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.