A month of INTP-flavored abstinence

My mind has been so active lately. For example, I’ve been averaging one or two dreams/nightmares a day for the last month and a half since I came home from Europe. Quite unusual. My subconscious, via instinct, has been regularly delivering me the answers to some very hard questions. My instinct used to speak to me about once a year, so it’s been a very noticeable change from that. Although my everyday situation in life remains stagnant, I’ve been learning so much through cognition that my writing, my dialogue with friends, counseling, and so on can barely keep up with the content my mind is sifting through. There are so many thoughts that need checking. One does not simply accept what their intuition tells them when the conclusions are so novel relative to one’s experience. “How can I know this?” is a common one. But I digress.

All this thinking is a distraction from the work I must complete. Much of it is misused. I cannot stop thinking, so it seems what I naturally do is redirect it to what is convenient for my lazy and impulsive conscious mind. One of my worst behaviors by far is to fixate on hobbies and adopt compulsive projects in order to procrastinate and distract myself. I need to work on that big time. I’m not sure I’ll be able to follow through, but I have to try. I cannot back down from a challenge that I know to have such important consequences if I succeed. I will try and that’s what matters the most. I refuse to stop trying, even if it’s just trying to try.

For a month, I’ll abstain (read: try to abstain) from pursuing any projects describable by any of these terms: weird, crazy, obsessive, stupid. That pretty much rules out all of them. Only piano practice, blogging, and cooking will be permitted as possible exemptions. I must spend more time confronting the work that makes me uncomfortable but is important to my goals. I must lean into that discomfort and try to understand it and accept it.


Brilliant or stupid?

INTPs love ideas. We love ideas for their own sake. Why pursue happiness when you can pursue ideas? These ideas don’t have to be practical or useful to be beautiful. We are known for having numerous hobbies and projects, and an absolutely dismal completion rate for these projects. When we stick to one thing for an extended amount of time, we tend to get bored and end up switching to something else. The saying “the proof is in the pudding” does not seem to apply to us, because coming up with the idea is often enough satisfaction for us as it is. Taking such tendencies to the extreme, such as too frequently allowing the brain its dopamine hit without actually having achieved anything, can lead to problems such as chronic procrastination, addictive behaviors, and attention disorders. Another natural consequence of our admiration for ideas, especially if we don’t engage in enough disciplined practice, is that we don’t get as good at carrying out our elaborate plans. This means that when we have an exceptionally precious idea, that we’re determined to bring to life without question, there may well be a deficit in skill and a resulting mismatch between what we dreamed and what we end up with.

Enthusiasm, ideals, optimism, and naivety are usually what inspire me to make my ideas happen. But the work involved is almost always harder than initially imagined, and what tends to happen is that I trade in my feelings for that logical state to keep me focused. At some point near completion, I’ll realize I’ve lost the ability to appreciate the beauty and context of the original idea. Maybe my work disappoints me. Maybe the idea was silly all along—how did I ever think this idea was genius?

Feelings become inaccessible. Introspection is silent. Emotions do not compute. But I’ve come so far and put so much into the work; I can finish it and I might as well. Trust in the self that could see the beautiful forest before, even if I can only see ugly trees now. The idea always turns out to be brilliant or stupid, and before you finish the project both outcomes seem simultaneously probable. What is this, quantum physics? Why can’t the idea just be mediocre? Why does sustained effort always have this emotional cost?

The story I cannot tell my friends

Q: How was your trip in Europe?

It turns out that denying that I took a trip at all is not so viable. It seems my subconscious strategy is to tell people what they would kind of expect, which bores them the fastest until they’re convinced that they’re not missing anything interesting, and we never have to talk about it again.

If I could share my story in a way that resonates with me, purely for my own emotional benefit and without consideration for the listener, this is probably what I’d want to say.

It was a big deal. My god, I was so happy. It was fun and challenging and confusing and scary. I learned so much about life and about myself. But I never expected or planned to be happy there, and the stark contrast with my social life at home has left me deeply confused and conflicted.

No questions please.

Maybe one day…

Wrapping up the social distance experiment

Quite a success, I’d say.

In response to a particularly rough week in terms of handling emotions, this past week I’ve engaged in an experiment where I’ve tried to reduce interactions that cause unnecessary emotions. I tried to: not initiate contact with friends, abstain from using empathy around people, stop feeling the need to explain myself, and avoid making new acquaintances. Maybe most importantly, I decided to practice being selfish in the way I view friends.

Actually, I violated the terms of the experiment many times. The good thing is that it was always in the back of my mind, my behavior was more conservative, and I simply acknowledged the times when I really wanted to break the rules. I never expected to follow it to a tee, knowing that in the end awareness is the key.

The experiment was successful in that sense. In fact, I made a very significant breakthrough that has been holding me back in forming deeper connections with my existing friends. The specifics do not matter, but my assumptions from one long-term friendship of questionable value was holding me back from all my other friendships. The context of my experiment finally allowed me to recognize and acknowledge my fundamental dissatisfaction in that friendship—which is a feeling that I had been failing to process from a logical and practical point of view for quite some time.

When a long-standing assumption or branch of logic is collapsed in its entirety (in the INTP mind), it often triggers a whole series of re-evaluations and further chains of propagation. There is a sudden clarity to me about the kind of social interactions I desire, and what I think of as high quality interactions. In the past it wasn’t easy to acknowledge desire (for fear of disappointment or rebuke), but even if I’m past that it’s still not always easy to know what you want after neglecting and being out of touch with your own needs for most of your life.

Naturally, my emotions have also been more grounded this past week. I certainly haven’t been avoiding emotions; rather, I’ve given them adequate space while making sure they don’t cause a mess by interacting with each other too much. Gosh, it sounds like I’m raising emotions like a caregiver or something.