In my study of psychology, I’ve never been too happy with the concept of ‘personality’. We refer to it in everyday life as the way that someone is. This fixed notion of ‘the way that someone is’ suggests that they are the same in all situations, with all people and that they don’t change as they grow older.
Psychologists have also held such views. For example, Eysenck postulated that we are born with a degree of nervous lability which determines our responses to given situations, such as in the workplace. This would mean that some people would display certain traits or behavioural responses quite consistently in different environments. Some would be better working in a team, others on their own. Occupational psychologists would then profile employees to find the right fit.
I’ve always believed that people can learn and people can develop. Once extraordinarily shy, I can stand up in front of other people without fear and give a talk, as long as I know what I’m talking about. I’m also happier in a leadership than follower role. I’m now as happy to work on something (of value) with others, as I am working alone. I worry about this kind of profiling, as it could lead to pigeon-holing a person for a life-time. It’s another form of discrimination.
One psychologist, Kelly, regarded personality as our particular way of perceiving the world, and did assert that this could indeed be changed. So for example, when undertaking his personal construct activity, I learned that I respond to others in terms of how intelligent or intellectual I perceived them to be. The exercise has made me more aware of this judgemental aspect of my nature and I think twice before dismissing someone on the basis of an initial analysis of how intelligent I think they are.
Similarly, a mother and daughter team envisioned personality as the way we perceive and judge our world. They created the Myers-Brigg’s Type indicator. It assesses your stated responses to general situations on four dimensions: Introversion-extraversion, sensing-intuition, thinking-feeling, judging-perceiving. Compared to other personality ‘tests’ I’ve taken, I found this one more probing. After completion, you would then be labelled as ‘ISTJ’ if you are strongest in the first trait of each dimension. There’s 16 possible combinations.
I first undertook this test in my early 30s and was labelled as an INTP. However, the result of the third dimension was less clear cut, like our Brexit result, I was 52% toward the thinking side of the dimension and 48% feeling. This does mean I have a little more empathy than the usual INTP, although even I recognise how dispassionate I can be sometimes and how intolerant I can be of (my perceptions of) others’ weakness. This has lead me into conflict with others when I’ve not been as sensitive as I could have been.
I’ve used the indicator twice since, and I’ve been surprised how similar my results have been, strongly I, N & P, but a weak T. Additionally, I’ve been quite astonished at the INTP description, feeling for the first time that it is me being described. I’ve not quite felt that with any other labels that have been applied to me.
Verd is an INTJ, and if we’re to take the test on faith, it explains our attraction and why neither of us ever had relationships that lasted very long in the past. It also explains why Verd thought he could get away with the judgement, “you can write, and I don’t say that lightly, but….” Perhaps I’m wrong about the consistency of personality? Alternatively, as they are self-report responses, we’re really just portraying how we’d like to think we’d respond, rather than how we actually do respond.
I’ve been thinking lately about two possible uses for the Myers-Briggs assessment. The different types could be used as a basis for fictional characters. Apparently I share a great deal in common with Aemon Targaryen and Varys from the Game of Thrones and Neo in the Matrix. Verd shares traits with Walter White of Breaking Bad, something I suspect he’d be proud of. Wouldn’t it be interesting to explore the dynamics between the various types through fiction? Exactly how does an INTP respond to criticism from an INTJ? I’ve always suspected they were used for the characters in the film ‘Inception’. I suggested that to my colleagues one day, who responded that I analyse things too much. Must be the INTP in me.
My so-called dreamy analytic and imaginative nature then had me thinking about the permaculture community we’d like to foster in the future. I think Verd’s vision looks like that of the Lakewater (?) community in the TV series, Frontier. Ours wouldn’t be based on kinship, nor have the strength of generational tradition, but is likely to emerge from commonly held values and intent. We’ve discussed the notion of compatibility between community members. I’ve often thought about this in terms of roles and skills that the various individuals would have. After all, if everyone is a gardener, who’s going to fix the tools?
As not all intentional communities work and some have quickly dissipated due to disagreement among members, I’ve started to think about personality factors. Could we create a harmonious community through a blend of complementary types? A bunch of dreamy theoreticians and idealists might not quite realise their goals. The mastermind and architect are going to need some crafters.
What do you think/sense/intuit/feel?
If you are interested in learning more about the Myers-Briggs Indicator, the official and validated assessment and more information can be found here. There is a cost to this and you can chose between a more personalised response or an online questionnaire.
If you do a search, free replications of the indicator are available online e.g. one is available here
Featured Image: Richard Stephenson