In the Grip

I find it difficult to recognise when I’m feeling stressed out, and this can lead to all sorts of problems, as you can imagine.  Irritability, the inability to concentrate, my mind going into overdrive.  A whole host of troublesome feelings followed by actions I can regret at leisure. In contrast, I know when I’m feeling dangerously stressed out when I’m on my bike.  My hands begin to hurt from gripping the handlebars too tightly, my shoulders and neck become sore from poor posture.

I’m in the grip.

These signs register with me very quickly, and I adjust my position on the bike, and start adjust the way I’m thinking and feeling, too.  Off my bike it’s a different matter altogether.  Things start to get out of hand pretty quickly.

One of the ways I find very useful in understanding myself, recognising the way I ‘work’, is through a system called the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).  Essentially, based on a questionnaire, it identifies a series of four ‘preferences’, beginning with an extraversion or introversion preference.  These ways of being identify where we get our energy from.  For example, extraversion (which like the intraversion type) differs somewhat from the everyday definition of the term, means ‘outward turning’.  Introversion in this scheme means ‘inward turning’.  People who tend towards extraversion draw their energy from action.  Essentially, people with this preference tend to act, then reflect, and then act further.  Inaction, for someone with is preference tends to mean their motivation tends to decline. In contrast, people who tend towards the introversion preference draw their energy from reflection.  In a nutshell, people with this preference tend to reflect, then act, then reflect once more.  To rekindle their energy people with this preference need time alone.

There are a further six types that identify other elements of one’s personality.  I don’t have the time, patince, or expertise to explain these here.  However, I have found that, having identified all these areas for myself, I have been able to understand myself (and others) a whole lot better.

You can take the test here:

To explore what your type means for you visit:

I am indebted to my good friend Maurice for opening my eyes to MBTI and sharing these online resources.  Any inaccuracies in my description of MBTI are down to me alone.  All the more reason to take the test yourself and find out more about this really useful tool.

What I have discovered recently – thanks to my friend – is that there is also an analysis of how these different personality types react under stress.  The phrase that is used is : ‘in the grip’.  I have been reading about what happens to me when I am ‘in the grip’.  Negativity, over – controlling, coldness, short-tempered, withdrawn, depressed, inefficient and scattered thinking.  It’s so true it’s, well, spooky.  But there are remedies; in my case they are also spookily accurate.  Talking things through with someone uninvolved, spending time alone, reflecting on my spiritual (in the broadest sense of the word) values and meanings, joining a support group (that is sooo me!) Taking a break, finding time to nurture myself (this often means spending time staring vacantly into space – a practice I highly recommend).

Having these kinds of behaviour patterns identified for me in the ontext of better understanding of what sort of things work well – and not so well – for me, is opening my eyes to new strategies of how to look after myself better.

I think that’s a good thing.

The Dirty Hand

My hand is dirty.

I must cut it off.

To wash it is pointless.

The water is putrid.

The soap is bad.

It won’t lather.

The hand is dirty.

It’s been dirty for years.

I used to keep it

out of sight,

in my pants pocket.

No one suspected a thing.

People came up to me,

Wanting to shake hands.

I would refuse

and the hidden hand,

like a dark slug,

would leave its imprint

on my thigh.

And then I realized

it was the same

if I used it or not.

Disgust was the same.

Ah! How many nights

in the depths of the house

I washed that hand,

scrubbed it, polished it,

dreamed it would turn

to diamond or crystal

or even, at last,

into a plain white hand,

the clean hand of a man,

that you could shake,

or kiss, or hold

in one of those moments

when two people confess

without saying a word…

Only to have

the incurable hand,

lethargic and crablike,

open its dirty fingers.

And the dirt was vile.

It was not mud or soot

or the caked filth

of an old scab

or the sweat

of a laborer’s shirt.

It was a sad dirt

made of sickness

and human anguish.

It was not black;

black is pure.

It was dull,

a dull grayish dirt.

It is impossible

to live with this

gross hand that lies

on the table.

Quick! Cut it off!

Chop it to pieces

and throw it

into the ocean.

With time, with hope

and its machinations,

another hand will come,

pure, transparent as glass,

and fasten itself to my arm.

Mark Strand (1934 – )

This entry was posted in Bi Polar Disorder, Cycling, Depression, Mental Health, Poetry and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to In the Grip

  1. silk15 says:

    Love how MBTI and knowing your personality can open our eyes and help. Take what’s good and leave the rest I say and there’s quite a bit of good I’ve gotten out of MBTI. What type are you? Just wondering which type has that stress reaction. My stress reaction is catastrophe mode and I’ve come to recognize it whenever it hits me. ‘Everything is wrong!’ No, it’s just the stress speaking. I usually just let it run its course, write it all out and then it’s gone. It doesn’t last long thank goodness.


    • Hi! I’m ENFJ – I have found that it has really helped me to understand why I tick the way I do. Even though I come out as an E pref, I figure I’m kind of 60/40. Like I wrote in the post, having time to myself is crucial. My wife, a Big Time E pref finds this quite difficult at times!!!! The book I’m reading about being ‘in the grip’ is a real revelation, too. Funnily enough I got mega stressed out at work today (over some computer glitch type thing) it really got to me. Did I recognise this as a stress reaction and think of the MBTI thing? Not a chance! I just chewed myself up over it (and got someone to help sort it out!) Thanks for commenting on my post. hardly anyone comments – and it’s nice to have a dialouge! What MBTI are you?


      • silk15 says:

        Aha, so you’re the giver or the teacher- which one do you prefer?
        I’m ISTJ, the inspector or as I prefer the duty fulfiller simply because it pretty much sums up my main motivating factor. Althought I can come out as ISFJ too which is the protector or nurturer. ISTJ fits me almost scarily well though and I’ve had a few lightbulb moments reading the profile. Knowing how I work and others work really helps.


  2. Caroline says:

    Fascinating! Even more so since when I first did this analysis 5 years ago at work I was as ESTJ. This was before I “came out” about my depression and perhaps managed it differently. The ET were borderline and the SJ absolute. I have just retaken and have tipped over to ISFJ which suits me much better and just goes to prove what I always knew, I’m in the wrong job! Hey ho!


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