I lost a friend this week. I first met Tim in high school. We were never romantically involved, in fact, he dated two of my good friends. But I had always admired him. In the 80s, he introduced mohawks and The Butthole Surfers to our tiny high school. I remember learning that he used egg whites to get his hair to stand up straight.I held him in high regard for his brilliance and bravery. He wowed our AP English teachers with his perceptiveness and well-written papers. He could hold his own on any philosophical, political, or psychological discussion. He had the courage to be authentic and ballsy when most kids (including me) succumbed to peer pressure.
As a kid, I never knew what to say to Tim. My introverted brain felt too sluggish and timid to keep up with his quick wit and unique thinking. I mostly listened when he held court within our social group.
Somehow, in our late thirties, we connected online. I was finally able to communicate my thoughts without feeling intimidated. I had finally found my voice, and Tim was receptive to my writing and ideas. His positive reception and understanding felt really good. Only a few people in my life had offered me that kind of understanding and encouragement.
He shared his writing with me and encouraged my introspection, personal growth, and creativity. He inquired about my life and work. I learned that he played every musical instrument and shared his talents with underprivileged kids by giving them instruments and teaching them how to play. At one point, he emailed me an excerpt on the Greek philosopher Epictetus,explaining that Epictetus pioneered the philosophy that we choose how we think, feel, and react to external stimuli. I’m still pondering that.
I can’t say if he was an introvert, but he was introspective and intuitive as hell.
According to Carl Jung and the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory, there are two ways we take in the world: sensing and intuition.
We all use both methods to a degree, but people who have a sensing preference are more comfortable with facts, details, past experiences, and the information that is available to the senses at the moment. Sensors prefer what is real and verifiable. They tend to be practical people. They make sure plans are carried out.
Those with a preference for intuition like and trust information that is abstract, conceptual, “big picture,” and future-oriented. They see possibilities. They read between the lines. Intuitive processors make intuitive leaps in thinking and judgment based on patterns or associations they’ve collected and stored in their mind. They tend to see what could be. They are the dreamers and idea generators.
Intuitives ask, what if? Sensors prefer, what is?
Not understood = loneliness
According to Personality Hacker and Myers-Briggs studies, those with an intuitive preference (represented by the letter N in Myers-Briggs personality types, such as INFJ or INTP) make up about 25 percent of the population while sensors (represented by the letter S) make up the remaining 75 percent.
Both intuition and sensing are valuable to society. Sensors provide stability, realism, and function. Intuitives provide innovation, perspective, and future-thinking.
The hurt comes in when either type is not valued or appreciated.
Given that sensors make up the majority of the population, their realistic methods are often viewed as the way to be. Sensors are valued and rewarded for their focus on logistics, money management, time management, efficiency, and other practical skills. Like a mohawk in a farm town, intuitive thinking can seem strange and mysterious. Intuitives are okay with not being practical because we prefer novelty, creativity, and big-picture thinking, but it hurts when we are not understood or appreciated, or worse, told we are wrong and should change. If that happens, we feel lonely even when we’re with people. Sound familiar?
Just like an introvert trying to act like an extrovert, it takes more energy to act and think like a sensor if you’re an intuitive. It takes a lot of energy to go against the norm too, so often intuitives hone their sensing skills just to fit in.
Discovering I am an intuitive was as big as discovering I am an introvert. As an INFP personality type, my spiderweb thinking, lack of interest and follow through in mundane practical things, penchant for ideas over facts and mental leaps from A to C without mentioning B, leave me feeling inept, odd, or not understood in a lot of situations.
Sensors also seem to put a high value on productivity. Measurable and tangible output is the ideal. As a writer who spends a lot of time reading, thinking, and writing, I often feel subpar when it comes to tangible output.
I don’t care about breaking down things into tiny parts. I want to look at the whole and explore it from different perspectives. I love talking about big concepts like motivation and relationships versus local news or sporting events. Not that I won’t take interest in those things if they are a part of something I am passionate about, but it will take effort.
A lot of times, I just “know” what I know based on observing subtle nuances in the environment or in someone’s body language. I then subconsciously compare what I see to patterns I’ve collected over my lifetime. There is no explaining how I reached my conclusion. Most sensors would never trust that kind of knowing, therefore the majority of the population doubts or discredits my perceptions.
Again according to Personality Hacker, there are five basic needs that often go unmet in an intuitive’s life. They are:
When I meet someone who fulfills those unmet needs, it’s like coming home. I feel understood and not alone. Finding another member of the intuitive tribe is such a rush. Diving deep into the thought and idea ocean with someone fills me up and gives me energy. It’s been my experience that intuitive conversations are electric two-way currents with participants riffing off each other’s ideas with ease, much like I did communicating with Tim or how I imagine Tim playing in his jam bands.
My friend dove into the intuitive ocean with many people. He made people think with his positive attitude and genuine interest in them. He gave us space to talk and share and asked us questions. He didn’t follow the “life template” and in doing so he gave others permission to explore and self-define. He served as a mentor and definitely impacted lives. My intuitive tribe got a little smaller this week and that makes me sad, but I’m grateful for having known such an individual. I hope to coach and encourage others like he did me. The following Epictetus quote seems appropriate for honoring him.
We have all a certain part to play in the world, and we have done enough when we have performed what our nature allows. In the exercise of our powers, we may become aware of the destiny we are intended to fulfill. — Epictetus