Anxiety Kitty: The Not-So-Surprising Way Pets Improve Mental Health

Remember that nervous cat I adopted a few months ago who spent all his time hiding under couches and beds or in closets? (click here to read “Lessons From My Nervous Cat”). My plan was to pour as much patience, love, and understanding into his life as I want people to show me when I’m scared. I wanted to show him that he had a safe home now.

Well, it’s working. Flynn is turning into quite the friendly cat, especially with me but also with the rest of the people he sees every day. And he’s even getting better around non-family members. We had several people over for dinner last night for a total of 14 humans around. Flynn hid when they were all in the house together, but after we sat down to dinner (some outside and some in the dining room) he actually wandered around out in the open and let people he didn’t know pet him.

After doing some research, I learned that clicker training is the one thing people have found that helps anxious cats settle down and feel safe. No one knows why teaching a cat to do simple tricks on command combats anxiety, but it does. My theory is that when the cat gets positive reinforcement for certain actions the additional structure helps make them feel secure. Whatever the reason, it’s adorable. It’s mostly about teaching him to do things he was already doing on command (touch my fingers, come when called, jump on and off chairs, and stand on his hind legs). The “stand” command is everyone’s favorite. He’s just so cute!

Anxiety Kitty | marissabaker.wordpress.com

As I’ve helped Flynn with his anxiety, he’s been helping me with mine. Before a lunch date a few weeks ago (the first since my breakup), he spent the whole morning following me around and checking in on me. Every few minutes while I was working at my desk he’d hop out of the window and walk over to “talk” with me and have his head rubbed. And when I walked into a different room he followed. Since then, he’s kept that pattern up most of the days my anxiety has spiked.

I’m honestly shocked how in-tune he is with my emotional state. A few days ago I was working on a guest post sharing my testimony about anxiety (I’ll share a link here when it goes live) and I hit a point in my writings where I just burst into tears sitting at my desk. I went for a walk outside and when I came back Flynn walked around my feet crying until I responded to him. He actually let me pick him up and hold him for a good 30 seconds (he hates being cuddled and usually wiggles as soon as you pick him up). Then a little while later when I was journaling and crying he spotted me, ran into the room, jumped up on the bed with me and stayed there purring until someone else came home. The only other times he sits on my bed with me is late at night, so this was really outside his normal behavior.

We’ve also discovered another shared love: old books. I collect Grosset & Dunlap series books (like Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, Rick Brant, and others). I found two bags full of books I needed for my collection at a book sale on Friday and they’re in really good shape. Flynn acted like the bags were full of catnip. He dove into the Hardy Boys bag head first and rolled around on the books until I pulled him out and tied the bag shut so he wouldn’t damage them. Then he climbed into the bag that I’d had Rick Brant books in earlier. He looked almost as happy with the books as I am.

Anxiety Kitty | marissabaker.wordpress.com

There’s just something comforting about sharing my home with a fluffy critter. Cats are my choice, but I’m sure other pet owners can relate whether they love dogs, rabbits, gerbils, or even non-fluffy pets. People are happier and healthier around animals. In fact, one survey found that 74% of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America says, “pets and therapy animals can help alleviate stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness and social isolation.” That’s so true for me. Adopting Flynn and starting counseling are the two biggest things that have helped me deal with my anxiety this year, as well as my post-breakup grief. I know pet ownership isn’t for everyone, and would never tell you to get a pet if you’re not sure you could take care of it. But for those of us who can have pets, they can be a huge help when you’re going through something.

You don’t need to have a mental health issue to benefit from caring for an animal. For example, I suggested in my post on developing Sensing as an INFJ or INTJ that pets can help ground these personality types in the real world. INxJ types are normally a bit out-of-touch with the physical world and there’s nothing like knowing some other life form needs you in order to stay alive and happy to get you out of your own head for a while. Whatever your personality type, pets can be a huge blessing.

What about you? Do you have an animal friend who helps you when you’re struggling with something?

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Disney Villains Myers-Briggs Chart – Part Two

Last week I posted my chart with Disney villains Myers-Briggs types. It turned into such a big post that I finally split it in half — Sensing types in Part One and Intuitive types today in part two (some of you probably saw the whole post last week. It was live for a few hours before I decided splitting it up would be more manageable). To re-cap, here’s my criteria for which villains are included in this chart:

  • All Primary Members of the Disney Villains franchise show up here, except Chernabog.
  • I then added a few other popular villains, paying special attention to the villains from films where I’ve already typed a Disney heroine.
  • To keep the number of villains manageable, I decided not to type any of their side-kicks or secondary villains.
  • I’m only typing the animated versions. This is mostly to maintain consistency, since sometimes the type changes in live-action reboots (such as Maleficent becoming more INFJ when she got her own film).

Disney Villains Myers-Briggs Chart | marissabaker.wordpress.com

As I mentioned last week, if you compare this chart to the ones I made for Disney Princesses, you’ll see they’re almost opposite each other. The spots on the chart that stood empty for the Princesses (ENFJ, INTJ, INTP) now have at least one occupant and some of the spots bursting with princesses don’t have any villains at all. The biggest trend seems to be Feeling types equal “good” and Thinking types equal “evil” (which really bugs me, but that’s a rant for another time).

There’s not much to go on for typing some of the villains. They’re often caricatures of personality types rather than fully-fleshed out characters. By necessity, associating a villain with a certain types means looking at the most negative stereotypes of that type. But Disney typing is fun, so even when we don’t have much to work, I’m going to take a guess at the character. You’re welcome to shout-out in the comments about what you do and don’t like! Have fun 🙂

Hans — ENFJ

Hans - ENFJ. Visit marissabaker.wordpress.com for more Disney villain typesI love NF type villains. They’re not the typical choice for a fictional bad guy and their motives aren’t always immediately understandable, which is part of makes them an unexpected and unpredictable character.

  • Fe: Types that lead with Fe often have the easiest time connecting with people. Which means they can be the most charming, manipulative villains you’ll ever see. Hans’ entire plan is based on charming one of the sisters into marrying him (which he does easily by creating an instant connection with Anna). He’s also writing a narrative that makes him “the hero that’s going to save Arandel” as he manipulates all Elsa’s advisors until they’re begging him to be king.
  • Ni: This shows up in his long-term thinking. As the youngest of 13 brothers, he decided that taking over a different kingdom was better than the life he could see continuing on in the future at home.
  • Se: Typically a fun-loving and risk-taking aspect of personality, which helps him charm Anna initially and also shows up in his physical skills like dancing and swordfighting.
  • Ti: Logic is not an ENFJ’s strongest suit. Hans’ entire plan rests on getting people to feel the way he wants them to rather than not on something concrete and he doesn’t have a backup plan.

Hades — ENFP

Hades - ENFP. Visit marissabaker.wordpress.com for more Disney villain typesThere’s little disagreement that Disney’s Hades is an NP type and none at all that he’s an extrovert. People just can’t agree on Thinking or Feeling. Both ENxP types lead with Ne, so it comes down to whether he uses Fi/Te (ENFP) or Ti/Fe (ENTP) to make decisions. Read more

Disney Villains Myers-Briggs Chart – Part One

It’s finally here! The baddest evildoers to ever oppose animated Disney heroism — now with Myers-Briggs types. There are a lot of villains that show up in Disney stories so I had to whittle it down to a fairly short list. Here’s my criteria:

  • All Primary Members of the Disney Villains franchise show up here, except Chernabog.
  • I then added a few other popular villains, paying special attention to the villains from films where I’ve already typed a Disney heroine.
  • To keep the number of villains manageable, I decided not to type any of their side-kicks or secondary villains.
  • I’m only typing the animated versions. This is mostly to maintain consistency, since sometimes the type changes in live-action reboots (such as Maleficent becoming more INFJ when she got her own film).

Disney Villains Myers-Briggs Chart | marissabaker.wordpress.com

If you compare this chart to the ones I made for Disney Princesses, you’ll see they’re almost opposite each other. The spots on the chart that stood empty for the Princesses (ENFJ, INTJ, INTP) now have at least one occupant and some of the spots bursting with princesses don’t have any villains at all. The biggest trend seems to be Feeling types equal “good” and Thinking types equal “evil” (which really bugs me, but that’s a rant for another time).

There’s not much to go on for typing some of the villains. They’re often caricatures of personality types rather than fully-fleshed out characters. By necessity, associating a villain with a certain types means looking at the most negative stereotypes of that type. But Disney typing is fun, so even when we don’t have much to work, I’m going to take a guess at the character. You’re welcome to shout-out in the comments about what you do and don’t like! Have fun 🙂

  • Please note: there were so many villains to type that I split them up into two blog posts. Part One covers the Sensing Type villains and Part Two will cover the Intuitive types.
  • One more note: I mostly type by function stacks, so if you’re not familiar with that part of Myers-Briggs theory you can click here to read The Simplest Guide To Myers-Briggs Functions Ever.

Lady Tremaine — ESTJ

Lady Tremaine - ESTJ. Visit marissabaker.wordpress.com for more Disney villain typesMost people type her as a TJ type (at least in the animated version), but beyond that there isn’t any agreement about her I/E or S/N preference. I’m pretty sure she’s a Sensor, but I’ve gone back and forth between introvert and extrovert. I’ve gone with extrovert because she’s very inclined to take-charge in the outer world and we don’t really see her spending any time alone.

  • Te: The opening narration describes her as “cold, cruel, and bitterly jealous of Cinderella’s charm and beauty.” While not a fair representation of TJ types, “heartless” is an accusation stereotypically leveled against them, especially women. She’s very outwardly judgemental and her communication consists of authoritative orders.
  • Si: My guess is that Lady Tremaine married Cinderella’s father for security. She already had a “good family” so she wasn’t social climbing. While we do see her trying to forward her daughters’ interests, it’s not really as part of a N-type’s long-term planning. She’s working within traditional roles to control and manipulate people.
  • Ne: A pattern-recognition function, Extroverted Intuition helps Lady Tremain put the pieces together and realize Cinderella was the mystery woman at the ball.
  • Fi: As an inferior function, Introverted Feeling can show up as outbursts of emotion and a fear of feeling. Lady Tremain is a very detached character, never showing her feelings for the people around her unless it’s in an angry outburst.

Queen of Hearts — ESTJ

Queen of Hearts - ESTJ. Visit marissabaker.wordpress.com for more Disney villain typesThe Queen of Hearts is one of the more exaggerated Disney villains. ESTJ nicknames include Supervisor, Executive, Overseer, and Enforcer. Take that to a villainous extreme and you just might get someone who lops off subordinates’ heads when things don’t go as they ordered. Read more

Here’s What Your Myers-Briggs Type Can and Can’t Tell You

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Myers-Briggs. I’ll defend it against people who say it’s useless, write and re-write posts trying to come up with the simplest introduction to function stacks ever, and spend my time musing about how type influences both real people and fictional characters. But as much as I like the Myers-Briggs system of personality types, I also know there are things it’s not meant to do.

In fact, applying Myers-Briggs wrongly is one of the biggest reasons it has come under so much criticism. For example, you can find quite a few articles online that argue Myers-Briggs is basically useless in a work environment. They’ll tell you it’s not a good indicator of job performance nor is it all that useful for screening potential employees. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering those aren’t the test’s purpose. And it’s unfair to dismiss a test for not doing something it wasn’t meant to do in the first place.

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So what is the Myers-Briggs test supposed to tell you? And just how much can we apply what we learn from finding our type to real life?

This Is Your Brain On Decision Making

The Myers-Briggs test is designed to measure how people’s minds work. It describes their preferred mental processes or “cognitive functions” (to use the technical term). Contrary to what so many critics of the test think, it doesn’t force people into dichotomies. Rather, each type has a “stack” of preferred functions. So an ENFJ type isn’t someone who’s 100% extroverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging. They’re a type that prefers making decisions with Extroverted Feeling, learning new things with Introverted Intuition, and then also uses Extroverted Sensing and Introverted Thinking to a lesser extent (click here to learn how we get from the four letter type to the functions).

These characteristics of Myers-Briggs theory means that taking the test can help you: Read more

Thinking vs. Feeling in INxJ Personality Types

Because INFJs and INTJs both use Introverted Intuition as their favorite mental process, the two types can appear very similar. Quite a few people who take a Myers-Briggs test and get either of these results (or both on different tests) are left wondering, how can I tell whether I’m an INFJ and INTJ?

My personality type is INFJ and my sister’s is INTJ. It would be well-nigh impossible to assume we share a personality type, but if you don’t have that contrast living with you (or if you’re a little less extreme on your T/F preference) I can see how deciding which type is your best fit could be a challenge. INFJs and INTJs lead with the same mental process and they react in very similar ways when stressed out. The main differences between the two types have to do with how they handle their Thinking/Feeling preference.

Thinking vs. Feeling in INxJ Personality Types" | marissabaker.wordpress.com
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INFJs use auxiliary Extroverted Feeling as their copilot and support it with tertiary Introverted Thinking. INTJs use auxiliary Extroverted Thinking as their copilot and support it with tertiary Introverted Feeling. The auxiliary process is how they prefer to make decisions and interact with the outer world, but they can slip into their tertiary quite easily. It’s not as well developed or as reliable, but it can seem comfortable since it’s introverted (just like their dominant intuitive function).

How comfortable each INFJ/INTJ is with their thinking and feeling processes depends on a number of factors, including age, environment, and past experiences. You can find INFJs who are very people-oriented and social, or INFJs that seem distant and logical. Similarly, you’ll meet INTJs who are stereotypically blunt and calculating, and INTJs who are comfortable experiencing their own emotions. Even so, the way these functions shows up looks different for each type.

My Cup of T

An INTJ’s Thinking side is focused on the outer world. It’s also the function they’re most comfortable using when making decisions. While mature, well-balanced INTJs will take the human side of a question into consideration, it’s typically secondary to finding the most logical, fact-based solution. Personality Hacker calls this mental process “Effectiveness” and says it “focuses on impersonal criteria for making decisions” and prioritizes efficient problem solving.

INFJs, on the other hand, use an inward-focused Thinking process and they’re not usually as comfortable with it as they are with their Feeling side. Personality Hacker calls Introverted Thinking “Accuracy” and says this function gives users “the ability to reason through a subject or concept within one own’s understanding, even if it doesn’t match ‘outer world’ data.” Basically, this process is trying to work through things until they make sense.

INTJs are much more likely to express their Thinking judgements externally than an INFJ. They’ll often seem more blunt and direct because efficient communication is more important to them than worrying another person’s feelings. INTJs are also more likely to draw on objective, external facts to support their ideas. They want their ideas to work and they want outer world validation for their problem solving. That’s not nearly as important to INFJs, who need things to make sense personally more than to the people around them.

Thinking vs. Feeling in INxJ Personality Types" | marissabaker.wordpress.com
spotted this on Pinterest and I love it

Feeling The Feels

An INFJ’s Feeling side, like INTJ Thinking, is the function they use most comfortably when making decisions. It’s also outward focused, but it’s primarily people-oriented. Personality Hacker nicknames this function “Harmony” because it “makes decisions based on how things are impacting people on an emotional level.” The key thing to remember about this function is that it’s outward focused. INFJs are more in touch with other people’s feelings than they are their own.

INTJs use a Feeling process that’s introverted, which Personality Hacker calls “Authenticity.” While it’s also concerned with how decisions impact on an emotional level, it’s focused on one’s own emotions rather than other people’s. To again quote Personality Hacker, “Introverted Feeling is about checking in with all those inner parts and voices to determine what feels the most in alignment with oneself.” Somewhat ironically, the stereotypically cold and logical INTJs are often much more in-tune with their own feelings than the stereotypically emotional INFJs.

INFJs are more comfortable expressing feelings in the outer world and also more likely to pick-up on what other people are feeling. They’ll typically seem much more empathic and expressive than an INTJ. An INFJ who’s comfortable with their Extroverted Feeling side will also appear more social and “extroverted” than a typical INTJ. But INTJs are far more in-tune with their own emotions than most people (and many type descriptions) will give them credit for.

Thinking vs. Feeling in INxJ Personality Types" | marissabaker.wordpress.com
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INxJs In Real Life

Even after you know about the technical differences between the ways INFJs and INTJs use thinking and feeling, you might still wonder they show up in real life. Let me give you some quick examples.

  • When making an everyday decision — an INFJ’s first impulse will be finding what makes as many people as possible happy, while an INTJ’s first impulse will be quickly finding the most logical answer. For me and my sister at least, the INTJ has a much easier time making simple decisions without overthinking them than the INFJ does.
  • In a stressful/emergency situation — I’m the one who’s in logic mode and my INTJ sister is the one indecisive and unsure. We’re talking something that calls for quick action and is stressful enough to push you out of your most comfortable mental processes (such as deciding to take someone to the hospital), Might not hold true for every INFJ or INTJ, but it’s an interesting observation I’ve made.
  • If asked to change their minds — an INTJ is most likely going to stick with what they’ve already decided because they know their idea is based on logic and that it feels right to them. To change their mind, you’ll need to present a fact-based counterargument that matches their deeply held beliefs about what’s right. A confronted INFJ will second-guess themselves because now they know someone isn’t happy with what they chose but they’ll also be reluctant to abandon something that makes sense to them. To change their mind, you’ll need to present an argument that hits emotion as well as logic.

I hope this helps you with telling the difference between these two types If you can’t tell if you’re an INFJ or and INTJ, looking at the differences in Thinking and Feeling functions is a good place to start figuring out your type. You’re not going to be a perfect 100% fit for every description of any one personality type, but there should be one that’s a “best fit” for your personality.

Your Turn: What are some differences and similarities you’ve noticed between INFJ and INTJ types?

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Seeing Every Side In Every Situation

INFJ and INTJ personality types are known for being able to see multiple sides to a given situation. Both these types lead with a mental process called Introverted Intuition (Ni). Personality Hacker nickames this process “Perspectives.” It functions as an advanced pattern recognition process that analyzes what’s going on inside the human mind. But it’s not just focused on an individual’s take on how the world works. To quote Personality Hacker’s Antonia Dodge, “users of Introverted Intuition aren’t married to their own perspectives. They can take a meta-perspective and understand the ways in which we’re the same and different on a cerebral level.”

So what does this look like in real life? Let’s take politics as an example.

Politics (yup, we’re going there)

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Most of the people I’m around in real life are strong conservatives, but I’m also in contact with quite a few liberals online. I get to see arguments, news articles, and personal perspectives from both sides of the ideological divide.

I see people who were vocalizing hate for Obama up in arms about how the liberals are treating Trump. I see people who told conservatives to get over it and be happy with Obama as their duly elected president protesting Trump in droves. I’ve seen conservative news articles vilifying Obama for his expensive vacations replaced by liberal news articles condemning Trump for the exact same thing. It just goes on and on and and both sides seem completely blind to the fact that they’re reacting in such similar ways.

My Introverted Intuition lets me notice patterns like this. More than that, I can understand people on both sides without really feeling like I identify 100% with either (except on a very few individual issues). And that makes it hard to discuss politics with most of the people who want to talk about politics. If you’re trying to find some middle ground and encourage others to step outside their own perspectives, you might find both sides fighting you as strongly as they’d been fighting each other.

The Few, The Frustrated, The Misunderstood

There aren’t all that many people operating with Ni as their dominant mental process. According to the Center for Applications of Psychological Type, combined they only make up 3 to 7 % of the total population. Our minds don’t work the same way as most other people. That’s one reason we often feel misunderstood. On top of that, our ability to climb inside other peoples’ perspectives gives us insight into others’ minds that not many people can match in return or even fully understand (though some ENFJs and ENTJs who’ve developed their auxiliary Ni, and maybe some ISTPs and ISFPs who use tertiary Ni, might come close).

Our rather unique way of looking at the world can make us feel lonely and frustrated. We might feel like we don’t fit in with certain groups because we can also understand the perspective of the people they disagree with. We might have people reject us because we can only agree with them 75% instead of 100%. We might hide our true opinions or the questions we think about from the people we care for so they won’t feel like we’re attacking them.

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Most Ni dominant types are curious about how the world works. They want to ask questions to see where other people stand and understand different viewpoints. We like to throw out “what if …?” questions and see what happens. We’ll also play “devil’s advocate” in arguments to refine our thoughts on a given topic and help the person we’re talking with refine their’s. Other people can misinterpret these things as threatening to their own convictions or as an attempt to sabotage the status quo.

Another Perspective: Ni As A Superpower

I actually love this side of my INFJ personality. At least, I do now. When I was younger, I felt odd because I didn’t feel as firmly convicted about most issues as the people around me seemed. I felt that sharing my questions and voicing alternate opinions wasn’t encouraged. But my second quarter of college, I met a professor who actually encouraged me to write my questionings and unpopular viewpoints into my essays even when I completely disagreed with him. And he, and others, kept doing that for the next four years.

Some time after that is when I started getting interested in studying Myers-Briggs types, so I discovered this ability to adopt a meta-perspective is a natural part of my personality. Studying personality types also helped me understand why so many people see intuitive idea generation as threatening. Once I understood that, I could start phrasing my shared thoughts in a way that appealed to other personality types more.

One of the great strengths of the Ni types is that we bring alternative perspectives to the table and we can learn to present these perspectives in a way that appeals to the different personalities. We have a gift that can help build bridges between people on intellectual and emotional levels. And that’s a pretty cool superpower.

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Click here to check out my e-book, The INFJ Handbook, for more information and insight into the INFJ personality type
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