Thinking vs. Feeling

The Thinker by Rodin

It’s not easy being a feeling person. At least not for us INTPs*, dammit. I’m a thinker. My brain is constantly in analysis mode. As you may have noticed from this blog, I feel almost compulsively required to analyze anything. I assume that with sufficient analysis I can understand anyone or any phenomenon. Before I have to deal with someone or some thing, I really, really want to have him, her or it entirely analyzed. This way I think I can figure out the safe and predictable way of interacting with them, and perhaps use them in my short interaction time in a way that I will find most satisfying.

My wife is the same way. We both often wish there were a pill we could take that would slow our brains down. It’s not unusual for us, even though we are dead tired, to be lying in bed not sleeping. Our bodies our tired but our brains won’t stop racing!

But I am also intuitive. I instinctively grasp how others are feeling. But because I am introverted I tend to keep my opinions to myself, and not always trust my own intuition either. For me, thinking is dominant over intuition. Consequently I am the sort of person who knows, for example, if someone is attracted to me. In these cases I can’t act on the knowledge because I either my left brain doesn’t fully trust my right brain or I am looking at all the consequences of acting on the feeling.

One of my challenges in midlife is to try to turn off the thinking part and plug into the feeling part. Because I am intuitive I understand how people are feeling. But can I choose to react to people on the basis of their feelings without overanalyzing thing. It is difficult when someone asks me how my day is going to respond with “How are you feeling today?” It is hard to reciprocate a feeling with another feeling. Instead I want to be Mr. Spock.

Being a feeling person instead of a thinking person may well be a great advantage. For one thing I imagine it would be easier to turn my brain off. Also I suspect a feeling person has much greater influence over others than a thinking person. People’s perceptions of you are largely colored by how you respond to their feelings. By responding in a way that complements their feelings it is likely I’d have more friends and be a lot more popular than I appear to be. In addition it can be faster to get them to do your bidding (if that were my desire) or at least relate to them because I already “know” and don’t need to justify the approach through endless analysis.

My coping strategy for now is to deliberately try to turn off the analysis machine and to try to respond in a low level way to the feelings I sense. I listen for the emotional meanings of the words I hear, and read the implied emotions in the voice or in their body language. But I need to get better. Perhaps a book on Emotional Intelligence is what I need.

And so I ask all of you out in blogland what strategies you use to tune in to people’s feelings. Help out a die-hard introvert become a more comparing and compassionate human being, before it’s too late!

* This is how I am categorized by a Myers-Briggs personality test. See http://www.mtr-i.com/mb-types/mb-types.htm.

2 thoughts on “Thinking vs. Feeling

  1. Hello, I use to be an INFJ, but a few months later the test says I’m an ISTJ. I had to do the reverse of what you’re trying to do. I had to think more and repress my feelings. Feeling can be painful, did you know that? It’s probably why you’d rather not do it. If you want to feel I suggest you find out why you want to feel in the first place. I felt so that I could understand myself better, I felt so that I could find peace, I felt so that I wouldn’t have to fight with someone or reject them because I didn’t want to be alone. That’s why I felt. The more I felt the more alone I was. But I found out that some people don’t deserve mercy at my expense and I found out that most people could care less how you feel, and I found out that even if you feel, you are alone because people aren’t mind readers and if you are introverted you are less likely to tell them, so what good does it do? It may release endorphins in the brain when you feel good after helping someone. That’s the good thing about feeling, you get less headaches and people hate you less, but sometimes when you are an INFJ who takes feeling to the extreme you might start to see things that aren’t there, like past life visions. I never realized they were not real, I just made a choice to decide it’s not real and I stopped remembering, I stopped feeling sorry for people. I stopped hurting myself in order to understand people. I did what worked and so I changed. If you want to become an F or if you are just seeking symmetry I think you can change. As for me I have to try harder to think, being that I lived most of my life in one mode of thought..INFJ. Hopefully I can find a middle ground where I don’t have to sacrifice one for the other.

  2. I think you might be confusing “Thinking” with “analysis.” An NF personality type can be just as analytical as an NT, but they will prefer to focus their analytical skills on interpersonal and group dynamics, emotional states, motivations, perceptions, and other subjective human factors. As an analytical NF I can’t turn my brain “off” any more than you can as an analytical NT. I also know quite a few NTs who can’t analyze their way out of a paper bag, but can make amazing conceptual leaps (they tend to be strong on Perception).

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