Seven years ago, I found myself sitting in the waiting area of the music school my son attended for guitar lessons. The school’s owner had come out and greeted me with a kind gentle voice and then left. Within the quiet following his departure, I listened to musical notes drifting in from nearby classrooms. I smelled candles burning, their fragrance mixing with my slow easy breath. I noticed my frenetic spirit, rested. Personal ideas and dreams began to seep into my consciousness. I realized it had been a long time since I felt that at home and in tune with myself.
I now realize that was the start of my self’s unmasking. Over the next few years, the school provided a sacred place for my true spirit to reveal itself. My courage grew within the safe discussions that took place during my guitar lessons. I began to explore other pursuits such as Guardian ad litem volunteer work, writing classes and the creation of a blog (space2live,yay:). As I delved in meaningful work and relationships, my identity and way of being crystallized.
For years prior to that, I had worn a mask. I was what others expected me to be. I valued what my closest relationships valued. I tried desperately to keep up with the ‘successful’ people in my life. I extroverted, coveted money, denied spirituality and suppressed soft and sensitive thoughts. I masqueraded as the perfect wife and mother but in reality I didn’t know who I was.
Intuition + Feeling = Idealist
Individuals with preferences for Intuition (N) as their trusted way of taking in information and Feeling (F) as their go-to resource for making decisions in the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator, are called Idealists by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates in their book, Please Understand Me. According to Keirsey and Bates, Idealists are relationship-oriented people who strive to be authentic, to become self-actualized and to have good rapport with others. They are enthusiastic, empathic people interested in helping others grow.
Surviving threatening environments
We all play survival games. In Survival Games Personalities Play by Eve Delunas, Ph.D, author, Eric Berne, M.D., of Games People Play defines games as, a series of repeated transaction (or maneuvers) that we unconsciously engage in with others in order to obtain an ulterior (hidden) payoff. According to Berne, game payoffs may be: 1. the maintenance of internal psychic stability; 2. the avoidance of anxiety-arousing situations or intimacies; 3. the procurement of strokes; and/or 4. the maintenance of the established equilibrium in a relationship. Most often people resort to survival games when their fundamental needs and values are not being met in several or all of their key environments.
The survival game that the intuitive feeling Idealist plays is Masquerade. It is a deceptive game aimed at distracting others from seeing their inadequacies or inauthentic behavior. An idealist plays this game when they feel their needs for integrity, identity and rapport with others are not being met.
What do you think, am I OK?
There are six variations of the Masquerade game. I am only going to cover the Martyr variant in this post. According to Delunas, Martyr players try to cover up deep-seated feelings of inadequacy by being as good as they can be. NFs are prone to seek validation from others. Relationships are the center of their lives and the source of their deepest feelings about themselves.
Often Martyr players sacrifice their own identities — their needs and wants — so that they may keep peace in relationships and make certain that others are happy and content. After doing this for a long time, it is not unusual for Martyr players to discover that they have completely lost sight of themselves. — Eve Delunas, Survival Games Personalities Play
How to stop playing games
Often, the first thing an Idealist will complain about when seeking help is a lack of happiness. They may have no idea why they are not happy but there is a feeling of apathy. Apathy is very painful for an Idealist because they have core needs of compassion for others and enthusiasm for life.
In order to stop playing the Masquerade game an Idealist needs to:
1. Set specific goals. NFs tend to be broad and universal with their thinking. They can start by addressing specific relationships and creating action steps to move toward a tangible result. How exactly would you and your life look if you were happier?
2. Find ways to be true to themselves. Usually Idealists playing Masquerade find it difficult to be true to themselves and true to others at the same time. They behave in accordance with the expectations of others and violate their own values. A safe, non-judgmental environment and/or relationship provide the entrance back to authenticity.
3. Find a sense of meaning and purpose. Idealists are at their best when they are making a valuable contribution to humanity. Opportunities to inspire others help an Idealist meet her core needs.
Behind the mask
For a long time in my marriage and family life I played the Masquerade game. Subconsciously and consciously, I felt inadequate as a wife and mother. I didn’t love my husband enough. I didn’t sacrifice for my kids enough. I wasn’t a doer naturally. I wasn’t quick on my feet with answers, decisions and action steps. I didn’t have an advanced degree. I didn’t have a job making money.
To make up for all of those inadequacies I tried to be my family and community’s version of perfect. I went against my introverted and sensitive nature. I emulated neighbors, friends and members of our community in order to receive validation.
I lost myself. I eventually hit the apathetic wall.
Then I found myself sitting in a music school…
Have you ever lost yourself? How did you return to you?
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