was going through counseling and all of that, I took Prozac and then Zoloft for awhile and those helped a lot. I learned how to set boundaries so I didn't become emeshed in other people's problems. That was particularly hard with my children, but I was harming them by NOT doing that. Encourage your mom to do things for herself. We are so busy putting everyone ahead of us that we put ourselves last sometimes. Encourage her to get a manicure or have a glass of wine and read a book and let other people do things for HER for awhile. Maybe share your life with her more too -- I love it when my 14 year old son talks about his friends and his "girlfriend" and social life. It makes me feel good that he feels like he can talk to me.

    I don't care what anyone else says...at the heart of us ISFJs - we are all very good and loving people with a good hearts. This last week I had lunch with a friend of mine and she told me that a friend of hers thought I didn't like her. I was very surprised...because I do in fact like her and I've never given any indication otherwise. However, because I'm reserved..and I'm not a touchy huggy person, many people don't know how I feel. Much of it goes on in our head. So other people misinterpret us. Which I know happens to other personality types too. I'm just speaking specifically from this situation.

    No clue if I've helped...let me know if you have any other questions. Other people have been so kind in giving me answers to my questions and I'm happy to reciprocate!!
    Thank you for your post, I can relate a lot to the things you've said.

    So I've tried positive affirmations and that seems to work quite well. I don't have a problem with affirmations, I just never really understood that it was important to her, its definitely not something I need alot of. One more thing I'll try is doing nice things for her once in a while, as she rarely spends any money on herself or pampers herself in any way. I've also tried to just phrase things differently when I am talking to her. I try super hard to make sure that what I am saying doesn't come off as critical, and when I am trying to explain something to her I try to connect it to some emotion so she can understand it better as she hates Te.

    I don't know about sharing my problems with her, shes a strong Judger and it can get really annoying when I am trying to tell her something. Is there any way I could get her to work on her N or her P a bit? It really bugs me that she shuts down when I try to talk about something theoretical, she can be extremely closed minded. I want to be able to talk to her about stuff but it is almost like she thinks I am trying to offend her when I bring up something that is not traditional. When I asked her to take the MBTI test she first refused and got upset thinking I was trying to prove she has psychological disorders. What can I do to get her to see things from my point of view?

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    Quote Originally Posted by poppy View Post
    I have an ISFJ friend who is much the same way, but no amount of NTJ reasoning is soothing to him. I've found it's best just to listen and try to be as loving and accepting as possible. They'll work on the problem their own way eventually.
    I found that SiTe reasoning unable to sooth ISFJ either.

  5. #15
    Obsession. Lethe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by justxher View Post
    So I've tried positive affirmations and that seems to work quite well. I don't have a problem with affirmations, I just never really understood that it was important to her, its definitely not something I need alot of. One more thing I'll try is doing nice things for her once in a while, as she rarely spends any money on herself or pampers herself in any way. I've also tried to just phrase things differently when I am talking to her. I try super hard to make sure that what I am saying doesn't come off as critical, and when I am trying to explain something to her I try to connect it to some emotion so she can understand it better as she hates Te.

    I don't know about sharing my problems with her, shes a strong Judger and it can get really annoying when I am trying to tell her something. Is there any way I could get her to work on her N or her P a bit? It really bugs me that she shuts down when I try to talk about something theoretical, she can be extremely closed minded. I want to be able to talk to her about stuff but it is almost like she thinks I am trying to offend her when I bring up something that is not traditional. When I asked her to take the MBTI test she first refused and got upset thinking I was trying to prove she has psychological disorders. What can I do to get her to see things from my point of view?
    My post won't be as informative as I would have liked, but here are some basic ideas before I crash from today's exhaustion. I'll expand on them in three days or so, if you still have questions.

    1. Don't try to get her to see things from your point of view. The chances are, she's scared stiff of everything you symbolize or value. It is very apparent that you two have a diametrically opposed style of functioning.

    2. If someone's starved for something, they won't care about anything else until that need is met. [Or in a humorous way -- it's like sending graduate textbooks to a group of impoverished children in Africa. They'd appreciate it more if you help build their shelter.] In this case, it's her self-esteem and desire for security. Work through the major barriers first before you introduce your issues.

    3. Fully listen to her. And take the time to understand her concerns. Agreement isn't necessary, but acknowledging and validating them makes a huge difference. (See number 7.)

    4. Encourage her to take time off for herself. This may include activities where she 'nurtures' other people. ...Outside her family.

    5. If you can't beat them, then join forces with them. Anything Te-induced will bounce right off her radar, so your advice must appeal to her SiFe sense of values, priorities, motivations, fears, etc. If you've been playing therapist (or the best friend) as I suggested above, this should go hand-in-hand with that role.

    6. Avoid speaking about anything that's not a point or two away from being traditional or security-oriented. They will eventually move out of their pessimism, yet this isn't something you could do all by yourself. However, you can at least introduce her to optimism with some skillful usage of concrete evidence. More S, less N. Each time she puts your ideas down, back it up with a familiar, proved-and-tried method. Or an undeniably convincing fact.

    7. Constantly reassure her, and get others involved. From living with several ISFJs, I think they tend to crave the personal approval of everyone in their immediate circle.
    "I cannot expect even my own art to provide all of the answers -- only to hope it keeps asking the right questions." -- Grace Hartigan

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    Quote Originally Posted by OneWithSoul View Post
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  6. #16
    pathwise dependent FDG's Avatar
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    Yeah my mother does that sometimes, although not always. It's pretty maddening when she is surprised when I do something "well". I just suppose that all the mothers tend to be critical about their son, because they would like them to be the biggest superstars of the universe at everything. It's completely out of my mindset that people might "expect the worst", thus be surprised when something goes well - I just have accepted that I will never be able to understand the attitude. I have learnt that it's better to just ignore her when she's in a negative mood, you save a lot of time for both of you. If you try to act too much as a conselour, they'll drag you down and you will waste years of your life (that didn't happen with my mother, but I had an unhealthy ISFj girlfriend I was trying to drag out of pessimism/depression, and it ended in disaster).

    OTOH she's not always like that, let's say 30 percent of the time, so I can't imagine how unbearable it would be if that attitude was constant.

    Some stuff:

    I don't know about sharing my problems with her, shes a strong Judger and it can get really annoying when I am trying to tell her something.
    Yeah, I remember I used to sometimes say something about friends/girlfriends to my mother, but she's start pulling out those judgements and advice...shees, from 15 onwards I just avoided telling her anything (not that I was doing anything outrageous, either).
    ENTj 7-3-8 sx/sp

  7. #17
    Obsession. Lethe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FDG View Post
    If you try to act too much as a conselour, they'll drag you down and you will waste years of your life (that didn't happen with my mother, but I had an unhealthy ISFj girlfriend I was trying to drag out of pessimism/depression, and it ended in disaster).
    To the OP:

    Oh yes. About the counseling bit. Do enough until she clearly knows what can be done, and listen to her dilemmas until she knows you understood. Anything more than this is very unhelpful, IMO. The trick about depression is that the affected person is completely responsible for their own happiness. Only they can effectively convince themselves out of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by FDG View Post
    OTOH she's not always like that, let's say 30 percent of the time, so I can't imagine how unbearable it would be if that attitude was constant.
    There are no words to describe that one. So... (It was about 90% of the time for my ISFJ mom.)
    "I cannot expect even my own art to provide all of the answers -- only to hope it keeps asking the right questions." -- Grace Hartigan

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    Quote Originally Posted by OneWithSoul View Post
    Looking into the eyes of a [Ni user] is like peeking through a portal into a parallel universe.

  8. #18
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    Been depressed and I am very pessimistic. I have an INTP mother and when she would try to help she would make things worse. I think its best to just leave us be, like someone else said we know what needs to be done, every now and then I just like to hate the world. If you want to make things better go get us some Starbucks.

  9. #19
    pathwise dependent FDG's Avatar
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    Btw, my actualy girlfriend is ISFJ and she's not like that at all (depressed and pessimistic). She is kind of "worrisome" sometimes, other times a little bit "bitchy", but it's more "uncertain" than "pessimistic". That's something that can easily be dealt with , and that can actually be useful in order to consider the possible negative outcomes and dampen their impact.
    ENTj 7-3-8 sx/sp

  10. #20
    No moss growing on me Giggly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FDG View Post
    Btw, my actualy girlfriend is ISFJ and she's not like that at all (depressed and pessimistic). She is kind of "worrisome" sometimes, other times a little bit "bitchy", but it's more "uncertain" than "pessimistic". That's something that can easily be dealt with , and that can actually be useful in order to consider the possible negative outcomes and dampen their impact.
    Yeah I'm more like your girlfriend too. I spend most of my time feeling upbeat, but I can have moments when I feel quite sad or worrisome.. It's so uncomfortable though and I feel desperate to get out of that feeling and do everything I can to snap out of it. Certain traumantic events sometimes take longer for me to overcome than others though.

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