True Blood

Father’s Day this year had me thinking of personality types. One of Carl Jung’s many contributions to the field of psychology was his theory of psychological types. After Jung published his work on psychological types, psychologist Katharine Cooks Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers, developed a jimdine1 by you.psychological type test, or indicator, called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The MBTI is a most handy tool. It can help you understand yourself better, as well as help you understand others. I always urge those who haven’t taken the MBTI or (or some facsimile thereof) to take it and learn more about themselves and others.

We had the whole family, and then some, over at the house for most of the day on Father’s Day. Four generations of people who have been connected for as long as half a century provides much room for observation and discussion later to two intuitive types like my husband and me. Intuitive types want to analyze, dissect, and understand everything. We find connections and patterns, or make them when we don’t find them, preferring fancy to fact, the gut feeling about a situation or person to the evidence staring us in the face. He’s an ENXJ, and I’m an INXJ, meaning that we are more-or-less evenly balanced between our Thinking and Feeling functions. Although my husband and I are a matched pair, it’s statistically unlikely for like psychological types to marry one another, except when one or both parties are intuitive-thinking types, as we are. NTs tend to be principled in everything they do; they somehow instinctively know that marrying one’s opposite doesn’t effectively support the principle of marital harmony, so tend to marry someone similar to achieve that end. 

Opposites Attract

Intuitive-Thinking types are the exceptions, for research indicates that over 75% of people marry an opposite psychological type. Some theorize that opposites attract because if you jimdine3 by you.marry your opposite, you can externalize your need for a balanced personality. Your spouse, in effect, exemplifies and carries everything you’re not. The organized person marries the slovenly type; the person who’s always late chooses a partner who’s punctual to a fault, and so on. Then, once the rosy hues of idealization wear off, the harsh light of day reveals that we married someone we were bound to rub the wrong way, and vice-versa. As it says in Proverbs, “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” It should come as no surprise that the first five to seven years of marriage are the most difficult; it takes that long for people to either “get” one another, or give up. By year eight many couples divorce.

An interesting side effect of the law of opposites is that, when opposites attract and marry one another, they tend to have children with temperament types similar to one spouse or the other, but not both. Thus, an introverted child may have a quite extraverted mother; the intuitive, dreamy mother may have a child who’s more practically grounded than she. My husband and I were both raised by mothers who were our exact opposites temperamentally and who were mysteries to us. Our siblings who were similar to our mothers naturally understood them, while we were like fish on bicycles when it came to insight about what would please our mothers. I think that our mothers found us equally incomprehensible, and used our differences as excuses for the emotional distance they maintained. Rather than working at understanding us, they tried to change us. These efforts only resulted in our feeling unacceptable. We grew up alienated in many ways from our own parents; from this, we had to heal.

True Love

I don’t think that being different from one’s child is an excuse for emotional estrangement. With such a wealth of information about children’s psychological and emotional needs available, it seems inexcusable that parents would fail to help their own child feel comfortable in her own skin. Being told you’re somehow misshapen psychologically or temperamentally can be a terrible injustice and heartache to a child.

jimdine4 by you.It’s also hurtful when we give the adults in our lives this message of unacceptability. The Christian ideal of loving your neighbor as yourself is, in the context of temperamental dissimilarities, particularly compelling. Jesus taught that it’s easy to love your friends–those with whom you choose to associate, those you tend to like–but divine to love your enemies. Our enemies are those who wrong us, misuse us, who are dissimilar to us in belief, custom, race, temperament. An enemy is odious, hateful, an adversary. The Greek word used in the Gospels, in fact, has as its root the words adversary, adverse. One who is adverse is one who is opposed, opposite, or acting in a contrary direction. This certainly must apply when we’re dealing with temperament types; we’re admonished to love those who act in ways contrary to our ways, too.

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor,” it says in Romans 13:10; one can find this same teaching about love’s behaviors in all true religions, even among humanists. In the sciences, physicians adhere to a  “do no harm” ethic. We all know what love is when we think about it; we just don’t think about it often enough. Many times we wait for our feelings of fondness to surface before we’ll act in loving ways. We may fail to act lovingly absent any positive feelings. We confuse sentiment for principle, phileo for agape.

In his book, True Love, Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh writes that the four elements of true love are:

  • Lovingkindness or benevolence, the desire and ability to bring joy to another person.
  • Compassion; the desire and ability to ease the pain of another person.
  • Joy; if there is no joy in your love, it is not true love.
  • Freedom; love in such a way that the person you love feels free outside and inside.

 True love is a moral choice, a philosophically ethical stance. We choose to love. It’s not an easy or natural choice; if it were, we wouldn’t need to learn how to do it. What comes naturally to us is easy, and it’s easy to assume that others see and experience life as we do. It takes a great deal more maturity and wisdom to care about and understand others as they are, to love them as they are. To love ourselves as we are. All this applies to psychological types.

jimdine2 by you.

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31 responses

  1. “Our siblings who were similar to our mothers naturally understood them, while we were like fish on bicycles when it came to insight about what would please our mothers. I think in retrospect that our mothers found us equally incomprehensible, and used our differences as excuses for the emotional distance they maintained. Rather than working at understanding us, they tried to change us. These efforts only resulted in our feeling unacceptable, unworthy of love. We grew up alienated in many ways from our own parents; from this, we had to heal.”

    I’m glad you mention this because I’ve actually thought about it before. My siblings were either like our mother or their dad. The mean one, my first sibling, is just like her dad.
    I was like neither my mother nor the man that she married. I felt alone, misunderstood, and never aloud to be myself. My mother constantly tried to insult me by telling me that I am “just like your father”, and I would always reply “Good, at least I’m not like you”!! I felt like an alien and an outsider forced into a family I didn’t want to belong to and held prisoner.

  2. I’m a long way from being loving, I think, but I have figured out that just because someone’s very different and clashing with how I see the world, they aren’t necessarily out to get me. They’re just who they are.

    I like that David…and I think I’m in much the same situation…

    I’m an INFP by the way and my husband is ISTJ…we are opposites, totally, as my I is not hugely predominant and his is.

    I struggle with it all the time…how different we are.

    • Gianna, you probably already know this, but the two biggest differences are the N/S and F/T. So yes, you and your husbands are opposites. Ouch. Had you or he been an INT you would have been more likely to marry someone who was similar. But, alas, you dear, dear NFs are so beautifully sweet and optimistic. :o)

  3. I’m an INTJ currently dating an INXJ, and I have to say, it’s a huge relief, particularly as my personal motto tends to be “Opposites repel.”

    In reading what you have to say about love and acceptance, and also thinking about what I’ve heard people say criticizing the MBTI — I’d throw out there that for someone like me, who has been continually criticized and ostracized due to the way my mind works, reading about all the different personality types was very useful for suggesting the idea that people weren’t being deliberately stupid and obstructive just to annoy me … that there’s a good temperamental reason, for example, why some people have trouble making decisions.

    Because the hallmark of my experience with other people has been persecution, I spent most of my life automatically assuming that people were the way they were specifically to hurt me. I don’t know whether this was incredible confusion, or incredible ego, but at any rate — it really did me a lot of good to realize that people are just naturally wired differently, and sometimes they’re just being themselves. As an adult, it took me a long time to figure out who was rubbing me the wrong way through different wiring, and who really was still persecuting me.

    Anyway, I think I’ve become more accepting, and learning about temperament types was one of the tools that helped me to do that. I’m a long way from being loving, I think, but I have figured out that just because someone’s very different and clashing with how I see the world, they aren’t necessarily out to get me. They’re just who they are.

    • David, what thoughtful and interesting comments you so regularly leave. I’m feeling a bit sad and wistful today, along with experiencing some alienation… so your comment here was good for me to read. I, your fellow INXJ.

      It does help to see that people are wired differently. It has helped me to see that I’m wired differently from around 95-98% of other people, depending on which way I’m leaning a particular time. It doesn’t help with the pain of alienation or being misunderstood or outright disbelieved even when I am as honest as God (if that’s possible) about something.

      What struck me about what you wrote above was “I spent most of my life automatically assuming that people were the way they were specifically to hurt me.” I’d like to think that if we’re loved for who we are by just one person as we grow up, we get the idea that people aren’t being a certain way to hurt us. But if our earliest experiences are being hurt for who we are, then that sets the stage for the pattern. I may be mistaken to have this idea; but it’s the one I have at the moment.

  4. Eve, you can say ‘Blimey’ anytime you want – wish we had audio so I could hear it with your accent though (extra big, lovin’ grin with a nudge from the side!).

    You’re spot on with your analysis of difference – in fact, it was so obvious once I read it.

  5. Blimey, there were an awful lot of questions! Some of them I really could have split 50/50, and it felt like it would have been helpful to have someone alongside who could keep you honest!

    So now I can join the club of INFJ, but I’m a bit cautious about putting people in boxes this way. I’m looking forward to all this, especially understanding more on one’s shadow.

    In regards to being different: fear of difference seems to be behind so much violence in humanity – from between school kids, through to race, religion and political agendas. I would like to develop a deeper understanding of it, because I watch it in myself also – the fear, the caution (the you-are-not-I feeling). What does it really threaten? Are we all so unsure of ourselves? Something to ponder.

    • Irene, oh, I want to say “blimey!” I think I’m going to stary saying “blimey” even though I’m not Australian. May I have a special dispensation to do that?


      I think I understand what you mean about boxing people by temperament. I look at it as a sort of map for where a person is. Just about any psychological test can do that for a person, or an astrological chart. Whatever brings form out of the chaos. Ideally, we can use each ‘side’ of our human potential (introversion/extraversion, feeling/thinking, etc.) as the situation calls for it.

      Re: being different. I wonder if beneath that fear isn’t the fear of being alone? That would explain a lot. Why should anyone fret about being different, unless different = rejection = alone.

      It could be that. Fear of being alone with ourselves.

  6. “We’ve learned that not every person has a real self or is willing to give it. Sometimes people develop only enough of a self to relieve their suffering, and then they stop.”

    Hm. Not sure I agree. I think we all have a real self. Maybe we cover it up with defenses and refuse to dig it back out.

    • Heni, oooh, what a great comment!

      And hmmm…. I’m going to have to think about this. Is it theoretically possible for a person to have no real self whatsoever? Is it possible, in effect, to lose one’s soul?

      • I would use the word spirit to designate our eternal selves, rather than soul, which to me represents something distinctive to each lifetime, but no — I don’t think we can lose our spirit. I think there are times when people leave their bodies temporarily, and perhaps it’s possible to in some way be “possessed” during that time. Long story on that topic, in any case. But I believe that a human being must have a spirit to be incarnated at all. I don’t think there are such things as zombies, for example!

      • In my experience I have two separate persons. The 1st before my mother remarried 2nd the one I was forced into by her husband after she remarried.
        The tough part is getting back to myself.

    • Elizabeth! That is amusing! We have the same psychological type. ;o) Ha ha ha! I vacillate between being the Thinker and the Feeler, but if push comes to shove, in interpersonal relationships, I have to admit I’ll go to the “T” side because that’s where the principles are. I write like a Thinker, too, but I dream and hope like a Feeler. Go figure.

      The higher the number, the stronger your preference in an area. This means that your preference for Introversion is slight to moderate, while your iNtuition is quite strong; as a fellow N I’d say “that’s good!” (hehe), but that’s because I like intuitives. The 67 on J is also a pretty strong preference; you like to keep things in order, be on time, get things done. You probably cleaned your own room as a child and organized your drawers from time to time without being told, or otherwise kept something of your own in order.

      That 12 on your Thinking side is a slight preference. If you took the test tomorrow, you may get an F as a Feeler. This is the way I generally score on the test, anywhere from a 1-10 on Feeling or 1-10 on Thinking. This makes you what a Jungian would call an INXJ. It means that you prefer time to yourself, but also get along fine in groups of people and at social events etc.

      NTs are often found in leadership positions; they can visualize a goal and lead a group to it, even if it’s merely in the family. NFs tend to be artsy, creative, dreamy types; most writers are NFs and NTs. The difference might be that the NF would lean toward fiction and poetry, while the NT might prefer screen writing, journalism, or nonfiction.

      Of course, there are other careers. Read up on it if you’re curious. My favorite book on types is David Kiersey’s “Please Understand Me.” It’s handy and I use it all the time.

      • I think it is interesting that your’s is the only AP blog that I read, and now I suppose I know why. You and I both being in that 1% of INTJ. I remember thinking “Oh great, just another area where I’m so different from everyone else.” when I first did the test years ago. Though it came as no surprise of course. You seem to embrace it, and I’m working on that.

        I remember reading the Kiersey book in graduate school actually.

    • Oh, on dream analysis I have three favorites. I’m hard pressed to say which is my favorite, so I’ll tell you why I like them.

      (1) In Your Dreams, by Gayle Delaney, Ph.D.
      This is a dream dictionary, simple and fun to use, and useful to laypeople and professionals alike. It’s the most reader-friendly and ‘fun’ dream book I own and I use it again and again as a quick reference.

      (2) Understanding Dreams, by Mary Ann Mattoon.
      Mattoon is a Jungian analyst and in this book presents Jung’s ideas in a systematic, understandable way. She tells you just exactly how to do real dream work as an analyst would. It’s somewhat technical and it’s definitely an academic read, but it’s not impossible. I use it all the time, too, and if I only had one book on dream work, this would be my choice.

      (3) Dreams, by C. G. Jung.
      I must apologize to Grandfather Jung that his book is not tops on my list. This book of Jung’s is part of his Collected Works. In Jung’s typical style, it meanders here and there. It’s full of illustrations. If a person manages to read this book, they’ll be changed; but it’s not for the faint of heart or the person who isn’t very theoretical.

      With your temperament type, I’d guess that you’d be able to handle all three very well. ;o)

      • Thanks Eve that is most helpful!

        I once had a therapist many years ago who thought that dreams were insignificant. I’d try to bring up a dream I had, and she’d all but roll her eyes. Since she was the “expert” I thought I must be mistaken in their importance.

        I’ve since taken a renewed interest, and I think those books will be a great start for me.

  7. I hadn’t taken this test in a few years, so I was curious to see if I had changed. I was mildly amused to see that I haven’t. I’m an INTJ. The percentages, respectively, were 33, 75, 12, and 67. I’m pondering what that means.

  8. This was the first time I’ve done the Myers-Brigg and I came up ENFJ.

    I love what you say about love being active, being a philosophical decision. This does help when coming up against scratchy people – ones like family who aren’t going to go away – and deciding to love them whether that love comes naturally or not.

    Also, as a parent of three, I’ve noticed that unconditional love despite differences and exceptions is a challenge. I have two smooth children, who fit in with the family’s ebb and flow, and one bristly little one, who likes to challenge and disobey. I know that loving her unconditionally is part of my spiritual growth, but I have to admit it is HARD.

    Looking forward to the rest of the series – fascinating, as always, Eve.

    • Charlotte, an ENFJ, eh? I guess you already read that writing is a great career for an ENFJ, huh? In fact, I read somewhere recently that the majority (by over 80%) of writers, journalists, novels, playwrites, etc.) are NFs. INFs tend to lean more toward writing than ENFs, but both types are artsy and wordy. We also make good therapists. ;o)

      I really liked how you expressed people who aren’t easy for us to get: “scratchy people,” “smooth children,” and “bristly.” My husband and I laugh at me sometimes, because my introversion makes me “prickly.” So I appreciate having new words to use.

      Yes, it is hard to love unconditionally when some days everything they do (whether child or relative, doesn’t matter) can drive us mad. I have a couple of kids who are like oil to my water, and (like you) I’ve found the experience part of my spiritual growth, too. I wouldn’t have it any other way, would you?

      (The next bad day, let’s remind one another we said that.)

  9. I have taken so many personality inventory that I don’t remember all the letter designations that can represent my “life”. The consistency is always present in all of them. I AM who I am.

    I too will be watching, reading, and mulling over your thoughts expressed here in your blog, Eve. While part of me wants to jump in and comment, I will respect my authentic self and respond when she steps up. Right now, the ego wants to blurt out “stuff” just to be heard. The superego is being the great mother and is saying, “mind your manners and wait your turn”. But I imagine my real self is somewhere in her garden tending her flowers or watching the humming birds get their morning nectar.

    • Vonnie, go ahead and take the free Myers-Briggs if you want to take yet another inventory! It’s fun, really!

      /crosses fingers behind back


      About commenting… this is what blogs are for! What’s wrong with jumping in and commenting? The point is to live well in the world, to give what we have with as much art, grace, and enthusiasm as we can. That’s all we can do at our best, isn’t it? So by all means, comment when you want to. This is a conversation of sorts. Practice!

  10. “According to Myers-Briggs, ISFJs are interested in maintaining order and harmony in every aspect of their lives. They are steadfast and meticulous in handling their responsibilities. Although quiet, they are people-oriented and very observant. Not only do they remember details about others, but they observe and respect others’ feelings. Friends and family are likely to describe them as thoughtful and trustworthy.”

    That would be me. The perpetual care giver. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing for a bad thing, or maybe just a thing:) The trick for me will be to stop the blood letting, not just by my husband and children, but especially by Katie, while still giving her what she needs. Balance I’m guessing.

    • Deb, we have several family members with the SF preference, and this description is accurate for those who are living up to their potential. Not so much the latter bits about “thoughtful” and “trustworthy” and “respect others’ feelings,” though, for those who aren’t growing. It’s sad to see what might have been in black and white, and then to see people who won’t press on to actualize the nth degree of their own goodness. Rather than describing our SFs as “thoughtful and trustworthy,” we’d surely say that our neurotic SFs are “thoughtless and dishonest.”

      Every psychological type has its shadow, and that’s what I’ve been thinking about. If we know ourselves and our inclinations at each end of the spectrum, light and dark, at least we have the information we need to make conscious choices about what we’re going to give.

      I’ve been blessed to know you over the past few years and to see you struggling to be your best self. I too continue my own struggle. That’s just what I’m going to be writing about for this next short while; reflections about how we do and do not manifest our best selves, and why; how we use our type to do each.

  11. Dear Eve,
    I will be following this attentively…
    I love how you fill me up. Speak to me.

    Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about dying to myself. Wanting to rid myself of ego and again as usual you write something as though it was just for me.


    • Gianna, aren’t we all connected? We are. And isn’t it a great paradox, dying to ourselves so that our selves may be born, so that we may bear much fruit? It is! It’s crazy, really. But it’s exciting! ….. kind of. And scary!

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