Exploring the MBTI and Myers Briggs Personality Types and applications | Personality Pathways

Questions, Quandaries, and Queries about Personality Type with Lenore Thomson

Lenore Thomson Bentz . . . on Personality Type - Volume 1, No. 3.

Have a question about Personality Type or Carl Jung's Theory of Psychological Type? Send them to Lenore at lthombentz@aol.com. She will respond in this ongoing "Dear Lenore" column.

Subjects Addressed in the answer to Eric B's questions:

Psychological Orientation vs. Cognitive Skills
Different Meanings of Temperament [this page]
John Beebe & Archetypes

Different meanings of Temperament

When I say "classic neurobiological terms," what I mean is that the word "temperament," as it's ordinarily understood, is concerned with matters of innate chemistry: reactivity, adaptability, mood, distractibility, persistence, attention span, sensory sensitivity, and the like. These are bona fide aspects of the personality, and Jung did acknowledge their influence on functional development. But this is not what Temperament Theory is talking about.

For example, when people say that a person doesn't have the temperament for leadership, they don't mean that s/he isn't typologically suited for the job. They mean that the person's emotional make-up is in question -- perhaps the person is unpredictable, or impulsive, or unable to tolerate stress.

Temperament Theory, however, isn't concerned with temperament in its biological sense. Rather, Temperament Theory is specifying the collective roles that serve to create culture -- and have been doing so, wherever humans gather, since our ancestors roamed the ancient savannah.

If culture disappeared tomorrow, these archetypes would enable us to create society anew. But, as such, they're collective rather than individual. To link them to four distinct cores of innate needs is to suggest that people are literally born to occupy specific castes in the social landscape.

Please don't misunderstand me. I have no wish to diminish the validity of these collective roles. Their archetypal source is abundantly clear. What I'm saying is that these roles are not the basis of type preference.

For example, you can see the difference between the two models when the categories are applied to the classic Star Trek crew. I can't even tell you how many arguments I've been pulled into about my contention that the crew is an interesting representation of the four functions. Where I see Kirk as N, Spock as T, Bones as F, and Scottie as S, temperament theorists maintain that Kirk is SP, Spock is NT, Bones is NF, and Scottie is SJ.

In this respect, the two models are very clearly in conflict.

I absolutely grant that the temperament designations make sense as social roles, but, when you come right down to it, you have to wonder how Spock could possibly be an Intuitive of any sort. He's utterly factual, always has specific data in mind, does not anticipate the unseen, never uses analogies, never comes up with an answer whose antecedents he can't cite.

NT is simply not a motivation for typological orientation. It's a collective image. It connotes a person who depends on his head rather than his heart, motivated only by competence and efficiency. As an archetype, this works very well.

Every differentiated type is in touch with emotional life

Neuroscience has shown us that no individual makes choices apart from a clear-cut sense of emotional value. People who have brain damage that's severed the neurological connections normally made between emotion and reason don't become focused and unemotional like Vulcans. They become upset and confused, utterly trapped by environmental conditions, unable to make a decision of their own.

Moreover, if types who prefer Intuition and Thinking had no emotional awareness, they wouldn't get embarrassed or ashamed; they wouldn't register disgust or react angrily to violations of justice or property. They'd have no loyalty to others; they'd lie easily when the truth got in the way of meeting a rational goal. None of this is true of any type. Emotions are fundamentally human, not the prerogative of one function or another.

What Feeling types usually mean by "unemotional" is that Thinking types don't base their decisions on personal criteria the way they do -- that is, trying to mirror the other person's inner state and adjusting one's behaviors accordingly. Mirroring is a valid way of making decisions, but I take issue with the idea that it makes one uniquely capable of compassion and empathy. Feeling types value cooperation and appreciation, but shaming and rejection and disapproval are also part of the package.

I think it's significant that when Thinking types display a passionate investment in an idea or a principle, the emotional values displayed come across to Feeling types as angry and aggressive, which ought to undermine the idea that Thinking types are unemotional. But it doesn't. What Feeling types are actually reacting to is the fact that a Thinking type is invested in the idea rather than the affective state of the listener.

My point is that the difference between personal and impersonal reasoning is often the *kind* of emotion we feel comfortable entertaining and expressing. The NT stereotype is of no help in ascertaining what's actually going on. The temperament categories tell you largely about the way humans tend to divvy up social roles: people who work with their hands (SP), people who work with their heads (NT), people who rely on their hearts (NF), and people who maintain social norms and institutions (SJ).

You can see this quite clearly in the four women on "Sex and the City." There's Carrie, the NF writer and romantic idealist; Samantha, the SP opportunist who loves 'em and leaves 'em; Miranda, the NT corporate lawyer who has feminist sensibilities and problems showing her feelings; and Charlotte, the SJ art expert who longs for a traditional hearth and home. These aren't types. These are collective stereotypes, and the show works because we recognize their archetypal source.

What happens when a function is differentiated?

In Jung's type theory, our dominant function will naturally reflect our Extraverted or Introverted temperament. The other three orientations remain aligned with the unconscious life of the body, and they compensate the conscious point of view by way of the opposing attitude.

This is why an Introverted Thinker with auxiliary Intuition is diagrammed Ti-Ne-Se-Fe in classic Jungian terms. There aren't 8 cognitive processes that offer us skills we need to develop in order to be whole. There are 4 functions, and by differentiating one, we've set aside some of our generic potential for the sake of real-world form.

And real-world form is not necessarily what nature designed us to accomplish in the dawn of human evolution. Just learning to read transcends nature. There is nothing in the human brain dedicated to the skill; we have to train it generation after generation, "borrowing" other neurological properties for the task.

Once we're borrowing from generic potential for goals that nature didn't intend, we're building an identity different from any innate blueprint. And the price, ultimately, is the inability to be fully at home in the natural world. That's what Jung was interested in.

Whatever we habitually put aside to make our willful conscious choices will inevitably make its alliance with the unconscious -- emotions we don't want to feel, desires we don't recognize, the body itself. I think this is why Jung described type preference as a wound in the psyche, that place where we've torn our conscious standpoint from full integration with our instinctual life.

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Next Page - Psychotherapist John Beebe & Personality Type

Lenore Thomson is author of "Personality Type: An Owner’s Manual" and the former editor of the Jungian Journal Quadrant and a lecturer with the C.G. Jung Foundation in New York City.

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Lenore Thomson Personality Type an Owner's Manual
"Personality Type: An Owner's Manual" by Lenore Thomson

A layman's guide to understanding Personality Type and the theory of Psychological Types originally proposed by C. G. Jung. Lenore Thomson was the former editor of the Jungian Journal Quadrant and a lecturer with the C.G. Jung Foundation in New York City.
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