Archive | July 2012

The long and painful climb out of inferior Fe

I’m happy to say that I can now refer to myself as Dr. INTPblogger. Unfortunately, this still doesn’t mean I have all of the answers, although I sometimes wish I did. It also doesn’t seem to have brought me that instant happiness I’ve been searching for. More like a dull ache that another arbitrary short-term life goal has been met. INTP brain I hate you. Ugh. Maybe I’ll be happy tomorrow.

Back to my (sob) story. As I’ve inched closer and closer to “closure” on this whole mindmate/emotional affair/limerence episode, I’ve started to wonder, is there such a thing as closure for the INTP brain? Will I always be looking back on this chapter of my life journey searching for more answers? Am I ever going to stop reflecting on and over-analyzing every thought, feeling and behavior? Since this experience has played a momentous role in expanding my self-awareness and pushing me towards individuation or self-actualization, probably not. Anyway, I fully plan to use this life experience and the insights & knowledge I’ve gained along the way (and will continue to gain as I read and think more about it) as a stepping stone as this blog moves more into the philosophical/psychological and neurological realms.

So, my Ti had finally made a decision– I was finally prepared to give up my “deep connection”, my “illusion” of a mind-mate , the connection that my mind had fabricated in order to crutch Fe while I was stressed, lonely and feeling (subconsciously) emotionally-deprived. The connection that was my main driving force for the last 2 years, the connection that gave me “that high” we all seek, the connection that had become the source of my self-confidence and self-esteem. The connection that eventually turned limerent and that my Fe-driven subconscious mind was obsessed with preserving. This connection that had become necessary for my essence, my existence, my survival, my being, my all. How this had happened, how I had let someone get that close to my inner being or soul, that close to the inner workings of my mind and that deep under my skin, wasn’t entirely clear to me at the time, but became clearer with time and deep introspection.

As another INTP on this mindmate thread so eloquently put it*, “I never thought that sharing thoughts could make you too vulnerable. They just seemed like thoughts.” It’s like lying naked on your bed in front of a member of the preferred-sex, just asking for it– except instead of penetrating you, they are penetrating your accidentally-exposed mind. And you’re left wondering, “WTF just happened?”. Whereas it’s quite clear in most people’s minds when a physical-line is being crossed, intellectual/emotional-lines are much more blurry, up for interpretation and subjective. And sometimes you might not even know when, why and how they are being crossed or where you should have been putting up your walls in the first place. All I wanted to do was have intellectually stimulating conversations with a male lab-mate on subjects we both study. Is that REALLY so wrong/horrible? When you find your mind slowly attaching the word “love” to said lab-mate and slowly and imperceptibly wanting/needing/craving/looking forward to more and more conversations and thinking such things as “forever is not long enough to get to know [the mind of] this other person”. YES. VERY wrong. VERY VERY wrong. Especially if you want to keep/salvage your marriage/emotional bond to your husband.

So, it wasn’t surprising then that once my Ti-driven mind  finally settled on breaking this wrong connection, that it became VERY VERY angry with my Fe-driven “addicted” mind. And deep connections are not like light-bulbs, you can’t just magically switch the connection off, or turn back time (unfortunately). As I slowly began to realize, my mind was in for the biggest shock/heartbreak of its life, as I began the slow, painful process of untangling myself from the shared thoughts, experiences and memories.

The step-by-step heartbreak/de-connecting/untangling process (or how my mind exploded, then imploded, and then slowly started rebuilding itself):

THE EXPLOSION:

1. Weeks of lying in the fetal position, crying, writhing from the physical heartbreak and thinking how stupid I was to do this to myself. A lot of Kleenex, sappy love songs and How I Met Your Mother during this time-period. I rationalized it sometimes as “well, if you stupidly put 100% of yourself  into a fantasy-relationship that you had no real intentions of ever pursuing, you have to be prepared to take 100% of the heartbreak that follows”. Also, “this is karma, your mind’s way of getting back at you for always being the heart-breaker and never the heartbroken- you need to experience this at least once in your lifetime”. It will only make me stronger, right? I hid most of this process from my husband– I thought it wasn’t worth it for him to see the emotional pain I was in over a  fictional relationship/friendship.

2. An overwhelming feeling that my heart, or at least a small part of it, had been ripped out of my chest and trampled on. Or the feeling that my heart was made up of glass and that it had just shattered into a million little pieces and that I had to somehow find a way to start glueing those pieces back together again. I was confused, in turmoil, I felt unloved, misunderstood by everybody and quite incapable of loving anyone or anything.

3. Panic attacks about my husband finding out & kicking me out, a great deal of anxiety, loss of sleep, disturbing dreams, and a stream of constant thoughts trying to come to terms with my decision and the unexpected consequences to my own psyche and sanity (I thought I was crazy/having a psychotic break). It was a total mind meltdown of epic proportions.

4. Obsessive thoughts about contacting LO and explaining things to him, just to make the pain go away, even temporarily. I came up with a different email in my head every day but always backed out of writing/sending them. I told myself ” if you write this email/re-establish contact it means you love/want to be this person. That you are willing to give up everything you have worked for and cherish. Is that what you really want?” Thank god for a well-functioning Ti.

5. At the beginning, my mind actually tried to convince itself that there was a friendship worth preserving (beyond the physical-attraction bit). I initially read a lot of websites dedicated to “intellectual friendships”, “platonic friendships” “platonic love” and “opposite-sex friendships” and found myself at that blurry-line again. Well, my actions could all be perceived by outsiders as trying to establish a “friendship”. Why couldn’t we “just be friends”? Ti just told me I was kidding myself.

6. Si actually did a pretty good job of making my mind revisit every single remembered interaction/conversation/shared experience from most recent to 2 years ago, over and over and over again (the INTP mind really does latch onto some wicked obsessive-loops, doesn’t it?). I think this had the effect that I was still getting those dopamine-driven highs that my mind was still craving. Si also made me re-live my life journey so far. I’m guessing this is what Jung meant when he said the inferior function was a way to get to your unconscious. This was by far the most frightening thing I’ve ever experienced, especially since most, if not all, of my childhood memories are shrouded in negative emotions. I knew I had probably been repressing/refusing to deal with a lot of these memories for a long time, so I decided (not that I had much control over the whole thing…) to just let it happen, and deal with myself once and for all.

7. Once I was over the very worst of it and had started processing/analyzing things, I finally told a close friend/colleague at the lab. Up until this point all of these thoughts/feelings were mine alone to bear. As soon as I heard “well, do you want to have an affair with him?” I felt disgusted with myself and knew I had to get my mind out of this subconscious trap.

8. I eventually decided that the best way to do this was to release all my feelings to LO, in person first and then in email. To expel them from my mind and have him deal with them.

9. I also started talking about the experience with my husband. Although it took a lot of courage and many weeks to finally expel the real/whole story. It first came out as “a crush” and an “intellectual bond” (which I’d already mentioned to my husband several times over the 2 year period). My husband didn’t even seem to flinch and surprisingly took it with a grain of salt (on the outside– I’m now pretty sure that I haven’t been granted full access to his inner dominant Fi emotional world). No jealousy, no requests to read emails (although I offered), no requests to end the friendship, no requests to read any further correspondence. To him, nothing was wrong in our relationship, he saw no detriment to our “connection” and so everything was status-quo. His response surprised me and in retrospect I think I was looking for him to be angry, to yell, to scream, to do or say SOMETHING, because even at this point a part of my mind was still struggling with the idea that perhaps, maybe, I hadn’t done anything wrong. I wanted/needed someone external to tell me that what I’d done was wrong and make me feel guilty, embarrassed, shameful, because I just wasn’t feeling it. I was still mourning/grieving the loss of that connection and seemingly wasn’t as bothered with the hurt I’d put my husband through.

THE IMPLOSION:

10. When I got the “I thought about it and the feelings were not reciprocated. Just close friends” email my mind started racing frantically again. My intuition had been so strong, there had been too many weird, awkward interactions and bizarre, covert comments made on his part for me to not think that there was at least some sort of physical/emotional attraction there. The interactions had seemed, at least to me, charged with really good chemistry. Plus, the email seemed fake, contrived and devoid of any explanations for his emotional meltdown before I left. However, I was confronted with the fact that I just wasn’t going to get the satisfaction of knowing for sure (which, as an INTP, hurts). And as we all know, the INTP mind does not like being wrong. So, although I usually trust my intuitions, my confused & frazzled mind  decided that maybe I was crazy and had made the whole thing up to make myself feel better. This did not go down so well since my mind pined for a man I never wanted to pine for. I just had to watch as my mind started to unravel and collapse from the weight of the fantasy-world I’d created. More crying, more emotional pain, more Si over-analysis of where I’d gone wrong with my intuitions, where I might have made mistakes or made events up completely. And throughout all this I just had to tell myself that I’d get over it, that the mind would find a way to heal itself, that time would heal. As the pain and hurt extended over weeks and then months, and the seriousness of the situation started to sink in more and more, I really just wanted time to hurry itself up.

11. By the time the next email rolled in, claiming a “deep connection” over our shared scientific interests, I was really confused by his perspective on the interaction. It wasn’t at all clear to me what he wanted from me. And I knew I wasn’t prepared to keep investing in this deep connection to the detriment of my marriage. I was also still extremely upset, vulnerable and craving the space and alone time that I needed to process things. So I just decided to drop the friendship in its entirety.

12. Eventually I reached a point of emotional exhaustion and stopped crying as intensely. It took a good 3-4 weeks to reach this stage. I later found out that this is the approximate time-frame for the “emotional fog” to clear after ending an emotional affair. I guess this meant that dopamine had left the building. Even after reaching this point of emotional exhaustion it took a lot longer for me to feel like myself again (and even now, I’m still struggling to reach my optimal psychic stability/balance).

13. Throughout this time-period and beyond I concentrated all the emotional energy I had left (which wasn’t a lot) on my husband (during the day, my mental energy was struggling through the process of writing up my thesis). I devoted myself completely to being the “good wife”, cooking meals, doing the groceries, laundry, etc, which provided some relief from the constant stream of thoughts racing through my mind. I also became exceptionally needy of my husband’s attention and affection. I wanted to be held and cuddled all the time, which we both knew was quite unusual. I just told him “I’m sorry I’m so needy of you, I just want to feel connected, I’m sure it’s just temporary…”.

14. As my mind started searching for answers to explain what had happened and why and to place some sort of label on the experience, I became quite literally OBSESSED with reading websites and forums devoted to emotional affairs. Was this what had happened? Did these websites hold the answers I needed? Did they have advice to help prevent the same thing from happening again? I read and re-read pages and pages of professional and personal opinions on the matter. I even spent a fair amount of time lurking on the more traditional, religious forums devoted to the matter. Reading some of the stories and realizing the devastation that these types of affairs can have on people’s lives finally prompted my mind to feel guilt, shame and embarrassment. I felt absolutely sick about what I had done and started to feel nauseous whenever thoughts of LO popped up. It became worse when I read things like “love is not a magic formula, if you spend enough time talking with someone and are not revolted by them, you’ll eventually fall in love”, “no flirting after marriage”, “no opposite-sex friendships after marriage”, “no talking to men on a one-on-one basis after marriage”. WTF??? I work in a male-dominated field where scientific discussions/debate play a HUGE part of my work. I enjoy these types of interactions. This is what I love, this is my work, my passion. I enjoy sharing my knowledge and helping younger scientists out. And you’re telling me I have to stop? That I’ll “fall in love” with anyone I have scientific discussions with? Hmmm… This didn’t sit well with me and made me depressed. I felt like I was being told to live like a hermit or take a vow of silence for the rest of my life in order to keep my marriage. That I had to give up a part of myself, that part of myself that made me feel “whole”. Reading all this stuff just made me feel awful about the situation and I started to hate myself. Although my husband had long since forgiven me, I was left with this pit in my stomach that told me that I had disappointed myself, that I had acted against my own internal image of myself, that I had let myself down. I felt like I would never be able to forgive myself for what I had done.

15. I slowly sunk deeper into a state of depression, existential loneliness and nihilism. There was a void that I couldn’t seem to fill. I was bored. Nothing brought any pleasure to my life (anhedonia). I felt like I had nothing left to give, that I was nothing, that I was worth nothing. I felt like the sum of my component neurons, like I was somehow not in charge of my thoughts, emotions and actions (still debating this one…). My mind became cloudy and unfocused. I had difficulty concentrating on the simplest tasks. I had trouble accessing the memories I needed to write up my thesis. I couldn’t concentrate long enough to read papers. I was engrossed in my own internal world of negative thoughts and couldn’t see a way out. It was like my mind had turned against itself and was slowly erasing my sense of self. I lost all learned behaviors, habits and need to fulfill short-term goals including completing projects related to my thesis and PhD. Throughout this time I had trouble paying attention to the external world and on the odd times I ventured out to see people I found it quite difficult to even formulate sentences. I had a lot of trouble driving, paying attention to the television, trying to get myself to fill out paperwork, pay bills, etc. I just didn’t “care” enough to want to do these things. I knew that this psychological state of complete despair, loneliness and isolation was a temporary result of my recent loss/trauma, so I just decided to FEEL it and wait it out. My mind would somehow find a way to produce dopamine again. Incidentally, I think this feeling of nihilism is where religions came from– people searching for higher meaning and upon failing to find it within themselves decide to create an abstract, hidden entity and rally the troops behind this “belief system” for admiration, fame, power (sounds very INTP, no?).

16. I eventually came across the limerence literature. I found the term suited my situation better since LO and I hadn’t indulged in the constant emailing/texting/phone calls/sexual innuendo/love letters more typical of emotional affairs. If I had being doing any of those things I would clearly have known I was in the wrong! However, even though I had found a more appropriate “label” for my experience, I still wasn’t convinced that it told me why and how I had made myself vulnerable to such a thing– I was married for crying out loud! Why would I go looking elsewhere? Why were the feelings so strong? Why had the interaction been so magnetic/fascinating/enticing? What was it that was really missing in my marriage and life? What was my mind searching for?

THE RE-BUILDING STAGE (on-going):

17. I had a huge “ah hah” moment when I finally decided to check up on these four letter acronyms that had been popping up on the limerence experienced website. Personality types… WTF??? I dropped the emotional affair and limerence literature that had failed to provide me with the answers I’d been searching for and immersed myself in Jungian/Myers-Briggs typology. It took a few weeks, but I eventually recognized myself as an “INTP”. My life so-far suddenly fell into place, weird life experiences started to make sense, the puzzle pieces finally seemed to fit together. I especially recognized myself in Dr. A.J. Drenth’s explanations of the INTP inferior Fe function and in Dr. Naomi Quenk’s book “Was that really me?”   which explains how stress/fatigue brings out the inferior function and wrecks havoc on our personalities and decision-making processes. Hmmm… is this what had happened? Had I been blind-sided by my inferior function?

18. As I started to read more about the INTP personality type, type dynamics and other personality types, a strange & pleasant thing happened. I lost the obsessive need to continue searching for answers. I had found what my mind had been searching for: SELF-AWARENESS. I started to form a better understanding of myself and the world. I began putting myself back together piece-by-piece, coming to the conclusion that it was silly to have placed my sense of self/self-worth in someone else’s hands and that it was my responsibility, and no-one else’s, to make sure I feel “whole”. The fact that I  instantly connected Jung’s theory with my neuroscience background and came to the conclusion that this theory provides a much-needed intuitive and deconstructive framework for how I (and everyone else) should be looking at the human mind, decision-making and behavior, gave me an intriguing but short-lived feeling of “peace”, “wisdom” and “power”. I had found it– the TRUTH. The big “IDEA” I had been searching for. The meaning of [my] life, my purpose in this world, my life-long goal. I have the answers– and the answers are inside my mind. My own belief system, my own “religion”. Haha– time to spread the word, time to gain my own followers, time to get that admiration/value/appreciation Fe wants…

19. uh…wait ….a….sec…. Ne Ne Ne!!! Slow down! There is still so much you don’t know! So much to learn and think about! That’s the fun and “meaningful” part, anyway, right?. So much research to do! So many things to read and analyze! So many Si-facts to gather! So much writing to do. Power/admiration/approval can wait. My theory of human behavior still needs more work. “At peace”, “wholeness”, “enlightenment” and “happiness” await somewhere down the line.

20. The last stage in my re-building process has to re-focus and re-prioritize  my life and set new short-term and long-term goals. One of the intriguing things that I noted while going through this whole process is that I somehow lost my old “short-term” goals or “habits”. Things related to my PhD suddenly became less important, boring, something I didn’t want to focus on. It was a struggle for me to complete my thesis, work on a paper related to my project and practice/study for my defense. For the first time in my life, I just didn’t seem to enjoy these things anymore. My mind was engrossed by its new-found self-awareness and wanted to absorb everything and anything related to typology and decision-making. Forcing it to concentrate on these other, now seemingly “meaningless” things was such a challenge and is still an on-going challenge. And, in true INTP fashion, I really had no sense of where my life was going, what my long-term goals were or what would make me “happy”. I certainly knew what I didn’t like, but pin-pointing exactly what it was I was most passionate about had eluded me thus far. But, now I know. What I do with that knowledge is now up to me.

* yes, I read all 113 pages.

Crawling out of inferior Fe– Part I– The Decision

For the past several days I have been revisiting and re-contemplating my decision-making process in ending the “emotional affair”. Not that I think I made the wrong decision; I’m fairly certain that it was the right decision and that, although the loss of that “deep connection” is definitely painful at times, it will pay off in the long run. Regardless, once we INTPs come to a decision, we are usually good at sticking with it and framing the life experience as just another step in our road to self-awareness; another piece of the puzzle; another giant leap forward in the game we call life. So, although I identify the incident retrospectively as being “wrong”, I wouldn’t be where I am today without it, so no regrets, no turning back time and no re-writing of my personal history.
I read recently on the forums that the rational, logic-based, subjective, Ti decision-making process automatically runs a risk-vs-return, cost-vs-benefit calculation on every decision we are making. I have definitely been aware of this process at work, where I weigh every experiment I want to do or are asked to do against the following internal questions: 1) how important is the result to the question I’m asking 2) how long will it take to learn the technique and get the result. The more I think the result is important, the more time I’m willing to spend learning a difficult technique and the more risk I will take on. However, the MOST IMPORTANT thing to me at work is that I actually CARE about the question I’m asking. I will care a lot if 1) I came up with the idea myself and got enough support from the literature to think it’s a good/feasible question or 2) you can somehow make me think I came up with the idea myself by giving me some sort of framework/big picture to fit your idea into, let me go read about it and independently come to my own conclusion about the strength of the idea. At the end of the day, if the final decision to address this question didn’t come from me, I will be more likely to be bored and drag my feet working on it. And I am most definitely not thinking that the research project could end up in this or that high-profile journal because we are doing this and that “cool, hot” technique that everyone under the sun is using. To me, the most important thing is coming up with THE IDEA, researching THE IDEA, thinking about the importance/relevance of THE IDEA, thinking about experiments to test THE IDEA, and finally doing the experiments that will address that idea (in the simplest, clearest way possible). What journal the “story” ends up in is secondary to my process– when professors are prematurely saying (I think sometimes giving false hope/encouragement to the naive graduate students) “well, if you do this crazy, technically challenging, impossible experiment and it works, we could send this to Nature”, I’m always thinking “WTF???”. I’m slowly starting to realize that my supervisor and I are speaking two completely different languages (dominant Te versus dominant Ti). Whereas he’s spewing all the cool, technically challenging experiments that are all the rage in the field and will put the research “on a higher level”, I’m trying to get him to see or talk about the bigger picture or meaning behind the chosen experimental paradigms. What is the question that these experiments are answering exactly? This is quite a frustrating cycle, since it usually ends up with me tuning out his experimental ideas and him not listening to my “big ideas”. Ugh.
Anyway, what does any of this have to do with my decision to get out of the emotional affair? Well, um, I’m sorry to burst the bubble of everyone married to an INTP, but (and correct me if I’m wrong) even “in love”, if our brains are functioning the way they should be, our decision to marry you was based primarily on LOGIC and less on our FEELINGS towards you. This is because 1) we inherently don’t trust our own feelings 2) we don’t actively keep an image in our minds of what qualities our “perfect mate” should possess. We just don’t. From my experience, I fall for guys that I subconsciously perceive as being interested in me (usually the conscious identification of the “spark” comes later, from an interesting, intelligent and deep conversation with the guy) and then think about the logic behind actively pursuing/staying with the relationship later. So, when I (finally) made my decision to cut ties with my deeply connected “illusion of a mindmate” I looked at all possibilities (Ne) from a logical (Ti) perspective, as well as considered my past behaviors (Si). Here are the possibilities I remember:
1. Consummate emotional/intellectual bond — Ti told me I’d ruin more than a few lives, including my own, by having a full-blown affair
2. Leave my husband for LO– Ti told me that I wouldn’t be taken seriously by anyone, including myself, if I did this. Since I’ve “jumped” before, what was stopping me from continuing this type of maladaptive behavior ad nauseam? Ti also told me that I was confusing “love” with “new and shiny” and that my 7 year relationship with my loyal, deeply caring, hardworking and trustworthy husband (someone who had demonstrated his love and commitment to me through 4 years of long-distance) was WAY more important than risking everything, including my future happiness, for an illusion.
3. Continue the “deep connection” via email– this is apparently what LO wanted, although he couldn’t answer my probing “well, what exactly do you want out of this relationship now that you’ve identified it as important to you?”– Ti told me that I couldn’t be “that girl”, the girl that has her cake and eats it to and strings along a guy who apparently was thinking about future possibilities (Ne) while at the same time double-crossing my husband by continuing to “get high” on intellectual conversations! Ti also wanted its independence back– the fact that I had accidentally gotten too close to someone and had made myself so vulnerable and exposed made me feel… frightened, scared, lost… like I had somehow placed my individual happiness in the hands of another human being and they couldn’t be trusted with it. Plus, I knew that the more I bonded and felt closer to LO, the less I felt bonded to my husband, and I didn’t want to continue my behavior until there was nothing left between my husband and I.
4. End the deep connection– Ti told me that I had some serious personal and relationship issues to work through and that I needed the space and alone time to do this. I also needed to focus 100% of the energy I had left to re-establishing my bond with my husband. This was the final decision.
All-in-all too risky a decision for the potential short-term benefits.
I can tell you that although I had all these logical thoughts streaming through my brain, the tug from my Fe feeling center was incredibly strong, especially in the last few days. To the point where if LO had made a move at any point over the last few days, I’m not 100% sure how this would have all played out. Lucky for me, he didn’t, and I was able to stick with my conscious choice. This choice allowed me to question myself when Fe demanded that I ask LO to see me alone, one last time– Ti said “well, do you really want to be with him? Is this really what you want for yourself?”. I firmly decided against it. The very next day (this is weeks before I asked for no contact) I started to cry uncontrollably. I was overcome with incredible emotion and I had no real idea why. After a few days the reason finally came to me– my decision to not see LO one last time had been the clincher for Fe– my final decision had been made by Ti and Fe was pissed! I had denied my subconscious center of something it really really wanted and now I had to suffer the consequences of creating, nurturing and fueling that “deep connection”. Beware: our INTP Fe “dark side” emits an incredibly strong emotional bonding force when we finally feel (wrongly or rightly) “understood”.
And that was the start of a long and arduous journey out of inferior Fe.

Falling into a prolonged inferior Fe “grip experience”

aka “How to get so deeply trapped inside your subconscious that you don’t even realize how and when you got yourself there”

I’m slowly recovering from the anxiety-provoking experience of having to return to my old lab yesterday. It’s been just over two months since I last laid eyes on LO and just a bit longer than that since I asked for “no contact”. I guess the fact that I’ve been safely hiding away and slowly rebuilding my life separate to all that (with a very understanding husband) had given me the false sense of security that I might be able to feel the much sought after “indifference” towards him. However, having read a variety of posts on limerence/emotional affairs/affairs in general I knew deep down that I just wasn’t at that stage yet. Whereas my “conscious self” is happy that I was able to extricate myself from the situation without going further down the affair road, my “subconscious self” still maintains a lot of the emotional memories that can be triggered by just about anything related to the experience– being back in the same city, being in the lab, a look, a civil “hello” or “goodbye”. Just being back in the building immediately increased the adrenaline, making my hands shake, my stomach rumble, my heart race and even made me overly talkative (but not in a good way) in meetings with my boss. Combine this with the urge to somehow dispel all this anxiety by running up to LO and trying to repair the “friendship”, and I really didn’t have a very good day. I’m not sure if this means I still have “feelings”, but the best I can do at the moment is check my behavior (continue to enforce the no contact), and hope my subconscious slowly follows suit. I’ve heard that it can take up to a year for the memories to completely die out. Since it might be in the nature of the INTP to ruminate on past experiences (can anyone confirm this?), basically using Si to re-live the memories (even when the emotional “meaning” of the memory has since faded) and then applying Ti logic to the experience to dissect every event, every sentence, every action to figure out when and where your normally logical decision-making process went completely astray and then in comes Ne to help you brainstorm ways to help you prevent the same thing from happening again in the future. And in circles it goes… I’ll be lucky if the experience fades from memory in under a year. My husband is accusing me of holding us back since I’m dwelling on the past– I have to resist the urge to say, it’s not me, it’s my mind that is keeping us back!

So, how did I land myself in this mess in the first place?

It all started in January 2009. A new guy joins the lab as an undergraduate student. He seems genuinely interested in science and learning new things, is hard-working, enthusiastic, fun-loving and an all-round people-person (definite ENFP). I, of course, being completely absorbed in work and wedding planning pay little conscious attention to him but sense an instantaneous Fe-driven feeling that this was someone I could respect and trust. I think this “feeling” fueled some pretty emotional (for me) outbursts when I was trying to convince him to continue as a graduate student in the lab. At this point I considered telling him that I was being selfish for making such a big deal about it, that it was only because I LIKED having him around to talk science with. I didn’t end up saying anything.

Fast-forward to the end of 2009. By this point my husband had moved away and we were having infrequent  and short phone conversations (we are both terrible on the phone) and probably seeing each other maybe once every 2-3 weeks. ENFP and I sat having a conversation about his future, again, and how he wanted to go sailing, to be away from everyone in order to think and write. This dream kind of resonated with my introverted side, but since I had recently come to the conclusion that my own mental health issues were readily solved by close connections with people, I said something like “but won’t you get depressed out there all by yourself”. Anyway, I think that conversation flipped a switch in him, because the next day he couldn’t even string two words together to say to me. This kind of inexplicable, out-of-nowhere behavior stressed me out but since I had little experience in these matters (and low self-esteem/self-doubt), I didn’t confront him on it, as maybe I should have. I just let it be and didn’t talk to ANYONE about it. And unfortunately, probably due to the additional stress from this unwanted attention (or was it secretly wanted?), my subconscious Si-Fe went into overdrive putting 2 and 2 together and dissected all past actions for more “clues” (hand on the shoulder, hugs, looks, etc). And then Ne-Si went on the hunt for any future signs of “meaning”, slowly adding events, actions and words to a growing list of evidence for his feelings towards me. Sure enough, within about 2 weeks of the aphasia incident I was now “consciously” hooked on the guy– I had what people would call a “crush” or an “attraction”. I had somehow converted what would normally be a “stressful” situation to me, into a very “pleasurable” situation (I don’t know what it is about our minds that make us do this– but it’s pretty clear that people are more susceptible to addictive/obsessive behaviors when they are stressed).

Now I did what any self-respecting adult would do, and immediately told my husband about it. His reaction was just to laugh it off and tell me it was normal to have attractions towards other people (probably a bad idea on his part, in retrospect).

Now, ladies and gents, this is the point where I made

BAD CONSCIOUS DECISION #1: Allowing myself to create Ne fantasies and to create positive expectations for future encounters (and to keep searching for “clues” that would allow me to discern how LO was feeling towards me).

I’m not sure about the other INTPs out there, but I’m pretty sure that the only time I fantasize/daydream about people (instead of ideas and science) is when I’m actively “crushing” and the fantasies (sexual, romantic) are only ever directed at ONE person.

Crushes or infatuations feel good, since they fill the brain with adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin. Those “happy feelings” gave me increased energy, a boost in self-confidence and allowed me to be more focused at work. And since I wasn’t taking any time away from my relationship with my husband, I rationalized it in my head, “well, a small crush is nothing to worry about”.

BAD CONSCIOUS DECISION #2: Allowing myself to make LO a “friend” while inadvertently creating the elusive “intellectual connection”

Well, out came my innate Fe caring behaviors. Since LO was less experienced and less knowledgeable in the lab, I took it upon myself to teach him things, to discuss with him my ideas and thoughts on science, to share with him interesting blog posts. My manipulative (?) food sharing behaviors were positively reinforced as it became easier and easier to coerce him away from his computer for a conversation. He brought out my playful side and I started to engage in teasing, flirting and affectionate behaviors. On the rare occasion I paid him a compliment or two when I thought he deserved it (which I subconsciously knew he was always fishing for– and being rare, my compliments were apparently well-received by this ENFP).

Even if he wasn’t ready to be my proper “mindmate” (evidently, all INTPs are looking for mindmates  http://forums.intpcentral.com/showthread.php?18143-Mindmates-for-INTPs) I was darned going to “believe” he was one. And maybe he was– he could hold his own in a good debate/discussion and since I’d often get tied up in my thoughts I sometimes let him win. I was much better with the email-sparring and could go back-and-forth endlessly (although this rarely happened– he usually stopped replying). But, at the same time, looking back, I think that my mind, hyped-up on drugs as it was, ended up projecting a lot of my own intelligence, my own competence and strengths and my own values onto him (isn’t this how love always starts?). He is intelligent and full of interesting and divergent ideas and obviously provided endless entertainment for my mind. But, at the same time, I down-played the real facts that he is unreliable, bad at planning ahead, more interested in people and living life than working and bad with long-term commitments, amongst probably many other things. Yet, it did feel addictive at the time– I felt happier, more confident, more intelligent and especially, less bored. I wasn’t interested in all those other little personality “details”– what interested me was his mind, and probably, more importantly, how he was able to so easily and comfortably bring out all my own interesting thoughts and ideas (some of which I hadn’t even consciously realized I had!).

BAD CONSCIOUS DECISION #3: Once I consciously realized the “mindmate” connection had been forged, allowing myself to continue to “feel”.

This was quickly rationalized as “well, it’s rare that I ever get to feel this way, to feel human, to feel so connected, so understood, so I’ll let it be”. And, I foolishly thought– well, it can’t last forever, we will eventually fall into that “friend zone”. And my mind’s best line, “well, the more I talk to him, the more I’ll find things I don’t like about him, so getting to know him better should resolve this situation”. It did occur to me, sometimes, that I had to stop interacting with this person. I made New Year’s resolutions to “be a better wife” and told myself that there would be no more emailing, that I’d stop interacting with LO so much, that I’d stop sharing so much. That worked, but only for short time periods, it wasn’t long before I fell back into my bad, addictive, habits. And although at the beginning I was forthright with my husband about my interactions and conversations, as the intensity of the relationship with LO grew, I gradually became less reluctant to talk about LO (at no point did I ever consider talking to anyone else about this). It was clear in my mind that somehow I’d created an entirely fictional “love story” inside my head– I could easily distinguish between “fantasy” and “reality” but was trying frantically to restrain myself from trying to bring the fantasy into real life. When I finally realized the emotional bond with my husband was at stake (started to find him less attractive, started fighting about petty things, started growing resentful of my marriage and being so settled) and that the preservation of this emotional bond (or at least attempting to get it back) was what was most important to me, I knew I had to extricate myself from the whole situation.

There were times, over the  2 year episode, when I was very consciously aware that the whole “mind affair” was extremely wrong. I was often angry at myself, my mind was in conflict and I was stressed. I frantically racked my brain for what could have caused such a rapid, natural and close emotional tie– but I couldn’t really come up with any. Ti could not come up with any logical reason for it. There wasn’t much involvement of feelings, past experiences, present experiences, discussions of marital issues, alone time outside of work. However, on the odd chance that I did reveal personality traits about my husband, I could sense jealousy in LO’s reactions. And that stressed me out to the point where I abandoned even talking about my husband in his presence. Effectively, LO and I created our own “affair bubble or connected-mind bubble” far far away from the realities of life. It was an escape for me, an escape from boredom. Did I pride myself at my restraint for not getting into a full-fledged affair? Did I ever think I was acting as just a “close friend”? Not really. I knew what was going on, it was pretty clear. But, at the same time, it was magical, I got to a depth of caring/emotional affection that I’d never experienced before; I just wanted to be able “to love” quietly and in my own way. Reciprocation didn’t even really matter. I started thinking about monogamy, its roots and its meaning. Maybe humans weren’t meant to be monogamous since I was clearly capable of loving two people at once? But, at the same time I knew I wanted to remain loyal to my first emotional bond. This was clear– I instinctively knew, when I was fully in my addictive grip, to force my mind back to reality– to think about concrete things, to remember how it felt when I fell in love with my husband, to think of the future I wanted for myself, to think how I wouldn’t be able to take myself seriously if I let this go any further…

I had created a giant mess of emotional connections inside my head, I just didn’t know how to get out of it.

And, I mistakenly thought I had my mind under pretty good control (I wasn’t overtly obsessing, after all). I was resolute to finish up my experiments in the lab by December 2011 so that I could move home to be with my husband, yet at the same time there was this growing dread of how I was going to feel when I left the lab. The last month in the lab was uneventful, LO was barely around and I was pretty stressed out with experiments. Then, out of nowhere, in my final week in the lab, LO suddenly started acting really weird and spewing some really odd thoughts. All of a sudden, he wanted to be around me all the time (we even went to dinner twice– very very bad idea in retrospect), said I was part of his decision to stay in the lab, said he thought I married too young!, said two friends of the opposite-sex couldn’t be close without some romantic attraction, even if not acted on!, called me up after we said our final goodbyes to see me one more time the next day, made imaginary plans to see me after Christmas, etc. His words, his actions, the visible emotion he displayed on his face all made my neurons scream RECIPROCATION (and, oh crap…what do I do now?)! I somehow managed to collect myself for the final goodbye so that I didn’t give away any visible signs of my own emotional turmoil (I was crying and my hands were shaking out of control), but couldn’t stop the cheesy “I’m going to miss you” and inappropriately long hug I gave him at the end of the evening (I know, I know, bad idea).

Over Christmas I didn’t quite come to a decision about what I was going to do next. So, when the emails from LO started arriving (maybe once/twice per week) detailing his vacation, asking me a bunch of personal questions, asking me a bunch of work questions, for the first time sending me articles I might be interested in, I kind of felt bad to leave him in the lurch, and it felt good to be needed, and so, in true INTP fashion I sent back detailed, but largely impersonal emails dealing with my thoughts on the articles, lab protocols, etc. It’s at this point that I’m pretty sure I went “limerent” as they call it– obsessively checking my inbox for messages, eagerly awaiting the next email, contemplating for hours responses to the emails. It felt good! I was connecting with someone on a deep, personal level and I felt so UNDERSTOOD. There was no way my mind wanted to give that up. But then, my corrupt mind started putting 2 and 2 together. He would send long emails with lots of details about his adventures and experiences and I would feel BORED. Then he would send his response to a blog post I’d sent him and I would get riled up and excited just thinking about a clever, and logically reasoned, response. WTF??? I wasn’t in love with LO, I was in love with the feeling I got while discussing science with LO (in retrospect there were a lot more instances of this tuning-out effect whenever he talked about anything besides science). Oh no, this was not good at all. How do I get myself out of this mind-fuck (of my own doing)?

I planned a face-to-face meeting. I had many ideas about what I was going to say, but nothing quite stuck. I was, for the first time, extremely shy in his presence and almost on the verge of tears. Apparently my subconscious knew better than me what I should do. Out of nowhere a little voice in my head told me what to say and after a few false starts this is how it came out (almost in tears):

“I’m sorry… blank stare… for getting caught up in life’s moments… more blank stares… with us… with you… with you LO… for having a crush… for falling… “. I’m not kidding, us INTPs get really cheesy in the moment.
What I got back “silence… more silence… maybe it was my fault… for needing you too much… for letting you get too close”. No kidding dude? What were you thinking? (clearly we both weren’t thinking)
A week later, when safely back home, I got an email detailing how he’d given it some thought, and how the feelings were not reciprocated and how he’d always considered me a “friend and mentor, a very close friend”. Ah yes, the fine line between what one considers “close friend” and one considers “affair”. The email was also filled with lines like “I’m not going to pity you, because I know you wouldn’t like it” and “I’m here if you need help”. Neither of which jived really well with my INTP nature— you want to help me??? really? you are the PROBLEM– why do you not just leave me alone to grieve and get over you?
It was at this point that I realized I was in for a rough ride—the ugly side of Fe had fully taken hold of my mind– I was quite incapable, for a good 3-4 weeks, to keep myself from crying every day, from obsessing over the details of what had happened, to keep myself from sending LO an email detailing my perspectives on what had happened and how I had felt in those moments. I eventually realized that although LO had denied reciprocation, that my emails were still fueling something in him (I mean, I gave the ENFP all he ever wanted from me– affirmations of my approval, respect and trust in him) since he continued to pursue said “close friendship” over email. Since I was still hurting and my mental health was seriously suffering (I actually considered, briefly, that I had permanently damaged my neurons– I’m still not sure whether this is true or not– all that dopamine swirling around the brain for such a long time…) I finally implemented the “NO CONTACT RULE”. Finally, the recovery process could begin…
[with my increased understanding of myself, I now know that the first bad conscious decision was probably allowing my husband to move away from me in the first place… but we can debate on that another time].

Up next: The long and painful road out of inferior Fe (and the story is almost done– feeling better already!)

The good, the bad and the ugly of Fe

So, before I delve deeper into the complexities of my most recent inferior Fe grip experience, I thought I’d go over my insights into how having to deal with (or “crutch”) inferior Fe has shaped my personality development and decision-making over the course of the last 29 years.

Over the past few years I have definitely experienced both the “positive” and the “negative” sides of my inferior function. I wholeheartedly agree with people’s description of it as childish, all-or-none, black-and-white. There are no shades of grey when dealing with the inferior, in both its good, bad and ugly forms. And since my conscious mind recently confronted my subconscious Fe with a “what the H-E-L-L were you thinking????” it has since retreated in shame back down where it belongs. The challenge for me is to find ways to integrate its most positive features while controlling its negative side.

As far as I can tell (my interpretation) all the various theories on “authentic living”, “stages of consciousness”, “enlightenment”, “meditation”, “achieving happiness” seem to revolve around finding ways to best stabilize and manage your mood, so that you are not constantly having to deal with the ups and downs that characterize everyday living. Having desires and seeking pleasures that appear to satisfy the mind (release dopamine), such as sex, love, food, addictions, affairs, obsessive behaviors, setting and achieving arbitrary, unsatisfying goals, offer only temporary relief since they serve as short-term crutches to the mind and sub-serve the subconscious mind. They simply serve to mask the stress of our everyday lives and as such give us short-term “highs” in the presence of our “desired object” as well as pretty devastating withdrawal “lows” when this “desired object” is taking away. The goal of “authentic living” or “conscious living” is to try to manage and even eliminate these temporary “stress-relievers/maskers” driven by our inferior functions, by working on the problem itself– identifying and trying to reduce the source of stress in our lives. By keeping our conscious minds safe from stress and by rearranging our lifestyles/daily activities/hobbies so that time is spent “completing the cognitive process stack” (for me, by blogging, even if no one is listening), there is no longer a need to “crutch” the inferior function since it will be used in a positive, and not negative, way. Happiness truly comes from within (keep the mind happy and bathed in the right amounts of dopamine, adrenaline, serotonin, etc and you will be happy).

It seems counter-intuitive, but for me a day watching television is way more draining than a day spent reading or working. I used to feel bad about my work-oriented lifestyle, like maybe I was “missing out” on life or something, since everyone else’s weekends were packed with outdoor activities and parties. The reality is though, that although I will occasionally enjoy these activities for the people and conversation they might bring, they are actually pretty draining on my psyche.

Ok, after my Ne-driven distraction, back to the main purpose of this blog.

INFERIOR Fe (my buried “narcissistic” self)

The UGLY

emotionalism– ie crazy amounts of emotions that you can’t control but must hide at all costs (usually by locking yourself in your room). Crying/being upset in response to any criticisms again your ideas (since you spent so much time on them), being upset for judgments against your character (especially if you are told you are too “cold”), deeply-felt heartbreak after the loss of someone you were close too (I guess this would apply to any close, emotionally-bonded family member, friend, lover).

obsessive-thoughts and detachment from reality– creation of a separate fantasy-world around “desirable object”, allows you to re-create those “happy feelings” you have when around the object, allows you to escape the realities of your stressful life.

expression of feelings to “desirable object”– once I’d given LO all my most cherished scientifically-related thoughts, I also ended up giving him most of my feelings towards him as well (in email). I read somewhere that an Fe user might regret? not expressing their deeply felt love towards someone– this was definitely how I felt at the time– I thought he deserved to know how he’d made me feel (and I think it helped a lot with the recovery process by relieving my mind of all those bottled up feelings).

loneliness and abandonment– especially after having a good time with “close” friends, feeling abandoned by your “desirable object”

The BAD

Admiration seeking (want/need to be “the best” at your chosen profession)– Ti-Fe can get on a goal-setting, goal-achieving role where work and success can seem like your sole purpose for living (although you start to feel less and less “happy” about achieving each successive goal– characteristics of an obsessive/addictive behavior).

It is fickle and it has tunnel-vision. For instance, I love helping people that I like and am bonded to, but am very slow to offer help to strangers. It will also get pretty upset at any perceived transgression or criticism and if significant enough, this might lead me to hold a grudge for a long time or drop you entirely.

It’s inferior position makes it hard to find people I’m interested in pursuing a friendship with. Usually they have to be intelligent, witty and capable of carrying on a good conversation (and appear to like the conversation I have to offer). If not, in my interactions with strangers/acquaintances I probably appear “cold”, “detached” and “uninterested/bored”.

If people don’t show interest in continuing the friendship/don’t respond to an email, I won’t repeatedly attempt to contact them to keep the friendship alive.

I get bored with people very easily. I find my mind far more entertaining at times.

It’s very self-centered (I’ll be helpful only if it makes ME happy– I guess dominant Fe users are happy helping EVERYONE)

Emotional neediness (a need to show love and be loved)– although consciously seeking independence and freedom, deep down I know that I crave at least one other closely-bonded person in my life (at all times….). Because of this, I effectively haven’t been single (in my mind) for 11 years.

Empathy– this is good and bad, since at times people’s emotional outbursts can really affect you and cause you to feel similar emotions. This happened when LO broke down and revealed a previously hidden emotional/sentimental side. He seemed truly upset that I was leaving, and this ended up strengthening the bond for me and making the whole thing even more upsetting.

Although Fe confers empathy it does nothing in terms of giving us any innate abilities to express sympathy. I have absolutely no idea what to do when confronted with someone who is crying. I’d want to be left alone, so I usually project that on the person. I also can’t for the life of me “conjure” up the right emotion or know how to make someone feel better. Being around emotions stresses me out and I usually get up and leave.

Not being able to feel “love”– For instance, I don’t think I’ve ever felt what it’s like “to love”, rather I only consciously realize that I’m “in love” when I perceive some interest from another person. I always feel like I’m falling in love with someone who fell in love with me first (explains some of my bad choices)! I’ve therefore never had the– “that guy is intelligent, funny, well-adjusted– I’m going to ask him on a date” moment. Neither do I ever feel attracted to men, unless there is some emotional-bonding first. I’ve realized that my actions let me know when I truly love someone.

Passionate outbursts– Fe can lead to some pretty interesting and potentially misinterpreted outbursts that come with a lot of emotion, especially when people are discussing topics that you’ve thought about a lot and hold close to your heart (especially if you think people are wrong in their opinions). These are usually “speaking before thinking” moments.

The GOOD

Almost instant identification of someone you could be friends with (rare, but it happens).

Empathy– allows you to understand other people’s emotions (especially if you’ve felt them yourself). You may also begin to “feel” like they “feel” (ie I can easily get depressed or in a bad mood if sitting next to a depressed person.

Allows you to carry on a pretty interesting conversation especially if it’s a topic that interests you or something related but that you’d never thought of. And especially if there appears to be some interest on the other end.

Innate “emotional bonding” behaviors– food sharing, eye contact, smiling, ability to tell jokes, teasing, laugh at other people’s jokes, gossiping, hugging, flirting, sharing thoughts/ideas/feelings (although I find all of these very INTENSE and when expressed (or returned) come with a lots of positive emotions and “meaning”)

Allows you to express your love for someone with “actions” rather than “words”. For instance, I enjoy doing chores around the house just because I know it frees my busy husband from having to do them.

Any compliments about your intelligence, work, focus and even appearance will make you feel really good, especially if you like/trust the person giving them (even if you consciously don’t think you need/like compliments and never know how to respond, usually saying something self-deprecating in return).

DEEP CARING

Allows you to participate in organization or activities that indirectly help people (and it may even prompt you to take on some leadership positions, especially later in development).

Any other experiences with inferior Fe?

edits 5 July 2012– (good or bad?)– an affinity for cheesy, simple popular music (love songs, heartbreak, etc) movies and novels (especially when in love or experiencing heartbreak). I guess unless one of your main interests is music. I just can’t be bothered doing the added research unless someone suggests something interesting to me (same with novels).

(very ugly)– an ability to get your sense of self/self-worth tied up in another person that losing that person leads to a great sense of despair/depersonalization. Until you realize how stupid you are for giving that person too much power over you and you start to build yourself back up again (slow process!!!)

Life from the perspective of an INTP- Part II

Subtitled “Growing up as an INTP in an extraverted world”

I can’t say it’s been easy– but I’m thankful for loving parents and always having at least my basic needs met.

Growing up as an introvert and not having had a lot of experience interacting with people and the outside world I didn’t fully realize until now how different from mainstream my worldview and perceptions on life actually are. Your typology really determines the things you notice about the world and what opinions/sayings/ideas you take to heart and which ones you immediately dismiss/filter out.

I’m in an extremely inferior Fe mood today. I have a theory that the hormones released during “that time of the month” mess with the brain, making us more likely to succumb to inferior function decisions and moods. For instance, this is seen by my unexplainable desire to cry uncontrollably for about 3 days per month. Hopefully blogging will cheer “it” up.

So, I ran into this quote yesterday on the Personality Cafe forum “The opposite of depression is not happiness or even pleasure, it is the ability to experience life to its fullest”, or something to that effect. A.J. Drenth over at Personality Junkie would probably equate “living life to its fullest” with “authentic living” http://personalityjunkie.com/authenticity-authentic-living/. One of the challenges facing “society” today is that the world has gotten so complicated that people don’t even know what “experiencing life to its fullest” means to them. They expect that if they adhere to “societal” views of what appears to make other people “happy” (money, power, material goods, affairs, addictions) or if they mimic the interests and experiences of those around them then they themselves will achieve “happiness”. I think this type of mentality might be contributing to the dramatic surge  in the diagnosis of “depression” in Western societies (apparently depression afflicts 21% of the American population). The societal view (ie. pharmaceutical company mentality) “treat now– get back to work and think never” just serves to preserve the view that the problem lies not in the external world (society), but in the internal world (the individual’s mind must be “messed” up). Rather than focusing people’s attention on how they need to modify their external world or lifestyle to match the expectations of their internal world (authentic living), people are told that their thoughts/ideas/expectations of the world are wrong and that they must somehow modify their internal world with medication so that they can function effectively in someone else’s definition of the ideal “external world”. This is downright scary and means that most people are functioning in the world as “robots” or “philosophical zombies”– people may behave as though they are “conscious” but in reality they have no self-awareness of what is driving them, why they make the choices they do, why they say the things they do, how their decisions affect the people around them, what makes them happy, what makes them stressed, what makes them depressed and what they should do to “live life fully”.

One of the unexpected, frightening, powerful and enlightening consequences of my most recent “grip experience” was the fact that my mind (once it was done obsessing and over-analyzing the “life experience” itself) forced me to confront my entire existence so far. Basically every buried memory, major life decision, unsettling experience, puzzling reaction, bewildering interests/thoughts/ideas resurfaced to haunt my mind. I’m guessing this is what Jung meant when he said the inferior function was the gateway to your unconscious experience (or “shadow”). The guy was either a genius and/or went through a similar experience and somehow intuitively understood that it represented an important “rebalancing” effect of the psyche, a way for the psyche to achieve “wholeness”, “balance” or a better “understanding of oneself”. Anyway, the experience itself is beyond words and hard to explain to those that haven’t experienced it (even harder to explain to my husband, who deals in facts, details and proofs). After the frightful resurfacing of my unconscious experiences and memories, I was met with an increased sensation of a “void” or “emptiness” inside myself, that I can only equate with what other people term either an “existential crises”, “emotional burnout”, “depersonalization”, “loss of self-identity/self-worth”. At this point I was given the choice: either accept that life is ultimately meaningless or try to find meaning from life. I evidently chose the latter. I let my mind wander on a frantic search for “answers” and what the experience meant. When I stumbled upon Personality Types, discovered my INTPness and all its quirks (and that there were other people out there with similar quirks!) my mind finally settled– it had its answers or at least it had a fairly good start towards finding the answers that were meaningful to it. The puzzle pieces of my life so far finally all fell into place and life suddenly started to make sense. What’s most surprising is that although I’ve realized that I remember few facts/details about movies I’ve watched, places I’ve been, things I’ve learnt in school, historical dates or historical figures (I equate this to the fact that INTP’s have really no sense or interest in taking in the external world of facts/details/images– Se is very low in the functional stack), I remember every “conscious” decision and puzzling reaction (whether it was a Ti or Fe decision), which to me effectively means that there was some emotional component (positive or negative) that allowed for these experiences to be forever burned as memories in my subconscious mind, only to be unleashed in the aftermath of my “grip experience”.

It seems like my subconscious mind has been leading me here for a very very long time. The fact that I was effectively leading life up to this point as a “philosophical zombie” is slightly discomforting, but not nearly as discomforting/scary as it is to now be fully aware of my decision-making processes and to finally be “in control” of how I “choose” to live my life from now on. With this knowledge comes increased responsibility for my behaviors, moods, decisions and future. I am responsible for my own “happiness” and sense of “wholeness” and must continue to work hard to manage my lifestyle and working conditions in ways that make this to be possible.

Even before this increased “self-awareness”, I’ve always viewed life as a “challenge” and each “life experience” or comment from others about how they perceive my behaviors as a way to better understand myself and figure out how best I should be organizing my life so as to make me “happy” or at least “less stressed”. Typology has served to calms my fears that I was somehow “wrong” or “different” from others in my interests/way of being/life expectations and allowed me to recognize where best to make the changes/improvements in the way I live my life without sacrificing my innate personality. I hope you’ll recognize what I perceive as potentially common INTP-type “life moments”, “life decisions” or “life memories” in the following list of (in my best Si-driven historical order) my previously unconscious or unclassified and puzzling memories.

1. My earliest memory! At the age of 4 or 5 I remember incorrectly matching a heart with the color “pink” and a pig with the color “red”. It must have been my earliest, painful and most humiliating mistake. I also remember being very shy, reserved and always maintaining high grades, even in elementary school.

2. At the age of 9 my family decided to move from Canada to South Africa. I remember being deeply disturbed by having to change my environment and leave behind my close friends. However, I soon adapted to the new environment and made a new close set of friends.

3. After ending in second place after the first year in a new school and country, I told myself “I’m going to be the best next year”. This mentality or “life-long goal” unfortunately continued subconsciously through the rest of my schooling, up to the end of my PhD.

4. I was always good at math, to the point where the teacher hated me for correcting her or always being right. I also used to ask others for the grades on their exams until someone told me “you only ask because you want to boast about your high marks”. I’d never really seen it that way (unconscious Fe), and was deeply hurt and never asked or offered my grades voluntarily to anyone again.

5. Even at the young age of 9 I remember being very discriminatory in my choice of friends and who I considered “close friends” or my “best friend”. I preferred friends that I could tease and that would tease back. This got me into trouble though, since I was ignored (probably for saying something mean) by one of my best friends for about 1 year (and I didn’t do anything to correct it– conflict-avoidant INTP behavior).

6. I used to take books with me on all our trips into the wilderness. I paid little attention to the animals or world around me (or my little sister– she later told my mom that I never played with her– she’s ENFP).

7. When puberty set in (see hypothesis above) I started crying uncontrollably in classes. I also started throwing away my lunches and paying attention to what I ate as a way to control thoughts. I was told by one of the teachers “you’d better quit crying since people are starting to get really worried”. I guess that’s when I learned that emotions were bad and you need to hide them (more suppression of Fe-behaviors).

8. The depression continued as my parents decided to move us back to Canada after 3 1/2 years. I had several disturbing thoughts for ways in which I could prevent this departure.

9. Back in Canada things didn’t really settle down for me. I exhibited perfectionist and obsessive-compulsive behaviors and studied through weekends, holidays, etc. I made a small group of friends, including a “best friend” but whenever I perceived a slight from my best friend or if she was spending too much time with her other friends, I disappeared into solitude and loneliness for weeks on end. I eventually always reappeared without confronting the issue.

10. Eventually at the age of 13 I told my mom that I’d had enough and that I needed psychological help. She didn’t want to talk about it. I insisted for quite a while until I was finally taken to a psychologist and then put on a low-dose of Paxil. The only thing the psychologist taught me was how to “compartmentalize” my life so that my emotions didn’t control all aspects of my life. I guess I read that as having to further “bury my Fe side”. I started working even harder, filling my time with studying and work. Eventually I also started exercising, sometimes compulsively. I also later learned that my mom was also suffering from depression.

11. I always veered away from leadership positions even though people tried to convince me to take them.

12. When dating a boy at the end of high school for 2 months my dad turned to me and said “well, do you think you are going to marry him? If not, why are you with him them?”. I dumped the guy the next day. I’m wondering if this is a way INTP’s get their Fe values from the external world. Though, I always resisted my dad on his suggestion that I become a doctor.

13. After high school I told myself “I’m not going to say no to dating any guy that displays interest”. I didn’t have a chance to date much though since someone quickly displayed interest. He was smart, sweet but not very attractive. I had no sense of my own attractiveness at that point so it didn’t matter. I fell in love, although I have no memory of the experience. I was with the guy for 4 years. However, because of my parents’ negative outlooks on sex before marriage, I was never able to be intimate with the guy. That seriously hampered the relationship.

14. By this point I had lost most of my friends, since they had started drinking, partying at clubs, putting on makeup, hooking up with random guys, etc. I just wasn’t interested in that lifestyle.

15. I met my husband in my final year of university. He describes our first meeting as me “coldly dismissing what he was reading as boring” and says he made it his challenge to “break” me (since I was so unlike the other girls who fawned over him).

16. My husband and I taught a class together in our final semester (I heard later that the students found me “cold”). By this point I was already starting to display an increased desire to be social and interact with people over beers (not in clubs). I was still with my boyfriend of 4 years. However, I unwittingly started putting my head on this new guy’s shoulder in class, fantasizing about him, trying to get him to attend more social events, talking to him. I felt a “deep connection” to this new person, a level of intimacy I’d never experienced before. As anyone who has experienced an emotional affair knows, the experience of “bonding” with a new person completely changes your perspective and feelings about the person you are currently with. You basically start to re-write history, believing that you were never in love at all. All the good memories suddenly “vanish”, only to be replaced by a new, negative view of the entire relationship. It is scary indeed. As my “caring” ability slowly transferred over to this new person, my ability to “care” for my boyfriend gradually diminished. I knew the relationship was over and there was nothing I could do to salvage it. After 3 months of interacting with this new person, I coldly decided to “jump” into a new relationship with my husband only 2 weeks after the break-up. There were almost no thoughts/regrets/sympathy for ending the previous relationship.

17. The “jump” and loss of my first long-term relationship taught me a few things: 1) Stimulating, smart conversation was VERY important to me. 2) Intimacy and SEX were also important aspects of relationships and shouldn’t be disregarded for the sake of my parents. 3) Long-term relationships are HARD WORK. At the time, I expressed these new insights to my new boyfriend. It’s funny how quickly we can forget these new life lessons.

18. After 8 months of bliss and “oneness” with my new boyfriend (husband) I was set to leave for California for a PhD, alone. It was the first time I was moving away from my parents and an entirely new experience. My boyfriend and I decided to leave things “open”.

19. I decided to switch my interests from biochemistry to neuroscience, basically because I had the intuition that it was more complicated and therefore more interesting to me.

20.  I finally decided I was strong enough to ditch the antidepressants (love makes the INTP whole!!!). By this point, I also realized that I had the desire to feel “human” and less robotic. It didn’t make things easy though– I remember crying a lot during those 2 years away.

21. It was in California where I realized the importance to me of having close, intellectual friends. I bonded with two girls who had very strong opinions and enjoyed expressing them. I was quieter about expressing mine, but enjoyed the experience of listening to them talk about all sorts of things. As some of you may know, for the INTP the experience of bonding with people is a double-edged sword: it feels really good when they are around and you are connecting, but when they are busy or hanging out with other people you feel abandoned and lonely. Again, more crying.

22. I couldn’t take the fact that things were “open” between my boyfriend and I regardless of the fact that we were still speaking all the time. I demanded some sort of commitment. I got it, but life just got harder.

23. At the end of my first semester away (Christmas) I learned that my dad had had an affair (he eventually left my mom after several attempts at reconciliation). My mom was devastated, having also lost both of her parents during that time-frame. I felt helpless. That spurred what I can now recognize as another “grip experience” although at the time I just felt vaguely “not like myself”. I was in a rotation program at the time and I jumped from lab to lab, trying frantically to find my “interest”. At this time, my interests dramatically expanded from being interested in the cellular/biochemical details of the neuron to being interested in  cognitive neuroscience approaches and even attending a course on “emotions”. Already then, my subconscious was searching for “its bigger idea”. I didn’t listen though, not really enjoying the systems neuroscience or cognitive neuroscience approach, and eventually settled with my first choice lab (cellular neuroscience).

24. Aided by my outspoken, older and critical best friend, I slowly found my scientific wings. It became a sport for us to impersonally tear apart papers during journal club. Professors warned us against being “too critical” and that there was no such thing as “the perfect experiment”.

25. It became increasingly difficult for me to function in my chosen lab. The professor was micromanaging, controlling and passive-aggressive. He pinned people in the lab against each other and indirectly insulted people and their work. He tried to dictate people’s schedules. I had come up with a pretty interesting project all by myself but felt neglected and unsupported. I was depressed and felt I could do better elsewhere. I also missed my boyfriend. I struggled with the idea of going back to Canada and taking nursing classes (an Fe desire). I abandoned that idea, knowing that I really did want to be doing science. I applied to McGill, got in and moved back (choosing to live with my boyfriend). People thought I was “strong” for deciding to leave (I got my Master’s degree instead of a PhD). I viewed it as “survival”.

26. After my negative scientific experience in California, I decided it was more prudent for me to refrain from coming up with my own projects and ideas, instead settling to work on an interest that would be fully supported by my new supervisor. This decision ended up working out for me since my new supervisor was incredibly enthusiastic and had a non-micromanaging, flexible style that allowed me to be almost completely independent and bring my own ideas/flavor/direction/time-management to the project whilst still working on an idea he supported.

27. My husband and I decided to get married in 2009. The wedding planning was contentious. I never really had a vision in my head of “my perfect husband”, “my perfect wedding” or “my perfect life” or even what “marriage” really meant. It was all foreign territory for me and I dragged my feet with some of the wedding planning, preferring work as an escape. My wishes/desires were constantly challenged and my husband would come back to me with decisions that I knew were driven by his ENTJ mom. I eventually had to give in to a lot of aspects. The wedding was beautiful though and I was perfectly happy that day.

28. Two months after the wedding, my husband moved 2 hours away for his work. It was at this point that my life began to unravel, slowly and imperceptibly. But more on that next time.