Lack of emotional guidance

“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.” — Oscar Wilde

Maybe my reason for not wanting to have children is because I already have a small 6-year-old running around inside my heart, playing my emotional keeper. It’s quite enough. *scoffs dryly* No, seriously. It’s literally like an annoying, selfish, hedonistic, stubborn little kid who runs amok, high on sugar and excitement over utterly geeky nonsense, or slumps together in a corner out of exhaustion or demonstratively trying to get its will.

Yep. That’s the core feature of my emotional response.

And like any weary parent my rationality tries to rein it in and put some guidelines up in order to get somewhere constructive. Not that I constantly fail in this fairly common endeavour, but my ’emotional keeper’ is also just a child; a person with its own personality and individual growth. I cannot keep on controlling it, yet as a ‘parent’, my rationality has a constant responsibility towards it. They cannot easily be separated and it has consequences if so.

It demands constant work to deal with emotions. At least for me – as an INTP. I can’t really speak on behalf of other types. I want and value my emotions but I have no natural emotional guidance and use my rationality, my intellect and wit to handle and deflect it when I think my emotional response gets out of hand. Though, I’ll never understand them. Sure, I can analyze and recognize patterns that led to the response, but I’ll never truly be on wavelength with my emotions. They are just … there. Doing something. And sometimes they are not. Don’t ask me why.

Now; sucking at your own emotional guidance, guiding others in the same department is, well, not excellent. I have had all these thoughts and feelings of wanting to help, but no idea how to reach out without seeming pathetic, contrived and awkward in my approach and sympathy that I do not always feel myself and hate to put on. I’m not even sure when I truly sympathize or empathize with somebody. I have no natural inclination towards interpersonal guidance besides the logical one. And I have absolute zero training from the home front. Other than generally knowing what not to do. Yet, knowing isn’t the same as showing and when it comes to showing I feel I have severely lacked the supportive action.

Maybe I haven’t. Maybe this worried post is all for naught, but that simply illustrates how little I get my own, personal emotional rollercoaster in my inner backyard.

I have long denied – and partly continue to do so – that I need emotional guidance, both from myself and from others. I’ve considered it a pathetic, selfish and needy request to want. Which may or may not have something to do with my upbringing … But by denying and dismissing it, I have actually placed myself in a more selfish position. Did I have the ability to let myself be guided by and through my emotions in a symbiotic fashion and help others to do the same, I would certainly be a less selfish person for it, I believe! Instead of barracading myself from the fear of stepping out awkwardly or in order not to hurt and get hurt, unintentionally.

I recognize now that I need to learn emotional guidance and give it to myself and others and that wanting it in return is not so big an ask. It would certainly be beneficial to all parties.

But where to start? By stop denying it to myself? By reaching out or by being reached? Maybe I’m not desperate enough? Maybe it isn’t shown enough through my awkward actions and words alone since it is something most people, presumably, take for granted, don’t recognize or misinterpret?

One must be careful not to be consumed by an evil spiral of guilt anyhow: To think about wanting to reach out and then cop out, feeling too awkward about it and then feeling guilty about not doing it, wondering why you’re so bad at it and then rationalizing it with ‘there’s nothing you could do to help anyway’ or ‘you’ll just muck it up’. When you keep on thinking about doing and thinking about not doing and never really lift your head to look up and into the eyes of the person in need; to truly listen and help and be there, without being distracted by your own guilt and inabilities.

I think that has been part of the problem with my parents when I feel I haven’t really received emotional guidance from them or that they haven’t given it to themselves. And I think I am afraid of this most of all, because I know I do it myself and I’m not sure how to get out. I continue to feel insufficient in this department and awkward when I do do something and still not sure if I do anything right. I have gotten positive response for my rational, logical guidance – even in somewhat emotional situations – but what if that isn’t enough? I really have no clue whether people around me need more emotional support from me or when or how…!? Do they simply think I’m not able to handle it and instead seek out other people? I partly fear and hope so. Because then they understand how difficult it is for me to give helpful, emotional support, but it also means this two-way, tender subject is never really broached and I begin to fear they think me unfeeling and carefree, with no worries of my own in possible need of guidance..?

And I end right by the conclusion that, all in all, I am pathetic for thinking all this … *sighs* Yeah, you see? Really helpful, emotional guidance here.

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How (self)perception can deceive you

“I am both worse and better than you thought”, Sylvia Plath once wrote.

If you ask me, this quote is completely ingenious.

It fits almost every situation in which you interact with another human being and worry about their perception of you and how it matches your own self-perception.

So often we put our hopes and expectations into our fellow man and so often we get disappointed. Yet, what did we truly expect? Here Plath’s quote applies perfectly. We are only human, after all, aren’t we? Human and complex. In this regard, I come to think of a generally used misquote of Plath but which in reality belongs to author Dean Walley: “Please don’t expect me to always be good and kind and loving. There are times when I will be cold and thoughtless and hard to understand”.

We can never really live up to or stay true to the expectations of others – that is, not everyone’s – despite how much we truly want to, deep down. In my experience, positive impressions jump or sneak up on you unconsciously. You might have known a certain person to be a certain, amazing way, but it was not something you ruminated upon everyday why or how or selfishly willed forth like you often do with expectations that you hope to project onto others. You just knew without consciously knowing. You follow?

Yet, you could argue the same concerning negative impressions, couldn’t you?

I still fear I’m a freak in the sense of unintentionally being a ‘bad’, irritating, egocentric person deep down, despite caring about the world and wanting very much to help the people in it in some way. Well, in my way and the best way I can.

Perhaps not decisively ‘bad’, but not decisively ‘good’ either. (Not that man has ever been just one thing). And that one of these ‘traits’ may stragetically, almost instinctively dominate the other whenever it feels necessary and justifiable to do so – for my own benefit – simply in order to get through and survive in this world.

I don’t know what I’ve become anymore.

But, the thing is, this fear may stem from a recurring insecurity. I’ve realized that my insecurities from my younger years are as prominent as ever. They’ve just grown and changed; their conditions shifted.

I may have distanced and isolated myself throughout my life, because I have – among other things – battled with this knowledge; this insecurity and the possibility that it might have some truth in it, but denied it or denied to do anything significant about it. And thus pushed away the responsibility of deciding upon it, stubbornly telling myself that I am also just me and that that cannot be changed. Not for anyone. Not the essence of me. So be it if people get aggravated by it.

However, the faux confidence only lasts for so long.

An event – a turning point, really – occured just this past summer where I was rendered shocked, hurt, confused and sad that I could ever make people feel immediate hatred, dislike or anger towards me. The fall-out was mainly caused by a mutual misunderstanding; of related tempers clashing in a moment of stress before apologizing and reconciling again. Still, it felt like it was subtly my fault more than anything. That I had ‘a problem’ that needed to be dealt with somehow; that I was being too critical, too snarky, too personal. Perhaps slightly unfair since it takes two to make a quarrel – but also partly true. I knew I was projecting, that I was being unfair as well and that it needed to stop. It’s never nice to come upon such realizations but I think they are somewhat healthy in order for you to grow.

In the end, the episode shocked me to my core and made me realize that I have somehow come to never expect that I can inspire any kind of passionate feelings – platonic or otherwise – in anyone. It’s sad that I feel this way, isn’t it? That I’ve come to view my own effect and impact on others – negative and positive – with so little regard. In so many instances I need to remind myself that I’m not invisible but actually can have an impact. Too often I just hide in the shadows or lay back, dismissing or taking it for granted. Especially that some people actually do care about me and thus can get hurt by what I do or don’t do. (Those out there with a greater emotional understanding and interpersonal guidance may be chuckling at me right now, but you must understand that this is a core feature in the INTP; this particular blind spot regarding emotions).

It may also be a causal/Pavlovian symptom – a misconstrued symptom – because I’ve taught myself not to care too much in order not to get hurt myself and in the end managed to include myself in that view: That if I do not care overtly about people but just what is required when it is required, then that goes for me as well: They do not care about me more than required and thus are not that affected by what I am or do or say.

Seems I’ve gone out on one of my rational limps and got tangled up in the strings. And I’m not quite sure how to disentangle myself. Should I just begin to care more and to visibly, physically, verbally show it more – even when it feels fake to do so? Again, it’s not like I do not care at all, but I’ve already been hurt enough to find that gate hard to open even more. So – as pathetic, lazy, sobby and uneffective as it sounds – I hope and wait for someone – somehow – to come to know and care about me on a deeper level and thus pave the way for me in this regard. As if it will happen out of the blue..! *scoffs* But at least then I think the gate will be a little less heavy if I have two more hands to help me push it open. Only then I see more sunlight than only dim fog at the end of the tunnel. (A bit heavy with the symbolism here, I know). It comes to no surprise that I also categorize as an Enneagram Type 5.

As hinted to, I am still as confused as I was as a teen. It is just … slightly different now. I know my inherent value but am bound to take the outside world’s response to me into account in order to sum up who I am as a person.

Strangers or distant relatives have called me sweet and nice –  humble even – however, they rarely know me that well and probably perceive me as slightly reserved or shy. Some people have been in awe and called me very insightful by a mere, immediate thought I voiced, yet also smiled and likely wondered how arrogant and naive I can be as well. Teachers have hinted to both a talent and a waste of talent; for not taking more advantage of my ressources and showing my intelligence to the fullest. To open my mouth more while my parents, ironically, wanted me to shut it more. Closer friends or family seem more ambivalent and likely find me as irritating as I am insightful, as naive as I am arrogant, and probably too closed-off, too excentric and too humble at times. Perhaps because they know me, care about me or even love me? Especially since this ambivalence is mirrored in my own self-love and self-perception. In the end, it all constitutes what is complex about humans and being human, right?

As a person on Tumblr described it:  “I am a different person to different people. Annoying to one. Talented to another. Quiet to a few. Unknown to a lot. But who am I, to me?”*

Resonating Anne Frank: “Everyone thinks I’m showing off when I talk, ridiculous when I’m silent, insolent when I answer, cunning when I have a good idea, lazy when I’m tired, selfish when I eat one bite more than I should…”

Still, most of all, my own insecurity (aka my Fe) wants people to simply like me. Well, don’t most people feel like this? But I cannot just exist. It isn’t enough for me to just be. I need to give as well. I sometimes wish – or my insecurity wishes – I could be less me and thus less of a ‘nuisance’ to the people I know and adapt to their needs; be more of a help and comfort, despite not having the inclination to be more emotionally helpful and ‘touchy-feely’. My empathy inevitably mixes with my rationality, but I have so much to give of this particular ‘mix’. That is my kindness and though it isn’t very competent in giving the immediate, emotional and physical comfort, I think it can help in other ways. (I’ve found that I am a great pep talker. Huh.)

And yet, I also do not want to reduce myself, because merely showing an outer personality that constitutes of being kind and helpful is not really a personality but rather personality features, in my eyes. I’ve met pretty, kind girls my age who only ever acted kindly, never really giving away any faults or anger or deviations from the perceived norm. It equally frustrated and impressed me that they wouldn’t or couldn’t get riled-up but always gave a polite smile. Perhaps they simply were genuinely sweet people. Or they made a hell of an effort to acquire and keep up this diplomatic façade. I never saw any other side of them. Of course, if I had really gotten to know them, they’d perhaps shown more sides.

But, to quote Jane Austen in Persuasion: “She felt that she could so much more depend upon the sincerity of those who sometimes looked or said a careless or a hasty thing, than of those whose presence of mind never varied, whose tongue never slipped.”

And to me, you should be ‘allowed’ to have the space to display weird gestures and quirks in public. You should be allowed to show anger and eagerness and not be regarded as immature if you do (especially if it does not harm anyone), because you are so much more! Honest about who you are: Kind and considerate, but also distracted and selfish. Intelligent but also naive at times. I know, it may be a very INTP thing to think this way, and I (or perhaps the child in me) may be talking on behalf of myself now. Yet, people have to somehow take everything else that comes with these ‘kind’ features as well in order to have what constitutes me or you, no? And it would be utterly hypocritical to do otherwise, since all people have quirks or deviations or whatever. Some have just learned to curb or diminish them in some situations and express or channel them in others – which could be viewed as just as ‘abnormal’ from another point of view. We are all different, in that regard, but no less or more faulty than others.

Anywho. I think the above-mentioned event changed me, somehow. Made me more aware of myself and others; gut-punchingly aware. At least, I hope so. I tell myself so. And I know such events cannot be entirely prevented in one’s life or in the future – they are there to make you grow, after all – but hopefully, now that I’m more aware, they will rarely occur.

*revised 5/6/17*

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An interview with myself

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).

So …

Where do you sign up to become ‘a Gandalf’, I wonder?

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Moments of epiphany

How and when do you know you’ll probably never reach a deeper understanding between yourself and your family/parents?

I guess there are many degrees of toxic environments to grow up in and I definitely got the ‘lucky’ end of the stick. Still, certain patterns do form within relationships, no matter what kind; hidden, denied or not, and today I realized mine. I may always have known it was there but I also thought I was merely reading too much into things; that I was being dramatic and pathetic; that I was more at fault than others. And though this may sound dramatic either way, I can’t help but telling what I know to be the truth for me. Especially, if the truth comes through the seemingly smallest of incidents, followed by a silent epiphany that tells a message somehow all too familiar to oneself; one you have always known deep down. Especially, if it comes the very first day back in the family’s bosom – and unfolds in its usual and all too disappointing pattern.

Moments of epiphany come in many shapes and sizes and mine came like a stinging reopening of a cut close to my heart, if not on the heart itself. And, as I said, when it happens the very first day back home for the holidays, you know in your heart (you all but literally feel it) that this is wrong – that this shouldn’t be so. When I realize that the very essence of my being can be so easily disregarded and mocked as something silly – still, after all this time – and that I cannot entirely be myself even among my kin. (NB: This may be too subjectively implied, vague and thus uncomprehensive to follow exactly, but I hope to make way for some significant points of self-discovery in the end.)

The thing is: I love my parents yet they do not understand me; they cannot read me. They are my closest of kin – they made me – but they do not understand me – which makes it hurt all the more. This may sound awfully reminiscent of a moody teenager’s voice speaking, but I have outgrown that teen; I know myself more than I did then. I know that this feeling is not ‘just’ the cause of a coming-of-age, hormone-charged fad. It has been brewing for a long time, never building like a snowball of anger and bitterness but simply just there; a constant sense of displacement, of a wire snapped.

They don’t understand why I seek away; why I seek elsewhere than where they are, because that crucial connection is missing. And if they do not understand or cannot read me by now, I don’t think they ever will. It saddens me because I thought I had shown myself; that I was as close to my developed self as I could be by now – or, at least, that their love for me would have shown them my heart and mind by now. I know; you can never truly know what a person thinks or feels, but isn’t the idea that you’ll get to know and learn about them along the way? Apparently, that isn’t the case with my parents and myself. It seems we are always meeting at cross-purposes no matter how well-meaning our intentions may be. I try to reach them, yet they pick up the wrong clues and mock those they have found, throwing away precious chances to come to a greater understanding. I don’t know if it is their embittered hearts that have no more room for such tender dealings or if we simply have very, very bad timing since we continue to go wrong of one another. My mother misinterpret and my father misunderstand. Not in any necessarily big, dramatic way, but in the undercurrent of every benevolent interaction or passionate discussion lies the risk of misunderstanding simmering and waiting to attack and screw us up. I think my parents feel it as well because they make sure to trample down every aggression and passion, even positive passion and conflict, or judge it as misplaced or misleading, fearing it will set off a potential avalanche they wouldn’t know how to handle, thus making it close to impossible to discuss important matters. I’m always exhausted rather than relaxed or exhilarated by their company. I cannot talk with them. We tolerate each other, and sometimes we barely do. I do not ask them to be like me (you can hardly demand everyone around you to be like yourself), but simply to understand me on an entirely basic level. Or just, for once, listen without making too-quick judgments or (mis)interpretations, nor make derisive or self-absorbed comments when I open my heart and mouth a little ‘too much’. Because of all the people I should be able to unburden myself to, uncensored, it should be my parents … Right?

As such I don’t mind being mocked by family since it has always been so, more or less; again, not in an evil-intended kind of way, but for the mere chance of poking fun of one’s antics, I guess. And I happen to have many antics! But I have accepted them because they are me. I have enough self-irony and self-consciousness of my shortcomings as it is; the shortcomings my parents already know, yet cannot help to continue to poke fun at instead of treating them with understanding and acceptance. After all, it’s healthy and constructive to be taken down from one’s own – sometimes – unconscious piedestal (in order to know you even had one in the first place), but there’s a fine line between laughing with you and at you; constantly doing the latter while excusing it as the former. I sometimes fear that I appear more arrogant and self-important than I feel I am (which makes me doubt whether I really am arrogant?!) and if it looks like I put on airs in a discussion when my intention couldn’t be farther from the case. It leads back to the ‘problem’ of being an INTP; that “…people think you argue because you have to be right, but arguing is just a part of your quest to learn”. But my parents aren’t simply ‘people’, right? They are my parents.

Maybe your parents were never meant to form any deeper understanding with you? Maybe this is an all too common, universal and perhaps even banal problem and I’m far too blinded or naive to have noticed it before? The problem of what parents ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be is perhaps as old as time.

But still something grates me. The world doesn’t revolve around me – I know – but among all people isn’t it your parents who should be the first ones to respond to you and celebrate you? If your parents can’t even see the development within you then who can? And what does that say about your relationship with your parents?

I find myself saddened and disappointed by the fact that they are apparently so blind to things I have learned to see now, because I have finally come to various self-realizations about myself and though these realizations may not sound like much, they are significant to me – despite the possible ‘selfish’ nature surrounding them. Perhaps that’s the impediment to our wrong-footing? These moments of self-realization may be barely visible to the naked eye – even to your closest of kin?

I cannot help myself: I have finally learned the art of learning to love myself; of celebrating myself as having come this close to a developed self; celebrate that I have virtues as well as flaws and that flaws can be good because it makes me human and that I can only learn and develop myself from flaws and mistakes, not from perfection or denying my flaws. I celebrate that I have an open mind, am willing to learn and understand (isn’t it wonderful to be human; to have this ability?), knowing I may never be fully ‘developed’ in mind or spirit but that I’m willing to grow and am damn well close to it (for my age, if that says anything). And the (self-)realization itself shows it, I feel, and makes me proud on a deeper, inexplicable level.

Isn’t that what life is about? Not so much being selfish but finding and loving oneself? Connecting with oneself? Forget the hippie clichés and pseudo-spiritual ‘life-inspiring quotes’ hanging on every branch for a bit (though they can be helpful). I’m no survivor of terrible, life-changing events nor hold some celestial spirit connected to the circle of life within or anything like that. I cannot speak for what one have or should have to endure in life in order to find oneself. Such realizations are your own and can show in the most surprising or even familiar of ways; from the outside or within, roaring or silently. And I can only speak for myself, being as human as any of you, and tell you what I’ve discovered for myself. And whether it may or may not be for entirely self-absorbed and pathetic reasons, which I’ll perhaps discover later in life and laugh at, so be it. Pathos is a part of man, after all, as much as ethos and logos.

In danger of sounding too holy and pompous after all, and, I may just write all this as much for myself (if not mostly) as for you, I would like to say that what is important is right now – what you have learned for yourself along the way – in order for you to take the next step, no matter how big or small. As long as it is significant to you. Of course, it’s tough if others (esp your closest ones) don’t see it as well, nor even try to see. Our self-image is not entirely self-made after all. But even if you discover the self-realization is somewhat off or misconstrued, at least you had some sort of realization (all your own); one that is important for your own self-image and -discovery right now, making ways for new and even different ones (of the world and the people around you as well), enabling you to learn from yourself, choose for yourself and accept yourself. Knowing and reaffirming your own ability to learn.

If that is not the first and foremost most important thing in your life; the love of thyself, flaws and all, keeping an open mind and willingness to learn, I don’t know what is.

*revised 3/7/17*

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