The other week’s post on the Myers-Briggs, the way various types are strongly represented in various segments of the world, and feelings of difference really struck a chord. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since I wrote it, and I wanted to add a few things.
I am fairly close to the middle on the E/I and N/S dimensions, and I am off the charts on F and J. Once, while taking a test online with my family (something we occasionally do for fun, which tells you that I come by this particular interest honestly), I read a question aloud because I could not understand it. It was something about how deadlines are relative. Baffled, I had to share this bizarre question with my family. There was much laughter and commentary about how I am so J I don’t even understand the questions designed to test for P-ness (another family story: the time my mother caused an eerie hush in a restaurant when she announced, loudly, to a friend that her problems in life were all because of her P-ness.)
I used to be slightly E, and now I am more than slightly I. The transition is marked. I don’t quite know what precipitated it, but how and why people’s types change over the course of their lives is an area that really interests me.
There were also some reactions to my observations about personality types and kinds of work that made me want to explain what I think and mean. I hope I’ve made clear how firmly I resist simplistic categorizations. In fact I’ve written a lot about my own personal sense that I contain contradictions in every cell of my body. I’ve also mused on society’s profound – but ultimately unsuccessful – desire to thrust individuals into neat boxes of identity. This is just one of a million ways we all seek to order and control a fundamentally terrifying and chaotic universe, both within and without us, isn’t it? I think so.
When I refer to the over-representation of the ENTJ personality type in business, and when people comment about their own suitability (or not) for certain lines of work, I certainly don’t mean to participate in the kind of reductive categorization I so dislike. I do think certain personalities gravitate towards certain kinds of work. I also think that most people have varied roles in life, which may access and rely on different aspects of who we are. We may have different personas at work, at home, at church, socially. Of course, taken to the extreme, that becomes a sociopathic misrepresentation of who one is. But I would aver that almost everyone feels like different parts of their personality are emphasized in various parts of their life.
I believe fervently in the Myers-Briggs as a tool to understand strength, and preferences, and orientation towards the world. I do not mean to suggest that it’s a way of neatly categorizing or uncomfortably constraining individuals who are kaleidoscopically multi-faceted.
I welcome further thoughts or reactions on Myers-Briggs type. And in particular, have any of you changed type over the course of your life?
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