A new venture, a new identity

Hi all,

It’s been a really long time. As some of you may have noticed, my previous attempt at starting a scientific blog failed miserably. I wrote myself into a corner and couldn’t really find a good way out. I’ve kept myself busy since then with a variety of projects, including writing grants and papers and trying to get another blog off the ground, but it never seemed like that was “it” for me. I struggled to find the perfect fit, something that blended my interests for learning new things, writing, research and furthering Jung’s ideas. I want to increase the visibility of Jung’s ideas, because I believe them to be tremendously important for people’s emotional well-being, but I know that without further research, these ideas won’t gain the credibility nor legitimacy they deserve.

So I’m starting a small research company focused on the genetic underpinnings of personality, with the hopes of one day linking particular genes or sets of genes to Jung’s cognitive functions. For now, I’m starting small with a web app that will use data from consumer genetics companies and return research linking gene variants to personality traits. You can follow my progress by signing up for my newsletter @Personality Genie .

Please continue to share your stories and comments. I’ll continue to monitor this blog and answer any questions that come up.

Thank you,

INTPblogger

Reconnecting

Dear followers and readers,

I apologize for my long absence! As an INTP, it is inevitable that life and work get in the way of more creative pursuits such as writing. But all that has changed. I finished my postdoc in Neuroscience in June 2014, and moved to Boston with my husband. I’m now taking some time to breathe and figure out my next “career” moves. I’m trying to reinvent myself as an Independent Researcher/Writer/Freelance Science Writer, focusing more on the parts of science/neuroscience research that I enjoy (reading, researching, theorizing, writing) and less on the ones I don’t (actually running experiments in a lab). We will see how I fare.

For now, you can catch up with my thoughts at my new blog: Bleeding Edge Neuroscience, and what I read at Neurochattr. Beware that the writing style has significantly changed. I am no longer in the grip of strong emotions and ruminations, which I’ve found makes my writing more professional and scientific, but less emotionally-appealing. I need to slowly find a way to blend the two sides of my personality, to use my science writing to connect with people, but as always, that part of me is still a work in progress.

I thank everyone for reading this blog and hope to resume some of these discussions over at my new nesting ground!

Onwards,

INTPblogger

From an INFJ: the meaning of emotions

Now dear readers, since I usually have an overabundance of thoughts/ideas/insights/words and usually no one around to share them with (as evidenced by the length of some of my posts), I’m not usually one to steal other people’s words. BUT, given my recent epiphany about emotions and my recent struggles both with my new awareness of them and their potential meaning, I thought I’d share something I came across while prowling the INTP forum (a favorite pastime of mine).

“To extend that note, emotions are not something to be avoided. They are just a diagnostic: a heads-up from the primal, instinctual part of your brain to pay attention, if you will. In many respects, emotions are a source of human action, a way of expressing universal needs based on environmental feedback (i.e, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs). They are often described as a river one rides toward some goal; however, as you noted, that’s incomplete. Every river has a course it follows, an order to its construction. That is logic, the complement to emotion. Some people have weak logic and run all over everywhere, never really reaching where they want to go; others have too little emotion and are a straight line without any adventure, finding their river’s hollow end too quickly.” courtesy of a wandering INFJ (Radiant Shadow) at INTP forum.

Emotions: I heart you! (and I hear you… just don’t know if/when I will listen)

Emotions and decision-making, motivation and the struggles of being INTP

I’m afraid this is going to be a lack-luster and wholly uninspiring post. This is because I’ve been attending to things that have left me bored, frustrated and even slightly (or more than slightly) depressed. I’ve also been suffering from a raging morning-to-night headache for over a week now, which may or may not be related to the boredom, frustration and depression. Unfortunately, when you sink into this kind of situation (at least in my experience), as much as you try to exert conscious control over your thoughts and feelings (can anyone really do this?), the subconscious mind has a mind of its own and goes into overdrive filling your consciousness with negative perceptions and judgements, tricking you into believing that the world is a dark and dreary place and that the only solution is for you to escape it. Which of course, just serves to reinforce the feelings of frustration, depression and the pounding headache. The dreaded downward spiral into the emotional dark cave.

And yet, you may ask yourself, hasn’t INTPblogger found her “answers”? Hasn’t she been claiming, all these months, to have found her path to success, the keys to a life full of meaning and purpose? The secret to long-lasting happiness and a fulfilling life? Well, my dear readers, I ask myself these same questions every day. I’m now living proof that you can’t just find the answers (or think you’ve found them) and then expect that, through some magical power beyond your control, your life will suddenly be filled with red roses and candy hearts– you still have to consciously take the necessary steps and make the right decisions that allow you to live your life “your way”. A life that allows you to use your strengths and maximize your mind’s potential (living authentically by meeting your OWN emotional needs based on personality type) , despite external pressures that drive you to conform and adapt to someone else’s vision of “optimal living”. As a self-confirmed 34-year old INTJ told me a few weeks ago, “it might sound counter-intuitive, but you generate more energy and feel more relaxed by using 90% of your mind’s capacity rather than only 30%”. In my head, this gets converted to: “if you maximize/develop the use of all four of your available cognitive functions (in their correct order), your emotional needs will be met (dopamine release), and you’ll have more energy/psychological reserves/resilience to confront life’s stressors (again, dependent on personality type).”

Although I have been drilling this message into my mind for the past five months or so, it’s clear I still have a long way to go to faithfully align my external circumstances with my new knowledge, my new purpose and my new life goals (my new internal state).

So when did my mind start to unravel?

As many of you know I recently started a postdoctoral fellowship in Neuroscience. My transition into this new position was already in the works last year, way before the life-altering experience (that could, perhaps, be equated with an ego-death?)– I had to endure as a result of my inferior, ego-driven issues and foolishness of the last 2-3 years. Now, my reasons/motivations behind continuing in this position, despite the realization that I have no real desire/dream to continue climbing the Ivory Tower any further, are varied and confusing at times. I have a very obvious Fe-driven desire to “please everyone” in my surroundings– my husband who expects me to earn a salary during this time and hasn’t quite come to terms with the idea that I’d like to write for the rest of my life (and is afraid I won’t be making any money)– my new boss who has high expectations of me (based on my prior, extremely self-motivated and driven, but robotic and unhappy version of “Self”) and expects me to produce something great, seemingly instantaneously (in true ENTJ style, this equates to quick thinking and quick action, which contradicts my stubborn, slow, Ti-Ne evaluation of the idea, gathering of the necessary information, careful experimental design and when I’m finally convinced that the idea and experimental plan are sound, interesting and doable, I can put my plans into action)– my old supervisor who expects me to be around for the potentially countless rounds of revisions on my next paper–etc. My Ti swings wildly between the emotionally-detached, neutral and logical conclusion that I can use the time to work on a project related to my new ideas and learn a lot of new, exciting and interesting information that can definitely help me understand the inner workings of the mind better (nothing like working in science, to truly understand science, its biases, where it fails, but also where it shines) and the very negative, emotionally-driven and self-centred Ti decision that I need to take care of myself first, and I shouldn’t let anyone get in the way of my happiness, so why can’t I just quit and stay home to read the great number of books I’ve downloaded onto my Kobo? Then, of course Ne jumps in with “wait a minute, take the time to truly evaluate the situation first and gain a better perspective on the issues at play here. Where are these thoughts coming from? Is this really a rational thought or are you being biased by your present emotional state (that may or may not be related to your new work situation)?”. I’m also now very acutely aware that I much prefer to wait on making a decision, but that an overwhelming build-up of negative emotion and frustration at work could result in a rash, spur-of-the-moment decision to quit (my husband has been forewarned). So, final decision awaits.

One of the reasons why I’m adamant on postponing this very important decision is because I’ve been hit with an unusual number of perceived (or real?) stressors since September (or even going back to the beginning of the year…). I’m actually not sure whether the stress is any different from what I was used to experiencing before (it may even be less), or whether my new psychological/emotional state is just too weak at the moment to handle these stressors (something psychologists call a lack of resilience). It may even be that the years of dangerous and devastating emotional regulation tactics, which were basically IGNORE and SUPPRESS and bury yourself in work and then more work, have finally caught up to me. I am now very aware of my emotional state and because of my knowledge of personality type, I can actually attribute them to an outside source (Fe), and try my best to work on resolving the issues and misunderstandings (not always easy for me with my conflict-avoidant nature). I also now know that my emotions are very important, that they need to be felt and tended to (gently and with a great deal of care), that they might be telling me something important about how my environment is affecting me, and that they need to be analyzed and if real, expressed and dealt with in a reasonable manner and within a reasonable time-frame.

So, the major psychological hits/stressors (in order):

1. Since the beginning of September I have been jostling for my space with an ENTJ boss who apparently wants me to hit the ground running on one of his projects. Since I have a pretty good idea in my head of what I’d like to be working on for the next two years and I have an undeniable need to be passionate and caring about my work (it is how I define myself, after all), and much prefer that the ideas originated within my own mind other than any one else’s (I tend to trust my own logic and reason above any one else’s and if I’m going to fail, I’d rather fail doing things MY WAY), I’ve stubbornly resisted every idea he’s thrown my way. I eventually just told him how I was perceiving him (controlling, overbearing, micromanaging) and although he was taken aback, I think it has helped the relationship, somewhat. It turns out he feels responsible for giving us all projects to work on and for making sure everything is working out properly!

2. My husband, bless him, was away for work for a good part of the last 6 weeks. This is the first time we’ve been separated since all hell broke loose in February-March. Now, although I looked forward to my space and some extra time to work on my projects and at times wasn’t even sure if I “missed” him in the traditional sense (Fi), I’m now convinced that his departure affected some place deep in my subconscious and slowly eroded away at my ego, until after six weeks, there was nothing left. All the effusive “I love yous”, hugs, kisses, etc, although sometimes taken for granted in the moment, really do get in to my mind. I’m also quite aware that I miss having someone around to take care of (Fe) and that in his absence, I find it difficult to even muster up the energy to take care of my own needs.

3. From October 9th to October 17th I was away at the annual Society for Neuroscience conference in New Orleans. Now, I don’t know how other INTPs feel about travel, but I have always been less excited about new places than I am about new ideas and theories. I just don’t think I’m very present IN THE MOMENT (Se) when I visit these places. I’m mostly just trapped inside my head (Ti). I don’t get any enjoyment from the people, the sights, the sounds, the culture, the food, the entertainment, etc. And this was only amplified by the fact that I was travelling ALONE and that I spent most of my time at the conference alone. Now, the scientific conference is a forum where scientists come together to share new ideas, so the concept itself jives with my INTPness. I even attended a pre-conference on Neuromodulation and while sitting there realized that this was probably the first time in months that my mind was actually relaxed and paying close attention to information from the outside world (my once insanely long attention span has been difficult to re-attain; it’s now mostly a case of if I’m interested it’s there; if I’m not interested, it’s not). I actually felt energized, interested, entertained. However, as soon as I had to integrate myself into the main conference– with 28,000 other people and a staggering number of scientific posters and presentations– my energy and attention span soon diminished. The Ti-Ne axis is just incapable of taking in and processing that much information at once, so my mind soon got confused and annoyed. Besides, it appears that anything that doesn’t obviously add to my current Ti framework immediately gets discarded or filtered out (a good and bad feature of Ti).

4. Finally, and perhaps the most pertinent to my current emotional issues, is the fact that I agreed, back at the end of August, to write up a review paper on my old project with my old supervisor. Now, back in the old days I would have viewed this as a opportunity to beef up my resume for my eventual career as an academic scientist and possibly as another opportunity to “shine”. At the time I was asked, I had this sinking feeling in my stomach that signalled a mixture of anxiety, dread and sheer mental exhaustion– my initial thought had been to say no, but for reasons I still can’t comprehend (inability to say no to keep everyone happy? fear of failure? fear of not meeting someone else’s expectations?) I somehow convinced myself to say yes. I’m now left with a 10,000 word review on a topic that reminds me of my horrid recent past experiences (Si), that deals with a now uninteresting topic (Si), that no longer aligns with my new goals and purpose and therefore I’m no longer attached to (Fe) and that I feel won’t provide me with any intrinsic or extrinsic reward or any sense of satisfaction whatsoever. So, despite many many attempts on “my” part to convince my mind that I NEED to attend to this one hurdle since it’s preventing me from moving forward in my life, the stress and frustration have become so great that my weak mind has crumbled in the process. And, since this is the first time in a very long time that I’ve had this much difficulty concentrating on and completing a project, I have to wonder, where has the motivation gone? Evidently, if the mind perceives that the cost is just too great for the perceived intrinsic or extrinsic reward (dopamine), or that the project no longer aligns with future goals (more dopamine), it shuts down completely. Ugh.

So other INTPs (and even other types that stumble across this blog)… what do you think? Is there some important meaning hidden in our gut reactions and feelings? Should we be attending to and listening to our emotions more than we naturally do? Is there always a benefit in over-analyzing the situation and convincing ourselves (or god forbid, letting other people convince us) that we should take on projects that we know we won’t care about?

The power of dopamine

First off, I must apologize for my absence. As you already know, I recently obtained my PhD in Neuroscience and this month has been a slow transition into my new position– the postdoctoral fellowship. Those in academia will know that this cut-throat position is the next rung on the ladder for those clambering for the much-coveted position/status of “professor”. Unfortunately, something like less than 10% of all postdoctoral fellows (a position that can last anywhere from 3 to 10 years) actually end up with an academic job, the rest, well, I figure they must find better things to do with their lives.

Fortunately, my recent “epiphany” and dramatic increase in self-awareness and understanding of the world forced me to confront the fact that if I wasn’t actively daydreaming (creating images & expectations) about becoming an academic professor, then it was probably because my mind was staunchly opposed to the idea in the first place. Basically, my subconscious was telling me that I, a born and bred INTP, would probably suck at being a professor. Or possibly not suck, because I like to be independent, learn new things and succeed, but at the very least I would be very very stressed and very very unhappy.

You can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do. -Gretchen Rubin

Unfortunately, most people are usually deep into their lives & careers before they come to these realizations. It is far too easy to ignore all the warning signs, to continue forward on auto-pilot working towards meaningless short-term goals, to get sucked-in because it’s easy and comfortable to follow what everyone else around you is doing. Eventually, you may try to convince yourself that if this is everyone else’s dream/long-term goal then you must somehow find a way to make it yours too.

As I recently found out, the mind just doesn’t work that way.

You are probably now wondering one of two things. 1) What the hell does all this rambling have to do with dopamine? and 2) why has INTPblogger decided to do a post-doc then?

I’ll take a stab at answering #1 and if I feel up to it, I may answer #2 as well.

1. The short answer: EVERYTHING

The long answer: well, it will probably take me a few decades to fully build my theory and figure out all the facts & details (INTPs come up with plenty of crazy theories based on vague assumptions and personal experiences, but we take our sweet time when it comes to actually putting anything concrete together, it’s the part we find “fun”).

For now, let me just introduce you to dopamine. Dopamine2.svg

You might think that a dog is a man’s best-friend, or that a diamond is a woman’s best-friend, but I say that mankind’s (as well as all other organisms lucky enough to be synthesizing and secreting the stuff) best-friend is dopamine. Why? Well, because dopamine is the brain chemical that makes us “feel” good. It’s the chemical that makes us get up in the morning, directs and reinforces our behaviors/habits, motivates us to set and achieve goals, creates dreams & expectations, helps store our long-term memories, increases our confidence and assertiveness, drives us to meet our basic needs (food, sex, water, shelter, sleep, love) and the list goes on. It’s even the reason why some people can’t seem to get enough of their barking hounds or sparkling diamonds (unfortunately neither of those things give me pleasure; if only life were that simple). Now, I’m in no way attributing all of human behaviors to one pesky brain chemical, although I would sure love to and someone before me has tried. Of course, there are a slew of other brain chemicals/neuromodulators that also have a significant impact on our behaviors– leptin and grelin signal hunger and satiety, oxytocin and vasopressin are involved in pair-bonding, serotonin is involved in delaying rewards for larger long-term gains, noradrenaline is involved in the fight-or-flight response (stress). But, at the end of the day, dopamine is probably the final player that prompts us to do anything.

The power of dopamine as a motivator and positive reinforcer of behaviors was first demonstrated in 1954 by a pair of scientists, James Olds and Peter Milner. They found that they could get rats “hooked” on receiving electrical stimulation that targeted regions of the brain containing dopamine-producing neurons. They were able to train the rats to press down on a lever to receive this electrical stimulation, and, shockingly, the rats eventually went on to favor pressing the lever over all other survival behaviors/instincts — ie. searching for sex, food and water. Even more eerie is the fact that, before proper ethical guidelines were in place, this study was repeated, and produced the same effect, in (a few) humans.

This type of positively reinforced behavior, where the behavior is repeated to the exclusion of all other more beneficial behaviors, is strikingly similar to what happened during and especially near the end of my emotional affair. Basically, I was “self-stimulating” my dopamine-producing neurons by interacting with LO, engaging in pleasant conversations, fantasizing, creating unrealistic expectations, etc. Conclusion: really, I’m no better than a rat. Others will find striking similarities between these behaviors and the drug-seeking behaviors of addicts. This is not surprising: most recreational drugs target the dopamine reward pathway in some way or another.

The powerful impact of dopamine-seeking behaviors on human society has led some to conclude that intoxication or “pleasure” is a basic animal/human need. In fact, although I haven’t read the book yet, the author apparently promotes the development of “safe intoxicants”. I think it’s a safe bet to assume that such a thing does not exist.

Now, what many people don’t seem to realize is that evolution, somehow, has given us the masterful ability to actually consciously control our dopamine release. Not only are there pathways leading from the dopamine-producing neurons in the midbrain to the prefrontal cortex (that beautiful part of the brain that gives rise to our thoughts, feelings and actions), but there are also pathways leading from the prefrontal cortex to the midbrain. This means that the prefrontal cortex is able to control how much dopamine it is receiving and is probably striving to maintain this amount within an optimal range (the prefrontal cortex cannot function without a certain amount of dopamine and noradrenaline). Too much dopamine, and you start hallucinating, too little, and you feel bored or stressed (a prime stimulus to pick up dopamine-producing addictions or obsessive behaviors). Basically, what I think this means is that if you are using your mind the way it was supposed to be used (taking full advantage of your personality type strengths and weaknesses), you will be “happy” and there will be no “innate drive” towards intoxication. It’s not going to be a “high” like the one felt when people fall in love, or the one induced by drug-induced and natural addictions, but I truly believe that the psychological state reached/maintained/felt will be even better. It will be characterized by an absence of emotional highs and lows, a state of being at peace with oneself and the world. I guess that’s the mental state some people call “self-actualization”.

Hooray for dopamine.

A confession

So, as many of you know, I’ve been maintaining “no contact” with my LO/emotional affair partner since the middle of April. This has been working extremely well, allowing me to re-focus my energy on my marriage and understanding myself & my husband, while at the same time dissipating those pesky “feelings” and fantasizes of being swept away from the realities of real life by a knight in new & shiny armor.

Unfortunately, I’ve been working from my old lab for the past three weeks (lucky for me LO is on vacation so I don’t have to deal with him in person until Monday) and as people who’ve gone through similar experiences probably know, being back in the location of the betrayal is a trigger for all sorts of negative feelings– anxiety, stress, fear, sadness, nostalgia, longing– and with these negative feelings re-surfaced the desire/need for some sort of contact. For the first time in a few months, instead of my thoughts being directed towards my new theories, work or my next blog post, they were re-directed towards musings on the experience with LO and what I would say to LO if I were to send him one last email. As much as I tried to bury these Fe-Si-Ne-driven thoughts (the exact content of the fictional email changed every day and the urge to actually write it down grew and diminished based on my mood), I inevitably caved on Monday.

Since writing, sending it and receiving his replies, I’ve been trying to figure out my intentions and motivations behind its content. What was I really trying to say/prove/gain? What was the response I was expecting? It was written in a frenzy, definitely write now-think later. I knew that if I stopped to think about it for even more than a second I would convince myself not to send it (as I had for the first 2 weeks) and maybe regret not having said these things later? Who knows.

Anyway, my analysis has led me to these potential motivations (feel free to chime in if you can detect some other hidden motives). It really was very idiotic of me to write and send this (and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone in the same situation). I did tell my husband that I’d sent an email; he wasn’t impressed and longs for the day when all this will be distant past.

1. A need to determine his frame of mind (I have started to feel bad for potentially putting him in a “mind funk” as well).

2. A need to help.

3. A need to preach/share my new knowledge and insights and hear his opinions about it.

4. A need to share my experience with someone who might actually understand.

5. A need to make next week less awkward since we’ll be seeing each other every day.

6. An attempt at closure.

7. A need to show that I was doing ok.

8. A need to show that I was available in case he had anything he needed to get off his chest.

Anyway, here is the email for all to laugh at my mistakes.

Title: One more [important] life lesson

Feel free to disregard/dismiss/ignore.

So, after months of deep introspection, solitude, existential loneliness, despair and self-hatred (a bit longer than the 40 days required by the Buddha, but I did have a thesis to write at the same time) I’ve come to several new conclusions regarding the meaning of life, the universe and everything. And, as I’ve suspected all along, the answer is not 42—but happens to be quite fascinating, intriguing and in its most basic, deconstructed form, actually quite simple.

It actually did feel, for a very long time, like my mind was slowly caving in on itself. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t prevent it from happening and I knew I just had to let my mind wander, ponder, feel and just wait it out—somehow the mind would find some way to correct itself. Anyway, I eventually hit what I consider rock bottom sometime at the end of May/early June—somehow I foresaw it coming (I believe it’s happened before, sometime in my teenage years, unprompted by any major life events except for puberty and a deep sense of being misunderstood & alone in the world— it was then that I picked up many interesting and maladaptive behaviors that somehow allowed me to function as a quasi-normal human being in this confusing and strange world). Anyway, it was at this point that I sensed a great void and had the fleeting thought—“LO stole my soul/identity”—I was reduced to nothing, basically the sum of my component neurons and that was it. I felt nothing, I was nothing. I had lost purpose, essence, meaning. It’s at this point that some people would think about throwing themselves off a bridge or starting a religion—but again, I found it to be such an interesting, profound experience from a neuroscience perspective that those thoughts didn’t even cross my mind (well, I may have considered starting a religion/cult for just a second…). I just waited it out.

Amidst a lot of obsessive reading/thinking, I eventually stumbled upon this: http://personalityjunkie.com/ and was like, “there’s NO FUCKING way” and then “holy shit, the strange puzzle pieces that have made up my life so far suddenly fit together”. And slowly the pieces of my soul started to put themselves back together again. Here’s to hoping that it’s stronger and smarter this time.

Anyway, you can take the test if you’d like, but it’s pretty clear to me that you are ENFP… and I am INTP. I think it explains why you have trouble making decisions/come off to others as too friendly & flirtatious/sometimes feel awkward in your interactions with other people… and my propensity to plug my holes with romantic relationships and work/achievement obsessions. And SO many other things about the world as well (at least in my mind, I see all the answers pretty clearly now).

Anyway, I have no blame or hate towards you, myself, my decision-making process or the life experience. It took me an extremely long time to forgive myself since my actions/feelings contradicted how I consciously saw myself. I didn’t identify with this risk-taking/easy-going/affair-seeking side of myself and having to admit to and accept that part of myself took a long time. I wasn’t taking care of myself and my own needs—actually not even consciously knowing what my greatest needs are—in these cases, the subconscious eventually retaliates, forcing you to examine yourself, your actions, your view of the world and try to make amends with it.

As I see it right now, we were just two personalities interacting naturally with each other, behaving as our “true selves”, which is why the interaction was endlessly fascinating, entertaining and dopamine-release inducing and led to that elusive feeling (at least in my experience) of being deeply connected & understood by another human being (even if in the end I don’t think you understood me that well, but that’s ok, no one actually has) and that sense of extreme vulnerability that comes with the realization that you’ve just placed your happiness in someone else’s hands (which is one of the reasons I freaked out—that shit is scary to my independent self). It’s pretty clear to me that I was responsible for setting my own personal boundaries, I just didn’t know what those were at the time (I need to experience life to learn how to function best in the world—and obviously I don’t enjoy following society’s view of how a “wife” should act & behave). How was I supposed to know that I “connect” with others by sharing my inner world of scientific thoughts/ideas/truths (evidently my version of deep secrets)? I mean, I only started being comfortable with my own ideas of the world once I reached graduate school and then finding someone who actually enjoys listening to them and seems to “get it” is another ball-game altogether… anyway, you can see that life has been a pretty lonely experience for me so far.

I really hope you are not too mad or hurt that I rejected your valiant attempts to salvage some sort of friendship— it really was because I ended up caring too much and was in some sort of unsustainable, frightening, altered state of consciousness… Anyway, I will be regarding you as a “friend” in a historical/spiritual sense – I don’t think I can be your friend anymore, you were draining way too much of my brain power and I’ve now found an idea way more fascinating and entertaining than you could ever be, an idea that will probably keep me busy for decades (and it will never get up and leave me mid-conversation or move away…).

I’m hoping I can have some quasi-normal interactions with you next week (you are planning on returning, no?)… although it could be that shyness/anxiety or fear forces me to retreat back into my head. We will see.

Oh yeah, if you come back professing your uniqueness and complexity I will have to hit you over the head with my Kandel book… think about this as a basic framework for what motivates our different behaviors, how our minds work, develop and make decisions, the differences in how people perceive and judge the world, what we naturally pick up and things we filter out, what we are naturally good at and the things we avoid doing because they stress us out—of course each of us will turn out unique based on our personal experiences (which will determine our interests & values), environment and how we’ve tried to adapt to the world. And if you are still not convinced I can lead you to a forum of people that think and behave just like you (my sister is ENFP too, which explains why I was always so confused that she turned out so differently to me…).

INTPBlogger

PS. It appears you may be better suited to academia & teaching than I am (which explains why I never really envisioned myself as a PI…). Evidently it was only a matter of time before I became disillusioned and jaded with the “system”. I’m already feeling the urge to throw in the towel to work on a book, or something.

Let’s just say that after sending it I realized that I hadn’t really considered how he would feel receiving an insane email like that. After one or two more brief exchanges, it turned out that he’d been happy to hear from me, but did not want to engage with me on anything I had written and wanted to keep the new status quo. It was the appropriate response, but I was nevertheless a bit rattled for a few days afterwards.

So there we go. THE END.

Emotional needs

aka:

1. Important things people neglected to tell you when you committed to a long-term relationship or marriage.

2. The tools needed for people to achieve and sustain a happy, fulfilled life by re-focusing their lives on what they enjoy the most and reducing or eliminating their stressors (“self-actualization”).

I remember not so long ago (within the last 2 years) thinking how ridiculous it was for people to need a “life coach” and applauding myself for being happy with myself, my work and my life so far and finally achieving what I deemed as quite stable mental health (not requiring the use of antidepressants). Of course, I now know that my mind had tricked itself into believing that– in reality my mind had been (to varying degrees) dominated by my inferior Fe, trying desperately to maintain those “in love” feelings in order to mask my inner dark thoughts, weaknesses and fears. And as discussed in this post here at Personality Junkie, while indulging the inferior function may temporarily offer comfort against life’s miseries (lots of yummy dopamine), it puts you into an altered state of awareness/consciousness which is ultimately unsustainable, unproductive and unfulfilling. By living according to my inferior function I was failing to live up to my full potential as a human being.

Now, as those of you who have been following my story know, I was eventually faced to confront my own reality, my  true self, my “soul”. I had to confront a side of myself that I had repressed or ignored for far too long– my novelty-seeking, exciting, playful, low-commitment, unconventional and non-conforming self. It was a rebellion against my marriage and new house. A desire to escape reality and my unexpected inability to fit the traditional social role of “wife”. A need to explore new and unchartered emotional territory. A statement of my freedom and independence from being tied down to one person for the rest of my life. This buried self conflicted to such a degree with my internal, conscious image of myself that initially I thought I’d created or become this alien version of myself in order to match the type of person I thought LO wanted. Eventually, I realized he’d managed to bring out my full personality, what I considered my “best, happiest” self at the time. In retrospect, this enhanced positive perception of myself was likely the result of the altered state of consciousness I’d found myself in, a state induced by the ego-boosting/positive mirroring influence of the infatuation (a dopamine/noradrenaline-induced state of euphoria and abnormally high energy and self-confidence). This confrontation with self was so frightening and so devastating that it forced me to confront and accept my deepest, darkest fears of being alone, unloved and misunderstood. Although an eye-opening (mind-opening?) and jaw-dropping emotional experience (I experienced such a wide range of emotional states that it’s hard for me to put them all into words) I wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone else, let alone another INTP (since it is so easy for us to drown in the emotional deluge). And since I wish information such as this would have been available to my younger self to help me make better decisions (although it is pretty likely that I would not have believed it without experiencing it), I now put myself in the position of “life coach” for my current and future readers as I try to explain the abstract, subjective and seemingly elusive concept of “emotional needs”.

To sum it up in one sentence I would define them as “things you need to keep your mind happy and healthy”. The simple fact that humans, as well as all other organisms with a nervous system, have what we call “emotional or psychological needs” allows us (and them) to survive and evolve as species. The drive or desire to meet these needs controls our thoughts and motivates our behaviors. If any of your needs are not being met at any point in your life your mind will consciously or subconsciously seek them out for you; and in our teenage and young adult years, this will more than likely come in the form of infatuations and intimate relationships.

One of the major reasons that our subconscious mind seeks out romantic partners is to help meet our (usually unknown to us) emotional needs. As youngsters, we feel “incomplete”, like something is missing in our lives, like there is some void that needs to be filled. We lack self-confidence, we feel depressed and unhappy, we lack understanding of ourselves and the world, so we go searching for ways to “find ourselves” and plug the gaps. Some of us will travel to far and distant places, others will over-indulge with food, exercise, sex or drugs and still others, such as myself, will engage in a string of intimate, romantic relationships. All of these serve the same purpose– to raise the levels of dopamine in your brain, thereby giving you the false sense of feeling “whole” and “complete”. However, none of these inferior crutches are likely to bring happiness in the long-term. In long-term romantic relationships, this is usually due to the fact that although the initial stages of a new relationship are rich in intimacy, understanding and loving feelings, eventually the realities and stresses of living with each other in the real world catch up, and gradually and perhaps imperceptibly, those “in love” feelings fade away. Unbeknownst to one or both of you, you are no longer driven to meet each others emotional needs or, in the worst case scenario, you are infuriating or draining each others’ inferior or shadow functions. For some reason, while most of us “love being in love”, we invariably fail to consciously recognize the important life lessons that each intimate relationship is subtly trying to tell us–  what activities/types of conversations make our minds happy (dopamine) and allow us to connect and love our fellow human beings.

Only by identifying and meeting our individual emotional needs and living true to our innate natures, will we be able to live a complete and fulfilled life.

And I can’t stress this point enough– we must strive to live according to our TRUE natures and resist the temptation to live in someone else’s version of the world.

Because although many websites discussing emotional affairs, emotional needs and how to successfully navigate a long-term relationship provide a list of common emotional needs such as “admiration, affection, conversation, domestic support, family commitment, financial support, honesty and openness, physical attractiveness, recreational companionship and sexual fulfillment” as well as recommendations for how to meet them, what all of these websites and psychologists/marriage counselors fail to address are the ways to identify these emotional needs and their relative importance in our shared lives.

Imagine my surprise when I eventually realized that in addition to the subconscious Fe-driven need for admiration, affection and love (and a “need to be needed”) that I reluctantly admitted to (before learning about type), I had a very real and dominant need to share my scientific knowledge and ideas with someone that was interested, intelligent and capable of following my complex train of thoughts. Since this need is most likely to be met amongst colleagues that share the same interests and passions, it wasn’t surprising that my first encounter with a male “kindred spirit” eventually led to strong feelings of “love”.

The very best way to identify your dominant and less-dominant emotional needs (before your subconscious blind-sides you and tries to lead you astray) is to know your psychological type. This is because not all minds are created equal and therefore what energizes and excites one person may actually drain someone else.

In summary:

1. Emotional needs will be individual and vary according to psychological type.

2. Some needs will be greater than others, but do not ignore the needs of the inferior function.

3. You should focus most of your (and your partner’s, if possible) attention on meeting the needs of your two dominant functions.

4. Directly indulging your inferior’s needs will give you a “high” and will be very addictive, but this behavior is draining, unsustainable and potentially very damaging to the psyche.

5. Try to find some activities that allow you to use all of your functions in order– these activities are those that allow you to establish “flow” or “peak experiences“. They will help achieve “balance” and keep you away from one-sided behaviors.

5. Trying to develop? or learn to use? your four “shadow functions” (by this I mean your 4 opposite cognitive functions) will drain you, stress you out and bore you, leading you to be more susceptible to your subconscious, inferior urges. Since indulging the inferior can provide a sudden burst of energy and good feelings, I think these inferior-driven behaviors attempt to compensate for the energy that is used up attending to aspects of the world that hold no interest or “meaning” to us. I think all shadow function-related behaviors are probably learned behaviors that we’ve picked up through our upbringing, personal experiences, being around others and attempting to adapt or fit into the world.

Although a combination of many compounding factors, my emotional affair was at least in part driven by shadow-function boredom– and this boredom was induced by my attempts to be independent and self-sufficient, to fit into the “real world”, to live a traditional life and to compromise for my husband’s sake. Growing up you get taught (or at least this is the Fe-lesson I retained) that relationships require a certain degree of compromise. However, by constantly being the one to compromise and adapt I became so completely bent out-of-shape that I lost who I truly was in the relationship. I did a reverse-Pygmalion project on myself, trying to become the person I thought my husband wanted, without even consciously realizing that this is what I was doing [in comes inferior Fe to show me what I was missing].

Lesson learned. Don’t try to be someone you are not. Don’t try to fit into the “SJ” world (edit: unless you are SJ, of course). Live according to your type and live up to your potential.