(WHAT'S NEW: 10/23/15--I've been away for a good bit grappling with new challenges and the next stage of life struggles. But I'm coming back with a new article, and a new idea! It's about the INTP drive for creation and achievement. Along with the new article, I'd like to create a page dedicated to INTPs supporting other INTPs in business. If you need a product or service, why not go to another INTP?? You know will get a person who understands your approach to the world!)
I often get asked how I came by the INTP observations that I have shared here. Were they a lifelong effort? A professional interest? Or just something I sat down and wrote recently? The short answer is that they are the result of a long, personal journey.
First, let me say that I do not have formal psychology training. I have a graduate degree in law and an undergraduate BA with a Latin major and an English minor. In additional to my career as a lawyer and health care executive, I have many wide-ranging interests (or "hobbies") as other INTPs do, and one of those interests is psychology. I've studied various topics over the years, including Myers-Briggs. But even there, I'm left wanting more. Myers-Briggs is a very good way to describe and categorize differences among people in how they function and orient themselves to the world. However, it's a bit philosophical and based heavily on phrases, which are inherently imprecise. Words like "introverted thinking" and "extroverted feeling" are not terribly descriptive, and people waste far too much time debating their meanings without delving to the mechanics of our brains and bodies beneath them. Let's face it. We are life forms motorized by a complex neurological system. What is happening at that neurological level when we think in one way versus another? When we feel and react to emotions? That's the level that I'm interested in penetrating to. What is going on within us at the most basic, fundamental level? Of course, that's what INTPs do. Tunnel back to the origin of things, then trace out the ever-branching ways they fit into, and affect, the workings of the world.
So, let me tell you a little about me. I was born an only child, and I liked it, but it was often lonely. I quickly learned that if I was going to hang out with someone other than myself, I needed to attract them to me and keep them interested. I had no built-in, mandatory playmates in my house, so I had to earn them. (Well, except our dog that would bite me if I bugged it too much). I became hyper-attuned to how my actions affected others. Certain things made people like me, and certain things pushed them away or made me look like a freak. I learned to moderate and shape my outward behavior to draw in the people I wanted to spend time with. And I was consciously aware of what I was doing.
Later, as I gained experience and observations, I realized that I wasn't like the people around me. I had a strong desire to gain knowledge and understanding. About everything. I was quick witted and very adept at language and pointing out things that others didn't see. No one shared my wide interests, so I really didn't have others to talk to about them. Even my parents thought me odd, and yet, I found myself often put in the position of leader or mentor, even though I never actively sought those roles. That also applied to my parents, which is a strange position to be in at a young age. (Come to think of it, my father equally resented it.)
In college and afterward, I became more aware and upset by my lack of deep connections with others. I had this sense that "my people" were out there somewhere, if only I could find them. I wasn't very good at maintaining long term friends. I did, however, meet and fall in love with an idealist (INFJ), and after we were married, a sizable percentage of my goals were turned to succeeding in life with her (i.e., career, house, children, etc.) But as the speed and load of that building-a-life stage slowed, I began to linger again on my skewed relationships with others, and ultimately, disappointments and frustrations. The more people I met that I did not jive with, the more confounded I became. I was very good at molding myself to them, but they were abysmal at the reverse, if they tried at all. On the positive side, I psychoanalyzed everyone I could get my hands on. And I don't mean from a distance. I was pretty bold about delving into issues with them and asking probing questions. People often commented that talking to me was like therapy. I appreciated the insights I gained, but I was also happy to help see new angles if I could.
All of this time, I was also analyzing myself relentlessly. I thought I was figuring it out well, but somewhere in my thirties, I realized something was off. The equations ultimately weren't balancing. There was an angle I was missing. But what? I started to think that maybe I was flawed or broken, and no one seemed to be similar enough to me to help sort out what was going on. That's when I realized I had to turn all of my efforts into a major change of perspective. I needed to pry my logical brain away from INTP constructs and biases. I worked on objectifying myself. Seeing a larger view. I had to break out of the old, comfortable constructs that I was wrapped in and blinded by.
After a couple of breakthroughs, the number one INTP blind spot that I found was the role of emotion in my life, and how I was handling it in a warped way. That's why my articles read quite differently than the usual Spock-from-Vulcan-lack-of-emotion INTP explanations. And also why real life INTPs say my explanations capture the truth, while the general articles don't. I saw how my way of grabbing onto emotions and anxiety and deconstructing them to find (illusory) universal truth was causing me to make some grave mistakes. But you see the problem, right? When our INTP nature itself digs the hole we fall into, INTP tools only dig us deeper. They are not calibrated to lift us out. Under the influence of these blind spots, you can spend years upon years wandering that dark forest of grinding confusion. If you're reading this site, you've probably spent time there yourself. And you know it's insidious and demoralizing.
So these observations have been a lifelong process for me. Writing them down helped to crystallize them and fill them out. By publishing these articles, I was able to confirm that other INTPs feel the same way. Now, I offer them here as help in stamping out the INTP blind spots. If my mistakes can alleviate some of your struggles in being INTP, then maybe my darker times can lead to something good.