Friday, July 20, 2012

INFJ Brain Jumble and Scripting

Introverts are not necessarily shy. We do, however, wear out socially and need much less external stimulation than the average bear before we become grouchy and depleted. If our brains are already occupied with something or if we've already spend a good deal of time talking to others, words come at a high price for us. It's literally harder to force them out of our tired brains and out our mouths in an order that is kind and makes any sense at all to anyone else.

Being an introverted intuitive, this is especially true. I think in nuances, pictures, and ideas, all of which can be well married to words given enough time. When forced to deal with mundane external stimuli (and worse, direct my children through it successfully), this becomes a good deal harder, because my brain is bombarded information that my intuitive brain finds irrelevant to the task at hand and starts to shut down.

Aka, The Trip To The Grocery Store. {shudder}

Sometimes, shopping alone isn't an option. 
In this scenario, my poor introverted thinking process becomes so inundated with detail such rapid-fire information from List and children and Other People that it starts to short circuit. My usually carefully chosen words and directions start to sound like hilarious gibberish.  It becomes like an evil auto-correct that can't be tamed. Usually, my thinking reaches into bins of basically organized or related words and sifts through until it finds the right one to express exactly what I hope to convey, and my connection-driven feeling checks it over right before it exits my mouth for good measure. But when I'm short-circuiting, my mind blindly plunges it's hand frantically into whatever storage box of words is most handy and pulls out whatever it can get it's fingers firmly around, and it spits haltingly out of my mouth like a broken nail gun.

"Hey Lark, I need you to walk around the cart and walk beside me. We need to leave room for other customers to walk by" becomes, "Hey, Mirth, I really will you to run on top of the cart, no, beside me! Walk behind me. BESIDE me! You need to leave room for the potatoes to grab whatever is, erm, necessary." {dammit!} Hilarity ensues. "Mirth, we need Porcupines. Popsicle! Stop laughing and put the porcupines in the cart. POPSICLES! Sit down, Grace, sit on your nuts. Butt! Not you, ma'am, sorry."

It can be humiliating. 

And, so, today, I got caught in the trap of trying to reason with a crying 3yo in the grocery store, while using this garbled brain-talk, in effort to make it to the checkout line and home without a giant scene. It was a bad choice. The correct choice would have been to grab the cheapest source of protein off the shelf, open it and allow her to consume it while saying the only words I can eek out correctly under duress: "I love you". Instead, I growled, over-explained, insisted and lectured in garbled INFJ-tongue until she stared at me with complete slack-jawed puzzlement with about 14 other confused customers. It's possible they thought I'd become a stroke victim. 

(I comfort myself by forming this plan: next time, grab the granola bars. Or leave the kids at home. )

Therefore, since life with four children OFTEN requires me to be entirely overstimulated, I find well-rehearsed scripts really helpful. I learned the idea from some parent-friends who started parenting long before me and were kind enough to pass the wisdom along. The basic idea of scripting is this: if it's a recurring issue, formulate something that is A) kind/reasonable B) short and easy to understand C) consistent so that your reaction becomes consistent. 

Think fast!!
In my head, it's twofold: I plan out what I will say (based on what is best and kind for everyone in the situation, be it an instruction/comfort/reflection of feelings/boundary) and then what I will do to follow up what I said. And when the situation arises, I do The Plan. And I don't have to reach into brain-bins for words on the fly. I have the Frozen Dinner of parenting instructions all made-up and ready to nuke on demand. :OP Some moments of parenting are slow simmering and savory and beautiful and comforting, and other moments require us to dole instructions out like frozen burritos in the heat of the moment. The words aren't what they'll say at your effigy (hopefully), but they do have a place and purpose in day to day life. 

This is especially comforting to my kids, too, because they know what to expect and my parenting is more consistent. Obviously, they have to be re-vamped from time to time, for age, effectiveness or situation. But the basic gist is the same. 

Some of my frequent flyers are: 

"If you don't leave the park/your friend's house/the restaurant well, then you won't come back for a few weeks. (and we don't.) My time and energy is worthy of respect, too." 

When getting into the carseat: "First we sit and buckle, then we can talk about getting other things." 

"Hitting isn't kind/OK?productive. You may find another way to show your frustration, or you may go cool off somewhere." (I use "kind" "OK" or "productive" according to which child I'm speaking to, and what makes them tick) 

"Wiping isn't optional." 

"Alive things are not acceptable projectiles." 

"Here are your options: X and Y. Would you like to try that alone, or do you need some help?" (chosing neither mean I get to chose.) 

"Being harsh about the bravely shared thoughts of others is NOT cool. Disagree in a safe way or keep your mouth shut." 

And no matter how I'm reacting emotionally in that moment, my response to the situation is the same, because I have a plan in place. I don't need to lose my head over anything or fumble around for words like a drunk person in the dark looking for house keys. I have an appropriate response ready. This is a HUGE boon for the easily exhausted introvert (or any parent, for that matter). 


  1. This is something I've been thinking about recently. I need to come up with some scripts for recurring situations, because I inevitably end up flustered, overexplaining, and/or snapping.

  2. I function better with preset phrases to deal with certain situations too. Helps that INFJness. :) "wiping is not optional" made me giggle. Mine is usually "did you wipe?" "oops no I forgot."

  3. 1- Annabel has that pink peace-sign shirt.
    2- I always say, "buckle first, then I'll get your XYZ" !!
    3- Love your blog and all the intermittent cursing. ;)

  4. Oh, this is a fantastic post!! Thank you so, so much! As a fellow INFJ, this makes so much sense to me! (I only wish I was a funny as you are...I haven't a single funny bone in my whole body, and life would be a lot easier if I could whip out the humor once in a while.)