Recently, many, in the introvert communities to which I belong, have focused on the topic of anxiety. “Anxiety and the Rational Girl” is a topic that deserves a lot more discussion than I’ve given it, as it seems to resonate deeply with many people of late. I can certainly understand these feelings of heightened anxiety. With spring, we have fewer excuses for staying in our own cozy little worlds. Spring is about shedding the heavy coat of winter and getting out and about. It’s difficult not to, at a very minimum, feel a twinge of longing for the burrowed away from the world winter abodes. So the talk about anxiety resonates. And, in fact, it resonates with me, especially as I’ve made the big move from Minnesota to Hong Kong (I’ll be back for the summer), and have had to adapt to major changes in my life. Although I truly enjoy the learning environment, Hong Kong, and my teachers, I have faced a number of challenges that require “adulting” in ways that I never expected.
Within the space of a week, I had to deal with the stress of travel, the stress of relocating, the stress of living in a foreign country (where I don’t speak the primary language), and the loss of privacy, as I now share an apartment with new (and younger) roommates. I’ve tried to keep a positive outlook through all the challenges; after all, I knew when I made the decision to attend school that I would have challenges to face. Yet, over the past few weeks there have been times when it was hard to see the upside of my choice. Like most of us do, I made it through my difficulties. What once seemed insurmountable is rapidly becoming little more than fodder for war stories; but facing those challenges, and, at the same time, reading about the challenges of others, got me to thinking about how I could better use INTJ Mastermind techniques to overcome the anxieties and stresses that had, at first, seemed a daily part of my relocation process.
Uchi-soto, which has become one of my favorite concepts of mastermind, didn’t really help. I can no longer just retreat to a place of quiet solitude whenever I feel the need — shared spaces don’t allow it. In fact, none of my mastermind techniques seemed appropriate, not modeling, systematization, nor any of the other tools that I’ve researched and theorized about in the past. Instead, I found myself battling often overwhelming stress with the simplest tasks. For example, trying to locate a grocery store, and then doing on-the-fly money conversions with a store clerk waiting for you to figure out the appropriate bills. I could have been better prepared (and there are reasons I was not, but I won’t go into those), but there were stresses that occurred despite my having prepared, so it often seemed a no-win situation. Nevertheless, readers of this blog know that I am committed to living my life as an INTJ with as positive an outlook as is possible for a rational person, which can be a difficult challenge in and of itself. With this blog as my driving force, it was time to stop worrying and start finding new cognitive survival tools.
This time, my research into cognition led me to a broader view of thinking about the mind. To be more specific: Theory of Mind or (ToM). It is a topic that any first-year psychology student would be familiar with, but I was not. As I learned about the ToM approaches to cognition, I began to realize that perhaps the reason I was not as successful as I would have liked in dealing with my stress was that I in the wrong “state” of mind. It sounds simple enough. We’ve probably all heard of re-framing a perspective to change your way of looking at things; but there are times when you have to go meta on your mind, and re-framing is of little help if you don’t have the ability to find a prettier frame. In other words, you can stay stuck in one frame because all of the other frames available to you are equally stressful (and some are even more stressful).
I am at the very beginnings of researching this topic, but as we begin a new month, the first month of spring, I want to “plant” a few seeds and share my thoughts on a new set of tools that INTJs can consider when the stress levels are constant, and the anxiety only seems to be worsening. It’s in these instances that we need a bit more than affirming self-talk to help us re-frame. For me, an understanding of how psychology looks at thinking has proven to be very helpful. The internet has a wealth of information about cognition – some of it good, some of it as speculative as my own musings. As I considered how best to remove myself from the mire that had become my existence in Hong Kong, I found three very important definitions that I think can be helpful when we try to re-frame our perspectives.
These definitions seem to be the foundation of psychology’s perspective on assessing the health and effectiveness of an individual’s thinking. When assessing cognition, psychologists break cognition into states. Below are the three states that I found most helpful.
Cognitive State – This state is about assessing the type of information to which an individual has access. The greater the information available to you, the more resources to inform your thinking. This can be good, or bad. One of the problems for INTJs, and other rationals, is that more information can mean an increased ability to predict negative outcomes.
Psychological State – In psychology, the psychological state is simply a consistent way of thinking, whether that way of thinking is healthy or unhealthy, productive or unproductive. Changing the way you think is difficult. The way you think is a result of the culture you live in, your educational background, and many other factors.
Mental State – Your mental state is an “in-the-moment” state. It has to do with environmental factors, or information that you’re recording from the environment, that sort of thing. Psychologists believe that your mental state is both conscious and unconscious (meaning that unconscious factors can impact your physical well-being).
Over the coming weeks, we will examine ideas and theories regarding these states, or ways of thinking. I hope that in researching and discussing my findings, I will be able to identify positive solutions for the epidemic level of anxiety that many in the introvert community seem to be experiencing. Then again, the Millennial generation, of which I am a part, is experiencing a genuine challenge to many of the systems and ways of thinking to which we have grown accustomed. Just as in the Shout song, from our thought-provoking list, there is a lot of uncertainty in the world. Most of us are just trying to survive. Many of us are facing personal challenges, which, when combined with global challenges, seem to only heighten our level of fear and anxiety. We are not the first generation to face immense challenges, nor will we be the last. The important thing is to find ways to stay rational in an increasingly irrational environment.
Let me know what you think. I look forward to the discussion.