The one thing that disturbs me about any type of personality assessment is how easy it is to place a permanent label on a nice and tidy box with a living and breathing human being inside. I have typed out as an ISFJ, ISTJ, and finally as an INFP. I’m not going into detail to explain the MBTI because there is so much available on the net, all you have to do is Google MBTI to learn more. Here is a description of the MBTI in a nutshell:
I am right-handed. That does not mean that I can only use my right hand. It means that I am right hand dominant; specifically, I am more comfortable and have a natural tendency to use my right hand more often than my left. So when I state that I am an INFP, it doesn’t mean that I don’t posses the skills and abilities associated with other types. It means that my natural tendency is one who energizes by being alone and in reflection (Introvert – I), vs an Extrovert (E) who energizes through the external world of people and activity. I see the world in terms of possibilities (iNtuitive – N), rather than a Sensor (S) who sees the world in terms of facts. I’m much more comfortable making decisions based on subjective judgment, think empathetic, (Feeler – F), instead of decisions based on objective analysis, (Thinker – T). And I’m sure anyone who knows me will agree that I tend to live life in a spontaneous, flexible way, (Perceiver – P) in contrast to those who live life in a decisive, orderly manner (Judger – J). [Reference: Type Talk by Otto Kroeger & Janet M. Thuesen]
When I entered my certification program I typed out as an ISTJ. Now anyone who knows me and knows the MBTI knows that I am not an ISTJ. But at that time in my career, the qualities associated with that type – decisions based on fact, rather than emotions, and a work ethic that was structured rather than flexible was highly valued and required to successfully accomplish the tasks associated with down-sizing the Department of Defense within the constraints of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).
I wasn’t even aware of the changes in my thoughts and behaviors until the first day of MBTI certification training. My instructors found me alone (often) in the library, reading books on Carl Jung. They told me it was that and other observed behaviors that inspired them to ask me the question, “Tell us about your youth.” I shared my background like a short PSA and included my hitch-hiking experience at 17 years old. They laughed and walked me through some more questions and then helped me see that indeed, I was not an ISTJ but was an INFP.
In the past when I read the description of ISFJ and ISTJ, I felt like I could be those things. I mean as I’ve shared, we have all of the MBTI tendencies. But when I read the description of an INFP, I felt like someone had read my journals and wrote a description of me. The most interesting information to me was the shadow tendencies of my type. For example, most descriptions imply that INFP’s will do anything to avoid conflict.
By observing my own thoughts and behaviors I determined that I wasn’t afraid of conflict, I just didn’t find it helpful or beneficial because I didn’t have a healthy model of conflict resolution available to me. My family conflict model was mostly passive-aggressive; a snide remark here or there with a laugh and “just kidding” spoken as if what was said wasn’t meant when indeed that and so much more was meant to hurt and shut down the other! I didn’t know that when I was young. I didn’t understand then, that authentic communication during conflict (and conflict is going to occur so we may as well not try to avoid it) is extremely helpful and beneficial. And while difficult during the conflict, if we approach conflicts authentically and say what we feel and what we mean, we can actually enjoy many rewarding relationships, even with those with whom we feel we have little in common or much disagreement.
I can remember the moment my instructors (metaphorically) held a mirror in font of me and said, “This is who you are!” It was a day of freedom. It was a moment of exhalation. It was not a fork in the road but a turn. And it’s given me much to work with as I explored (and continue to explore) psychology, spirituality, and Kate.