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When I first learned that Catalysts had dolphins as their "animal totem," I thought "Ogod how corny."  I mean, I'm just not ga-ga about dolphins/kitties/bunnies like some people are, and this seemed like a sappy choice.  I was reminded of the dolphins' heroic appearance at the end of the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series by Douglas Adams, and kept thinking, "42!".  Dolphins seemed more like cartoons than totems to me.

Don't get me wrong!  I don't have anything against dolphins personally.  Probably the biggest reason the dolphin didn't appeal to me was because of their typical association.  After all, dolphins are often portrayed performing in Sea World shows, jumping through hoops and bouncing bright balls off their nose on demand.  Eue!  That kind of behavior is anathema to me.  I didn't want to be compared to a trained animal!  (I'm too intellectually independent for that!)

I heard somewhere that David Keirsey originally assigned mythical creatures to the iNtuitive Temperaments.  Griffins were appointed to Rationals, and unicorns were appointed to Idealists.  Unicorns!  That would be cool.  After all, I'd harbored an obsession with unicorns for a number of my teenage years.  Someone in the know told me that pressure was brought on Keirsey to assign real (not fantasy) totems to these two Temperaments because it wasn't fair to have it otherwise.  In response, David assigned Rationals the wise old owl and Idealists acquired the playful dolphin.

My resistance to dolphins representing INFJs slowly waned as I sat through a workshop that employed these creatures to describe the Idealist (now Catalyst) Temperament.  We were asked to share everything we knew about dolphins... and the similarities were startlingly uncanny.

Take a moment now to think about what traits you associate with dolphins (besides performing in Sea World shows, of course).  Can you come up with anything?

Most people think of dolphins as:

Playful, always active.


Charming, with their built-in smile and merry-looking eyes.

Friendly.  They get along with everybody.  

Affiliative -- they are rarely alone, but congregate in "pods."  They cooperate in accomplishing tasks.  Some dolphins will act as "midwives" during birth, and mothers spend two years raising their calves (while sometimes babysitting others).

Social, frequently engaging with other creatures (including humans).

Using their nose to guide or nudge in a gentle fashion.

Seeking and initiating relationships -- with each other and with other creatures, including humans.

Having a highly sophisticated communication system -- sonar (known as "echolocation," because they bounce sounds off objects and use the echo to home in on them).

Protective.  Using their nose, they can cause fatal internal injury to a shark by gouging them in a vulnerable spot from underneath.

Healing.  They bring a curative power to bear on personal encounters, improving disorders such as autism.

Magical and inspirational.

I'll bet you don't know these:

Dolphin skin is very similar to human skin -- thin and bruises easily.

Dolphins take care of each other, making every effort to rescue an injured or sick member of their party by holding it above the water for air.

Dolphins, in general, are the only species besides humans who mate for "fun" and not just procreation.  (In fact -- and this will make you laugh -- "Sex play is frequent and is initiated by any individual toward any other, without regard to size, age, sex, relationship, or even species; approaches to human beings and to turtles are common.")

The Columbia Encyclopedia further states:

"Dolphins are capable of imitation and memorization; they demonstrate foresight, learn from observation, communicate experience, solve complex problems, perform elaborate tasks, and learn multiple procedures simultaneously. Their so-called training is in fact a discipline structured around play; using their natural behavior as the basis for involved maneuvers, they appear to perform primarily for their own enjoyment. In situations of great stress in captivity they have been known to commit suicide by starvation, battering against walls, or drowning."

Some scientists claim that dolphins can alter a person's DNA. Dolphins have even become a key figure in the New-Age movement that preaches happiness under influence of the higher state of consciousness provided by dolphins.

When you consider the traits people associate with dolphins, it's not that far different from the qualities that are frequently associated with Catalysts!  I invite you to revisit the list above, and think of INFJs as you consider it.  If you substitute "empathy" for "echolocation," it starts to look eerily similar.

Like Catalysts, dolphins may be found everywhere in the world.  They aren't strictly sea mammals -- several species of river dolphins exist.  There even used to be dolphins in the Mississippi River!  What clinched it for me was when I discovered there were PINK dolphins.  How could I resist them any longer?

The last time I visited Las Vegas, I made a point of visiting The Mirage to see the Dolphin Habitat (11 a.m. to 7 p.m.).  If you go on Wednesdays, it's only $5 admittance instead of the usual $10.  Rather than feeding slot machines, I spent several hours there, feeding the dolphins, watching them "perform," photographing them, and studying them through the underwater windows.  I figured since we were "cousins" after a fashion, I ought to try to "connect" with them in some way.  And I confess, they truly charmed me.  (It's hard for someone who prefer iNtuiting to stay connected to a Sensing activity like this for so long.  I had to really work at it, but the effort was ultimately worthwhile.)  If you get a chance to observe dolphins for a time this way, the experience will leave you feeling "lighter" and more at ease.

here I am hand-feeding 2 wild dolphins at the Tangalooma Resort
on Moreton Island off the coast of Australia

coverThis delightful book about a dolphin stuck in a tree employs the dolphin totem to teach children appreciation for personality differences.


It is of interest to note that while some dolphins are reported to have learned English (up to fifty words used in correct context) [even higher since Sagan died] no human being has been reported to have learned dolphinese.
-Carl Sagan

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Below is a 1-minute video of dolphins playing with air bubbles.


Below is a whole pod of dolphins -- very impressive!

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Dolphins & Mythology

The mysterious, unpredictable ocean tends to bring out superstition in people. Gods of wind and sea were thought to determine the course of seafarers. Dolphins, as denizens of the ocean depths, were often connected to various myths.  Let's explore some of their many mythological associations over the ages and throughout the world.  (By the way, this has nothing to do with INFJ other than providing enjoyable information.)

Greek Mythology
A psycho pomp guiding souls to the isles of the Blessed; it has both solar and lunar associations.

"Diviner than the dolphin is nothing yet created; for indeed they were aforetime men... but by the devising of Dionysus they exchanged the land for the sea and put on the form of fishes." - Oppian. Halieutica

Christian Mythology
Christ as savior of souls and as bearer of souls over the waters of death.

Egyptian Mythology
A tribute to Isis.

Roman Mythology
The soul's journey across the sea of death to the Blessed Isles.

Celtic Mythology
Associated with well-worship and the powers of the water.

More To Come...



Later on, I'll revisit the dolphin totem in conjunction with symbols.  I also feature some dolphins on the "Humor" page.

Kip the Dolphin movie here.

More Will Come...