Imagine you have a brand new baby daughter.
All you want to do is hold her, and kiss her, and smother her with affection.
Now imagine doing all those things while your darling daughter is pushing away from you with all of her six-month-old might.
There’s something wrong with this kid.
There wasn’t really anything wrong with that kid––who happens to be me–– I was just showing signs of my budding INTJ personality.
For those of you unfamiliar with that anagram, it’s one of sixteen, four-letter monikers that compile the results of a personality test created by noted mother-daughter psychologists Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Meyers, from the work of Carl Jung. Though originally formulated by Meyers-Briggs as a tool to help identify the best job fit for women entering the workforce during World War II, the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI (find the test here), has been used extensively by individuals and by major companies to identify the personality traits that are best suited to different kinds of work and working environments.
The four dichotomies break down like this:
Attitudes: Introverted – Extroverted (I/E)
Functions: Sensing – Intuition (S/N) and Thinking – Feeling (T/F)
Lifestyle: Judging – Perception (J/P)
It should be noted that the definitions of these particular terms are specific to the MBTI and are not as we commonly know them. Think of these words as preferences, as how we prefer our surroundings, our thoughts, our interactions, and how that plays out day to day. There is an entire science to the MBTI, with dominant, auxiliary, tertiary and inferior classifications for each of the sixteen MBTI types. It’s fascinating stuff.
Dr. A.J. Drenth has a great blog that puts this all into fairly accessible language; you can nab his blog here. Understanding the hierarchies is a bit like reading string theory at first, but you’ll get the hang of it. He even has a personality test on his site. Try it for yourself. I wish I’d known years ago why I am the way I am.
Those of us that have been tagged INTJ are a rare breed, comprising 2-3% of the population. Women INTJs are even more rare, at .8%. Men, take heed; if you want a logical woman with very few emotional outbursts and, therefore, limited drama, an INTJ may be your slice o’pie.
When I was a young child, I was strangely social, often getting progress reports home stating NiCole is a good student but a bit of a social butterfly. It wasn’t that I was excessively talkative or misbehaved purposely. I was collecting data. I am curious about why people do the things they do:
The blonde girl in the desk next to me had a yellow ribbon in her hair that you couldn’t even see. Why bother?
Being made to “show your work” in math class. That’s simply a waste time to go through the steps I can do in my head.
Why are there people who blindly follow rules that make no sense? If you’re going to “follow the rules” and not park in spaces marked NO PARKING, when those signs are clearly only applicable to the winter months for the piling of snow removed from the parking lot, then I most certainly, and happily, will.
Amongst many other quirks to this personality type, the most obnoxiously apparent to most people is the blatant disregard for anything the INTJ deems a waste of time, illogical, or just plain stupid. No wonder I was always in trouble with my teachers. And my ex-husband. And my parents. Highway patrolmen. Hmm… I’m sensing a trend…
Though INTJs can, and do, buck convention, we are also notorious flies-on-the-wall. Loners. MASTERMINDS. Introverts who gain their energy from being in their own heads. Think of us as human computer processors with super duper poker faces, taking in every single bit of information around us, synthesizing it into categories and subcategories, then strategizing about the most efficient course of action to address any given situation, and having back-up contingencies A, B, C, D and E for any potential monkey wrench that could get thrown into the mix. This all happens in mere seconds and is often seen by other people as cold, calculating, dead inside, robotic… shall I keep going, or are you already calling a few people you know to mind? We stick out like a fly in the rice pudding.
I was often viewed as a loner and felt like one much of the time during my childhood. One of these things is not like the others. Do you know that song? I swear it was written for INTJs. I was the self-proclaimed Marilyn Munster of my family. The Wednesday Addams of my friends. In a world of jelly beans and rainbows, I am the black licorice. No fluff. No nonsense. Done and done. In comparison to a jar of jelly beans, the black licorice stands alone, content not to be screaming for attention. Welcome to the world’s perception of an INTJ’s emotional output.
What is most upsetting to me about the personality traits of the INTJ is how we are misunderstood. As I mentioned earlier, INTJs are categorized thusly: Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, Judging. The polar opposite of this is the ESFP: Extrovert, Sensing, Feeling, Perceiving. We don’t become overly emotional; we are content working with competent leaders until they fuck up and then we quietly take the reins; we process so much information all at once the death glare washes over our faces… it happens, too, when an obnoxiously extroverted person has invaded our bubble. More on that in a bit.
I mentioned Wednesday Addams earlier. She is a perfect, albeit comical, representation of the INTJ personality. A mastermind in her own right, she means business and doesn’t see emotions as being a rational or necessary part of her process.
My ex-husband once told me I was dead inside because, in an emergency situation, I didn’t freak out and cry or fall apart. I’m pretty sure I gave him said death glare. (See photo to left for an example). I’m sure he was thrilled by that.
The opposite of the INTJ would be Marilyn Monroe, an actual ESFP.
ESFPs find their energy being around people. They are lively, energetic and have magnetic personalities. ESFPs always see the silver lining and truly believe that life is full of pleasures to be explored. They are… the huggers.
And now, the bubble.
I’ve been a professional pianist so long that I don’t remember not being one. Because I am in the Arts, it’s not a stretch to imagine that many of the people with whom I work are extroverts, high feelers, sensitive individuals, all of whom are the polar opposite of me. When they come at me for a hug–– and they all do––I cringe, eyes widened, my heart downshifting for the necessary torque to get me the Hell out of there.
One of the choir directors I used to work with, who is also a great friend, got too far into my bubble once. You know we all have a bubble: that imaginary sphere around us that keeps a comfortable distance between us and the person or people around us. Some people seem to have a mini-bubble, as they’ve constantly got people hugging them and sitting on their laps. Others, not so much.
One day, knowing the circumference of my bubble was directly proportional to the distance between me and the 6′ end of the piano, he decided to step into my bubble. So far, in fact, and with a creepy Hiiiiiiiiiii to accompany the intrusion, I froze, wide-eyed and panic-stricken. And then… I cried and laughed simultaneously. He was mortified. The students were cracking up at the entire situation. I was plotting everyone’s demise.
After about five minutes, and a cup of tea to calm down, I repaired my bubble. Poor Drew has never gotten that close to me again and it’s been about eight years since that day. I do hug him now and again just to be on the safe side.
And that brings me to the title of this post: The Unhuggable Pianist. I cannot take credit for that title. The credit goes to my friend, Sat Shaan. (shameless plug for his blog here). We were having a conversation about something unrelated, and suddenly we were talking about hugs. My palms start to get clammy just typing the word. He told me he gives great hugs. I told him I freak out when people want to hug me. That’s when he called me the unhuggable pianist. Ouch.
It really made me think about that. Am I …unhuggable? Do people really view me this way? What if the people I care about truly think I don’t want to be close to them?! Even though I have a strong opinion about my personal space, I do give hugs, and will accept them now and again. I’ve even been praised recently by a few friends and family members for no longer visibly cringing or wrinkling my face in agony when it happens.
The point of this whole post is this: just because we may fall into a category or a type doesn’t mean we have no control over how we react and interact with those around us. Am I a mastermind INTJ? You betcha’. But I also feel very deeply; for the people in my circle, I’ve worked hard at breaking the cold INTJ exterior to show them how strongly I do feel about them. But Sat’s right, I’m going to need hug therapy. Yikes.
What’s your MBTI type, and how does it play into your relationships? Are you unhuggable?