Archive | June 2012

Rare social commentary

I’m going to take a rare foray into commenting on society. I generally don’t concern myself too much with these matters, preferring to focus most of my energies instead on scientific topics. But, this verges on personal, so please bare with me.
Sometimes Facebook does provide some interesting reads, which is mainly why I continue to keep it around despite my distaste for it (there’s probably some Fe driven need to have it around, just in case). In this particular case (having thought about this issue a great deal over the past few years) I was captivated by the following article that some friends were posting:
Reading (or parts of it– it’s pretty long and I got bored while searching for her point, deciding mid-way to come to my own conclusions) her gripping tale of trying to find the right balance between work, home life and taking care of one’s individual needs, at the same time as balancing society’s expectations of women in the workplace kind of struck a cord, although I had never really looked at myself as a person trying to match up with some arbitrarily defined “social expectation”. Her dramatic change in perspective on whether women can actually “have it all” in today’s society after spending 2 years working 16 hours or more per day, commuting home on the weekend to take care of her husband and teenage boys prompted me to question “did her stressful lifestyle prompt her very own grip experience with her inferior function ???”. I don’t think she mentions this insight in her article, but the dramatic change in point of view and her new found desire to spread her new vision about how society must adapt around women’s needs to the next generation of young women certainly sounds like it (I am now constantly battling between the urge to tell everyone, including LO, about personality types, wanting to share my knowledge because I think it will help (Fe) and the thought that “well, it’s way more interesting to find out for yourself and most people won’t listen or believe it or even be able to type themselves properly if they haven’t been forced to do some deep, introspective thinking (Ti)”. We don’t spend nearly enough time thinking about ourselves (what drives us? where do our goals come from? Do they come from the internal or external world? Is this really what I want out of life?).
I’m not sure I agree with her new perspective though– for one, it will be pretty hard to convince people that there needs to be a societal change. I’m guessing most people are on “auto-pilot” going through life meeting one goal after the other without really feeling “satisfied” or “whole”. They are not going to want to hear about “change”. They prefer not to have to think too much about whether and why they are stressed (sometimes stress can feel “good”, at least for a while and especially if you escape reality by having affairs) and how they could modify their lives in order to meet their basic emotional needs and thereby reduce stress.
In reality, we can’t measure ourselves against anyone else’s vision of “having it all”. I’m not even sure where that concept came from in the first place.  We all need to individually define what “having it all” means to us, and work hard to secure these basic needs in our lifestyles. Only then will we start to see change. It might be subtle at first, but I’m sure a world full of less stressed out personalities, with every one happy, efficient and productive since they have found their rightful place in society could pretty much solve a lot of the world’s problems. At least I’d like to imagine it could– although the thought of potentially being able to “type” people at birth and rear them as such does irk me (don’t tell me what I want to do I want to figure that out for myself! Life is a journey, let each individual “live” and “experience” it for themselves). Maybe I’m just asking for an increase in society’s awareness of “type” and the importance for people to figure out not what turns them on in the bedroom but what turns them on inside their minds?
Anyway, I posted a comment on Facebook (not usually my style). I was perhaps naive (Fe) to think that anyone would care/comment on what I was sharing (but this is what is interesting people!!!– listen to me dammit!!!).
” This piece, although perhaps not meant to be, is an interesting commentary on how each of us, as individuals, make choices and what values/thoughts/personal experiences and emotions come into play (whether driven from our external or internal world). She also hits on, perhaps subconsciously, the interesting interplay between chronic stress (who wouldn’t be stressed with her schedule and life-style?), the decision-making process and the need to redefine one’s perspective on life and individual priorities. “Society” and “other people” may well criticize this shift but how is the outside world supposed to judge an individual’s own emotional needs and values? Perhaps the younger generation is right, and we need to wait to figure ourselves out before making important decisions on careers, life partners and family. And who’s to say that the current way society is run is the “right” way? Women need to stop comparing themselves to men (we are biologically different and will be driven by different things) and to other women (all of us will value different things and will need to think long and hard about what makes us truly happy). “
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Emotional bonding for this INTP

I have a particular “odd feeling” (dislike? repulsion?  a need to be different?) towards the rise of the social media site Facebook and the importance it seems to play in a lot of people’s lives these days. Emotional bonding by maintaining personal ties with people undoubtedly plays an important role in everyone’s life, regardless of type (I think)– it’s an important part of being human and was and still is essential to our survival as a species. But, to me it always seemed weird that people prefer to maintain extremely large social networks through a rather informal and cold-looking website interface. I’d much rather interact with people face-to-face or via lengthy emails (sometimes useful to help clarify my thoughts).
Some of my thoughts when looking at my Facebook wall: Why are you posting sexy portrait pictures of yourself every day? I’m supposed to care about what you ate for dinner last night? Or, why are you announcing your break-up/new relationship/engagement/wedding/baby bump to the whole world? Do you really want everyone to know the personal details of your life? Are you really that closely connected with all these people on Facebook? Are these all projection thoughts emanating from my inferior Fe, my inner narcissist?
Even though I remained extremely reticent to the idea throughout my youth and university years, I did eventually decide to sign myself up in 2009, shortly after my wedding and after attending a scientific conference. Must have been Fe rearing it’s head. I posted pictures of the wedding, joined groups to stay “connected” with my scientific network and
“reconnected” with long-lost friends. But, I didn’t really invest much time in it. I mostly found people’s “status updates” boring and wrote random one-liners that my husband always found very witty. A few people cared about what I wrote, most did not. So why bother?
This reticence might stem from my seeming inability to develop and maintain close emotional connections with anyone that is not inside my small inner circle or people that don’t/no longer share my interests.  It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I sometimes end up caring too much, and feel ripped apart every time a deep connection is somehow broken-up by physical or emotional distance. I’d much prefer to keep you in my daily life and continue sharing my deepest thoughts and ideas with you, but the physical distance makes it almost impossible for me to continue. Also, I usually somehow perceive that the relationship has moved from “close” to “superficial” and at this point I no longer have the need to continue investing.
This inability to connect with people that don’t share my interests or are not in close proximity to me on a daily basis has led me to inadvertently form a few “close” (female) and even one “inappropriate” friendship (male) at work. The increase in energy and “happy feelings” I got while discussing scientific topics at work with my LO was, let’s say, “magical” and it became quite literally “addictive”. I consciously “watched” myself (Ti watching over Fe– although Ti couldn’t STOP Fe) as I began to display incredibly bizarre behaviors– incessant playful teasing, sharing of food to coerce him into conversation, emails with links to blog postings/papers/anything interesting that I thought might eventually lead to some sort of discussion. Mostly it didn’t, sometimes it did though and when it did and I perceived good feelings from the conversation, it was exhilarating. This, in addition to some pretty addictive obsessive fantasizing on my part and way too much eye contact, joking around, a few too many hugs (initiated by him– I usually tried to duck them; but when I did he resorted instead to giving me what I perceived as an affectionate tap on the head– WTF, do people actually do this???), compounded over a two year period eventually led to an incredibly large intertwined web of emotional ties (big mess!) inside my head. And, some very noticeable TUNNEL VISION. I literally tuned out almost anyone else in my immediate surroundings to concentrate on my bond with this one person. I also got increasingly frustrated if people interrupted the conversation before I wanted it to end. I would also effectively “tune-out” if any other topic but science was discussed by him or others (beer making, bread making, his travels, different types of teas, etc– I think he’s an ENFP). And I really couldn’t understand how the closeness had developed– everything seemed “appropriate” for a “friendship”, at least on the surface. Conversations revolved mostly around scientific topics with a small and unnoticeable increase in sharing of personal details over time. There was no sharing of deep feelings whatsoever (until I allowed Fe to write my “closure” emails). And yet I had reached what I felt was the DEPTH of human caring– I was willing to give my life for this other person, without really knowing him very well at all! I’m thankful to Ti for keeping me out of trouble for this one, but just barely. More on that later.
On recounting my actions to my friends, sister and husband they all laughed at me–that sounds like a friendship they said! Why did you “hold on” or place “importance” on all those trivial things (social niceties)? How did you develop “feelings” for this other person? This was followed much later by the daunting realization that it was because I “thought” and “perceived” differently than others– how having different thought and emotional processing can skew our perceptions of our own actions and the actions of others! Evidently, my subconscious mind had ascribed some deep “meaning” to what I perceived as bizarre, but heartfelt, interactions, creating a tangled web of emotional bonds revolving mostly around the “feelings” I got while discussing science in his presence (when really I was energized and effectively “getting off” on the intellectual stimulation or mental masturbation). Basically my mind was classically conditioned to “love” this person– step 1: get excited about discussing your interests with someone who appears to like your ideas and can introduce you to different ideas (Ti-Ne-Fe) 2: person on other end is also free with his flirtations, compliments and admiration (Fe-Fe-Fe!!!) step 3: simply being in the presence of this person now gets you incredibly excited step 4: perception of “falling in love”. Who knew and how simple? Is “falling in love” just an initial  misunderstanding between two different personality types??? I would NEVER flirt with someone unless I was interested (edit-but Fe would…). To me, it just seemed strange, even though logic told me that he behaved that way with every other girl in his immediate vicinity. I don’t think logic mattered though– Fe was taking it all in subconsciously. If this is what characterizes the process of “falling in love” (at least in the world of this INTP– the same thing happened when I met my husband– but at that time it took me much longer to be consciously aware of my actions and what they actually meant) then an ability to “stay in love” must then be characterized by the rude awakening that you never actually “understood” each other in the first place, and that you must now start the process both of understanding yourself first and then understanding each other, followed by some sort of compromise where most of your combined emotional needs can be met (in my case, with an ISFP, I’m guessing it’s going to take a combination of meeting them individually and together– because I feel so incredibly “misunderstood” at the moment, especially with my recent interests and ramblings).
Over the past four months, I’ve definitely analyzed, over-analyzed and then continued to analyze my behaviors and feelings over the past two years. What actually happened? Why did it happen? What was I missing in my life? Why was the interaction so entertaining/fascinating/addictive? In this particular case, my need for this particular “close, inappropriate” friendship was most likely driven by the stress induced by my husband moving away for work (Fe feelings of loneliness and abandonment!!!), my increased drive to fill the void with work to escape the reality of this situation, compounding my stress, the stress of having to commute 4 hours per week which also gave me plenty of time to develop a “fantasy life” inside my mind. Basically, I think I masked my stress or projected my stress onto another person, associating “stress” with “love” and therefore converting a situation that would normally be felt as quite stressful/painful, into something quite pleasurable and almost necessary for my existence.

I eventually consciously decided that it was not “love” and that I had somehow gotten my mind screwed up and “sick”. I actually started to freak out pretty badly (some deeply felt emotional pain) about not receiving a response email from my LO (this was after I had moved away and was hoping that the distance would break the ties; but he continued to email me more frequently than he ever had in the past). I also began obsessively checking his Facebook page every 2 seconds and getting exceedingly upset. At that point it was like “YOU ARE CRAZY! It’s time to transfer all that emotional bonding energy BACK to where it belongs, your husband, you need to stop this nonsense!”. Bye bye Facebook for four months while I Ti myself out of this mess.

All this to say, emotional/psychological connections are either all-or-none for the INTP and come with an incredible DEPTH. Either I’m 100% in or I’m 100% out. And when I’m in 100% — it’s SCARY for me, so be ready for a wild, emotional ride. When I’m 100% out– good luck trying to reconnect.

And people on Facebook are boring. Death to Facebook.

Mental Diarrhea

I have good news. I now have at least one follower of my blog, which should provide some of the necessary “motivation” for me to continue with this quest. Like me, and Dr. A.J. Drenth (http://personalityjunkie.com/), my follower Xenogirl (http://xenogirl.com/), likely an INTP as well, have come to the realization that some sort of writing/blogging might provide the much needed outlet for what I can only describe as almost constant “mental diarrhea”.
I have to say however, that I almost abandoned the idea (see 1 month gap in posts). As the memories from my last and most painful “grip experience” were fading, it seemed less and less likely that I wanted to go back to revisit that period in my life. Also, although I enjoy writing impersonal journal articles (when not in intense emotional pain and suffering from “emotional fog” as I had to do while writing my thesis), the sharing of my thoughts and feelings with the world does not come naturally. It will, however, occur almost subconsciously when I like you (usually if I sense that you like me or my ideas), up to the point where I’ll be surprised and almost shocked when I finally realize I’ve created some sort of deep emotional bond/psychological connection with the person (females and males alike). So, let’s hope I start loving you “personal blog” or else your future seems doomed. Also, deep down I’m terrified some more “action-oriented” personality will stumble upon this blog, steal my ideas and get all the glory for producing a potentially rushed and inferior theory. However, I’m coming to the realization that “action-oriented” personalities (there are two ENTJ’s in my lab with whom I’ve shared some of my ideas) are way more interested in developing their own ideas (and trying to convince me to work on their ideas) than suddenly getting interested in something outside-the-box and different from the mainstream. So, unless some other tortured INTP studying cellular neuroscience takes the same convoluted journey as I did to get to these ideas, I think I’m safe, at least for now. Also, for all I know, someone is already working on it.
I’m also scared that once I start writing (and liking it), I’ll never stop.
Since at this point in my life journey the mental diarrhea might actually prove useful to the outside world at some point in the future, it’s probably a good idea for me to keep some sort of permanent record, even if my perspective/ideas change over time. It can only help. So far, my ideas about love, life and the universe are all inspired by a sort of ” oh my gosh, this must be THE underlying principle/theory that explains why and how humans behave the way they do and I must be the one to figure it out” mindset. But really, it’s just a bunch of random (but totally logical) connections between a lot of different fields of study that have slowly melded themselves together in my mind. And it totally makes sense!!! Unfortunately, only to me at the moment. Hopefully this blog will provide the much needed stimulus for my mental clarity.
Over the past few months and even before encountering typology I’ve wondered: what was I obsessively thinking about before this present-day “grip experience”? I can come up with a fairly easy answer: 1) Being the best (achievement in studies and work) and 2) Finding love and a need to constantly love and be loved (I’m definitely the poster child for unhealthy INTP behaviors). So my thoughts were basically self-centered and revolved around my greatest need, which was to keep my mind busy working on a set of ill-defined “personal goals” and constantly entertained by both ideas/thoughts and people that loved/admired me. I guess I “thought” that this would help me achieve some arbitrary notion of “happiness”. I can also attest to the fact that the greatest fear is definitely that of “being bored”.
It’s certainly been a weird journey “growing up” in an academic setting for the past 7 years and slowly coming to the realization that although it seemed like the end goal was for me to become an academic (although consciously, I said to myself “we’ll see, it all depends on if I can get that coveted Nature, Science or Cell paper”), I was becoming increasingly disillusioned/jaded by the system/ideas and politics of it all (my boss recently told me that politics were just as important as the science itself– speaking to others in my field, it looks like I was the only one who’s neurons were firing like crazy over that one). I also noted that as my opinions got darker about the state of neuroscience (really– we are going to record from every single neuron in the brain and map out all the connections and this is how we are going to figure out how the mind works???? see http://bluebrain.epfl.ch/ and http://www.humanconnectomeproject.org/ ), that I started to keep most of them to myself. I was clearly on the outside with these judgments. I guess because the undertaking of such an expansive project will create jobs for neuroscientists for like a gazillion years, and at the end of the day we will still be left wondering “but how does it work?”. I’m looking for an answer that is less complicated, more intuitive and easy to wrap my head around (I hate when people make ideas more complex than they really are!) and more likely to create a big impact in the least amount of time.
I’m “happy” to say that my mind, which had an obsessive need to search for “the answers” regarding my odd, out-of-character and inexplicable behaviors, led me to some very interesting places in the past few months, finally settling on coming up with some sort of “grand theory” for how different levels of “stress” interact with the 16 Jungian personalities to influence decision-making and human behavior. But, more on that as we go along. I’m happy to say that my Ne has been fully satisfied by this new personal growth– I now set very limited daily “personal goals” in order to plan ahead for the random walks Ne does during the day to satisfy my need to create even more connections between my idea and the world wide web.
Note: All words in quotations are usually seen as being hard to define and fairly subjective, but I’ll try to  define them objectively, sometime in the future, using an interplay between my ideas, insights and current neuroscience research.

A few words on Jungian typology

The aim and scope of this blog is not to describe the Jung-Myers-Briggs personality types in any great detail, since these are covered quite extensively and with amazing clarity and accuracy here: http://personalityjunkie.com/. The goal is more to explore my ideas/thoughts/experiences as I come to terms with my new-found self-awareness (which has been exhausting to say the least) and share my new insights on love, life and the human experience.

My first thoughts when I came across Jung’s theory of personality types (from spending a few days at the Limerence Experienced website http://tribes.tribe.net/limerence and seeing people labeling themselves with funny acronyms): wait… what? Is this for real? Is it really possible to deconstruct our complicated human minds into 16 little “boxes”? And if so, why haven’t I heard about this before? I was immediately intrigued and kept reading.

The moment of realization that this theory could actually be for real was when I stumbled upon the INTP profile on Personality Junkie and A.J’s description of the inferior function. Naomi Quenk’s “Was That Really Me” has also helped solidify my life experiences/awareness/importance of this theory in my own inner world. As a trained scientist, I was of course skeptical that I was riding the wave of my own subjective personal experiences, perhaps giving them too much weight. I searched for criticisms of the theory on the internet– and  there are many– notwithstanding the fact that the theory has seemed to be dismissed by the scientific world (and psychologists?), because it is based on “observation” and “anecdotes” rather than solid and rigorous scientific testing.  Yet, I was not willing to disregard Jung’s theory just because some scientists were quick to dismiss someone who didn’t align himself with the traditional scientific approach. One of the most important things I’ve learned from typology is that every type has it’s own personal “filter” or “framework” through which they perceive and judge the world (even if some types are more flexible to adapt their filter). No type is truly objective, we all have our own internal biases and will tend to overvalue points-of-view we agree with and devalue points-of-view we disagree with. As a scientist, having to confront this reality was scary to say the least (but no wonder the academic system is so messed up!).

Even before this particular experience– which has dramatically expanded my scientific interests and has provided me with a satisfactorily “big picture idea” that I can potentially contemplate from a wide variety of angles, keeping me busy for a while, I hope– I was always a big believer that all fields of science (“soft” “hard”) can contribute in someway to advancing our collective knowledge of the human condition. Since our minds are indeed quite complicated, it is naive to think that this understanding can come from only one field or will be answered using only quantitative measures.

Anyway, I’m going to say this now for all to see– I believe that Carl Jung is to the study of human behavior/decision-making and consciousness what Ramon y Cajal was to the study of the fundamental properties of the brain. And now that we’ve advanced quite significantly in the realms of understanding the basic fundamental units of the brain– the neurons– now it is time for us to start asking– well, but how does it work when we put it all together? Are there some basic principles that underlie the decision-making process and consciousness? After reading about the dynamics of personality types, grip experiences and the influence of stress (and love) on our decision-making process, I believe that Jung’s personality type theory will play a significant role in defining these basic principles.

One of the questions that popped up in my head after discovering typology, was: “well what did I think about personality and the human mind before”? For one thing, although I was aware that everyone had a different personality and that I was good at adapting myself to each individual’s personality, it never actually crossed my mind that people used completely different frameworks/cognitive processes when going about their daily lives and making decisions. This persisted even in the face of contradicting evidence– my husband, an ISFP– (predictably) behaves in exactly the opposite manner!!!  I thought our differences were due to the fact that we were very much strong “individuals”. The fact that our brains work differently completely baffled my mind– although it makes sense in retrospect. I always met his seemingly irrational outbursts with some logical reasoning! It also makes sense that my main life goal has always been to find/do “what makes ME happy” and his life goal since we met is now “to make ME happy” (via satisfying his own needs, but that’s ok).

When I thought about the origin of all these different personalities, I definitely would have agreed with a view that there was some genetic component to each personality trait (of which there are potentially many, we probably haven’t named them all) and that these would be randomly assorted in different proportions across the population, giving an infinite number of different personalities. Add to this an interaction of genetics with “nurture” and different personal experiences, and to me it would seem you would get an infinite of different personalities! It is much more satisfying to think that personality and decision-making could be “broadly” defined by one of 16 personality types, when healthy, or their opposite, when in the “grip”, and that personal experience just defines what you’ve been exposed to, been captivated by and “chosen” to develop an interest in. For example, all INTPs “think” alike but based on our individual experiences, what we spend our time pondering about will be different and the conclusions we’ve drawn about the world may also be different.

Of course with this welcomed realization of the existence of typology, comes so many more questions:

1. Where is the “locus” of the eight cognitive processes?

2. Do all, or most, identical twins, share the same personality type?

3. How are the eight cognitive processes genetically-encoded? (I tend to side with the “genetically-encoded” argument since regardless of our personal experiences or conscious awareness of our decisions, it looks like we all “strive” towards behaving in a manner suited to our type.)

4. How does stress activate the “inferior function”? How does it shut off or cloud the “dominant function”. What brain regions are activated/shut-off during stress?

As usual, feel free to comment and question.