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I Am Who I Am: A primer on personality typing

We’ve all heard talking heads say that “…before you can know others, you must first know yourself.” While it sound’s like regurgitated philosophical rhetoric, Pythagoras makes a sound statement. 

“No one is free who has not obtained the empire of himself. No man is free who cannot command himself.”  ― Pythagoras

There are many reasons for us to look inwards and analyse ourselves, not least being Pythagoras’ point. In this context we need to know who we are as we enter this journey to manliness before we know which direction to step in. 

Here is where we delve into the mystical realm of psychology. You’ll be familiar with the concept of stereotyping which we all use, all the time to place people around us into identifiable groups. This allows us to attempt to predict what a person may say, eat, read, how they behave and what social groups they belong to. Unfortunately this is rarely accurate it the melting pot that is modern society, and is even more accentuated in the Australian context. Luckily for us a theory was developed some time ago that helps us to rely less on stereotyping, and more on logical models. The practice of personality typing, or typology as it’s come be known, is almost 2,000 years old. In the second century AD, a Roman philosopher and physician named Galen expanded on the earlier theory of the four humors (blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm) to develop the four temperaments:

  1. Sanguine – sociable, forgetful, and shameless
  2. Choleric – passionate, aggressive and efficient
  3. Melancholic – thoughtful, creative and moody
  4. Phlegmatic – lazy, diplomatic and observant

In this way, Galen was able to more effectively type people and predict their behaviours, interests and motivations (or lack thereof in the case of the phlegmatic). Even though this theory has been wholly discredited since, Galen set down an idea of typology which endures and is used by psychologists, marketers, politicians and employers today. Contemporary typology theories revolve around the comprehensive work done by Carl Jung, author of Psychological Types (1921). In his book, Jung defines extroverts and introverts, an important dichotomy we are all familiar with. He also identified a lesser known set of ideas; what he labelled the four functions of consciousness. The functions consist of dichotomies:

1.  Percieving functions of consciousness:

  • intuition: unconscious perception
  • sensation: perception through organs (e.g. ears, eyes, skin)

2.  Judging functions of consciousness:

  • thinking: logical and intelligent cognition
  • feeling: estimation without logical grounds

As a sentient human you use all four of these functions at different times, however a hierarchy of dominance exists for each person. In my case, intuition and thinking are my dominant functions (we will explore this more later). When he realised that the four functions are applied in either an extraverted or introverted way, Jung coined the eight psychological types for which the book is named:

  • Extraverted intuition
  • Introverted intuition
  • Extraverted sensation
  • Introverted sensation
  • Extraverted thinking
  • Introverted thinking
  • Extraverted feeling
  • Introverted feeling

40 years after Jung’s work, a mother and daughter team known as Myers-Briggs explored Jung’s ideas further and developed a system for applying his findings in a practical way. What they created was a personality test which remains the gold standard all across the developed world 50 years later – the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

By taking the test participants discover how they interact with the world, what drives them, and how this differs from others. If nothing else it’s a fascinating exercise, but has many real world applications especially in the corporate and business world. Following the test participants are placed in one of the sixteen personality types:

  • ISTJ  –  The Duty Fulfillers
  • ESTJ  –  The Guardians
  • ISFJ  –  The Nurturers
  • ESFJ  –  The Caregivers
  • ISTP  –  The Mechanics
  • ESTP  –  The Doers
  • ESFP  –  The Performers
  • ISFP  –  The Artists
  • ENTJ  –  The Executives
  • INTJ  –  The Scientists
  • ENTP  –  The Visionaries
  • INTP  –  The Thinkers
  • ENFJ  –  The Givers
  • INFJ  –  The Protectors
  • ENFP  –  The Inspirers
  • INFP  –  The Idealists

You’ll recognise the eight factors used in MBTI from Jung’s work:

  • (E)traversion
  • (I)ntroversion
  • (S)ensing
  • i(N)tuition
  • (T)hinking
  • (F)eeling
  • (J)udging
  • (P)erceiving

You’ll find a quick and free online MBTI test here which I recommend you take. If you want to take the idea further there are many firms out there on the web and in bricks-and-mortar who happily swap your cash for a consultation – who knows, it may be worth it!

Each type has its pro’s and con’s, and once you’re made aware of those through the MBTI test you’ll find yourself recognising behaviours in yourself you’ve never noticed before. Once you acknowledge the lens you have always seen the world through, you’ll find yourself empowered with confidence and able to take control on this journey to becoming a better man.

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