Friday, August 24, 2007
A while back I ran into one that seemed to go into more depth. Based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, it uses various theories built on Carl Jung's research to make an inventory that gives a kind of broad outline of one's personality. I first ran into this in 1981, when I was meeting with my first psychotherapist and we were considering what kind of job I should look for.
I didn't pay much attention then. When the subject came up again at Mosaic I was even more resistant to being pigeonholed so, although one person described me as either INFP or INFJ, I ignored it.
The only way to find out what a person is like is to do things with them. Work. Take a long car trip. Go camping. Spend some evenings drinking beer and talking. Play an on-line game with them. Each person is unique, and once you get that label attached it's hard to shake off the name. "Oh, you're an XTPM? Wow. So's my uncle's father's second cousin twice removed. Amazing coincidence." And they think they know everything about you. Well, there's a lot of me that won't fit into four letters.
Now, hold on here a minute. Outlines are useful. I use them myself. So long as it's recognized that the summary isn't the story, nor the map the territory, types can be useful in helping folks find a place to belong. You wouldn't want an INFP to do your accounting, no sir.
Lu mentioned the same site I'd looked at earlier. Normally I'd have ignored this, but something very interesting came out: Lu is changing. I thought types stayed types. Years ago she was INFJ but now is solidly on the INFP side of the graph. The open question: "Is this due to God leading her to be more herself?" Interesting.
Last night I followed the link to the site, thinking just to look it over. It didn't seem overblown. "Use this, and other things, as tools." Signing up was easy. I looked over the material and got another surprise.
I'd assumed that types were assigned in roughly equal proportions. There are 16 types, so about 6% of the population ought to fall into each socket. Wrong-O, Buzzard-breath. Some have more, some less. Some have much less.
I took the test. The choices are binary, and I often found the distinction artificial. I know I have traits on both sides. Well, there are only two choices. Makes it simple to take the test. Post-processing provides the detail: 2^72 different responses possible, which is a lot of people. I hit the "Finish Test" button and waited for the results. According to this I'm an INFP.
INFPs are rare. Overall, 2% of the population. Among men, even rarer: 1.5% The only type more scarce is the INFJ. I guess this explains why I've given up on having anyone understand me.
This got me thinking. Lu is in the INFP camp, So am I. We're very different, underneath the obvious. Does this bring into question the validity of the whole idea? Depends on how wide your generality brush is, and how thickly you lay on the paint. I could question why we're so eager to generalize in the first place. Who am I like? No one... and everyone. No one is like me, but we all have similar needs.
I have a very strong anti-herd tendency. I learned long ago that the main result of following the herd is that everyone goes over the cliff together. Whoever is leading is usually no better at it than I am, and I'm a far better troubleshooter than most so I can see disaster before it arrives.
This is good and bad. Keeps me out of trouble, but also keeps me from doing things that have led Lu to be more outgoing: her missionary experiences, moving to Nashville to plant a church that never really got started. It was rough for a time but now she likes being in Nashville. When life hands people lemons God can make lemonade.
The joke is pretty much on me. One thing the notes for INFP say is that they can masquerade as other types, at great cost in energy. I'm working very hard to make sure God changes nothing that I don't want changed. I suspect everyone, and God has the connections and power to do anything. I can't hide from him.
In the beginning there was desperation. "God, do whatever it takes." Emergency measures. Now we seem to be moving into a different part of the land, where desperation is no longer a good enough reason. God respectfully asks for permission, it seems, and won't move until I'm fully in agreement with what he intends. I believe it intellectually but my feelings lag far behind. I have a hard time trusting anyone. It has to be earned every day, and if something doesn't look right I bolt. A feather's touch in the wrong place is enough to send me running for days or weeks.
The only new garment I fully accept at the moment is the new robe Jesus gave me. I thought I was out of that a few days ago, when I realized I really didn't want to go the way I thought he led. I love no one, and want nothing to do with love. That attitude comes from way back and is reinforced by my assumed manipulation. Who's doing the manipulating, though? I ascribe it to God, but it's really me trying to hide just about everything important in me from him.
Honesty is a place to start. God knows I don't trust him. If I truly am an INFP then that's either the way he made me or the resultant of the vector he gave me and all the additional vectors I've applied in the process of surviving a hostile world.
In 1980 this information was more useful. I had time for a meaningful choice in a career but didn't look into it. Now I'm pretty well stuck where I am. At least I'm still here. What choice, really, has the failed man? Well, God never quits and his truth is always surprising.