Obsession

Tuesday, October 09, 2012 16 Comments A+ a-


Hello again - sitting here with my coffee, trying to warm up. Brrr, it's chilly this morning! Got lots to do, but I can't seem to turn my brain off.

Which brings me to the topic I want to talk about today. Obsession.

Do you guys find yourselves playing events and encounters over and over in your heads long after they've occurred? Or sending an e-mail, not getting a response right away, and worrying that you wrote something you shouldn't...so you go over your e-mail again and again, trying to figure out what you did wrong?

When I tell people that my brain is a scary place, I usually say it with humor. But it's kind of true. I have a hard time shutting down the ole' thinker, especially when I've said or done something that I wish I could go back and change.

The INFJ tends to be both a perfectionist and an idealist. We have high standards for ourselves and hold ourselves accountable to them. These are great qualities that drive us to do great things. They can also wear us out by causing us to put too much pressure on ourselves and our behaviors.

The thing I've noticed about extraverts is that they seem to be able to handle a ton of information at once and are able to think quickly on their feet. I'm not good at this at all. When I'm forced into a social situation where these things are required, I get nervous. I don't have the opportunity to think things through, to filter, to weigh the consequences - and so I react impulsively. Sometimes this works out, but often it doesn't. And I can't stop my brain from replaying the scenes in my head as they should have gone. I want the ideal...but I don't always perform to my own satisfaction.

Afterward, I ruminate about all the ways I could have handled it differently. Was I too intense in my reaction? Not caring enough? Did I give too much information or too little? Should I have come across as more independent and less vulnerable? Was I too focused on my own concerns and not the other person's?

This analytical approach is like a double-edged sword for me. I can use it to help other people, but it will backfire on me in a nanosecond. I think this is why I spend so much time inside my head. The encounters I create in my head can be reviewed, rewound and rewritten. You can't do that in reality.

Yesterday I wrote that our Se, while being our inferior function, still has a big impact on us. We can easily become distracted by and consumed with details. Our Se is our weakness, especially if we have a well-developed Ti that turns every detail over until all options are exhausted...and then turns them over again just in case something was missed the first time.

Anyone relating?

When I worked as a programmer, this tendency to obsess over details was an advantage. I could dive into unfamiliar code/script and pick out with laser-point precision exactly which variable was causing a problem. My power of focus and concentration (and the ability to tune everything else out) helped me do my job.

Social exchanges, however, are a different story. I know I frustrate people. Heck, I frustrate myself! This is one reason I keep to myself and only have a few trusted friends. My friends know me well. They can overlook my weirdness and see through to my heart...which is sensitive and not always portrayed well by the behavior my brain pushes me into.

So...obsession. As of yet, I haven't found a way to stop mine, other than to get angry enough to mentally flip off the situation and force it out of my head. I'm pretty good at convincing myself I don't care about things. It's a self-defense technique I've employed for many years.

But I'm open to suggestions. How about it, folks? Anyone know how to combat our obsessive tendencies? :-)

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Jared
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October 9, 2012 at 10:24 AM delete

Hey Meridian,

In short -- I can relate quite well!

I brood and rehash things in my head over and over again. I live in this recursive state over and over again. It can be hell at times, eh? I wake up each morning with unexplained and undirected feelings of guilt and I'm not sure why. Do you experience that? I always wonder if I hurt someone or said something I shouldn't of. My character is two fold. On one hand I am very calm and warm and on the other I can have a sharp prophetic edge that can induce pee within one's pant leg. This is probably why I ruminate and wonder if I hurt anyone or if I lived up to the tyranny of my shoulds'.

I totally get you when you said: "The thing I've noticed about extraverts is that they seem to be able to handle a ton of information at once and are able to think quickly on their feet. I'm not good at this at all. When I'm forced into a social situation where these things are required, I get nervous. I don't have the opportunity to think things through, to filter, to weigh the consequences - and so I react impulsively. Sometimes this works out, but often it doesn't. And I can't stop my brain from replaying the scenes in my head as they should have gone. I want the ideal...but I don't always perform to my own satisfaction." STORY OF MY LIFE!! I do not have the confidence to think on the fly. I need my time to think and I am much better on blogs and paper than in person because I have the time and space and therefore the correct environment to unleash all this God-given INFJ greatness.

There is great scientific explanations out there for why you and I are like this, Meridian! It's so exciting -- my nerd juices are flowing as I type this now hehehe :-D. The pathways in the introverted brain are very complex and are not as direct as in the extraverted brain. In effect, the introvert will have a much richer inner life, but struggle speaking off the cuff or finding the right words to say in everyday speech. Secondly, the introvert has a low tolerance for dopamine which is created from adrenalin that the extroverts seem to thrive on. Introverts, in contrast, are dominated by a chemical called Acetylcholine which excites reflection and relaxation, but cannot tolerate a lot of stimulus.

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Jared
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October 9, 2012 at 10:25 AM delete

Here is a great explanation I found from an INTP:

"I've been reading an interesting book which describes the different neurochemistry of Introverts (25% of population) and Extraverts (75%), and explains many of the different traits and needs exhibited by both.

It;'s been shown on PET scans that Is use different neural pathways to Es when engaged in almost any type of activity (including relaxation). During one study a group of identified Es and Is were asked to lie down and relax, and a PET scan was used to measure blood flow to the brain and the pathways it followed.

The Is had *more* bloodflow to the brain during relaxation than Es, indicating more internal stimulation. Also, the Is and Es' blood travelled along different pathways - the I pathway was found to be more complex, and flowed to areas of the brain associated with remembering, problem solving and planning.
The Es blood flowed on a more direct route to areas of the brain where sensory processing occurs. This confirmed the researchers' suspicion that the Es in the study were focused on what was happening around them in the lab, and were engaged in sensory processing.

The pathway used by Extraverts is activated by the chemical Dopamine. Dopamine is a powerful neurotransmitter, most closely associated with movement, attention, alert states, and learning. Too much dopamine in the brain causes hallucinations and paranoia, and too little causes depression, lethargy and misery. Having the right amount of Dopamine is critical to everyone.

It has been found that Extraverts have a low sensitivity to Dopamine (require more to get the desired effect). They require Adrenaline, which is released from the sympathetic nervous system, and makes more Dopamine in the brain. This explains why Es need more stimulation/thrill/activity, to feel good, and why they seek variety.

Introverts are highly sensitive to Dopamine - too much of it and they can feel overstimulated. Is rely on a different neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, on their dominant neural pathway. Acetylcholine affects attention and learning, influences the ability to sustain a calm, alert feeling and to utilise long term memory stores, and stimulates a good feeling when thinking or feeling emotion. Introverts require a lower level of Dopamine, and a good level of acetylcholine, to leave them calm and free of depression or anxiety. Too much activity/stimulation can leave Is in Dopamine "overload", and give them a feeling of exhaustion.

SHORTER EXTRAVERT NEURAL PATHWAY

Stimulation ascends the spinal cord and enter reticular activating system in brain stem - data enters the Hypothalamus (thirst/temperature/appetite) - this switches on the "Full Throttle" system in Extraverts - Stimulii are sent to POSTERIOR THALAMUS (a relay station which amplifies the stimuli and sends them to amygdala) - Amygdala is the emotional centre (associated with the actions in the motor area, in extraverts) - Stimuli transferred to Temporal and moror area (movement connects to short term memory access, and to the center for learning and processing sensory and emotional stimuli).

LONGER INTROVERT NEURAL PATHWAY

Stimuli enter Reticular activating system above brain stem - this system is less active in Introverts - transferred to Hypothalmus where the data is interpreted and the brain placed on "Throttle down" in Introverts - Data sent to ANTERIOR THALAMUS (relay station which turns sensory signals down in Introverts) - Data sent to Broca's Area (speech area where internal monologue is activated) - Data sent to Frontal lobe (thinking, planning, learning) - Data sent to Hippocampus (relayed to long term memory including environmental awareness) - Data sent to Amygdala (emotional centre where feelings are attached to thoughts, in Introverts)."

The link is here: http://forums.intpcentral.com/archive/index.php/t-10517.html

Jared

P.S. I LOVE your posts! You are great!

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Jared
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October 9, 2012 at 2:53 PM delete

Lot's of stimulus -> adrenaline -> dopamine -> feeling overwhelmed (for the introvert) or feelings great (for the extravert).

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Meridian
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October 9, 2012 at 11:13 PM delete

Jared, I love your comments...you are SO good for me :-)

We are a great deal alike, although I don't usually wake up with the feelings of guilt. If that's happening to you, I'd venture to guess that you're holding yourself to very high standards and are worried about attaining them. Give yourself a break, first of all. What I've found is that the way I perceive myself is VERY different from the way others perceive me. People will tell me I'm warm, caring, nurturing and patient...those are the last words I'd use to describe myself. Your two-fold nature probably affects YOU more than it does others. Remember that everyone puts up filters, so your personality traits are getting softened as others view them. For example, I think you're way cool, incredibly funny and great at expressing yourself. And I'd probably think those things even if we were socializing instead of me just reading your organized thoughts. I'm sure you are very generous about overlooking faults in others, so try to go easy on yourself.

Your nerd juices...okay, so I'm glad I'm not the only nerd out here, lol! And your prophetic edge is one of the things that makes you a hero. Just pull up a chair and bring that to the table, boy, because it's definitely a superpower :-)

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Meridian
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October 9, 2012 at 11:24 PM delete

This is excellent information, and I thought it sounded familiar. So I went back and checked Marti Olsen Laney's book "The Introvert Advantage" - she outlines this exact info in a chapter of her book. I find it interesting that extraverts have lower sensitivity to dopamine and need more stimulation, while we're highly sensitive to it and easily overwhelmed.

I also love how science backs up the difference between I's and E's. We are truly physically different from extraverts. Wouldn't it be great if this sort of thing could be taught in schools, so kids could know their genetic tendencies toward personality type and could be taught how to handle their strengths and weaknesses? It's taken me 41 years to start figuring myself out...how different would life have been if I'd known all this long ago?

This info would make a great future post, so I'm going to keep it in the forefront of my brain and let it simmer there for a bit. Thanks for the insight ;-)

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Meridian
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October 9, 2012 at 11:27 PM delete

Explains a lot...been there, done that. This is why I can't spend more than 5 seconds in a casino!!!!

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Elizabeth
AUTHOR
October 10, 2012 at 12:57 PM delete

Meridian, as far as figuring out how not to obsess, I'm not sure I have figured that one out, except to remind myself that it is okay to be beautifully imperfect. I am only human, and I am loved just like I am, obsessive and all. And ultimately, I am not responsible for all of the world's problems. I can love myself, limitations and all, and also be so very thankful for the weird gifts I have been given as an INFJ.

Not sure if that helps you, but it helps me!

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Jared
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October 10, 2012 at 2:02 PM delete

Why thank you so much! You and your blog is such an unexpected blessing to me. I love your writing style and it always leaves me wanting to come back for more. You have a gift there!

I DO have high standards for the most part. My passion is truth and having the truth known. My prophetic side comes out either when the truth or someone's heart is being ignored. I am just thinking about our profile... just a sec I'm going to go grab a piece of it...... Okay, it says: "But the INFJ is as genuinely warm as they are complex. INFJs hold a special place in the heart of people who they are close to, who are able to see their special gifts and depth of caring. INFJs are concerned for people's feelings, and try to be gentle to avoid hurting anyone. They are very sensitive to conflict, and cannot tolerate it very well. Situations which are charged with conflict may drive the normally peaceful INFJ into a state of agitation or charged anger. They may tend to internalize conflict into their bodies, and experience health problems when under a lot of stress." HOW CAN THEY BE SO ACCURATE?? I feel like I'm in the twilight zone when I read this stuff. Anyway, that's it! I believe there are outlets in this life that are connected to deeper, more meaningful and more purposeful things and these things are worth fighting for (ie. truth, your heart and the hearts of others, love etc...) When I see these outlets being threatened my prophetic side comes out and I can lay the hammer down during CONFLICT, only to wake up the next morning and ask myself if I could of handled that situation better? I will think for days about the ideal solution that I missed. In ways it's good because if ever I enter a situation like that again I can pull out of my arsenal, a sharper and more wise Jared.

Those are my thoughts...

And you simply rock! :-D

Jared

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Meridian
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October 10, 2012 at 4:38 PM delete

That's a wonderful approach, Elizabeth. It would do us all good to remember that we're loved, even when our hearts hit the floor and we're obsessing or experiencing self-doubt!

Thanks soooo much for sharing - hope to see more of you out here ;-)

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Meridian
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October 10, 2012 at 4:45 PM delete

I've done the same thing during conflict. INFJs are natural-born Protectors. We lay down the hammer like Thor in 'Avengers' - "You want me to put the hammer down?!?" It's an accurate analogy.

One terrible gift I possess is a sharp criticism that can see right through people. I can cut them to shreds with uncanny insight. This is part of my Phoenix...yet another reason to keep her behind bars. So when conflict arises, I either tune it out or walk away. Better that than to become someone I'd rather not be ;-\

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Colin Machan
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October 11, 2012 at 2:03 AM delete

... and I reread this article and all the comments three times before thinking about posting. Then thought for a while about what to say and how it might come over. All for a tiny little three line post; does that say it all? :)

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Jared
AUTHOR
October 11, 2012 at 9:02 AM delete

Thor is my fav! Iron Man is pretty cool too though... "Stark, we need a plan of attack!" "I have a plan: attack!" :D:D:D And Avengers is simply an amazing movie. We should collaborate and find out what our favorites movies are as INFJs and why! That would be insightful.

Thank for the empathy... it's not always easy confessing my douchey side :S

Jared :)

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Meridian
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October 11, 2012 at 9:33 AM delete

Yes, it speaks volumes!!! Oh, how I relate...I can spend hours agonizing over a three-line reply...type, check spelling, delete, rewrite, check spelling again...

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Meridian
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October 11, 2012 at 9:50 AM delete

Avengers was a-w-e-s-o-m-e! Took my kids to the midnight showing when it first came out. So worth it. I love all the characters, but Iron Man's wit really pulls the whole thing together. "Doth mother know you weareth her drapes?" LOL! We plan on seeing all the midnight showings of the Hobbit movies as well.

Okay, now I have to do a movie post at some point. My faves are sci-fi and fantasy (you know, because reality sucks). Or if you just want to talk movie mania, send me an e-mail at watcher71@ymail.com, k?

Hey now - we're both INFJs, so your douchey side and my douchey side are very similar. Heck, they're probably good friends! Confessing weaknesses isn't easy, I know. For us, sharing is hard and requires lots of trust...which is why I want this site to be a haven for us, and a safe place to vent all things INFJ ;-)

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Anonymous
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July 7, 2014 at 8:12 PM delete

I find I tend to obsess over book and movie characters I want to be like. For example Ginny Weasley from Harry Potter and Princess Leia from Star Wars, I want to be like these chapters sooo much

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Anonymous
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December 1, 2014 at 6:09 PM delete

Me and my mother are both INFJs while my sister dereka is an INTJ. it a hard knock life.

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