Type at the Family Conference Table: Introverted Thinking

13 May 2016

Written by Mathew David Pauley, JD, MA, MDR

Dispassionate objectivity can seem out of place in environments such as hospitals, where passions can run high. And thus we come to Introverted Thinking types: ISTPs and INTPs. For them the goal is to understand, and they will be quick to let you know that true understanding can be clouded by “erratic” emotions mucking things up. Reportedly, Introverted Thinking types confront catastrophe with the same air of detachment with which they confront their normal work and can seem nearly unflappable—that is, until the catastrophe affects them personally and evokes their least favorite mental process, Extraverted Feeling.

ISTPs and INTPs have feelings, of course, but expressing them and using them to communicate are not their areas of strength. And since emoting to others isn’t generally comfortable for them, they tend to find being forced into personal emotional experiences very distressing. The normally quiet, thoughtful person at the family conference table currently erupting with unchecked emotion may indeed be an individual whose favorite mental process is Introverted Thinking. In contrast, Extraverted Feeling types prioritize the feelings and welfare of others, often sharing their emotions in the process. The need to be “as objective as possible” does not rank as high for them.

Doctor discussing with team in hospitalFor example, an INTP’s significant other had completed an advance directive instructing healthcare providers to discontinue life-sustaining interventions if a terminal diagnosis has been made and meaningful recovery is unlikely. Objectively, the logic is very clear: If condition A (terminal diagnosis) is present, along with condition B (unlikely meaningful recovery), life support should be discontinued. Making such a decision might even be easy (or as easy as such a decision can ever be) for the INTP partner, but coping with or expressing the very illogical emotions that follow from it can lead to an emotional outburst. CPP studies, for example, report that ISTPs and INTPs have the fewest coping resources of all 16 types (MBTI® Manual, pp. 84 and 86).

Illness, death, and loss can seem senseless and illogical, and trying to make sense of them can be a fool’s errand. It can be helpful to give the Introverted Thinking types time to figure this out for themselves. Until they do, recognizing that questions such as “How do you feel?” may actually be a trigger for them.

Want to read more? Check out my previous blogs in this series:


 

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