who have not explored psychological type fully may experience it as limiting;
putting people in boxes. Having delved into its various aspects for over
ten years, I find it to be empowering -- it releases people from boxes they
don't know they are in.
has nothing to do with whether or not one "knows" the model of type or
not -- it's not like the MBTI* bestows a type on you as if it were a Social
Security number. Our code is there from the beginning -- it comes with us
into the world as part of our DNA. Thus,
have to be aware that I have INFJ preferences before I begin experiencing
. . man brings with him at birth the ground-plan of his nature. . .
I doubt there's a single person alive who doesn't know
from painful firsthand experience how it feels to be misunderstood or dismissed.
And many misunderstandings can be traced back to a simple difference around
type, whether it's ever labeled that way or not. Type is something that
happens "to us" until we become aware enough to make conscious choices
about how we use it -- even if we don't use type terms! Understanding our
type is at its best when we begin to experience it as a set of choices rather
than a knee-jerk reaction to living life.
are many type experts whom I admire and respect, such as Linda Berens, John
Beebe, Katharine Myers, and Dario Nardi, to name but a few. Some of these people
have studied this field for decades, and continue to discover themselves
through models of type, as do I. It's an ever-unfolding quest. We
find the topic riveting, because every day we discover something
new about ourselves and others by looking at the world through this lens.
(I have begun to understand that you can never really "get" type --
it's an ongoing journey.)
a means of understanding myself and others, for personal growth and improved
relationships, understanding my type is invaluable. For anyone to say that
type is "narrow and limited" indicates that they have not explored all
the different facets the theories have to offer. And I really am my
type -- in the broadest sense possible. Type isn't something I
"have" or something I "choose" -- it's as much a part of me
as my eye color. Type is not a "measure" nor is it
a "prescription" for who we are. It does not dictate anything as
regards our religion, ethnicity, educational background, upbringing, morals,
etc. It is not a prison sentence! Nevertheless, I experience and express each of these
dimensions of life via type and archetype.
types are not about traits. This is a vital, critical distinction I
must stress, and believing it is about traits creates a trap that people fall
into all the time with these theories/models.
are what show up in some type descriptions people use to verify their type.
People decide they are or are not a given type pattern depending on how well
they identify with the traits listed in type descriptions as if they were
horoscopes. And this in
turn may shape one's thinking about what type actually is.
type descriptions are created from the assumption that when a person is the
living embodiment of pattern (type, temperament, interaction style, archetype),
certain traits are likely to show up with that pattern. It's a pretty good
assumption, and yet each of us can readily find an exception to some trait in a
type description of our preferred pattern.
instance, here are five traits typically ascribed to folks with a preference for
I have a preference for introversion, and I frequently manifest behaviors that
belie every one of those traits. What gives? (Am I mis-typed?)
theories and models of psychological types cannot be reduced to a shallow litany
of traits. (In fact, type was expressly intended to combat the damaging
measuring stick of "preferred" traits and regulated
"normalcy.") A better characterization of type preferences is
more akin to "philosophical differences." I believe I am a
collection of philosophical predispositions, energy patterns, and particular
forms of consciousness. And that's how I am my type.
my preferences end up having me more often than I experience having them.
They are so second nature to me, so ego-centered, that to articulate them would
be like initiating a conversation about breathing. And how can one ever comprehensively express the degree to which breathing defines them?
am not a collection of traits glommed together -- but my personality is a
systemic pattern. Just as one cannot identify a tree simply because it has
leaves, we must see a trunk in order to know it is truly a tree. We must
discern the overall pattern, not the individual parts. And while most
trees are brown and green, not all of them are. So it's erroneous
to overlook a tree simply because it's not the colors we've trained ourselves to
me, interacting with type is a way of peeling my own "onion" -- it's a
way of getting under all the layers and finding out what's really going on.
It's a method of noticing where I'm conscious, and where I'm unconscious.
It's hardly a reduction; it's an expansion. It's a discovery of what I'm
naturally good at and where I have room for development -- or may never excel,
period. It's also about recognizing my comfort zones -- my habitual ways
of behaving, my peculiar habits of mind.
some people, a comfort zone might show up as retreating into "philosophical
discussion" rather than answering a simple question with a direct answer.
For some people, a comfort zone might show up as fighting instead of loving, of
kicking someone to the curb rather than appreciating their needs or respecting
their alternate point of view.
someone who prefers extraverted Feeling might say, "I cannot be with
selfishness and whining!" -- and what they really can't be with is their own
selfishness and whining.
someone who prefers extraverted Thinking might say, "I cannot be with
illogical, emotional outbursts!" -- and what they really can't be with is
their own illogical, emotional outbursts.
know, I'd heard this kind of thing for years, and I was unwilling to believe it
until I accepted type. And some people discover their type this way -- by
recognizing what they're unable to be around.)
is why we talk about knowing our shadow by our projections. Not
acknowledging your shadow makes one prudish and self-righteous. You're
above it all, godlike. Type is reduced to a formula for figuring out
what's wrong with other people. Your motives are pure, your conscience is
perfectly clear. It's everybody else who's at fault.
when we move into archetypes, energies of mythological proportion begin to
one of these aforementioned processes is carried by the archetype of the
"hero" (or heroine), the ego simply must defeat the processes
that challenge its primacy. And the eternal battle is pitched, just as it
has been pitched throughout history. Not that any given process is
"wrong" -- each has its place -- but when does the champion cross the
line into being a bully? At what point in the process did
Hitler-the-advocate-for-Germany become Hitler-the-oppressive-monster?
general theory of neurosis is equated with "one-sidedness."
Treatment aims at extending consciousness beyond the dominant one-sidedness --
usually of the ego -- to the other parts of ourselves that we have repressed.
John Beebe has said that any psychology which claims, in effect, "you are
right and everybody else is wrong" is not a very useful psychology.
invite you to examine the times you feel self-righteous in order to recognize
your own habits of mind, and to discover how your Shadow is alive and active in
how do we ever grow past these primal patterns of existence? Well, it is
said that the Gods will enter mainly through the wounds in human life...
demonstrating there are things beyond our ego control, and that sometimes our
ego perspective is insufficient. In other words, sometimes we have to get
hurt. Perhaps a life-threatening illness will teach the strong how to be
present to weakness; perhaps experiencing celebrity will teach the weak how they
are surprisingly strong. As Nietzsche said, "That which does not kill
me makes me stronger."
things don't go the way we hoped and planned, we might re-frame our shock and
disappointment as waking up to a deeper design.
link this notion to a passage of Marianne Williamson's that I like. (She uses
the term "Holy Spirit," and I don't know what term would be less
religion-based. Perhaps the Holy Spirit represents the Collective
Consciousness. My tendency is to call it the "Universe.")
is the quote:
situation which pushes our buttons is a situation where we don't have the
capacity to be unconditionally loving. It's the Holy Spirit's job to
draw our attention to that and help us move beyond that. Our comfort
zones are the limited areas in which we find it easy to love. It's the
Holy Spirit's job not to respect those comfort zones, but to bust 'em.
We're not at the mountaintop until any zone is comfortable. Love
isn't love until it's unconditionalů and the Holy Spirit has a highly
individualized curriculum for everyone. Every encounter, every
circumstance can be used for these purposes.
type is about habitual patterns, we can also say that type is about comfort
zones. How these "comfort zones" are uniquely expressed
demonstrates how each of us is a distinct individual. But these comfort
zones and expressions are communicated via the type pattern. Which means
anytime we are experiencing a knee-jerk reaction, or doing "business as
usual," we are in the domain of type. And sometimes it takes a whole
lotta pain to change our patterns and open up to the possibility that
one-sidedness is not the answer.
that light, the ability to be tolerant and not to allow one's buttons to be
pushed is an excellent measuring stick for one's personal growth and
development. It's a signal that many life coaches use as a crucible to
help their clients evolve. We don't have to call it "type," but
the type pattern is present whether we acknowledge it or not.
invite you to look at your own comfort zones -- to notice your habitual ways of
being in the world -- and consider trying on a new behavior today.
Consider looking at the thing you deplore, and strive to identify that thing in
yourself. Maybe find a way to be with it, perhaps even to love it a
little. You'll be a little bit better for it -- a little less neurotic.
A contribution one can make to the world is not to add to the general prevailing
The MBTI« is not type either -- it is merely a tool for helping discover
best-fit type patterns.
reading: Original Self: Living With Paradox and Authenticity, by Thomas Moore
* * *