“How are you?”

How are you
Is an open invitation
For you to talk
About yourself, your feelings
And what you’re going through

How are you
Is an act of kindness
On my part
Showing that I genuinely care
That I’m concerned about you

How are you
Is a sincere question
Letting you know
That I’m here to listen
That I’m here if you need someone to turn to

How are you
Isn’t a meager expression
Uttered without a thought
Out of habit and politeness
Which dilute its true value

How are you
Isn’t something to take lightly
All I ask is
For you to grasp the gravity of it
And to realise the magnitude it has too

Stabbed

I was stabbed in the chest. To understand what happened, I’d have to tell you how it all began.

We first met at a job orientation. He was one of the two conducting the orientation for a group of us newly hired employees. He looked like a real-life BFG, which I, as a child, would have been thrilled to see the book come to life. Intuition told me he was an ENFJ, which I was fascinated by as he’d then be the very first I’d have met. Typical of extroverts, he blabbered on during the orientation. And typical of me, I preferred efficiency and conciseness, and was somewhat impatient. I thought of different ways I could broach the topic of MBTI with him, but didn’t get an opportunity to that day.

Due to the nature of our job scope, we rarely see each other at work. It was some time after when we met a few times in passing, and one day he asked if we could leave together after work. So we talked — well, he talked more while I mainly listened. I casually mentioned something about personality and then he brought up the MBTI. That sparked my interest. I find out that he only knows about it very briefly, and he mentioned he’s an ENFP. That sparked my intrigue even further — to figure out if I was wrong and if he was right. He asked questions about my type and I gave him brief explanations. Then we parted ways.

The next time I spotted him at work, I went up to him — which isn’t something I’d do unless it’s someone I like — and shared with him excitedly that I had signed up for an MBTI training program. My level of excitement then plummeted as he brushed it off by stating that the MBTI wasn’t all that great, that it lacked substance, depth, and accuracy. That was Strike 1: to insult my knowledge and insinuate that what I learn and read about lacks depth and quality. My excitement turned into hurt, nervousness, confusion, and anxiety. Perhaps I was overreacting and being too sensitive. Maybe I misinterpreted his words. He suggested that I signed up for a different training program, one about personalities using colours. He told me that the theory was much better and I listened to him explain what it was as I genuinely wanted to learn. I made a mental note to look it up after (which I did) and then I asked if he had also heard about the Enneagram and that I was starting to read up on it. Then came Strike 2: with a look of pure disgust on his face, he asked if that had something to do with animals and the zodiac. Again, it’s insulting my intellect and dismissing my topics of interest.

I left feeling really bad and talked about this encounter with an INFJ, who encouraged me not to cut the relationship prematurely, to give it another chance. So the next time we met again some time later, I took the advice and we did the same: he asked, I agreed, and we left work together. But this time, we spent two hours talking. I asked him questions in an effort to figure out what his type really was, and from his responses, he did seem to be more like an ENFP. He asked me questions as well to find out more about my type. At some point in the middle of our conversation, there was a Strike 3: he asked if I appreciated and felt any emotional reactions to art and things like a sunset because he feels strongly about such and cannot stand it when others try to break it down logically and analyse its beauty. I told him that even though he was a Feeling type, it didn’t mean that he doesn’t have a brain, so likewise, I have a heart too and I feel things deeply. To insinuate that I have no emotions and that I have no appreciation for the arts are grave errors, especially when I had explained so much about myself to him.

Second-guessing myself once more, I continued conversing with him that night, thinking that I was just being over-sensitive. He asked more questions and I shared more things with him, revealing more of myself to him which, again, isn’t something I do with just anyone. Then comes the shattering moment: he asked how I find the work, and I said that I loved it (and I genuinely still do), but that my dream job was something else. He rolled his eyes and asked what I was doing there then, whether I was just there for the money. I felt as though a part of me shattered like glass. Money, to me, is meaningless. I do not care for money. I find intrinsic value in my work. That I’m learning, and helping others, and nurturing the intellect. I didn’t feel like he was worthy of the explanation and closed the door on him as a mode of self-protection and self-preservation. I spoke to the INFJ again as well as an ENFP about this incident and they both understood where I was coming from very well. The INFJ intuitively made the motion of a knife stabbing through the heart even before I expounded on how I felt, which was a nice touch.

Months passed and I barely saw him at work until recently. I was talking animatedly with a co-worker when he appeared, surprised to see me after so long, and invited me to head out for a meal at once. I hesitated and asked what it was he wanted to talk about. I suppose he noticed my hesitation and lack of enthusiasm, and switched to asking if he could see me privately instead to go over a few things about work. I acquiesced and followed him into a meeting room, which was where the stabbing happened:

He first questioned if I was upset with him. I asked why he’d think I would be. He explained that my last couple of email responses to him had been curt, and accused me of giving mixed signals. Now, I’ll need to explain this statement further before I move on to what he did next. I had responded directly to his last couple of emails with my standard “Noted, thanks” response. It’s how I respond to all colleagues since emails are frequent unless I have issues to clarify with them. I do not deem that rude. I see that as a standard, neutral response. In fact, I had previously sent him a couple of reports via email, each with a paragraph-long text informing him about what the reports were for, to which he never acknowledged. That, to me, is even ruder. Granted, his emails included social niceties (which mine were void of) but I find that to be fake and a waste of time. Must I elucidate how I’ve been and what I’m up to in every email response regarding work? Especially to a person I do not like? That goes against my personal values of being honest and genuine and not lying. I am the sort to leave emotional issues aside when it comes to work and I maintain objectivity and professionalism with colleagues I do not get along with. So implying that I was reacting in a passive-aggressive way already irked me.

But back in the meeting room, he carried on by elaborating that my previous emails to him had been better (even though they hadn’t contained any niceties but merely more words), and he had the nerve to lecture me on the proper way of responding to emails as though I were an ignorant child. He made an emphasis on my current age (which he had somehow found out that I had aged up since the last time we spoke, and this irked me not just because he’s finding out about my personal information behind my back but he had the gall to rub it in my face as well) and described how the corporate world is to me, that when I join it next time, I’d have to change my ways to better fit in and thrive. As I sat there taking it all in, my muscles began to tremble and twitch. ‘How stupid does he think I am?’ What he was enumerating were so elementary. They were things that were already apparent to me, and have been so for a long time. It was such a bore listening to. My mind wandered to one of his emails updating me on the company’s new procedures, where he stated that my “smarts” would be able to understand the attached documents without him having to go into detail about them. This just showed his true perception of my level of intellect. My mind traced back to another instance during our two-hour long conversation whereby he assumed I was reluctant to change — that I stuck to old-fashioned methods of working just because I stated that he was better than I was at the newer methods and I did not boast about using the newer methods like he did — and he went on to educate me on updating my work habits. When he noticed me using the newer methods at work one day, his compliment was like a backhanded slap because it was as though he saw it as my first time implementing this new method due to his advice.

When he finished lecturing me on how to adequately reply to emails, I responded: “1) Sorry I offended you. It wasn’t my intention [to which he shook his head and denied it]. 2) Do you think that I’m unaware of all this?” I shook my head in disappointment at his response. I informed him that I was already aware of everything he mentioned — everything. “And you don’t want to change?” he asked. I echoed a resounding ‘No’ to him, much to his surprise and puzzlement. The twitches crept up to my facial muscles. My insides were bubbling. I felt like I was about to burst. ‘How could he lack such an understanding of me? How wrong could he be in his assumptions of me? How could I have been so wrong in my judgement of him? How unaccepting could he be?’ Asking me to change is akin to asking me to defy my values, to go against what I believe in, to be ungenuine and disingenuous — things that I abhor.

He proceeded to run through a list of the newly implemented standard operations he’d written on the glass panel. I’d already done a quick run through of the list when I stepped into the room, and they were so simple and basic — things that I’d already been doing at work, things that I valued, things that I took pride in. My impatience set in. I diverted to my neutral facial expression — I found no worth in expending energy on keeping a smile, especially when it was not genuine. It unsettled him. I mainly nodded my head. It took him by surprise that I understood things so quickly, many times before he could even finish his sentence. It was a bore listening to him, and as usual, he was verbose with his explanations. He included additional details about how I conducted my work, as though smugly showing that he’d been talking to others and finding out more information about me. He inquired whether I could tackle simple problems when they occurred had I not prepared for them. I took this as another insult. How little he seemed to know about and comprehend me. He seemed to think that reading up on the INTJ type on Wikipedia was sufficient to understand all that I am. The impromptu meeting ended with another backhanded compliment that not everyone was as hardworking as I am in doing preparatory work and that others preferred to improvise on the job.

I’m still unclear about his type, but whatever it is, it is clear that we do not get along. I’m also still uncertain whether it’s just hypersensitivity and an overreaction. And by the way, our relationship is completely platonic if you’re wondering otherwise.

The Intensity of Intensive Training

I spent the week at an intensive training program, and I learned so much — not about the course material and not about myself, but about how others perceive me. It’s so intense and startling that it hurts.

They found me insightful and intelligent. That the way I spoke was metaphorical and wise, that I had such a different and unique perspective and understanding, that my words conveyed such depth and meaning. They wowed when I spoke up, as though the measly thoughts of mine that I tried so hard to translate and push out were otherworldly.

The other INTJ there had the same impact on the room. It was amazing meeting another INTJ. The intensity; the depth; the mutual understanding. I learned so much about him and from him in that short span of time.

I made other connections too. Some sought me out and I also selected a few whom I liked and gravitated towards. With my knowledge, I helped them understand themselves better and eased their confusion. I seem to like the quiet ones. The little things we did for one another held so much more meaning and sincerity — those connections bore so much deeper. One said that consultancy work giving advice to others would suit me very well. Those words mean a lot.

An ENFP expressed his concern and asked me some cutting questions (in a good way). What are you going to do with all this insightful knowledge that you have? But I haven’t done anything out of the ordinary; I merely read the books, made the connections, and understood them. If others do the same, they’ll easily see it too. That’s where you’re wrong. It may seem obvious to you, but it isn’t so for others.

They questioned why I was so quiet and so private. I was the sole enigma in the room. In an effort to hide in the shadows, I somehow attracted their attention and piqued their interest.

At the end, the program drew to a close and so did the connections. I’m left questioning the oddity of the drastic differences in how I perceive myself and how others perceive me, as well as how I thought others perceive me. Why has it changed? What has changed? And most importantly, now what?

The NFs (and the INTJ)

It’s perplexing how most of the INFJs and ENFPs I’ve met lack an understanding and acceptance of the many different ways people function. And yet, they remain popular, well-liked, and regarded as wise.

They live in their NF bubble and try to mould others to become more NF in their ways, like Pygmalion. When their efforts are for naught and the other person remains unreceptive to their sculpting attempts, they become passive-aggressive and make jabs behind the person’s back. Other times, they spurt lava aggressively on the other person in retaliation to attacks, real or perceived. If it gets really bad, the volcano in them erupts. I’ve not hung around long enough to experience a full-fledged eruption and I can only imagine the damage it’d cause. I still have a fondness and admiration for these two types though, at least theoretically.

As for the INFPs, it’s like walking on eggshells. They remain distant and hard to reach. I seem to offend them with my assertiveness and use of Te (extroverted thinking). And I’ve not knowingly met any ENFJs.

On a side note, I think I’ve finally met a fellow INTJ, and a female one at that! It’s kind of odd to see a mirror image of myself in someone else. She’s much more accomplished and well-adapted than I am, and significantly older, but we’ve gotten along pretty well thus far. I can see past her “cold” and logical exterior into her gooey insides easily, and perhaps she can see mine too. This is one opportunity I must seize and not let slip past.

Left Picking Up the Shattered Pieces

Have you ever shared something so precious with another,
only to have it be attacked?

There’s something precious that I keep within me and is a part of me. It’s a small fragile sphere made of glass that glows dimly.

glass-ball

I reached into my core, carefully took it out, and presented it to him. I choose who to show it to and I decided to share it with him. He grabbed it roughly and crushed it in his hands. Shards of glass fell onto the floor.

122

I stood there stunned and motionless. His questions cut deeper than those shards. Accusations laced his words. Accusations that what I do is meaningless, that I find no meaning in what I do, that I’m merely doing it for superficialities, for material gains.

I picked up the shattered pieces and retreated deep into my shell.

The Fe-Fi Divide

Lately, two new INFJs have waltzed into my life whom I get along quite well with. I wonder what’s different about these two in comparison to the dozens of others I know presently and from the past, and I have a few guesses. I doubt, though, that our relationship will go deeper or last for long. But for now, I’m enjoying their company.

I think I come across to them as insightful, since they’re not familiar with the MBTI and I have much to say about it. I haven’t really found anything they said to me particularly insightful, so the relationships are a little one-sided.

One thing odd is that I give them relationship advice. How absurd. Aren’t INFJs the ones who are supposed to have exceptional interpersonal skills? I recently spent a couple of hours talking with one of them about their feelings and relationship troubles, and I was giving advice throughout — sound advice, if I might add. How ironic. I seem to understand so much so quickly. I even seem to understand their long-term partners more than they do, although I’ve never/barely met or interacted with them. How peculiar — not of me, but of them and how little they know about the inner-workings of their decade-long (or two) partners. Aren’t INFJs supposed to read others effortlessly? During the two-hour long conversation, the INFJ confided that they feel burdened when their partner talks about their own feelings for an extended period of time, and would stop the partner. My gosh, Fe. I later pointed out and juxtaposed the length and topic of our conversation, much to the INFJ’s astonishment.

They don’t seem aware of my overwhelming sadness. They’ve had glimpses of and expressed their sadness with a couple of things I’ve mentioned to them about myself, but I don’t think they’re aware of its omnipresence.

The way Fe consoles irks me. “괜찮아, everything will be alright” doesn’t work, at least not for me. It’s a dismissal of my feelings and makes me crawl back into my shell. As an enneagram type 5, I deal with problems by turning to knowledge and information. This hoarding of information doesn’t translate much into practical use for me, so I retreat to hoard more information. It is the way I function and deal with things, but it’s not helping, so 어떡해? I understand and read people pretty well, yet still lack the practical skills to communicate and interact with others. Isn’t it strange?

I am neither here nor there
Neither living nor dead
Neither present nor absent
Friend nor foe
Intelligent nor unintelligent

I live high up in the clouds
Peering at those down below
Wishing not to be here
Nor down below

Describing Introverted Feeling (Fi)

Imagine a jellyfish with its tentacles gliding through the waters, or the tree in Avatar with its tendrils gently swaying in the breeze. That is how introverted feeling (Fi) feels like to me.

I walk around with these tentacles — these tendrils — floating about me. One reaches out selectively to connect deeply with another, to feel what the other is feeling, to empathise and understand. It is my choice who I send a tendril out to touch and connect with, and only one entity at a time. It is intense as the emotions wash over. Sometimes, I meet others who have these vines floating around them too. They don’t always send a vine out (and neither do I), but when both vines connect, there is a deeply felt shared moment.

This connection through tendrils is not limited by time or space. It doesn’t have to happen at the same time, same place, or in-person. It travels through written words, through asynchronous communication, through others, through visuals, through music, through touch.

Emotions are immensely private and personal. Hurt cuts deep inside. Only trusted individuals are given access to a window buried deep within. Opening up is no small matter, and it’s incredibly difficult to translate into words.

I noticed a positive change in someone recently, and I exchanged some pleasantries about it. I could tell that she was very happy about it and that I had noticed. I then spent the next 20 minutes or so pondering how to clearly convey what I was feeling inside. At the end, I mustered the courage to start but then faltered midway. I frowned and looked down, trying to push out the words that I’ve rehearsed. She frowned too, perhaps mirroring my expression and/or out of confusion. I eventually managed to deliver my line and when I looked up, we both smiled at each other and there was that moment of connection and mutual understanding. These are special moments.

(Video that sparked inspiration;
Talk on Enneagram Type 5;
Documentary on ‘Finding Vivian Maier’)