by Elle Cyre
Many thoughts on how writing has influenced my life.
|A writing book first introduced me to the Meyer's-Briggs personality test. It suggested using it as a guide to character development. At the time, the whole thing was Greek to me. What was the difference between an ESTJ and a INFP? No clue.
If you're just as confused as I was, let me try to explain the system. It has 16 different personality types based on 4 categories and the letters are the abbreviations.
The first category is Extrovert or Introvert. (E or I)
You've probably heard of this category. Extroverts generally draw their energy from being around people and Introvert draw theirs from being alone. The label of either one can be stereotyped and it isn't an accurate definition of your personality. That is why it is only the first category.
The second category is Sensing or Intuition (iNtuition). (S or N)
These further categories are more subtle and hard to determine. You can be split 50-50 in some cases (as I am) and end up with an "X" in place of a letter. Every person has every piece of the puzzle inside them, too. It just depends on what is dominant. Anyway, S or N has to do with the way you see the world around you. Do you rely on your senses to tell you what is going on or your intuition? Do you react first and think later or think first and react later? S types generally are more active while N types are more sedative.
The third category is Feeling or Thinking. (F or T)
This has to do with your emotions. Do you make decisions based on how you feel or based on logic? Do you make 'gut' reactions or think things through from all angles? Generally F types are more emotional than T types. They might wear their emotions on their sleeves, so to speak, while thinkers can come across as cold or aloof.
The fourth and final category is Judging or Perceiving. (J or P)
This has to do with your outlook on life. Do you look at things from multiple points of view or do you always make up your mind quickly? It can determine how much you like things scheduled and planned. J types generally enjoy structure while P types are more flexible and can even resent organization as constrictive. It's because they see all the different options while judges decide quickly what they want and like.
Okay, so I'm obviously not an expert at this and I've probably butchered the descriptions and definitions of each category. But at least now you know what each of the letter combinations stand for. ESTJ means an extrovert, sensor, thinker, judge. An INFP is an introvert, intuitive, feeler, perceptive.
What does that mean? Well, I'll start by describing myself. I dug into each category, did a self-diagnostic and decided I identified most with the INTP. (introvert, intuitive, thinker, perceptive) also known as the absent-minded professor personality. It fit me well, I thought. Then I took two free personality tests. The first one classified me as INTJ instead of P. Oh no! (That's the evil-genius mastermind one.) Obviously I didn't feel like it fitted me so I took the second one and got INxP. Wait, what? Well, remember the 50-50 bit I mentioned earlier? So I'm definitely an Introvert that uses iNtuition and Perception, but I'm split when it comes to making decisions on the way I Think or the way I Feel; hence X. And the more I read about the INFP personality (the idealist and dreamer) I realized I had more in common with it that I first thought.
If you aren't interested in the least bit by this, that's okay. I've read that INxP types are really into this personality stuff. What I find fascinating is figuring out what makes other people act or think the way they do. Learning how they might view the world a completely different way than you can be eye-opening. For me, especially, because I start to realize how other people can get the wrong impression from the way I behave towards them.
I'd describe myself as an INTP on the outside and a INFP on the inside. I have feelings, lots and lots of feelings and hopes and dreams, but I bottle them all up and never breathe a word of them to anyone but my closest friends. Therefore, I think most people view me as a sort of machine, someone who never gets sad or happy or angry. Whatever they say to me, whether it is praise or criticism, I don't react on the outside, so they probably think I don't care. What they don't know is that I do care, probably more than I'm willing to admit to myself. I'll cry myself to sleep at night but my face is a mask to the outside world. I'll shrug it off and say I'm fine the next day but that doesn't mean I'm not hurting on the inside.
Anyway, this lack of exterior emotion, exterior sensitivity and exterior feelings probably makes me seem hard, cold and cruel to those who spend time with me. But I'm not that way; I do care. I really do! The problem with me is that I never know what to say or do for them to show my feelings. I clam up; my mind blanks; if I do say something it will probably be the worst possible thing for them to hear in that situation, some high-minded view on the reality of life, the big picture and grand scheme of things while they are crying about the here-and-now.
Maybe that's because I'm Perceptive; I see how things are interconnected and how a pattern forms, how certain behaviors will cause certain results and so that lessens my sympathy for them, like, 'I told you so' sort of thing. But that doesn't mean I don't feel for them, that I don't feel their pain and wish I could comfort them. The problem is, the perspective I use to comfort my own pain is like pouring oil on their fire.
Knowing more about other personalities has helped me interpret others behaviors. Some people are like oil and water, they just don't mix, and if you were to categorize them, they'd be opposites on the MBTI scale. But as I mentioned earlier, everyone has a bit of E, I, S, N, F, T, P and J in them. However the letters line up for you, the opposite letter is your inferior or introverted side. Even though I might be 99% introverted, that 1% is alive somewhere in me and that's what I need to tap into in order to view the world as an extrovert.