October 25, 2008

Understanding Personality Typology: Introduction (part I)

In this blog, you may have noticed me mention something along the lines of personality types. What exactly are they? Are they similar to those things you took in high school saying what animal or color you are? Not really. They are a little more official than that.

A Brief History

In psychology there is a major question about personality: are our personalities based on nature (how we are when we are born) or nurture (the events in our lives). Most today say a bit of both, but at the time of Carl Jung, most were saying nurture. Jung boldly argued the case for nature, but not in the sense of many before him. Instead, he argued that we are all born with a personality type: a manner in which our personality behaves. These types do not really define who you are, but instead describes the way that personalities function. He argued that your basic personality type already exists when you are born. He identified each type by a set of three letter indicated scales.

Now, I'm not saying that I am a huge fan of Jung. Though I like what he started in this area, much of what is said is fairly outdated now. But two women took his basic idea of personality types, and developed a means of both studying them and identifying them based off of Jung original ideas. Katherine Briggs and her married daughter Isabel Myers developed a sorter to determine one's personality type, as well as conducted research which upheld some of Jung's ideas, while disagreeing with others. This is known as the Myers-Briggs-Type-Indicator, because all of the fun names were taken.

Myers and Briggs would do several things with this overall theory, including adding a fourth scale, and discussing how these scales interact with each other and the idea of function dominance (I'll explain what that is later in the series. For now, just know that it's cool)

A Short Theological Reflection

My belief as far of the nature of these types is different than Jung, who saw them as products of evolution. Instead, I see them as provisions by Almighty God, who crafted each of us by hand. These types represent gifts to each of us, for each has purpose and power. Each brings a balance to society, without which we would not have progressed as we have.

One of the basic biblical concepts is that no man/woman is an island. We are co-dependant upon each other. Indeed, I believe that the individualism of American society is one of the great weaknesses of our culture. Because each scale represents a need in human life, and because each person is not perfectly balanced in all scales, which would actually be unhealthy, we therefore have a built in need to rely upon each other, and build each other up.

Indeed, many of the social problems that we have are based on insisting that our way is better than everyone else's. We misunderstand each other, and assume that we all motivated by the same kinds of basic mental/spiritual framework. But if we are built differently, and if the builder knew what He was doing, then we can be sure that these differences have purpose, and learn to submit to one another, as taught in Ephesians 5:21.

Therefore, I ask you join me as I go through and describe to the best of my ability what these personality types are. This shall be a five part series. The next part shall be a simple description of the four scales, followed by discussion of function pairs, then a discussion of function dominance, and finally a list of the actual personality types. This is describing things as I understand them. Please remember that I have not been trained in this (though I hope to be), and much of what I say is open to error. I will attempt to the best of my ability to keep this light hearted and fun. So please, enjoy.


bethyada said...

I am more familiar with the 4 temperaments.

Though there is a lot of interest in these different personality profiling concepts, I think there should be more research into the foundational concepts over and above applying concepts thought to be valid.

Jc_Freak: said...

There is a great difference between the Jung successors, which are primarily Kiersy and Myers-Briggs, and what I would refer to has personality categories.

Personality categories, such as the 4 temperments, zodiacs personality, etc..., essentially take observable kinds of personalities that people often find, place them in categories, and then explain the tendancies within them. Though one can memorize the 16 personality types you get with the Myers-Briggs, that is not what it ultimately does.

The concern with Jung and Myers-Briggs (I'm not as familiar with Kiersy. I think that it is somewhere in the middle) is not to identify what your personality is, but to describe the way your personality functions. If you stay with the series, you'll see that the listing of the 16 personality types is the conclusion, and also not the goal. It is attempting to understand what the 4 scales indicate, and the way that they interact with each other to explain human behavior, rather than just label and group it. I'm not saying that it is better, but rather different, and personally I find it more interesting and useful.

Mind you, that doesn't mean that I believe these things to be fact. There is a conventional nature to this thing, and it is quite possible that much later, it gets thrown out for something better. I am not interested because it is right, but because it is useful, and if someone finds a different system useful, than so be it.

Anticipated Serendipity said...

I'm intrigued by your concept of individualism being the downfall of society, but then support that we are all in fact different and need to work together.

Because that's really what the individualistic movement is about - not saying that you don't need other people, or not to help others. But instead to realize that you are unique and don't feel the need to conform and be something you are not. And it is through our "specialness" that we can add to society.

I really don't know anyone who actually supports what you seem to be suggesting. That we can get all things merely within ourselves, and don't need to rely on others.

I do agree that many of our problems are by insisting that there is only one way to do things, but that goes to demanding society conform to one method of thinking - something that goes against individualism which promotes self-expression and independent thought.

Jc_Freak: said...

I didn't say that individualism was the downfall of society. That's much more extreme that what I meant. All I meant was that America is to individualistic. Some degree of individualism is a good thing. Indeed, cultures where it is absent often are very oppressive. The positive end of it is the value of the human life, something which I think is very biblical.

However, within America, I believe we are too focused on it. Humans only properly function as members of a group. In America, though we dont reject that entirely, we don't seem to understand it either.