community, Mental Health, Psychology

What’s the Deal with the Personality Types?

Image result for types of dogs

Okay, I just don’t get it. There’s this thing called the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, which everybody is enthralled with. (It’s really just an updated version of the Enneagram, if anybody remembers that.) I mean, I get it in terms of I understand the concept — you take the test and the software puts you in a category faster than the Hogwarts Sorting Hat. You’re supposed to answer the questions honestly, and it’s done privately; the website won’t share your results with anyone or anything. But, seriously, what’s the point?

Wow, if I didn’t just brand myself as a Vulcan. (Thank you very much.)

I’d heard of the theory several months ago, when some bloggers mentioned they used it to help create their characters for fiction writing. At the time, I truly had no idea what they were on about, so I looked it up. Oh, all right, I see now… Anyway, once it made sense, I moved on. To me, it didn’t seem to have much validity. An interesting social experiment, that’s all.

(Mrs. Spock? Your tea is ready.)

When we were first dating, my husband showed me a book someone had given him on the Enneagram. I skimmed through it, got the jist, laughed aloud, and never thought of it again. Until I heard of Myers-Briggs.

On people’s bios for their blogs and social media, there’s a lot of listing which “type” they are. And there have been several conversations in my feed that I just can’t participate in because I simply don’t know that much about this approach. For some reason, I felt a little left out.

Image result for types of flowers

So, I went and took the test. According to my results, I am an INFJ — also called “The Advocate.” Okay, I can accept that. Apparently, INFJs are big not just on changing the world, but changing it in a very “hearts and minds” sort of way — for example, why just raise money for a cancer charity, when we can find a cure for cancer? And I am definitely of a “teach a man to fish, you’ll feed him for a lifetime” mindset. The Myers-Briggs people believe that Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa were INFJs. If that’s the case, then I am in extremely good company.

That aside, the website goes on to list everything from the sort of friends and careers each personality type is likely to have, how they’ll probably behave with co-workers, spouses, as parents, and even whether they’ll choose Pepsi or Sprite. Okay, that last bit isn’t true. But it really is that specific.

And to me, this is where the problem comes in.

As someone who is prone to potentially obsessive behaviors (hello, autism spectrum), I can state with certainty and not-overly-dramatic flair that I can see people getting way too into this idea.

How many of us make fun of the rare individual who literally won’t walk into a salad bar on the second Tuesday of the month because their Zodiac sign supposedly falls prey to rogue beets during that part of the lunar cycle? Well, while you laugh hysterically at that image, you may want to take into account if you’ve been accepting/rejecting job offers, vacation plans, first dates, new recipes all based on your Myers-Briggs personality type.

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It is good to get to know ourselves, and come to understand what kind of lifestyle/profession/hobbies we’re suited for — in fact, I’d say that’s a vital part of reaching our individual growth and success. But, determining your entire future (and analyzing every moment of your present, and past) based solely on what some pre-programmed software tosses up on the screen, that’s pretty dangerous, folks.

And there will always be those of us that never quite “fit” into our “personality type” category. We may identify with an ESFP 88% of the time, but have our days when we just don’t feel like exhibiting the traits the website claims is inherent in us. Or perhaps there were several questions on the test that simply didn’t apply to any part of your life, so your answer wasn’t accurate. That means you’re bound to become an anomaly.

And guess what — that is far more real and natural to how human beings actually are.

I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m totally okay with that.

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When the Sorting Hat places each wizard in the House they’re most suited for, the Hat makes it clear: the choice is still theirs. The Hat may recommend Ravenclaw, but the wizard selects Hufflepuff, and is very happy for it. The Sorting Hat makes its decisions based on analysis of a wizard’s personality traits and family background, but perfectly allows for emotions and free will to have an impact.

In that regard, I think the Sorting Hat is probably smarter than the people who designed Myers-Briggs or the Enneagram.

What are your thoughts? Do you subscribe to any of these personality test theories? Would you actually avoid a salad bar on a random Tuesday if Neptune was in retrograde for Libras? Let me know in the comments!

Lighthouse

 

 

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5 thoughts on “What’s the Deal with the Personality Types?”

  1. I agree it can be dangerous to box ourselves too much into one thing, which is one thing I’ve worried about these labels etc., and I’m not sure I totally get it when people obsess over the MBTI thing, however it does intrigue me (I’ve gotten INFJ most recently too) but like you said, it doesn’t describe me totally, and obviously we’re all individual people and none of us will be EXACTLY one type or another, and that’s not only okay but a good thing. 😀

    I think it is definitely limiting to put a label on oneself — what if we aren’t always, or SHOULDN’T always be that? — BUT I do know that knowing things about ourselves can be helpful. I used to not know about introverts, so I didn’t understand why I enjoyed being with people SOMETIMES but felt exhausted and drained afterward and needed to hole up in my room by myself to recover. I kind of worried about that. After I learned about introverts, I realized that that didn’t mean I was an awful person, I just needed some alone time to recharge. And something CLICKED in me and it was really helpful! So now I make sure that I allow time alone for myself. BUT I do also see myself succumbing to letting it rule me sometimes, because I’ll say “Oh, I’m an introvert, so I don’t have to go to this social thing” and it’s making an excuse for me not stepping outside of my shell and trying new things, which can also be harmful, because then we can stagnate and not work on becoming more rounded people, if we embrace one aspect of our personalities too much — even if it’s an okay thing on the whole, we shouldn’t let it limit us from trying to do better in areas we struggle with.

    So I think it’s important to understand things about ourselves (which I think is the main point of the MBTI, and I think people like seeing something that “gets” them and they realize “OH, that’s why I am this way!” and it can be almost as exciting as running into someone who thinks the same way you do about a subject you are passionate about, because you understand something and feel like somebody “gets” you) but also important to not let those categories limit us or define us too much.

    And honestly, I never paid attention to all the stuff after the general description of what the type is like — I do NOT take the jobs/lifestyle/parenting/who-to-marry thing seriously AT ALL and don’t even think about it, so I really don’t think that people are letting it dictate their lives?

    I think it’s just to help us understand ourselves and can be a useful tool to help us in life. 🙂 Like when you discovered you’re on the autism spectrum and that helped you understand some things about yourself and who you are. 🙂 For example? But I agree the MBTI thing can be taken too far. XD I just think of it as a continuation of things like introverted and extroverted, and it’s not perfect, but it can be interesting. *shrug* Just not for everyone, and that’s okay! 😛 I don’t define myself as “I’m an INFJ” because I’ve gotten different results at different times and don’t always seem to fit entirely into one, so I just don’t worry about it. If the Myers-Briggs thing isn’t for you, that’s totally okay. 😀

    I’m not trying to disagree with you, just throwing some thoughts out there as someone who’s half-way between and understand both the people who love it and the people who don’t, because I’m partway between both and can see the upsides and downsides on either side. 🙂

    …SO sorry about the long rambly comment! O_O Definitely an interesting post! I mostly hear people rave about it, so it was neat to see another perspective. 🙂

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    1. Recently I’ve seen several Twitter threads (without naming names) in which people are discussing their friends/relatives going too far with the whole MBTI thing. People saying, “Oh, I can’t/shouldn’t do that, it doesn’t fit my type.” As opposed to, “Not sure about this, but I’ll give it a try.” Same as some folks who follow the whims of their newspaper horoscope down to the letter, and it actually harmfully impacts their social/personal lives. When I first learned about the Enneagram, it was via a person who took that WAY too seriously, and had decided to cut himself off from anyone who didn’t “align” with his own “gram,” and considered the text of this psychological theory to be higher than the Bible, basically. Again, VERY dangerous.

      Honestly, I couldn’t imagine not forcing other people to give me the chance for down time and to recharge — but because of where I am on the spectrum, I *physically* have to, because if I don’t get alone time, it causes severe anxiety and produces reactions similar to being ill (nausea/vomiting, headaches, etc.). For me, “getting out of your comfort zone” is the worst advice possible. But for others, I think sometimes pushing yourself a little is a good idea. That’s what concerns me about the thought that people would actually cut themselves off from what could be great for them because it doesn’t “fit the type.”

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  2. haha don’t worry you’re not alone in this- I don’t get the point of it either- especially since I took the test twice and got different answers… so I guess my personality changes with my mood? But yes I agree with you so much about the Harry Potter analogy- that’s why it works so well in my opinion- you get the house you *want* to belong to (I think that choice is often what nudges me into Ravenclaw, because I have characteristics from the other houses too- as many people do!) So yes I wholeheartedly agree with you here!!

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    1. I’ve never taken the Pottermore test, but if I was sitting with the Sorting Hat on my head, I think I’d ask to be in Hufflepuff or Ravenclaw. Although I identity with a lot of the traits typically portrayed by Gryffindors, I didn’t like the way Gryffindor and Slytherin (when push came to shove) seemed prone to in-fighting — whereas Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff seemed loyal to their own Houses and the school as a whole, to a fault. Loyalty is a big deal to me, and I honestly don’t know where that’s a personality thing, or because I’m on the spectrum, and since I don’t understand when people “change the rules” without a good reason, so it upsets me. Just one of many pieces involved in this whole thing… 🙂

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      1. Yes I agree with you- I think a lot of people that know me would say Ravenclaw or Gryffindor, but I would pick Ravenclaw cos it would be the house I would be most comfortable in. I definitely get that- loyalty’s a big deal to me too and the number one rule in a friendship (in my opinion). I definitely agree with you there- one of the main things I like about Ravenclaw is how you can be your quirky self there and no one judges you. Absolutely 🙂 That’s why the system’s so awesome- it’s so simple which allows it to be really complex underneath it all.

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