INFP-Melancholics and the Excitement Question

A great way of understanding the four temperaments is by looking at what excites each temperament.

Cholerics are excited by accomplishment, achievement, and ambition.

Sanguines are excited by nice things and good experiences.

Melancholics are excited by ideals and meaning.

Phlegmatics are not strongly excited by anything.

Phlegmatics are considered easy-going because they are not easily excited and they also don’t form long-lasting impressions.

That leaves melancholics in the awkward position of being not easily excited, but still forming long-lasting impressions, including the impression of not being excited by much!

INFPs are the most melancholic of the melancholics. We go through life slowly realising that we are not excited by much, and trying in our own way to get excited about the same things as our non-melancholic peers.

The Excitement Question

We tend to look at excitement as relative to other temperaments.

I like nice cars, I wouldn’t say no to a new one. But that level of excitement in me barely registers in contrast to genuine car enthusiasts.

Conversely, I get very excited by reflecting on the meaning of life, the best way to live, the nature of reality, and similar subjects that leave many people entirely disinterested.

We could just say that different people are excited by different things. I might feel out of place at a car show, while others would feel similarly out of place at a university library.

But we could point out that there are more cars than libraries, and that many people go through life quite happily avoiding libraries, whereas even those who love libraries might need a car to get them there.

In other words, these sources of excitement are not equal in this world. The things that excite melancholics are perhaps rarer and less widely valued than the things that excite other temperaments.

Must melancholics be depressed?

Melancholy has become synonymous with depression, and depression can be inversely correlated with excitability.

Cholerics would be depressed if their ambitions were stymied at every turn, their accomplishments went unrecognised and their achievements had no bearing on their station in life.

Sanguines would be depressed if bereft of social interaction, outings, engagements and all the nice objects they love.

Phlegmatics would be depressed if thrown into the spotlight, made to deal with conflict, while all the rules were cast aside and ignored.

And melancholics are often depressed because our ideals and desire for meaning are not widely shared, nor taken seriously unless in service to the values of other temperaments.

At least, that’s what I would have said in the past. It’s not my fault I’m depressed, it’s a function of living in a society dominated by non-melancholics.

But does it have to be this way?

You create your reality

I’m now accepting that it doesn’t matter what other people do or how friendly or unfriendly society looks to be.

I’m the one creating my reality, and if I keep telling a story of disenfranchisement and melancholic alienation, then I’ll continue to suffer accordingly.

This is where the excitement question gets really exciting!

Instead of complaining that society doesn’t value meaning and ideals, I can rejoice that I know more clearly than before what does excite me!

There is nothing stopping me (but my own thoughts) from turning all my attention and energy to the ideals and meaning that excite me.

Isn’t that…ideal?

I’ve learned from the Abraham-Hicks teachings that it really is just my own thoughts that create insurmountable-seeming barriers and boundaries to my happiness.

Life is not ideal? People don’t value meaning? BS. That’s just a story I’ve learned to tell, and then kept on finding evidence to support while ignoring anything that contradicts it.

Happiness is possible for melancholics, of course it is! We are the ones undermining and squelching the amazing joy and satisfaction our ideals and feelings provide us. We’ve learned to do this — we can learn to build it up instead.

From “never enough” to “always more”

I’ve been searching for answers for more than 20 years and I wish I could tell you how many times I’ve thought “This is it! This is *the* answer I’ve been searching for!” only to find myself searching again within days or even hours as the euphoria of discovery dissipated.

I kept searching even though searching began to feel less like a journey and more like a compulsion. I can’t help but search, and I continue searching even when I know that no answer will ever be completely satisfying.

But what if “complete satisfaction” is an impossible goal in the first place? Better yet, what if this never-ending search is not a bug but a feature?

The Abraham material I’ve been reading states that the whole point of life in this world is expansion. We will never be fully satisfied, because we are not meant to be fully satisfied.

Searching for complete and final satisfaction is like looking for a meal that finally and forever sates our hunger.

No such meal exists, and if we look at it negatively it means we will never find “true” satiety. But if we look at it positively it means we get to explore and create and try all kinds of different food.

Technology is another good example: I used to feel annoyed and cynical because no matter how good my computer or phone was, it would always become obsolete.

But if you love technology this isn’t a bad thing. Technology becomes obsolete because technology is always improving and advancing! The phone you have now is a vast improvement over the phone you had 10 or 15 years ago.

Both perspectives are true: obsolescence and advancement, endless hunger and gustatory exploration. But one perspective feels bad and the other perspective feels good. Which one would you rather have?

Would the same change in perspective apply to my endless search for answers? It does!

It turns out that while it feels bad to endlessly search for answers, it feels very good to be endlessly having fresh insights and understandings.

Answers that don’t last become insights that never run out. The attitude of endless searching becomes an attitude of unlimited curiosity and wonder.

Brooding on breeding

Dtcwee has had an article published on ABC Open. Check it out:

Much of the difficulty, I think, comes from the notion that children are a choice. There is even more baggage in the modern world surrounding self-determination.

Ironically, this baggage is involuntary. The truth is that circumstances play a huge part. Just as many are not childless by choice, many pregnancies are unintended; about 40 percent worldwide. Of those, quite a proportion are brought to term.

https://open.abc.net.au/explore/97611

Terrifying moral dilemmas

A regular interlocutor and occasional sparring partner over at MercatorNet asked for my opinion as an ethicist on a difficult moral dilemma: should couples who are, or suspect they are, genetically predisposed to terminal illness or other serious disease avoid having children?

For me these questions hit close to home. It is not difficult to imagine having children with serious illnesses or disabilities, though it is undoubtedly more salient for people who have witnessed and experienced the same in their families for generations.

Difficult cases such as these seem overwhelming when considered in isolation. It does indeed appear prudent and reasonable to avoid having children in order to avoid certain or highly probable disease.

However, ethics forces us to think not only of the outcomes, but of the principles behind an action. This is reasonable in part because our ability to assess outcomes is heavily constrained. For example, how do we correctly weigh the value of a life lived for thirty years, cut short by illness?
Even in a strictly consequentialist sense, we are not equipped to predict what medical advances or discoveries may come in the future.

In terms of the principles behind the action: at first glance, simply avoiding having children does not appear to be as bad as, say, actively killing people in order to root out genetic faults or variables either in utero or in vitro. The harm done is not to the non-existent offspring (assuming non-abortifacient contraceptive methods or alternatively NFP methods).

The harm done is to the marriage, and to the otherwise-would-be parents themselves. The nature of the harm or error is multifaceted and not obvious. It ranges from the simple harm of missing out on the fulfillment and enrichment that offspring provide, to the perhaps more ‘existential’ harm of adopting a worldview in which one is able and morally required to act with certitude and control in regard to circumstances and outcomes that are generally speaking beyond both our knowledge and our true control.

However, this last point broaches on terrain typically regarded as ‘religious’ and not encouraged in public debate. But I would say nonetheless that if the purpose of life is to avoid suffering and delay death, then perhaps such actions are a noble sacrifice. But if the purpose of our life is more than that, or better yet, the context of our life is broader than suffering and death, then we may have hope that such painful moral dilemmas are not as closed and complete as they appear.

I think the melancholic temperament is well-suited to ethics because it searches always for the principle or ideal behind an action. Melancholics are not good with ‘exceptional circumstances’ or arbitrary redrawing of boundaries. If we decide as a society that it would be wrong for children with certain disabilities to not be born, then an ethicist should (quite rightly) start to look for the operative principle behind such a conclusion.

The melancholics are, I think, merely more sensitive than most to the principles that exert constant albeit imperfect influence on all humans. That is why the eugenic fantasies may begin on ‘safe’ territory with the killing of severely disabled infants or the execution of the very worst serial criminals, but they tend to end with the elimination of those unlikely to achieve good university GPAs, and the culling of people with minor impulses toward rebellion or unconventional behaviour.