Let’s talk about the most infamous INTJ in literature and film… Hannibal Lecter, the calm, calculating psychopath-turned-serial-killer in the books by Thomas Harris. A successful psychologist, in the books we meet him already behind bars, serving a life sentence for his crimes… in Brian Fuller’s television series, he’s not yet been caught, and the entire first season (which just wrapped up in a chilling finale last week) revolves around his manipulations of the people around him.
Myers-Briggs testing works on the belief that everyone is comprised of four letter variations based on their instincts and how they respond in certain situations (developing “patterns of behavior”). Different combinations of these letters give you distinct but similar personalities (no two people are the same, but share tendencies and traits).
I vs. E Function:
Introverts: need time alone to recover from time spent with people. They define themselves through private thoughts and feelings and reflect before they act.
Extroverts: feel most happy and fulfilled when with other people. They define themselves through external sources (friends, family, politics, and favorite things) and adapt to their environment.
S vs. N Function:
The Sensor: interprets situations and surroundings based on environment (how they’re raised, the moral code of society, traditional values). They tend to live “in the moment” and focus on current perceptions (such as the 5 senses). They value honesty and tend to be honest.
The Intuitive: interprets situations and surroundings through their own “inner knowing” or “instinct,” relying on imaginative leaps to collect information. They are curious and long-term planners. They aren’t focused on truth-telling and form their own “moral code of ethics.”
T vs. F Function:
The Thinker: makes more impersonal, logical decisions based on facts and potential outcomes (is this relationship going anywhere? Is it kinder to put this pet to sleep then let it suffer? How can this situation be fixed?). Because of this, they tend to be blunt. They’re interested in the “how” and the “why” (how does it work, what happens if I change this, and why do it this way?).
The Feeler: focuses more on human needs and relationships; they make decisions based on personal values and the emotions of themselves and others (how can I avoid hurting their feelings? Is everyone included?). They want love and harmony in relationships, form strong bonds with others, and find it hard to be neutral or detached.
J vs. P Function:
The Judger: make decisions and stick with them, take external information and form concrete conclusions off it (I’ve seen this person behave in this way, and conclude THIS about them), and are often unwilling to compromise. They dislike open-ended situations, finish what they start, and plan things in advance.
The Perceiver: is flexible, curious, and unstructured. Their conclusions are open to changes based on new information. They disregard rules and deadlines and want tons of information before making a decision (which often means postponing decisions indefinitely). They’re spontaneous and sometimes act on impulse.
Different mixtures of these different letters create different individuals, but the higher the percentage on each letter changes how that person (or character) responds within their type.
Hannibal the Cannibal
Hannibal Lecter scores very high on the last three letters—his tendency is to make up his own moral code (the N dictates his personal beliefs and “moral ethics,” messed up as they may be, and his manipulative nature), then react to it in a logical manner (the T is what makes him so dangerous, since he never reacts without great intent and much thought, as opposed to “snapping” or panic responses), and finally, execute his own brand of justice (the J forms a conclusion such as “this person doesn’t deserve to live,” and acts on it without any remorse).
One could argue that his high combination of letters (the higher the combination, the less “empathy” this particular type tends to have) is what makes him psychotic; or you could say he’s just insane. (But then you’d have to define insanity – is it being out of touch with reality? If so, Hannibal isn’t insane because he sees reality and manipulates, dismisses, and acts within it to execute his plans. He’s evil, yes… insane, no, not by that definition.)
The Hannibal of the television show and the Hannibal of the books and films present themselves differently to the people around them.
Book/film Hannibal is much more openly cold, sadistic, and emotionless… since everyone around him now knows exactly what he is: a serial killer and psychopath who “gets off” on crime scene photos.
TV Hannibal projects a more empathetic side around others (like with his therapist, whom he openly lies to about his feelings for coworkers) but the audience can see his psychopathic nature working underneath – in his total detachment from violent situations and results (like his almost-smiles at crime scenes).
Hannibal’s actions are done for three reasons: to corrupt others, to test others, and for his own amusement. He maneuvers both Abigail and Will into a situation where they must commit murder to defend themselves. He tests each with violent situations (Will, with Abigail’s father, and Abigail with the death of her best friend) to see their reactions. He manipulates both into relying on him to keep their secret and persuades them to trust him.
INTJs are curious; they can imagine the results of certain behaviors and situations but like to see them play out, to see if their theories are correct. The moderate INTJ (like most “sane” variations on this type) will refrain from too much experimentation out of a moral conscience; Hannibal, as an extremist without any external moral guidance (he has his own set of polite rules and sticks to them) isn’t afraid to act out on his curiosity, which is partly what makes him so diabolical and dangerous.
By the end of the first season, Hannibal has laid the groundwork to get Will Graham arrested for all his crimes and built up an infallible emotional (Will’s self-doubt, guilt, and suspicious behavior) and physical (planted evidence) case against him. He’s taken a man on the brink of a mental collapse (due to his INFJ nature, Will is increasingly disturbed by his ability to get inside the head of serial killers) and convinced not only almost everyone around him that they have no alternative but to find him guilty, but also broken down Will’s mental state to the point where he almost believes himself to be the murderer.
Abigail is an INFJ: she has only one close friend and thinks before she speaks, withholding information in order to get it (I). She’s quick to figure out the intentions of others (“I know my parents are dead,” “You want me to reenact the crime,” and “You called my father!”) and knows something is “off” about Hannibal without being told (N). Her reactions are often logical and made without emotional ties (“I want to sell the house,” rather than being distraught over her parents) but she’s also worried about how OTHERS react to her (F), and she forms strong conclusions (J)… much too late to save her. She is defiant but also “controlled” by Hannibal.
Bedelia du Murier
Only one character on the show isn’t manipulated by Hannibal, his therapist. Bedelia is an enigmatic woman with just as much rigidity, emotional distance, and icy control as Hannibal. She makes us wonder if she’s ignorant, on his side, or approving of his behavior.
Her type is ambitious… she could be an INTJ if she knows and approves of his behavior, an INFJ if she’s oblivious to it and has a moral conscience, an ISTJ if she’s oblivious to his larger patterns of behavior, or an ISTP if she’s still information-gathering and hasn’t reached a conclusion.
She lives as a relative shut-in and never leaves her house or associates much outside her profession (I). Her advice wavers between staying in the restraints of therapist guidelines (S) and implying a higher moral authority exists for Hannibal (she warns him not to reveal himself to the FBI, an N trait). Her cold responses to emotion-based therapy intimate a Thinker over a Feeler. Finally, if she doesn’t know exactly who he is, she suspects and accepts it (“I like you, Hannibal”) and also lies for him (J rather than P).
Hannibal and her relationship is twisted and ambiguous. Either he is manipulating her, or she is manipulating him in a mutual game of intellect.
He gathered evidence on her (J), put her in a dangerous situation with a patient (a T trait, to find out “what might happen” and get what he wanted), saved her life and in doing so, revealed his deeper nature to her.
Yet, Bedelia seems to know much more about him than she lets on… she watches his reactions to her behavior, which makes me wonder, is she just as dangerous as he is?
I hope we find out next season.