In today’s interview, we explore:
– The idea of intuitive writing.
– The challenges intuitive feeling personalities face in marketing and how to overcome them so we don’t hold ourselves back.
– Lauren’s guidance in dealing with guilt and fear when going after our own desires and values, as opposed to society and our family’s expectations.
Lauren’s core message centers on taking gradual steps toward self-expression and personal fulfillment, all while staying aligned with long-term goals and values.
Whether you or someone you care about is the intuitive-feeling type, I hope you will get a lot from this.
Lauren is an author, a teacher, a speaker, and an intuitive writing coach. She also wrote the book The INFJ Writer, a writing guide for intuitive introverts, HSPs, empaths, and all other sensitive, struggling artists.
Lauren’s site: https://laurensapala.com/home/
Imi: All right. Hi, Lauren. Ms. Lauren Sapala, thank you so much for coming. And I really look forward to this conversation. So before-
Lauren: I am so, so glad to be here. When I got your email, I was so excited.
Imi: Yay. Yeah. Although we try to target specific topics here, I think we’ll just have a general conversation, and I think many people would benefit from your expertise in seemingly many, many different areas. So why don’t we start by just telling our audience a little bit more about you, who are you, your personal journey, how have you come to do what you do.
Lauren: Well, I’m a writer and a writing coach, first and foremost, and I’m also a teacher. I teach mostly online, but I do teach in-person retreats as well. And I specialize in teaching intuitive writers, so writers who are introverted, intuitive, and usually test as an INFJ or an INFP on the Myers-Briggs personality typing system.
I have not always done this. I’ve worked many, many different jobs in my life, and I really struggled with writing myself when I was younger. And through my own different strategies, figuring things out, I figured out a way that works for me, and I’ve been teaching that way, which I call intuitive writing, to my clients and my students for, gosh, the past about 10 years now. So it’s been quite a journey and quite a wild ride, but that’s kind of it in a nutshell.
Imi: Yeah. I was going to ask you about intuitive writing, because I think it’s not the first time I hear about it, but I think different people have rather a different definition.
Lauren: Well, yes. When you usually hear about intuitive writing, people mean automatic writing, so channel writing. So I’m asking a question of my guides and I’m just letting whatever flows through flow through. And sometimes people call it soul writing. And that’s definitely one form of it.
What I’m talking about is when you want to write a novel, or you want to write a nonfiction book, and it’s coming from you, you’re not channeling, this is coming from you in your own mind. However, you aren’t really someone who works with outlines very well. Plotting everything out beforehand doesn’t seem to work for you, having a rigid structure, having deadlines. For intuitive people, we need a lot more freedom and a lot more space.
So intuitive writing is about working with what comes to you as it comes to you. Some people call it pantsing, and pantsing is a form of intuitive writing, but pantsing is still really focused on producing a lot of words very quickly. Intuitive writing might be slow. You might not be on a schedule, you don’t have a word count goal. You are working with what’s coming up within you as it comes up on its own schedule. So you’re following the energy of the writing instead of trying to push it or force it to stick to a schedule. Does that make sense?
Imi: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. I think a lot of people are familiar with the work of Julia Cameron. So how would you-
Lauren: Yes, it’s very close to that.
Imi: Very close to that, I see. I noticed that you do a lot of different things. You coach people, you have your own writing, and you have some expertise in marketing. What I really like about your work is you don’t just portray INFT and INFP as this kind of weak, sensitive, artistic type. You also really empower them to thrive in the world and achieve the success they deserve. There’s a very fine balance between that kind of soft, sensitive, feminine energy, and the yes, go-getter energy that I really enjoy.
Lauren: Well, I find that’s one of the main sticking points for intuitive feeling personalities, that soft, sensitive personality. We usually have trouble with marketing, because we approach marketing in a different way. We have different issues with our ego, really is what it is. Especially in American society, people tend to have very strong egos, and American society really encourages that. Go after what you want, be aggressive, be competitive, be assertive. If you have to elbow other people out of the way, that’s the way it is. That doesn’t work for intuitive feeling personality types.
We tend to be very aware of other people’s needs, other people’s feelings. We tend to be naturally compassionate, and we seek harmony in the group. So that very aggressive, competitive, just do it, really is a big turnoff for us. And so we really will shy away from a lot of marketing work because we feel like, “Oh, I have to betray my values. I have to move out of integrity with myself and be this aggressive competitive person that I don’t recognize and I don’t like.”
The way I teach marketing is to use your natural talents, your natural ability, the way you naturally flow. So it’s not about being aggressive or competitive, it’s not about pushing yourself on people. It’s about connecting deeply with your message and your way that you want to be of service to the planet. And then bringing that to people, being a helper, being someone who’s working in service.
Imi: Wow. Oh, that’s beautiful. I mean, I think a lot of people associate the word narcissism with putting themselves out into the world. How would you speak to that? How would you encourage them? I think you already answered that question, actually.
Lauren: Oh, no. I’m really glad you brought up that word narcissist, because many INFJ and INFP personality types, and I don’t know why this is, I’m still working on figuring out this puzzle, but many, many of these types grew up with a narcissistic parent. So these types tend to be very sensitive to narcissism. They’ve dealt with it in their own lives, they’ve dealt with the damaging repercussions of it. And they definitely don’t want to do that, they don’t want to go out into the world in that way of being a narcissist. So they’re very sensitive to that.
And again, that comes back to you’re not manipulating people. Marketing, the way you do marketing does not have to be about manipulation. You are staying in integrity the entire time. You are being honest about who you are. You are being truthful about what you offer. And if what you offer isn’t a fit for someone, that’s okay. You’re not trying to persuade or convince, you’re not trying to get the sale. You are just offering truthful information about yourself, and you’re seeing how you can help. And if it’s not a fit for someone, that’s okay. They can move on and find something that is a fit for them. It’s not personal.
So that’s the kind of strategy I teach. It’s rooted in mindfulness and compassion.
Imi: Thank you. I think that’s encouraging to many people and would help them include marketing into their sense of integrity rather than being something that’s outside of. You mentioned a bit about growing up. Do you mind sharing a bit more about your own childhood and what you might see in your clients as a repeated pattern?
Lauren: Oh, yes. This is such a juicy topic.
Imi: It is. So take as long as you need.
Lauren: I have a very convoluted childhood story, I’ll condense it. I grew up in a family of people who were intuitive, sensitive people, but had really blocked that. That was really repressed in my family. Talking about emotions was not okay, expressing emotions in any way was not okay. There was a strong strain of alcoholism that ran through my family. I had a little brother who died of leukemia when I was 8. My mother died of cancer when I was 11.
Imi: Oh, I’m sorry.
Lauren: I was raised by my grandmother until I was 16. She died of cancer. So it was really like this one tragedy after another. And my father, he actually remarried. I was raised by my grandmother and he lived in the next town over. He remarried, he had more children. He was a high-functioning alcoholic. He was a sweet man, but really emotionally shut down, very avoidant.
So I grew up in a very odd family dynamic, where people were struggling with alcoholism, struggling with overachievement, avoidant, emotionally shut down. And I observed all of this, and I thought I was crazy growing up because I could feel feelings that I felt were coming from other people, but then I thought, “No, I’m crazy. That’s all me.”
And as I grew up and I learned more about INFJs and INFPs and personality typing, and I looked at my own patterns, how I had been in job after job where I was a workaholic. I had been an alcoholic myself. I was always struggling to do more, I was always burnt out. I had very driven behavior.
And I started working with my clients. And everybody who was an INFJ personality type like myself, or an INFP personality type, which it’s very close, they had very similar stories: an addicted parent, a mentally ill parent, an avoidant parent, a narcissistic parent, an abusive parent. Or they had some sort of circumstances: extreme poverty, extreme hardship in their childhood. Maybe they had an illness themselves, a chronic illness from a young age.
I’ve never met an INF personality type who had an easy childhood. The details are different, but the themes are the same. And I really believe that contributes to our empathic nature. We had to learn how to be intuitive from a young age. It’s a muscle, it’s a psychic muscle, and we had to develop it because our childhood was so unpredictable that we had to know the moment people walked into a room, or we walked into a room, “What’s going on here? What’s the emotional temperature of mom, of dad? Where’s the power dynamic? Who has the power right now? What do I need to anticipate? Mom needs me, dad needs me. What do I need to be?”
So we learn very quickly how to turn into chameleons, how to be whatever people around us need us to be immediately and seamlessly. And then we carry that into adult life. And that turns into codependency, that turns into compulsive overachievement. And the whole time, we’re now so psychically open and empathic, we’re getting everyone else’s stuff: their feelings, their thoughts, their psychic baggage. And a lot of times these types don’t know we’re getting all this stuff from other people.
So that’s another topic I teach on is empaths, empaths and boundaries, empaths and relationships, how to manage that sensitivity, how to manage that psychic porousness that’s so much a part of us. So that’s a big answer.
Imi: No, no, no. I think a lot of people are resonating. What’s the best thing you’ve done to help yourself own who you are? That’s a big question, I would think.
Lauren: That is a big question. I don’t know if it’s the best thing I’ve done, or the best piece of knowledge I finally understood, is that I am very psychically sensitive. And if you are an INFJ or an INFP personality type, you are also very psychically sensitive. And that changes your entire experience of life. It changes the way you approach creativity. It changes the way you write your book. It changes the way you are in the world. It changes the kinds of relationships you have and that you can have. It changes everything.
And a lot of times, people before they understand this feel very limited, “Well, I can’t go out in crowds,” or, “I can’t write my book in nine months like everyone else,” or, “I can’t be at the open office plan in the very overachieving company. I can’t work at the corporation.”
But once they truly understand what they are and that they are different, it opens up a lot more. That’s when the freedom comes in. “Oh no, I can’t work at the corporation.” “No, I can’t write my book like anyone else.” “No, I can’t have a thousand friends and go out to the party.” And that’s when life starts getting really good, actually.
Imi: Wow. I think we’re already deep in a conversation about sensitivity and the types, but I think some people are still not as familiar with the MBTI system as you do. For instance, can you lay out the differences between say INFJ, INFP and maybe ENFJ?
Lauren: So, with the Myers-Briggs personality system, and I always encourage people, if this is something that interests you or speaks to you, go online and Google MBTI personality systems. There’s so much information nowadays about it. There are 16 types. So there are eight intuitive types and there are eight sensing types. Intuitive types are people who navigate the world through their intuition, basically. Sensing types navigate the world through their five senses. What can I see? What do I hear? The concrete world around me.
Now, there’s also eight introverted types and eight extroverted types. And eight feeling types and eight thinking types. Everybody has a combination of four letters. So an ENFJ, as you said, is actually very similar to an INFJ, they’re just extroverted. But ENFJs, even though they’re extroverts, will also be very sensitive. They’re also usually empaths. They’re very sensitive to other people’s energy. They pick up [inaudible 00:14:34]-
Imi: And they’re different to INFP in their energies too, don’t you think?
Lauren: As well. INFPs, if you are an N, you’re an N type, you’re going to be very sensitive to other people’s energies. The INFP and the INFJ tend to be, I would say, two of the most sensitive types to other people’s energy. And then you’re going to have an ESTJ, which is at the total other end of the spectrum.
Imi: Anything S is totally another … I personally find it quite hard to relate to the S type, actually in [inaudible 00:15:11]-
Lauren: Most intuitives say that. I will say I do think there’s an exception that the ISTP… And most people are very puzzled when I say this, but if you get to know an ISTP, they can be a very match for INFJ and INFP.
Imi: Yeah. Now that you say that, my current good friend, one of my best friends that I made as a grownup, which is very rare, because I think most people just have their best friend when they were younger, it’s that. And when I first heard that I was very disappointed. I thought, “No way! You can’t be an IS. That’s like everyone I don’t … I mean, that’s my …”
He actually is an ISTP. I was very perplexed. But then we really do get along, and the synergy of it feels a lot like the ENFP childhood best friend that I used to have, and I was very perplexed. I mean, I understand that people are not just a type, and it’s way more intricate than that. But I was disappointed and perplexed. And so I was just like, “Oh my God. I’m so glad to hear you say that.” What makes them so special?
Lauren: ISTPs, I will say, out of all the sensing types, I think they are the most intuitive. The ISTP, the way that their personality functions are arranged. They’re not that far off from INFJs. So they’re strong where we are weak, and we are strong where they are weak. And it really is a great compatibility match. And many, many intuitive types, like you said, are surprised and a little perplexed like, “What? You’re an ISTP?” But it’s a really great match for us. And they also share a lot of our values: independence, self-sufficiency, privacy. They’re very respectful of the strong boundaries that we need.
Imi: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Yeah, and maybe just be the person that I was thinking about, this strong sense of curiosity about different things as well.
Lauren: Oh, yes, they can really meet us and talk about ideas-
Imi: Yes, yes.
Lauren: … and philosophy-
Imi: Different things.
Lauren: … abstract ideas. Yeah.
Imi: Thank you. I’m very happy now, hearing that. And you spoke of the online description and asking people to go online, but that could be a minefield in itself, isn’t it?
Lauren: I say, take the test, and then whatever you … Say you come up as an INFP. Okay, great. Well, what are the personality functions of the INFP? Then start researching those functions. Do those [inaudible 00:17:59] take the test again. Okay, now I came up as an INFJ. What are those personality functions? Start looking into the functions rather than the stereotypes of the types. So you’re going to want to dig deeper into the internet, not just the, “Okay, this is everything that came up on page one.” Really dig deeper.
I have worked with people who have taken the test multiple times and they say, “I always come up as a different thing,” or, “I always come up as between two things.” In that case, I always urge people to get in touch with an MBTI-certified coach. And there’s a lot of them out there, but someone who can give you the actual official assessment, look at your results, talk to you in person or over Zoom, and work with you on those results, and determine what you are. I think that’s really the best way instead of just sticking with the free online quizzes.
The free assessment is not bad, but it’s not really that great either. So if you are that person where you’re like, “I keep getting a different result,” or, “I’m on the fence between two types and it’s always flip-flopping between the two,” get in touch with a certified coach. They can really help.
Well, I think there’s a common theme between all of the areas you just mentioned, and that’s a really deep fear of being seen and making themselves visible. This does come much of the time from our childhoods. So many of us grew up in homes where it was not safe to be seen. If you were seen, if you made yourself visible, you were opening yourself to attack. It was actually dangerous, especially if you had a narcissistic parent, or an abusive parent, or an alcoholic parent. So a lot of us developed this strategy early on of being invisible, flying under the radar.
And that doesn’t mean that we speak quietly, or that we don’t have opinions. We do have opinions and we are able to speak up, but it’s so second nature to us to step back, and to not really express our true feelings, the full extent of our talents. That’s another big one for INF personality types. They’re very intelligent, they’re almost always gifted, and they hide that from other people. They don’t want to look too smart, too talented, too creative. They don’t want to call attention to themselves. It makes us feel very uncomfortable at such a deep, primal level. It’s unconscious a lot of the time.
So, much of the time, we have a really huge struggle around meeting our own needs, expressing our own needs. Sometimes even knowing what our needs are, or who we are. If we’re around too many people, we will chameleon, and we will lose ourself in other people’s energy. If we’re around a lot of other strong personalities, we can lose ourselves very easily. If we have a partner who is very needy, has a very strong personality, we can lose ourselves in that partner for years, and come out on the other side.
I’ve worked with clients who say, “My partner died after 30 years, and I realized I have no idea who I am, because I just went along with them. I just became what they needed me to be for 30 years.” Or same thing with a job. I was in a high stress, very immersive job where you were really supposed to be part of the corporate culture, and I came out after eight years with no idea who I am. So identity is hard for us. Our real identity tends to be deep, deep, deep down inside, and we don’t show it to very many people ever.
Yeah, I know… No, it’s actually not. And you bring up a really great point. I know this sounds like a weird strategy, because most INFs say, “Well, I need to break away from that. I need to stop doing that.” It’s almost impossible for us to stop doing it.
So one of the things you can use if you’re really immersed in someone else, or codependent with someone else, or you’re in a situation where you’re like, “I’m saturated,” you can switch your focus and get immersed in a different thing. So if you’re like, “Yeah, I’ve spent the weekend with my friend, I feel like I now am my friend. I am just thinking about all of their problems,” the next day, Monday, switch your focus to something else. Get immersed in a book, get immersed in a TV show, get immersed in another person even. A lot of times I would have rotating people so I could switch focus and not get too immersed in one person.
Imi: I mean, I don’t get immersed in anyone’s world anymore now. I am quite different now. But I was describing when I was really, really young when I just literally hadn’t formed my full identity. That would happen. But I guess I brought that up to point to … Sorry. Our conversation is so all over the place, I hope our audience can follow.
The point of why I think the identity confusion makes sense, because they must have had identified with different things and they got sucked into that world so easily. Let’s say with your example, you were that corporate person for so long, and I guess that’s why it would delay, maybe.
Lauren: So the important thing to remember for INFJs and INFPs, intimacy means merging. Now, that’s actually not true intimacy, but we don’t understand that, because we grew up in the home with the addicted parent, the alcoholic parent, the narcissistic parent to us.
Imi: I think it’s worth pointing out. Not everyone, I mean, it’s not everyone. Yeah, it’s something that you see repeatedly, and I do too. I see that a lot.
Lauren: But it’s a strong tendency, and a lot of times we do believe to be intimate with someone, when I love someone, to be close to them, that means to merge with them. That’s not actually true. That’s not true intimacy. But for most of us, it takes us many years to learn that and find that out. Like, “Okay, what are boundaries? Where are the boundaries? What kind of boundaries do I want?” That’s really difficult for us. Or you’ll have the INFJs and INFPs who go the other way, who say, “The boundaries are so rigid. Nobody gets in, nothing gets in. It’s all walls. It’s all boundaries.”
Imi: Do you think people can flip into defensive mode where the walls get too thick and too high?
Lauren: Oh, definitely.
Imi: And then they isolate themselves too much?
Lauren: I work with many INFJs and INFPs who are in hermit mode as a way of life. They’re like, “It’s too much. I can’t handle the world. I get overwhelmed.” We also get very overwhelmed by stimulus: loud sounds, strong smells, bright lights, too many people, too much going on. We get very overwhelmed in a sensory way. So on top of that, and then the emotional boundary blurring with people, a lot of INFJs and INFPs just retreat and they say, “That’s it. It was just a big wall. And I work from home and I do my work on my computer, and then I don’t see anyone, and that’s just fine with me, and I’m going to be a hermit for life.”
So those walls are really thick and high. We don’t let people in. We tend to also listen to other people’s problems, but we don’t share anything about ourselves. So a lot of people think, “They love us. Oh, I feel so close to them.” For us, we’re like, “Yeah, we’re not really that close of friends. They just tell me all of their problems all the time.”
Imi: How would you describe a healthy relationship, healthy and ideal relationship for someone like that?
Lauren: I think for INFJs and INFPs, most of us need some sort of non-traditional relationship with a partner. And by non-traditional, I mean, we need a lot of independence. So maybe we don’t identify as a couple all the time. Our social life is not all couple activities. Maybe we have multiple partners, maybe we’re polyamorous. Or maybe we go for long stretches in our life where we’re unpartenerd. But for INFJs and INFPs, there really needs to be a consciousness that comes in around relationships, and a constant reevaluation. Is this working for me? Does this feel like a fit? Is this person too close? Do I feel too much distance with this person?
So we really can’t just do the traditional, “I guess I’m in a relationship, whether that’s friendship or romantic with this person, and I’m not going to think about it very much for the next 20 or 30 years. They’re just in my life now.” We can’t do that. We have to constantly reassess and reassess. How intimate do I feel with this person? Is the connection still alive? Is it changing? How do I feel about that? That’s very important to us.
Imi: Yes. I love your answers to my questions. They are so precise and immediately useful.
Lauren: Well, I mean, really there’s just so much information there. The INFJ/INFP thing, it’s one of those things you kind of scratch the surface, you’re like, “Oh, this looks interesting.” And then after a while you’re like, “Wow, this is me. And there’s so much stuff here to learn.” It’s so life-changing. I really changed my life, so I just want to share it with every other INFJ and INFP I meet.
Imi: For me, I find the Enneagram changed my life. This stuff too. But then it’s such a complex system, because once you’ve got into it and geek out, there are all these quite dominant function, auxiliary function. It’s infinitely complex and useful. How did it change your life, actually? Can you speak to that?
Lauren: Well, so before I really got into the INFJ thing, I knew I was different. I always knew I was different. And most INFJs and INFPs do, we’re very observant about other people. We’re very good at really understanding the psychological landscape of others. But we also realize that others are not very good at understanding the psychological landscape within us. So it’s not a two-way street. So we really understand everyone around us, we see how different we are, but no one understands us. So we end up feeling just weird. We very much understand that we apparently have different values, we have different behaviors, because we are so sensitive physically and mentally, we do things in a different way. So a lot of what is natural for us might be categorized as disordered behavior.
A lot of INFJs and INFPs don’t feel comfortable eating in front of people. We don’t feel comfortable sitting in a circle with everyone looking at us. That makes us very uncomfortable. We might look messy externally, but we don’t want anyone to touch anything on our desk. We know where everything is, even if it looks like a mess. So a lot of times we tend to have rituals, and the way that we do things in place that to other people, they might say, “What’s wrong with you? Do you have social anxiety? Do you have OCD? What’s going on?” And yes, we might actually have some of those things, but a lot of it is natural behavior for us because we become so overwhelmed so easily that we have to conduct ourselves in a certain way so that we don’t constantly get overwhelmed by the environment. And most of us have come up with our own little hacks and our ways that we do this, but this just makes us feel weird.
And so for years I really noticed I’m so different from my coworkers. When I’m in the office and when we’re talking, I’m not interested in the things that everyone else is interested in. And the things I’m interested in everyone else thinks is boring, or weird. And so there was a lot of hiding. Or I would suddenly know things about people. I would be talking to someone and I would just suddenly know something and I was like, “Am I making this up? I must be crazy.” Or I would hear voices sometimes, and now I know I’m clairaudience, and that’s a psychic sense. But at the time I was like, “I’m crazy. I’m hearing voices.” And the voices I heard were always calm and gentle, and very nourishing and very compassionate. I never had bad voices. But still in American culture, if you’re hearing voices, it’s not something that’s talked about in a positive way.
So I really thought something was wrong with me. When I discovered INFJ/INFP, the Myers-Briggs personality type system, and I started to go deeper into the empath thing and the psychic sensitivity, that’s when I had this huge sigh of relief. “There’s nothing wrong with me. I don’t have an illness. I’m okay. I just am actually very different than most of the population.” And then when I started coaching and teaching, and I met so many other people like me, that’s when it really opened up.
And I teach classes, I had a new student the other night. And in the chat she said, “I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve been around this many people who think like me. This is so strange.” And I said, “Oh, yeah, she’s new,” because I usually have a lot of students who come back to my classes. And they all said, “Yeah, this is my real family. The other intuitive people.” So it really can be a life changer once you start embracing this side of yourself.
Imi: What are you the most interested in right now, this point of your investigation?
Lauren: Oh, my gosh. I don’t know if you should ever ask an INFJ that. So many things. This year, honestly, I’ve been really focusing on the empath piece. I’ve taught a class on empaths and boundaries. I’m putting on a summit in just a few days, it’s called the Creative Empath Summit, where I talked a 14 different leaders in the empath community. And so I’ve really been interested in that empath piece. There is so much to it, from boundaries, to the psychic sensitivity, to grounding techniques, to the chakras, and your energy system and balancing that. So that’s really been my focus this year.
Of course, I’m always focused on writing. I just finished up a Write to Heal class where we talked about writing about trauma in memoir, writing about trauma in fiction. Working through trauma, using creativity is always a big interest of mine, always very interested in that. I’m always interested in writing fiction and memoir on the darker side. I’m going to be teaching a class this fall called Writing Into the Dark, and we’re going to talk about writing dark memoir and dark fiction. And right now I’m teaching an abundance class, and we’re talking about money for INFJs and INFPs. So really all over the place, lots of different interests, but that’s what’s going on right now.
Imi: I’m excited just hearing your energy. Oh, there’s one thing I want to talk about. You know the term multipotentialite? That’s not a term that a lot of people have heard of. I do know where it comes from. I don’t think I’ve interviewed the lady who came up with it, but why don’t you talk about it and your understanding of it and how it relates to you.
Lauren: I think the woman who came up with is Emily Walker?
Imi: Emily, yeah. Yeah. She had a [inaudible 00:35:40] talk.
Lauren: She’s really interesting. And I really encourage anyone to look her up. She’s really an interesting person, and she’s got so much valuable information on multipotentialites. But it’s basically what you just witnessed it in action when you were like, “Lauren, what are you interested in right now?” And I was like, “Empaths, and abundance, and dark fiction, and writing about trauma.” So INFJs and INFPs tend to be multipotentialite, we’re interested in a lot of different things. And I always get this question, especially for INFPs, “Is this okay? Is this a bad thing? Should I reign this in?” This comes again from our culture. In mainstream culture, you’re supposed to pick one thing. You’re supposed to pick one career, you’re supposed to pick one thing, get on that track, go towards it in a straight line.
So you want to be this, you go to school for that, you get a degree in that, and then you get an internship in that, and then you get a job in that, boom, boom, boom. That’s not how it works for INFJs and INFPs. We are interested in many different things that are all part of the same web, so it’s not a straight line. So everything I just named, when I said empaths and energetic boundaries, and writing about trauma and money, you might be like, “Well, those are three very different things.” They’re not. They’re all in the same web, they have the same root. And that root is self-worth. That root is damaged sense of self. So if you really dig deep, all of those things are related. Your relationship with money, your relationship with other people, trauma, writing about trauma, processing trauma through creativity, these are all big pieces of the same big web. And that’s really normal for multipotentialites. We think in a web.
And I have a video on YouTube that says how to understand the INFJ brain. And same for INFPs, it also applies to them. But we think in a web, we do not think in a straight line. Earlier you said, “I hope my listeners can follow this conversation.” They will, because they’re web-based thinkers. A web-based thinker can follow point, point, point, all these different stars lining up like a constellation in the sky. You can just give them the pattern of stars and they see that picture.
The sensors who are much more linear, you’re going to lose them. And most of us have felt from a young age, “Oh, I’m rambling. I’m being confusing. I’m interested in all these different things. People say I need to narrow it down.” Those are the straight line thinkers. They can’t get where you’re coming from, they can’t relate. That’s okay. You’re not trying to please them, and you probably should not seek out working relationships with them, or jobs with them. Go somewhere where your web-based thinking will be appreciated, and your multipotentialite nature is needed.
Imi: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I think the world is slowly changing, but for a long time the world celebrates specialism. Specialize in this one thing, you become the expert. I personally had many existential crisis where I really try to wiggle out something I’ve invested a lot in, but in the end, if I don’t do that, my body just pushes me out anyway, like it got so burned out.
There is a quote from your work that I would like to read out. It’s about INFJ obsession. And let’s see… Can I read it out? It’s something that you wrote, but I want you to speak to it. “This is INFJ obsession, and anyone who isn’t an intuitive feeler, meaning INFJ, FP, ENFP or ENFJ, probably has no idea what I’m talking about. For most of my life, I assumed I was crazy, needy, clingy, and had some weird stalker streak that tended to surface at unpredictable times. Whenever the fascination overtook me, I was doomed to beat my head against my inner walls until I collapse out of sheer weariness.” Now, tell me more.
Lauren: So the INFJ obsession, as I mentioned earlier, the merging.
Imi: Ah, so it’s related to that too. Yes, yes.
Lauren: Yes. We tend to get fascinated with people, and INFJs and INFPs, really, really are attracted to soulmate relationships. And there’s a great book called Energy Healing for Empaths by Lisa Campion, and she talks about this, how empaths, psychically sensitive people, really gravitate towards soulmate relationships. In friendships, in romantic relationships, in work relationships. That’s very important to us. We tend to be older souls, and we’re here to get our soul contracts done. So that’s really important to us.
A lot of times with sensors, like your mainstream sensor personality, they don’t necessarily need to be in a soulmate relationship. They can go online dating, find someone who seems nice, and have a relationship with them. And it’s fine. We both play tennis. We both like to go to the movies. We both like Mexican food. So this surface level relationship really can work. It can’t for intuitive people.
Intuitive people, we need this soulmate connection. And a lot of times that soulmate connection, when that happens with a person, which we usually tend to find our soulmates because we have adventurous lives. We might be quiet, but we love adventures. We want to travel to India. We want to join the sound art collective. We want to play the ukulele in Alaska. We want to do all of these adventurous, weird things, and we will come across our soulmates. And then that fascination sets in that obsession. I want to know everything about you. I want to merge with you, I want to saturate myself with you. Most people think this is a bad thing. If you’re doing this for 10 years on end, yeah, it’s probably detrimental to your own goals in your own life. But I also want to say it’s going to happen.
And sometimes when it happens, if it’s with a toxic person, yeah, that’s not great, get yourself out of that situation. But if the person has a good heart, they’re not toxic, you are learning from them, let yourself have it for a little while. Let yourself get obsessed, let yourself be fascinated. Much of the time, we will get fascinated and obsessed, and we will turn that into some form of creativity. We will write a book and that person shows up as a character, or they will influence our painting, or we will write songs about them, or poetry. We will come up with something creative that translates, that transmutes that obsessive, merging love energy, into creative form. And we need to do that. It’s like they act as a muse for a little while. And that’s okay. Let yourself have that. Of course, like I said, always evaluate if this person is a narcissist, or they’re toxic, well, that’s not great. You don’t want to continue that. But if they’re not, it really can be harmless, and it’s okay to let yourself have that.
Imi: Beautiful. I was going to save a final session on how do you help people thrive, but then you basically already said all of them, you’ve just sort of interweave it into it. But I think one of the common struggle is the intense emotions and the mood swings. Is there anything you can suggest for people if they really just… I mean, what I call it is just ride the wave. How do we help people ride the wave? And the answer is just ride the wave. But is there anything you can say that’s more intelligent than what I can say?
Lauren: Well, I will say, and this is from personal experience and from my teaching experience.
Imi: That would be good.
Lauren: A lot of times for intuitive people, when we’re having an intense emotion, we need to express something. And we’re not letting ourselves express it. We either need to actually verbally say something to someone, to our partner or friend. “Hey, when that happened, I wasn’t really cool with it. It hurt my feelings.” Or maybe we don’t need to say something to someone else, but we need to write it in our journal, or we need to write a poem about it. Or maybe it’s not a verbal thing. We need to dance. We need to dance at our emotions, or we need to paint that picture. But we need to express something. INFJs and INFPs are very expressive. Self-expression is so important to us. We have to self-express on a constant basis. Like I said, it doesn’t always have to be to another person. It can be privately to your journal, or it can be in an art project. But it has to be happening.
And if it’s not happening, you’re going to get that buildup of emotion. And then it’s going to come out in anger, or a temper tantrum, or depression. It will turn inward and turn into an anxiety and depression. But that’s where a lot of those intense emotions, especially the negative emotions, are happening. So if you’re a person and you’re saying, “I have these waves of anger,” or, “I have these periods of depression, I don’t know what’s going on.” Are you expressing? Are you giving yourself the room and the freedom in your life to self-express on a regular basis? And if you’re not, that’s what needs to happen. And again, it does not have to be to another person. You don’t necessarily have to get a therapist. You can still remain very private, but then lock the door and dance in your own room with the shades drawn, or get that canvas out and paint. Or make something, but you need to be turning what’s inside of you outward. It needs to leave you, it needs to be released.
Imi: That is really different to just a generic advice of breathe, do meditation, which is really useful.
Lauren: That can work if you already are expressing. If you’re having little moments of irritation during the day, right? If you lost your car keys and you’re really upset, sure, sit and breathe. But if you’re like, “Wow, I’m really angry all the time, I always want to punch the wall.” That’s something different. I don’t know that breathing is really going to help with that.
Imi: Thank you. What else? What else shall we talk about? I think we’re almost time. But energetic boundaries, creativity… Ah. I mean, let’s say you are talking to someone who is hitting that point that you described earlier where they have been a corporate person for eight years, and then now they don’t know who they are. What would you tell them to go and do immediately now?
Lauren: So there tends to be two lines of thinking in our culture, and one is, if you’re miserable in the corporate job that you’ve been at forever, we’ll just tough it out. Just wait until retirement. And the other line of thinking is… I do hear that from a lot of people. The other line of thinking is, quit immediately. Follow your bliss. Be creative. Take a chance, jump off the cliff.
So I say there’s something in between that. Stay in the job that you need to pay the bills right now, yes, but become aware that you don’t want to stay there, and start pursuing fulfillment now. I’m teaching this abundance class right now, and I have all these people, whenever I teach something like this, they come in and they say, “I want a better life, and I want more money, and I’m ready for this, and I’m ready for the next level.” And then I say, “Okay, here’s your assignment this week. I want you to do one thing that’s just for you that’s not productive, that you really love. So if you have a favorite TV show, I want you to let yourself watch it. If you want to go buy some art supplies, let yourself do that.”
And invariably, people come back to me and they say, “I tried to do it, but I couldn’t, “I felt too guilty,” “I felt like I was wasting time,” “I don’t see how this is going to make money.” And I say, “How are you going to allow the next big wave of abundance into your life when you won’t even let yourself have the little things right now? So you won’t even let yourself sit and watch your favorite TV show. So how are you going to let yourself have a million dollars? You won’t let yourself go by art supplies. So how are you going to let yourself have this fabulous creative life where you’re painting every day? You have to work with letting yourself have fulfillment now.” You have to work with that guilt that comes up, that shame, that voice that says, “You’re wasting time,” or, “How is this going to amount to anything?” Or, “How is this going to make money?” You got to work with that stuff now, or you’re never going to leave that corporate job. Those voices will always keep you in place. It has to start small.
Imi: “Bad, security.” “Bad, the family I have to take care of,” “Bad, bad, bad.”
Lauren: Exactly. You got to work with those voices now. And that’s why I say work with it in a little way. So don’t quit the job all at once where you’re like, “Now I’m completely freaked out. I have no source of income. I’m in complete fear. I’m so stressed. I’m awake at night because I don’t know how I’m going to pay you the rent.” That’s not conducive either to helping you live a better life. You want to start small.
So I don’t work on weekends anymore. Saturdays are for me. I go to the museum, because I want to. Or I go to the bookstore. Or I joined an art meetup, and we go and we just draw cartoons at the cafe Saturday mornings. I don’t know how this is going to make money, I don’t know what it’s going to lead to. I don’t need to know. I don’t have to have a destination. I’m just going to follow fulfillment for fulfillment’s sake right now, and I’m going to see where that leads. And the whole time I’m going to be conscious and aware, I don’t want to be at this corporate job forever. I’m finding a way out and I’m letting myself have fulfillment right now.
Imi: It’s really hard to balance responsibilities and the values they have interjected from their parents and break free. I think that’s something that I keep hitting again and again with people I work with, where they care so deeply about loyalty, and honoring the values of those around them, they’ve lost their own.
Lauren: I see that a lot, especially with the parents. You can’t live for your parents though. You really can’t. And you can’t live for your parents’ values.
Imi: [inaudible 00:51:04] than them. I think a lot of people [inaudible 00:51:10] know that, they simply cannot do it. They just feel this so bad. Whitling out of the merger with their parents. Toxic parents, sometimes.
Lauren: Gosh, I don’t know. I mean, I do teach a bunch of classes If people are interested, join my newsletter. I have a newsletter. It’s at my website, laurensapala.com, and I teach a new class every month. I don’t plan them, people always… Yeah, I teach a lot. I really do. And people are always emailing me and say, “Do you have the schedule for the next six months?” And I say, “No, I honestly don’t because I just make it up as I go along.” I never know what I’m going to teach until about a week before, and then it hits me and I’m like, “Oh, okay, a money class,” “Okay, a trauma class,” whatever it is. So I really urge people to stay on my newsletter, because that’s the only way you’ll get the notifications and find out what I’m teaching as it occurs to me, which is not a very planned out way, but it seems to work.
Imi: Thank you so much for today. I’m sure people would benefit a lot from your expertise. Oh, there are so many questions I want to ask, but I think I need to be respectful of your time. Would you be open to chatting again at some point?
Lauren: Oh, yeah. For sure.
Imi: Yeah. If there’s anything I can help with bringing your message into the world, or collaboration, I’ll be so open to it. I do work a lot with people that you do work with, and I think just people that I work with have a lot in common. And they’re always asking me if there’s some sort of community that they can join, a group. Maybe in the future I can point them to you.
Lauren: Oh, yeah. If they’re part of one of my classes, they’re going to find community. Every class I have, a spinoff group forms, or people become friends. There’s so many different spinoff groups that have formed for my classes, it’s crazy. And they’re free. They’re just people who are like, “Let’s get together on our own, and work on our memoir, or work on art,” or whatever it is.
Imi: Thank you so much. I’m sure they will reach out.
Imi Lo is a consultant and published author with extensive and international experience in mental health and psychotherapy. Her books Emotional Sensitivity and Intensity and The Gift of Intensity are available worldwide and in multiple languages. Imi has two Master’s degrees; one in Mental Health and one in Buddhist Studies. She works holistically, combining psychological insights with Eastern and Western philosophies such as Buddhism and Stoicism.