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Chapter 5: Young Adulthood and the Fix-It


One of the things I've observed in myself and in other INTPs is that our young adulthood
can be particularly exasperating. Many an early INTP struggle seems to begin right at the
point when we fly from the nest. It's the moment when, armed with our newly formed
INTP consciousness, we launch into the world ready to rock n' roll.
We have a pure kind of excitement and trust in our INTP skills of observation and
analysis. It's like we realize we have this amazingly versatile tool. A cordless
drill/saw/staple gun combo. And we use it on EVERYTHING. We love it, because man,
does it work!
Untilit doesn't. And then, watch out.
I call this stage of young adulthood the "Fix-It" Stage. It is marked by an aggressive,
single-minded, over-confident use of The Tool. And when The Tool doesn't work, we aren't
dissuaded. we use it again. And again. And again. And again. We keep using the same
approach until we're so frustrated we want to scream.
The First Real Dose of Friction
Not long after embarking out into the world, we usually find our first friction. Our style of
intelligence may or may not translate into school performance. We may find that other
people are not so interested in the kind of knowledge we seek. We may feel the first stab
of a sharper isolation. Not the mysterious, hard-to-pin down feelings of isolation in
childhood. Now, we have a growing pile of real world negative experiences at our
disposal. More people, more venues, and more changes don't seem to solve the odd
disconnect we feel with people. We experience our first failed attempts to adapt (or
adapt others to us). Yet, deep down, the powers and process we are using still feel
great. Under the stings and frustrations and hurt feelings, we feel an enduring,
fundamental sense of empowerment. That is the (for the most part) positive side of the
Fix-It Stage. Until it becomes the worst part. That's what I'll explain. And what to do
about it.

Check Out my Cool Telescope

As we leave childhood, our newly minted INTP skills feel pretty good. We are armed with
a strong, inner confidence (even if the confidence doesn't quite make it to the
surface). We realize we have potent powers of analysis. We realize that if we focus our
minds and energies, we can truly decode and understand the outside world. As we drink
in information and produce ever-growing theories, we gain knowledge. And without even
thinking about whether we trust this process of observation and analysis, we trust it. It is
us. It is what we do.
Early childhood development for an INTP is a very gradual and organic process when we
learn about our positives and our negatives through trial and error without any objective
guidance or assistance (unless we are around another INTP mentor who is wise and selfaware). Once we have a grasp on the breadth and reach of our skills, we start
improving and focusing them. Soon, we realize that others don't share these skills. (In
elementary school, most likely.) There is a time when we realize that we are doing
something cognitively that others don't do. When we share selections from our
Encyclopedia, we see a change in faces. They say wow. They blink. They begin to treat
us like a leader, despite our lack of desire to be a leader.
In a way, it is like when humans first invented the telescope. We use this new instrument
to peer farther and farther into the nature of the universe. And just as optical telescopes
led to radio telescopes which led to x-ray telescopes, with each new generation of
knowledge, we become more and more confident in our power to see.
Blind Spots
Have you ever looked through a telescope? You put your eye up to the objective lens,
and a faraway world opens up before you--an explosion of stars, the haze of a nebula,
the crisp craters of the moon. But while you're looking, a person can slip right up beside
you, and you'll never see the person. Why? Because often, by gaining one power, you
lose another. By greatly extending the forward reach of vision with a telescope, we lose
the rich range of our peripheral vision. In the same way, INTP-skills have blind spots. As
we explore the universe, we fail to see some important things standing right next to
us. These blind spots harbor misconceptions and mask some important objective truths
about INTP nature, our own emotions, and our relationships with others.
INTP in Young Adulthood - A Marksman Who Sometimes Can't Hit the Target
With a sharp blade of logic and observation, we win most debates and solve most
challenges when we are young. Even when we don't prevail, we don't really mind,
because we learn important information that we initially missed. We can then map where
our efforts went astray and plot a new course for success.
Like a sniper engaging an endless succession of targets, we spot, analyze, aim, fire. Spot,
analyze, aim, fire. Our energy comes from this process and its success. But what
happens when that process does not lead to success? What happens when the result is
consistent failure? Here is the problem with young adulthood in INTPs. Here is where you
are in for grief.

For our mental sniper, imagine pulling the trigger, looking down range, and seeing that
you missed the target. No biggie. You must have twitched, that's all. So you re-analyze,
aim, shoot
and miss again.
Okay, bummer, but not the end of the world. Where were the errors of
perception? Where were the errors of logic?
Okay, now you've got it. Hold your breath, squeeze the trigger, BLAM!
Now you're a bit angry. A little pissed. And even if you're too beaten down and weary to
be pissed, you innately have a sense that you are GOING to hit that damn target.
Size it upfire.
Missed again.
You slam that gun down, pick it up, slam it down, pick it back up.
Re-analyze, aim, fire.
Fire. (Missed.)
Fire. (MISSED.)
(At this point, you probably have broken and smashed the gun. But I know the dark
truth. Later, you come back, tape that gun back together, and start trying again.)
Have you had the emotional experience that I just described? Young adulthood in INTPs
comes with the convergence of two things: in the midst of many successes, you make a
few pesky persistent errors while being unable to let go of the impulse to fix them. This
failure in the "Fix-It" Stage is fueled by blind spots. And even the best sniper in the world
is going to fail to hit a target when it is invisible, hidden, or distorted.
Okay, no big deal. INTPs figure stuff out, right?
However, our fierce reliance on the INTP process works against us if the process itself is
flawed. As INTPs, we always tend to look for external reasons and solutions. We never
look at the process itself as a possible candidate. In the Fix-It Stage, we tend to run
marathons in the wrong direction. We tend to sprint right past the real problem a few
feet from the starting line.
Let's look at a few common missed targets:


I feel reasonably intelligent, and I learn quickly, yet I can't seem to do well in
school. The kind of "knowledge" they want in school doesn't seem like real
knowledge. It's a game I can't seem to figure out. Each time I try harder to adjust, I do
even worse.
2. I try to approach people and socialize, but I can't seem to connect. People don't really
care to hear what I want to say. I don't really want to talk about what they do either. So I
study people even more diligently to connect better. I apply the results of my theories
and observations, but I end up feeling even more removed from them.
3. I don't think I'm happy. Why am I not happy? I can think of several reasons why I should
be happy. Or at least not sad. What is wrong with me? I make adjustments that should
ensure my happiness. The result--still not happy.
There are two general versions of the Fix-It Stage. Although they might look quite
different on the outside, they function quite similarly. The only difference is the amount
of aggressive confidence. But make no mistake, even if you don't fall into the confident
version of this Stage, I would bet that you are nevertheless falling into persistent Fix-It
The Confident Version of the Fix-It Stage
Let's say we're in college. Very early twenties. What are we like?
We definitely have our groove on. We have dozens of chapters of our Encyclopedias
written, and we are hungry for more. Our brains are in drink-everything-up mode. We're
eager for the next puzzle, the next stimulating conversation, the next conundrum to
unravel. We're aggressive thinkers. We can be charming. We can be intoxicatingly
energetic, both to others and ourselves.
Butwe can be intimidating, we can be overbearing and quick to put the ideas of others
down even before they have a had a chance to fully express it. Our intellectualism and
disdain for emotion can made us look arrogant and condescending. Our delivery of the
many results of our intellectual pursuits can appear judgmental and inflexible, even
though we know they are infinitely flexible. Unless you can offer new information to an
INTP or a more in-depth analysis that the INTP performed, you will be dismantled and
shut down. And if you can't keep up with the speed of the INTP's thoughts and ability to
communicate, you may become source a frustration. The INTP will then either display
annoyance or withdraw if he or she is afraid that annoyance will hurt the other person's
The Weary Version of the Fix-It Stage
Not every INTP will have such outward and aggressive confidence in his or her skills.
Maybe you never felt confident socially, even though you feel confident
intellectually. You may have been marginalized or ignored. You may be used only for
entertainment, but not meaningful relationships. When you try to be serious, you may
get completely ignored.
Or, your isolation may be even more sharp. You may find social interactions an
impossible conundrum. Nothing seems to work. And the fear of trying again is

crippling. Sometimes you may feel like an entirely different species. The result? You may
choose solo pursuits where you are engaged and challenged while completely alone.
In this version, the Fix-It Stage is still a cycle, but it's more tiresome and selfdefeating. You KNOW you should be able to solve these problems of isolation or stumbles
in performance (such as school), but each time you try, you end up with failure. The
repetitive nature of the Fix-It Stage in this version is the enduring, masochistic belief that
the problem is you. Now, if only you could finally get the solution right.
What is Going Wrong?
The major lesson needed to fix the Fix-It Stage is to understand that our observation and
logic do not penetrate deeply enough.
(Really? Wait. Did he just say that? We aren't logical enough?? WTF? The dude just lost
Hold up. What I'm talking about is a matter of quality versus quantity. We have tons of
QUANTITY of analysis in the Fix-It Stage, but we are suffering from a insufficiency in
QUALITY. A dash of deeper logic goes a long, long way. Bucket loads of off-kilter logic is
damaging and crazy-making.
The Blind Spot You Must Stop Missing
Although we feel very in control and not given to emotions, we kid ourselves into
thinking we don't have them as much as we do. And even when we acknowledge them,
we tend to make excuses if our (true) emotions might hurt the feelings of, or anger,
another person. Why? Because another person's emotion is just as painful to endure as
our own bad emotions. Worse, actually.
Emotion is painful, and emotion makes it hard to think and return to a state of
calm. Even at the best of times INTPs are wary of emotion, but in the Fix-It Stage,
emotion is public enemy number one, because it feels incompatible with the process we
so love. Mind you, I'm not talking about the big, big emotions. Those, we recognize pretty
well. I'm talking about the more normal, gentler emotions. We tend to miss the
importance of those within us entirely.
How Does Our Missed and Misunderstood Emotions Damage Our INTP Process?
Let's say that a person has a very powerful fear of being robbed or assaulted on a city
street. Maybe it came from childhood or was planted by parents who were very afraid of
going into the city. Now, this person is going to college in the city. This fear has become a
constant threat, ready to erupt in the form of the physical symptoms. Pounding heart,
tight chest, fast pulse and breathing. And INTPs hate feeling that kind of physical anxiety.
One day, some unsavory character standing in the alcove of a building calls out to our
college student. The crush of fear hits, even though our INTP didn't even hear the actual
words the person in the shadows said. The student runs.
After this experience is over and the acute fear subsides, the INTP brain kicks in to
protect the student from this bad event ever happening again. The student begins to

monitor the exact time of day, the position of the sun and shadows, the patterns of
people on the street. The INTP maps new routes and is careful to walk just the right
distance from both the street on one side and the building on the other. The analysis of
the situation grows and deepens as she constructs this new body of knowledge. And
during this process, she doesn't feel any fear. She feels calm. Out in the streets, the fear
remains controlled so long as her navigation remains controlled and she successfully
avoids all potential threats.
But there's one problem. That man in the shadow was actually old and homeless and
was calling out to ask for food. He wasn't a threat of any kind. In fact, there has been no
crime on that street for seven straight years.
But does any of that matter to our frightened INTP student? No, because the experience
of the emotions themselves has caused an erroneous (but common) logic error. If I feel
afraid, then there MUST be danger, because if there were no danger, I wouldn't feel
afraid. The emotion is treated like objective information rather than a mere chemical
process. Real fear can have no foundation whatsoever. But it never seems that way to
our brains when it is happening. Our brains say danger-real-beware. It is very difficult to
re-assert logic and challenge fear when you are in the grip of it.
Of course, you really can't blame our brains. If a mean person punches you, then you
experience a sharp emotion. That feeling sears into your brain. It ensures that you
remember what happened and prepares you to deal with a situation if it presents itself
again. The next mean person you come across, you can decide to run or to fight. But in
either case, you are prepared. Emotional lessons often are important. However, many
other times, emotional lessons are skewed and complete fiction. But even erroneous
emotional lessons will feel like 100% truth.
Learn to Be Honest With Yourself About How You Feel
In Fix-It Stage, we build huge systems of logic to incarcerate emotions that we perceive
as dangerous. But then we lose sight of them altogether. We scurry around doing our
INTP things no longer appreciating the little radioactive emotional seed fueling the whole
process just off the edge of the map. We need to understand and accept when we feel
anger, when we feel hurt, but especially when we feel disappointed. These emotional
states are part of the human experience, and they affect us more than we are ready to
admit. But unless we are aware of them and begin to develop the ability to let ourselves
admit and experience them, our efforts are only leaving us worse off and spiraling
towards a crisis and crash.
There are three emotions particularly to watch out for. Why these? Because they are
medium emotions. Ever hear the one about the frog and boiling water? If you dump a
frog in hot water, he jumps out. If you put the frog in cool water, then slowly heat it. He
will not perceive the slow change and cook. Medium emotions are the most likely to
cause harm, because they work on us without triggering the kinds of emergency
responses that the big emotions do.
The three emotions are:
1. Annoyance.

I start with this emotion because it is very common and pervasive, and it causes a
package of problems that can spawn all sorts of ugly offspring in our interpersonal
relationships. It is also the hottest burning fuel of the Fix-It Stage when it morphs into
Frustration. But let's focus on annoyance itself for a moment. Annoyance is the halfanger that erupts when something violates our expectations. It is a semi-hot, semiaggressive, outward-directed emotion. For example, if we are trying to make a serious
statement and the other person can only be flip or dismissive, that causes annoyance,
because our expectation is that the person should care about what we have to say and
take the time (and have the ability) to listen.
Annoyance is okay and natural. What you shouldn't let it do, however, is let it propel the
INTP process faster and faster. Frenzied brains lead to mistakes and make us feel, well,
frenzied, and out of control. That's not a good feeling place to be. The other thing that
annoyance spurs us to do is immediately cut loose from the thing that annoyed us. To
dismiss it. Banish it. But having a hair trigger causes you to shoot things that shouldn't
be shot. Before we expel something from our lives, we have to take a breath. (Many
breaths, actually.) In the totality of issue at hand, is it the right thing to do? Will we regret
it later. Will we lose something that we will miss?
2. Disappointment, especially of people.
Everyone wishes for a partner in crime, whether it be a friend or a lover or a family
member. But "partner in crime" means very different things to different people. There
are certain activities that turn you on as an INTP. They are the things you most want to
share. Some examples? Sharing our Encyclopedias; building them together; getting
emotional support when all of our control mechanisms fail; and knowing that someone is
dedicated to giving us help and assistance when needed.
How do you feel when you launch into a conversation because you think you have a
kindred spirit in front of you, and it falls painfully short right before your eyes? Or how
about when you ask a person to please stop doing X and please start doing Y if they
really want to help you, and they never stop doing X and never start doing Y? These
things are very disappointing. However, because we INTPs get accused of being
judgmental, arrogant, cold, etc., we generally try very hard not to prove these things
true. Instead of looking down on someone, or finding fault in others, we tend to blame
ourselves and deconstruct our behavior. We think of all of the ways we might change our
approach and expectations of people. However, I have some important news for you. You
are disappointed. And you are allowed to be.
3. Hurt
We really don't like hurt as INTPs. We are almost blindly fast at building protective
constructs over the top of hurt when we feel it. Anger in response to hurt is an
uncontrolled lashing out, but that too masks hurt. I find it much, much preferable to whip
myself into an internal rage at someone rather than let the anger tip in the other
direction and become hurt.
When we experience hurt, we have to be very careful that we are not acting in all sorts
of indirect ways in an effort to avoid acknowledging and feeling hurt.

To Really "Fix-It", Stop Running on the Hamster Wheel and Re-Analyze Your Own
Emotional Fuels
If you have a leaky faucet, the best thing to do is fix the leaky faucet, not start digging
up the entire municipal water system. What I've observed is that INTPs are experts in
finding and tearing into any problem imaginable, except their own emotional state and
the things that honestly fuel their emotions. If you are experiencing a recurring problem,
stop for a moment and look beyond all of the many variables that you have been
weighing and trying to solve. Come back to the common denominator: you. What is
down there fueling that recurring issue? Is it annoyance or disappointment or
hurt? Something else? We are so eager to pull out our hammers and saws and
pliers. But is it possible that all of this effort is an indirect way to NOT grapple with the
way you are feeling?
The bottom line: The Fix-It Stage is about over-eagerness to use INTP core tools to attack
problems while missing important information about ourselves and others. We incorrectly
believe that these raw INTP skills are the answer to everything. Why? Because it feels
good when we use them. But that's the problem right there. Feeling not good is part of
the human experience. We need to grapple with those feelings honestly without roaring
past them in a mental Ferrari.
All of that effort to avoid and suppress emotion only makes it harder to exorcise and
Why Care?
Over time, the frictions of the Fix-It Stage can resolve in some areas, but deepen in
others. For a while, we are quite sure we have it mostly figured out. But as years
progress, long term disappointments and slow, eroding failures to hit our targets ferment
into deeper discontent and confusion. In a way, all of the aggressive energy of the Fix-It
Stage tends to burn itself out and run its course. It slowly darkens into a less flashy stage
in mid-life. Maybe I'll call it the Duty Stage. But that's a story for another day.
I see a lot of pain being expressed by young INTPs, and lots of spirals turning and
turning. The answers are closer than you think. Find those blind spots and shine a light
into them. Expand your powers of observation and turn your analysis deeper and
inward. You will see the truth of what is fueling your conundrums. That process that you
trust so much is a great one, but it needs an upgrade to 2.0 to avoid running marathons
so long that you forget where you were trying to go in the first place.
Some Quick Shorthand Techniques
*School Issues: Want to do well in school, but the work bores the hell out of you? The
Secret: You are bored by the kind of work necessary to do well in school. It's not a
conundrum. It's really quite simple. School performance is a unique set of rules. It does
not equal the pursuit of knowledge. Solution: Do the boring work in bursts, then reward
yourself with something you like. Switch back and forth between the two. If you are
under impossible deadlines, let the stress motivate you for the marathon, then reward
yourself for an extended time when you are finished. REALLY reward yourself. Follow
through and don't be a martyr to yet another task.

*People Issues: Recognize when you are annoyed and disappointed. Also, recognize
when you feel good with someone. Allow yourself to craft the interactions and your
expectations to maximize the good times and avoid the negative times. You are never
going to figure out a way to fix a mixed situation and make it a 100% percent amazing
one. Therefore, take the good and trim the bad.
*Task Issues: Feeling that you are under unrelenting pressure? Step back. Ultimately,
you are pressuring yourself. What is fueling that pressure? Some else's expectations? A
reluctance to upset someone? It's easier to maintain harmony by sacrificing yourself. But
is harmony the point, really? What is so bad if someone is upset? What do YOU
want? Work on your emotional boundaries. One way to do that is to imagine pushing
everything uncomfortably pressing on you out to a distance of 10 feet. Inside that 10foot radius, you are safe and untouchable. While all the bad is storming outside your
bubble, feel yourself calming, breathing deeper, and your heart rate slowing. You'll be
amazed what a difference this will make. Afterwards, think about yourself and your
needs in the safety of your personal space.
In all cases: try to stop chasing the external solution for a moment. Consider: What are
your own motivations and feelings that are fueling you? Do they need to
validated? Embraced? Are you fighting a fight that isn't going to bring you happiness?