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How an INTJ can fight depression behavior

Wednesday December 2, 2015

I wrote a little about depression behavior for INTJs on Reddit today and then really wanted to expand on it, including some possible solutions.

First, an important update: Where I’m at with Depression and How I Cure it Every Time and Some Notes and Tips on Productivity Exhaustion may be useful to you.

Second, a quick article to read afterwards: Modeling and Detecting, Important INTJ Skills — this article illustrates some methods of getting started on your own journey toward conquering depression.

I like to say that INTJs have to write their own self-help book. We seem to learn by struggling through things to eventually get at the root principles. So here are some possibilities for help, some guidance. I don’t expect you to put it into effect all at once, but please try to keep an open mind and try some of the items below if they pique your interest.

How to fight depression’s loneliness: Interrupting your self-sequestering behavior

To fight loneliness, you may be able to actively take this on. Some INTJs are able to force themselves to bring balance back to their life and include more social activities. They see the problem, then they do something about it. So consider coming up with your own plan for getting balance:

  1. Identify some low-impact, relatively easy, friendship and social activities
  2. If you exercise alone, see if you can do it in a place where you might have an “accidental” encounter with another person
  3. Move away from “extremely-high impact exercise or nothing” mindset. Go on a short walk, for example, or re-visualize and reorganize your bedroom.
  4. If possible, include values-based activities, like spiritual community participation, community volunteering, etc.

If you feel like being around other people will just make you feel worse, you may be right—for now. Consider tracking the severity of your symptoms; this will give you an opening to make your first steps toward more socially-outgoing behavior when your depression symptoms aren’t as severe.

How to fight existential angst during times of depression

To fight existential angst, therapy can be a great option if available. If possible, it’s best to meet with a therapist who is a good match for your personality type. As you meet with a therapist, ask yourself—are they:

  • Extravert, or Introvert?
  • Thinker, or Feeler?
  • Intuitive, or Sensate?
  • Perceiver, or Judger?

Here is a helpful chart for reference.

If the therapist’s personality type is not a good match, you might end up with someone who might have helpful tools for you, but delivers them in a strange (to you) way, or someone who encourages you to develop gifts that they possess rather than discovering your own gifts.

Identifying and scrutinizing unhealthy world concepts

I find mind mapping to be a great way of getting mental imagery on paper. This helps you get your thoughts out in a concrete way, so your thinking brain can begin to categorize, systematize, organize, and solve problems.

Ask yourself: What does your vision of the depressing world look like? Why does it look like that? Are there some big pressures on you right now? (School, work, family, etc., list them)

Have you had any recent experiences that led you to think in this direction? (Watching a depressing film, hearing some sad news, reading an apocalyptic novel, or whatever)

What would help you get objective data in this area? For example, someone else’s perspective. The fact that others are positive tells us there may be things out there worth being positive about, no matter how much we feel the opposite is true.

In that case: If you don’t want to write the final papers, don’t do it. Quit school and figure out something else to do. Or change majors. Or put school on hold while you start a business. See? Fixed your depression. (You may laugh, but I’ve seen this work. The depression usually stops instantly.)

If anybody can quit school, it’s an INTJ, the master contingency planner.

University Admin A: “The objectives and targets always came from us. Who’s giving them to him now?”
University Admin B: “Scary version? He is.”
— Slightly-modified Bourne Supremacy quote. (Bourne is a good INTJ)

Fighting thoughts of suicide

Regarding thoughts of suicide, I’ll make a couple of general points:

First: Immediate help such as an outside-ask and things like suicide hotlines are available. An outside-ask is where you ask someone for help. You can go to the hospital, or ask someone you trust. Sometimes even hanging around them will help. Regarding suicide hotlines, people recommend this like it’s some sort of emergency eject button, but some report it doesn’t help them. I have never tried it myself. Still, if you are thinking of suicide, you might as well keep your options open and that may include calling a suicide hotline service.

Second: Suicidal thoughts represent very black and white thinking, right? “Things will never go well and I’m doomed to repeat the same patterns over and over.” or, “Success and fulfillment now or imminent death.” It’s almost comically hyperbolic.

Maturity is marked by solving problems with nuance rather than black and white thinking. So, give yourself permission to do a full range of things before seriously going suicidal. For example, quitting school. Wouldn’t it be better to do that than die? Or, before quitting school, changing majors. Or, before changing majors, taking medical leave or meeting with a counselor in person.

Often, counselors will refuse to discuss online if you’re suicidal. Especially via email or Skype. This is unfortunate because these are some of the easiest methods for an INTJ. So you may feel blocked by that. Just prepare yourself for it, it’s not like you’re glued to a chair in front of a computer. And you may even find that you autodidact (self-teach) your way through these issues anyway.

Psychiatry can help. Therapists and psychiatrists can make a great team.

I recommend that you keep a log of your therapeutic experiences and identify what’s working and what’s not.

Many INTJs who are first confronted by thoughts of suicide can get pretty freaked out just that the idea of suicide even came up. But consider: Your mind and body are exhausted. They need a vacation of sorts. They need support. Everybody needs those things; without them, it can be hard to bounce back from even “normal” problems. So it is freaky, that’s for sure. But don’t let yourself be too surprised. It’ll pass and you can learn to confront and overcome these feelings.

INTJs are very objective thinkers. However, our specialty feeling process is a subjective feeling process. It’s crucial to bring in measurement, like a spreadsheet, like research questions, like third-party input. All the objective stuff. Because subjective feelings can really be unreasonable and nonsensical.

View the suicidal thoughts as a sign that your mind/body wants attention now. “OK body! Sorry buddy, I’m all ears.” Don’t ignore it. Start making progress. Sometimes all you need is some proof that you are making a bit of progress. Take decisive action. Even (or especially) mundane stuff. Make a list of things you feel like doing. If you don’t feel like doing anything, get some sleep first.

There are probably some important decisions to consider, like quitting a crappy job. Be decisive, try it, see how it goes. “Now I’m back to square one, but at least I don’t want to jump off a bridge.” You’re in control of your life again. The next job will be better.

Fighting over-dependence on others for positive feedback, or for fixes to problems caused by our own behavior

INTJs can become very emotional with relationship partners, children, parents, etc. looking to them as a sort of medication. This is risky behavior for an INTJ since it conveniently masks the need to take responsibility, take control, and be creative. And INTJs are great at those things.

So dependence on others is likely to get at the wrong means of solving INTJ problems. INTJ thinking (objective research and measurement of actual data) is better than INTJ feeling for this stuff. By a long shot.

How to fight a tendency to be critical of others and their motives

To fight a tendency to be critical of others and their motives: This happens very easily if you are exhausted. So get some sleep first, or meditate. Make sure you feel rested and relatively calm. Next, start to keep a journal of progress in working on your own life. Make a list of things you need to do, and what you can do about it. As you do this, you’ll regain control, and you’ll find that your patience with others starts to come back.

It can also help to study personality type. Rather than expecting others to “know how to be an INTJ”, learn their strengths, and speak to those strengths when you communicate with them.

How to fight a loss of effectiveness at work/school tasks

To fight a loss of effectiveness at work/school tasks: Do your planning away from your computer or phone. When you arrive at the computer, have a plan in mind. I add time-wasting websites to my /etc/hosts file. This is a file you can edit with a text editor. It’s easy to add and remove sites from the list in this file.

A big danger of the computer is the reinforcement loop. You may know about this from Youtube’s video suggestion features. If you watch one video about “10 Home Improvement Tips” pretty soon it thinks you are REALLY into Home Improvement Tips. Well, our mind has an inner filter that does the same sort of thing. A computer can become just one more tool for goofing off.

You probably have a list of things you don’t wanna do. Here’s how I attack those. I call it the Three C’s: Comfort, Clarity, and Courage.

  1. Comfort: Get comfortable.
    1. If I’ve been procrastinating for a while, I probably need to use the bathroom, or hydrate, or get some quick exercise.
    2. Maybe you need to turn the lights on. Or get dressed.
    3. Do some “I wanna do” things. Maybe you want to go to the store really quick, just for 15 minutes. Set a timer, and do it.
    4. Do whatever you need to do to feel comfortable and ready to make your day better.
  2. Clarity: A key to ending the procrastination cycle is to know the details of what you need to do.
    1. Identify where your papers or list of tasks is.
    2. Gather those things.
    3. Make sure each step is written down.
    4. Write down a time estimate next to each step. There should be no step longer than 20 minutes and ideally the steps should be around 2-7 minutes each. This way you really know the details and it’s easy to grasp your tasks.
    5. Identify the easiest things to do first.
    6. Identify the things that call out to you, the parts that seem most interesting.
    7. Now you can choose: Do you want to do the easiest parts first, or the most interesting? What’s the most interesting thing that takes the least amount of time? Things just got a lot easier.
    8. Doing the little stuff will build up “task momentum.” This is why prioritizing by “I HAVE to do this first” is dangerous. It can prevent you from taking any action at all.
  3. Courage
    1. Make a commitment. Gather your courage. Sometimes I say a prayer and ask God for help with my efforts.
    2. Consider putting on some music that helps you feel courageous and in control. Sometimes I put on a movie I’ve seen before (I’ve seen it before, so I don’t need to actively watch it), which involves action or detective work, etc. That’s the mood you want to be in: Kick butt and solve problems.
    3. Write down how you’re feeling: Ready? Or Not Ready? If you’re Not Ready, you need to go back to either Clarity or Comfort.

With this process I have solved gigantic problems. I hope it helps you, too!

As a kind-of fourth C, Communication is also huge. Tell counselors, tell professors/teachers/bosses that you’re struggling. “I’m struggling right now. If you have some feedback for me, I’d love to hear it. I’m not sure I know how to get through this at the moment. In your class/team/job I seem to be struggling most with X and Y.” Be open-minded and try everything they suggest. Report back to them how it goes.

If you can, consider the positive contribution you have made to the course so far. This is a bit more difficult for an INTJ but consider a more objective and less-depressive self-appraisal as a typical job/class expectation rather than an indulgence.

How to regain the joy found in pursuing your usual interests

To regain the joy found in pursuing your usual interests: Begin to develop your own rules for “Being the Best Me.” Write them down somewhere; keep a list. You’ll see your best side come out as you creatively develop your own list and refine it as you go, rather than (or in addition to) googling anti-depression tips like these.

I create my own rulesets and frameworks for lots of things now. Rules for being me, rules for working in the morning, working in the afternoon, rules for the end of the workday. A framework for taking vacations. And so on. It feels great. Try it. Be sure to complete the loop and refine your ideas, or go back and edit them, as you get more experience. Frameworks should gradually become more elegant over time: They should become both simpler and more powerful. Please see more in my article on “Ti”, linked below.

How to fight heavy reliance on sensory excesses

INTJs often find themselves giving into sensory excess when they feel down. This can include: Drinking, drugs, overeating, binge-watching TV or movies, binge-surfing on the web, PMO, other sensory activities (possibly undereating/overexercising too).

I call these “cave man behaviors”. You don’t have to feel guilty if you’ve been indulging in some action films while depressed and have become a sort of aficionado. Later on when you’re healthier you can criticize that behavior and call it shallow all you want, but for now it counts as a helper in some way, or your body wouldn’t be telling you to do it.

The INTJ brain-body system automatically goes here if we aren’t giving our gifts enough attention, or if we are overwhelmed. It’s a cave man response: “Gog no can figure out how to make fire. Gog go smoke a cigarette.”

You can usually attack these problems with extraverted thinking (Te) very effectively. Te is like the modern man emerging from cave man mode, to implement the amazing gifts of your INTJ brain. Look up Te and read all you can about it. But here are some tips:

  1. Keep a log of times and places where these activities occur for you. Where do you smoke? When?
    1. Look for patterns
      1. “Every day at 2 o’clock I start binging on ice cream”
    2. Analyze
      1. Oh, maybe that’s because my 5 p.m. deadline is coming and I usually haven’t done anything. I’m really anxious.
    3. Brainstorm
      1. “OK, I’ll try going to the library to work there, instead of working at home.”
      2. What other systems could you put in place that would help you? Could you test your productivity at other times? Could you experiment with team-based work?
    4. Get organized, you’re INTJ-good at it
      1. This is huge for Te—it is very good at seeing a pile of junk and turning that pile into a system.
    5. Find others who have accomplished great things with systems and organizational thinking.
      1. For example, I like the Ace Productivity podcast (not affiliated)

How to stop fighting individual symptoms and improve your life

To stop fighting individual symptoms and improve your life overall, I highly recommend that you start using Ti to develop frameworks that will help you tackle life with huge amounts of leverage. It’s not easy at first, but the better you get at it, the more motivation you’ll find, and the more of a scientist you’ll become.

Finally, consider starting your own blog or writing an outline on the topic of dealing with depression or good mental health. Why? Because INTJs often learn best by teaching. Funny to think about, but really too true for many of us.

I hope you find this useful. Let me know (email address is up in the sidebar) if it helps you out.

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