Misunderstandings: Feeling and Thinking

Misunderstandings. There are so many ways that we can misunderstand each other. We like the Myers Briggs for its non-pathologizing approach to understanding and describing the differences among human beings.

Yesterday we were talking to a young woman who told us of a “classic” misunderstanding that potentially could have had a catastrophic outcome.

The young woman was talking with her beau about difficult topics (hurt feelings, feelings that both were having of not being loved or appreciated).

The two of them are examples of the wonders and challenges of relationships between people who are quite different from each other (no boredom, lots of confusion and potential irritation).

She is, in the lexicon of Myers Briggs, a “feeling” type. She makes judgments about things based on values and deeply held feelings. He is a “thinking” type. He makes judgments about things based on rational analysis, weighing the pro’s and con’s.

As the conversation proceeded they both retreated into their most comfortable modes of thought. She became more emotional and he became more rational. As she described it,

“I was becoming hysterical – do I need to cut myself open to show I bleed… I was filled with anger and feeling that I am being “honest”  by expressing that anger ever more vigorously. He was increasingly rational and obsessional… this made me feel worse… more desperate and more misunderstood.  Finally he lashed out at me as I am crying and I just get hysterical… I go out on the balcony and I am planning suicidal destruction…fortunately  he came out… said he was sorry and gave me a hug. That was the perfect thing to do.”

Take home lessons –

  1. The way I think through problems is not the only way that is “OK.”
  2. Vehement and energetic emotion is not usually more “honest” than an awareness of the many feelings we have about someone (love, hate, anger, caring…).
  3. We don’t get an owner’s manual when we get married… but sometimes it can be helpful to do some exercises (counseling, taking a Myers-Briggs, going on a retreat) to try to understand each other better…