The INTP: Heaven and Hell

intp heaven or hell

Being an INTP certainly looks easy. That is because this type exhibits a wonderful display of three undemanding attributes: unconditional neutrality, straightforward emotions, and juvenile curiosity.

While accurate, this description does not tell the whole story. In reality, these three tendencies tend to balance on a fine line, mightily close in between the good and the evil. Let us crawl into the minds the INTPs to see what really lies behind their aloof facades.

Unconditional Neutrality

As a dominant thinker (introverted-thinking, Ti), the decisions of the INTP are instinctively based on logic. And because introverted thinking operates on rationality, the INTP’s natural decision-making process does not involve emotive considerations. Everything that INTPs encounter in their life is weighed against unbiased measures and dealt with as a concept (this is true even with human related issues).

The extremely analytical mind of the INTP is a great asset. For it means that whenever they derive a conclusion, they can easily explain their reasoning to others in a language that everyone can comprehend. This is done simply by breaking down their thought process – a very strong and objective fundamental on which their conclusion rests.

What a terrific tool, the mind of the INTPs and their holy introverted-thinking: it is flexible, serene and highly effective. But in a world of many variables, a mechanism as such has every chance of tripping over when the number of possibilities is too much for them to effectively process. And this brings us to the problematic side of the equation where we run into a major flaw in the deeply analytical system of the INTP.

This problem is an annoying trend, undoubtedly known to many of the INTP breed: indecisiveness – the inability to make swift decisions. It haunts the INTP in cases of any magnitude or importance, which means that trivialities that have no or very little impact are treated like their life depends on it.

That is because INTPs – the truth seekers they are – break down issues to its very essence by default, regardless of the importance. They merely want to solve the puzzle, that is all, even when the only thing at stake is their intellectual pride. And thus an INTP can spend an excessive amount of time deciphering cases – two kinds of cases in particular: the ones that are plainly unclear, and the ones that are made up of too many variables to all at once take into consideration.

Straightforward Emotions

INTPs are as far removed from their feeling function as the MBTI theory allows one to be. That is to say, their extraverted-feeling function comes in fourth and last place in their stack of cognitive functions. But do not be mistaken, feelings and emotions play a much bigger role in the life of the INTP than many people – both they themselves and others – are lead to believe.

Because of their extraverted-feeling, an INTP inherently cares about what other people feel. It is not the first point of concern, but harmonic influences of others are constantly present nonetheless. And this exact feature, alongside the INTP’s extraverted-intuition, is perhaps the main reason why the INTP is popular among other people. Their Ne-Fe combo spells a warm demeanor and agreeable communicative style. This is especially true for the more mature, well-developed INTP and their likable, witty, open and laid-back characteristics.

This is great. And precisely the characteristics that people like to see from others, for we humans crave to understand the thoughts and emotions of other people. And this kind of information is hard to extract from people whose feelings are (1) plenty and sophisticated, and (2) kept private. The exact opposite of these two features is true for INTPs: their feelings are so simplistic and reactive to external influences, that there is not much of a guessing game required from other parties. This is in sharp contrast to what goes on inside the minds of dominant introverted-feelers (IxFP types), for example, who looks at the world in zillion different shades of emotions that are impossible for them to express all the time.

The INTP, on the other hand, is not a very skilled player in the game of feelings and emotions. As a result, they are very unlikely to pressure others with their will or to be unfaithful to others. The INTP simply does not attempt or even desires to partake in motive complexities as such.

How wonderful. But could there be a downside as well to the wide and empty space between INTPs and their emotions? Yes. Emotional indifference can lead to precarious situations.

Since the feeling of an INTP is largely dependent on that of others, they risk being conducted by the emotional string of others. That is to say, the mood of their spouse, friend or teacher, impacts the atmosphere – the one source from which INTP derive their emotions. And that is a very vulnerable position to be in.

In his book, The INTP: Personality, Careers, Relationships, & the Quest for Truth and Meaning,  author A.J. Drenth refers to the INTP’s inferior extraverted-feeling as a childlike function. And that really is what it is: a baby, mostly asleep, but when he is awaken he expects is food. And a baby highly depends on others to provide this food. This is why love felt for an INTP by another person, and expressed to them, is often enough for a person to claim the INTP’s heart.

What is more, when INTPs are asked about their own feelings in regards to a person of romantic interest, they may be unable to answer. Not because they want to conceal the news, but because they honestly cannot acquire the required information. They would have to dig very deeply into an unknown territory of their soul.

Unlike their logically constructed concepts and theories, the INTP’s feelings stand nowhere near as firm. And thus positive emotions that are construed in the mind of the INTP by others, can be easily wiped out as well. In other words: once triggered, the emotional fate of the INTP briefly lies outside the territory of their own influence.

Juvenile Curiosity

An INTP lives and breathes knowledge and information. And it their curious nature that makes them interested in an incredibly wide range of many different topics. Some of these topics survive this initial phase of impulsive interest and are taken to the INTP’s cognitive lab for a few rounds of thorough examination.

This is where the factor of interest comes into play. It namely plays a major role in the INTP’s assessment as to whether something is worth further investigation. And rightly so, because thorough students will dig deep once they have set their mind on something, for INTPs crave ultimate understanding of topics that consume most of their time.

As a result, the chain of books, lectures, theories, speculations, and a lot of ‘Why?’ questions, do not stop as long as their interest in the subject allows them to continue their obsessive investigations. And that string of information is the one and only path toward masterful expertise – the apex of the INTP’s intellectual quest.

As we already know for the INTP, interest is key. But it is a very black and white characteristic as well, for interest alone defines whether he is all-in or all-out. Consequently, as excited that INTPs can be about a subject, they are just as prone to disengage entirely due to a severe lack of interest.

And so, when disinterest strikes, the topic is completely rejected. It is perceived as “irrelevant”, “futile”, “illogical” or “too easy”. As a result, INTPs wish to remove themselves from it. This is not always possible, however it turns into a real problem when judgments as such concern the important things in life (e.g. work, social contacts, routine tasks, maintenance of material, health care, etc.), for this reversed curiosity turns the imperatives of life into a burden.

These tendencies of neglect manifest themselves both internally as well as externally. In a social setting, for example, INTPs first mentally condemns the tedious event, to then physically withdraw themselves from the unstimulating action. This is generally perceived as anti-social behavior, but through the eyes of an INTP, it is a logical step to take, and not to be taken personally. (Although, for an INTP, the people themselves will slowly but surely adopt the status of futility in case they continuously bring up nothing but akin subjects.) Because remember: anything is a concept to the INTP.

Related: Heightened Anxiety and Depression in INTPs

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Tijmen V.

Tijmen V.

Freelance writer / psychology and philosophy [email protected]