Friday, June 26, 2015

Update On My Lack of Updates

When I first started writing this blog, the intention was for me to work through everything I was reading about the Myers-Briggs, Jung and Marie-Louise Von Franz. I was a philosophy graduate student at the time, so it made for a nice break from paper writing. It was also, in part, a way for me to work through my own type uncertainties after having a somewhat confusing experience of testing as INFJ (with four out of five facets out of preference) but getting professionally typed as INTJ, a type I'd never considered for myself. Well, I guess all of that philosophy coursework really helped me to create some thought-provoking blog posts because it soon got posted on Personality Cafe, which attracted a high number of viewers. Now this blog comes up as a top search result on Google. This wasn't necessarily my intention as the blog was really just a way for me to write out my thoughts; a way to work through positions I was considering at the time but wasn't particularly invested in.

I don't write in this blog anymore. I suppose I'm a bit resigned with the Myers-Briggs. I've come to the conclusion that it just doesn't map on to my personality as well as the Big Five or the Enneagram. I've expressed skepticism in the past about being able to extract one's Myers-Briggs type from the Big Five, but I've since read articles in the Journal of Psychological Type where certified MBTI practitioners are doing exactly that. At any rate, with very high Neuroticism and very high Openness but low-average Agreeableness, the Big Five accounts for things that, at the level of personality type description, MBTI theory proved near-impossible for me to resolve. So, I find myself correlating because it's the best I can hope for. Meanwhile my attention drifts to other things.

I may update this blog from time to time. I reserve the right to do so should something occur to me. However, I don't anticipate that I will update it on a regular basis in the near future. For that reason, I've disabled comments. I'll get comments on posts I made 1,2, 3 even five years ago. Often, it's been weeks or even months since the person left it so there's no real point in responding. If I start maintaining this blog regularly again, I'll no doubt enable commenting again. In the meantime, if you want to keep up with me, you can check out my tarot blog over here.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Typing Others: The Disagreement Problem


When one does a cursory search on the internet for any celebrity or famous figure, a wide number of results come up. Out of idle curiosity, I recently searched for Obama's Myers-Briggs type. I steered clear of forums and Tumblr, restricting myself to major blog news sources, political sites and websites with some sort of Jungian expertise. I found the following types assigned to Obama: ISTP, INTJ, ENFP, ENTP, ENTJ, ENFJ, INFJ and ESTJ. Apparently, it's quite easy to be able to claim you have the same type as Obama.

It's not restricted to the Myers-Briggs either. On the enneagram, I've seen debates among trained enneagram professionals about Steve Jobs' type. I've seen him typed as a 3, 4, 5, 7 and 8. Indeed, his type was so hard to pin down that some suggested the incorporation of the rather questionable notion of a binary type.

This phenomenon sets off alarms for people both in the type communities and outside of them. The conclusion, they argue, can only be that there's some substantial problem in the theory and quite possibly little more than a Barnum Effect at work. While I understand why they might reach the conclusion, it misses some key psychological concepts that better explain the phenomenon, which is simply that any sort of distance diagnosis is going to be problematic. Social Psychology has repeatedly shown that our social judgments are often incorrect. Whereas we may examine our own motives and behavior thoroughly and put them in the context of what is or is not part of our personality, we are considerably more inclined to generalize (even over-generalize) others based on a few choice instances.

Back when I was an undergrad at Wayne State, there was an incident that captured this phenomenon in a nutshell. I was grabbing my morning coffee at the campus cafe, which happened (as often was the case) to have a very long line. Service tended to be hit or miss at the cafe depending both on who was working and how busy it was. At one point, a woman two spots ahead of me got angry, said a few choice words to the cashier and stormed off. The woman in front of me saw this, turned to me and snickered at the other woman's outburst in a way that suggested she hoped I would join in on making fun of this woman. (I wouldn't.) When it was that woman's turn in line, however, the cashier was unable to accommodate her request. Furious, she, too, blew up at the cashier and stormed out. Now, I don't know what went through her mind afterwards or if she ever connected it to her mockery of the woman in front of her. However, my impression was that when she saw the woman in front of her, she saw that woman's outburst as central to her character whereas she saw her own outburst as justifiable in the face of what (to her) were unreasonable circumstances. Both probably made their own judgments about the character of the woman behind the counter as well. The thing is, all of these behaviors were contextual. Everyone involved, including the cashier, was a student, which means most were likely under a lot of stress. No one likes long lines, either the people in them or the people working them. Catch any of these people under a different set of circumstances and you might get a very different picture. When we're dealing with such a limited lens, we make these judgments. All of us do this at some point or other, it's a very common thing…it just isn't very reliable.

What this means is that the best way to know what someone is like is to see them in a variety of different contexts. Put any one of us in our favorite and most memorable college class, and you'd get a very different perspective than you would of any of us on that one morning. The best people to tell us about ourselves aren't people that see us in a limited context but the ones that have seen us in a multitude of contexts over a long period of time. As much as I loved it when a tarot reader in New Orleans told me how "nice and easy to get along with" I clearly was, she's probably not who I should look to for self-knowledge. Rather, I want to ask my husband or a close family member or maybe that friend I've known for decades.

The reason why it's so hard to type famous people and get agreement is that it's a very limited, and arguably very controlled, lens. Even biographies aren't terribly reliable since the biographer may have certain ideas about what to include (and what to exclude)and publishers may make decisions on that front as well. Even harder, though, is typing people online. I've seen people claim that as long as you know Jung's functions, you can quickly tell what type someone is purely by reading their posts. (Unfortunately, said people are unaware that Jung himself would have rejected such a thing as he thought any sort of quick-sorting of others' types amounted to a cheap parlor trick.) Of the many different contexts, online is the one that tends to be most removed from real life and certainly doesn't give you a sense of how someone is in various contexts. How could it? You don't even know their real name.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Random Enneagram Conversation


So, I wore my enneagram t-shirt to Petco today…

Cashier: What's that symbol mean?
Me: Oh…well, it's the enneagram…uh, it's a system to find your personality type.
Cashier: What's a personality type?
Me: Oh. Uh…well, are you familiar with the Myers-Briggs?
Cashier:Myers what?
Me: Oh. Hrm…
Cashier: Is it a devil worshipping thing? If it is, I want to hear all about it.
Me: No, nothing like that. The symbol is an enneagram. Each point represents a different personality.
Cashier: So, you're like Sybil, then?
Me: No, everyone just has one. You can learn about yourself and other people. You know, the Jesuits really like it. Loyola has workshops all the time--
Cashier: Oh, I see.

(To my husband, after we leave)
Me: This is why I never leave the house.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Difference Between Understanding and Application in Type



So, there's been a trend lately of people giving simplistic explanations of type dynamics and then concluding with "If you still can't figure out your type, then there must be something wrong with you!" (And yes, I have seen it expressed in exactly that way.) More subtle variations imply or state that the person has somehow failed to grasp the basic concepts of a system, because, after all, knowledge of type dynamics=knowledge of oneself and it's impossible that a person wouldn't instantly have an epiphany once they know the basics of type dynamics, right?

To be fair, I'm pretty sure the people that say this are just repeating what they've heard others say, and so they haven't really thought much about it, let alone examined the underlying assumptions. It does, however, seem to equate knowledge of a construct with knowledge of the self and, ironically, shows that the person doesn't understand what is exactly at work in a personality construct.

Personality constructs are maps. Their purpose is to help us understand and categorize people along certain parameters. What that means, essentially, is we're trying to reduce the complex down to the simple so that we might have a better way of sorting through the muck of human interactions and self-knowledge. However, because they're imperfect, they're mere maps and some people are bound to be exemplars more than others. Further complicating this is the paradox that if we had perfect self-knowledge, we wouldn't need to place ourselves on the system to begin with. In other words, due to both deficits in our self-awareness and limitations of any construct (Jung, the enneagram) a person could conceivably have absolutely perfect intellectual knowledge of the system and still be completely unable to identify their type.


Of course, I do recognize the importance of landing on a type. The two biggest reasons why people tend to not land on a type are that they (a)don't want to be wrong or (b) don't want to settle for something that seems like an inadequate description of the self. (B) comes from ego, and perhaps an excessive amount of stereotyping of the different types. (A)by contrast comes from the compulsive trend in the enneagram and MBTI of second-guessing others' types. This leads to a neurotic need to be "right" in one's own self-assessment, lest the spotlight be pointed at oneself. Of course we all meet people that we wonder if they're really the type they claim they are. The problem, though, is that telling people what type we "really" think they are subverts the process. When people try on a type, if they're committed to self-awareness, will come to look at themselves in a different light and then they'll examine themselves under this lens. In time, however, if it's not the right fit, they'll move on to another type. But, and this is key, the process is important. It's important because even mistyping leads one to ask questions and introspect in a way they might not otherwise. It makes them more conscious of patterns, it gets them watching for patterns, and so if they decide a given type doesn't fit, they've at least been given additional information to help them figure out what type might be a better match. If too much is imposed from the outside, though, it interferes with this process, either by creating a defensive attitude or with a compliance that shuts off otherwise important avenues of explanation.

In short, finding one's type is not a simple thing. It's a complex process, and that's the idea. Jung's goal, and the goal of the enneagram, was to uncover deeply subconscious complexes under the premise that they must be brought to light in order to be dealt with. If you don't understand this, then perhaps you're the one that's conceptually confused.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Revisiting Introverted Feeling and Extraverted Feeling

I wanted to say something about introverted feeling and extraverted feeling. I think there’s a lot of people mistyping themselves because of how these functions get oversimplified, i.e. that Fe gets reduced to simple conformity and Fi gets the distinct privilege of individuality and authenticity.

Fi is a very moral function, a morality that is generally uninfluenced by social values, but—and this is important—is an INTROVERTED function. What this means is that the person often articulates very little about their morals, if at all. It’s very easy to cross their values, because you don’t know what they are. For example: the chair of my department in grad school had Fi as his lead function. I taught for three semesters. At the end of my third semester, I had my first cheating case. We were required to bring the chair in when we talked to the student. While the fact of her cheating was quite clear, the university guidelines were not. At one point, we sent the student out of the room to discuss her case. I stated how I thought we should proceed. He didn’t really say anything. We brought her back in, and I explained she would get a 0 for the assignment, at which point the chair encouraged her to appeal. Afterwards, he implied my decision had not been a moral one but did not elaborate. Fi is shown here in the subtlety of his values and the discomfort of articulating them too directly.

Fe is a hostess function and is warm, expressive and inclusive. They are more influenced by social norms and oriented towards the social language of gestures, tone and so forth. As such, they can be group oriented (especially when combined with the traditionalism of Si) but they must feel that the group’s values are aligned with their own. They aren’t chameleons changing values when they change groups. That would be too utilitarian and strategic for them. Rather, they have the values and seek a group that exemplifies them. However, Fe is an EXTRAVERTED function, which means the values will be expressed quite readily. You are unlikely to be confused about what they are. For example, my mom’s an INFJ. Many years ago, her (Episcopalian) church got a new priest, who was gay. A number of the parishioners were threatening to leave the church. At a meeting to discuss the new priest, my mother stood up and took on the whole group, telling them why such a homophobic move was wrong, and how in general they were being reactionary and ridiculous. When the group is going astray, Fe users (especially INFJ) have no qualms about being outspoken so that the group maintains its integrity. That is usually more extraverted than Fi users are comfortable with, who prefer to express their values more subtly and like to quietly live them out in their own way.

When I was in grad school, I had a rather aggressive student hassling me. He objected to a course policy and confronted me in my office. The way he communicated it was rather unnerving (attacks on my character, a creepy amount of attention to my mannerisms and his perceptions about my emotional state) and, after an hour, when I tried to conclude the discussion, refused to leave. An INFJ adjunct professor heard what was happening and got a senior faculty member to intervene. The next week, an INFP graduate student instructor, who had overheard the discussion, came into my office. He expressed his sympathies in a low-key manner and knew just the right thing to say in a few sentences, although we didn’t talk about it for terribly long. He inquired as to how I was feeling, without offering any advice. The INFJ also talked to me about it, but she sat me down and told me exactly what I needed to do to protect myself, all the reasons why she thought it was a very scary situation, shared similar experiences that she’d had and in general, was very passionate and expressive.

These aren’t my typings of them, by the way, but rather their own self-typings. (In all the examples, actually.) I think the last example really demonstrates the Fi and Fe difference, in terms of how introversion and extraversion influence expression of values, both in terms of style and intensity.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Judging, Perceiving and the Functions

There's a misconception that the judging and perceiving preferences are irrelevant because of the “cognitive” functions (Jung actually presents us with a theory of the unconscious). This stems from a fundamental lack of knowledge of Jung's work, the early interpretations of it and the reception of it in the Myers-Briggs community. In this post, I will argue that the current function model is not only closer to the Myers-Briggs than Jung, but is in fact no more than an extension of the functions as conceptualized in the Myers-Briggs theory. I will further argue that since judging and perceiving preferences refer to which extraverted function one uses, there ought not be a disconnect between typing via the preferences or the functions except in borderline cases.

1. For years before the Myers-Briggs, most Jungians did not think the auxiliary was in the opposite attitude from the dominant.

2.Isabel Myers and Katharine Cook Briggs were aware of the functions and in fact Myers talks about them in Gifts Differing.

3.They needed a way, however, to determine a whole type with the MBTI. Taking a few lines from a passage in PT, they took Jung to mean that the auxiliary would be a complementary function in the opposite attitude from the dominant. In other words, If you were INFJ, you would have Introverted Intuition and Extraverted Feeling. This was quite possibly their most controversial move. It took awhile for Jungians to warm up to the idea that the auxiliary would not be in the same attitude (i.e. that an Introverted Intuitive with auxiliary Feeling would not have Introverted Feeling).

4. They then used J/P to distinguish the more conscious extraverted function. i.e. J/P is how you act in the outer world and many J/P questions are written to reflect that distinction.

5. However, if you look at the more conscious extraverted functions of the type, you see they match up with J/P relatively well. For example, an INFP has auxiliary Extraverted Intuition, which if you’ve read and understood Jung, you know that it has a lot of the attributes normally associated with a perceiving preference. With an INTJ, the extraverted function is Extraverted Thinking, which even a cursory understanding of the function shows that this has a significant overlap with the judging preference.

6. You therefore can’t say that the functions render J/P obsolete for two reasons:

(a)If you assume, for example, that ISTP uses auxiliary Extraverted Sensing, you are using the Myers-Briggs system of stacking the functions…which the judging/perceiving distinction is meant to indicate.

(b) As the more conscious Extraverted function is reflective of the J/P distinction, you need to ask yourself what you actually gain by saying J/P is irrelevant. Since the system of function stacking you're employing is the same one being used by the Myers-Briggs and since J/P refers to which Extraverted function one uses, a blanket rejection only muddies the waters, resulting in confusion and mistyping. In other words, whether you go by the preferences or the functions, an INTP still has an Extraverted Perceiving function and still acts in a spontaneous, exploratory way in the outer world. Whether you determine you're INTJ by the preferences or the functions, you still have an Extraverted Judging function and act in a judging way in the outer world. Except in the case of someone that's very close on J/P, there shouldn't be a major difference whether you go by the preferences or the functions.

For example, suppose you test as INTP with a very clear score on P. You conclude by the function model that you’re actually an INTJ. Have you stopped to ask yourself why, if you use Extraverted Thinking, a function which is extremely structured and systematic (see Haas and Hunziker) in trying to make the outer world as logical and coherent as possible, you endorsed so many of the perceiving options on the inventory? Obviously, the person is either having a disconnect in her self-knowledge or she's just stretching to make a type fit.

7. As a final note, bear in mind that the Myers-Briggs theory still retains the compatibility model with regards to functions and J/P. So, when people claim that they are uncovering a lesser known but more accurate interpretation of Jung, they're mistaken. Allow me to reiterate: the eight-function model being employed in the so-called "cognitive" functions system is closer to the MBTI theory than it is to early interpretations of Jung. The exact same function model you're using is employed regularly by MBTI trainers and practitioners. If you take the MBTI Step II, you will see a ranking of your function order (four function model) on your report. Naomi Quenk has written extensively about the inferior function and the MBTI. Indeed, she suggests that if a client (e.g. with a slight preference clarity result) absolutely can’t decide between J and P, that you have them determine which function they like to use the least. So, if you absolutely cannot figure out if you’re INFJ or INFP, you should determine which you prefer less: Thinking or Sensing.

And with that, I’m going to refill my coffee…

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Thought

Be careful of people that (a)seem to give too many different people the same type and (b) seem to always have conflicts with people of that type. They may be people who are in need of mental health treatment but are projecting their problems onto others by scapegoating a given type.

Generally, the pathology works as follows: they identify a certain type that they consider a problem. (Six, INFJ, etc.) If you really get to know them, you may find out this is the same type that they believe a parent figure to have. They will usually have a past history of conflict with this type. They also will assign a statistically improbable number of people with this type. Then, when there is a conflict, they will cite the person's type as the cause of the conflict.

I used to know someone that did this. He believed his mother was a Type Six. He then identified many of his exes, former friends and adversaries as this type. He also seemed to know a disproportionate amount of supposed Sixes: his boss, his friend's roommate, his best friend, a number of women he had befriended online, a co-worker…you get the idea. As I got to know him better, I learned that he was rather unstable: he had physically assaulted one of his girlfriends, cheated on another, abused cocaine, flew into rages and even brought a lawsuit against a friend's roommate who had forced him to leave the premises.
The thing with personality disorders is that there's a tendency to believe one's own behavior is normal and that others are the problem. (This may be truer for personality disorders like Narcissistic and Antisocial than for disorders like Borderline or Avoidant where the extent of internal suffering may lead the person to seek help.) The enneagram especially is attractive for that reason. Partly because the type descriptions focus on the negative, but also because it gives one a lot of ammunition when in conflict with others. It's a great system, and while I don't think most people misuse it in that way, it is an unfortunate (if less common) side effect.

Of course, not everyone who over-diagnoses a certain type is pathological. Most of the time, it's due to a lack of critical thinking. Sometimes, too, people don't distinguish between the general energy of the triads and the primary types. i.e. you might pick up on the fundamental gut energy and type a lot of people as nines who are eights or ones and so forth. Where you have to be careful is when the person also disparages that type and seems to have a lot of conflicts with people of that type.

If you see someone that is assigning a given type to too many people, ask them their parents' types. If one of their parents' types is also the type they over-type in others, then take what they say with a grain of salt.

Also, bear in mind that no one affiliated with the enneagram has done extensive research to determine which types are "most common." (The MBTI people have done this, which is why they speak of the relative rarity of the types.) So, when you hear someone say that a given type is "common" realize that a lot of confirmation bias has likely played into this determination.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

On "Faking" Type

I periodically hear people, (especially INTJs and INTPs) claim that they can often act like a chameleon "pretending" to be the type they need to be. I think this is overstated and that most people don't fake it as well as they think they do.

Generally speaking, our less conscious functions tend to be blind spots. We just aren't as good at them or develop them as easily. Those of us that are introverts are especially at a disadvantage since, being more focused on their inner world than outer circumstances, we aren't quite as smooth in reading the social aspect of their environment. Of all types, introverts with thinking are slowest in this regard, since they also aren't as oriented to tap into others' values and feelings.

The things is, even when we know the "rules" we still have to decide when in ambiguous situations. Say, for example, an NT wants a job that happens to require interpersonal sensitivity (teaching, managing a social service agency, etc). They may be able to "play" NF well enough to get the job. At some point, though, there will be decisions where the expected course of action is unclear. In those, they'll automatically fall back on their own preference. They'll only be aware that they've acted contrary to what's expected when there's some sort of fall out or an anonymous method of evaluation in place. If no one communicates feedback directly, however, they may not be aware that they aren't successfully conforming to the prevailing preference of their given environment.

What I think can happen is that family environments can cause someone to develop certain tendencies, learning styles, or interests more often associated with another preference ( e.g. an INFP raised by ISTJs seeming like a sensing type at first glance). This usually is less deliberate, though, and the person will still display contradictory characteristics as the socialized behavior may conflict with natural inclinations.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Been Awhile

I guess I'll come back here.

I've been on Tumblr lately, though I've found it to be an exercise in frustration. I've created and deleted accounts three times now.

Sometimes talking about type stuff feels like playing a constant game of whack-a-mole. The sheer amount of misinformation out there is astounding. I've criticized how overly simplistic a lot of official MBTI info is, but then I see how a lot of people don't understand basic things: like how your type doesn't change or what the basic attributes of the preferences are. Then I notice how people misunderstand what I'm trying to say and it makes me realize why they might simplify things. I think I'm much more of a " deep sea diver" intellectually speaking but a lot of people approach information at the surface level, regardless of whether you try to go in depth with them or not.

That sounds like snobbery, but it's not. It's weary resignation.

Anyhow, I have a lot I want to say, particularly about function fever and the danger of getting into complex stuff without understanding either the basics of the system or the fluidity that accompanies something that abstract. (It does not tell you what color you'll dye your hair or whether you'll prefer philosophy over neuroscience. I'm sorry, it just doesn't.) l'll save that for another time, though.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A Word on Empathy




It’s a misconception that thinking types lack empathy. If you truly lacked empathy, that would be indicative of sociopathy. The suggestion that thinking types lack empathy is a projection of some feeling types, who don’t understand that thinking types believe emotions interfere with the decision-making process. (In much the same way, thinking types sometimes erroneously judge feeling types as being insincere, due to the relative effusiveness that they exhibit.)

The way one MBTI practitioner explained it to me was, “Thinking types sympathize. They just don’t go as deep with it as feeling types do. Feeling types really like to climb down in there with the other person.” In other words, feeling types step into the situation…really step into the situation…and so when they go to make a judgment or decision they can’t not think about how it will affect other people. This also makes them better able to discern what other people value and respond accordingly.

Thinking types, by contrast, may have plenty of emotions but they don’t want to be biased by them. They think a good decision is one in which you step back from the situation and analyze it objectively. This doesn’t mean they don’t sympathize, but this tendency to stand back and make an objective judgment can cause them to be analytical and more concerned with finding a solution than expressing sympathy. (This is especially true of male thinking types.)

Consider the following scenario: you’re a manager at a restaurant. You have a waitress that has been missing a lot of work. She usually has a good excuse, but as the excuses have piled up you’ve become concerned about both her reliability and her honesty. Then, on an unusually busy night, the waitress never shows up for work and never calls. There’s not enough servers working to cover the volume, so customers complain about the slow service and overall, everyone is harried. The next day, she comes into work. When you call her into your office, she starts crying and explains that she’s been really stressed and overwhelmed at school and had to get an important assignment done for class the next day. She swears that she won’t let it happen again. While there’s technically a policy stating to fire her, you know that you could let her off with a warning this time without any negative repercussions to you. What do you do?

If you’re a feeling type, the moment she starts crying and talking about how overwhelmed she is at school, you find yourself sympathizing with her, but more than that, you want to help her and ease her suffering in some way. You very much don’t want to fire her. You may offer to reduce her hours during the busy time of the semester and let her make them up during breaks. You impress upon her that, while you understand her schoolwork comes first, she needs to give you advanced warning so that others don’t suffer.

If you’re a thinking type, you may still feel sympathy for her, but you’ll step back from the situation a bit more. You may recall the other times when she’s called in, and be concerned that if she gets off the hook this time, that it will communicate to her that this behavior is acceptable. Additionally, you’ll consider that if you don’t fire her for this and then other employees pull no-shows, the laws of fairness and consistency will demand that you give them a pass as well. If that happens, it will seriously impact your ability to effectively manage a restaurant. You may legitimately feel bad for her. You may even be as nice as you can while firing her, but if logic dictates that firing is the best course of action, that’s what you’ll do.

You’ll notice that in both cases, the person sympathized with the girl, but in one case, that sympathy was part of the decision-making process and in another it was not. We all have sympathy for others. The question is, when push comes to shove, do you seek to incorporate sympathy into your judgments or to exclude it?