So, as many of you know, I’ve been maintaining “no contact” with my LO/emotional affair partner since the middle of April. This has been working extremely well, allowing me to re-focus my energy on my marriage and understanding myself & my husband, while at the same time dissipating those pesky “feelings” and fantasizes of being swept away from the realities of real life by a knight in new & shiny armor.
Unfortunately, I’ve been working from my old lab for the past three weeks (lucky for me LO is on vacation so I don’t have to deal with him in person until Monday) and as people who’ve gone through similar experiences probably know, being back in the location of the betrayal is a trigger for all sorts of negative feelings– anxiety, stress, fear, sadness, nostalgia, longing– and with these negative feelings re-surfaced the desire/need for some sort of contact. For the first time in a few months, instead of my thoughts being directed towards my new theories, work or my next blog post, they were re-directed towards musings on the experience with LO and what I would say to LO if I were to send him one last email. As much as I tried to bury these Fe-Si-Ne-driven thoughts (the exact content of the fictional email changed every day and the urge to actually write it down grew and diminished based on my mood), I inevitably caved on Monday.
Since writing, sending it and receiving his replies, I’ve been trying to figure out my intentions and motivations behind its content. What was I really trying to say/prove/gain? What was the response I was expecting? It was written in a frenzy, definitely write now-think later. I knew that if I stopped to think about it for even more than a second I would convince myself not to send it (as I had for the first 2 weeks) and maybe regret not having said these things later? Who knows.
Anyway, my analysis has led me to these potential motivations (feel free to chime in if you can detect some other hidden motives). It really was very idiotic of me to write and send this (and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone in the same situation). I did tell my husband that I’d sent an email; he wasn’t impressed and longs for the day when all this will be distant past.
1. A need to determine his frame of mind (I have started to feel bad for potentially putting him in a “mind funk” as well).
2. A need to help.
3. A need to preach/share my new knowledge and insights and hear his opinions about it.
4. A need to share my experience with someone who might actually understand.
5. A need to make next week less awkward since we’ll be seeing each other every day.
6. An attempt at closure.
7. A need to show that I was doing ok.
8. A need to show that I was available in case he had anything he needed to get off his chest.
Anyway, here is the email for all to laugh at my mistakes.
Title: One more [important] life lesson
Feel free to disregard/dismiss/ignore.
So, after months of deep introspection, solitude, existential loneliness, despair and self-hatred (a bit longer than the 40 days required by the Buddha, but I did have a thesis to write at the same time) I’ve come to several new conclusions regarding the meaning of life, the universe and everything. And, as I’ve suspected all along, the answer is not 42—but happens to be quite fascinating, intriguing and in its most basic, deconstructed form, actually quite simple.
It actually did feel, for a very long time, like my mind was slowly caving in on itself. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t prevent it from happening and I knew I just had to let my mind wander, ponder, feel and just wait it out—somehow the mind would find some way to correct itself. Anyway, I eventually hit what I consider rock bottom sometime at the end of May/early June—somehow I foresaw it coming (I believe it’s happened before, sometime in my teenage years, unprompted by any major life events except for puberty and a deep sense of being misunderstood & alone in the world— it was then that I picked up many interesting and maladaptive behaviors that somehow allowed me to function as a quasi-normal human being in this confusing and strange world). Anyway, it was at this point that I sensed a great void and had the fleeting thought—“LO stole my soul/identity”—I was reduced to nothing, basically the sum of my component neurons and that was it. I felt nothing, I was nothing. I had lost purpose, essence, meaning. It’s at this point that some people would think about throwing themselves off a bridge or starting a religion—but again, I found it to be such an interesting, profound experience from a neuroscience perspective that those thoughts didn’t even cross my mind (well, I may have considered starting a religion/cult for just a second…). I just waited it out.
Amidst a lot of obsessive reading/thinking, I eventually stumbled upon this: http://personalityjunkie.com/ and was like, “there’s NO FUCKING way” and then “holy shit, the strange puzzle pieces that have made up my life so far suddenly fit together”. And slowly the pieces of my soul started to put themselves back together again. Here’s to hoping that it’s stronger and smarter this time.
Anyway, you can take the test if you’d like, but it’s pretty clear to me that you are ENFP… and I am INTP. I think it explains why you have trouble making decisions/come off to others as too friendly & flirtatious/sometimes feel awkward in your interactions with other people… and my propensity to plug my holes with romantic relationships and work/achievement obsessions. And SO many other things about the world as well (at least in my mind, I see all the answers pretty clearly now).
Anyway, I have no blame or hate towards you, myself, my decision-making process or the life experience. It took me an extremely long time to forgive myself since my actions/feelings contradicted how I consciously saw myself. I didn’t identify with this risk-taking/easy-going/affair-seeking side of myself and having to admit to and accept that part of myself took a long time. I wasn’t taking care of myself and my own needs—actually not even consciously knowing what my greatest needs are—in these cases, the subconscious eventually retaliates, forcing you to examine yourself, your actions, your view of the world and try to make amends with it.
As I see it right now, we were just two personalities interacting naturally with each other, behaving as our “true selves”, which is why the interaction was endlessly fascinating, entertaining and dopamine-release inducing and led to that elusive feeling (at least in my experience) of being deeply connected & understood by another human being (even if in the end I don’t think you understood me that well, but that’s ok, no one actually has) and that sense of extreme vulnerability that comes with the realization that you’ve just placed your happiness in someone else’s hands (which is one of the reasons I freaked out—that shit is scary to my independent self). It’s pretty clear to me that I was responsible for setting my own personal boundaries, I just didn’t know what those were at the time (I need to experience life to learn how to function best in the world—and obviously I don’t enjoy following society’s view of how a “wife” should act & behave). How was I supposed to know that I “connect” with others by sharing my inner world of scientific thoughts/ideas/truths (evidently my version of deep secrets)? I mean, I only started being comfortable with my own ideas of the world once I reached graduate school and then finding someone who actually enjoys listening to them and seems to “get it” is another ball-game altogether… anyway, you can see that life has been a pretty lonely experience for me so far.
I really hope you are not too mad or hurt that I rejected your valiant attempts to salvage some sort of friendship— it really was because I ended up caring too much and was in some sort of unsustainable, frightening, altered state of consciousness… Anyway, I will be regarding you as a “friend” in a historical/spiritual sense – I don’t think I can be your friend anymore, you were draining way too much of my brain power and I’ve now found an idea way more fascinating and entertaining than you could ever be, an idea that will probably keep me busy for decades (and it will never get up and leave me mid-conversation or move away…).
I’m hoping I can have some quasi-normal interactions with you next week (you are planning on returning, no?)… although it could be that shyness/anxiety or fear forces me to retreat back into my head. We will see.
Oh yeah, if you come back professing your uniqueness and complexity I will have to hit you over the head with my Kandel book… think about this as a basic framework for what motivates our different behaviors, how our minds work, develop and make decisions, the differences in how people perceive and judge the world, what we naturally pick up and things we filter out, what we are naturally good at and the things we avoid doing because they stress us out—of course each of us will turn out unique based on our personal experiences (which will determine our interests & values), environment and how we’ve tried to adapt to the world. And if you are still not convinced I can lead you to a forum of people that think and behave just like you (my sister is ENFP too, which explains why I was always so confused that she turned out so differently to me…).
PS. It appears you may be better suited to academia & teaching than I am (which explains why I never really envisioned myself as a PI…). Evidently it was only a matter of time before I became disillusioned and jaded with the “system”. I’m already feeling the urge to throw in the towel to work on a book, or something.
Let’s just say that after sending it I realized that I hadn’t really considered how he would feel receiving an insane email like that. After one or two more brief exchanges, it turned out that he’d been happy to hear from me, but did not want to engage with me on anything I had written and wanted to keep the new status quo. It was the appropriate response, but I was nevertheless a bit rattled for a few days afterwards.
So there we go. THE END.
1. Important things people neglected to tell you when you committed to a long-term relationship or marriage.
2. The tools needed for people to achieve and sustain a happy, fulfilled life by re-focusing their lives on what they enjoy the most and reducing or eliminating their stressors (“self-actualization”).
I remember not so long ago (within the last 2 years) thinking how ridiculous it was for people to need a “life coach” and applauding myself for being happy with myself, my work and my life so far and finally achieving what I deemed as quite stable mental health (not requiring the use of antidepressants). Of course, I now know that my mind had tricked itself into believing that– in reality my mind had been (to varying degrees) dominated by my inferior Fe, trying desperately to maintain those “in love” feelings in order to mask my inner dark thoughts, weaknesses and fears. And as discussed in this post here at Personality Junkie, while indulging the inferior function may temporarily offer comfort against life’s miseries (lots of yummy dopamine), it puts you into an altered state of awareness/consciousness which is ultimately unsustainable, unproductive and unfulfilling. By living according to my inferior function I was failing to live up to my full potential as a human being.
Now, as those of you who have been following my story know, I was eventually faced to confront my own reality, my true self, my “soul”. I had to confront a side of myself that I had repressed or ignored for far too long– my novelty-seeking, exciting, playful, low-commitment, unconventional and non-conforming self. It was a rebellion against my marriage and new house. A desire to escape reality and my unexpected inability to fit the traditional social role of “wife”. A need to explore new and unchartered emotional territory. A statement of my freedom and independence from being tied down to one person for the rest of my life. This buried self conflicted to such a degree with my internal, conscious image of myself that initially I thought I’d created or become this alien version of myself in order to match the type of person I thought LO wanted. Eventually, I realized he’d managed to bring out my full personality, what I considered my “best, happiest” self at the time. In retrospect, this enhanced positive perception of myself was likely the result of the altered state of consciousness I’d found myself in, a state induced by the ego-boosting/positive mirroring influence of the infatuation (a dopamine/noradrenaline-induced state of euphoria and abnormally high energy and self-confidence). This confrontation with self was so frightening and so devastating that it forced me to confront and accept my deepest, darkest fears of being alone, unloved and misunderstood. Although an eye-opening (mind-opening?) and jaw-dropping emotional experience (I experienced such a wide range of emotional states that it’s hard for me to put them all into words) I wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone else, let alone another INTP (since it is so easy for us to drown in the emotional deluge). And since I wish information such as this would have been available to my younger self to help me make better decisions (although it is pretty likely that I would not have believed it without experiencing it), I now put myself in the position of “life coach” for my current and future readers as I try to explain the abstract, subjective and seemingly elusive concept of “emotional needs”.
To sum it up in one sentence I would define them as “things you need to keep your mind happy and healthy”. The simple fact that humans, as well as all other organisms with a nervous system, have what we call “emotional or psychological needs” allows us (and them) to survive and evolve as species. The drive or desire to meet these needs controls our thoughts and motivates our behaviors. If any of your needs are not being met at any point in your life your mind will consciously or subconsciously seek them out for you; and in our teenage and young adult years, this will more than likely come in the form of infatuations and intimate relationships.
One of the major reasons that our subconscious mind seeks out romantic partners is to help meet our (usually unknown to us) emotional needs. As youngsters, we feel “incomplete”, like something is missing in our lives, like there is some void that needs to be filled. We lack self-confidence, we feel depressed and unhappy, we lack understanding of ourselves and the world, so we go searching for ways to “find ourselves” and plug the gaps. Some of us will travel to far and distant places, others will over-indulge with food, exercise, sex or drugs and still others, such as myself, will engage in a string of intimate, romantic relationships. All of these serve the same purpose– to raise the levels of dopamine in your brain, thereby giving you the false sense of feeling “whole” and “complete”. However, none of these inferior crutches are likely to bring happiness in the long-term. In long-term romantic relationships, this is usually due to the fact that although the initial stages of a new relationship are rich in intimacy, understanding and loving feelings, eventually the realities and stresses of living with each other in the real world catch up, and gradually and perhaps imperceptibly, those “in love” feelings fade away. Unbeknownst to one or both of you, you are no longer driven to meet each others emotional needs or, in the worst case scenario, you are infuriating or draining each others’ inferior or shadow functions. For some reason, while most of us “love being in love”, we invariably fail to consciously recognize the important life lessons that each intimate relationship is subtly trying to tell us– what activities/types of conversations make our minds happy (dopamine) and allow us to connect and love our fellow human beings.
Only by identifying and meeting our individual emotional needs and living true to our innate natures, will we be able to live a complete and fulfilled life.
And I can’t stress this point enough– we must strive to live according to our TRUE natures and resist the temptation to live in someone else’s version of the world.
Because although many websites discussing emotional affairs, emotional needs and how to successfully navigate a long-term relationship provide a list of common emotional needs such as “admiration, affection, conversation, domestic support, family commitment, financial support, honesty and openness, physical attractiveness, recreational companionship and sexual fulfillment” as well as recommendations for how to meet them, what all of these websites and psychologists/marriage counselors fail to address are the ways to identify these emotional needs and their relative importance in our shared lives.
Imagine my surprise when I eventually realized that in addition to the subconscious Fe-driven need for admiration, affection and love (and a “need to be needed”) that I reluctantly admitted to (before learning about type), I had a very real and dominant need to share my scientific knowledge and ideas with someone that was interested, intelligent and capable of following my complex train of thoughts. Since this need is most likely to be met amongst colleagues that share the same interests and passions, it wasn’t surprising that my first encounter with a male “kindred spirit” eventually led to strong feelings of “love”.
The very best way to identify your dominant and less-dominant emotional needs (before your subconscious blind-sides you and tries to lead you astray) is to know your psychological type. This is because not all minds are created equal and therefore what energizes and excites one person may actually drain someone else.
1. Emotional needs will be individual and vary according to psychological type.
2. Some needs will be greater than others, but do not ignore the needs of the inferior function.
3. You should focus most of your (and your partner’s, if possible) attention on meeting the needs of your two dominant functions.
4. Directly indulging your inferior’s needs will give you a “high” and will be very addictive, but this behavior is draining, unsustainable and potentially very damaging to the psyche.
5. Try to find some activities that allow you to use all of your functions in order– these activities are those that allow you to establish “flow” or “peak experiences“. They will help achieve “balance” and keep you away from one-sided behaviors.
5. Trying to develop? or learn to use? your four “shadow functions” (by this I mean your 4 opposite cognitive functions) will drain you, stress you out and bore you, leading you to be more susceptible to your subconscious, inferior urges. Since indulging the inferior can provide a sudden burst of energy and good feelings, I think these inferior-driven behaviors attempt to compensate for the energy that is used up attending to aspects of the world that hold no interest or “meaning” to us. I think all shadow function-related behaviors are probably learned behaviors that we’ve picked up through our upbringing, personal experiences, being around others and attempting to adapt or fit into the world.
Although a combination of many compounding factors, my emotional affair was at least in part driven by shadow-function boredom– and this boredom was induced by my attempts to be independent and self-sufficient, to fit into the “real world”, to live a traditional life and to compromise for my husband’s sake. Growing up you get taught (or at least this is the Fe-lesson I retained) that relationships require a certain degree of compromise. However, by constantly being the one to compromise and adapt I became so completely bent out-of-shape that I lost who I truly was in the relationship. I did a reverse-Pygmalion project on myself, trying to become the person I thought my husband wanted, without even consciously realizing that this is what I was doing [in comes inferior Fe to show me what I was missing].
Lesson learned. Don’t try to be someone you are not. Don’t try to fit into the “SJ” world (edit: unless you are SJ, of course). Live according to your type and live up to your potential.