We Are Not Alone. But Almost.

Posted on July 30, 2010


In a recent post, I briefly mentioned personality tests. These instruments consist of a series of questions designed to make you think about yourself and how you tend to feel and behave in certain situations. Depending on your answers to the questions, you’re assigned a group of traits, usually abbreviated by a single letter each. Your letter combination, then, is the label that describes your personality.

One of the best-known examples of these tests is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Those who administer the MBTI refer to it as a personality inventory, which in a way makes me feel less like a person and more like the back room of a shoe store. Still, the results can be quite useful. I’ve taken the MBTI twice, and both times I came out to be an INFP, which means Introvert-Intuitive-Feeling-Perceiving. The alternate traits to mine are Extravert, Sensing, Thinking, and Judging, and together they produce sixteen different possible combinations. If I remember correctly, my particular combination (INFP) is present in just five percent of people. This may or may not explain my relative lack of friends, but it has caused me to probe a little more deeply into its implications. For one thing, given the populations of the United States and Canada, even at five percent, there should be 17 million others with my personality type. That’s a large pool from which to find some compatibility, so I may be doing something wrong in that area. What could it be?

I would like to propose a theory that within this small five-percent group, there’s an even smaller sub-group. These are the people who exhibit the traits in such concentrated amounts that they seem to be as different from other INFPs as normal INFPs are from everyone else. In other words, they seem weird even in a room full of weirdos. My guess is that about five percent of the five percent group (or one-fourth of one percent) has this distinct and slightly alarming identity. I have designated this tiny sub-population INFP-Squared. In this case, the additional traits are: Insecure-Neurotic-Frustrated-Pessimistic. If you’re still here and reading, even if just out of a sense of obligation, you may well possess this remarkable combination of quirks. The following questions will help you know for sure. Try to answer truthfully. However, in the interest of accuracy, if you’re going to lie, be sure to lie all the way through.

1. When making a deposit at an ATM, do you insert the envelope into the machine so it exactly matches the picture on the little screen? If you put it in backward or upside-down, do you worry about it? Are you still worrying when you get back to your car? The next day? On New Year’s Eve?

2. Do you ever eat an apple while driving, throw the core out the window, and take note of exactly where you threw it in case the police pull you over and try to fine you for littering? Do you really think you could ever find that apple core?

3. When you pick up a ballpoint pen that’s completely out of ink, do you put it back or throw it away? Do you ever put it back, then go through the same routine the next day? And do you put it back again?

4. When shopping, do you take the item in front, or reach back two or three rows to get a fresh one? Do you even do this with magazines and newspapers? How about glass cleaner? When you try on a pair of pants and they fit, do you buy those or do you go back and grab a clean one from the bottom of the pile?

5. Do you always put on your socks in the same order? If you inadvertently switch the order, do you feel a little peculiar for a while? Do you have a shower routine? Do you ever daydream in the shower and forget where you are in the sequence, and if so, do you start all over?

6. When sweeping the floor, do you make sure to get that last line of dirt into the dustpan, rather than what everyone else does, which is spread it around with their foot until it disappears?

7. Have you ever gone for a walk and said hello to a dog in someone’s yard, and then realized it was a lawn ornament? How long would it be before you went for a walk again, and would you wear a disguise?

8. At the supermarket, if you’re on the end of a long line and notice a new cashier opening up, do you rush over to be first or do you alert the person in front of you? When using the Express Line, do you count the twelve boxes of Fruit Loops as one item, or do you feel too guilty? Do you ever let someone with just one item go ahead of you and then have to stand there waiting for ten minutes because their debit card won’t work? Do you secretly fantasize about hitting them in the back of the head with a frozen Hungry Man dinner? Does this happen once a week, more than once a week, once a month, or more than once a month?

9. Does it drive you crazy when they keep playing the same commercials on the radio or television, to the point where you decide to never buy the product being advertised? Do you ever scream at the commercial? Does that make you think you might need some medicine?

10. When buying a new jacket, wallet, or suitcase, do you prefer something with a lot of pockets, slots, and secret compartments? What do you suppose you’re trying to hide?

11. Are you ever startled by a strange sound, then realize it’s coming from your own mouth?

12. Do you drive around for two years with candy bar wrappers and french fries on the back seat, but then vacuum your car and suddenly need to pick out every bit of lint from the carpeting? After vacuuming, do you get annoyed at the next person who gets into your car, especially if they’re wearing shoes that were just touching the filthy ground?

13. Have you ever sculpted something, then decided what it was after it was finished? Does this make you feel a little sad? Or are you still worrying about that horrible ATM incident with the deposit envelope?

14. When listening to a person who talks too much, do you sometimes make yourself yawn just by hoping you don’t?

15. Do you ever go into a trance while driving, snap out of it twenty minutes later, and have no idea where you are? Do you eventually find yourself, or don’t you even bother to look?

16. Do you ever hear about the death of a famous person and feel momentarily stunned because you’re sure that person died six years ago? How insistent do you become about the issue? Does it make you a little angry that some people get to die twice?

17. If you introduce yourself to someone and three minutes later they call you by the wrong name, do you correct them? Or do you spend the rest of the afternoon answering to “Terry” because you don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings?

18. Do you ever notice that you can get yourself a snack during the day in complete silence, but if you open a bag of cookies in the middle of the night it sounds like the Sacking of Rome? And the quieter you try to be, the noisier you are? Do you ever get the package half open, feel bad, and close it back up? Do you feel really pathetic then, having made all that racket without getting anything to eat?

If you answered Yes to any three of these questions, you are very likely an INFP-Squared type personality. You have the traits of Insecure-Neurotic-Frustrated-Pessimistic, and are a member of one-quarter of one percent of the population. Do I have any advice for coping with a society that doesn’t understand you, doesn’t want to, and doesn’t care? I do, but I doubt it would help. And what if it backfires and only makes things worse? Plus, I have a lot I’m dealing with right now, and none of it is really going well. But look at the bright side: Things are bound to get worse no matter what we do, so it isn’t our fault. Is it?