My True Type
Dr. A.J. Drenth
Some people collect kitschy religious objects and use them to connect to a spiritual realm. Some people read self-help books and use them to convince themselves that they’re going to turn their lives around. I read about personality type. What can I say: it’s a sickness.
But in all seriousness, for some of us the Jungian/MBTI concept of personality is a revelation that on some level explains pretty much all of human behavior. I used to puzzled by why I loved to spend hours walking or doing simple manual labor in order to daydream–I mean develop my ideas–or why I could read “literature” and understand or excel at college testing it but fall apart at the DMV (my personal idea of hell, right up there with filling out forms will sitting at the hospital). But no more! All has been revealed to me, and it could be to you if you would just accept the True Teachings.
Funnily enough, those of us who feel that way seem to be of the same personality types as the people who created the idea, namely, INFPs, INFJs, and the occasional (but influential) INTP. Which suggests that the tests and the concepts behind them are describing something real, however skeptical those who are of the types who are predicted not to believe in the idea–and who often don’t–might be.
Anyway, “My True Type” is aimed at people who already have a basic concept of the MBTI types, and want to dig a little deeper into the functions. Like a lot of books of its type (haha), namely, the popular non-fiction/self-help genre, it’s short and simple and easy to read. Jung was a thinker of astonishing depth and erudition who synthesized massive amounts of information to create a theory that is almost as impenetrable to the casual reader as it is enlightening to the determined reader who wishes to wade through it. Those who have followed in his footsteps in order to create and refine the MBTI have taken his complex theories and adapted them for popular consumption, and this book is no different. As an introduction and discussion to the functions it’s simple yet comprehensive, although it may seem a little light for the reader hungering for meatier fare.
However, it’s a very enjoyable read (if you like that kind of thing), and it includes what for me were some genuinely fascinating insights. It focuses a lot on the dominant-inferior function struggle, something that interests me greatly and that once again I am using to gain a greater understanding of my authors and the inherent tensions in their works. Are they Fi types struggling to resolve the conflict between Fi (internal, personal morals and values) and Te (external, impersonal systems and rules), like, I would argue, Politkovskaya and Alexievich? Or are they Ni (symbolic vision and deep insights) types trying to embody their visions in an Se (physical reality) medium, like, I submit, Prilepin? “My True Type” goes into a fair amount of detail about those kinds of conflicts, which is helpful if you are struggling to grasp your real type. Because let’s face it, the critics of the MBTI are absolutely in saying that a yes-no questionnaire is not an infallible instrument for capturing who YOU really are. But thinking about the central conflicts and tensions of your inner self probably is.
The book also contains some interesting insights about the work processes and behaviors of some of the different basic divisions, dividing them into EJ and IP, who (much as they might hate to admit it) have much in common, and EP and IJ (ditto). There’s a short but interesting discussion about how EJ/IP types, as dominant Judging types, tend to not have a problem starting projects, but then have to work in a diffuse, seemingly random style as they take their basic idea through their Perceiving functions, which can derail them, while EP and IJ types can have trouble sorting through all their dominant Perceiving options and getting started on projects (I know that’s a problem for me), but then once they begin, they tend to finish their projects swiftly and decisively (also true for me). A very helpful thing to know when trying to do projects either on your own or with other people, and important to keep in mind when giving other people suggestions or directions on how to work. I know my IP colleagues, who are legion (universities are full of them) are always in a sweat to get started on projects and have badgered me in the past about my foot-dragging to get started, while I as an IJ struggle to keep from screaming, “JUST FINISH THE DANG THING! JUST FINISH IT!!!!! WHY DID YOU START IF YOU WEREN’T READY TO FINISH IT????? AGGGGGGGGGHHHHHH!”
Okay, venting session over 🙂 But you see my point: a knowledge of type can be very useful for starting and completing projects. All the advice about working creatively that is obviously generated by and for NP and EF types (brainstorming, outlining, collaboration, reworking and revising, etc. etc.) seems anathema to me, while my IJ work process (think, think, think, worry, stress, feel like a failure, think some more, then JUST DO IT!!!!!) is apparently not as universally applicable as I used to think.
So in short, if you’re interested in personality type and especially in the functions, this is a nice, readable, interesting addition to the genre.
Amazon buy link here.