20 November, 2008

Defined by Disorder

Yesterday I found myself studying the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) system for defining personality types based on Jungian theories. (A brief aside: I don't hide my distaste for Sigmund Freud, but even though Carl Jung was also far from developing a solidly scientific basis for psychology, I have a lot more respect for him, and his theories take on an almost romantic, mystical quality for me). Although the MBTI system is far from perfect in terms of pigeonholing the population into distinct personality types, I don't think there's much doubt that it's a lot better than something like astrology, and regardless of the system's limitations, I'm discovering that there's quite a lot of depth to it, and much wisdom to be gleaned from a grounded study of the various personality types and particularly the boundaries between them.

So I've been trying to figure out just which personality type best describes me, and I'm having a little trouble. There's no doubt that I am an Introvert, and it seems pretty clear that I am more iNtuiting than Sensing, but after that it gets a little tougher. There's a test I've taken a few times over the past couple years, and I've gotten pretty consistent results. The trouble is, I've always been just barely above the midpoint for those last two attributes, so while this particular test would mark me as Thinking rather than Feeling, and Judging rather than Perceiving, the fact is that it is possible that I could easily swing to the other side given different questions.

To further complicate matters, I took a different test elsewhere (at mypersonality.info) which expectedly marked me as an iNtuitive Introvert, and placed me just above the midpoint for Judging over Perceiving, but instead of Thinking, I scored Feeling with a slightly larger distance from the midpoint than I had on the previous test (in the opposite direction). Of course, no one of these tests is foolproof and 100% accurate, but I feel like my rational scientific side is battling my temperamental artistic side.

So I'm willing to believe that I truly exist in the middle of a couple of these dichotomies, but I'm still curious about what kind of people fall into each personality type - especially the ones I'm teetering between. Who knows, maybe I can relate better to the average population of one group more than another. Unfortunately, reading summaries of the personality types hasn't helped a whole lot, because depending on the source, I can find myself agreeing with the description of multiple types, or none of them. But, I found an alternative solution - exploring message board forums dedicated to specific personality types.

So far, I've explored the INTJ and INTP boards more than others. From a purely superficial perspective, I would definitely say that I am more of a Thinker than a Feeler, and that whatever part of me "Feels" (understanding that the nuance of the term in this context is not necessarily obvious) is either subdued or not as fundamental to my being as the part that "Thinks". Additionally, I briefly browsed an INFx (can't remember if it was J or P) board and was unimpressed with the personalities on display. On the other hand, the INTJ and INTP boards have both provided quite a bit of discussion that I can find interest in.

As much as I want to find out one personality type that fits me the most, even if it's only a little bit better than another one, my opinion on where I fit unfortunately tends to sway quite a bit depending on who's offering the description. Although the test I took three times would yield the narrow margin toward INTJ over INTP, I'm finding from people's own descriptions that the INTJ's tend to be more action-oriented, dedicated to seeing their plans implemented, whereas the INTP's seem to be more concerned with the formulation of the plans only. In that case, I'd lean towards the INTP side of the spectrum. On the other hand, I'm hearing things that suggest that INTJ's are more concerned with organization and order than INTP's, and that would sway me a little in the opposite direction. Maybe I should just content myself with being labeled an INTx, with potential circumstantial F preferences...

The bottom line is, regardless of how I decide to label myself, it's exciting finding a discussion board with other people who, in general, think in patterns that are not entirely alien to my own.

Another thing that crossed my mind while trying to pigeonhole my personality, is just how much a disorder defines a person's identity. How much is a disorder an obstacle that blocks a person from realizing their true, latent identity, and how much is that disorder a fundamental part of that person's identity? Is the disordered me the real me, or is there a realer me hiding inside somewhere, afraid to come out? After all, what would I be like if I didn't have this anxiety disorder? If I never had it? How much different would I be? What kind of person would I be? Would I be essentially the same person, minus the anxiety, or would the lack of that obstacle have allowed certain inhibited aspects of my personality to shine through? Is it possible that I could have even been an extravert, or at the least, outgoing? Does that capability exist within me? Is it merely locked away, or is it just not there to begin with?

There's a specific reason why I question this. Looking at my brother, at times, is kind of like looking into a funhouse mirror. An upside-down funhouse mirror. A cracked, upside-down funhouse mirror. A cracked, upside-down funhouse mirror in one of those old abandoned funhouses that are almost definitely haunted. I've always considered myself a loner, and now he is whole-heartedly embracing the loner's manifesto. But the more he characterizes himself as a loner, the more I tend to question how much of a loner I really am. I mean, in practice, I consider myself to be more of a loner than he is, but in my heart, I don't think there's any question which one of us is truly a loner. The way I see it, my brother has social connections, but would rather get rid of them. In contrast, I have hardly any social connections, but I long to have more of them. The reason I avoid people is not because I don't want to be around people, but because this disorder I have makes it uncomfortable for me to be around people. Can I truly be a loner if being alone makes me feel alone?

I guess I probably shouldn't question it so much. Not all loners are alike, that's one of the fundamental tenets of lonerism. You'll never see us banding together. It's just that, I don't feel content being who I am. I don't want to be me. I wish I was someone else.

1 comment:

  1. I just remembered that OKCupid has one of these MBTI tests - with 70 questions - so I went and took it. I got INFP. With a much larger difference from the midpoint between T and F this time. Am I not quite so T after all? And for once, I tested for P and not J. Geez. I should just call myself an INxx...