Tuesday, 7 June 2016


The counselling skills course is coming to an end, and I knew the end was coming.  People move on, and that's not unexpected either.  Then, you start to realise that, even if you stay in touch, you'll never meet in the same way, or under the same circumstances, again.

I felt the same way when a year of studying the Welsh language came to an end.  In some ways, that was even harder, because people drifted away during the course, leaving a very small class.

I know it's that whole INFJ thing again.  I unintentionally pick up a lot about people, without trying.  At the end of a study year, especially in a subject like counselling, I feel that I know my fellow students.  I think back to that first class, when few people, if any, knew each other.  Friendships develop during the course, and then...

I know the social conventions.  I know that people don't understand how I see the world.  No one understands.  If I told people that I see the beauty in everything and everyone, they might suggest that I seek help.  Still, I detect warmth, sensitivity and other great qualities in certain people, and I wish I had a way to tell them that I see those things in them, without breaking the social norms or freaking them out.

What they see is someone who doesn't express these things.  Would I say that it might be nice to just hang out with them and chat some time?  Could I tell them how much I'd love that?  No, definitely not.  So, people don't know whether I even see them as a friend.  At most, I'll have the courage to say something that's very much an INFJ thing:

"If you ever need to talk, you know where I am."

That's the INFJ way of saying something we know we can't say, for fear of going against what's expected by those who don't see the world in the same way we do:

"I sense that you're a good person.  I see that in you.  I'd like it if we could get together some time, maybe, as friends, and just talk about things - anything, really.  I enjoy your company." 

Of course, you can't say any of that.  You're aware that most of your behaviour can be wrongly interpreted as flirting anyway, so telling someone that you like spending time with them is tantamount to booking a hotel room for the two of you, in their eyes.

How about saying you consider them to be a friend?  Whoa!  What if they don't say it back?  Or, worse, what if they say it back, and that talent you have, as an INFJ, for picking up what people are really feeling tells you that they don't mean it?  That's not just rejection.  That's the worst kind of rejection!  Besides, social norms dictate that, if you say any of that, they'll think you're a bit weird as well.

Play it cool.  That's the way.  There's no risk of rejection then.  People will walk out of your life, but at least you can believe they could have been friends.  No one will understand.  Only another INFJ would really understand, and you know how rare those are.  We're the loneliest people in the world, and yet we spend so much of our time making sure that others don't feel alone.

Sunday, 5 June 2016


"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you." ~Lewis B. Smedes

I hadn't danced with her for over six months.  The last time I'd asked her to dance, she'd refused, telling me that I should ask someone else.  As the intermediate class came to an end, however, I found myself partnered with her.  I couldn't help thinking of the time when we were friends, and how we'd regularly dance together.

The talent I have for detecting the slightest changes in body language, facial expression and other things, interpreting them in terms of feelings, doesn't always serve me well.  The waves of animosity I felt coming from her made it difficult to concentrate, so I fell back to basic movements.  It was still a difficult dance.

As the music ended, I bowed politely, and thanked her for the dance.  She returned the bow.  As I started to process what I'd seen, I realised that there had been another feeling, hidden beneath the waves of animosity I'd detected all too clearly.  On the surface, she'd tried to appear impassive, but she hadn't been able to hide her ill feeling towards me.  Underneath all of that, there'd been another feeling entirely.

I see and hear a lot of things said and written about forgiveness and, to my mind, it's a concept that is often misunderstood.  Accepting an apology is not forgiveness, nor is a willingness to act as though no injury had been caused and no offence committed.  Forgiveness is not about the actions of another person: it is about us.

In the case of a friendship falling apart, it's natural to question how much of a part we played in its destruction.  Often, the degree to which we were responsible for the breakdown of the relationship is not important, and it's enough for us to simply acknowledge that we played our part.  From there, we may understand the actions of the other person, however hurtful, as a reaction.  We might feel that their actions weren't justified or were out of proportion, but these things aren't important.

The important thing to realise is that, when other people hurt us, it doesn't come from nowhere.  They hurt us because they, themselves, have been hurt.

Now we're getting to the essence of forgiveness.  I don't have to repair the relationship to forgive the other person.  What I have to do - and this is the whole point of forgiveness - is to let go of the hurt.  Forgetting the incident, or incidents, which caused the hurt is not a part of this.  Indeed, we must accept that these things happened, rather than brushing them under the carpet.  To forgive and forget, as they say, is the ideal, but forgetting is not always possible.

Sometimes, letting go of the hurt involves accepting that the relationship you once had with the other person is beyond repair.  This can be hard.  Unless it's in your nature to see people walk out of your life, which would say more about you than it does about them, it's difficult to come to terms with the fact that moving on involves firmly shutting the door on someone to whom you may once have felt close.

Forgiveness is all about letting go of the hurt.  Sometimes, however, it is about just letting go.