My dad and I had an interesting conversation last night. I had asked him to come and talk with me because of some nagging theological questions I was having. That aspect of the discussion was fruitful. Our discussion eventually turned to some other topics as well. One of our pet topics is MBTI profiles.
I've had some basic misconceptions about MBTI terminology for a long time. Our discussion helped to clear those things up, and I'm able to understand some of the explanations on the MBTI sites much more clearly. My vocabulary is not very strong, although I can put ideas together fairly well... So when people use big words, it confuses me.
The info at http://www.personalitypage.com/info.html" points back to Carl Jung for the beginning of the history of work with temperament types.
He believed that there were two basic kinds of "functions" which humans used in their lives: how we take in information (how we "perceive" things), and how we make decisions. He believed that within these two categories, there were two opposite ways of functioning. We can perceive information via 1) our senses, or 2) our intuition. We can make decisions based on 1) objective
logic, or 2) subjective feelings. Jung believed that we all use these four functions in our lives, but that each individual uses the different functions with a varying amount of success and frequency. He believed that we could identify an order of preference for these functions within individuals. The function which someone uses most frequently is their "dominant" function. The dominant function is supported by an auxiliary (2nd) function, tertiary (3rd) function, and inferior (4th) function. He asserted that individuals either "extraverted" or "introverted" their dominant function. He felt that the dominant function was so important, that it overshadowed all of the other functions in terms of defining personality type. Therefore, Jung defined eight personality types...
... Katharine Briggs expounded upon Jung's work, quietly working in silence and developing his theories further. But it was Katharine's daughter Isabel who was really responsible for making the work on Personality Types visible. Isabel, using her mother's work and Jung's work, asserted the importance of the auxiliary function working with the dominant function in defining Personality Type. While incorporating the auxiliary function into the picture, it became apparent that there was another distinctive preference which hadn't been defined by Jung: Judging and Perceiving. The developed theory today is that every individual has a primary mode of operation within four categories:
- our flow of energy
- how we take in information
- how we prefer to make decisions
- the basic day-to-day lifestyle that we prefer
Within each of these categories, we "prefer" to be either:
- Extraverted or Introverted
- Sensing or iNtuitive
- Thinking or Feeling
- Judging or Perceiving
... Our Flow of Energy defines how we receive the essential part of our stimulation. Do we receive it from within ourselves (Introverted) or from external sources (Extraverted)? Is our dominant function focused externally or internally?
The topic of how we Take in Information deals with our preferred method of taking in and absorbing information. Do we trust our five senses (Sensing) to take in information, or do we rely on our instincts (iNtuitive)?
The third type of preference, how we prefer to Make Decisions, refers to whether we are prone to decide things based on logic and objective consideration (Thinking), or based on our personal, subjective value systems (Feeling).
These first three preferences were the basis of Jung's theory of Personalty Types. Isabel Briggs Myers developed the theory of the fourth preference, which is concerned with how we deal with the external world on a Day-to-day Basis. Are we organized and purposeful, and more comfortable with scheduled, structured environments (Judging), or are we flexible and diverse, and more comfortable with open, casual environments (Perceiving)? ...
This is where my dad and I got into our discussion: I have taken the MBTI (or some variant that yields a profile of my type) a number of times over the years. My type has changed significantly. The first time I took it, I tested as an ENFP with an extremely high extroversion score. So testing as an INFP with such a high introversion score is foreign to me. But the real interesting thing to me is the fact that in recent years I have tested as an INFJ and Dad insists that I am a J type rather than a P. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and wondering what the meaning of this is. Was my temperament masked? Or did something change me?
He explained first that my concept of extroversion (that I like people) was incorrect. Introverts aren't, as society portrays them, just reclusive people who don't like to be around people at all. He talked about the fact that many introverts like people a lot. He also talked about the fact that extroversion means having an outward focus: doing things, interacting with things. He used some examples from my life: I'm up every day using my computer, playing the keyboard, doing things with my animals, etc. But then he asked me a question. "Why do you do those things?" We eventually came to the conclusion that I use things as tools of either information gathering or self-expression and that when I'm interacting with people I am selecting people based on specific criteria rather than (for example) going out to a club where I don't know anyone and getting energized by being in the atmosphere and dancing the night away like my sister does. (She's a true extrovert.) So the change in my extroversion/introversion score is obviously a function of my maturity. The first time I took the test, I was 12 years old and had a shortage of people in my life who met those needs for companionship. So I found myself tolerating more crowd situations and reaching out more in an attempt to locate new people as potential friends.
This leads into our discussion about the change in my perceiving/judging score--and this is more difficult to explain... I've made no secret in this journal about my need for at least a bit of structure. That clearly makes me a J. However, a number of circumstances in my life have forced me into positions in which I was required to adapt and could not insist on MY structure because it was at odds with someone else's structure on whom I was dependent or in conflict. My whole family are J types. That is very significant to me. No wonder we butt heads so often! "Duh!" So I took the role of the perceiver in an effort to maintain some peace. It was likely a function of what I was taking in from the situation and decisions I was making based on my feelings (feeling that I was threatened by the combativeness that can arise between two Js who think they're right, feeling that I will get left behind if I don't do something on this person's schedule instead of mine, etc.) On top of these things, I had an unregulated emotional disorder which amplified my feeling and perceptive traits. I could not be who I really am supposed to be.
Now that I know all of this, the question is how to live in harmony with other Js without sacrificing who I am? Some of the stuff that comes to mind is past stuff, and in my mom's mind it's best left alone. But for me it is instructive... If I can learn how I could have responded to that boss in the past who upset me, or that professor or my sister or some other J who stepped on my structure or my ethics or my truth ... then I have a key to another similar situation that I may face in the future. There will never be another situation just like that one; but it is not uncommon for me to recognize strains of the past running through my experience.