The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is basically a personality test. You answer dozens of questions, and based on your answers, you are fit into one of sixteen categories, which apparently describe your way of relating to the world. There are four axes, and you are rated on where you fall on each of them.
The first is the E-I axis, Extraversion vs. Introversion. This axis defines where you get your energy from. Extraverts get their energy from other people, and need to “recharge” in some sort of social situation. Introverts get their energy from within, and need to “recharge” by being alone.
The next is the N-S axis, iNtuition vs. Sensing. Where do you get your information from? Sensers gather information from the world around them, and iNtuits gather theirs from within themselves, from memories and patterns and hunches.
The third axis is T-F, Thinking vs. Feeling. How do you make your decisions? Thinkers make their decisions based on logic and reason, while Feelers make decisions by empathy, thinking within the whole situation and working toward balance.
The final axis is P-J, Perceiving vs. Judging. How structured do you like your life? Judgers like to have decisions made quickly, and move on to the next challenge; perceivers are comfortable sitting in ambiguity, and taking their time.
Each of these axes is a continuum: you’re not either one or the other, you’re shown where you fall on a spectrum. Also, none of these “types” are considered better than another; they are personality preferences, not moral judgments. They don’t tell you how good a person you are, just what type of person you are.
After taking the test, your results give you one of sixteen four-letter personality types, such as “ESFJ” or “INTP.” There are two interesting things about my own history with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
I’ve taken the full test (not an abridged free version) at least twice, once when I was 17, and once when I was 29. The first time, my type was INTP. This is the archetypal “scientist” type, a person who was very at home in their own head, thinking and analyzing, working alone on problems and finding eventual solutions. This was, in fact, the time in my life when I wanted to be a professional mathematician. Not a bad fit for an INTP. And even though I ended up instead being a professional Christian Education Director for a congregation, I still found myself approaching problems from an analytical, scientific standpoint. Most of the troubles I ran into at that job involved interpersonal relations.
I was at a very different point in my life at age 29. I had recently left the Christian Ed. Director position in order to complete my seminary education and become a pastor. In fact, I’d just completed a three-month program in which one of my goals was to learn how to “move from my head to my heart.” I was trying to learn how to think from an emotional, empathetic place, rather than analytical. I must have succeeded, because I was now rated to be an INFP. I moved from “thinking” to “feeling.” INFP’s are still inward-focused, like INTP’s, but they are more curious about people and loyal to those people and to causes important to them. Apparently a lot of musicians and existentialist philosophers are INFP’s. I’m no longer in the same bucket as Albert Einstein and Abraham Lincoln (assumed to have been INTP’s), but now I’m hanging around Camus, Kierkegaard, and Dostoevsky, not to mention Kurt Cobain and Jim Henson! I’ll take it!
The other interesting thing about this result was the score I got on iNtuition. I said before that it’s a continuum. I don’t remember the numbers, but my INFP score was probably something like 65% I, 59% F, 73% P. Nobody is exactly any of these things. Except me, and iNtuition. Because that was 100%. That means that to every single question on the test that measures the Sensing-iNtuition axis, I answered the iNtuition way. Recall that that axis reflects where you get your information, from the outside world or from within. So this means that I get all, absolutely all, my information from inside. I can see patterns, but I can’t see a sunrise. Maybe that’s why I’ve often thought that being in a sensory deprivation chamber would be intriguing. Because my life already is a sensory deprivation chamber! I’m completely oblivious to the world around me.
4 thoughts on “Sixteen”
I wouldn’t say that you’re oblivious to the world around you. I’m in the same boat. You know it’s there, it’s just not your focus. It needs to yell a little louder at you before you tune in. There are people who can anticipate other’s needs before the person knows, himself, and that’s just not us. However, that doesn’t mean that if someone asks for help, we’re not there. For me, in part, it’s a bit of a defense mechanism. When I was young, I tried to help people that didn’t want it. I thought I knew better what they needed than they did. After almost losing my BFF, I learned not to do that, anymore. If she needs my help, she will ask, and I will be there. Until that point, I need to accept that I don’t know everything about the situation, and even if I do, I probably don’t understand it the way she does, because we’re very different people. Trying to help when someone else doesn’t want help has always backfired on me. So, I mind my own business, keep my head down, and make no assumptions.
Maybe I always got it wrong because I was basing my assumptions on my own experience, not other people’s? Instead of seeing the whole picture, I was only seeing a part, and coloring the rest in with my own colors, and that’s why it all went wrong. Maybe that’s the whole point of the Intuition part of the quiz? We color the world the way we think it should be instead of seeing the colors as they are. When that backfires, we stop coloring it at all, drawing ourselves even further inside ourselves. If the world knocks, we answer, but it has to knock.
(Funny story: I’ve taken this so seriously, especially the no assumptions part, that I inadvertently almost insulted a co-worker. We’d been friends, and I’d been to her house a couple of times, and met her roommate, and played with her cats and dogs. At least three years into our friendship, one of our other co-workers mentioned in passing something about her being a lesbian. I was floored. The co-worker told her she’d accidentally outed her to me, and her response was, “YOU WERE AT MY HOUSE! YOU KNOW MY GIRLFRIEND!” Literally, I make no assumptions.)
That is funny. Thanks!
I have sometimes thought of it in terms of lenses. The lens that some people look out of is very thin, and they barely notice themselves, focusing more on what’s around them. The lens I look out of is mighty thick, and so what I see is more of a refraction of what’s around me, filtered through my own stuff.
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I have taken this test too and was amused by the results which portrayed exactly what I am! I was like “Oh yeah 👀, This is so me!!” I am an INFJ.
Yeah, it can be disturbingly accurate…
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