Sep 7, 2014 Mindlessly conforming to another person's standards will rob you of your independence. Watch out for these seven things independent thinkers.
I originally wrote this is a few years ago on another forum. It’s a concept that is so important to understand I wanted to share it here. The term “Independent Thinker” comes up in conversations a lot. I’m so often accused of being one. I search for a good definition and bold the parts that resonates the most with me. I find a useful explanation at iPersonic:
Independent Thinkers are analytical and witty persons. They are normally self-confident and do not let themselves get worked up by conflicts and criticism. They are very much aware of their own strengths and have no doubts about their abilities. People of this personality type are often very successful in their career as they have both competence and purposefulness. Independent Thinkers are excellent strategists; logic, systematics and theoretical considerations are their world. They are eager for knowledge and always endeavor to expand and perfect their knowledge in any area which is interesting for them. Abstract thinking comes naturally to them; scientists and computer specialists are often of this type.
Independent Thinkers are specialists in their area. The development of their ideas and visions is important to them; they love being as flexible as possible and, ideally, of being able to work alone because they often find it a strain having to make their complex trains of thought understandable to other people. Independent Thinkers cannot stand routine. Once they consider an idea to be good it is difficult to make them give it up; they pursue the implementation of that idea obstinately and persistently, also in the face of external opposition.
Referencing some of the parts I made bold, I will add a few comments. Independent Thinkers are analytical and self-confident and do not get worked up by conflicts and criticism. Independent Thinkers are open to debate topics they are interested in and are well prepared to compare and contrast beliefs with logic and empirical evidence. By virtue of “independence” the Independent Thinker is able to consider many different views to determine which is based on truth and facts. As an Independent Thinker myself, I can tell you that I have learned as much from people whose views are opposite mine, but not because they influence or control my beliefs but instead because they often confirm them. If you’re on to something, something that has a strong logic and mathematical reasoning behind it, then your next step is to figure out what may be wrong or go wrong rather than learning it the hard way. Outcomes are always uncertain, never a sure bet, so the best we can do is stack the math for dealing with uncertainty in our favor and figuring out in advance what may shift it against us. Once we’ve done this, then we have no reason to worry about things that haven’t even happened. If you want to discover any potential issues with your ideas, you’ll learn more by sharing them with people who are more likely to disagree with you than those who will probably just agree without any critical thinking or testing. But if you find you mostly follow along with what others believe, then you may not be thinking independently. When we speak of “independent”, we necessarily speak of the various things listed by dictionary.com:
1. not influenced or controlled by others in matters of opinion, conduct, etc.; thinking or acting for oneself: an independent thinker.
2. not subject to another’s authority or jurisdiction; autonomous; free: an independent businessman.
3. not influenced by the thought or action of others: independent research.
4. not dependent; not depending or contingent upon something else for existence, operation, etc.
5. not relying on another or others for aid or support.
6. rejecting others’ aid or support; refusing to be under obligation to others.
7. possessing a competency: to be financially independent.
8. sufficient to support a person without his having to work: an independent income.
9. executed or originating outside a given unit, agency, business, etc.; external: an independent inquiry.
10. working for oneself or for a small, privately owned business.
11. expressive of a spirit of independence; self-confident; unconstrained: a free and independent citizen.
12. free from party commitments in voting: the independent voter.
13. Mathematics . (of a quantity or function) not depending upon another for its value.
I’ll leave it for you to decide what independence or independent thinking is not, but to offer a head start in this intellectual exercise I’ll suggest that it isn’t any of the above…
And finally, when I am thinking deeply about a meaning I like to look at other words of similar meaning to get a full picture. in the image below we view “independent” in the Visual Thesaurus, an interesting way to discover connections between words by revealing the way words and meanings relate to each other.
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Independent thinking is the desire of a person to convince oneself that the Independent thinkers feel the need to make sense of the world based on personal.
INTPs are well known in the community and in day to day life for their brilliant theories and unrelenting logic, which makes sense since they are arguably the most logical minded of all the personality types. They love patterns, have a keen eye for picking up on discrepancies, and a good ability to read people, making it a bad idea to lie to or to try to deceive an INTP. People of this personality type aren’t interested in practical, day-to-day activities and maintenance, but when they find an environment where their creative genius and potential can be expressed, there is no limit to the time and energy INTPs will expend in developing an insightful and unbiased solution.
The INTP is usually very independent, unconventional, and original. They are not likely to place much value on traditional goals such as popularity and security. They usually have complex characters, and may tend to be restless and temperamental. They are strongly ingenious, and have unconventional thought patterns which allow them to analyze ideas in new ways.
INTPs live in a world of theoretical possibilities. They see everything in terms of how it could be improved, or what it could be turned into. Many scientific breakthroughs in the world have been made by INTPs. The INTP personality type is at his best when he can work on his theories independently. When given an environment which supports his creative genius and possible eccentricity, the INTP can accomplish truly remarkable things.
Live within their own head
They may seem dreamy or distant to others because they spend a lot of time inside their own minds. They have a strong ability to analyze problems, identify patterns, and come up with logical explanations. They typically are so strongly driven to turn problems into logical explanations that they live much of their lives within their own heads, and may not place as much importance or value on the external world.
Like INTJs, INTPs value knowledge above all else. They approach problems and theories with enthusiasm and skepticism, ignoring existing opinions to define their own approach. They are usually extremely bright and able to be objectively critical in their analysis. They love new ideas and become very excited over abstractions and theories.
INTPs do not like to lead or control people. They’re very tolerant and flexible in most situations unless one of their firmly held beliefs has been violated or challenged, in which case they may take a very rigid stance. An INTP is likely to be very shy when it comes to meeting new people, but will be very self-confident and gregarious around people they know well.
The INTP personality type holds little value for decisions made on personal subjectivity or feelings. They strive constantly to achieve logical conclusions to problems. Because of this, they are often not in-tune with how people are feeling, and are not naturally well-equipped to meet the emotional needs of others.
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By Dr. A.J. Drenth
The INTP personality type is the most independent and philosophical of the 16 types. INTPs have a deep need for personal autonomy and independence of thought. While they may not discover their intellectual side quite as early as an INTJ might, once their auxiliary function, Extraverted Intuition (Ne), has been fully awakened, they display an insatiable appetite for ideation and theorizing. Many enjoy exploring unifying theories and metaphysical truths that explain the underlying nature of things. Toward this end, they may devour stacks of books on philosophy, religion, psychology, evolutionary theory, and the like.
When vacationing from their philosophical investigations, the INTP, like their ENTP counterparts, can be quirky, witty, and engaging. Since INTPs extravert Intuition (Ne) and Feeling (Fe), they can have a certain charm, approachability, and congeniality about them. When discussing a topic that interests them, they can be stimulating conversationalists, as their ever active minds can easily connect one topic to another, paving the way for a multifaceted and broad-ranging dialogue. If disinterested however, such as when forced to endure protracted small talk, they will quickly zone out or find a way of redirecting the conversation. Despite appearing outwardly genuine and personable, INTPs are more interested in discussing ideas than the mundane details of people’s lives. They enjoy discovering what makes people tick—their motivations, interests, patterns, and propensities. This allows INTPs to further hone and refine their theories (Ti-Ne) of human nature (Fe).
Like other introverts, INTPs can be anxious and self-conscious characters. It is not uncommon for them to display a handful of nervous habits, or at least some sign that they are not at ease. They generally avoid direct eye contact, as though the gaze of their interlocutor may somehow harm them or render them incapable of thinking or communicating. INTPs often have enough insecurity about the discombobulated nature of their Ne expressions in the first place. Feeling that someone else is watching or critiquing them only makes it worse. Like the INFP, INTPs can be slow to disclose the contents of their inner world. As strange as it may seem to other types, INTPs often conceal some of their most dominant personality features, namely, their highly cerebral and rational side. It may only be a select few who are granted full access to this side of the INTP. Others may only encounter INTPs’ inner world through encounters with their work, such as by reading something they have written. This may explain why many INTPs often take interest in writing, which provides an excellent forum for expressing themselves more fully and precisely.
Because of their reluctance to freely display the rational dimension of their personality, as well as the scattered nature of their Ne expressions, INTPs often feel their true level of knowledge and competence goes unnoticed by others. This is especially common in the workplace, where their lack of enthusiasm for organizational life, combined with their quirky outward demeanor, may be mistaken for incompetence. As discussed in our post on INTP careers, they can struggle to find satisfying jobs within the system and are often happier functioning as freelancers or entrepreneurs.
When it comes to relationships, INTPs can also have a rough go of things (see our INTP relationships page for more on this). While they can use their Ne and Fe to attract potential mates, their tug-of-war between Ti and Fe, between their independence (Ti) and relationships (Fe), can inspire myriad problems. This will be elaborated later in this profile in our section on Fe.
Each personality type prefers four of the eight functions first described by Jung. These four functions make up the “functional stack.” The relative strength of preference for these four functions is expressed in the following manner: dominant, auxiliary, tertiary, inferior. INTPs’ first preference is Ti, followed by Ne, Si and Fe respectively. This is depicted in the arrangement of INTPs’ functional stack:
While we will soon discuss each of the above functions in greater depth, for now, we will turn our attention to another feature of INTPs’ personality, their type development. As is true for other types, their type development consists of three primary phases.
This phase is characterized by the emergence and differentiation of INTPs’ dominant function, Introverted Thinking (Ti). Early in life, INTPs often employ their Ti to focus on one or two pursuits. They may, for instance, use it to master video games, program computers, get good grades, or perfect their 5 K time. Since Ti is a Judging function, INTPs often take themselves and their lives rather seriously. Even from a young age, they can be self-starters, striving for excellence in whatever captures their interests.
Once their dominant Ti reaches a certain level of consciousness and differentiation, INTPs’ inferior function, Extraverted Feeling (Fe), enters the picture and begins to play a more influential role. Phase II INTPs also show increasing use and development of their auxiliary function, Extraverted Intuition (Ne). During this phase, INTPs often develop a stronger interest in intellectual and philosophical endeavors, poised to see and understand “the big picture.” Developing their Ne involves an opening of prior judgments to allow an influx of new information. But since Ne is extraverted and expansive, INTPs must explore a breadth of ideas before they feel confident about who they are and what they believe. Thus, Phase II INTPs may find it easier to identify what they don’t believe than what they do believe. Some may struggle with nihilism or cynicism, worried that they may never find absolute truth. It can therefore take INTPs a great deal of time, even decades, to discern what they believe about the world, themselves, and their place in the world.
If all goes well and they are fortunate enough to enter Phase III, INTPs experience greater balance between their dominant Ti and inferior Fe functions. They discover that growth and integration takes place rather naturally as they learn to effectively and consistently employ their type’s strengths (i.e., their Ti and Ne).
As enumerated in my book, The INTP: Personality, Careers, Relationships & the Quest for Truth and Meaning, Ti involves the application of logic and reason for the sake of understanding a given situation, system, or problem. INTPs use Ti to bring structure and order to their inner world, granting them a strong sense of inner control. Inwardly, INTPs are highly self-disciplined, working to effectively manage their thoughts and their lives. The disciplined nature of their Ti compels INTPs to frame many things as a goal or challenge. These challenges may be physical (e.g., trying to achieve an ideal state of health or fitness), intellectual, practical, psychoemotional (e.g., becoming self-actualized), or later in their development, interpersonal (e.g., “perfecting” a relationship or becoming a skilled lover). In order to succeed in these personal challenges, INTPs are apt to impose rules on themselves. However, because of the wayward influence of their auxiliary Ne, they commonly end up breaking or sabotaging them.
INTPs are also less interested in working with facts than with ideas. Jung writes: “His ideas have their origin not in objective data, but in his subjective foundation.” INTPs are constantly digging into the background of their own thoughts in order to better understand their origins and to ensure their thinking is founded on solid reasoning. They see it pointless to try to build theories on a dubious conceptual platform, making them slower than Te types to rush into experiments to discover more “facts.”
INTPs often find it easier to identify inconsistencies or logical shortcomings—to assert what is not true—than to identify and confidently assert what is true. They can quickly locate inconsistencies or logical shortcomings in a given theory or argument. They excel when it comes to identifying exceptions or imagining scenarios in which the proposed explanation could breakdown. Due to their sensitivity to theoretical exceptions, they can be quick to throw theories and start from scratch. INTJs, by contrast, seem less deterred by ostensible exceptions, perhaps feeling that they will eventually be explained or otherwise rectified.
When functioning constructively, INTPs, like INFPs, often employ a trial-and-error sort of approach to building their theories and ideas. INTPs start with a given (Ti) and then use their auxiliary Ne to explore various connections and possibilities. They also integrate past experiences and acquired knowledge through their tertiary Si. It is usually only after years of toying with ideas that something resembling a systematic and coherent theory may start to emerge. To learn more about Ti, see this post.
INTPs use Extraverted Intuition (Ne) as their auxiliary function. Ne can function either perceptively or expressively. The verbal expression of Ne amounts to something like “brainstorming aloud.” When orating, INTPs may not always seem to “have a point” as they haphazardly drift from one idea to the next. Even ideas that seem inwardly logical and sensible INTPs may suddenly sound incoherent when they attempt to convey them through their Ne.
In its receptive role, Ne prompts INTPs to gather information. Ne does not merely gather sensory information as Se does. Rather, it goes beyond or looks behind sense data, allowing INTPs to discern otherwise hidden patterns, possibilities, and potentials. Their Ne is constantly scanning for relationships or patterns within a pool of facts, ideas or experiences. INTPs commonly use this receptive side of their Ne in activities such as reading, researching, and conversation. They enjoy asking questions that allow them to gain insight or knowledge from others, making INTPs good facilitators of conversation.
INTPs may also use their Ne to sniff out intriguing possibilities. They commonly enjoy and assume the role of wanderer or seeker, rarely knowing in advance exactly what they are seeking.
Ne also confers an open-mindedness, helping INTPs see truth on both sides of an issue without forming unwarranted judgments or premature conclusions. More specifically, their Ne can be seen as contributing to their openness to alternative or Bohemian lifestyles. INTPs are those most likely to suddenly become vegetarians, join a commune, or decide to live out of the back of a van. They are drawn to the idea and challenges of an unconventional lifestyle.
Like other NPs, INTPs often have a love-hate relationship with their Ne. They love the fact that it helps them remain open-minded and grasp the bigger picture. But living with Ne also has its challenges. For one, it can make it difficult for INTPs to arrive at firm conclusions or make important decisions. It often seems that at the very moment they are feeling good about a given conclusion or decision, their Ne steps in and causes them to start doubting it again. This has obvious implications for INTPs who are trying to find their niche in the world. This can leave them feeling discouraged and restless, worried that they may never find what they are looking for. They may feel frustrated by their seeming lack of progress toward anything substantial. The fact is that INTPs desperately want to produce something of lasting worth or value, but they also want to ensure they get it right. They don’t want to leave any stone unturned before arriving at a conclusion. While INTPs typically enjoy this quest for truth, there comes a point when they begin to feel the pressures of life impinging on them. Questions about careers and relationships loom large as they enter their late twenties and thirties. This can be frustrating to INTPs as they feel like life is requiring them to make decisions long before they are ready. As is true of all IN types, they feel that life would be far better if they weren’t forced to consider practical concerns.
Unlike Ne (or Se), INTPs’ tertiary function, Introverted Sensing (Si), is a conservative function. It involves an attachment to past experiences and past precedent—to the routine, familiar, and predictable. Types with Si in their functional stack, including INTPs, tend to eat a fairly routine or consistent diet, “eating to live” rather than “living to eat.” Si types are not only conservative with regard to their diet, but with respect to the material world in general. They tend to be savers rather than spenders, seeing excessive material consumption as unnecessary, or perhaps even immoral.
Like other Si types, INTPs also have a diminished need for novel physical pleasures, lavish surroundings, or material comforts. They are minimalists to the core, relatively unconcerned with their physical surroundings.
An often overlooked role of Si is its perception of internal bodily sensations—the body as felt and experienced from within. Perhaps more than any other function, it provides access to the raw and basic sense of “being” that exists apart from thought or outward stimuli. Historically, Eastern philosophical and religious traditions have done a much better job exploring this dimension than those of the West. This feature of Si is brought to the fore during activities requiring close attention to one’s internal bodily state, such as yoga, Tai-Chi, meditation, or various relaxation techniques. INTPs interested in exploring this element of Si may find great delight and benefit from these sorts of practices. They are especially useful in developing the body awareness necessary to relax and control anxiety.
Last but not least, Extraverted Feeling (Fe) serves as INTPs’ inferior function. While having inferior feeling doesn’t make INTPs emotionless robots, their feelings do seem to have a mind of their own, often coming and going as they please. Realizing how hard it can be to voluntarily contact or summon their emotions, INTPs tend to feel awkward and uneasy in emotional situations. Although they may be cognitively aware of the appropriate emotional response, if they’re unable to directly tap into their feelings, INTPs can appear clumsy, mechanical, or disingenuous. This can be unsettling to others who are looking for outward signs of authentic emotion from the INTP.
Fe is also concerned with maintaining social harmony. While Ti and Ne may inspire INTPs to function as provocateurs, their Fe encourages them to operate as peacemakers. Far more often than INTJs, INTPs will “bite their tongue” in order to avoid hurting or offending others. Doing so also minimizes the likelihood of emotionally-volatile situations which can engender anxiety and disquiet in this type.
Another aim of Fe involves establishing emotional rapport and connection with others. But again, while INTPs may do at fair job at reading others’ emotions, they may fail to actually “feel” what the other person is feeling. This is why INTPs are sometimes described as “outwardly warm, but inwardly cold or calculating.” Fe can be a bit of an act in the first place (e.g., political glad-handing), but this seems particularly commonplace among INTPs and ISTPs. Although casual social engagement may help them feel good for a while, perhaps even give them an ego boost, without sufficient Ti stimulation, it won’t be long before they’re scoping out the nearest exit.
Finally, it’s not unusual for INTPs to oscillate through phases in which they feel they don’t need other people at all. Especially when their work life is running on all cylinders, they can feel invigorated and invincible. But the psyche will only permit this sort of Ti lopsidedness for so long. Eventually, INTPs start feeling a bit lonely or empty, sensing that something important is missing from their lives. This prompts them to reinitiate contact with others, at least until they feel compelled to reassert their independence. Striking a balance between their independence (Ti) and relationships (Fe) can thus constitute a lifelong challenge for this personality type.
If you want to learn more about INTPs—their personality, careers, relationships, life struggles, etc.—you’ve come to the right place. A.J. Drenth, the founder of this website and fellow INTP, has written extensively about this personality type, including authoring the two best-selling INTP books worldwide:
The INTP: Personality, Careers, Relationships… (#1 INTP book on Amazon)
The INTP Quest: INTPs’ Search for their Core Self, Purpose, & Philosophy
Take Our INTJ-INTP Type Clarifier™ Test
INTP Careers & Majors
The INTP Struggle for Truth, Meaning & Motivation
More Personality Profiles
Spinoza, Kant, Schiller, Chomsky, Ken Wilber, Bill Gates, Eckhart Tolle, Herbert Spencer, Einstein, Hegel, Fichte, Bergson, Robert Pirsig, Christian Wolff, Paul Tillich, Viktor Frankl, Edward Snowden, Paul Ricoeur, Charles Taylor (philosopher), Madame Curie, Hannah Arendt
*Portions of this INTP profile are also likely to resonate with Enneagram Fives (5w4, 5w6).
Dominant function: Introverted Thinking (Ti)
Auxiliary function: Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
Tertiary function: Introverted Sensing (Si)
Inferior function: Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
Myers-Briggs Personality Type: INTP - The Thinker. flexible in most situations. They are likely to prefer independent analytical work over lots of collaboration.
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High-Level Description of the Sixteen Personality Types Independent, original, analytical, and determined. Have an exceptional INTP - The Thinker. Logical.