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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone,

I was really struck my a comment by @emerald sea in another thread about the INFJ protector response and decided to start a thread focusing specifically on this topic. Here's what emerald sea had to say:

we INFJs operate in only one mode: protection. just like you don't want to get between a mama bear and her cubs, you don't want to get between an INFJ and someone under their care/protection. such are the times when gentleness begets fierceness.

an INFJ's anger in such a setting is indignation at how someone they deeply care about is being harmed or endangered, and while such anger may not occur often, when it does, get out of our way. this fiery-indignant compassion powers us like a gush of fight-or-flight adrenaline that can accomplish powerful things that are ordinarily impossible.

i'm not talking about physical violence - without laying a hand on anyone, big, strong, dominating, or mal-intentioned people have been stopped dead in their tracks ~ or have been restrained eventually ~ by INFJs. we can be quite intimidating when we want to be, if we have learned how to funnel our intensity into effective tactics. when we don't want to be, we are often mis-perceived as pushovers.

you're not going to stop that sort of anger (protective indignation) in an INFJ - it's as innate as the very core of our personality. what a person loves determines what a person hates, and our core is a profound love for those in need of our emotional or physical protection, which begets a profound hatred for that (not "those" - it's not personal) which harms or endangers them.
This description resonated really deeply for me. The only thing I would disagree with is the naming of the response as hatred. For me, hatred would be a waste of energy when I'm in protection mode. It is a profound lack of regard, not hatred for me.

Anyway, I'm wondering if emerald sea's comment resonates as deeply with other INFJs here - and if so, what are some examples of your lived experiences with this protection mode?

I'll start. I have an example that's happening right now. I'm living in a temporary place during a move from one state to another. I have my extremely beloved parakeet with me. I don't have strong enough words to describe the depth of my love for him, and my responsibility for his well-being.

There are various possible (largely preventable) dangers to him in this place. These were addressed before move-in and I was initially satisfied. Before I agreed to move in, the owners of the place appeared quite concerned about his well-being. But after I moved in, their concern began to blur into something else, something I find untrustworthy in the extreme – questioning me on why I have the safety concerns I have, removing options they had put forward related to his safety, and questioning at least one prior agreement that was in place to protect my bird.

In the past few days. I've had two specific interactions with one of the owners that have kicked my protection mode into high gear. I didn't get overtly angry, but I am certainly protection-angry internally, and externally I stopped being all warm and nice and accommodating.

This shift appeared to hurt her feelings or something like that, and I think maybe she got butt-hurt. But at this point, in protection mode, I don't give a shit about her feelings except as it relates to protecting my bird. My concern is the bird I love, who is under my protection and care. Once it came clear to me that I have to protect my bird against this person's “suggestions,” her pushy self-involved issues with what I have determined is best for my bird, and her lack of any true concern about his well-being, any warmth or niceness I might have - any use of my Fe to try to make sure this woman feels okay and is comfortable in our interactions except as needed to protect my bird - just went away.

i'm not talking about physical violence - without laying a hand on anyone, big, strong, dominating, or mal-intentioned people have been stopped dead in their tracks ~ or have been restrained eventually ~ by INFJs. we can be quite intimidating when we want to be, if we have learned how to funnel our intensity into effective tactics. when we don't want to be, we are often mis-perceived as pushovers.
Yes - it's quite true that when I am not in protection mode, I can appear as a push-over. People can be surprised to find that this part of me goes away under certain circumstances.

Now my interest and my focus when it comes to this temporary living place is only on my responsibility to protect my beloved one. I am not interested in being friends with the owners. I will do what is necessary to protect my bird. I will be nice only if and when it serves that goal. I will be on protection alert until I can get my bird out of this place for good, which is going to be a while.

@emerald sea is correct that the protection mode isn't personal. It isn't. In this landscape, I am scanning for threats and resources I can use to protect my bird from those threats. I have identified the owner (actually, it extends to both of them since they are a couple) … I have identified the owners as potential threats to to my bird, and I will act and respond as needed to protect him.

And as @emerald sea described, my state has nothing whatsoever to do with physical response against threats, and everything to do with moving to protect in other ways.

you're not going to stop that sort of anger (protective indignation) in an INFJ - it's as innate as the very core of our personality.
Reading this made me realize that at some level I'm beating myself up for being in this protection mode. And I can see that that internal struggle really needs to stop - it wastes energy. I do know, from my initial Fe-based interaction with these women (the owners of the place), that there are possible expectations for personal connection and maybe possible friendship here. There's enough of that Fe-knowledge still living inside of me that it's fueling an internal struggle as that personal connection is no longer something in which I have an interest.

I mean ... I'm moving from protection mode for sure – nothing will get in the way of that. But I am also beating myself up internally for being in this mode. Understanding cognitively that this mode is core to me, that it is a function of INFJ processing, and that it is not stoppable, is absolutely crucial information right now.

So – I'd love to know - what experiences have you had with being in INFJ protection mode? I'd really like to explore this further.
 

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Quite a passionate post @emerald sea; I can see you relating @Aquarian. Growing up I held my family and friends too closely, trying to "be there" even to the point of stepping forward or interjecting when I saw something going wrong, before it happened.

I realized I was wrong to remain so close, and to share my opinions so early. So I stepped back. People immediately appreciated the new me, and I was free of looking after others. For a while, I stayed back and (indirectly) helped people. And now I suppose the more I focus on spiritual study, I feel encouraged to step even further away from these situations: who am I to assume that I'm needed? Or that I can "fix" or "protect" someone from things that they may have to experience?

Joy for me, now, is seeing others find their way and discover what they need to discover. Even if it means going through a rough patch. Sometimes trying to protect others to closely takes away from what they need to experience. And maybe, I've found, that in order to grow, I need to spend proportionately more time on myself.
 

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Yes, this thread resonates with me. I have not had a situation recently that has called that side of me out, however. But I do remember two incidents in the past in which this mode came on.

One involved kids in middle school picking on a weird kid until he started to cry. I became unusually defensive and started telling everyone off for being mean towards him. He was weird, but that is not a crime. Being the quiet girl back then everyone was a little scared as to why i was acting so intimidating.

The other time I remember is when I had to defend a friend of mine against someone in my family who refused to acknowledge that he and I were close. They kept saying that he was just some passing friend when I knew that was not how things were. They would not accept him as part of my life and made some very hurtful comments. I got into a really intense argument protecting that person and no one ever understood why I took it so personally.

It is exhausting but I always find a way to rationalize it and deal with the emotional consequences.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Growing up I held my family and friends too closely, trying to "be there" even to the point of stepping forward or interjecting when I saw something going wrong, before it happened.

I realized I was wrong to remain so close, and to share my opinions so early. So I stepped back. People immediately appreciated the new me, and I was free of looking after others. For a while, I stayed back and (indirectly) helped people. And now I suppose the more I focus on spiritual study, I feel encouraged to step even further away from these situations: who am I to assume that I'm needed? Or that I can "fix" or "protect" someone from things that they may have to experience?

Joy for me, now, is seeing others find their way and discover what they need to discover. Even if it means going through a rough patch. Sometimes trying to protect others to closely takes away from what they need to experience. And maybe, I've found, that in order to grow, I need to spend proportionately more time on myself.
This reminds me (to some extent) of the second example I was going to write about but didn't because it's too complicated and the post is long enough as it is.

But I will say - yes, protection mode can be a huge and unnecessary burden in some contexts, and letting it go can, in those situations, be a benefit and relief for us (INFJs) and the people we seek to protect. I've had experiences that have shown me that, for sure. So what you're saying here is absolutely crucial, in my view.

That said, when it comes to my bird, he will always be under my protection at the physical level because he is in many ways at the mercy of who and what is around him due to being a pet in a world of humans.
 

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I just meant that I find some other value for it besides me just seeming emotionally reactive. In my family emotions are not respected as justification for action (mainly due to my ENTJ father). So I have learned to use other reasons besides my own to defend others. I can come up with some seemingly rational explanations for my actions and hide the fact it was based on an emotional response. Sorry if it confused you. As for the last part about emotional consequences, I just meant that I acknowledge I might have to re-energize or deal with confusing feelings after.
 

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@Aquarian, some time ago, I told you about what happened in my previous job and how I tried to but was not always able to protect my own principles. It's tough when I have to defend them myself and see that it creates conflict and sometimes they were right in a way, because I had these really abusive customers and I just couldn't say no to them which was costing me time (and money of the company). I had to disregard the rules (and proper work ethic sometimes) because I had to make a decision: allow abuse or stand up to them even though it's not really customer service to do so.

These decisions are tough. I'll tell you of another one (I hated this in a way but I enjoyed it for the most part). When I was a college student completing my hours to get my bachelor's degree in nursing, my classmates would always tell me I should do this and that because it was tiring me out or because it would be way better to just hang out at the nurse's station and relax (we were just students anyway). My textbooks were the works of authors who I consider great teachers. They taught me how I could use empathy strategically and what duties a nurse has and should fulfill. I did as the textbooks told me, and it was very fulfilling to have patients tell me how they saw my concern, how they'd ask for my help, and how much cooperation they'd give me. It wasn't always like this though and some patients made it difficult for me. I persevered nonetheless wether it yielded the outcomes I desired. Some of my classmates found it irritating because I kept on spending time here and there with my patients instead of just doing only what I was told by our instructor and that would be the end of it. I didn't listen to them, nor did I go above and beyond and do things I know I'm not supposed to do, like administer medications on my own or do procedures that had a certain amount of risk involved. I don't think I'd give up on these things.

I would go so far as to protect the patient's rights. I think I might have offended a doctor who was trying to have this patient undergo this procedure, which in my opinion, I believe the patient would not consent to. I think the doctor believed that the patient was not mentally stable to determine what the best mode of care was, and his family was by his side, crying to have him undergo the procedure. Knowing that it is undignifying to pressure a patient into these procedures, I went and assessed his mental stability by asking simple questions. When I did, the patient demonstrated he was mentally stable. I told him that this procedure would help him, and I informed him that he had a choice in this, and he told me he wouldn't consent. When the doctor who was with us heard this, she mentioned that she would have him sign a consent form of refusing medical assistance instead. I felt sad because I might have offended the doctor and that I was not able to persuade the patient in consenting to medical treatment, but I was happy because I know I advocated their rights. I know many might disagree with my approach, but I know this is how it should be done.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I would go so far as to protect the patient's rights. I think I might have offended a doctor who was trying to have this patient undergo this procedure, which in my opinion, I believe the patient would not consent to. I think the doctor believed that the patient was not mentally stable to determine what the best mode of care was, and his family was by his side, crying to have him undergo the procedure. Knowing that it is undignifying to pressure a patient into these procedures, I went and assessed his mental stability by asking simple questions. When I did, the patient demonstrated he was mentally stable. I told him that this procedure would help him, and I informed him that he had a choice in this, and he told me he wouldn't consent. When the doctor who was with us heard this, she mentioned that she would have him sign a consent form of refusing medical assistance instead. I felt sad because I might have offended the doctor and that I was not able to persuade the patient in consenting to medical treatment, but I was happy because I know I advocated their rights. I know many might disagree with my approach, but I know this is how it should be done.
@Gettingacrossthebridge, I really love this story. I completely agree with what you did, and I can feel that fierce protector energy in the situation just reading your description. What a great use of protector mode. If I were ever to be ill or have a loved one ill, I would want a nurse like you.
 

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@Gettingacrossthebridge, I really love this story. I completely agree with what you did, and I can feel that fierce protector energy in the situation just reading your description. What a great use of protector mode. If I were ever to be ill or have a loved one ill, I would want a nurse like you.
I wasn't fierce at the moment, but I suppose fierce is what I could use to describe my energy. I guess I wouldn't back down in situation like that.

I'm glad that you see me as a good nurse. Some of my patients have told me that too. I will admit I have quite a number of weaknesses as a professional nurse, but I won't deny that I have my own strengths too. Whenever we show kindness, other's return that to us. It might not be all the time, but whenever it happens, it's certainly a driving force in continuing to protect other people.
 

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I hate to say it, but this is NOTHING in the way of surprising for me and my internal experience as an introvert and NF(dreamer). People tend to forget/remain unaware that major aspects of the INFJ personality are 'held back' from day-to-day expression and we seem 'secretive/with holding' of our emotional depths because we truly are aware of the psychological drives that propel intensity of thought, emotion, or action in us, and in others we interact with, but in terms of our emotional strengths, they remain largely unknown to others and kept away from public eyes. I think this is a means of control that we may seek brought about by our Judging function and the need for control, but rather than just in the environment, we need to experience this within our emotional systems.

As for myself, I can agree with shifting occasionally into this 'protective mode' because when my personality, beliefs, or 'loved ones' are under random scrutiny from others (especially those I have no interest or rapport with or in) I begin to feel those intense emotions bubbling up under the surface; usually I don't like being probed by people I have no rapport/respect for, and honestly don't feel that I need to divulge information so freely to someone who doesn't get me, and in the end, this usually ends up confusing people who I interact with who are unfamiliar with INFJ's. I don't allow people to see how to illicit such emotional responses in me because I need that psychological space to remain largely undisturbed until I am ready to disclose information being the private person that I am.

INFJ's are intense underneath the 'I want to be a positive vehicle for change' side of our personality, and with such a wide scale focus, one would need a sufficient amount of psychical/emotional charge/energy to accomplish that which would explain why such intense emotions are kept 'within' rather than pushed emphatically outward. I think we employ the act of sublimation more than other personality types as a means to achieve that end as well. Rather than forcing that raw emotional energy outward at all things in a dominating/threatening way, being usually very conscious of what lies within us, we try to reconcile, diffuse, and use conflict as a catalyst to peer deeper within ourselves and those around us. I think Joe Butt says it pretty succinctly I think with these quotes:

"Beneath the quiet exterior, INFJs hold deep convictions about the weightier matters of life."

I'm sure most INFJ's who've read this description can identify with this personally, and with our natural depth/probing nature, intensity of emotion would have to be present to draw us towards those 'weightier matters of life" to begin with; not to mention the fact that Butt goes further in to say that,

"INFJs readily grasp the hidden psychological stimuli behind the more observable dynamics of behavior and affect. Their amazing ability to deduce the inner workings of the mind, will and emotions of others gives INFJs their reputation as prophets and seers."

What really reinforces the main idea of this thread is this quote from :

"The INFJs are also the most vulnerable of all the types to the eruption of their own archetypal material. "

With this being said, how could emotions be anything BUT intense with that kind of vulnerability/self-awareness? Again, not surprising.

Being an enneatype 8 myself, I'm actually surprised why more INFJ's aren't type 8's as that seems to go hand in hand in a broader context of the INFJ protective instinctive/role that is just innate to us, but for the majority of time, these more 'dominating/assertive' drives are largely sublimated/controlled. Think 'controlled/reserved force' not excessively active/'compensating' force of an extrovert, but acting when it's NECESSARY/PRACTICAL like an introvert. The will and powerful emotions are there, and in SPADES, but we rarely view others who we have no care/rapport with worth the effort or time to express this with as to me it just complicates their "decidedly" simplistic approach to matters. You prefer to live the simple life, I prefer to understand life on the whole, and that can be a daunting challenge for most, but to an INFJ, it's just apart of our trailblazing nature.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
As for myself, I can agree with shifting occasionally into this 'protective mode' because when my personality, beliefs, or 'loved ones' are under random scrutiny from others (especially those I have no interest or rapport with or in) I begin to feel those intense emotions bubbling up under the surface; usually I don't like being probed by people I have no rapport/respect for, and honestly don't feel that I need to divulge information so freely to someone who doesn't get me, and in the end, this usually ends up confusing people who I interact with who are unfamiliar with INFJ's. I don't allow people to see how to illicit such emotional responses in me because I need that psychological space to remain largely undisturbed until I am ready to disclose information being the private person that I am.
I can relate to this, if I'm correctly getting what you're saying. For me, dealing with people's lack of understanding (and usually, related lack of any clue that they really don't understand) is exhausting and draining.

In the situation I'm currently in, I unfortunately allowed some boundary breaches due to Fe and a certain optimism on my part. It can be harder to "repair" such breaches than to set and keep the boundaries to begin with.
 

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I love INFJ protection mode it is so cute to see people's response when what they thought was a a wall flower, suddenly grow thorns :blushed:.

I know only a handful of INFJs myself, but I do not INFJs when a lot of stress sometimes have a tenancy to over analyse things. For what ever reason my INFJ friends seem to feel much better when we talk together about emotional topics when I put a rational spin on things. I also notice INFJs also sometimes need a little nudge to help them be able to better their feelings into words.
 

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Does a protector care to protect people in general or only "loved ones" or prospective "love interests"? I can see a few issues with only caring for people if there is something felt in return. I've been dropped so quickly, the moment the "idea of me" became meaningless to an INFJ. I'm not saying I'm clean of this; when I notice this behavior happen, I try to shift direction, but I see a trend with some INFJ's.
 

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I suppose another aspect of my 'protector mode' comes out with situations where I have to remain calm, (as a rule, I prefer to stay calm/detached and observant to the flow of the situation to look for and create possible opportunities) and I switch to 'extreme fact and function' mode. It's as if my emotions take a back seat, and I transform into an INTJ. Extreme rational and focus on what works; I mean I'm still a diplomat, but with BOTTOM LINES.

Contrary to popular belief, I'm not a 'soft' person. I put that on for other people who I believe have a hard time coping with reality. Normally, I'm accustomed to biting the bullet and toughing up for those around me and still holding a wry kind of smile. Inside, I'm more type pure type 8. Basically, the surface is like a 'muter' for my true personality underneath...dunno if that's a common INFJ trait to have that 'toned down' personality for those around them, but it's how I usually relate to people until I know exactly what their limits are. I guess that's how it goes when you employ Fe as your Auxiliary function. Think of it more as a 'sensitivity' to others, and their perceptions rather than a teary-eyed approach to others that does no good for either party.
 

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Does a protector care to protect people in general or only "loved ones" or prospective "love interests"? I can see a few issues with only caring for people if there is something felt in return. I've been dropped so quickly, the moment the "idea of me" became meaningless to an INFJ. I'm not saying I'm clean of this; when I notice this behavior happen, I try to shift direction, but I see a trend with some INFJ's.
I don’t think this is the same thing. I go into protector mode in one of two situations: either it is someone I feel intensely loyal to based on our past relationship OR it is someone I don’t know very well but they, as an outsider or somebody in a vulnerable position, genuinely need my help. In the first situation, you could say there is “something felt in return” not in a romantic way but in the sense that they’ve helped me in the past or shown that they care about me as a friend. So it’s a relationship of mutual trust. However, in the second situation this protective urge extends to strangers and casual acquaintances. I wouldn’t get protective over a potential love interest because this loyalty is not the same thing as attraction to or interest in another person. The two feelings are separate, unrelated entities for me.

Another example is I get really protective of drunk women when it seems like they’re in bad shape and nobody is looking out for them. Before I know it I’m in Mama Bear mode chasing off people trying to take advantage of the situation, bringing her water, helping her walk, and making sure she gets home safely. Doesn’t matter if she’s the same age as me or 30 years older, I view it as a sacred duty.
 

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i find that we INFJs can be a little too much to take sometimes.

the need to protect comes too naturally to us, and that, precisely, can be the problem. the worst thing you can tell an INFJ is: "i don't need your help" because what we hear is "i don't need you." when people reject our help, we don't quite know how to take that. we're conflicted between "believing them" and just walking away, which our consciences later won't let us live down, or trying to persuade them to let us help them in SOME way, even if its just to be there and not say a word. we don't really know how to simply wish them luck and step back.

but that can certainly come across as arrogant to others. not everyone wants or needs our help. we don't have all the answers. when we constantly look for something to fix, we may not realize that we're looking at everything but ourselves.

sometimes, its better to let others fight their own battles rather than to always swoop in to save the day. believe in their strengths too, not just your own - sometimes that confidence is all they're asking for. tell me that i can solve a problem all on my own, don't tell me that only you can solve it for me.
 

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In protector mode, I become super focused, and analyze everything seemingly quicker, and make rather biting remarks that are mainly based on my feelings that are informed by my analysis of everything. And this information comes at me seemingly quicker than normal, or maybe it's just because I'm so focused at the time.
There is also a sense of like a darkness, and a "being in the present" that happens during that time. Like being extremely watchful for anything that might happen.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I suppose another aspect of my 'protector mode' comes out with situations where I have to remain calm, (as a rule, I prefer to stay calm/detached and observant to the flow of the situation to look for and create possible opportunities) and I switch to 'extreme fact and function' mode. It's as if my emotions take a back seat, and I transform into an INTJ. Extreme rational and focus on what works; I mean I'm still a diplomat, but with BOTTOM LINES.
I think I do that as well - I can get very very logical and bottom-line-oriented in protector mode for sure. Everything has to relate back to the goal(s) in a very concrete way based on what works and doesn't.

But mine has a passionate or fiery edge that holds and protects the underlying values and priorities in the face of resistance to or attacks on those values/priorities. In other words ... for me concrete goals emerge from an underlying value system. And that value system is often under attack by those suggesting what appear to be solutions but are only so outside of my priorities.

So for example, when one of the people from my initial post offered a strong of suggestions that would have involved taking my bird into physical spaces that would stress him out - because she didn't accept a priority of not stressing him out in that way - it was the fiery edge of my "what works" mode that came into play.

So I'm curious @AstralSoldier - where and how do you hold your underlying value system when you get all extreme rational and focused on what works?

Contrary to popular belief, I'm not a 'soft' person. I put that on for other people who I believe have a hard time coping with reality. Normally, I'm accustomed to biting the bullet and toughing up for those around me and still holding a wry kind of smile. Inside, I'm more type pure type 8. Basically, the surface is like a 'muter' for my true personality underneath...dunno if that's a common INFJ trait to have that 'toned down' personality for those around them, but it's how I usually relate to people until I know exactly what their limits are. I guess that's how it goes when you employ Fe as your Auxiliary function. Think of it more as a 'sensitivity' to others, and their perceptions rather than a teary-eyed approach to others that does no good for either party.
I do have a Fe-based toned down personality for many situations, but it's not the same as yours. I'm a true feeler, meaning as my organic self, I have a huge amount amount of intense passion/fire, and a great deal of deep vulnerability and instinctive default love and trust. That's what gets held back a lot of the time.

I do think that my Fe provides information about what other people can or can't handle. I also realize, as I write this, that when I've been under intense stress for a long period, I have limited energy to engage Fe in this way and I want to limit contact with people whose needs and expectations I don't even want to sniff at.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
In protector mode, I become super focused, and analyze everything seemingly quicker, and make rather biting remarks that are mainly based on my feelings that are informed by my analysis of everything. And this information comes at me seemingly quicker than normal, or maybe it's just because I'm so focused at the time.
There is also a sense of like a darkness, and a "being in the present" that happens during that time. Like being extremely watchful for anything that might happen.
This resonates with my experiences, for sure.

I'm particularly struck by that last piece about darkness, being in the present, and being extremely watchful for anything that might happened. Would "extremely heightened vigilance" also describe what you're talking about, or is it different from that (and if so, how)?
 
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