I go through life in obsessive spurts. I’ll be into something for awhile, then lose interest, and when a new aspect (or episode, as the case may be) turns up, I’m back in the thick of it obsessing to an unnatural level. Well, Sherlock is back for its all-too-short third season and I’ve been Sherlocked. My brain plugged in, I started analyzing the show, and for the first time, I listened to the commentaries on previous episodes.
That was an enlightening experience. From what I can see, the two brilliant writers behind the series, Moffat and Gatiss, don’t really understand how either of the Holmes brothers’ minds work. Their explanation for the scene where Mycroft and Sherlock stand in the morgue on Christmas Eve and ponder someone else’s grief is that the brothers are acknowledging the fact that they are “freaks,” because they are so far removed from most people’s emotional responses. But the truth is… they aren’t freaks.
Humans always assume everyone else is exactly like me, and their brain works as mine does. That simply isn’t true – and is the primary source of conflict between people. This is the main problem between the Holmes brothers, and something the writers haven’t figured out.
Mycroft is a brilliant ISTJ, and his little brother is an ingenious IXTP (truthfully, he varies between ISTP and INTP a lot). Different function order, different functions, and enormously different behaviors. Since Mycroft’s cognitive functions make him a J, he’s all about order, control, minions, and long-term plans. I’m sorry, my dear Mycroft, but your P little brother will never be like you. He’ll never conform. He’ll never adapt. He’ll never BE you, as much as you try to force him into it. He will always be easily bored, with a constant need for stimulation, and an obsessive need to defy you, because P’s really, really hate to be bossed around.
When you use introverted thinking you also use extroverted feeling – you care about other people, but through a veil of logic. Ti-users are accused of being cold, unfeeling, and cruel, because they express logic in response to a situation rather than sentiment. They see things coming before they arrive and know what the repercussions will be. This makes them strongly opinionated about my friends’ life choices because they don’t want them to get hurt. They want to stop that before it happens. Like Mycroft, they try to run interference and get irritated if they resist their advice. However much he denies it, he wants his brother to be protected. He sees what’s coming and tries to stop it.
When Sherlock loses a woman to an explosion in The Great Game, and John is so furious over his lack of compassion, IXTPs identify with Sherlock’s answer: will caring about her change the fact that she’s dead? No? Then let me concentrate on saving other people!
That is not a sign of a “high functioning sociopath.” That is the sign of a dominant introverted thinker with opposing extroverted feeling. It’s how they act. It’s how they think. It’s not freakish, it’s emotion held back by logic. Their brain says: it’s happened, I can’t change it, I refuse to get bogged down in the sadness of it, and I’m going to make sure it never happens again. It’s the sign of a problem-solver. Their emotions fuel into our desire to protect and act rather than grieve.
Someone who doesn’t use dominant introverted thinking can’t even begin to comprehend what it’s really like, yet, Sherlock is a decent (albeit, over the top) example of a Ti-dominant. Logic first, facts and observations second, emotions fourth. It’s a problematic combination that also has benefits. It makes the IXTP impartial and rational, but also with the potential to be detached and manipulative. (Sherlock knows how other people’s emotions work, so he can mimic them perfectly to get what he wants.)
Each type has a unique way of looking at the world. Those who find it hard to emote aren’t freaks, just different. And they change and grow when interacting with other types. John has brought out more of Sherlock’s compassion. Where once he didn’t care if he offended people, in subsequent episodes he curbs his bluntness with apologies and then, extraordinarily, goes out of his way to make people feel good about themselves. He’s still a bit of a jerk, but at least he’s trying.
We all need one another and the first step toward resolving our differences as individuals is understanding and accepting that not everyone thinks like us.