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The INTJ in-extremis. Martyr to Uncertainty.


Whether you agree with the more defining forms of personality typing or not, the fact remains that there is a particular way of being a person; a particular relationship between ego, unconscious and the world beyond self which accurately fits with the MBTI type known as INTJ.
Like all personality types cast in this way, there is a wide variance of “strength” or closeness to type under the INTJ heading. My concern here is not merely with the INTJ personality which most closely matches the finer definition of this type, but with the INTJ type “to the max”, where strong inner awareness and high intellect join in a personality tour de force of rare magnitude, and the fact that this extreme personality, for all its innate capability, often remains both unfulfilled and unable to access a place in this world where the possibility of such fulfillment might even be an option.
I want you to meet the INTJ in extremis. Why? Two reasons. You might have a relationship with someone like this and it could be worth your while to understand them better than you do now. Or, if as you read this, you find me describing yourself, then you may be one these rare people. And if you are, it might be a good thing for you to know you are not alone – because that is one of the strongest and most self evident truths the INTJ in extremis holds: that regardless of spouse, children, friends or social position, they have been, are, and ever will be, alone.
In outlining some of the most important traits of this personality and why they lead to the places they do, we need to understand that by their very nature these traits not only both create and enable isolation, but also that in themselves they are for the most part hidden beneath a persona which has been, both voluntarily and involuntarily, constructed to adapt the personality to a modern world essentially hostile to its nature. Certainly, there is an extremis position for all types, but in this essay I want to show how the defining characteristics of the INTJ in extremis can lead to those places where this personality can martyr itself. Crazy saint, drug addict or serial killer, the end result is often martyrdom – to a process beyond our normal human capacity to withstand.
One of the most prominent yet sometimes scarcely visible characteristics of the INTJ in extremis is their intelligence. Not the kind of head trip, super computer intelligence of the INTP genius so often portrayed on film and television by the dorky nerd in the lab coat, but the silent and penetrating awareness of the unseen alien hiding in the walls, whose supremacy is only apparent after the fact. “Alien” is actually a good word to describe the intellect of the INTJ in extremis, for, unlike the genial, self absorbed intellect of our INTP thinker, whose highly visible and often revered thinking ability often channels itself into those streams of applied science, politics or philosophy beloved of our modern, materialistic consumer society, the intellect of the INTJ in extremis is neither genial nor revered, for it is in many ways indeed alien to the mores, ideals and goals of modern society. And trying to manipulate it to serve such goals can be like prodding a cobra with a very short stick.
A second characteristic, actually a symptom of the extreme INTJ personality, is addiction to sensual gratification. While almost always overtly rationalized and controlled, the INTJ in extremis is a junkie; food, nicotine, alcohol, hard drugs, auto-erotic sex, it makes no difference, they are always stuck on something which not only makes their life bearable, but is also seen by them as a necessary adjunct to a reasonable existence: their addictions are a part of them, without which they would reckon life not to be worth living.
Another and possibly the most debilitating symptom suffered by the INTJ in extremis is a hidden, yet sometimes overwhelming vulnerability to states of extreme anxiety. This vulnerability is often countered in overt life by equally extreme forms of hair-splitting carefulness combined with a conservatism which finds its expression in unusual and highly individual ways.
This anxiety stems from the most important defining characteristic of the INTJ in extremis: that of “maxed out” introverted intuition, an uncontrollable trait that not only sets them apart from the rest of the human world, but also places them at odds with just about everything they see in it. Often it is only within the innocent world of animals and untouched nature that they find a sense of certainty, while the human world is seen as little better than the unconscious embodiment of all they see as stupid, and therefore evil.
Above all, to the outside human world, the INTJ in extremis is a secret known only to themselves. To casual acquaintances of other types they would mostly likely appear to be reasonably well adapted, quiet, kindly, unremarkable individuals who make no effort to draw attention to themselves nor involve themselves in groups, gatherings or contentions. In other words, just another ordinary, if somewhat overly introverted person. But they have to be this way, for there is no acceptable, socially adapted persona available to them through which they might express what lies beneath. And it is what lies beneath in this, admittedly extreme personality that makes it so rare, so misunderstood and, indeed, so perilous – either for those few truly able to bring themselves into contact with it, or, more often, those who are forced by daily circumstances to do deal with it.
It is often said that there is a fine line between genius and madness. Rightly so. The original meaning of the word “genius” suggests one who is possessed by a spirit, demon or “genie”, and our modern usage merely assimilates to the self of the “genius” or mad person something which was once considered an external, godlike or spiritual controlling influence. Indeed, if we look at the roots of both words we find the same thing – essentially, a form of possession by the gods. In terms of mythology, the only difference between what we now call either “genius” or “madness” comes down to just which of the gods are in possession of our personality. From Jungian psychology we see these gods as archetypal influences which form the inner topology of the “Self” or the total, if not fully “realized”, person. We also know from Jung that the process of becoming “Self aware” requires conscious recognition of, and interaction with, these archetypal influences, and that as long as we remain unconscious of their power in our life, we remain susceptible to “possession” by them.
While the INTJ in extremis might not interpret the influences within them as either gods or archetypes, they know them only to well. They are quite aware that their life long susceptibility to these forces has created the person they now are, and bemoan as they might the miseries they can bring, few if any would prefer to live altogether without them.
The question could be asked whether INTJ in extremis is the result of a neurotic adaptation to the world. Certainly, their adaptation to the wider social and economic consensus could easily be interpreted this way, but not their adaptation to reality, to what actually “is” and why it is. In fact this divergence is simply an artifact of the INTJ in extremis’ position that what “is” results mostly from a faulty adaptation to reality by the rest of the world; that consensus “reality” is for the most part a false attribution by those who cannot see beyond a blinkered, cultural viewpoint. Indeed, if the INTJ in extremis has a bête-noir, it is the obvious blindness of others to the incoherence and falsity of almost all “mainstream” political, scientific, cultural and religious dogma.
The INTJ detests dogma of any kind. Their classic viewpoint is: “When I discover for myself that what you are saying is true, then I will believe you.” The INTJ in-extremis, however, will never “believe”, for they know that rarely, if ever, does even personal experience represent the reality that lies beneath. It would be a rare INTJ who did not find the ideas expressed in the film “The Matrix” condign to their way of seeing the world, even without it’s “machine intelligence” sci-fi interpretation. For the INTJ in-extremis, the notion that we are trapped from birth into a game playing role in a matrix of illusion is not only blatantly obvious, but also one of the main reasons why they find it so hard to adapt to the mores of the collective world. Nothing is certain, and without certainty, there can be no commitment.
Thus, above all else, the INTJ in-extremis seeks for certainty, for something “true” in the most absolute sense, to which they might hitch their wagon. In essence, the INTJ in-extremis is a mystic in search of the ultimate ground of being. Without an answer to this quest, only the illusory sensual satisfactions of the shadow can sustain them in their isolation, where, left to themselves, it will be the upon cross of these satisfactions, destructive of both body and soul, that this personality will ultimately martyr itself.

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