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Posts Tagged ‘myers briggs’

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The study of personality helps explain why people behave the way they do. Likewise, it can help us understand our own idiosyncrasies and guide us over the occasional bumpy road. We’re all different, but these differences can be categorised as differing blends of a finite number of basic psychical patterns.

Though there are numerous models of the psyche now, it was Carl Jung who first developed a psychoanalytical theory of personality, defining a primary pair: the introverted and the extroverted types. Then each of these is further characterised by two pairs of opposites: Sensing and Intuiting, which determine how we perceive the world around us, and Thinking and Feeling, which determine how we decide how to act in any given situation.

Although we each possess characteristics of all the types, we have a dominant type, a mode of being we tend to favour under all circumstances. But when the dominant type fails to make headway against life’s ever-changing demands, we get stuck and lose our energy – what Jung called the libido. It’s this progression and regression of the libido that marks how well we are adapting, and in turn how happy and motivated we feel. The personality needs some flexibility. The more rigid we are, the more we suffer and struggle.

The mother and daughter team, Myers-Briggs, built on Jung’s work, adding in another pair of opposing functions: Judging and Perceiving. These determine whether we relate to the world in a structured (Judging) way – always making plans and striving for control of events, or unstructured (Perceiving) – more spontaneous and always keeping our options open. It’s the Myers Briggs type-test you’re most likely to come across in business and human resource studies today, and defines a total of sixteen possible types.

I map closely to the Introverted, iNtuitive Thinking and Perceiving type (INTP), which means I undervalue the feeling approach, can come across in person as a bit of a cold fish, and I can be wilfully blind to the evidence of my senses. I’m also evasive of schedules, only ever making plans at the last minute and I’m impatient of pushy, outgoing people who never seem to know when to stop talking.

If we’re unable to recognise our flaws, if we think we’re perfect, we cast a strong shadow over our potential for growth. Our shadow is our type’s opposite and it’s there we find the solution to whatever ails us. But it’s one thing knowing our faults, quite another to know how to go about correcting them.

I’m writing a weird, semi-mystical novel at the moment, relying heavily on the dominant intuitive side of my nature to draw a mind-picture of this world I’m creating, and then the thinking side of me decides what makes sense, what to keep, and what direction to head off in. But having your head in the clouds all day, counting fairy dust doesn’t help much when things are literally falling apart all around you in the real world.

An intuitive imbalance can be countered by getting to grips with some hard facts. As unlikely as it sounds, when you’ve run your dreamy ship aground on the sandbars of improbability, fixing that leaky garage roof can get the energy moving again. There’s a burst of satisfaction, and a confidence that comes on completion, allowing us to return to the dreamy stuff feeling refreshed. But sometimes it’s not so easy; we find there’s an irrational reluctance to engage with the very thing we most need, so when I’m in deepest intuitive thinking mode, the sight of a dripping tap can tip me over into a foul mood, have me cursing the numpties who fitted it, and endlessly procrastinating rather than simply reaching for the spanners and getting to grips with it myself.

Sometimes this imbalance of function can lead to deep seated neuroses, things we try to avoid all our lives because they make us anxious and depressed, and since our dominant type is what we’re stuck with, it’s not so easy to get to the root of things. But if we’re fishing for solutions, it’s at least useful to know where to cast our net. Indeed freeing up our inferior functions might take the whole of our lives, but it’s also one the most useful and liberating things in life we can do.

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watchwordThe Watchword technique is method of self analysis. Its origins are obscure, but find themselves formalised in this 1990’s title by Michael Daniels, senior lecturer in what was then Liverpool Polytechnic’s Department of Psychology. The book has a very Jungian grounding, and aims to give the reader a clear picture of the forces at play in the currents of the psyche – where we’re going, what’s holding us back, what are the dominant forces driving us, what areas we need to work on, to let go of and so on.

If you’re of a New Agey, self analysis, Jung-fan bent, you probably already have a number of methods for getting inside your head. Tarot cards are popular, as are Runes. For a long time I favoured the I Ching but, like all oracular devices it can be misunderstood and, like the Tarot and Runes, is somewhat tainted by an occultish aura which does not appeal to everyone.

Oracles do not foretell tell the future. It’s a common misconception. Instead, they read the psychical landscape and make projections from it. They grant us a look inside our heads, revealing what might otherwise be hidden. All methods have their attractions and drawbacks and we should feel free to take them up and set them aside as and when the mood takes us, never adhering to them too slavishly, but rather listening to our own instincts for what’s right at the time. In this way the Watchword technique can be looked upon as another thing to try, perhaps when answers are failing you elsewhere. The method is direct, and carries none of the occult baggage associated with other methods, though this is not to say its intuitions are both startling and mysterious.

The technique involves writing down sixteen words – whatever comes into one’s head – then pairing them off and looking for an association with the linked words, then pairing these off. Reminiscent of a Jungian word association test, and dream amplification, what we end up with is a grid of highly charged words which, like dream symbols, represent the archetypal forces, or a kind of psychical weather forecast. As a method I find it very powerful, though as Daniels cautions in the book, it is not something to be read too literally or follow too slavishly.

So, our sixteen seed words are boiled down by a process of association into a square matrix which we then interpret using a form of directional symbolism. In short, the up and down directions indicate progressive and regressive tendencies, the left and the right involve the more subtle interpretation of inner (left) and outer (right) psychological urges. The overall balance of the square therefore comes to represent a map of the forces within us and the complex dynamical churn between them. A further pattern of three words emerges in the centre of the matrix, the middle one of these being taken as the ultimate direction implied from the interplay of all the other forces in the mix.

While this may sound dubious to anyone not versed in symbolic or archetypal thinking, I find the method has an uncanny way of homing in on the key dynamics. The answers arise from our own thought processes, it’s just that some of them are normally hidden from view and the method tries to tease them out. At its most basic level the Watchword technique can be treated as a word game, as a bit of fun, and when beginning with it, it’s perhaps best to treat it as such. But at its deepest level it can aid us in coming up with some profound insights into our own strengths and failings.

A more individual analysis of the words we’ve chosen can also reveal our Myers Briggs type, and the book goes into this in some depth, but I’ve found the technique less reliable in that respect, probably due to my own failings in grasping the symbolic significance of the words we use, better to use the Myers Briggs method itself, but in all other respects this is a valuable tool for anyone on the path towards self discovery.

 

 

 

 

 

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