By Rob Dinh

The Mastermind & the Healer

How I get along with INFPs as an INTJ

The MBTI community thinks of you as somebody who gets lost in the clouds staring at the sky. “One might say they see life through rose-colored glasses. It’s as though they live at the edge of a looking-glass world where mundane objects come to life, where flora and fauna take on near-human qualities.” I guess you’re supposed to be prancing around leaving a trail of daisies and glitter as well. They call you the Dreamer. Yet INFPs are the realest people I’ve had the privilege to know. I mean that quite literally. Out of all the types, you most conscientiously stare in the face of reality. Rather than naïvely seeing the good in the world, they wonder if the whole world is in on a big joke. Innocence is not the move. Irony is. So is sarcasm, wisdom, self-honesty, and oftentimes stoicism.

Botanic Aquarium by Pinlin
Botanic Aquarium by Pinlin

The reality is we’re all bags of wave-particles who have seemingly inherited this universe. Random sequences of events turn into powerful experiences that define our existence. To which we eventually die and fade out as forgotten memories. And that’s what makes us us before we identify with our societal roles, our upbringings, our beliefs, our names, and whatever other constructs we’ve programmed onto ourselves. With Extraverted Thinking-Extraverted Intuition, INFPs realize how circumstantial these constructs are. We’ve made them up. They’re not real, but we adhere to them to keep society going.

That’s not a dream seen through rose-colored glasses, far from it. Your cognitive functions red-pilled you in seeing we’re all NPCs living in a simulated reality. We’re all equipped with hallucinating devices as brains. Color isn’t real, it’s a wavelength reflected into our retinas. I saw white and gold. Sound isn’t real, it’s air pressure crashing into our eardrums. I still hear Yanny. Solid objects aren’t real, they’re clusters of atoms that’s mostly empty space. Touch isn’t real, we’re all floating and hovering against electron clouds.

Time isn’t real, but it makes us hurry. Money isn’t real either, but it wills us to hustle. We as products of our environments adopt identities that come with instructions for how to fit in and succeed, sometimes they come with a customizable set that allows you to be more Yourself™. There’s even a rebellious version. We’re a society running on magic spells. What each of us perceive is a distorted reality casted by our projections and biases. But for many of us, it’s all we have (including personality types). And the thought of letting go of that is harrowingly terrifying and lonely.

"I think it is very exciting to have the opportunity to say something important, or do something important, or do something that can mean something. We need each other. And we need art and music. It is an extreme sport to be a human."

However it is that existential dissonance that motivates INFPs to understand who we are as souls beyond cells. Introverted Feeling-Introverted Sensing is a lifelong rabbit hole of using yourself as the research subject. Thus you could regularly dig out repressed trauma, inner demons, vices, and depressing periods. Such is life. It’s a core shaking journey that is both adorned with blessings and plagued with sufferings. Beauty is in embracing and unpacking that layered ambivalence. Maturity comes from integrating all the good and shitty parts of what makes a full human being. The patronizing and infantilizing from the community is nonsense.

Inside My Head by T1na

Since we act on our thoughts and feelings, shouldn’t we understand them better? They’re all influenced by the information we receive. How we see beauty, define happiness, and believe what’s good are all rooted from what we feel. Civilization is built based on them, logic only serves to exchange knowledge. There’s no better way to understand ourselves than to analyze the pure raw emotions fresh within us. Of course they can be intense, they’re embedded in our very fibers. But in the end, they’re data. How valid is the research of our existence and experience if it was based on tainted data? How valid are the values we follow as a society? The INFP crybaby stereotype is at odds with what I believe is a very rational and researched type, even overly so to a fault.

FiSi is having the proactive agency to navigate in between the contradictions and paradoxes. It’s not about standing as the pillar of what’s good and evil, nor shining as the bright light of positivity. Life’s too nuanced for that. Your values are continuously evolving. TeNe surveys these nuances woven into society ranging from interpersonal roles, to political and economic systems, and to cultural and philosophical paradigms. We live in an interconnected “-ism” machine weaved in with the geometries and mathematics of the universe, and you can determine how it affects everyone in it. You see your place in the world. Over the course of your life, you trace how these constructs have affected you.

"We’re emotional illiterates. We’re taught everything about the body and about agriculture in Madagascar and about the square root of pi, but not a word about the soul. We’re abysmally ignorant, about both ourselves and others… It doesn’t dawn on anyone that we must first learn something about ourselves and our own feelings. Our own fear and loneliness and anger. How can you understand other people if you don’t know anything about yourself?"
Ingmar Bergman

On a high level, you and I are similar. We get into people’s shoes and figure how to deal out compassion. We value rationality to navigate in this messy world. Yet we acknowledge that we don’t have a clue on what we’re doing. We’re really winging it out here. We go through occasional sondering episodes before returning back into our NPC selves. Looking down into the differing details, you challenge your values under the scrutiny of reflecting on past experiences and hypothetical situations. What is good and why is it good? I look at different perspectives and tentatively place myself somewhere in between them. If it’s good enough, then it’s good enough! You dream of an ideal environment to thrive in. I dream of an ideal self to thrive anywhere.

In a way I’m more adaptive than you are, in that I’m a little more ignorant. My Extraverted Sensing-Extraverted Thinking focuses on a few particular things. My worldview isn’t any simpler though, just that what’s going on around the world and even around me are mere advisory. I take all of that information in, and collate them into a big mental picture. But instead of looking at myself as a cog in a machine, I’m a rat in a maze looking for his cheese. And with Introverted Intuition-Introverted Feeling, I put my whole sense of being as a rat on his little journey. I care just enough about how the maze is built to locate that cheese.

The Bus Is Late by Megatruh

So why am I so hungry for cheese? What is it about that pursuit that’s rewarding? Consider the fable of the Chinese farmer which began with his horse running away. Below is an excerpt about it from Eric Weiner’s The Socrates Express: In Search of Life Lessons from Dead Philosophers.

That evening, the neighbors stopped by to offer their sympathies.

“So sorry to hear your horse ran away,” they said. “That’s too bad.”

“Maybe,” the farmer said. “Maybe not.”

The next day the horse returned, bringing seven wild horses with it. “Oh, isn’t that lucky,” said the neighbors. “Now you have eight horses. What a great turn of events.”

“Maybe,” said the farmer. “Maybe not.”

The next day the farmer’s son was training one of these horses when he was thrown and broke his leg. “Oh dear, that’s too bad,” said the neighbors.

“Maybe,” said the farmer. “Maybe not.”

The following day, conscription officers came to the village to recruit young men for the army, but they rejected the farmer’s son because he had a broken leg. And all the neighbors said, “Isn’t that great!”

“Maybe,” said the farmer. “Maybe not.”

We lead telephoto lives in a wide-angle world. We never see the big picture. The only sane response is, like the Chinese farmer, to adopt a philosophy of maybe-ism.

Maybe-ism is a manifestation of the INFP’s Extraverted Intuition. It’s what makes the fitting of the self in the world a never ending journey. My Introverted Intuition is opposite. Rather than maybe-ing about the world, I’m maybe-ing about myself. I’m curious about my potential. Maybe I could be anything! NiFi feels that human potential and wants to see it through SeTe. Contrast to how you draw meaning out of life, I bring meaning into life. We all seek for the moving and vivid experience. The feeling of realizing my goals is how I get that. There’s not much to relish with a vague indefinite idea of myself. There’s nothing meaningful about my identity being a maybe.

And that’s my dilemma. Whatever I actualize can never truly represent who I am. I’m so fixated on who I could be. Have I done enough? Maybe not. My life turns into a sequence of mazes where I finish one and move onto another. The cheese is a lie. Daydreaming is fun, but I shouldn’t sit still. Not striving for a goal would leave my life meaningless. While that way of thinking isn’t a bad thing, it still feels dissonant. I’m an introvert after all, going out there and getting shit done is tiring. As someone who looks to enjoy life as it is, I turn to you. Maybe I need to look deeper in myself. So then, you asked me “if your personality was a color, what would it be and why?”

Welp. I guess blue? Like navy blue. It’s a boy color. Growing up, I wanted to be someone that gave off “blue” masculine energy. I modeled the definition of cool, stoic, and independent. The kind of man that was oozing quiet confidence. I related to those proud collected Shounen anti-heroes who wore blue. Quickly you noted my answer was still about who I could be, as if I was focusing at the wrong thing! I was projecting blue into the characters I looked up to. You’d have a story that’d tell your personal connection with the color. Like Rafiki said to Simba, I needed to look haaarder.

I was sweeping my patio one summer day. Dirt was flying off caking my sweaty face. I leaned my broom on the stairs handrail, and sat on the chair in the shade for a break. Resting my elbows on my knees, I pat my face with a cold wet rag, and checked at my reflection on the sliding door glass. Hair was disheveled off my messy manbun. The sun casted shadows under my eye bags and cheek lines. Through the dirt haze, Mom appeared in my reflection. I have her eyes and hair length. Suddenly she stayed at the forefront of my mind. Her warmth enveloped me from inside. As if she was watching through my eyes, her presence possessed me to continue on with the sweeping.

My body yielded to her energy. Like a puppeteer, it pulled my strings to get up, grab the broom, resume sweeping. I stayed mildly aware of my body movements, keeping in rhythm with how Mom would sweep. My face wore a smile like hers. The kind of smile that assured everything’s gonna be all right, and there’s nothing to be afraid of. That was all I could concentrate on. Memories of her smiling while working around the house were replayed in front of my eyes. I didn’t want the sweeping to end. I didn’t want to let go of that peaceful place inside of me.

Personal Justice by Taro-K
Personal Justice by Taro-K

Mom was right. In that place, everything was all right. Deep in there, I felt safe. There was nothing to be afraid of. I wasn’t lonely, I felt loved unconditionally. This is not a maybe. I know the path to get back to that feeling. That’s when I realized — or rather remembered — who I am is the very projection of her love, hopes, and dreams. I used to think being the best archetypal son a mom could dream would make her proud. But that was really my own endeavor. Happiness can found in sweeping the patio, carrying her smile, and looking at her eyes in my reflection.

"Well yeah, and I’m sad, but at the same time I’m really happy that something could make me feel that sad. It’s like, it makes me feel alive, you know? It makes me feel human. And the only way I could feel this sad now is if I felt something really good before. So I have to take the bad with the good, so I guess what I’m feeling is like a, beautiful sadness. I guess that sounds stupid."
Leopold “Butters” Scotch, from South Park

Our emotions may be the only real thing amidst all the constructs and hallucinations. With Mom’s love as part of me, I’ll never feel lost. It’s one of the many stories you’ve helped me unpack. Many are as loving, others are painful. But again, such is life. It’s not perfect. I’m not perfect. You convinced me that’s perfectly fine. I just am. That’s the only truth. None of us owns it. It owns us, and we’re here to experience it. So we can’t hate the experiences that shaped us in order to love ourselves. We can only learn from them. We can learn from each other too. Maybe that’s the whole point.

Looking back, the way my life unfolded seems fated. I didn’t ask to live. I didn’t have a choice on my upbringing. How ironic that I’ve gone out of my way to ensure my life book is interesting. Just by living, it already has been. In the good parts of my book, there’s gratitude. In the shitty parts, there’s forgiveness. Time moves on, and we should too. To embrace ourselves is the choice we have to make to keep up with it, to grow with it. It may be the only thing we’re truly free to choose… Oh and for the record, you’re in the good parts of my book. I appreciate you being the Rafiki to my Simba.

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