Avoiding “Us vs. Them” Mentality When Studying Personality Types

People like sorting themselves into groups with other people. We identify with those who share our political views, have similar religious traditions, look like us, went to the same schools, etc. This seems to be a normal human thing. But it’s an all-too-easy shift to go from thinking “I am like these people” to thinking “I am not like those other people.” Now we have an “us” group and a “them” group. And the slide into deciding that “we” are better than “them” is one that has lead to all sorts of trouble throughout human history.

Tackling all the “us” vs “them” issues in the world today is far too large a scope for a single post. But I do want to address how this mindset is affecting communities interested in personality types. If there was ever a group that should be able to avoid turning against people unlike themselves it should be those learning about personalities. Sadly, that’s not always the case.

One of the core ideas in personality type systems like Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram is that no one type is better than any other type. Every type has strengths and weaknesses and every type is equally valuable. That’s a central part of these personality systems. They’re designed to help you understand your type and other people’s types so that you can better appreciate the variety inherent to humanity.Avoiding "Us vs. Them" Mentality When Studying Personality Types | marissabaker.wordpress.com

But even though personality types are meant to help us better appreciate other people the opposite happens far too often. Introverts accuse extroverts of ruining the world and hating us. Intuitives spread hurtful myths about Sensing types. INFJs portray themselves (or are described by others) as otherworldly, quasi-mythical creatures. And the list goes on and on.

I’m an INFJ so I’m going to pick on my own type for a while. I’ve seen topics brought up in INFJ-only settings about how it’s completely unnatural (well-nigh impossible) for an INFJ to be racist or sexist or anything like that. We’re so much better than all those other types that so easily fall prey to attacking other groups of people. Oh, no. We’re so much better than those uncouth bumpkin personality types.

What precious little snowflake hypocrites we are.

I’m sure you can see the problem here. And using one’s own type as an excuse to turn against other groups of people isn’t confined to INFJs. People of any type can make sweeping generalizations about extroverts, or thinkers, or SP types, or any other combination of letters. And those generalizations are often both inaccurate and unkind.

So lets get back to using personality type systems the way they were intended. As a tool to better understand both ourselves and other people, and then to better appreciate them as well. Those of us within the type development community have the tools we need to move past thinking about groups of people with an “us versus them” mindset. We can use type to climb inside other people’s perspectives and learn to appreciate that just because someone processes information and makes decisions differently than us doesn’t mean they’re our enemies or our inferiors.

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Let’s Get Real About Fantasy

Daydreaming is often considered a childish activity. So it might come as a surprise that studies indicate at least 96% of adults engage in daydreams and/or fantasizing on a daily basis. These daydreams typically last for just a few minutes while the mind wanders, but they can also be more involved, frequent, and lengthy. And getting caught up in daydreams is not, as previously thought, as sign of tending toward mental illness.

According to an article in the Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science, we’re learning that daydreaming is “a normal part of our cognitive processes.” In fact, it’s pretty normal to “spend one-third to one-half of our waking hours daydreaming, although that amount can vary significantly from person to person.” I was honestly pretty surprised to learn this. I mean, I know I do that, but I wasn’t expecting such a large percentage of the population to also daydream so much.

But while reading different articles about daydreams, I realized something else. They’re talking about people’s minds drifting into fantasies about their real lives. For example, it’s considered healthy for someone approaching a job interview to daydream about getting the job or for someone in a high-stress job to spend time fantasizing about how all their conversations for the upcoming day could go well. Other studies asked people to daydream about taking vacations or their childhood home. These daydreams are about things that could happen or have happened. I have those types of daydreams, too, but that’s not what most of mine are.

Let's Get Real About Fantasy | marissabaker.wordpress.com
this picture is part of a psychological self-portrait I made in a college art class

Extreme Fantasizers

While studying hypnotic suggestibility in 1981, psychologists Theodore X. Barber and Sheryl Wilson discovered that the 27 women they identified “as extremely good hypnotic subjects … all had a fantasy life so intense that it seemed ‘as real as real.'”‘ After more research, people in this group are now described as having a “fantasy prone personality” (FPP). On the more extreme side, where fantasies start to take over reality, it’s called “maladaptive daydreaming” (click here to read an interview with a maladaptive daydreamer).

According to researchers, about 4 percent of people spend half or more of their waking hours absorbed in reverie. The fantasies are not mere fleeting daydreams but something of a cross between a dream and a movie, where an elaborate scenario unfolds once a theme is set. (from a New York Times article)

Reading about this group is where I start to recognize myself. Read more

Thoughts From An Enneagram Newbie

Most of my readers find this blog looking for INFJ posts, so I’m sure many of you know I have a keen interest in personality types. Until very recently, my whole focus has been on the Myers-Briggs typing system. But someone finally convinced me to give the Enneagram a try. I was suspicious at first. It seemed strange, vague, largely negative, and not all that verifiable. Then I thought perhaps I hadn’t picked a good book to start with as my introduction and started prowling around online for recommendations.

And that’s how I found Discovering Your Personality Type: The Essential Introduction to the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson. These guys know how to write a personality type book. This particular one is a short little book that packs a whole lot of information in its 224 pages, including their type indicator questionnaire (you can either purchase the test online or get this book and do the paper version). They’ve also written other, more in-depth, books including one that I’m reading now.

What On Earth Is The Enneagram?

The Enneagram of Personality Types is “a modern synthesis of a number of ancient wisdom traditions” originally put together by Oscar Ichazo (click here to read more). There are nine basic personality types and everyone is born with one type that dominates their personality. Read more