INTP Soft Spot #1

Having one’s values and beliefs questioned and/or challenged.

Richard Ayoade4I’m not sure how many people actually like this (perhaps mostly NTs?). Then again, some might argue there’s a fine line between ‘being questioned’ and ‘feeling attacked’; that it’s all a matter of interpretation.

However, in my eyes, there’s a significant difference, rhetorically.

This is perhaps all the more prevalent in an age where ‘safe spaces’ are being heavily discussed, particularly among my own generation, but this tendency also points to several other factors of modern (western) society; a surge of identity politics being one of them.

And, there’s a world of difference between having one’s beliefs questioned and not being believed (or appear convincing).

But, personally, I persist that the point of learning must be to be challenged. Expand your horizon. In the end, there’s only a shell of stimuli in having your own opinions reflected and confirmed with no new information gained.

Learning is sort of a dialectic process, almost phenomenological. Not just by observing the world around you, but also by interacting with other people and challenging them in return, hopefully producing something constructive, if not for the parties involved then for the potential listeners or on-lookers. Sometimes, you simply agree on disagreeing which can be surprisingly rewarding in itself.

It may sound all very rationalized and distanced but I believe only so can we regard the subject clear-eyed. Like the basic principle of free speech, to quote Voltaire: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

Intolerance is a hard nut to crack, though, and it can feel like running one’s head against a brick wall. Some people are hard-set on being rigid in their convictions, and it’s a brave but also slightly naive or romantic notion that one can somehow sway the bigoted to the better. (I include myself in this syndrom).

But different opinions do not equal stigmatization or oppression. Opposition is good. Difference is good. And exactly what a democracy or a healthy society need to stay healthy. It’s what makes a society diverse.

Though I partly understand where my university peers who demand safe spaces and/or trigger warnings are coming from, I am sometimes in awe that they can proclaim greater tolerance for different opinions by stopping or censoring every opinion that does not suit their own. It is counterproductive – even hypocritical – to safeguard minority groups (especially on their behalf) for their difference by practically coddling each other into the belief that they don’t need to listen to anybody else’s opinions while their own stay safe.

By principle, no opinion should be spared of being challenged on, ideally, a rational, constructive and dialectical level.

The world is constantly changing and values are being questioned – in the good way as well. But how can you regard any opinion or idea, even refute it for its foolishness that it may be, if they are all censored or ignored, because you have closed yourself off in a little bubble with cotton in your ears?*

I don’t presume to preach or have the answer to what the ideal world should be or look like, but the important factor is to keep questioning ourselves and never stop.

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The child I once was

There must be a reason why I have come to think more and more of the child I once was, as of late.

It’s a regressive tendency. Or more nostalgic? After all, nostalgia is denial of a painful present, it is said.

It’s interesting how that child, back then, didn’t understand why genders were put in boxes and separate categories, however, at the same time, perfectly understood why such things as fantasy and reality needed to be distinguished and not confused for practical reasons. Yet, she chose to forego the latter, while living under the suppressing shadow of the former, trying to adapt.

Now, that child has grown up and come to understand she need not limit her gender to only two separate categories, but learned to live with what she is, yet has fused more and more of her reality into one of fantasy. Or let fantasy become her reality. “I could live almost completely in imagination,” like the poet Louise Glück once said.

Like many, she was always a lonely child. She did not know where the road she was taking was leading. She knew she only wanted to go ahead and take in everything with a childlike wonder.

The lesson that child took from everything she learned was that people, that interpersonal relationships gave meaning to life. That what she perhaps most hungered to understand was the human soul, human thinking, human interaction, human patterns, human inventions. To observe and to understand. And, at some point, also take part in it, not just stay an outside observer.

But somehow it wasn’t in her immediate nature to nurture the garden which she found so precious and which she realized she couldn’t live without. She was a lonely introvert; she both spurned and longed for company.

What instances with those persons in her life could be named unforgivable? Heart-rendering?

What about her own ineptitude to remember to water the flowers in the garden? Was she even showing herself in those relationships for them to become fully realized?

She wasn’t so sure anymore. Only that they mattered. That the people who would come and go in her life mattered more than anything, but that they couldn’t be obtained by anything you were taught. You had to carry it out for yourself and it was tougher, more unpredictable than anything.

She came to learn that people and relationships were the only unpredictable thing in life able to break the routines; that otherwise settled outlook of a lived life, but she knew that marriage and children were not what she was looking for. Never had. It was fine if other people sought it out. She could understand. But it wasn’t for her.

Most of all, she found she lacked courage and conviction in her loneliness, but oddly enough refused to let herself be depending on other people’s support. In her naivety and arrogance (between which there is a fine line), she took the people in her life for granted. She had love and knowledge to give, but her mind strayed, unable to settle on its own until she might stumble across whatever she was looking for.

With no ambition in life, she came to learn art, music, writing, philosophy and love were what gave life meaning in its essence. Purpose. If she had any ambition, it was that. Perhaps she had an artist’s soul because she couldn’t see herself living any other path in life. She admired those who dared stray off the main road and live the life they wanted, when so much was made up of and dictated by money and norms and expectations. How did one find purpose and meaning in a world like that? How did one give and live without the constant interference of money? All she saw was how money and capitalism and greed ruined every good thing in life, and yet she knew money was what gave her her creature comforts in life.

She was blessed. Privileged. And yet she wasn’t happy. No matter where she looked no conventional path in life gave her a sense of purpose or happiness. She wanted to contribute but every path seemed to lead to money; an endless circle, she kept questioning. Why?

So, yes only art, music, writing, philosophy and love and everything in-between seemed to be more free than anything else. They too could be twisted and exploited, everything can, but at least there was more lasting positive effects from the workings of these elements of life. And if not love, what then?

She had been more cynical once, still was to some extent, but always a romantic at heart. She couldn’t help herself, but it was paradoxical: The more she learned of the world the more cynical she became, and simultaneously, she became more of a romantic. As if the two sides lived side-by-side, constantly trying to outplay each other. Romanticism acted as a way to deal with the cynicism of the world and its reality; its harsh day of light. She believed and had hope that as long as we had and could produce art, music, books, philosophy and love, we could be good. Despite the ever-growing, prevailing hopelessness of everything else.

That child moved within a forest of paths and wilderness, curious and afraid, but always going forward.

And now? What now? Is she really at such a loss without guidelines that she cannot find her way out or around of the forest; that same child? Can she even make her own path, or has she always been helped; guided along a yellow brick road?

Alice in Wonderland3

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When the tear ducts suddenly erupt

The stereotypical assumption of the INTP may be that of a person who would constantly say ‘Let’s try and be rational’ to any emotional reaction.

That is both true and false.

A response like that is, more or less, our inner, instinctive reaction; our heads trying to wrap itself around what’s happening and analyzing it to come up with a solution how to appropriately respond to something that is not our immediate field of expertise… since we don’t understand emotions that well. To speak plainly.

However, I, too, personally find it irritating when someone says ‘Let’s try and be rational’, because, unless it’s a situation of total panic, it can come across as arrogant – as if bypassing the legitimate emotions and subsequent thoughts of those around them, though that may not be intentional.

Just like shushing a crying person – no matter how benevolent intended or kindly done – is basically a slap in the face to the one crying, because crying is, in fact, a healthy, cathartic outlet for an abundance of emotion/pain.

It’s as if shushing is not letting the crying person feel – which the person obviously needs – and especially when the person is an adult I believe. Instead shushing centers around what the comforting person is feeling; often discomfort and awkwardness in properly responding to the crying person, and the action becomes almost two-fold; as if calming oneself down instead of the person crying.

Why not just say ‘Let it out. I am here for you’ instead?

Crying is still an unspoken taboo among adults, because we are taught and expected to have mastered such emotional outbursts and channel them appropriately, like talking, analyzing or rationalizing these feelings instead. And too often we just feel ashamed or uncomfortable dealing with them at all and stomp them deep within ourselves, in the end bottling them up into an entirely too unhealthy pattern of emotional management. Honestly, sometimes we should just be allowed to… feel. There’s a reason crying is the instinctual physical response to a difficult emotional situation, no matter your age. Frankly, I’m vary and concerned of adults who do not (or claim to never) cry. Surely, to quote Charlotte Brontë, “crying does not indicate that you are weak. Since birth, it has always been a sign that you are alive.” I’m not saying adults should allow themselves to openly wail in the middle of the streets or in any given situation. Just allow yourself to feel once in a while, not stomping it down with some rational excuse each time (just as much an advice to myself).

I guess, I also feel this on a personal level, the more I’ve learned about my INTP personality as well. Knowing how little we express emotions on a conventional level, though are not less emotional on the inside, I feel we are more than legitimized when we actually do express them. Especially when we feel the need to cry (because, be honest, we only ever cry rarely and alone, don’t we?). For once, don’t tell or expect us to rationalize or channel this expression in any other way. Don’t talk the feelings down, whatever they are. Just let us let it out and feel whatever we need to feel for a moment and be there for us. Am I right? Well, not just INTPs; everyone, really.

But, if you have some insight in INTPs’ track record in this matter, you know the INTP is particularly notorious regarding sudden outbursts of emotions at rare and odd times. We may need some friendly reassurance afterwards; sympathy instead of pity, and, perhaps, someone who isn’t afraid of sticking around (though I wouldn’t blame anyone from wanting to run away) and deal with such an emotional outburst from an (INTP) friend. Nobody wants someone who is just half-listening or pretending to care.

Not that I am any good at handling such things myself when others react this way (have I already mentioned that?), and I use way too many awkward platitudes or whatever I can come up with to make the person feel better without having any clue if it works. I’m no good with the physical stuff and I’m generally such a blatant INTP I avoid the act of comforting like the plague, even though I hate to see people in pain and want to do something to help. Never confuse an INTP’s awkward response to an emotional situation with a lack of emotion, sympathy or empathy. My heart goes out to people in pain; I simply cannot always express it or help in an appropriate way. In fact, sometimes I feel like I feel too much. That I cannot contain it nor express it.

So, I understand perfectly well the need to have a good cry and not be shushed.

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Loyal to a fault but no real faith

I may have belief in my convictions but not in myself. My insecurity won’t allow my faith in myself to establish. It wavers and it changes; from crumbling shyness to conceited stoicism.

It’s weird to have this constant spark of hope warring with a true lack of consistency in belief. Especially voicing that belief in myself. It’s not that I don’t know what I’m worth; I know that intrinsically; I always have, but somehow having to constantly prove, verbalize and even document it to others through outward display and activities remains an exhausting, demanding task. And it’s an internal ‘war’ that I don’t feel like complaining about because I know it’s both immature and futile. An inevitable human condition.

It’s something I feel only I can deal with, on my own, since it’s all within.

But, as previous posts have revealed, I also know I cannot go through life never asking for help or support in this particular area.

I don’t want this warring insecurity to turn bitter and (self-)destructive; influencing or even hampering all other (future/possible) aspects of my life.

I don’t want to become like my introvert parents but in so many ways, I’m already becoming them. I know; now it sounds like I’m projecting but I know my parents rather well, having, after all, been their closest observant for more than 20 years. Sometimes, I think I know the patterns in their behavior and interaction better than themselves from my outside perspective.

But I hate it. I hate it because I never wanted this and because I know that I can still change my life and prevent it but don’t seem to make an effort to really change it. And on some deep level, I think I might even silently blame and resent them for it, even though I am more than aware that I am responsible for my own life. Simultaneously, I stubbornly persist it must be my own battle, almost clinging to it, perversely so. Because… what else have I got?

Can you decide on becoming confident or is it pretense if so; merely masking how insecure you are within? Or aren’t confidence and insecurity two sides of the same coin, depending in what context and how you show it?

Forgive my rambling.

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INTP Pet Peeve #2

People who, by principle, exclude or refuse to include certain possibilities in an argument, even the possibility of reconsidering their argumentation.

What I’m really talking about here is a rigidity of mind. A certain stubbornness or arrogance in some people’s logic which bugs the hell out of me!

I’m sorry but the INTP in me just shines through here, and I know some people (sometimes) can’t help thinking like this.

Hell, even I have to eliminate certain possibilities in a logical analysis or deduction in order to narrow it down, but not before considering as many alternative possibilities as possible first. And by narrowing down doesn’t exclude the ‘discarded’ possibilities for good. By principle, “what I know for sure is that I know nothing”. Or, rather, what I know is one side of a matter and I am aware there might be other sides to it. That doesn’t necessarily make my conclusion any less true, just one argument or logical conclusion of a matter. By principle, I am open to discuss my argument and ready to listen to other perspectives.

However, when people are not aware of this or even ready to discuss their point of views to some extent – that’s where I balk!

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Talking on the phone is just… the worst

I think this on the Top 5 on every introvert’s list of Worst Things Ever.

I’m literally such an ass with the telephone. I hate it when it rings, almost no matter who calls, and I have to mentally prepare myself to pick it up or call other people. And, of course, I avoid it like the plague when it’s an unknown number.

Really, I need to size up the person on the other end. Even if it’s someone I know well. Like some robot I need visual and facial recognition to properly read and interact with another human being.

I think many elements of being face to face are taken for granted, but that’s also somewhat hypocritical to say because, generally, if anything, I prefer to write to and with people, and even writing has it limits (*sighs in admittance*). But so has telephonic communication. Even face to face isn’t perfect, but it sure gives a better picture of the person at the other end.

Let’s be honest, communication is and always will be a complex area. Most of all, it’s about context, perspective and interpretation. Some people are very good at masking their voices and feelings, others unintentionally give off the wrong impressions, while awkward pauses, misunderstandings and interruptions seem to be the most unavoidable and frequent occurrences during phone conversations (at least compared to any other form of interaction I’ve participated in or witnessed, or maybe it’s just me).

Personally, I just interact with more ease if I’m able to read the other person’s face, body language and eyes as well. It helps me to know if the person is being honest and sincere about what they are saying. Am I more comforted by the fact that the other person is also able to read my face, body and eyes? Good question. To be honest, it depends. Most of the time, I have no clue how the world around me see me, so to say I’m unsure how to answer this confidently would be an understatement.

Though I find that I can read people fairly well, I can also be quite naive at times; instinctively putting too much faith in the good of other people. Ironically (or maybe not?), I don’t trust the distorted mediation of the phone, and I feel like my bad sides are more pronounced because of this; that I sound so much more uncomfortable, wavering and even unintentionally curt if I can’t read the situation right.

All in all, I could just do with less awkward pauses and misunderstandings in my life, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to live without the phone. Not completely. I just have to practise and get used to it, bit by bit.

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INTP Pet Peeve #1

People who don’t listen.

Especially during conversations. (I’d be a hypocrite if I demanded every student to stay alert during every class lecture, or that people like Trump are worth listening to in the long haul).

Sure, you’re allowed to disagree, zone out during small talk, be too tired, have a bad day or carry a variety of misgivings towards the person speaking to you.

But I cannot abide people who refuse to listen on a general basis. You don’t even have to agree with what is being said or even understand where the person is coming from.

Just… listen.

It doesn’t require that much effort.

And if you happen to be able to partake in or witness a conversation of opposite sides, where one side is decisively bigoted, intolerant or extremist, you should still make the effort to listen. At least, for as long as you are able to. It’s important to know where exactly the opposition stands, because it is all a part of a democracy with freedom of speech. Of course, intolerance should never be tolerated, but immediately shutting down and censoring the right to speak such opinions makes you no better than the bigoted party. And sometimes you’ll learn something new; about the complexity of any given subject, about yourself, the opposition or even your own community. And sometimes you won’t; you’ll simply be confirmed in your own opinion of the opposite side.

In any case, listening never did anyone any harm.

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