Marc's INTJ Blog

My Opinions on Meditation and Mindfulness

Monday December 3, 2018

The final reader question for today:

“Mindfulness meditation and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Familiar? Tried either or both? Found any value in them? Recommend anything instead?”

Yes, I spent a lot of time learning and practicing mindfulness meditation and self-hypnosis when I was in my 20s and 30s. I don’t know as much about ACT except what I’ve read in the last 5 minutes in diagrams found on a DuckDuckGo image search. :-)

First: If you haven’t tried it, don’t let me stand in your way. One big INTJ weak point is “experiencing”—just getting hands on and seeing how it goes. That’s important.

But second—and in my humble opinion: You have to watch out for the “Be Like Them” elements in this work. Linda Berens said that personality type helps us answer two big problems: “Be Like Them,” when we feel we need to be more like others in order to succeed, and “Be Like Me,” when we feel we need others to be more like us so they can be successful.

To some degree depending on the teacher, the method, etc., mindfulness and grounding-meditation work is teaching you to be more like another, more sensory, personality type. Frequently it’s essentially instructing you to take the role of the ISFP, the ESFP, someone like that.

Well, this clearly has its limits. I found some relief in it, but I also found that the work was like a one-trick pony for me. If I had a problem which could be better solved by being present and mindful, I had a problem which, by definition, wasn’t a good match for my natural problem-solving skills. So: OK, I’ll try my best.

However I personally found (after I spent all that time learning to be mindful!) that by intentionally identifying the more INTJ-soluble areas of the problem set first, I could gain leverage more quickly, my happy brain chemicals shot up, and POOF I didn’t need therapy or medications anymore. [Note: This POOF sound effect is more of a reference to the surprising potency of the action, and I don’t mean to suggest that it worked overnight or anything like that. I’d say 3-5 years of study and practice got me to those really important outcomes.]

Since that time, I’m less mindful in that particular therapeutic, sensory sense overall, but I’m more generally mindful of the needs of my psychology and I’m a happier person. I like to combine contexts, like using a calm walk (sensory) to sort through the various metaphors that are apparent to my intuition (intuitive work). In this way I can intuitively feel that I’m covering the various mindfulness bases.

I’m also kind of, a little bit disappointed that mindfulness exercises (again I’m not sure about ACT) aren’t able to easily meet people on their own ground. You have to jump over into mindfulness-land, and then go through the exercises, and then decide if it works. My personal Jungian-oriented coaching models are effective because of exactly this—we can meet you where you’re at. I generally build a model for where my clients are at, then I start to work with them from that exact location.

Well anyway—give it a shot. And if you tried ACT, let me know what you think. From the charts I’m seeing and a little bit of follow-up research, here are the functions I’d associate with the various elements:

- Be Here Now (Present): Extraverted Sensing
- Values (What’s Important): Introverted Feeling
- Committed Action (Do What Matters): Extraverted Sensing-valuing
- Self as Context (Notice): Extraverted Sensing
- Defusion (Watch Your Thinking): Introverted Intuition
- Acceptance (Open Up): Extraversion in general

So yeah, if you’re an INTJ, maybe this is oriented toward your ESFP side, which isn’t bad or good, but good to know about!

What I really like to see are therapeutic models that are grounded in the 8 functions, or the theory behind the functions. I guess this is why I’m (not a therapist, but) a Jungian-oriented coach. For example, teaching Sensory grounding and mindfulness on the one hand, while allowing for a deep iNtuitive recession into the rich inner world of metaphor on the other. Or, encouraging the researching and organizing Thinking functions, coupled with attention toward the warmer world of Feeling, both expressive and impressive, both group- and individual-values-based.

Can you imagine, in the current popular therapeutic context, a therapist who encourages an INTJ to think more like an INTJ, but as a more effective, more educated INTJ? I can’t and never found one who did—such was the emphasis on feelings and sensations.

Well, if you’re feeling impatient with the resources at hand, don’t give up hope, there’s always another option, another person or practice to try. Finding a therapeutic model that is helpful is often just a matter of finding the right relational psychology, something that’s between you and the individual therapist. From there, the model they use is typically warped and molded until it fits your friendship, rather than the other way around. :-)

How to Deal With Ever-increasing Expectations of the Self

Monday December 3, 2018

Another reader question:

“Ratcheting expectations”, how do you beat them? I’ve done a lot of impressive stuff, but I frequently judge that I can/should be doing more, or can/should have done more. This is described well in Please Understand Me (p189).”

The first big goal here is awareness. So congratulations. It is now on your radar, and you have the ability to make a full range of experimental decisions for dealing with the problem.

My general recommendation here is to treat it like you are a Starship Enterprise crew dealing with a foreign object. Use that INTJ gift of metaphor and ask yourself what physical object the set of expectations most resembles.

Then ask the various members of your crew: How should we respond? Listen to them in turn. And most importantly, try out their suggestions! This is really the introverted intuition (Ni) approach to this problem. Ni is the INTJ’s dominant function and ought to be very helpful—take it as deep as you like, because that’s what the introverted functions are meant to do.

As you process this, keep a log or a simple journal. Try to get at the nuance and establish levels. Maybe Level 0 is “I have to do this whole thing perfectly.” Maybe Level 1 is “I will engage with my audience and assess their most basic needs, and only speak to those.” And so on.

The driving function here is Se, extraverted sensing. The ever-broadening search for high-impact results. This gets all tangled up with Si, introverted sensing, the need for a high-quality result, something of lasting consequence. Our sensing functions can tag-team us in this way, leading to a spiral of productivity exhaustion. As a response, use your big-picture thinking to keep coming back to that big picture. Address the problem as a whole, like you have in this question. Then when you drill down into it, apply the big-picture lessons you’ve learned from the metaphor. If the metaphor you received is that this problem is a piece of space junk—maybe that’s all you need to know. If the metaphor calls for an away team and more sensation of its various properties, that’s helpful, too. But all of this work is directed by the intuitive side, rather than the sensory side, and that’s really important to keep in mind.

Teaching Feelings to INTJ Children, as an INTJ Parent

Monday December 3, 2018

Another reader question:

“Are any of your kids INTJs? How do you relate to them? What are you teaching them about feelings? I think my middle son is an INTJ. Neither of my parents were, nor peers, so my childhood was characterized by feeling misunderstood and excluded. I think the sameness between me and him is going to somewhat ironically lead to two totally divergent life experiences.”

Sorry to hear about the more frustrating aspects of your childhood there…it did resonate with me.

Personally I don’t have any INTJ children; mine are ISTP, ISFJ, and ENFP. And I love them all very, very much, and they teach me tons about psychology every day. Phew. :-)

However, I am the INTJ child of an INTJ father, and my father had no idea what an INTJ was. Overall he was pretty unhealthy in terms of his psychological disposition, and really suffered unnecessarily. Still, hundreds of people showed up at his memorial after he died, and he was well-known and well-loved in the community. He did a lot of things right.

I grew up as a Turbulent (T) INTJ. My father was more of an Assertive (A) INTJ. I personally push myself very hard toward flexibility, change, and self-improvement. He pushed himself very hard toward some combination of the ISTJ and ESTP directions, and was heavily invested in sensory work without knowing about the toll that takes on an INTJ. Where I push toward flexibility, he pushed himself toward rigidity and right-behavior (usually the production of sensory output—write that book, buckle down and do it!)

Unfortunately, my father also taught me by his example that feelings are meant to be repressed. When I was about twelve or thirteen, I remember my mom (ESFP) crying emotionally while recalling the loss of my brother, some 20 years after he had passed (this brother was a much older sibling than me). I was sitting in the car, a pile of programming and IT and history books next to me, waiting for my parents to drive me from our upscale neighborhood to some community event. My dad, who had experienced this sort of situation on and off at this point for 20 years, simply responded, “stop it. STOP IT. STOP IT.” He grew louder and more angry as the exchange went on, and it was incredibly awkward to hear this broadcast across my otherwise peaceful neighborhood as my parents stood in front of our garage.

This experience doesn’t really describe my “normal” dad, except at points where his life experience intersected with that extraverted character of emotion which was so annoying to him. It was not at all comfortable and he had little education in its subtleties. It was logically silly, and nothing could be done, and those events were far behind us, so “STOP IT” was about all he could come up with.

I am grateful, personally, that I had a more nuanced education in emotion in the years following. I spent a lot of time in therapy (for what I know understand to be productivity exhaustion) and if you’ve been to therapy before, the subject of feelings and emotions is usually very well covered.

If I had an INTJ son, I’d teach him the same way I try to teach my current kids about feelings. I’d teach him by example that feelings are GREAT! They are not and will never be the only perspective on things, but wow. They are awesome. They are a powerful problem-solving tool. And they are OK.

I can’t even go into how effective the feeling functions are, how transformative they are. Most importantly—they’re just a fact of life. You can try to work around them, or work against them, but the moment you do, society and your personal problems will effectively turn against you and you can’t blame society or your psychology for that. So it’s best to get a good grounding in feelings. Learn to attend to them and use them like you would the controls of a fighter jet. INTJ Dario Nardi’s book, 8 Keys to Self-leadership, contains two chapters on the feeling functions Fi and Fe that are excellent material for a nuanced education in feelings.

> I think the sameness between me and him is going to somewhat ironically lead to two totally divergent life experiences

Yes, you are probably right. I have observed that the same-type parent with a same-type child experiences something similar. No matter how much they try to raise them to be a clone (tongue in cheek)…the kid just kind of goes “been there done that, and it’s basically eye-roll ‘dad territory’” (even if unconsciously) and you’re out of luck. :-)

Some Points on Love Languages & Physical Touch

Monday December 3, 2018

While I wait for Thunderbird to synchronize 250K emails (oh dear—but I got so sick of the new GMail interface), I’ll be addressing some questions from a reader in the next few blog posts. The first question goes like this:

“Love languages. My primary love language is physical touch. Have you observed that being common among INTJs? Have you observed that INTJs stumble on it, thinking of themselves as solitary, not taking steps to get some touch in their lives?”

Yes, physical touch is a common one for INTJs due to inferior Se (extraverted sensing, the psychological function that balances out our heavy use of introverted intuition on the opposite side of things).

We’re in our heads, receiving intuition, really out of touch and not “present” and all of a sudden there’s this feeling of “I just want to hook up with everyone I see”—that’s one way an INTJ explained it to me once. And there are many ways to experience this, but overall the preference for physical touch in a romance is common for INTJs as far as I can tell.

However #1, I’ve also seen this change. Inferior Se and its needs tend to be most intense when we aren’t getting where we need to go in life, when we are really spinning our wheels. I’ve seen INTJs switch into a more capable problem-solving situation (ahem: Get coaching, it helps) and suddenly quality time is more important to them. Long walks to talk about things, one-on-one dates to go explore the community; that sort of stuff.

However #2, this can also change based on the context. Sure, maybe the INTJ wanted cuddle time before they got out of bed in the morning, but right now, right when they’re about to finish the last function on the spreadsheet, or hit Publish on the latest edition of their web comic? Ewwww, don’t touch me, it feels like I’m being assaulted!

So there’s more than enough room for nuance in this, and I think that nuance is super-important to explore. If your partner says they don’t like your preferred love language, watch for times when they actually do. Ask: Why? What’s different? Don’t force it, just observe. This can lead to relationship breakthroughs.

Good question. Next!

Marc's INTJ Podcast Episode 5, November 9, 2018

Friday November 9, 2018

The latest Marc’s INTJ Podcast is up!

Direct MP3 Download | Apocalyptic Contingency Storage Resource Container Reference Link

Listen along as I discuss:

…and more! Enjoy!

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”
— John Muir (Quote found on Michael S. Schneider’s website, above—this is THE great Ne / extraverted intuition idea: All things are connected!)

New Podcast Format! Topical Training Podcast Episode 001, October 26, 2018

Friday October 26, 2018

Thanks to listener feedbck, there are now two formats for my INTJ podcasts: Regular Format and Topical Training. Topical Training podcasts discuss one topic for 15 minutes, including exercises for improved use. Regular Format podcasts will be a bit looser and discuss various topics, with a bit more fun thrown in.

And here’s the first Topical Training episode, on standards-setting for personal growth.

Direct MP3 Download | Apocalyptic Contingency Storage Resource Container Reference Link

Listen along as I discuss:

  • Setting standards for personal growth
  • Beating procrastination by establishing standards for progress
  • Setting standards for others
  • Working with other personality types with standards-setting as a bridge
  • Remaining open to altering or refining our standards
  • Using standards as a more tactful way to communicate “you’re doing it wrong and need to do better”
  • Using standards to lower your risk exposure while you try new things and become more open-minded

In terms of cognitive function, standards-setting is concerned with measurement-based judgments, and as such is part of what we call extraverted thinking, or Te. Te is the INTJ’s secondary function, one that can help us break through big problems.

More soon—enjoy the weekend.

Marc's INTJ Podcast Episode 4, October 16, 2018

Tuesday October 16, 2018

The latest Marc’s INTJ Podcast is up! Now with jazzy intro/outro!

Direct MP3 Download | Apocalyptic Contingency Storage Resource Container Reference Link

Listen along as I discuss:


A Non-research Exercise, on Research

Wednesday October 10, 2018

Let’s say you’re playing a role-playing game where your player-character is a really good researcher.

As a result, every time you roll the dice while solving a problem, bonus points are added to your roll if your solution involves research.

  • How does this change the way you play the game?
  • How does this change the way you interact with others in the game?
  • How does this change the way you manage your time in-game?
  • What do you do when you confront a problem that’s not amenable to research?
  • How would other characters see your role? Are they right or wrong? How much does it matter?
  • Any other insights?

If you have time, write or talk out your own answers. I’ll add my own answers later, too.

By the Way--About Careers: Think Roles

Thursday October 4, 2018

Very few people arrive at a “right career” in advance, let alone at any point in their actual career.

The happiest INTJs I know are not thinking about whether they’ve arrived at the right career.

The happiest INTJs are the ones who are able to confront problems and solve problems. They are engaged in a problem-solving role. That effort and reasonable return-on-effort is what is making them happy.

In terms of career progress, I have observed that INTJs are happiest when they progress toward an effective and comfortable role, rather than progressing toward some kind of pre-labeled career. You want to be a “scientist”? Great! You can do that anywhere so start defining the role with more clarity. Not the job title, not the business sector—define the role.

The nice thing about “role-thinking” is that it applies post-retirement just as well as it applies to any other context. It’s not limited to the way you’re making money. You can describe your role right now (e.g. “chair-sitter-writer-thinker”, but it should be a lot more leverage-able than a simple one like that) and overlay that role onto any responsibility, for a view on how that responsibility matches your capabilities and preferred problem-solving mode, and how it will require you to stretch.

There’s a lot to be said about roles, but try thinking in those terms—a fitting role, or fitting roles, plural—next time you evaluate your career.

The Problem with Becoming More Grounded, More Social, and Less Weird

Thursday October 4, 2018

I occasionally hear from INTJs who are upset at themselves for “being so aloof” or for avoiding social experiences. And while it’s good to give consideration to that possibility, that’s also extremely risky territory.

If you’re really certain you’re aloof and not just giving reasonably-confident attention to your core INTJ gifts, I can see why it would be wise to work on that, to bring in some more balance. You may be able to be more effective with other people and with the outside world in general, as a result.

However, a problem I see a lot of INTJs dealing with around midlife is that we can give so much attention to our failings in social situations or in those more “grounded” contexts, that we get completely sucked into solving this problem. So sucked in that we forget who we are.

So it is risky to do this without defining a method for securing and attending to our inner world, our core INTJ gifts, as we do so. This is the same absolutely vital inner world that is constantly bringing distant signals to our attention, the inner world that speaks distant and long-sought-out truths to us, often through unclear metaphor which can take a lot of time and energy to sort out.

As a result of setting this gift aside, that richness and depth of problem-solving capability can dry up, and we lose our mooring—not with reality (or “objectively sensed experience”), but our mooring with the unseen truths and what some refer to as the cosmic side of it all. Those unattended inner truths, in a very basic and immature form, can then begin to manifest themselves through very concrete unwanted behaviors and outcomes in our lives. In our sickness, in our suffering, we then become a living metaphor of the way we have unintentionally mistreated some of our most valuable cognitive functions.

At the same time, others who cannot experience this, or who repress the subject of our INTJ gifts due to their own functional dynamics, cheer us on, telling us it’s good that we’re lightening up, or it’s good that we are more social.

We need to be able to take those outside comments for what they are—perspectives from people who are attending to a different set of gifts.

One difficult truth here is that no matter how unmoored it may seem when cast in relation to “objective” (e.g. socially-defined) reality, the INTJ’s hidden world is absolutely full of promise and treasure if the INTJ is willing to explore and develop it.

It’s deceptively easy to leave our dominant function at a basic level while we shore up other functions, without later returning to develop that dominant function to a significant degree. In my experience it is extremely rare to meet INTJs who have developed their intuition to a high level, and I think part of the problem is that the outside world, society, is not generally comfortable with the idea of encouraging that sort of growth. However, this kind of growth will only make everyone stronger and allow a more resilient and mature human society to evolve.

IMHO it is a good idea to find a way to balance out the attention to the various functions and objectives with some reasonable weighting and additional emphasis given to our most gifted cognitive processes —and to look on this as a system to be evaluated from the outside-in, periodically. We don’t need to let ourselves be blown about by winds of social criticism, but we can still take those points of view into consideration and adjust our personal system while trusting in our overall process.

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