on making meaning

The MBTI is a self-administered test generally used by corporations or in career counseling. It is not a test any psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor would use to guide treatment plans or in case conceptualization. The results of the test do not guide any clinical diagnosis but might be a nice party trick. Jungian psychology promotes archetypes and while, for example, introvert and extrovert are archetypes and cultural symbols, the existence of archetypes can only be deduced indirectly by examining behavior, images, art, myths, religions, or dreams. I did not take the MBTI in my sleep and therefore the test is only an insight into my conscious world and my own self-evaluation most likely based in my most hopeful evaluations of my ideal self.

Archetypes are the psychic counterpart of instinct. They arise from the collective unconscious. At any time, once it has entered the conscious world, all of us can be an introvert. An extrovert. An intuitive individual. Or sensing. Both thinking and feeling. Perceiving and judging. Jungian psychology is the idea that we all have these basic dichotomies and archetypes at play and we choose to manifest those that our conscious psyche is ready to have as a facet of our personality. If one does not perceive themselves as extroverted and is not ready to mesh this in with ideas about self it will simply not be true. The MBTI is a way to make sense of the world but only that part of the world that is deemed appropriate and that the individual is ready to integrate.

Stanford University psychology professor Carl Thoreson, who is on the board of the company that issues the MBTI, has never mentioned the test in the over 150 academic papers he’s published. “I didn’t use it in any of my research,” Thoreson says, “in part because it would be questioned by my academic colleagues.” Just as no peer reviewed article would cite astrology as a source of knowledge in the world of psychology neither would the MBTI. But, that is not to say that I won’t follow along with a client (or myself) as they make sense of the world through a framework that creates meaning for the client without dismantling long held defense mechanisms. Not much healing can occur if I’m forever tearing down how a client makes sense of the world.

And maybe thats where its usefulness lies. If the world needs to be categorized and sense it made through assgning qualities that make sense to the person in possession of these qualities–then I’ll go with it. But I will challenge the idea that I am either/or and my best guess is that Jung would, too. The archetype of the Fool has two sides. An idiot who can’t see what’s coming or the lover of life who realizes their folly and pushes ahead anyway. The trick of the MBTI is to see it as a connecting force to the world and to uncover the other facets of personality that you can fit into your self-schema in little doses that don’t cause complete and utter fragmentation. Use your non-owned qualities as a guide on how to fill out the places in life that have not been made conscious.

My type is INFJ. I can sometimes be the most extroverted person as a party and if I’m under stress I rely on objective evidence quite heavily. When I’m calm and I can become an observer of my outside world and make sense what is happening around me. However, meaning that is made is always valid just remember there is hidden meaning in everything arounds.  Meaning that has not yet been integrated into a collection of thoughts that is called personality. And, as always, people change. Give space for this change and for a shift in meaning that creates great movement of individuals and of the entire collective unconscious of a people.

“Personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures.”

-F. Scott Fitzgerald