Silly, isn’t it?
But since I have no illusions about ever becoming somebody famous and being interviewed by some hotshot-journalist, I figured I had to put up the dictaphone myself to get some bloody answers for once (however colored the questions and vague the answers may be in such a situation). In other words: To get to know where the hell I’m going with my life!?
This post is merely another trail on the road to self-discovery. As mentioned before, I’m in the forever consistent limbo at the moment, where I have absolutely no clue what my all too pressing future will bring.
So, let’s jump right into it:
“INTPs … What are we good for?”
“Why, ourselves! Everything!” any fellow INTP would surely sputter in protest to such an absurd question and that is my instinctive response too. Not very eloquently, but that is because I cannot readily answer this question with an eloquent and explanatory argument myself. I just know. We [INTPs] know all too well our inherent value, don’t we? I, for one, have never been in doubt of my value, yet, it is not a value that can be so easily voiced nor confirmed and measured. It is just there and always has been – because I exist.
… Then I face reality and all its practicalities.
Here, an answer like “We are good for ourselves. We have the confident potential to be good at everything (though we will only know when we are posed with the challenge)” is not a concrete one. The outside world cannot put much practical, prolific value into it. And I get that. From an entirely rational point of view, I get that.
“But it does little to the basic ‘problem’ that most INTPs feel misunderstood and displaced in this world. Am I right?”
I believe (though I may be projecting) we rarely outwardly express or address this problem, because we’ve learned to adapt to the outer world, to put on the extrovert mask of sociability, to shed our stubbornness, our independence, our ‘excentricity’, our honest and blunt intellect for a minute. We know how to work our ways through the world when needed by acting as ‘normal’ as possible and thus go about seemingly unnoticed and not let anything touch our inner self. We internalize our own problems and worries because we cannot possible see what other people can do for us regarding such ‘petty’ matters. Not because of people, but because we are too independent for that. Too ashamed when we cannot be entirely self-sufficient and work out a problem ourselves, though we simultaneously know that no man is an island, however much we desperately and stubbornly try to convince ourselves that it is possible, like a petulant child trying to outsmart ourselves and everyone else’s – in our mind – limited logic.
It is an endless circle that can never really be voiced nor dealt with alone, never really fruitful nor defeatist in itself. We’re caught in-between. It’s pitiful and we pity ourselves but we’re wise enough to never want or expect pity from the outside while we’re dealing with all this, internally, and putting on the various extrovert masks for various situations.
“Were we [INTPs] ever really meant for the concrete, practical world?”
The theoretical, the philosophical, the abstract, the analytical world, oh yes, but all the rest … I’m not so sure.
“I wonder … Are we here to be astute about some things that others do not immediately see, while leaving others to be astute about matters we do not immediately see, and thus there is balance in the world..?”
*sighs* I sometimes think I cannot see the wood for the trees. It may very well be a very INTP thing to think so; trying to give things a logical meaning or place them in some logical system, even if you can’t place such a meaning upon the MBTI types or put the world into a logical system of balance.
And it’s not such a bad thing, per se. It’s our force, you could say: Dominating the abstract world in a way only few can follow or comprehend. I’m proud to call myself an INTP, after all.
I just wish I was better suited for the real real world. It sometimes feels like I was born outside of reality. Not a total disconnection, but the significant disconnection to the things that are so immediate, life-affirming and fruitful to most people. I cannot explain what they are because I’m hardly aware of them myself and I fear they are too subjectively experienced anyway. It is not that I don’t place value in these things because I clearly see them when confronted with them through others, but I cannot pretend to get inner joy from the normality most people hail and strive towards. I get joy from the all but obscure normality in that sense. The small gestures; of impulse and kindness.
“Maybe because I crave them myself..?”
Oh, I can hardly distinguish between what is true and my projections of what I want to be true any longer and it frustrates me. (Sorry for the vagueness.)
“Have I no tangible dreams or wants or ideas about the future at all, then?”
I cannot help myself (aka my brain); I cannot see myself in so many of life’s parts and roles, and though I’ve more than accepted that’ll you have many roles in life and that you’ll never have to settle or stay put, it doesn’t really help my initial, instinctive feeling of always feeling out of place when it comes to putting my inner being into the hard, concrete matters of every-day life. Of never having been in an relationship or had an actual career- or job-based goal (though that doesn’t have to be true for all INTPs) which is all the world ever want to know or cares about, it seems.
I know what I want in life (have I spoken of this before?) – but that doesn’t have to have anything to do with job or people or money. And I think I more or less know what I want with my life, but I cannot seem to think myself past those entities; of one’s life more or less evolving around job, people and money. Making more jobs, more people and more money. What I want with my life has to do with something much more internal (as you would guess).
I have known people who believe in the word of God and people who believe in the word of money. People who passionately stick to one political ideology and people who are sports enthusiasts, letting it consume them. People who want kids and family and settle down in their mid-20s to repair old farms or built their own wooden house. People who have great ambitions to become the next Vivian Maier or the next chief curator of MoMA, moving to the most bohemian parts of New York and travel to only the biggest and best cities to get what they want.
I, myself, have no fixed point in my life besides my core; my inner self-assurance and self-value. I’m not a religious person, I’m not a nihilist nor a happy-go-lucky person. I do not believe in one political ideology and I do not have one particular passion or interest; I have many. I do not despise mediocrity or seek out-of-body thrills of life. I have no desire to have children or get married and make it an authentic life-project to build my own house in any near future. I have no clear ambitions to become the next great anything (though, if I ever got the opportunity I would not outrightly refuse such a position). I do not lack laughter in life (that’s for sure) nor the love of family. I am not dispassionate nor obedient. I’m a – sometimes passively, sometimes actively – curious, cynic-romantic observer of life at best. Always in-between. Always a paradox, to myself and others. And yet, despite my asocial nature (all extrovert masks put aside), I am easy to get along with (I believe) and I don’t recoil from intimate company as long as it is the right company and setting.
That said, I never felt I was better than everybody else, only that I felt different.
“So what is this? Ennui? Monachopsis? An existential crisis?”
Not unlikely. Yet, I can’t possibly be bored when I feel like I have hardly the (life)time to learn all the things I want to know, can I..?!
I guess people would say I lack a sense of purpose in life, but it isn’t as depressive as that. Again, I never felt that I was here without a purpose, because existing and living in itself is a purpose, in my belief, but I’ve simply never measured it in jobs or money or hands-on skills or anything external like that.
My existential crisis has never been about being inherently confused, feeling utterly incompetent and undervalued (I’ve always held a staunch value of myself), dependent on the acknowledgement of other people or dependent on drugs or anything dramatic and unlucky like that. Of course I realize my luck in all this.
Nor have I ever been dissatisfied with life; disappointed yes, but that’s the way it is sometimes.
No, my existential crisis most likely occured when I realized that I’ve never struggled to reach the top of Maslow’s pyramid because I’ve never lacked self-actualization. I’ve struggled downwards towards the middle.
“Aww, poor you!”
Yeah *said in self-deprecation*. Yet, I’ve never aimed to complain about my life nor to seek pity – not in these posts nor ever. I have only ever sought to pose and understand the absurdities of life and the limbos I cannot seem to work myself out of. And which seem to have correlations with that of being an INTP (from what I’ve read so far). It’s is important for me to underline this. These are unfinished thoughts; I think while I write and I will continue to do so after this post is published (thus the occasional revisions). However much I’m sure there must be some truth in some of what I say, I’ll only ever pose thoughts in questions to continue to ponder upon or debate. This may very well be the essence of my being and is – from what I understand – the quintessential INTP.
I have no doubt however that pity is what I receive from most people, consciously or not. I think it is somehow quite instinctive to pity the INTP’s contradictory combination of brilliant potential and childlike laziness, but then again you could most likely argue something similar with every other type and their respective dualities. Albert Einstein, a famous INTP, once asked: “Why is it that nobody understands me, yet everybody likes me?”. It sums up pretty well how it is to be an INTP. You’re always almost there.
I think that if you do not understand someone yet you do not dislike them either, all you have left is pity. Is that a harsh way of thinking? When I say, time and time again, to friends and family and strangers that I rarely meet up with people or go to parties or social events (though that doesn’t mean I don’t), or half-jokingly, half-seriously allude to my displacement in society and that I wouldn’t mind simply living as a shepherd in the Scottish Highlands, do you not instinctively pity me in some way? My god, people just laugh at me and dismiss my words as silly at best!
No wonder, really, that introverted people who prefer to be alone rather than socialize get the worst of the brunt.
“What then? Do I just ‘wallow’ along and presume that life will hand over itself in all its changable, caleidoscopic colors?”
Well, no and yes. It’s just not that easy to answer. What I know of life so far is that it mostly consists of randomness; of coincidences or luck and unluck, and that there’s little one can do about such things, despite one’s freedom of choice. I’ve never blamed life for being anything else than what it is. I may have cursed it from time to time, in the heat of the moment, but in the end such moments have only reaffirmed how little one can control anything. I cannot complain about life not meeting my needs when life cannot be all that changed, not for one person, and what reality do I even presume should come of my wants in that case..? A Salvador Dalí painting most likely. *chuckles dryly* … Never mind.
It seems life in fiction has always had the narrative that real-life never had, at least, not before the finish line. A misfortune of sorts to steer away from, to get past or to overcome. Not always a passion or concrete goal to guide the characters, but nonetheless a concrete, planned-out narrative from the author’s side, however reversed or fragmented it may be. This is the only realm where one possesses an ounce of control of life’s fate, I guess. Maybe that’s why we create and seek to fiction when life does not turn out to be pliable.
“But we INTPs have been strangely absent from that narrative, haven’t we? We have the few, successful, real-life INTPs but not many – if any? – fictive INTP idols to relate and compare ourselves to or whose professions we can aspire to.”
Well, besides Sherlock Holmes maybe. But his profession was rather fantastical. Being a detective in real-life is not so. And, of course, there was Jane Austen, a female INTP, but she was ‘lucky’ and talented enough to live on her writings before she, unfortunately, died too young. Still, of all the types, INTPs are perhaps the least represented type portrayed – anywhere. Especially female INTPs. Even (female) INTJs get their sly villain character or super clever, obstinate science guy/gal every now and then. They may be clichés and superficially portrayed but at least they are portrayed. And I somehow think it’s easier to find female characters that fit the INFJ type, however rare the type is, than the INTP.
No INTP character/person is alike, of course, but most characters have just those certain characteristics that make them fall exactly outside of the INTP type. If you google MBTI charts for various franchises you’ll spot a character in the INTP spot and sometimes even a female, but, mind you, those charts are not always agreed upon. I certainly have my points of critique to some of the female characters placed there. But the overall lack of female INTPs on page or screen has definitely been dominating my entire life and the reason why I thought myself to be an anomaly and a freak for so long.
“Is it because we are overly complex to get right? Or because we seem to be everything and nothing specific at once? Or/and because we go unnoticed in the greater, visible scenery of life – in real-life as well?”
Yeah, we tend to hide, don’t we? Physically and socially. Hide inside in our homes or put on the social masks. We are not active out there, but in here *points to head*. Perhaps we have become so good at hiding and blending in even when we are outside that we have become close to transparent. Like ghosts. Hell, I’ve trouble enough getting automatic sliding doors to open for me or smart lighting registering that I’m in the room, no matter how big my arm gestures get..! Hmph, that pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?
Most of all, my instinct just tells me to run and hide and buy a cottage by the sea with wi-fi, a dog, tons of books and live there for the rest of my life, away from society and people who don’t understand. *sighs*
“So, again, without seeking to offend – though we will all instinctively bridle at such a myopic but all too common question – what are we, INTPs, good for in the concrete, real world?”
I’m not really sure what we are good for in the concrete, real, practical world. Everything and nothing. As I’ve mentioned before, if we could get a job à la Gandalf or Dumbledore, mysteriously walking around and guiding people, giving wise, slightly idealistic, random comments on the world around us, we probably would. But that’s wishful thinking.
“You make your own life, they say, but that’s only partly true, isn’t it?”
You’ll always have to adjust, I know that. I have known it all my life, because I have always adjusted. Despite all my ‘bigmouthing’ about ‘my damned stubborn independence’, I’ve been forced to adjust in small and large parts; sometimes subtly and unconsciously, sometimes dramatically aware. Adjusting to reality is not a problem when you’ve mastered the art of faking and pretending, while doing your thing on the sideline, in secret.
“But it is not ideal, is it? You wish to find your true profession, don’t you? Something that aligns with your inner core somehow, so that you feel you contribute to the world while being honest to it and yourself at the same time. No more pretending and doing your thing in secret only. Is it really so naive to believe in?”
The few paid and volunteer jobs I’ve had, I felt zombie-like in them. They only required my hands or my presence. I never connected with the job or the people. I toned everything about myself down to a straw man who rarely spoke, just forcibly smiled and nodded, while dreaming of a different life where I didn’t have to do what anyone else said or be where someone else wanted. I wondered if this was how ‘work’ and adulthood and doing everything right according to society would essentially become. After a good day’s work, my body was exhausted, but I felt my brain shrivelling up; unused, unchallenged. I felt a shadow of myself; someone else temporarily inhabiting my body, my voice; ‘selling myself’, because myself was not enough. That’s certainly something that you learn when you grow up. Sure, I may have learned about a practical side of life I wouldn’t have gained otherwise, met people I wouldn’t have met and got something to write on my CV, but did it do anything for me personally? No. No, not really. It just filled out a flat paper form. A facade of ‘doing’, less ‘being’ – or where ‘doing’ became ‘being’ somewhere along the way. Besides, no one was interested in what I was interested in and certainly not sought any deeper conversation. And I know; jobs in your youth are rarely supposed to be big, insightful epiphanies, they say (well, except if you do something ‘wild’ like travel the world and do volunteer job for refugees etc.), but are simply for the experience of earning your own money and the hard work. So you wait ’till you get older when you are hopefully able to make your own life and find the people who understand you. A wishful dream, perhaps, but for some reason I keep sticking to it.
I am half-discouraged, half-encouraged. It’s too easy to write this off as simply being romantic or cynic. I’ll keep wander this earth ’till I find what I’m looking for, knowing not what it looks like or what form it takes, just that something essential – deep down – is still missing. Until then I cannot form the words or describe this to anyone around me, hardly to myself, only that I know. I know. As Kafka said: “I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself”.
It is a lonely quest, I’ve come to realize. And I would be utterly surprised if it doesn’t universally resonate with everyone else at some level, no matter how much they seem indifferent or uninterested in this notion; their tendencies to call it naive, silly, impractical, made-up, selfish, etc. etc.. I do not believe them when they dismiss it so readily. Thus, I believe my existential crisis is no more different than anybody else’s. It is just there. It is human. And you decide how to go from there. You wish to pretend and fake less than all the adults you have witnessed growing up did, but also being smarter than them and not become a shadow of ourselves like so many of them became. So you find idols among them whom you believe did it better than the rest.
And individualism has certainly taught you a thing; all romantic notions aside, at the end of the day, to not trust or depend on anyone else but yourself. You always zoom back to this core value you’ve been taught throughout your life, directly or indirectly. How are we supposed to truly interact if all we truly do is just co-existing with all our individual agendas and dreams secretly roaming our cores, while also secretly longing for connection but not knowing how to overcome our incessantly individualistic core? The knowledge I’ve gained besides my personal experience with my parents tells me having children doesn’t necessarily make you more connected with the world or the persons you put into it. Blood doesn’t equals any soulful, deeper attachment and understanding. Your personality and what you choose to share and be honest about does. But I digress.
So, no, I have no specific, accepted, real, job- or people-based dream. I have every certainty about what’s wrong with the world. Great. Not really productive or conversational or CV material. So I’ve tried to figure out where I can put myself in the system … put myself to use. (Mind, here I’m merely trying to establish what I can be, seen from the dominant, paradoxical traits of myself and what I reckon are, more or less, similar to other INTPs). Here’s what I’ve concluded so far, based on what I’ve thought could be possible careers for me:
We [INTPs] love to teach and give away our knowledge to others, to debate and see people’s intellect flourish along with our own … But we rarely make it work in practice, as it appears being an actual teacher in the real world demands ‘slightly’ more than just being knowledgable. The system, the bureaucracy, the schedules, the human skills, the constant judgment and weighing of others’ talents and intellect (however professional) to-and-fro, etc.. Ugh.
We can potentially be excellent at anything (seriously!) we put our minds to because we have so many ideas and great analytical skills that can be adaptive to almost any area in life … But because we see all the possibilities and possible outcomes beforehand and all at once, we get easily overwhelmed or disillusioned beforehand and end up doing nothing about it, after all. All that potential wasted in real-life.
By principle, we are excellent at giving advice on a variety of subjects because we – as mentioned – take all possibilities and outcomes into account and analyze them without judgment … But when it comes to emotional support – which usually is in need of most advice – we simply fall short. That’s a rather big incompetence for an advicer or counsellor. Even in the academic world people tend to get highly emotional about the smallest things, so that could prove to become highly awkward for all parts.
That’s that. So far. Slightly realistic, slightly pessimistic, slightly hopeful it will show itself or that I will stumble upon whatever I’m looking for … some time or another. This little, indulgent, incoherent self-interview gave me no new hopes, no solutions, no clearer answers. Somebody would likely say what I miss demands a ‘positive change of mind’ or something annoying like that. I do not doubt that there’s some truth in that but until then the pull of rural sheep herding is rather strong.
You see? I’m not blank about my future for no reason. (The reason mostly being the gulf between myself and the world).
Where do you sign up to become ‘a Gandalf’, I wonder?