“You don’t show any emotion,” my friends would tell me. I always took that as a compliment until I realized that it wasn’t a good thing. I couldn’t express myself when I wanted to. When I felt down, I wore a mask of normalcy. As an INTJ personality type, I enjoy solving logical problems — so why did I need to deal with emotions?
Eventually, I learned that emotions do not disappear. Instead, they grow behind your back. At some point, I had to deal with them, coming to closure in private and forcing myself to open up to someone.
Making up only 2 percent of the U.S. population, INTJs love solving problems and accomplishing long-term goals, earning them the nickname “the Mastermind.” They love learning and approaching problems with a fresh dimension. Often cast as the villains in movies and novels, they tend to leave their emotions out of the decision-making process. If you think you might be an INTJ, check out this “INTJ signs” article or take a free personality test at Personality Hacker.
As an INTJ, have you ever felt out of control of your emotions? Some people can cry one minute and laugh the next. I, however, can’t stop crying if the waterworks started in an inappropriate situation. As INTJs, we may struggle to express the right emotions when called for. Eventually, we may learn to mirror others. Because we equate emotions with vulnerability, we prefer to keep our soft side hidden, rarely showing our true feelings.
Emotions, however, do not disappear when suppressed. Instead, they heat up like a volcano. Here are science-backed tips for INTJs to deal with their emotions — even when they’d rather ignore them.
How INTJs Can Deal With Their Emotions
1. Name them
If you don’t know a name for the emotion you’re experiencing, find one on the Internet — or make one up! Feeling “good” or “bad” fall short of describing the weight of the emotion you feel. Do you feel thankful? Elated? Frustrated? Annoyed? A well-rounded emotional vocabulary can help you pinpoint your emotions, which can give you a sense of concreteness. (We all hate intangibles, especially us INTJs, right?)
In addition, science has given us a powerful reason to name our emotions. A study led by UCLA professor Matthew D. Lieberman found that labeling your feelings (“sadness,” “anger,” etc.) actually makes them less intense. When you put your emotions into words, you activate the prefrontal region of your brain and see a reduced response in the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for setting off biological alarms to protect you from a perceived threat. “In the same way you hit the brake when you’re driving when you see a yellow light — when you put feelings into words you seem to be hitting the brakes on your emotional responses,” he says. “As a result, a person may feel less angry or less sad.”
2. Journal or write a story
Writing can be a powerful tool for dealing with your emotions, because it allows you to analyze and rationalize those feelings. Research has shown that journaling can lower your stress levels, help you problem-solve more effectively, and even improve your self-esteem and physical health. Through journaling, you’ll understand what triggered your feelings and figure out if you overreacted. You’ll understand how to get rid of them and/or avoid the same response the next time. (Here are 10 tips to help you start journaling.)
Don’t worry about people reading your writing. Nobody will read your writing if you don’t let them. Heck, if you really fret about that, tear the paper up or delete the document when you’re finished. I would call anyone who goes through my recycle bin a creep. (Who even does that?)
Every now and then, in my fiction writing, I make a character who feels the same way as me. I put her into different situations and give her reactions based on her personality. Sometimes she takes on a life of her own and I give her a full leash. I’ve found that a third person point-of-view puts my problems in perspective — which is a large part of solving them.
3. Let it out in private
As an introvert and an INTJ, I have a tendency to bottle up my emotions. When I should be letting them out, I turn inward and try to rationalize them, hoping that they will disappear. However, I learned that keeping them in can harm your mental health — and even your physical health! A study conducted by psychologists from the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Rochester found that suppressing emotions might make you more likely to die from heart disease and some forms of cancer (yikes!). Previous studies found a link between negative emotions (such as depression, anxiety, and anger) and the development of heart disease.
Although if you’re like me, you can’t cry whenever you want to. So I read a sad story or watch a movie to draw out the tears when I want a good cry. If you can enjoy long novels, Bleak House by Dickens is a good one.
4. Take a walk alone
I often find myself feeling calmer and happier after a long, quiet walk. On your walk, you can reflect on recent events, which may offer you new insights on yourself. After all, we need to know ourselves to make the right decisions — and, as introverts, we need alone time to recharge our energy. Kill two birds with one stone by taking a stroll!
Plus, when you exercise, you get the added benefit of a near-instant mood boost. According to the American Psychological Association, as little as five minutes of moderate exercise improves your mood.
5. Let your guard down and connect with someone
At some point, you will have to open up. As humans, we all have a need to connect to something or someone — books, pets, people, etc. Aristotle, an ancient Greek philosopher, defined man as a “social-political animal,” meaning we cannot live in isolation — yes, even us introverts!
Even though we INTJs speak little, we can choose to come alive at certain times, such as in a discussion about big ideas or our interests. In that sense, we can force ourselves to discuss our feelings with a close friend. They can usually offer fresh insights, seeing your emotions and struggles from a different perspective.
6. Pinpoint the cause of your emotions
Emotions get to us all. They influence our decision making, subtly or overtly. More precisely, our experiences do. For example, phobias cannot be explained except that the phobic person has associated the situation with something terrible. They still feel frightened even though they logically know that the thing does not harm them, such as a little bug.
Emotions generally have a logical reason behind them. Usually something happened that caused you to feel a certain way — whether you’re immediately aware of it or not. Finding the cause takes time and practice, but once you do, you’ll be better able to deal with your emotions.
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Psychologist Joan Cusack Handler suggests asking yourself the following questions to analyze your emotions:
- What feelings am I aware of having? What is the most prominent? How do I describe it? When did I become aware of this feeling?
- What might be triggering this feeling? What’s happening (or not happening) in my daily life? It can help to deconstruct the day/week/month.
- Perhaps you don’t know how you feel. One direction is to examine your behavior and daily life, which can help you recognize your feelings. How is my home life? Am I getting along with my partner? My children? My parents and siblings? How am I doing at work? Am I enjoying my work? Am I getting along with my co-workers and boss?
“The reality is that life events generate feelings,” she explains, “Though we may decide which feelings to attend to, we don’t decide to feel or not feel. It’s our project to identify them and give them room to breathe.” Learn more about identifying your feelings here.
7. Use your emotions
Lastly, turn your emotions into action. Write a story or draw a picture. Do a project. Play some music. As Jenny Marchal writes at Lifehack.org, negative emotions “actually stimulate areas of the brain that control attention, analytical thinking and abstract ideas and thoughts,” which inspire greater creativity. You can turn emotions into powerful tools when you understand and accept them. INTJs, do not despise your emotions.
More INTJ Resources
- 24 Signs That You’re an INTJ Personality Type
- No, I’m Not Cold and Emotionless. I Have a ‘Thinking’ Personality.
- 7 Secrets About Dating an INTJ
- 5 Confessions of a Female INTJ
- 12 Things the INTJ Personality Absolutely Hates
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