It’s probably pretty clear that I am an introvert. I spend a lot of time happily sitting alone in my room, writing or doing research for writing. I have no problem going a day or two or three without interacting with people (beyond ordering pizza for delivery). It’s not a disorder, it’s not a disease, I don’t have Social Anxiety, it’s just how I’m wired.
I’m an INTJ, specifically. This is often called the Mastermind archetype, or even the Architect. This means that I am logic-oriented and don’t often understand feelings — my own or others. I run on introverted intuition and am big-pictured oriented. This archetype is often seen as cold, business-like, scientific and aloof. These are not true. Small talk is abhorrent, so why waste the time. Emotions are felt deeply, but they are private. What I look for is logic and efficiency.
INTJs are one of the most rare personality types, falling at right around 3% of the adult population in the U.S. As a female, I’m even more unusual, because we are only around 0.8% of the population. I don’t often find a lot of people to connect with and I’m usually pretty happy just sitting in my corner of the internet, doing my work.
My point in this article is not to talk about INTJs, though I could wax eloquently about various literary and television/film characters who fall into this mould (villains are most often this archetype, though I don’t know why). I could tell you what it’s like to go through an average day as an INTJ, or how work relationships function.
But I won’t.
(If you really want to know more, go to introvertdear.com and read their INTJ articles.)
What I really want to talk about is being an HSP, or Highly Sensitive Person.
Sensitive – adj: 1. Quick to detect or respond to slight changes, signals, influences
2. Having or displaying a quick and delicate appreciation of others’ feelings
Highly Sensitive People often get a lot of flack for being weak or fragile. We are often seen as people who start crying the moment someone says something that could be construed as offensive. People find it unusual that we don’t like violent movies or will feel depressed after reading a news story.
The thing is, though, sensitive doesn’t mean what you think it means. The actual definition of sensitive is someone who detects or responds to slight changes, signals or influences. HSPs are hyper-aware of the environment. We hear noises loudly, smell odours strongly. We are often aware of people’s emotions, even when they don’t realise this.
(If you want more research on how people can sense others emotions, look up empaths, or kinesics. There are whole fields about microexpressions and how body posture and movement relates to emotion. HSPs tend to notice these things without realising that we notice these things.)
We may be sensitive to what other people think, but only because we are extremely aware of what other people think. But in no way are HSPs inherently weak or fragile. We just see the world a lot stronger than most people.
I’m not an expert on HSPs, except that I am one. So, if you’re looking for more information, or think you might be one, here’s a great article: https://healdove.com/mental-health/hsp
The thing is, HSPs, empaths and introverts are all often seen together. Things like rationality and logic and cold, emotional robots (ahem) do not often get paired with such concepts. Except, I’m both. And it’s not a paradox.
As an INTJ, I observe the world and notice patterns. Intuitively, I put those patterns together into a larger whole. However, as an HSP, I am hyper-aware of the little details in the world, which can dramatically change my perspective.
For example, I dislike living in cities because the noises are almost obscenely loud to me. The sirens that all cities have wake me up in the middle of the night, all my muscles tense and ready for an attack. The smells of car exhaust and dumpsters are so strong as to make me hold my breath during certain parts of my walk. The number of people I pass makes everything I feel jumbled, because I am sensing how they are feeling.
Basically, the world is a very big, loud, sometimes overwhelming place. But I can also reason these experiences into patterns. I know that it’s better to walk around during the hours between 10 and 1, because people are not quite at lunch and yet have already left for the morning. Or I know what places to avoid at what parts of the day.
This also means that I don’t like violent television shows or movies, I dislike reading depressing stories on the news and if one of my favourite characters dies in my book, I’m going to be crying for a good long while.
INTJs function primarily on reason because it makes the most sense to us. But we do feel emotions. They are not our primary function and we often don’t let ourselves really feel or examine these emotions until we are alone. Reason is how we deal with the world. When we go to recharge and reflect, our emotions can be very strong. And because we don’t often let our emotions take a front seat, we don’t always know how to deal with them. As HSPs, we feel things very strongly, just based on biology. Sadness is crippling. Happiness is like thirteen energy drinks with chocolate. We run the gamut.
Put the two together and you come up with someone who is very rational and appears cold. But when something strikes our emotions, it can turn into a proverbial meltdown. (Yes, even the good things.)
INTJ HSPs are not a paradox, we’re just more aware. It can be useful, such as when we’re observing some linchpin detail. It can be almost crippling, like when I went to Stonehenge in the summer and freaked out at the people and the bugs, leaving in a shaking, almost crying mess.
For me, it means that I prefer to live in the quiet. I funnel my emotions into my writing and I have to be very frank about emotional situations I don’t understand. The trick is that I’m using my talents as best I can towards something I care about.
Like everyone else, we’re figuring it out one day at a time. One very loud, very bright, day at a time.