(WHAT'S NEW: 10/23/15--I've been away for a good bit grappling with new challenges and the next stage of life struggles. But I'm coming back with a new article, and a new idea! It's about the INTP drive for creation and achievement. Along with the new article, I'd like to create a page dedicated to INTPs supporting other INTPs in business. If you need a product or service, why not go to another INTP?? You know will get a person who understands your approach to the world!)
One of the most important goals of this site is to expose and understand the immense importance of emotions in INTP happiness and in coping with life. As much as we understand, however, as much as we try to navigate around dangerous and painful emotions, we sometimes get winged by an unexpected bullet. Or worse. Sometimes we get mugged. And sometimes, just sometimes, we get dropped to our knees and shot execution style.
That's where this article comes in.
You're probably reading this article in a state of curious calm. Well, that's cool. But what I really want is for you to remember that it's here when you are in distress. When your heart is pounding out of your chest, when you're cut and can't stop the bleeding, this article is where you need to come back to. Even I have to do it, to read the words again, and I wrote them. When the pain is full-on, your INTP nature is going to pull you out of orbit and plunge you into the atmosphere like a meteorite coming in from space. You're going to burn up without help. Trust me. I would spare you that, if I can.
So, I'm going to give you some tools, my friends. Concrete tools. Like an INTP survival kit.
The four tools are arranged in a list of increasing crisis. The first deals with maintaining healthy boundaries and protecting yourself. A good all-around skill to have. The last is the 911 call. When the world is exploding around you. (You'll notice that the kit is full of "B's." But these B's don't sting. They take the sting away.)
Protective Tool for Level 1 Pain: The UnBreakable Bubble
Let me guess. When people are upset around you, when you feel like you've made a mistake or failed, the tension immediately grips you. As if the emotions of others pierce right to your heart and rocket through you. Your heart pounds faster. You feel like a cornered animal and wish you could run, run run.
That's called enmeshing. It's the lack of any real buffer between "me" and "them."
If this sounds like you, then you are lacking healthy emotional boundaries. The emotions of others leap over what little walls you have and slam you right in the chest. It's almost like you're an emotional marionette. Someone else's emotions pull the strings, and your hands and feet just flap around as they get yanked. Don't feel bad. That was me. It still is all too often. But I've gotten much better. You can too.
I'm going to give you some materials to build a much better wall. And no, these aren't bad walls. These are good walls. Your emotional health and ability to cope will be hugely improved.
Imagine yourself standing out in a field. Exposed. The emotions of others, and their judgments, are like rain or rocks pelting you. Now, channel your inner wizard. (Maybe Gandalf). Imagine yourself holding your hands out to either side of you. A gesture of protection and defiance. Conjure a bubble that begins from your heart and expands outward in all directions. When it gets to fifteen feet, it stops and flashes firm with unbreakable electric strength. All of that pelting is still going on. It even intensifies. But it all just hits the bubble around you.
See the people beyond the boundary. See them yelling and pounding, wanting to harm your feelings. But there is no sound. And absolutely nothing touches you. Not even the air is disturbed. You are untouched. Nothing can reach you. Inside your unBreakable Bubble, you are calm and safe. Let the storms happen outside. Let it pass. The skies will clear again. The howling wind out there has nothing to do with you.
Protective Tool for Level 2 Pain: The Big Badass Bouncer
You now have a protective barrier around yourself with the unBreakable Bubble. You are working on your healthy boundaries. You are successfully stopping yourself from enmeshing. However, now a particularly potent, toxic thought keeps smashing through and plowing into your thoughts. You know you shouldn't be dwelling on it, but you can't seem to stop it. You get mad at yourself. Why can't you banish this toxic thinking?
Maybe it's a cancerous worry or doubt. Maybe it's a poisonous uncertainty. Wait. We got this. Call the Badass Bouncer.
Visualize that toxic thought as a nasty drunk making a ruckus at the hip city bar that you own. I mean actually visualize this physically. See the creep. See his or her slobbering nonsense. What a pathetic slob.
Now call over the bouncer. A big burley brute who grabs that loser and bodily throws him or her out the door and sprawling into the street. GONE.
But that drunk is persistent. The drunk gets up and pushes back in. These toxic thoughts are like that. No matter. No problem at all. Big Badass Bouncer grabs, drags, and chucks that jerk right back into the street. As many times as that thought pushes into your head, that is exactly how many times the Badass Bouncer is going to throw it out.
Keep your customers safe and happy, my friend. That riffraff has to go. Just throw it out. See it, feel it, do it. It works.
Protective Tool for Level 3 Pain: Breathe, Baby, Breathe
Okay, you have worked on boundaries, you keep your head free from drunk, nasty punks, but something has happened to overwhelm you. You've suffered a big hit. You are in acute distress.
Take note of your physical symptoms: tight chest, difficulty breathing, shaking anxiety, stomach churning, fast heartbeat. And your mind is flying, flying, flying. It is trying to navigate at 1000 miles an hour, but the distress is making it very hard to find the solution.
Trust me on this. Calm before doing any more thinking. Before any thinking at all.
Concentrate on your breathing. Slow it down. As you do that, feel tension physically loosening. It kind of feels like sinking. Last, feel your heartbeat slowing. As this happens, you start to float on the surface of warm water and feel content. Are you there?
You will be amazed by what happens inside your brain now. The problem will have perspective. The horribles you were so sure of will seem reduced and balanced against other possibilities. You will be in a position to do what you do best. Navigate. With clarity and skill, not chaos.
Remember: Calm first, think second.
The Level 4 Fire Extinguisher: INTP 911
Okay. So, it's hit the fan. You have put tools 1 and 2 in place, and in the midst of this crisis, you have used tool 3 to try to calm. But it won't stick. The crisis is too big. The volcano is erupting and chucks of magma are raining down onto your house. It's all starting to burn. You need immediate help! No bullshit, no analogies, just immediate crisis management. This final tool blends physical calming with a form of thinking martial law. You need to get this situation under control. NOW.
(You might want to keep this list handy.)
IN AN EMERGENCY:
3. DON'T ACT.
4. GET HELP.
1. Physically CALM! Immediately!!
Stop thinking and turn all of your attention to your body. Slow and deepen your breathing. Feel your heartbeat slowing. Feel your muscles relaxing. Especially the ones in your chest constricting your breathing.
2. TRUST. What you are convinced of IS NOT TRUE.
You have lasered your mind onto something terrible and magnified it 1000x. There is NO WAY you have gotten this factually correct. Your emotions have driven you off a cliff, taking your mind with them. The situation is AT LEAST 50% better than you are fearing.
Trust does not mean more analysis and deconstruction. It is the opposite. It is trusting a conclusion WITHOUT analysis. Your mind is your enemy right now. This is going to be one of the hardest things to do. I don't care. Do it anyway. Trust that the bad thing is not true.
3. DON'T ACT.
Your actions right now will be mistaken. And you may very well cause the very thing you are fearing. For example, if you think you are about to lose someone you care about, acting in anger driven by terror and pain could very well open up a fast descending spiral of actions/reactions that result in losing that person. You will think, SEE, it was true! But no, it wasn't true until your reactions caused it. And it didn't have to happen.
Break the spiral. Just stop! You are not in a condition to choose correctly right now.
4. GET HELP.
Okay. Okay. You are out of immediate crisis now, you aren't making a huge mistake by acting rashly, but you are heavily weakened and at risk. The storm wants to blow over you again. To suck you back into the maelstrom.
You need something new in the situation, something to get yourself out of the loop inside your head. Talk to a friend, do something that calms you, switch gears, go for a run, listen to a song that evokes the opposite reaction, watch a comedy, just do something else! Even better, if you are in crisis because of a person, try reaching out to him or her now that you are outside the immediate grip of the crisis. Help that person get out of it too. You really don't want to be hurting each other. Help each other out of it. If that's too much, then turn to a friend. Just don't go back into the churning circle in your brain.
Keep working, my brethren. With these tools, you can endure and survive a lot.
You can even thrive in the face of them.
Shortly after posting this article, a number of INTPs have asked some very INTP questions. Okay, Jason, I've gotten past the immediate crisis, but the problem is still there! It hasn't gone away! Now what? I need to solve the problem, don't I? These tools just treat the symptoms, not the disease.
You are 50% right. Why only half? Because 50% of the "problem" is your own INTP churning out of control. Your own nature is half of the problem. While you are buried in it, you won't quickly rise out of the darkness. Your nature is worsening the problem by doubling its importance, intensity, and complexity. So the first thing to do is realize that you are still in the grip of whatever is eating you from the inside out. Calm even more. Step above it even more.
Okay. So now you have only the real problem in front of you. You already trimmed 50% of it away. What now? How do you fix what remains?
The passage of time reduces pain. It's like a slow erosion or a fire burning out of fuel. It could be years, or never, to completely rid yourself of reminders and re-experiences of particularly bad pain, but with the passage of time, it will become very infrequent, mostly gone, and entirely livable. Toxic thoughts, however, will keep intruding and reigniting the pain and inviting you to churn all over again. That is where the Badass Bouncer comes in. Throw that frigging toxic thought right out of your head. Let the Bouncer protect your peace while you begin to heal with time.
2. New Sizzling Energy.
INTPs thrive on the next challenge, the next achievement. They don't thrive on spinning and spinning on why something failed (although they do it quite compulsively). You need to find new, fresh energy. Start a new project. Dive into something that excites you. Meet new people and begin to delve into them. You need some juicy INTP fuel to put you on the forward path rather than the backward path.
While you are on your new path, time will be passing. Your Badass Bouncer will be taking care of intrusions. You will be very surprised how quickly you rise up and begin to soar again.