Personality Dimensions

While hiking this weekend in the High Sierra, my conscience nagged me about this badly neglected blog. Oh, I could blame a whole lot of things; but I won't. The very best thing I can do is get back to it and post something new each week.

Jung stratified personality along four dimensions:
Introvert-Extravert
Intuitive-Sensate
Thinking-Feeling
Perceiving-Judging

Well, actually, Jung only came up with the first three. The fourth dimension was added by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Meyers. Katharine and Isabel began working on what has become the modern Meyers-Briggs instrument during World War II. It's original use was to help women conscripted into both military and civilian support for the war find jobs they'd be comfortable with. Needless to say this personality inventory has changed substantively in the past seventy years. I find it useful in determining how my clients see the world. There aren't any "right" or "wrong" personality profiles. But, the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator contains a wealth of information that can help determine, for example, whether two individuals will be able to work with one another. Thus, it has been widely used in industry.

Taking a quick look at the four dimensions, they are not quite what they appear. For example, introverts gather information about the world from within themselves, while extraverts gather data from the world around them. Intuitives also look within first, while sensates use body-knowledge to guide them. A standing joke in most Jungian Institutes is that there is scarcely anyone with much in the way of sensate ability. What this means is that if something breaks, a handyman from outside the Institute must be called to fix it. Sensates can see how things fit together. They have spatial ability, like most engineers. Intuitives have a hard time caring how mechanical things work. So, you see, one isn't better than the other, they are simply different.

Thinking and feeling are self explanatory. Thinkers lead with their minds, feelers with their hearts. And perceivers are the data gatherers of the world, while judgers prefer to pick a path and see if it will work for them.

There are many permutations and combinations of these four dimensions. In Jungian work, one tries to boost one's non-dominant functions to become more balanced. It is rare to find someone who is at the end of the continuum along any of the dimensions. Using myself for an example, I tend to be an introverted intuitive. What this means is that I'm a dreamer and very happy alone for long hours at a time. Work on myself has included work on my sensate--or physical--side. So, I learned to fly airplanes and climb mountains and spend days in the backcountry with a pack on my back. Of course, my time in the backcountry feeds my "loner" tendencies as well. And, unfortunately, my intuitive bent has meant that it has taken me twice as long as a more sensate soul to develop physically-based skills like mountaineering. Or letting the flight instructor out of the airplane. I think my first solo flight was the most terrifying moment of my life. But, talking to other private pilots, most of them longed to kick the instructor out of that plane. Not me!

We are all different. Reveling in those difference and in what makes us human is a gift! With that in mind, I truly hope I can get this weekly blog back on track!

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