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This is an extension of the thread I started about INFPs and philosophy.

I've always had an ambivalent relationship to academia. I love reading, and my room is full of books - mostly on religion or psychology, and some autobiographies and books on art.

However, I find much of academic writing incredibly drab and uninteresting. Even subjects that I enjoy - psychology, religion, cinema, literature - they seem to be sapped of their spirit when they are broached in high level academic discourse.

I often thought I should get a PhD in Religion, or Psychology, or the psychology of religion, but am now increasingly skeptical about being able to stick it out for several years while working on a thesis that may not have any immediate relevance to our lives. I would be happier doing something that I feel makes the world a better place, that holds some meaning not just for me but for others, and that affects the lives of others in a meaningful manner. Highly technical or abstract discussions seem more like hair splitting than something meaningful.

When the filmmaker Andrey Tarkovsky was asked why he makes films, he said 'I make films to help people live, even if that causes some pain'. I am pretty sure Tarkovsky was an INFP, and I couldn't phrase my life purpose in a better way, except that the words 'make films' would need to be replaced by something I can do.

I find that psychotherapy is perhaps the most helpful and meaning-giving profession that exists, the kind of therapy that draws the traditional roles of the priest and the Socratic philosopher, whose function was to bring meaning and understanding to life. I also feel that art can be a meaning-giving profession, but the only art I know is to write, and my writing skills aren't that good.



Are there any INFPs who feel a similar disenchantment with academia (or perhaps with most other things?). Do you know any INFPs who are university professors and enjoy it?
 

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I share a very strong connection with academia as well..

The first classes I occupied at uni (art science), set me on fire. However, when I cooled down by walking home, I always started to doubt my decision: what was the use of this Philosophizing other than my personal development? Isn’t that just selfish and kind of meaningless? Is that my purpose in life: self development?

Now, in my master, I see more closely how the academic world works. My professors aren’t all that smart, and the students in my class aren’t that critical either. I can compare the lessons I get with youngsters who have an identity crisis and don’t know how to dress. What’s fashionable, what’s dull. For instance, if I quote Walter Benjamin a couple of times, I probably get two points extra. I still love philosophy of course..

Problem is, I discovered I’m no good for anything. Or you make art, or you sit in a bar and philosophy about it with a glass of wine. People always tell me you can’t make money with ideas.. not that I care about ‘making money’, but you can’t help anyone with ideas either. You have to do something with them, not just talk about them. I somethimes doubt if I should get a PHD as well, but, on the other hand, that would just be the easy solution for me. I wish I was more left brained, I could consider myself useful by having a PHD in physics for example..

Anyway, If you’re life purpose is the same as that of Tarkovsky, then keep on searching, I don’t think you would find it by getting a PHD. It’s not that Trakovsky knew from an early age he would be a film director. If I am not mistaken, he was not that young when he decided to study film and did some research project before this as well (I seem to remember this vaguely, not that sure though). I’m just building on what you said, I can imagine that doing research can be immensely fulfilling. But you have to stand behind it with heart and soul if you want to bring it to an end, I think.
 

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There's always someone better than you. - My mom.

Academia has a way of killing the soul, unless you have fabulous connections with humble professors, which to my dismay are few. But aren't we all a bit conceited anyway? I like academia because it's like a buffet for an intuitive type like me, but I don't consider myself nowhere near the top echelons. I'm sort of the armchair/pseudo philosopher who likes to eat the scraps that fall off the table. But I guess it's better than nothing. Meh.
 

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There's always someone better than you. - My mom.

Academia has a way of killing the soul, unless you have fabulous connections with humble professors, which to my dismay are few. But aren't we all a bit conceited anyway? I like academia because it's like a buffet for an intuitive type like me, but I don't consider myself nowhere near the top echelons. I'm sort of the armchair/pseudo philosopher who likes to eat the scraps that fall off the table. But I guess it's better than nothing. Meh.
I am in academia somewhat, currently pursuing my PhD. I love the idea of learning all these theories and concepts and discussing them. But I dread the paper writing and publication expectations that await someone who has to work in the university system as a tenured professor (which I doubt I will be doing). I changed my dissertation topic recently because it wasn't practical or related to what I actually teach each semester. So, I can understand the disillusionment. I've never liked the culture of "who can I quote to show my intelligence and intellect" in grad classes. Encourages snobbery rather than a real interest in engaging and learning. If there were no papers but only presentations, I would probably ace grad school because the focus would be discussion and engagement with the subject and how it applies to anything that we can connect it with in and outside of academia. When I can bring my personal experiences to the table to discuss the material, I usually enjoy classes better. But if it's about whether I've kept up with the readings, then it loses it's interest and I enjoy it much less.

And I agree, there are not enough humble grad professors who are truly interested in helping their students succeed by good advising and guidance.
 

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Yeah, I'm type 6 so I do really well in university. I really like my INFP professors since they know a lot, but are also very caring, eloquent, supportive and gentle.

This girl in my class hadn't handed in one essay, and it was like a month late, and he just approached her after class and was "I didn't get your essay." She said she was planning on just not handing it in. Then he told her to hand it in anyway.

He's really sweet and cares more about people than grades. (Though he's a really nit-picky when marking, because like most infps, whatever he's discovered in a work is the most important thing, and other perspectives feel less valuable. So I have to write exactly what he said if I want an A+. He's terribly disorganized/scattered, really flexible, and will spent hours outside of class talking to me.)

Oh, and he's got infj and infp girls taking classes they really don't need for their degrees, just because he's brilliant, charming, sweet and does funny voices. I'm sure that him always showing up with elegant shoes and a purple dress shirt helps as well.

He's also really unassuming in an INFP sort of way. You can call him by his first name.
 

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I love learning. I've decided before that if I could just spend my whole life in school, getting degrees in all the different majors I find interesting, I totally would. Of course, that's a waste of time, a waste of money, and I hate the detail-oriented and standardized testing side of school enough to not want to go back.

I'm a naturally curious person, and so when I'm interested in something, I'll research it and read about it to my heart's content. But when you tell me to write a paper on it, do a project on it, meet certain standards regarding it, that's when I go all "Bwwwaaarrrghhhh I don't care anymore!!" I like learning for the sake of learning, not for the sake of the letter grade my professor might give me on a paper.

In the biggest of ironic twists, I ended up getting my BS in Elementary Education. However, after teaching for a few years (hopefully halfway across the world!) I plan on going back to school (another ironic twist of fate!) to get my Masters in counseling so I can do that instead. I think it suits me better than teaching does. :)
 

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I studied science in college because, like you, I wanted to change people's lives, and I thought I'd do that by becoming a doctor (I was slightly more extroverted when I started college). By the time I decided it wasn't for me, (1) I was too far in to change my major without having to add years to my education, and (2) I really liked learning the theory behind chemistry and biochemistry and actually wanted to finish up. When my professors found out I wasn't going to med school they encouraged me to go to graduate school but I wasn't sure about it for a lot of the reasons other people on here have stated: the way everything seems to be made more complicated then it needs to be. Science bores me when you really get into doing original research because it requires so much repetition. And then there's the reality of publishing and mainting the "right image" to get tenure. It doesn't appeal to me at all.

Therefore, I worked for awhile then went back for a year to become a teacher, which is what I'm doing now. That being said, I never planned for this to be my permanent career -- I know that I need change or else I lose my mind in boredom. I don't know what I'll do next. I've thought about school counseling or possibly educational policy, which are both things I currently find fascinating. I'm worried they'll be boring once I study them more.

I've also thought about saving up enough money to go into yet another entirely new field like psychology, but again, I'm afraid I'd ifnd the work of actually researching psychological theories to be boring when it comes down to it.

Of course, my dream profession would be as a novelist. I'm a pretty good writer when it comes to the technical side of things, but I have little confidence in my ideas. Besides, writing novels takes time and persistence, neither of which I have in great quantities. So I have to be realistic and maintain a job that will pay the bills and *not* make me want to slit my wrists.
 

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I studied science in college because, like you, I wanted to change people's lives, and I thought I'd do that by becoming a doctor (I was slightly more extroverted when I started college). By the time I decided it wasn't for me, (1) I was too far in to change my major without having to add years to my education, and (2) I really liked learning the theory behind chemistry and biochemistry and actually wanted to finish up. When my professors found out I wasn't going to med school they encouraged me to go to graduate school but I wasn't sure about it for a lot of the reasons other people on here have stated: the way everything seems to be made more complicated then it needs to be. Science bores me when you really get into doing original research because it requires so much repetition. And then there's the reality of publishing and mainting the "right image" to get tenure. It doesn't appeal to me at all.

Therefore, I worked for awhile then went back for a year to become a teacher, which is what I'm doing now. That being said, I never planned for this to be my permanent career -- I know that I need change or else I lose my mind in boredom. I don't know what I'll do next. I've thought about school counseling or possibly educational policy, which are both things I currently find fascinating. I'm worried they'll be boring once I study them more.

I've also thought about saving up enough money to go into yet another entirely new field like psychology, but again, I'm afraid I'd ifnd the work of actually researching psychological theories to be boring when it comes down to it.

Of course, my dream profession would be as a novelist. I'm a pretty good writer when it comes to the technical side of things, but I have little confidence in my ideas. Besides, writing novels takes time and persistence, neither of which I have in great quantities. So I have to be realistic and maintain a job that will pay the bills and *not* make me want to slit my wrists.
What about technical writing? or Science Communication? You should check those careers out. There are a lot of opportunities out there for people who can combine science knowledge with good writing skills. I did science communication early on at university and really loved it actually. It's was quite interesting.
 

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Though he's a really nit-picky when marking, because like most infps, whatever he's discovered in a work is the most important thing, and other perspectives feel less valuable. So I have to write exactly what he said if I want an A+.
Not me. I get bored of my own ideas almost as soon as I think of them. It really bothers me when students just parrot me. I want to learn something new, myself.
 

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I study Dietetics, which means that I'll be able to work in hospitals, with patients etc. I think that, for me, that's more interesting than getting a PhD, and I can't imagine myself being a professor, so if I do it, it'd be for the research. But still, it's more likely that I pursue a second bachelor degree than doing a PhD.
I think the best professor I ever had was an INTP. (and he never got a PhD)
On the other hand, he could be INFP because he showed so much feels when talking about the universe and quantum mechanics, his sense of wonder similar to mine. Plus, he refuses to take any money for teaching at the university, which is very INFP-ish.
 

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You aren't alone with your Messiah Complex; not even with your Thinking counterparts. If your true ideal goal in life is to improve upon the world, teaching could be quite the profession. Some (good) teachers make huge differences in their student's lives. But, psychotherapy is an even better profession to do that. It just depends on what you're good at. Don't base this life choice on what other people want you to do; do it based on what you want you to do.
 
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I dislike academia mainly because they just want us to regurgitate facts and stuff on tests and papers. I prefer to make presentations that maybe are not as formal as papers but still are like papers in that I get to choose a topic of interest, learn about it and present my findings. If all my classes were presentation based I would probably have been at the top of my class rather than having a 3.2 like I have now.......... :/
 

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I can see a lot of people in this forum have talked about whether academia is a meaningful pursuit, etc. My concern isn’t really with this issue. I would like to ask fellow INFPs—and especially those with experience –about the challenges academia presents for INFPs. I have been considering academia as a possible career avenue. There are a few problems however. The first are practical (i.e. the fact that I would be a mature age student), and so on. The second, and perhaps more relevant here, are the personality match/mismatch problems.
I have read a bit about INFPs working in academia and they often note they have to work more to get the same amount done as others. We are of course, often perfectionists and somewhat disorganised, and these among other things no doubt make getting those papers published, etc., perhaps a harder job.

From my own experience, I know I am quite the perfectionist. And I also know that when I get good marks in university (which I typically have done), it has been from pouring tremendous amounts of time into study. Basically, I get the marks partly because I am willing and able to put in more time than other students to study, and because I have to make things perfect. This may sound all good and fine... but in reality, I have a life too & the opportunity cost of studying to become an academic vs doing another career then becomes high. I can, for example, study ridiculous amounts each a week for a full-time course, and eventually perhaps make it to an academic position. Or I could go do another career which requires only formal work, or less study, and perhaps achieve less career-match, so to speak, but then I will be able to have a much more balanced lifestyle.

So here is my question for fellow INFPS - What have been your experiences – have you found that unless you pour your everything into it, that it just doesn’t work for you? Have you found it tremendously hard to get balanced during the thick of it, and instead opted to go full steam ahead despite the consequences to your social life? Is there hope for INFPs, i.e. can they do academia and still manage decent work-life-balance, or at least comparable work-life-balance to the more organised personality types?
 

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I love academia. I will probably end up making my career within it. I love the competition, the search for knowledge and the theoretical nature of it. I love the insanity of it. It's a crazy environment and I thrive in it. Eccentricity is the norm. I love the constant acquiring and refining of skills. One thing I don't enjoy is the elitism, but I enjoy beating elitists, very much. The guilty pleasure I take in this is one of my favourite things.

I like the academic style of writing. Particularly when it strives to communicate complicated ideas in a simple and clear manner. I find it very funny when it doesn't try to do this and descends into crazy ramblings. It's also funny when academics let their petty personal grudge matches filter into their work. I read a paper where an academic accused his opponent of being high. Brilliant.

I like things that most people find dry. Almost everything interests me. I'm a major geek.

It also suits my ideals. The average left wing academic, has a higher level of education than people at the highest level of government and business, while having very different ideals to both of these forces. The intellectual left, has the ability and the will, to take on the current system and change it for the better. It's rebellious, radical, aggressive and it pursues its goals in a professional and ethical way.
 

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I think it has to do with the egalitarian values I hold. I realize that it's a competitive system out there, and should justifiably so. Without the best minds doing what they do best, you don't have much progress. I suppose it's like anything else in this world--flawed.

If this was a perfect world, we'd all be like Star Trek citizens, perfectly happy and content with their given roles in life. Ok, maybe not all Star Trek people, but you get the Utopian vibe? Academia has been good to me even though I was the worst student. I gleaned just enough to make people believe I'm worth something when I'm not elite at all. That's ok, you just have to find a way to parlay your accomplishments into something. I don't plan to be a PhD or anything because I don't want to go through all the ridiculous hoops and headaches. I guess it's all relative. There are plenty of people who live contently without higher education.

As a general principle though, I admire academia's pursuit of truth and knowledge. I fear the day when books will be burned and freedom of speech abolished. The only way to prevent this is through education. Without education we are brutes. Consider me an outside looking in. For me to pursue a doctorate would require a perfect storm of events, but barring that I don't see myself in that lifestyle. Is it worth the trouble, or can I do something with my life that will make me happier?
 
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