I’ve read a lot of articles and forums about INTPs and feelings, and there’s this great divide between those who say “I have very weak feelings or none at all, it bugs me when I’m expected to emote or commiserate” and those who say “I have all the feelings all the time and I hate it make them go away what is this I don’t even”. Some of these texts take it upon themselves to generalize about the other group, such that “those who say they are very emotional are probably mistyped INFPs” and “those who say they have no feelings are kidding themselves.”
So. As an INTP with these wildly different data, what do I do? Negate the self-analysis made by fellow INTPs? I wouldn’t presume. Instead I propose that the state of “having feelings” has nothing to do with the MBTI.
Now, I’m not an expert in chemistry or psychology or neurology or any of that stuff, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that feelings are chemical in nature and that the MBTI merely describes how the brain is structured. If this is “true”, feelings can arise in any brain regardless of how it’s structured, but it’s what comes after that’s interesting. When feelings do or don’t occur, how does the brain handle them – or their absence?
Because if there’s one constant in all the INTP writings I’ve seen, it’s that feelings are an Issue. That seldom seems to vary, unless the person is very well developed, lives in a supportive environment, and accepts themselves for what they are. Most of us aren’t so lucky, it seems.
Perhaps the INTPs who report having little to no emotion are happier or at least calmer than others. Their problems arise when people need comforting, or when they’re expected to react emotionally and can’t, because their brains are structured to use logic first and empathy last. They may feel different, as if they’re lacking some vital part when they compare themselves to others, but left to their own devices they’re quite content.
But what about the rest of us? Those who do have feelings, and strong ones to boot?
We have this set of problems with a very limited toolbox for handling them. Give us a philosophical conundrum and time to think and yay, what comes out is a childlike, excited monologue full of what ifs and weird associations. We’re in our element. We’re asked to use our introverted thinking and extraverted intuition to make sense of the world, and it feels as natural as breathing.
Give us something emotional, and we stumble – because our tools just don’t work very well on that kind of thing. You can’t beat a feeling into submission using logic. Well, you can, but it’s going to come back and bite you in the arse sooner or later. It’s a bit like sawing water – hey, knock yourself out using that saw, but the water is only going to slosh around for a bit and then settle in the same place as before. You’re not going to divide it in half however much energy you spend.
It’s difficult to describe, so I made a sketch about it (because that’s a completely sane thing to do). NB this is my humorous take on it and may not be generalizable at all.
INTP feelings – the musical (not really)
Ti, wearing a black turtleneck and glasses
Ne, with her uncombed hair and purple glitter sweater
Si, hair in plaits and a girly skirt
Fe, with pigtails, pyjamas, and a teddy bear
Act I (of one)
Ti is sorting Important Stuff when suddenly Fluffy Stuff appears.
Ti: WTF is this? Si!
Si: (watching telly and eating ice cream) Yeah?
Ti: What’s this?
Si: (glances at the Fluffy Stuff) Looks like a feeling.
Ti: (Groans) Oh no. What kind of feeling? I have some boxes here to put it in… Is it positive or negative?
Si: Um… I think it’s positive.
Ti: Okay, well, that’s good then. Won’t be a problem, will it?
Si: Well, no… But there’s something underneath it, look.
Si: Look, there’s something else connected to the positive Fluff.
Ti: (Pulls at the Fluffy Stuff and different Fluffy Stuff appears) Jesus. There’s all sorts here. I mean, what’s even… Fe!
Fe: (Sucking her thumb) Yeah?
Ti: Is this yours?
Ti: Come on, come on, I don’t have all day. What is it?
Fe: It’s these people I’m scared of.
Ti: Christ. So how can that be connected to the positive Fluff?
Ti: (Trying to stuff Fluff into box) Shiiiit.
Si: Look, Fe. Just ignore it. You know how it goes: you get nervous, you behave like an idiot, and it all goes to shit. Let it go, okay? Let Ti work in peace.
Ti: (Gives up trying to stuff Fluff into box) Well, this won’t do. Ne?
Ne: (Jumps in, eager to the point of lunacy) Yes?
Ti: I need your help. It’s up to us to make sense of this, yeah?
Ne: (Claps hands) Okay!
Ti: (Rolls her eyes at Ne:s childish glee) So this Fluffy Stuff goes into the positive box, yeah? But it seems to be linked to this godawful thing, I can’t get them to separate, but they should go in different boxes, right?
Ne: Maybe you can link the boxes.
Si: Yeah, like a hierarchy! You love those.
Ti: Yeah, that could work. Okay, so the godawful is a subcategory of the positive, and… what do we have here? But this is… my god, this is about the crush I had in my twenties. Where the fuck…?
Si: Maybe there’s something about this that reminds you of that.
Ti: Must be. But how…?
Fe: Not that anyone listens to me, but while you’re trying to categorize that Stuff, there’s more Stuff coming in. It’s getting a bit crowded in here.
Ti: Craaaap! I have work to do, I can’t keep stuffing this Stuff into boxes!
Fe: So don’t.
Ti: What? Fe, you’re not making any sense. These are grown up matters, stay out of it.
Ne: Okay, but can I say something? This sorting… I don’t know what it accomplishes. You’re only going in circles.
Ti: So what’s your idea, genius?
Ne: (Grins) I have lots of them, actually. Let’s throw some of the Stuff at someone else and see what happens.
Fe: Yes! Let’s do that!
Ti: (Stares at Ne and Fe) Are you insane?
Ne: Actually, insanity and genius are very similar.
Si: No, no, no, wait! Remember that one time in 1998 when we threw some Stuff at someone? It didn’t end well.
Ti: Exactly. You’d all do well to listen to Si. She knows what she’s talking about.
Ne: But she’s boooooring! If we listen to her, nothing will ever change.
Fe: Yeah, we have to do something. Otherwise this Stuff is just going to accumulate.
Ti: Accumulate? Fe, use age-appropriate words please. And no, we don’t throw Stuff at other people. That’s just not happening. Jesus, it’s obviously up to me to not fuck this up. We just need some order. Not this crazy ball of Fluff.
Ne: (Snorts with laughter) Actually it kinda looks like our thoughts.
Ti: (Gives Ne a look) You’re seriously comparing feelings to our thoughts?
Ne: (Shrugs) Crazy ball of Fluff, crazy ball of thoughts. Same difference.
Ti: (Shakes head and mutters) And whose fucking fault is that?
Ne: Oooooh, look, actually this bit looks like a plot idea! What if we wrote a story about a conductor who’s homesick and meets someone from home, and then…
Si: Yeah! Maybe we could use that old story we never finished? The one with the socially inept professor…
Ne: … or that short story we published that really sucks, but if we flesh it out…
Fe: … maybe it’ll be like therapy, and then we can publish it and people will read it and understand and…
Ti: (Slams fist on table) See, this is why you don’t get to make the plans! I’d be a fucking genius if not for you crazy people. (Goes back to sorting Fluff) So anyway, this goes here, and it’s connected to this, and…
Fe: I just don’t see how this is helping. It’s still the same Stuff, even if you put it in boxes. It doesn’t change anything.
Ti: It changes how I see it. If it makes sense, it can stay.
Ne: And if it doesn’t?
Ti: I don’t fucking know, do I? It’s not my fault these things turn up.
Ne, Si and Fe: (Laugh)
Si: It’s you!
Si: You’re the one attracting all this Stuff.
Ti: What the hell are you saying? I’m logical. I categorize. I don’t give a fuck about Fluff.
Si: But it’s the same thing every time. The thing that gets you going.
Si: How did they put it in that show you like? “Sherlock has the brain of a scientist or a philosopher, yet he elects to be a detective. What might we deduce about his heart?”
Si: You see a chance to understand emotions and you go completely gaga.
Ti: … Gaga?
Ne, Si and Fe: (Nod)
Ti: (Looks at Fluff) Help…
Ne: Okay. (Takes Fluff and strews it all over the place) Look. That’s not so bad, is it? Now let’s take a portion of this and give to someone else. If it works out we’ll take it from there. Si, you have some good phrases memorized, yeah? Some self-deprecating jokes?
Si: Absolutely. I have a whole library.
Ne: And you, Fe, you can check so it doesn’t come off as too crazy or offensive?
Fe: I’ll try.
Ne: Alright. Ti, you can go rest for a while. Let the rest of us deal with this. There must be someone out there who can tolerate this Stuff, yeah?
Fe: I never lose hope.
Ti: (Pours a scotch with trembling hands) Si, you want to watch Wire in the Blood later and analyse face journeys?
Si: You betcha.