Thoughtful Distraction versus Reactive Distraction

Pardon my excessive writing about Fours lately- it feels a bit self-indulgent, but this last month, they've been on my mind.   

I've discovered some good shows on Netflix lately.  I'm trying to let myself off the hook from finding the educational value in everything, and just enjoy fun for the sake of fun.

I've discovered some good shows on Netflix lately.  I'm trying to let myself off the hook from finding the educational value in everything, and just enjoy fun for the sake of fun.

Don Riso once said that all the personality types have a distraction from suffering except the Fours.  Fours are drawn inward to it like flies to honey.  They think if they focus in on it and anaylze it to pieces, what they will find will be the key to their freedom, and so they spend and inordinate amount of time sinking further and further into immobility, blaming, and sadness... never finding the key.

You hear all kinds of horrible things about unhealthy Fours, like how they get depressed and alienate their friends, cut themselves off from interaction with the world, stay in bed all day, forcing their children to wake themselves up and make it to school on their own, and generally neglect self-care and security. 

As a Four, I can say I did touch down into a certain level of unhealthy immobility in my twenties, but thankfully since then, have found a life purpose and a goal.  However, as a self-preservation Four, the countertype, it's almost like I've swung too far in the opposite direction.  Now I'm the type of Four described by Beatrice Chestnut, who "is more masochistic than melodramatic."

Self-Preservation Fours demand a lot of themselves.  They have a strong need to endure, so they develop an ability to do without.  They put themselves in situations that are tough.  They test and challenge themselves.  One of my clients with this subtype says that she "throws herself into the fire."  These Fours have a passion for effort- they engage in intense activity and may often appear strained and tense.

A passion for effort.  Even at the end of a long day when I'm tired and I can't think anymore, I will refuse to leave my desk and get ready for bed.  I think SP Fours are kind of like Threes in that regard, who over-value hard work (although, unlike Threes, will get panicky when it they see the finish line). 

Meanwhile, I've developped a complete disdain for entertainment or taking anything that resembles a shortcut, or any kind of distraction from hard work.  I remember in college, my RA went shopping and came back with a bunch of new clothes.  I commented on them, and she cheerfully said "yeah it was time for a pick-me-up".  Right, I thought.  Like clothes can heal the underlying issues that need to be handled with introspection. 

Don't get me wrong- it's not like I haven't ever indulged, it's just been in the fashion of the Type One with the backdoor indulgences, as Helen Palmer calls them.   The type One's overactive Superego is so invested in ensuring perfection that out of a need for relief from the constant judgmental flogging, the id inevitably slips up and indulges in a manner clearly out of character for the One.  For example, I've gone overboard and spent too much on clothes, but that was out of overattention to my image, envy, and lack of financial planning. 

So there are clearly two approaches to letting loose, either in how we spend our time or how we spend our money- reactively and thoughtfully.  Lately when I'm drawn inward to think about my suffering, I know the correct answer is to go do some exercise or get my gut energy activated somehow by DOING, DOING, DOING.  But as a SP Four, that's what I'm already trying to do.  So the last couple times I've been in the swampy swampity swamp of my emotions and tried uselessly to gun my motor through it, I've taken a break and watched Netflix.

Now I haven't watched TV in about ten years- I think 2007 was the last time I allowed myself the pleasure because to me, TV- and sitting in general- represent laziness and lack of direction in life, as well as the possibility of falling back into the habits of my twenties.  But lately, a dear friend invited me to share his Netflix account and here I am nibbling away at shows here and there. 

Today I was having trouble getting out of a funk, and I was like, "just keep pushing!  EFFOOOORRRRTT!!!, but the guilt of not being able to get into my gut only sunk me further into inaction.  Noticing I was just sinking more and more, I was like, "wait a second, maybe if I took a minute to press the reset button with some of that Downton Abbey show... I can come back in a more relaxed state of mind!"  And I did.

So carefully, little by little, I'm learning how to do the exquisite balancing act between effort and a little bit of distraction.  Of course, I think exercise would have been the best choice, the gut being the great balancer of the heart, the wind that dries out the swamp, but sometimes there's too big a leap between immobility and doing jumping jacks, that it's okay to take a half-step instead of a full one... as long as the momentum gained is used to make it into the gut eventually.  So there's my cautious thesis for today: can a thoughtful amount of time set aside for entertainment have a redeeming effect for workaholic SP Fours (and Threes)?