Merja’s Story (How She Healed As An INFJ)

When people ask about my troubles growing up, I usually tell them just one or two things, and even then play it down somewhat. The reason being that most people just are not okay with my rawness and honesty, and they want the watered-down version, so that they can feel comfortable. When I was asked to write about myself for an INF audience, I thought: “Here’s my opportunity to go all out.”

I was conceived in misery. My father had already started drinking when my sister was born two years prior. By the time I was born; in fact, the exact day my mother was giving birth to me in the hospital, my great auntie had to rescue my two-year-old sister from my drunken father. She had fallen out of her cot and hit her head, and he was not conscious enough to attend to her.

So, a few days later I arrived home from the hospital to chaos, and the emotionally exhausting violence of alcoholism. It was a lot to adapt to – I was a newborn baby, completely vulnerable and completely exposed, and I had to be quick to build walls around me just to feel safe. My mother was a miracle worker, really: looking after a newborn, a 2-year old, and a delusional grown-up who only cared about where his next emotion-numbing drink was coming from. Like all narcissists, he didn’t care about us – we were not real people to him. We were just items that were supposed to make him feel good about himself.

Thank heavens my mother divorced him when I was 3, it was such a relief. By that stage, between his personalityhacker.com_Merja_Sumiloff_historydrunken rages he had been able to have an affair and kill our pet budgies; Hermanni and Hiisi (because they were too loud and he was hung over). Seeing my limp pet birds lie lifeless in the trash with their necks wrung, I realized what could happen to me if I was too much of a pest. That was the moment I closed down and stopped expressing myself completely. I just went along with anything, so that I could feel safe. There’s that safe thing again – this would become the most difficult thing for me to overcome – to have the sense of physical safety and the safety of expression.

I learned to trust no-one other than myself. It took me over two decades to realize that I could not live that way. Not trusting others meant that I could not have meaningful relationships, and so I chose to do something different. I chose to be courageous and start trusting SOME people in SOME circumstances. In my early 30’s, I adopted my very first father figure who could teach me about healthy trust. His name was Stephen M.R. Covey, and his book was called The Speed of Trust. Being brave and making it a practice to extend trust took a very long time because my inner child did not trust my inner parent. After all, my inner child knew that the inner parent did not have her back. Nobody did.

Over time and with much perseverance, I got where I am today with trust. Having overcome the trust issues, I can find happiness in close relationships with my partner and my inner circle. I no longer fear being taken advantage of, and therefore I attract a lot less of this kind of behavior. I’m at a place, where if someone took advantage of me, it would not be the end of the world anymore. Instead, I know that no matter what happens, I have my back.

This level of trust in myself and subsequently in others has allowed me to collaborate with people in my life. The energy and synergy which is created by these collaborations propel my work to reach a wider audience. But most importantly, it brings me deeper into what is authentically my life’s purpose: to live a happy and meaningful life, and show others how to do that too!

There were other survival mechanisms I created aside from distrust: self-sacrifice, people pleasing, and chronic helping. These mechanisms left me a victim of sexual abuse at five by a trusted family friend, and later on, in life, I attracted a delusional stalker. Most of my life I believed that my feelings did not matter and that nobody cares. I was trying to please people by over-anticipating what they may need only to end up exhibiting classic passive-aggressive behavior. Being a child of a narcissist, I also learned early in life that I am not a real person, and that I should always look to the outside world to determine my value as a human being. Because I grew up without emotional support, the hardest part of this pattern was learning to come to terms with the fact that I am a real person with real feelings and that I have value beyond what I can do for others.

personalityhacker.com_Merja_Sumiloff_About_meAt 16 I had become such an overachiever that I decided to complete a science degree. My “Accuracy” 10-year-old was in heaven – horses, facts, and figures. Straight out of the Agricultural College I moved to Ireland to work on a stud farm where I was in charge of 62 high-performance horses and expensive stud animals. I worked hard, oversaw 16 foalings within a few months, and got hardly any sleep during the nights. During the days I worked from 7 am to 9 pm, as we were understaffed. I took so much responsibility for such a young person that looking back now I wonder how on earth I did not realize I was burning myself out. In my early 20’s I had my first burnout, after which I decided to go back to my roots: massage.

My great grandmother was one of the first trained massage therapists in Finland, and I had been carrying her wisdom in my body for a long time. At 13, I had a doctor tell me that I had a congenital hip condition, and unless I stopped riding horses and engaging in competitive sports, I would be in a wheelchair by the age of 30. I healed myself by stretching and hydration, and from then on I began teaching the principles of health to whoever asked for it.

Fast forward to 25 years old, I got my international massage qualifications and became self-employed. I haven’t held a job since. This time of my life was fascinating – I saw thousands of clients in my bodywork clinic and began realizing a pattern: our physiology carries cellular memory. That’s our whole body, not just the brain. I recorded the data of all my clients and started to find patterns according to gender, personality type (I was using the Enneagram system predominantly at the time), the level of maturity, and level of cellular memory trauma.

These findings were ground-breaking for me, and I started to teach women’s healing work and physically based personality psychology. But before establishing myself in those fields in Ireland, I fell in love with my partner Peter and moved to Australia.

Upon my arrival in Australia, I mostly left the bodywork behind and decided to take a couple of years off just to apply the healing work I had started in Ireland. In that time, I learned that I had a choice of letting my wounds run my life forever or heal those wounds and see what lies beneath. I had to let go of my pain over the betrayals of my childhood, and I had to release feeling like a failure as I was no longer able to validate myself through my work accomplishments. All I was left with was my raw, authentic self. I worked hard to get to know her, and I fell in love with myself for the first time.

“I remind myself that how I perform and how valuable I am as a person are two entirely different things.”

Today, I preach what I have practiced for years: my feelings matter, and I live my life for me. I was born to live MY life and actualize my full self. I remind myself that how I perform and how valuable I am as a person are two entirely different things. I have value just as I am, and I don’t need to perform to gain that inherent value.

Most importantly, I am a sovereign being, and wherever I go, I bring myself with me. I claim who I am and what is important to me. Only from that place, I can be of real service to others.

These days I am clear on my purpose path, which allows me to live the lifestyle I want. I do creative work, which I can do from any time zone, and anywhere in the world. I only work three weeks out of four each personalityhacker.com_Merja_Sumiloffmonth, and I spend my days enjoying the company of my loving INFP partner and our animals. I go and sit next to a stream at the bottom of the paddock and read a book for an hour or two during the day, or I might take my three horses for a trekking adventure for hours.

Life has slowed way down for me. Instead of racing from one task to another, I now leisurely pick the jobs that inspire me to discover more about my authentic self. Sure, there’s always something that needs to be done, but those things are so rare that when they crop up, it’s not a big deal. I am more relaxed than I have ever been, and the level of relaxation is parallel to the degree of creativity I experience.

Having claimed who I am has made my life so much less complicated. I feel like most of the time I’m in control of my life, and when unexpected things come up, I remain my sovereign self and make a decision from there. Setting boundaries is easy, and people respect them. My ability to discover my needs and express them has improved so much that I no longer fear confrontation when asking for my needs to be met.

Overall, with everything I have gone through and healed, my inner child is finally feeling at home, my inner parent is a strong decision maker, and most often she makes the decision that is right for everyone. From this place, I keep fulfilling my purpose on a daily basis in a joyous and relaxed way. Life is good, and if I can do it from where I came from, so can you.

Thank you.

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Showing 32 comments
  • Jess V.

    Thank you for sharing your story Merja! It’s truly inspiring.

    I have a question for you (and I’m going to sum this up as best as I can). This took literally years to put together in bits and pieces but the facts are this: I had an unhealthy narcisstic INTP mother who abandoned me, and an ISTP father who would often verbally abuse me through screaming directly at me when I did something stupid and then acted like nothing happened and everything was fine. The only reason I started to piece this all together 3 years ago is I realized I had NO childhood memories of my parents. I think I blocked it all out cause it was just too tramautic as an INFJ (I thought everyone had no memories of their parents- and I still don’t remember). Recently I discovered that at some point in my childhood I split myself. My actual identity is hidden behind a smoke screen of my thoughts and actions. I hid it to protect it not only from hurt but also from imperfection and failure. I feel like the real me is trapped inside this “meat sack” and I am at the whim of a capricious and angry judger (my dad). I have pursued a life of perfection subconsciously thinking that if I achieve it the real me can come out and I’ll be “whole” again. And understand this stuff is super deep in me- I’d never say it out loud. I want to reconcile my lost self but I don’t know how to get my actual self out (I guess it’s my inner child?). Your INFx Unveiled seems like a really good thing for me but I’m wondering whether I need more than that? (I saw a therapist a couple years ago to figure out some of this stuff) I feel like I have bigger wounds than most. Or would your program cover this? Thanks!!

  • Jon

    Hi Merja,

    Thanks so much for sharing your story so openly and candidly! The world needs more of that to show others that they are not alone.

    I’m ENTP, and initially started reading out of curiosity for my INFJ wife, but found several common themes with your story. In short, I grew up in an environment that was unsafe for me to be myself or have my own thoughts, which later caused me be attracted to a narcissist in marriage. I eventually ended it after 7 years, and ended my association with my birth religion / cult as well. Around 30-31 years old, I was able to start a new life. Now I’m married to a healthy INFJ and am in the process of fully individuating.

    I was wondering, do you have any further information published about your experiences with the following? It sounds fascinating and I’d love to hear more, if you’ve written more elsewhere about what you found:
    “I recorded the data of all my clients and started to find patterns according to gender, personality type (I was using the Enneagram system predominantly at the time), the level of maturity, and level of cellular memory trauma.”

    • Merja

      Hi Jon, thank you so much for your message, and thank you so much for your candid response! I’m so sorry for my tardiness in responding to your comment! We have had a large launch in early November and then my cousin died just before Christmas, leaving me unable to catch up on all my messages until now. So, once more, my apologies.

      Unfortunately, all my paperwork is in Ireland in a storage container (this was all done before computers). I’m sorry. BUT, if you have a more specific question in mind, I’ll be happy to see if I remember any of the data for you, or if I can come up with an answer for you!

      Please let me know!

  • Deepa

    Its an honor to read your story and see you presence your strength and resilience through words. Thank you for sharing so beautifully.

    INFP is where the INFJ heart rests. And now you just confirmed that for me.

    • Merja

      Hi Deepa, thank you for your kind words.

      Kindest regards and happy 2018!

      • Georgina Fryer

        Hi Merja,

        I have just read your experience. Thank you so much for sharing.

        So sorry that you went through so much trauma. I understand why you had trouble trusting but how amazing the work that you did to allow yourself to trust again. That inspires me.

        I’m so glad there is a happy ending to your struggle! It shows that there is a light at the end of the tunnel if you endure in searching for it by persevering, looking inwards and figuring out what has been taken that needs replacing or what has been suppressed and allowing it to grow.

        I can relate to your journey in some ways and you have helped me so much by sharing your story so thanks again.

        All the best.
        Georgie Fryer

  • Shannon

    Oh, Merja,

    Reading your story I was moved so much, I felt compelled to comment. Thank you for sharing your journey.

    Reading your path made me realize how much I need to learn in regards to boundaries, assertiveness, and finding my own path. I feel it is serendipitous that I stumbled on this post.

    As a child of two alcoholic parents (one with additional mental illness), I feel my childhood has contributed to building walls that prevent me from establishing the relationships I desire. As a nurse, I want to help people, but feel perhaps I could do this in a different way, perhaps using my experience to help others.

    If you are taking on new clients, I feel a strong connection to your post and feel you could help me in hopefully helping others in the way you have demonstrated. I have also emailed your link on your project website.

    Thank you so much.

    • Merja

      Hi Shannon, firstly, thank you for your message and I’m so sorry for my tardiness in responding! We have had a large launch in early November and then my cousin died just before Christmas, leaving me unable to catch up on all my messages until now. So, once more, my apologies.

      I just want to say how much respect I have for nurses. Thank you for doing your work. It is very important. But from what you are saying and from conversations with other nurses (friends and clients), I hear that the work that you are doing can sometimes be exhausting and that there needs to be a more self-caring way of doing your work.

      I’m happy to discuss your mentoring needs with you. I referred back to the website and could not find your message, so if you wouldn’t mind sending me another email at, that would be great.

      Again, I’m sorry for my tardiness. I hope your 2018 has been great so far!

      Kindest regards

  • Bendik

    Hello Merja.

    I am a 32 year old man living in Norway. I just discovered two days ago that I am an INFP through different tests, and I have been constantly researching this since I stumbled upon all this information (of course to the exclusion of my daily functioning and upkeep ;D)

    I resonate very deeply with what you are saying about inner wounds holding me back. This is the only information I have ever found that really speaks to me and gives me a little bit of hope that there can be a chance even for me to do something about my situation. I am interested in trying the INFx Unveiled program, but there is just a part of me that thinks that my earlier years are to horrifyingly complex to come to grips with and my wounds just to great to ever be healed. It’s really hard for me to give a good overview of my history but I am getting better at it and I’m going to try to illustrate.

    My family moved from Iceland to Sweden to Denmark to Norway between the time I was two to six years old. My parents divorced and openly hated each other and worked hard to turn us (4 children) against the other, for differing reasons. My older brother got brain cancer and died at age 15 after two years of treatment. Me and my younger brother lived in a community “orphanage” for six months while my mother and sister was living in Oslo to be with my hospitalised brother. Somewhere in this timeline lightning struck our house in the middle of the night and burned it to the ground. Everybody got out physically unharmed, but we lost everything we had.

    All this wounding was greatly intensified by the fact that my mother who had custody of us was a emotionally unstable (hysterical) abusive/negligent religious fanatic who’s only agenda was to brainwash us into her religious and cultural “structure”. She never really treated us as individual people. So I can greatly identify with “not feeling like a real person” for a long time, and feeling like I never had any emotional support, except for my father, but he lived an ocean away and really couldn’t be there for us because of his own circumstances.

    I feel like every ounce of opportunity to get to know myself and develop was taken away from me, and I started my “adult” life completely drained and exhausted, no sense of self, and emotionally repressed. I never had the energy to even contemplate education so I dropped out of school at the time, and I still cannot decide what education to choose if any. But at least I am starting to feel ready and capable of doing it at this point. It has been a long road to gain the confidence even for that.

    I can see how my INFP nature contributed to me closing down and withdrawing under all this pressure. I feel I was more intensely under my mothers grip and unable to rebel than my siblings. Later pressures of school life and exhaustive work up until this point has prevented me from having a chance to unwind and do anything about my situation.

    I still feel very disempowered and I feel like I’m living my life aimlessly one day at a time. I am successfull in my job, and outwardly I must seem like the happiest and most ballanced guy in the world, but I feel that is just a mask I automatically put on when I go to work. Really I feel like I’m not being my true self and that I could be doing something else, more independent.

    I know I shared a big mouthfull here, but honestly, I am beginning to feel a little desperate and I would appreciate any advice on what to do. Do you think the INFx Unveiled program could help me?

    • merja

      Hey there Bendik, I’ve been in transit a lot, apologies for a tardy response, I will write to you properly when I have a moment. Thank you for sharing so candidly.

  • Meri

    I was greatly inspired by your story, as I am also a Finnish INFJ who moved to Australia and have worked hard to become healthy and whole. Thank you.

    • merja

      Hey Meri! Thanks for reaching out! Lovely to meet you! Feel free to connect on facebook!

  • EunJi Oh

    Oh, God. Reading this I first felt like as if the story was my own, and then flowing through your twenties into your thirties, I realized I’m at the exact opposite point from you when you were my age. I’m 28 now, and I’ve dedicated my whole life restraining myself to not get on my parents’ nerves. (My dad’s a narcissist himself, and my mom’s also a miracle worker raising three children working full-time as a middle school teacher for almost 30years now – it’s only that in South Korea, getting a divorce was like a scarlet letter, at least up until my parents’ generation, therefore my mother just put up with my father the whole time. To add, probably protecting herself, she became a lot like her husband herself over the years. It’s sad to see them consuming each other forever.) So when I moved out and was on my own for college, there came a sense of relief which shortly led to a complete helplessness. I didn’t – or still don’t – know what to do with my life when it’s no longer anybody else’s business but mine. Seemingly I’m supposed to be devoted to medicine, but rather I’ve not yet passed the licensing exam and even been failing at it for two consecutive years. The problem is I don’t even know what I’m interested in. Well, I kind of know, but don’t know what I should do with it. Or what I want to do with it. Not to mention how. Nonetheless, it’ll be my last year on my own if I don’t figure myself out and will have to go back to my parents’ next year. From that point, it’ll be whatever they want me to do with my life. Obviously, I do not, never ever, ever want that, but what else? ‘Self-confidence’ is so much of a word like ‘immortal’ to me. This is why I felt like I was reading a fiction all of a sudden after your 20’s burnout story. And the rest I read with so much envy and admire but yet incapable of imagining anything similar with my life. I don’t know, the courses personality hacker offering must be of a great help, it’s just that I doubt my resilience to finish any of them. Maybe it’s yet another time to practice my bravery and find where it leads to. But aside everything, excuse me for pouring all out, I pulled off my courage to leave the comment instead of deleting it all as if I’ve never read your story, first of all. And I feel great about you embracing your childhood and living it all out! Good, good for you and it’s really nice to see there are people trying to help someone like me. Thanks for sharing your story, Merja! All the best, EunJi from Seoul:)

    • Merja

      EunJi, thank you so very much for your message.

      Firstly, I just want to say thank you for your communication and thank you so much for allowing us a deeper look into where you are at the moment.

      Secondly, I just want to say, you’re not alone. I am sorry for you parents’ struggle and the fact that there’s very little you can do about it. Make sure to live your life for YOU. Personality Hacker material is the very best I have come across when it comes to working out your personal life hacks. I would really very much want to encourage you to continue on the path that is most authentic to you, and never give up on yourself. We’ve got you.

      Thanks again, stay in touch.

  • Deb Field

    A powerful story inviting all of us to see our wounds, understand we are wonderful just as we are, to know that life has both darkness and light and yet it is not relevant to us being lovable or viable. Thanks Merja…. you are an inspirational light worker. xx

    • Merja

      Thanks Deb – I love how my story can empower not only myself to choose a more empowered story in the future, but also empower others to revise theirs. xx

  • Merja

    Hey Bradley, many thanks for your message and your reflections – your feedback and thoughts are always appreciated and taken to heart, thank you.

    I’m loving how we can still learn new things about each other – we all have those assumptions that come with the lens we see things through, and all I can say is that I feel privileged to have you in my life, always have. Same goes for that gorgeous woman of yours!!!! 😉

    I look forward to seeing you soon and hearing more about YOUR special projects.

  • Bradley

    Well, having though I knew you for many years, clearly I didn’t !!!

    I made assumptions, they blended nicely with my beliefs and there you are ‘Merja’ in my mind, irrespective of the facts.

    Thanks to you for being vulnerable enough to share; thanks to me for life’s lessons in being humble enough to consider and here we are.

    I applaud you being you, plus vulnerable and honest. Now I know more ( a glimpse about who you are), I’ll be more aware in my world of other people I have wrongly judged. Your honesty has helped me become a better person, and in the future treated other people in even better ways.

    Your actions and honesty have created a ripple effect amongst others, and me. Thanks for being you, responding the way you did ultimately to past experiences and choosing the valiant way forward.

    Love you, love your work. xx

  • Deborah Hale

    Thank you so much, Merya. You’re such an inspiration for me that I know age 63 should not stop me when I’ve come so far and am healthier than ever in every way (but not YET to the point of finding my creativity and fully having my own back). I thank you, Antonia, and Joel for the INFx Unveiled program and will begin it today.
    With much love, Deborah in Mississippi

    • merja

      Hi Deborah, thank you for your message! It’s wonderful to hear that you are loving yourself with such a commitment to your personal development. I hope you are really enjoying the course, and getting a lot of value out of it! 🙂 Merja

  • Joanne Clark

    Merja, you’re the best! Courageous in so many ways! Roar on Sister!

  • Gabriel

    Thanks! =D

  • Tim Ferguson

    Good to hear that you have succeeded in getting in your life where so many people do not get to. Good for you. Tim F.

    • merja

      Hi Tim, thanks for your message. Hope you are well! x

  • Asul

    Thank you so much for sharing!

    • merja

      Hi Asul, you’re welcome. Have a great day! 🙂

  • Victoria

    There is such beauty in your truth Merja, thank you for sharing your story with the world. We are all the better for it. xx

    • merja

      Thank you Victoria for your kind words and the support you offer to myself and the world. xx

  • Chelsea Welch

    You are an inspiration, Merja! Thank you for sharing your beautiful story 🙂

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