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Some Tips on Working with Troubling Ideas

Thursday December 5, 2019

A couple of years ago, I heard a quote that immediately got under my skin. Paraphrased, it went something like this:

“Being an INTJ means constantly feeling like your hands are tied, and constantly working to untie them.”

I still remember the immediate feeling of identification: It was so true! In so many ways. I was always trying to get my hands untied in projects, goals, relationships, you name it. Feeling tied-up was a great metaphor.

But later, the follow-on feeling arrived: “Is this what my life will amount to? This constant feeling of frustration, feeling tied up?”

If true, that didn’t sound good at all. The thought felt incredibly heavy in my mind.

So was this really true? Or was this concept a false one?

Disclaimer

The methods described below might not work well if you’re worn out, exhausted, or just feeling tired. It’s difficult to work constructively under such circumstances, and accompanying perceptions tend to be dark. If that sounds like you, please take some time out for yourself, get rested, enjoy a nice treat, and re-approach.

Understanding that True and False have Limits

I think this experience really demonstrates the way a true or false model for evaluating thoughts can let a person down. Do you have to pick one of those two? Are there no other options? Because personally, I think I would have gone with “true”, and what a depressing feeling that was.

In practice, it is very easy to accept the premise that there is this idea that’s T or F, and then debate its truth or falsehood. It’s a common pattern (and by the way, it’s a pattern that could trap anybody, of any personality type).

So, one possibly helpful conclusion is: This doesn’t really need to be true or false. It’s just one way of looking at things. It’s a perspective.

Evaluating Perspectives

Now that we can hold this up as a perspective, we can evaluate its leverage points.

  • It may have leverage in highlighting an issue that may be frustrating to INTJs.
  • Therefore, it may have leverage in highlighting an issue that is worth discussing with INTJs.
  • It has very low leverage in providing any kind of insight for growing up and out of the problem.
  • Therefore, on its own, it may feel relentlessly critical and even painful.

On balance, I’d say that this perspective is really risky if offered on its own.

In terms of quality, that’s a huge point against a mental framework. To our inner critic, this can be something to rail against, to complain about. We can see exactly why this is not a very useful perspective.

But! This means we also have an opportunity for engagement with a problem, to use and demonstrate an even more impressive gift. This is where the world tends to say, “the critic role we can give or take, but we like this constructive-conceptualizing-engaging part of our INTJs.”

Engaging with the Perspective and its World

I’ve mentioned before that INTJs are often fantastic at dealing with metaphor. Not only can we engage with problems, but we can engage with problems in the visualized, ethereal world in which they live and are conceived as symbolic relations to other concepts. Long before an idea ever sees reality, we can visualize it and manipulate it.

In effect, we can enter the imagination, play with the idea and the entire imagined world in which it exists; we can add new things, or rearrange things, and finally say, “see? It’s better now.”

This is something that has taken me years to understand, as a very unique gift which can be developed in INTJs. (Not all INTJs believe they can do this, but the intuition itself is a world which can be known better, and the capacity here is nearly always incredible if explored)

So with this thought about having one’s hands tied, here’s where I ended up:

A New Idea, An Idea Improved

I developed a simple add-on metaphor that brought me some peace. It gives a bit more direction to the original idea; a vector, a new pathway. And it lends possibility, or a good chance, of increasingly positive outcomes.

It’s simple, and I offer it only as an example of a constructive, intuitive-space addition to an existing, potentially troubling idea.

So:

Fine—are your hands always getting tied up? Does this bother you?

Then become a Houdini.

(And please—give it some thought! He makes a powerful metaphor.)

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