Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Have you ever heard of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator? It’s a system, based on Jungian theory, for describing human personalities. In a nutshell, by using combinations of four traits, people can be sorted into one of 16 personality types. Surprisingly, when you find your type, it does a really good job in explaining and predicting how you interact with the world.
Not to bore you with tons of background, the four elements that make up Myers-Briggs are these traits: (1) introverting or extraverting, (2) sensing or intuiting, (3) thinking or feeling, and (4) judging or perceiving. Which you are depends on: (1) do you tend to get energy more from being with people (extraverting) or by being alone (introverting); (2) do you tend to understand the world with your five senses and live in the here and now (sensing) or do you tend to think about things inside your head and understand things through your own interpretations (intuiting); (3) do you tend to make decisions by thinking though a problem (thinking) or by deciding how you feel about it (feeling); and (4) do you prefer to live with the structure and order of having decisions made in advance (judging) or do you prefer to wait and observe and have your decisions depend on the situation as it unfolds (perceiving)? There are tests which hit these questions from all angles in order to sort you into your personality type.
So what am I? INTP. That means introverting, intuiting, thinking, perceiving. It is one of the four rational personality types.
As a rational, I have a drive to pour information into my brain and find structures, predictable patterns, and logical connections in the world. I believe that things can be understood by careful examination and analysis. That is my comfort zone. Rationals differ from the Guardians, who want to follow and maintain rules and traditions, the Artisans, who want to immerse in the present and experience life to the fullest, and the Idealists, who want harmony and eternal connections in the world.
INTP’s are also known as Architects. It is one of the more uncommon types, representing 1 – 2% of the population. (Yeah, Jason, we already knew you were weird.) Because of that, it’s not unusual for INTP’s to feel out of step with the people around them. (Again, not news Jason. Move on.)
One of the extra challenges for INTP’s is the difficult, chaotic, and often scary relationship they have with feelings. Does that surprise you about me? Maybe, maybe not. Since understanding feelings is the last skill to develop in INTP’s, they can go through a kind of emotion renaissance as they age and acquire all those hard life lessons. In the 5+ years that The Clarity of Night has existed, you have been privy to a sort of overdrive time in my development, when I have sought to drop a hand grenade in the pants of my emotions and blow them wide open. That way, I can dissect them and analyze them. I can reach a truce. It’s probably why my writing so often has an almost palpable emotional pulse. And why the emotions are rarely simple and one dimensional. In my writing, I’ve eagerly stuffed myself in the skin of others and really tried to embrace what others feel. Of course, if I’m being brutally honest (which I just reminded myself to be), I probably often take a piece of what I’m actually feeling and build scenes where I can condense it and turn the volume way up. It is a window into me trying to come to grips with its nature and meaning.
Sometimes rationals are likened to Mr. Spock from Star Trek--unemotional, distant, and clothed in logic. The truth is totally the opposite. Emotion is tantalizing, wondrous, and deliciously dangerous. The problem is that emotion feels too big, too hot to handle, and it scares the crap out of us. Logic is where we flee to when the emotions threaten to sweep us away.
Maybe my writing has become almost like emotional impressionism. What I portray is purer, more exaggerated, and more interpretive than real life. Maybe I want to be Monet. Give me the essence of moods and environments. The color and shapes. That’s where I want to begin. Details are just a few brush strokes on the surface. Not the purpose of the portraits I try to paint.
Or more likely, I probably just get the paints all over my shirt. But as an INTP, I’ll always be driven to keep grappling with the questions.