An engineering problem

In class four years ago, I heard the story of how Shigeo Shingo (supposed creator of the SMED approach) was able to overcome the limitations implied by Harris’ Economic Order Quantity. The idea he applied was simple, but at the same time, it blew my mind the way the story was told.

You don’t always have to accept your limitations as they are implied (or even defined) by math or science. Sometimes you have the ability to change your limitations, and via that change you can replace your old limitations with new limitations that you’ve consciously defined.

As I read over my summary, I feel like it’s both ridiculously obvious and yet profound at the same time; on a logical level, it boils down to almost nothing.

For most of my life, I’ve been unaware of the concept of emotion. Needless to say, I didn’t understand what my own emotional, social, and other well-being needs were, or that they were important at all. Then, three years ago, I became aware of the world of emotion. I learned that these needs exist, and that emotions have to be acknowledged and processed in some way in order for them to not build up until they become overwhelming. But in part, I overcompensated for my history of emotional repression. I respected some emotions too much, gave them too much free rein, and even glorified them while continuing to deny other emotions that were more uncomfortable but equally important. I must change that, and I believe that I can. What I’m trying to do could well be the hardest thing I will ever do in my life, or it could be my ultimate ruin.

I have all these external psychological needs that are all but tangible and that I struggle to meet. I’ve tried for a long time to change the circumstances and manipulate the external factors in order to meet these demands. But it doesn’t work in the long-term, and the practical costs are exorbitant. It’s never enough. This is an engineering problem, and the solution is to effect a change in my internal workings such that the available external resources are rendered sufficient for my new internal needs.

Congratulate me on accepting my new job?

I won’t mince my words: my brain is messed up, from the higher levels of abstraction down to the chemical level. Coming from a background of lifelong emotional suppression and addiction, I have long suspected it and yet I’m still surprised by the details of this conclusion. There’s an adage that we have to be particularly mindful about what new vice replaces the old one we’re trying to overcome. After reading about how to process emotions, I’ve confirmed one of my least favorite hypotheses about my life:

It’s not enough for me to make smart decisions; I must work hard to embody the things I believe in.

When I was introduced to the world of emotions three years ago, I learned to find out what makes me feel good. But my sources didn’t really discuss balance and the bigger picture, so I’ve now realized that I’ve been unknowingly regulating my emotions in an unhealthy manner on a daily basis for years. It seems I typically either over-regulate my negative emotions or try to manipulate myself into feeling positive emotions and then under-regulate those positive emotions. This is my addiction, and it’s very very bad for discipline, willpower, motivation, or any of the things that drive us to work towards our goals.

In light of this information, I must accept my new full-time role as supervisor of my mind and body. There is no other way. I must find out what makes me feel uncomfortable. I must learn to accept that discomfort and operate towards my goals regardless of it. I must switch off the music to my ears. I must be willing to abandon everything I think I know, once again, and purge aspects of my behavior that I may have mistaken for my personality. I’m scared. I’m terrified. But I must be brave. I know this is what needs to be done.

If this is what I am right now, it’s not like I have anything worth losing in the first place; there is no tragedy in this.

Self-reflection; a cause for experiment

“I care about you but I don’t give a shit what you think about me.”

The past week has been an emotional whirlwind. I guess out of naivety more than anything, I ended up testing the idea of being yourself, allowing your vulnerabilities to be seen by others and owning it. Although I learned a lot in the aftermath of being judged online and trying to decipher constructive criticism from veiled superiority, it was definitely not an experience I would like to repeat. I’m able to dismiss abuse and horrible labels, but the cases where semi-intelligible criticisms turn out to primarily serve the ego of the advice giver, these do kind of get to me because it takes being open to vulnerability to sincerely evaluate these messages, only to discover inauthenticity in a more refined state.

Although this poor experience, especially in an online environment, does not represent what may happen in real life interactions, I don’t think further testing is necessary. INTPs are born by nature to be disliked by the greater good, and that is separate from whether we should choose to serve it. It’s down to the way we think, no matter how normal we can learn to act on the outside. It cannot be inauthentic to distance yourself from people in general if that is required to maintain your own well-being. This is a lesson that has taken me a year to figure out for myself. It will take a while yet to become more comfortable with it too.

In Europe, I re-discovered a huge part of myself that has not seen light of day since I was a small kid. It felt like I opened Pandora’s box; if there was an INTP version then Pandora’s box probably contains emotions and feelings. This is not the first time I’ve opened such a box, but boy, I certainly didn’t expect to find a second. In fact, it kind of ruined many of my plans. I half-expected everything I learned in Europe to stay put, but that didn’t happen. On returning home it was a collision of two worlds—mostly peaceful—but I still have to figure out how to sort this mess and clear out what end up classifying as garbage.

A key difference between traveling and normal life is that when traveling you’ll meet and interact with people that you’ll never see again. In a way, the consequences of how you treat these people are irrelevant to you because they’re externalized, whereas at home it’s a small world and your actions may come to affect you and others with observable long-term effects. The idea that you can do whatever you want in another country with people you’ll never see again, that actually makes me feel more safe about expressing kindness, whether or not it is appreciated. Not being around to see the repercussions is good, because I don’t grow attached (and I don’t have the ability to care).

Unfortunately, arriving home, realizing and coming to terms with the fact that I still have friends from the trip—people who I have grown to care about—is rough. When people get to know a certain part of me, I care too much. I’m too emotionally sensitive. And this contrasts greatly with my logical side, which craves a bit more sanity in everyday life. It’s hard for me to maintain a healthy middle ground, and while switching between the two is possible, it’s still chaotic.

Friends are resources that you invest in for long-term benefits. That’s how most people seem to behave, and I should do well to learn that. The whole feelings and attachment thing is counterproductive and just gets in the way. No one feels the same way I do, and no one appreciates it, not even me. It’s a lose-lose thing.

I’ve learned a lot about this week about my state of progress. This new sense of emotional awareness is dangerous. The effort I’ve put into developing my emotional maturity has made a difference, but all the same the things I have to deal with now have escalated beyond my current capabilities. Human interaction affects my mood. My mood affects my emotions and feelings. Strong feelings get overwhelming and distract me from things that matter more. If I can’t process all these feelings, the logical solution is to limit the source, which really comes down to human interaction.

I need to be more selfish. I need to stop caring so much. I need to realize that what people think of me, especially my friends, is irrelevant. People and friends are just resources, nothing more and nothing less. It is extremely difficult for me to adopt such a mantra, and yet I feel like it’s the healthy thing to do.

I care about you but I don’t give a shit what you think about me.

But to really test my theory, over the next week, I will: not initiate contact with friends, abstain from using empathy around people, stop feeling the need to explain myself, and avoid making new acquaintances. The outcome of the experiment does not even matter so much as the distance I’m trying to create and the audacity of continuing to take risks for the benefit of learning, even if it only makes sense to myself.