Is Something Missing?
Exactly twenty years ago my sister brought home a book which would change our lives, ‘Please Understand Me’ by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates. As a family, we sat around the table and completed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. When we had our results, we read the descriptions of each of the personality types out aloud.
Keirsey’s and Bates’s description of my personality type was beautifully written, but in words that I hadn’t thought to associate with myself. ‘’..a profound sense of honour derived from internal values…the Prince or Princess of mythology, the King’s Champion, Defender of the Faith, and guardian of the castle…Sir Galahad and Joan of Arc…subtle tragic motif…inner minor key…deep commitment to the positive and the good…drawn towards purity and unity but looking over the shoulder toward the sullied and desecrated…1 % of the population.”
I sat there letting this wash over me, feeling quite intimidated by this description, almost afraid of myself and what this meant for my life. As a child, I remember wondering whether other people thought about the same things that I thought about. Although this seemed unlikely, I concluded that they must. After all, there was nothing special about me. As it turns out, I was wrong. Most people don’t think about the same things that I think about, and the same goes for you too. We all have unique perspectives to bring to the world.
Fascinated with our newfound understandings of ourselves, the MBTI became one of our most valued tools for guiding our lives. I understand that some people are resistant to the idea of belonging to a ‘type’, but I have found this to be a tool unlike any other in contributing to my sense of self-worth. It is research-based and builds on Yungian philosophy. Because of its complexity, it takes an in-depth understanding for the MBTI to be particularly useful. I'd like to break some of this complexity down and share one of the ways that I've used it during the past couple of weeks. In the upending of life during the last few months, it's easy to feel that things are not quite right. I was feeling this way, so I went to the MBTI for answers.
Apart from the brief description of one’s ‘type’, there is another layer to the MBTI. Each personality involves a combination of functions that explain how everything works together in balance. There are four main functions/traits – Thinking, Feeling, Sensing and Intuition. These are natural preferences – your ‘default positions’. All people use all of these traits some of the time, and because life forces us to practise using all parts of ourselves, these traits become less extreme as we grow older. If your personality is primarily introverted, your dominant function will be an internal one. If your personality is primarily extroverted, your dominant function will be the one that you most often use in the outside world.
The dominant function and the secondary function are the two that you use most often. The dominant function is effortless. You will act on it without thinking. The secondary function is a little less effortless, however it's also fundamental to your personality. To be truly happy, it's necessary to use the secondary function often enough that it provides a beautiful balance to the dominant function. To explain it simply, the dominant function will happen by itself, so being aware of how to use your secondary function may be all you need to know.
My personality is primarily introverted, which means that I receive my energy from having time alone, rather than from being with people. As my dominant function is Introverted Feeling, feeling comes naturally – I can feel 'til the cows come home. Introverted Feeling can be an asset, as are all personality traits. All it means is that I’m driven by internal values and compassion when making decisions. Without balancing this with my secondary function, however, this can become a drawback. I had a sudden realization that this pandemic was inhibiting my ability to use my secondary function, Extroverted Intuition. Extroverted Intuition involves using creativity and self-expression in the outside world - hence the birth of this blog. Instead of this, there was too much thinking about feelings happening, and this can tie me up in knots.
This is something that all introverts may need to consider at the moment. If you feel as if something is missing, there is a chance that you’re not using enough of your secondary function; Feeling, Thinking, Sensing or Intuition, in the outside world. A quick Google search will help you to discover what this means for you in a concrete way. There is so much information available, as the MBTI is more popular than ever. Extroverts may suffer even more, as it may be difficult for them to find outlets for their dominant functions during a time when social events are in short supply. This may be a time for extroverts to experiment with their introverted secondary functions, finding new ways to balancing their personalities for ultimate wellbeing.
Keirsey, D., & Bates, M. (1978). Please understand me. Prometheus Nemesis Books.