Typology, Seismology

by Cindy Stengel Paris on November 25, 2011

This blog was written by Danielle Poirier, Type  Expert and Author of the Magnificent 16 www.magnificent16.com who has agreed to be a regular guest blogger.  Enjoy!

By Danielle Poirier

For some people, learning about psychological type is one of those everyday banal experiences that never overflows into their day-to-day life, like a feel good public service  announcement that one forgets as soon as the program is back on.

For others, it is an earth shattering experience – a first time occurrence of a positive self-image, or a breach carved into a closed, intolerant mind – that changes one’s perception forever.

My experience was of the latter category: it opened up onto a world of purpose and meaning whilst closing the door on a feeling of not belonging to the human race.  It was a life-changing event that triggered others in rapid fire succession: it ended a harmful pattern of self-destructive behaviour, brought me back to school and provided me with a career.  It was thirty years ago and my professional life is fully invested in learning and teaching about type and depth psychology.

You would think that after investing as much time, resources, creativity and knowledge into understanding, appreciating and honouring typological differences, they would no longer pose a problem in my life.  My heart and mind should, would and could open gleefully to all our individual gifts differing and I would be someone who happily co-exists with everyone else.  Especially if you consider that I am, after all, a feeling type.

Yet it just isn’t so.  I’m envious of some differences, irritated by others, and even get caught in the perception of perceiving normal differences as evil.  Closure, for example, is something I sometimes see as suffocating, life threatening and evil.  Yes, closure. Closure interrupts the limitless horizon of possibilities I like to have before me and clogs it with unbearable deadlines looming as big as 100 storey buildings 10 feet away from where I am.  No more horizon.  It leaves me feeling claustrophobic and gasping for much needed air.

It doesn’t matter that you spend your last breath explaining TJ and FP, (or Te and Fi, or JP, or, or, or… whatever version you use of the theory) it doesn’t change the experience of the difference.

The person reminding me of the deadline is of course the evil warlord, the despot, the fascist.  Why don’t they understand that this deadline is entirely expendable, self-imposed and negotiable?  Don’t they see the sacrifices made to meet a deadline? (Feel free to spit that last word out, it feels good).

The reason type is a problem is in the nature of the beast: each pole of a dichotomy is necessarily incompatible with the other.  You need to talk it out?  My inner bubble has just been invaded, I can no longer be alone with my inner experience.  I need to reflect on it?  Your need to hash it out there in the open has just been eviscerated.  You need to connect?  She needs to remain detached.  See, by being true to ourselves we necessarily do what interrupts, interferes or irritates the other.

What is complementary is necessarily incompatible with the other.

So the inescapable truth is: typological differences are a major source of problems. Yes, yes!  Of course we are all beautiful and gifted and complementary and, and and…

AND these differences are also difficult to live with, constant reminders of each others’ inconsistencies, fallibilities and shortcomings.  Your needs and desires and vision will necessarily be at odds with mine, eventually.

Nine chapters, three hundred and twenty-nine pages; that’s how much time and effort Jung put into describing the problem of type in the history of thought, poetry, philosophy, aesthetics and human character.  Over and over again he tells us: type is a problem.  See how we cannot agree, throughout history, on what things are.  See how type essentially shapes our world view to the inescapable exclusion of another’s.

Underneath all those chapters lies the instigation of his research and rumination: “See how Freud, Adler and I just could not agree on what we were finding”.

And such is the path that leads to my conclusion, the title of this first guest blog on mbtitoday.org: typology is as complex, fascinating, life-saving as seismology, yet just like seismology it changes little in how things unfold.  We cannot stop earthquakes.  Seismic waves will happen, the earth will open up and swallow the living, survivors will survive and move on.  We understand what happened yet are powerless to keep it from happening.  We learn to live with it.

Such is the unfolding of human diversity.  We cannot avoid the incompatibility of our world views.  Seismic clashes of perception, ideas, beliefs, conclusions, needs, objectives are inevitable; they are all part of our magnificent humanity.

So typology, like seismology, does not exist to “fix” the problem, but to bring it, the problem, into our awareness.  To keep our eyes, ears, mind and heart open to the first tremors, to measure their significance and to step back a little.  To move away from the problem if we can, if the danger is real.

Typology warns us that major shifts in the underlying structure of our world view is forthcoming, our perceptions and our judgements will be challenged, our self-image will evolve with each authentic encounter with others, for they carry the world views we forsook so that we may carry our own.

And yet, we will survive. Transformed by the experience, yes.  But we survive, we grow, we learn.  And somehow, we become better.

That’s my lesson: closure may be difficult, challenging, exasperating, but it is needed.  I may have avoided this one, dear editor Cindy – it was due for November 15 – but I won’t be able to avoid them all.  Eventually, my knees will bend and I shall surrender to the unavoidable deadline, and to her needs above my own.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Shur November 28, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Beautiful insights, beautifully stated. Thanks Danielle!

David Goldstein November 29, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Very well expressed Danielle:
” So typology, like seismology, does not exist to “fix” the problem, but to bring it, the problem, into our awareness. ”

Developing an “Awareness” to our differences is the key. Thanks for sharing this!

Kartik Subbarao December 5, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Danielle, I’d like to first express my appreciation for “The Magnificient 16”. Watching the interviews expanded my audiovisual awareness of the different types in ways that reading about them just can’t accomplish on its own. For example, watching the comparison/contrast between people who share my ENTP preference and others, I get a more refined picture of how these preferences manifest in real people, which helps calibrate my mental model of type. Good stuff :-)

Regarding your blog post, I get the feeling that many of us for whom type has had a transformative impact could echo your words almost verbatim :-) I’ve certainly thought and said much the same thing at various times. Type helps me see more vividly and clearly just how hopelessly and fundamentally irreconcilable these differences can be. I know too *much* at this stage, about myself and others, to go back to the superficial “everyone is just like me” myth, where my unapologetic agenda was to get people to be more like me, and if I could only do that, everything would be just fine.

Since those legs are now cut out from under me, I have no place to stand anymore, and no other choice now but to confront the *pain* head on. The pain that comes from having my skin painfully ripped from its attachment to one side of a polarity. Having pushed the other side of the polarity so far out of my conscious awareness, it assaults me from the *outside* world, where the most convenient hooks are those people who have made the inverse living arrangement with the same polarity — they have evicted the side that I prize.

To the extent that I don’t contact this pain and feel into its deepest sources, I *suffer*. To the extent that I become aware of the source of this pain, I am able to free myself from that suffering. This determines how much I can transcend and include the *entire* polarity in my awareness. I can recognize that I still may have a *preference* for one side or the other, but I’m able to hold that preference with a lighter touch. For example, if I have the mental space to simultaneously hold T and F in a given situation, I won’t feel bothered by someone who has differentiated F more extensively than I have. I’ll retain more degrees of freedom in the situation to *choose* my response, which could range from deferring completely to the other person’s wisdom, to asserting my own perspective, to any mutual interaction in between.

To be sure, there are many parts of my life where I am strongly attached to Ne’s view of the world, where I see Si and Se in the same ways as you see closure: “suffocating, life-threatening and evil” — and where I actively avoid and project away the pain that I don’t want to feel. Like you, I recognize that eventually my knees will bend and I shall surrender. Even there though, I feel like I have a choice. What I want to surrender to, in every moment that I can, is the entire polarity that *includes* N and S. What I don’t want to submit to is hegemony of S over N — to me, that’s just trading one form of limited attachment for another.

Each time I can let in some more of the pain, some more of the reality that I otherwise shield myself from, my awareness expands just a little bit more. And sometimes the magical (alchemical?) happens — the pain vanishes instantly, gone in a flash of insight that reframes my whole view of myself and the world.

Similar to your conclusion, I remain optimistic about what personality type can offer us. Anything that brings crisp focus to the polarities in our lives, that shows us a roadmap to transcending and including them, while accepting us just as we are, with gifts differing and all the rest, is something with real value.

Danielle December 11, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Thank you for your comments Mike, David and Kartik. I’m a little new at this and neglected to follow up and check for comments! I shall learn, I shall learn.

Luckily I got Kartik’s comments on LinkedIn. Smart!

Guys – the problem type poses for society is an important one. I think we need to start a conversation in the community around this idea – so please, pass the word around! Share, share, share!

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