May 11, 2024

Moving has been a surprisingly swift process; it turns out I really don’t own a whole lot. Rather, I did, but I got rid of a ton of shit before moving here, so now it all fits in just a few boxes that I will be mailing away soon. It’s honestly nice. This is the seventh move that I can recall, and it’s always been such a hassle that I wasn’t looking forward to this part. Owning three pairs of pants is good for something after all.

All this to say that I’ve found myself with a bit more free time than I was expecting. So, I did what any reasonable person would do. I retook the MBTI test on 16personalities. First, some (a lot of) context. This is basically going to be thousands of words oversharing about my tragic teen angst combined with even more words involving navel-gazing so intense I will have a neck crick after, so please be warned.

PART 1 - History of a Chrysanthemum

As a teeny bopper, I, like many others, had an unstable sense of self. Due to a variety of circumstances, I ended up signing up on Tumblr at the tender age of fourteen with a self-invented Pesterchum handle. As was the way of many Tumblr fandom girls, my fragile, nascent identity congealed around projecting onto anime boys and collecting microlabels like Pokemon. I won’t elaborate. You know the type.

In tenth grade, my AP Psychology teacher had us take the MBTI test, and I scored INFJ. This meant nothing to me at the time, and so I ignored it.

As I plundered on into my terminally online descent, my identity became even more frayed. It’s hardly surprising that collapsing one’s identity into a fistful of adjectives is destructive to a teenager’s sense of self, but at the time, much of this was framed as a righteous quest to know thyself, and so I was undeterred. This was true even when I realized I had almost no internal sense of how I felt about anything. Instead, I relied on mimicry of fictional tropes and of other people as a template for my own behavior.

The MBTI test got popular in my online realm, and I scored INFP this time. This was a very common “type” on Tumblr, and I delighted in sharing this archetype with my fandomsisters. This trope was commonly understood as “sensitive uwu crybabies,” which was en vogue at the time, believe it or not! So, like many other lonely, teenage girls clamoring for identity, I leaned into this persona.

At some point, my neuroses could no longer be relegated to the internet, and I was sent to therapy. I still maintain my therapists were fundamentally useless because I think it should be incredibly obvious to trained professionals that you cannot take a mentally ill teenager at face value, but they frequently did. Everything I self-reported was instantly treated as factual, even when it was distorted and inaccurate. None of them called my bluffs. Instead, they’d send me to psychiatrists to be prescribed medications I had no business taking. Unconditional validation is poisonous to an unreliable narrator.

I wasn’t really consicously lying; I often could not distinguish fact from fiction, and I got good at convincing myself one was the other. How did I feel about things? I didn’t know. I frequently intellectualized my feelings and tried to put them into a coherent narrative, as if I was not a real person, but a character in a play. I didn’t know where my performance ended and I began, and I was frustrated that my therapists weren’t perceptive enough to tell me where that line was, or to even realize that line existed.

Interestingly, that unconditional validation wavered when I resisted their advice. Conventional therapeutic wisdom argued in favor of mindfulness, never holding oneself back from crying, and communicating earnestly. I hated all of these things, and would state I didn’t find them very useful, something that did not seem to register with them. “Just keep trying,” they’d say.

Perhaps not so surprisingly, my peers were less convinced by me. The closer we became, the more apparent it would become to them that there was something inauthentic and unavailable about me. I had many falling-outs with such friends, and grew weary of the same song and dance. I have been compared to a refrigerator, a robot, and to an empty apartment. I was told that I was cold, hollow, performatively warm, and inconsiderate.

I was outwardly defensive about such allegations because it was incongruent with my self-image. I didn’t want it to be true, and so in my mind, it wasn’t. If anything, I was the victim. I was the one being castigated for perceived slights. But deep down, some part of me was very, very afraid that they might just be right. More than anything, I was terrified of being manipulative. I doubled my efforts to authentically become the person I wanted to be. The problem was, I no longer knew what that meant.

I was in my late teens by this point, an age when your identity is supposed to be coming into sharper focus, but mine was rapidly dissolving. The next few years were…well, let’s say bad. Suffice it to say, between the boatload of medication, emotional dysregulation, and extremely self-destructive behavior, I became very contemptuous of my feelings, which seemed to control me more than I controlled them. I either felt far too much or nothing at all, and I couldn’t stand feeling so powerless.

After growing fed up with everything, I stopped taking my medication, quit therapy, vanished off the internet, cut everyone off, and lived like a monk for around half a year. It was good for me. My academic performance improved. I slept better. I gained weight. I started rediscovering hobbies. With no one to perform for, I found I was less interested in the theater of self-destruction. By the time I returned, things seemed a little less life-or-death. The MBTI test was floating around again.

I took it and scored INTP. I thought this was pretty funny. I wondered if it was even true, or if I’d just become emotionally dead inside. My remaining friends insisted they could not see me as anything but an INFP. I didn’t know if this comforted me or not.

I moved away from my old online haunts. I posted less and less. I made a very deliberate decision to stop obsessing over who I “really was deep down.” I concluded that all attempts to compartmentalize personality, particularly into concrete ’types,’ were doomed to fail. For someone with a stable sense of self, perhaps these tools could help them gain insight into their personalities, but for someone like me, they’d just feed my incoherent narratives about myself and become prescriptive. A new mask to wear. I decided to just live–the rest would come later.

Even though I made that choice, I still internally angsted over how little I understood myself. And then, I made an interesting friend. I’ll call them J.

J saw through most of my bullshit effortlessly, but also didn’t seem put off by what they saw. Quite the opposite–all the things I disliked about my personality were novel and amusing to them, something to be coaxed out rather than suppressed. I started to relax, and was frequently surprised at the elements of my personality that rose to the surface. In many ways, I was very different from who I’d thought I was. My previous narratives about myself unraveled.

Weirdly enough, I found that J’s observations about my personality matched my mother’s. They have both characterized me as rigid, haughty, and emotionally clumsy. The difference is that my mother thinks I’m like this due to a traumatic brain injury as a toddler whereas J thinks I am like a stray cat. Regardless, two of the people I let my guard down around the most seemed to have matching notes, and I thought that was worth something.

PART 2 - Musings on Jung, the MBTI, etc.

So, back to what started this post: the MBTI test. I retook it recently. I figured it might turn out different results now that I am at least a little more assured in who I am. I have accepted a number of things about myself. Even the things I deny, I can evaluate instead of rejecting offhand. So, no matter what the test said, I reasoned, I would be able to accept it.

And then I got…INTJ. Never mind. What the fuck?

Image Alt Text

The fucking anime villain archetype? That shit Light Yagami was on? Come on, man. I was aghast. J was (un)helpful enough to send me a version of the INTJ copypasta featuring an inside joke and laughed up a storm. I found it less funny and went to work investigating.

What the hell is the MBTI anyways? I went down something of a rabbit hole, and came to a few conclusions:

I found Sakinorva’s (very long) quiz (an abbreviated version is here) and also her (very interesting) accompanying context. After a well-measured and honest effort, I got…well, this. A little overwhelming.

Image Alt Text

But I am no coward…! I diligently persevered and researched cognitive functions on my own, a process known as “self-typing” (aka self-diagnosing a personality archetype). The problem, as eloquently iterated by Sakinorva, is that no one can quite agree on what these functions mean.

Jung isn’t the clearest when he talks about them, but it goes something like this. Jung proposed four primary cognitive functions that individuals use to perceive and process information: Thinking (T), Feeling (F), Sensation (S), and Intuition (N). He posited that these functions could be expressed either outwardly (extraverted) or inwardly (introverted).

This concept was later adapted by Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers to create the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator that we all know today. The 4-letter model was not something Jung ever devised or endorsed, much less the association of specific cognitive functions with those specific abbreviated types.

Still, among modern day digital typologists, this is serious business, and who am I to disagree?

According to this test, my closest 4-letter acronym is indeed INTJ, which translates to:

  1. Ni (Introverted Intuition)
  2. Te (Extroverted Thinking)
  3. Fi (Introverted Feeling)
  4. Se (Extroverted Sensing)

I scrutinized these results carefully, frequently turning to Jung’s original writing as the “official word.” I am already somewhat familiar with some of Jung’s concepts, but this was surprisingly fun to look into despite also being deeply confusing. After reading through some of it for a few hours, I concluded that (A) people really interpret Jung’s concepts in wildly different ways, and (B) this is Jung’s fault for writing Like That.

Part 2.1: Intuition

Because really, I don’t blame people for interpteing this is a million different ways:

“Introverted intuition apprehends the images that arise a priori, i.e., the inherited foundations of the unconscious mind. These archetypes, whose innermost nature is inaccessible to experience, represent the precipitate of psychic functioning of the whole ancestral line, i.e., the heaped-up, or pooled, experiences of organic existence in general, a million times repeated and condensed into types.”

Get real! In general, intution (as per Jung) involves perceiving patterns and connections beyond immediate sensory input. It deals a lot in hunches, gut feelings, insights, and reading between the lines. There is a lot of emphasis on abstract ideas and future-oriented thinking. Ne (extroverted intuition) is interested in drawing connections between external stimuli, and therefore make good brainstormers. Ni (introverted intution), on the other hand, is something no one can actually articulate because Jung’s original definition is so mysterious and cryptic.

Still, Ni seems to involve intuition in a more colloquial sense. Just “knowing” things without understanding why, forecasting the future with uncanny accuracy, etc. Jung seems to believe that this stems from one tapping into the collective unconcious. A Ni user will experience the world in symbols and archetypes and naturally synthesize this information into a holistic understanding of how the world works. They are supposedly very big picture oriented, and all of this happens without much engagement with the external world. Apparently, high Ni can manifest in being very creative and artsy.

It sounds like nonsense to me, but I guess I kind of get what he’s getting at? I spend a lot of time trying to make sense of seemingly incomprehensible mental images and thoughts, and my ideas tend to be “collapsed down” rather than “spread out.” I compress things because it’s too unwieldy otherwise. I find my thinking is often subtractive because I want to understand singular “truths,” which is hard to do when there is too much peripheral noise. I am also delusional enough to buy that I could be subconciously experiencing the amalgamation of centuries’ worth of collective human impressions and struggling to source or articulate it. So, fine, check for Ni.

I do think it’s very funny that that INTJ, a type that is so notoriously about ~facts and logic~ in the imagination of the broader MBTIscape, is apparently ruled by intuition of all things. Many INTJ communities are dominated by NLOGs and redpilled men who think misanthropy is a personality, and I cannot help but wonder: when is the last time any of you explored an inner landscape of mystical beauty and idealism? For shame.

Part 2.2: Thinking

I scored high on Ti (introverted thinking) even though Te (extraverted thinking) is supposedly an important component for INTJs. Allegedly, the Te is supposed to translate impressions from Ni into actionable plans. These two functions working in conjunction are what defines the INTJ. This is how the INTJ can translate their esoteric, whimsical impulses into a concrete aspiration.

But anyways, to hear most people relay the conceptual difference, Ti is your mental frameworks and Te is your, well, executive functioning. But from Jung’s writings, it seems more like Te is objective knowledge where Ti is subjective knowledge. Te insists that knowledge can be emperically verified and depends on experience, thus relying on outward (extraverted) validation. Meanwhile, Ti relies on deduction alone. Something does not need to be verifiably true from a material or sensory standpoint to convince Ti; it only needs to be inwardly (introverted) logically sound.

I choose to believe that my scoring highly on both just means I’m a genius lounging in my mind palace…a test could never contain my magnetically sexy INTP/INTJ combo swagger (did I mention INTP is Ti dominant). But on a serious note, this dichotomy seems to just be another version of the age-old empiricism vs. rationalism debate, which I already find binary and simplistic. Rationalism and empiricism benefit from one another. Empirical observations often require interpretation and analysis, which are inherently rational processes. Meanwhile, the a priori reasoning associated with rationalism can still benefit from empirical grounding. Rationalist theories can also be tested and validated through empirical observations.

Wasn’t this laid to rest by Immanuel Kant’s theory of transcendental idealism? He already reconciled these “disparate” approaches by claiming that knowledge is derived from both experience (empirical) and a priori concepts (rational), a notion I tend to agree with from both a theoretical standpoint and a practical one. We would get nothing done if we only relied on one.

I know, I know, the cognitive function stacks are supposed to indicate preferences rather than absolutes. In other words, even if I value both introverted and extraverted thinking, I trend towards introverted thinking. I dislike this conclusion, because it would indicate that I am a rationalist, which I am surely not.

But whatever, I use Te quite a lot too, and if we are to go by the Reddit-tier understanding of these concepts in which Te is just the “getting shit done” expression of thought, then fine, whatever. I still object to this framework, but given my Te is immediately second to my Ni, I will give it another check.

(Although, I have to say, would anyone truly Te dominant give the MBTI test the time of day? It’s hardly an empirically provable assessment. But I digress.)

Part 2.3: Feeling

According to Jung, this is actually a judging function, and has little to do with affect. It seems that this function, probably more than any other, has been influential to the broader understanding of the archetypes. Still, the feeling function isn’t not not about feelings. After all, our emotions are part of how we judge and interface with the word. Jung also says it’s about values and personal ideals. For example, a Fe type is more likely to consider the greater good, whereas a Fi type is more likely to care more about specific people. The Fe’s value system is external (extraverted), whereas the Fi’s is internal (introverted.) But still, to hear most people tell it, Fe is an empath people pleaser, and Fi is just brooding in a trench coat. Case closed.

Then again, Jung doesn’t really do much to dissuade this interpretation, stating that a Fe user “becomes feeling per se; it almost seems as though the personality were wholly dissolved in the feeling of the moment.” I can see why people think of Fe users as touchy-feely. Contrast this with how he describes Fi as “continually seeking an image which has no existence in reality but which it has seen in a kind of vision,” and how he says, “It makes people silent and difficult to access; it shrinks back like a violet from the brute nature of the object in order to fill the depths of the subject. It comes out with negative judgments or assumes an air of profound indifference as a means of defense.”

Okay, hang on. That actually did kind of resonate. It might be obvious, but I have always struggled with emoting appropriately. My mother in particular often chastised me for not being expressive enough, arguing that it was unhealthy to “bottle things up” and insisting I needed to “let it all out.” Whenever I tried to explain why this wasn’t healthy for me, my therapists would become suddenly obstinate, agreeing that I needed to have a good cry. No one believed me when I said I actually need to repress my feelings, thoughts, and impressions until I am in a context where I can sift through them with some distance. When they’re too close, I feel like they’re going to swallow me whole. I need them to be small and manageable, particularly because I have almost no emotional permanence. What feels world-ending today will be ancient history tomorrow. So why immerse myself in those big feelings when I can just wait until it passes? But alas, my therapists did not like my justifications. This made me exceptionally bitter in therapy. I felt like they were deriving some sort of sick satisfaction out of making me lose control over my feelings. Probably paranoid of me, but I hated it. I liked my most vulnerable feelings being kept close to the chest, and I hated how everyone, from my friends to my parents to my doctors, kept trying to pull them out of me.

I can’t help but feel like this would not have been such an issue if I was a man. Feeling as a dimension is highly correlated with gender norms, which is why women skew towards feeling types such as ISFJ whereas men skew towards thinking types like ISTJ. Not as a hard rule, but a quick look at the top 3 by gender should clarify what I mean. That is to say, women are encouraged to prioritize empathy and taking care of others. Women are expected to provide emotional support and care about the human condition on a macro scale. Men are expected to spend more time thinking about whatever random shit they want, and if they do feel things, it is a masculine ideal to do it quietly and internally. I coveted that. Men are always saying that women are lucky because we’re “allowed” to be expressive, but it isn’t an allowance, it’s an expectation. If you are a woman who does not emote correctly, you will be socially sanctioned for it, and people will do their damndest to make sure you know there’s something inherently broken about you.

I have only very recently accepted that I am not a naturally empathetic person. To compensate, I became very good with cognitive empathy, but my affective empathy still needs a lot of practice. I have always felt so guilty about this, and thus tried very hard to mask it. But I wasn’t even very good at that. Now I wonder if it would have been better all along if I hadn’t pretended to empathize with people in the conventional sense. Maybe that disingenuity is part of what made people feel so uncomfortable with me. Besides, it was exhausting. I’ve wondered if this was actually very Fe of me. After all, I was trying to maintain social harmony. But I think my motivations were fundamentally about me. I just wanted affirmation that I was doing a good job at being a good person. I wanted an A+. I did not get an A+.

Well, whatever. Check for Fi.

Part 2.4: Sensing/Sensation

The sensing function is a little odd to me in general, but according to Grant, this is in line with expectations for an INTJ since it is the “inferior” (weakest) function in the stack.

Se is supposed to be the very literal, objective act of sensing physical stimulus. Allegedly, high Se also indicates a good sense of aesthetics (I like to think I have this) and high awareness of internal bodily sensations (unfortunately, I do not have this.) I also do not have the apparently trademark Se good sense of direction. I’m horribly clumsy and uncoordinated, I easily get lost, and I sometimes don’t understand my bodily cues. But I like art..? So. That’s something. This is the thing I score the lowest on for a reason, I suppose…

Si is more confusing, but I kept scoring higher on it than Se. Jung describes Si as follows: “Subjective sensation apprehends the background of the physical world rather than its surface. The decisive thing is not the reality of the object but the reality of the subjective factor, i.e., the primordial images, which in their totality represent a psychic mirror world. It is a mirror, however, with the peculiar capacity of representing the present contents of consciousness not in their known and customary form but in a certain sense sub specie aeternitatis, somewhat as a million-year old consciousness might see them. Such a consciousness would see the becoming and the passing of things beside their present and momentary existence, and not only that, but at the same time it would also see that Other, which was before their becoming and will be after their passing hence.”

Sorry, but what. It’s funny, because most websites describe this totally differently. Or at least, in a far more comprehensible way, but I can’t even tell how accurately they are communicating whatever the hell Jung is talking about here. Most of the time, people say Si is very past-oriented, relying on previous experiences to apply meaning to present sensations. So someone with high Si might see a tree and ascribe meaning to it based on a memory of a different tree–the tree becomes a symbol. High Si also apparently loves routines, comfort, and familiarity.

Well, I’m pretty low in both Si and Se. I imagine this bodes poorly. I do like my routines, but I’m not married to them. I also hate thinking too much about the past, and I don’t always relate things to the past. I do sometimes, but most of the time, if I see a tree, it’s just a tree. Although, apparently, if an INTJ is in “grip stress,” they may indulge irresponsibly in Se by drinking, smoking, etc. More on this in the next section, but I tend to think this is true for many people who want to “get out of their heads.”

But since this function is supposed to be low, uhh, I guess…check?

Part 2.5: Shadow Functions, Loop-Grip, etc.

I could go into all the “Si Demon” “Critical Parent Ti” “Trickster Fe“Ni-Fi Loop” peripherals, but frankly, I’ve wasted too much time on this as it is. It seems like some of this derives from a mishmash of psychological theory, like Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis of ego states (including a “critical parent ego state”) mixed up with Jung’s concept of the shadow mixed up with the cognitive function stack theory put forth by Grant. To their credit, Eric Berne at least did build off of Jungian psychology, so that theoretical marriage feels somewhat reasonable. However, the whole “Loop-Grip” thing, according to Sakinorva, seems to have originated on a PersonalityCafe post. You know, the most reliable of sources.

Still, if you lurk on online MBTI spaces, you will probably come across references to shadow functions and grip stress. They’re interesting conceptually (and to be fair, the Si Demon thing feels relatable), but just also kind of…a mess. It really strikes you how much of this feels like weird, bored people making things up to pathologize their personalities once you start reading very serious advice posts about how to break free of the Fe trickster feeding a paranoid Ni-Fi grip-loop.

PART 3: Conclusion

It’s kind of funny to me that I typed as INTP when I was at my most numb. I originally assumed that INTJ was a “colder” type, which made me worry I’ve gotten worse mentally, but it seems that INTJs are (according to cognitive function stack theory), much more emotional and sensitive than INTPs. I also can’t help but find it funny that I got something fairly similar to my very first MBTI test back when I was fifteen. Ah, how time flies…

Anyways, do I think INTJ fits? I mean, probably. I still think INTP also kind of fits, though. Haters will say they have zero cognitive functions in common, but whatever. Fuck the police, etc.

I do think it was valuable for me to investigate this, because it did remind me to reconcile some of the traits about myself that I dislike. For example, I can be very bossy and arrogant when I forget to moderate myself. It’s most obvious in the context of group projects, especially when we’re running behind. I’m often in leadership positions (shocker) and I’ve been told that I can be too critical and unyielding. I’m a perfectionist, but this doesn’t just extend to myself. I have high expectations from others, and I am not always nice in delivering that feedback. I’m easily irritated and dismissive of others, even in moments that demand higher emotional sensitivity. I can be stubborn, callous, presumptuous, and pretentious–sometimes all at once! I am also incredibly judgmental and prone to black-and-white thinking.

Funny enough, J has informed me of all these things at one point or another (always with affection), but they’ve also made sure to let me know that despite all of this, I’m a doormat most of the time. In my perpetual quest for self improvement, it seems that I simply pretend entire aspects of my personality do not exist. J believes this is the unhealthy repression, and that I should be more rude as a rule. J frequently sends me posts such as this to remind me to be myself.

Image Alt Text

There is a narrative that when it comes to personality, you can fake it until you make it–to some extent, I believe this is true. After all, personality is not fixed and certainly doesn’t conform to specific archetypes. There are many things I want to improve about myself, always. But I guess I am starting to question whether certain things need to be changed and why. It’s no wonder that I’ve been a turbulent person when I am always acting against myself. It doesn’t seem very fair because all those traits that I dislike so much serve me extremely well in my day-to-day life. Like, fine, I’m kind of a bitch, but this has saved me many times, and sometimes you need to be a little pushy to get what you want. I never would have secured half the opportunities I have if I was as meek and docile as I spent so long wishing I was.

I do think it’s somewhat unfortunate that it took, like, four MBTI tests to come to the rather mundane, Disney channel-esque conclusion of “your personality traits are probably fine, actually, it’s just about how you utilize them,” but it’s too late to go back now. Ah, well…better late than never. Longest blog post ever. I’m tired now.

PART 4: Further reading

Previous Home