One hypothesis of the MBTI is that a relatively psychologically healthy person develops each of the four conscious cognitive functions in roughly each of the first four to five decades of life, so that by age 50, all four functions can be used with ease as needed, though the the first two are still preferred.
For the INFJ, our first four functions are:
1) Introverted Intuition (Ni)
2) Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
3) Introverted Thinking (Ti)
4) Extraverted Sensing (Se)
This process of development has largely played itself out in my life.
I was very imaginative in my childhood (despite a majorly dysfunctional family) - loved art, creative writing, reading fiction, and was very much into the world of make believe (fairies, princesses, and the like). I wasn't as daydreamy as I imagine some INFJs to be - maybe partly because of all that I was exposed to at a young age (hippie parents, liberal public schools/daycare, etc.).
My teen years were a highly relational time for me so that fits with developing extraverted feeling. I hated high school, but I loved my small church youth despite its problems. College was the best - I was very involved with campus ministry. It was in that setting (Intervarsity Christian Fellowship leadership team) that I was first given a version of the MBTI - it was actually the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. I tested XNFJ, but when I read the descriptions, I knew I was INFJ.
Overlapping with college and into my young adulthood, I definitely developed introverted thinking - my analytical skills showed themselves when I questioned my faith and turned to books like Mere Christianity to discover a logical foundation for it. It's also when I was in grad school for journalism at Berkeley where I did my masters thesis on pro-life progressives. And to get into that school, I had to take the GRE - my highest test score ever was in the analytical section (650/800). I also spent a lot of my 20s studying the MBTI, though I didn't become a certified practitioner until my mid-30s - that's a funny story that I will save for another rainy day - it's raining here :)
Speaking of my 30s, it was my season of raising children, so that totally forced me to develop my extraverted sensing since everything was so hands-on!
And now that my kids are all in the double digits (as of a few months ago), that same inferior function is still being developed but in a different way - more in terms of appreciation of the natural world God created. I can't get enough of being in creation, savoring beauty, learning how to be present, enjoying the simple pleasures...and on and on. I love being in my 40s! (I'm 44)
My first two functions are still the ones I use the most, but I am better with the second two, and I hopeful that I will experience more growth with them by the time I am about 50.
When I was an adolescent, I obsessively read and reread Color Me Beautiful. It's a book about fashion that groups people into four color palettes for clothing and make-up based on skin tones. I was attracted to the creative categorization and the way it helped me enhance my appearance (especially as a young, self conscious teen).
In college, when I learned about the Myers-Briggs system of personality typing, it was like Color Me Beautiful, but on the inside rather than the outside, and so much the better!
I still have an affinity for the imagery of the seasons, as well as patterns of time, like the liturgical calendar. The repetitive cycles are paradoxically stabilizing and a catalyst for new growth. I like their interconnectedness and interdependency, as well as their unique characteristics.
The same is true of personality types - while there are sixteen, all of them have the same eight functions. The order that we prefer to use our functions is what creates our unique type. Our personalities and our earth were designed by the same Creator - the artist who paints the seasons is the author who writes our DNA, including our temperaments.
So to take a page out of Color Me Beautiful and another out of Please Understand Me (David Keirsey's four temperament analysis based on the MBTI), here is my light hearted riff on the four seasons...
Summer - SP (sensing perceiving types - ESFP, ESTP, ISFP, ISTP)
Outdoorsy, free spirited, and easygoing , SPs are either actively interacting with nature or relaxing in God's creation. Their generally sunny dispositions and warm hearts beckon all the other types to come play, to experience, to engage all their senses, to be in the moment, savoring the present.
When they aren't dancing through meadows, they are crafting with their hands - building, sculpting, manipulating raw materials, creating canvases, arranging details. They are either moving or moving something. Unless they are resting. They are so flexible, they seem to effortlessly glide between work and play and rest that it's sometimes hard to tell which is which.
Long summer days suit SPs as it gives them more daylight to pursue their outdoor interests like camping and backpacking. The simplicity and freedom of the being out of doors is a balm to their souls, and they often proclaim that this where they worship best. Surrounded by God's beauty and released from the constraints of routine, rules and abstractions.
Autumn - SJ (sensing judging types - ESFJ, ESTJ, ISFJ, ISTJ)
The seemingly endless SP summer and its carefree, fun loving ways are jarred into reality by a firm voice over a megaphone: "Back to school!" declares the SJs, the autumn winds blowing through them and out their whistles, as they hand out schedules, announce the rules, and implement structure.
It's true, the party atmosphere is gone, but there is a welcome sense of calm and order as routine sets in, along with mild, steady temperatures. Even with the more serious mood, there is still an air of festivity, but at the proper time and place. SJs are fabulous planners and lovers of tradition, so we can count of lots of organized entertaining. With their eye for detail and beauty, the decor, food, and music will be just right. They will pour us hot cider, carve pumpkins, knit sweaters, and keep everyone fashionably (and practically) dressed. They are the masters of both form and function.
When the storms hit, SJs are the first in the line of duty - dependable, steadfast, and always there, ready to do what's needed and to mobilize others to. They enforce stability and harmony, insisting on loyalty and responsibility.
Winter - NT (ENTP, INTP, ENTJ, INTJ)
That crisp SJ autumn seems infinitely stable and unshakeable...but its conventional rule is overthrown by Jack Frost, who is, of course the NT. While the other types go into hibernation with the icy blast, the masterminds come alive - creating, strategizing, inventing, analyzing, coding, decoding, and whatever else their tireless minds set themselves to do.
The rain reflects the NT's serious, and at times brooding/moody temperament, while thunderstorms convey intensity with lightning flashes of brilliance. This type is a powerful force to be reckoned with. An enigma, NTs can take charge of a crowd or retreat in seclusion - quietly holed up in the library or curled up with a cat on the couch watching a sci-fi flick.
Seemingly cold and aloof at times (or often), once you get to know NTs, they can warm up a room with quirky humor and dramatic flair. Yes, the NTs shine in winter, blazing like a crackling fire with their wit, imagination, and aptitude.
Spring - NF (ENFP, ENFJ, INFJ, INFP)
When the snow melts and buds appear on the trees, hints of new life emerging, you will find the NFs, with their dreams of a bright future. These idealists are visionaries whose minds are fertile gardens of ideas. They plant seeds wherever they go and uproot weeds, always imagination the fruitful harvest to come.
When the spring showers fall, NFs see it as a means of growth. They hold up the umbrellas over other people, offering encouragement and support to those who are struggling. In strong winds, they fly kites, always finding beauty and opportunity. NFs are romantic intellectuals, frequently found picnicking beside a peaceful stream, feasting on savory delights and deep discussions rich in figurative language.
When the weather takes a turn, they are quick to save the world - through writing or art or counseling or teaching. They have the souls of butterflies, so sensitive - easily hurt and very aware of other people's pain. NFs feel intensely, giving both passionately and melancholically. Stargazers, they see patterns everywhere - inklings, epiphanies, symbolism. They love to play dot-to-dot with God.
I agree with not comparing ourselves to other people's virtual facades, but really our online selves are just an extension of how we present ourselves in person, which is also not the whole picture of our lives. In fact, I know many people better through Facebook than in person, where all I can get out of them is small talk, if that - many times, we're like ships passing in the night.
And for introverts, this medium helps us to express the deeper thoughts that are harder to articulate on the spot with everyone looking at us and waiting for an immediate answer. But I am talking about writing, not about posting pictures and blurbs that really are akin to the same "in real life" interactions of fixing up our appearances and engaging in superficial conversations.
The best of both worlds is cultivating those deeper one-to-one friendships and small groups, and that same sort of authenticity (sorry for that word, but it fits) carrying over into our expressions online.
Granted, not everyone likes to write, so they cannot be blamed for only posting quips and pictures, nor should they be accused of only showing themselves in a good light. Not everyone wants to be vulnerable in this place, but that doesn't mean they are being fake or that that they don't reveal their struggles to those they trust.
So really, it's our problem if other people's posts make us feel envious, left out, etc. I have felt this way at times, but it's always because I haven't been spending time with that person, so I feel disconnected from them. That's when I reach out. If it's ignored, then I stop looking at their posts as often, so that I'm not reminded of the rejection. Eventually, if there is no mutuality, I may even unfriend them, because what's the point of only being connected to someone online if they are not interested in actual friendship with me?
Well, it's possible that they still read what I post sometimes and are encouraged, helped, or somehow touched...so then I have to put aside thoughts about myself and trust God that He wants me to keep that connection, even if it feels totally one-sided. That's also my calling as a writer - to minister to others without looking for my own gain. Someone may benefit from what I share without necessarily wanting anything else - I can either feel used, ignored, or not worry about it, and trust that God is working all things for good for those who love him.
I was tempted to title this "My Recurring e-Harmony Nightmare" because that's what it feels like. At first it was humorous. Then amusing. Eventually annoying. And now agonizing. Just when I think it's gone for good, that I've worked through whatever issue it stems from, it returns. Again. And again.
It goes like this: I am 40 (before I was 40, it was my late thirties), I am single, I am depressed, I am feeling my biological clock tick. I feel scared and lonely and desperate. Just when I am going through this panic/dread, I have an epiphany: e-Harmony! But of course! Why didn't I think of that sooner?! I need to get online right now and meet the man of my dreams.
Sometimes it ends right there. Other times just as I'm planning to try it, I realize that I am married and have children...and I am very happy to suddenly remember that. The other night - it had been a while since my last e-Harmony dream - I actually didn't even get as far as e-Harmony, and there was a bit of twist, because this time it was all about wanting children, and being afraid I wouldn't be able to. It was a horrible feeling, so I was whimpering in my sleep, and my husband woke me up and comforted me. That was a better ending than usual, but I still can't figure out why I have this dream over and over, albeit sporadically. It's been happening for the last three or four years or maybe even longer. I would say I've dreamt it at least ten times, about once a quarter, sometimes in clusters, sometimes with long stretches in between.
My theories thus far:
1. During my decade long quest for my soulmate, searching for "the one" became part of my identity and purpose in life, so those roots are resurfacing (read more here).
2. When e-Harmony came out, shortly after I met my husband, I thought it was really cool, since it used Myers-Briggs personality typing to match people. Part of me was disappointed that I didn't get to try it - not because I didn't think my husband was the right guy for me, but because of my insatiable curiosity.
3. It's somehow representative of all my deepest fears - of unfulfilled longings, unmet expectations, abandonment, inadequacy, etc.
4. It's a sign for me to pray for my single friends and to encourage them to sign up for e-Harmony. I've actually done this. Both praying and nudging.
...Well, when I told my husband what my bad dream was, he had the best explanation yet:
It's so that I'll wake up thankful to God for my family.
If you're a fellow INFJ (or even if you're not), are you always on a quest to find the perfect ______? Do you enjoy the thrill of the search more than actually finding whatever it is? Once you find it, are you on to looking for the next thing? For me right now it's road trips. We've never camped, so I'm hunting for the perfect spot for a weekend getaway - not too far from home, but not so close it's familiar; not too modern but not too primitive (showers); woods and also water; fishing for the husband and swimming for the kids; not lots of bugs or poison oak...and on it goes.
Before I was married, my quest was finding my "soulmate" - that kept me occupied for about a decade...not that I didn't look for other things in the meantime - research (introverted thinking) is the INFJ's tertiary/hobby function. Once I met my husband, the new "thing" became finding ways to celebrate special occasions - anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, vacations - I'm sure that, combined with the spiritual aspect, is what drew me to all things liturgical. I love the concept of making something new out of the old and of building traditions that are rejuvenated by creative interpretations.
What's interesting is that the brainstorming, the planning, and the anticipation often turn out to be more fulfilling than the thing itself. In the case of something permanent - like marriage and motherhood - thankfully that hasn't been true (though I have a strange recurring dream that I'm turning 40 - which I am shortly - and I'm still single, but just when I'm on the verge of hopelessness, I remember eHarmony - this dream is *very* annoying). With short-term quests, though, I sometimes spend more hours researching (and building up expectations) than actually doing whatever it is. I've read that actually most people enjoy the anticipation of a trip more than the trip itself.
INFJs, with our dominant introverted intuition always idealizing, our extroverted feeling making us want to be emotionally fulfilled while pleasing others, our preference for judging that drives us to perfectionism, planning, and getting everything settled, our introverted thinking function that analyzes everything to death...when all that goes into something that will be realized (lived out) with our inferior function of extroverted sensing - it can be somewhat of a letdown. I'm drawn to camping because it taps into that part of me that's not as developed - the hands-on sensory world - and in the best way, by enjoying God's creation. Still, all of my vicarious virtual camping is not going to translate to the perfect family getaway. I will struggle with setting up tents, getting dirty, lacking creature comforts, hearing the kids whining, quarreling with my husband over the best way to roast marshmellows (just kidding), fighting off mosquitoes, hauling stuff around, etc. Most of all, when it's over, I will feel the urge to look for something new to do, but really I'll be seeking something to think about, dream about, look forward to...
If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world. ~C.S. Lewis
I love it when God speaks to me through a serendipity. He often does it through repeated words or phrases that reappear in pairs or clusters - for a day, a week, a season. Some people might argue that my experiences are coincidences or that my mind is finding patterns because that's what it's hard wired to do. Oddly enough, that's exactly what makes yesterday's serendipitous moment profound to the point of transcendence...because it was all about the brain and spirituality, or as the book that started this whole thing calls it: "neurotheology."
About three weeks ago we were on vacation and stopped into a thrift shop where I found a copy of Fingerprints of God: What Science Is Learning about the Brain and Spiritual Experience by Barbara Bradley Hagerty. I vaguely remembered having read about it and being intrigued, so I was pleased to score such a deal on a relatively new book. Initially, I was captivated, both by the subject matter and the author herself - a "mainstream Christian" (whatever that means) NPR religion reporter on a paradoxically personal and objective quest to explore the relationship between the brain and God.
About halfway into it, though, I struggled with going forward. Two things were happening: 1) my specific belief system was challenged (much like the author herself) by the fact that people of all religions have the same kind of brain activity when meditating or praying; 2) spirituality was defined as having mystical experiences, even though that is not the stuff of day-to-day faith, nor do most Christians (pentecostals aside) have other worldly conversions or supernatural seeming encounters. In fact, many never do.
Still, it was a fascinating topic and I wanted to finish the book, so I kept reading. Yesterday I read about brain scans that scientists studying neurotheology performed on "spiritual virtuosos":
Newberg found another peculiar similarity. With both the nuns and the [Buddhist] monks, the parietal lobes went dark during deep prayer and meditation.Newberg calls this "orientation area" because it orients you in time and space: those lobes tell you where your body ends and the rest of the world begins. That is why Sister Celeste (and countless other mystics) described a unity with God, or as she put it, 'God permeating my being' It was the neurological reason that Michael Baine felt a "deep and profound sense of connection to everything, recognizing that there was never a true separation at all." (p. 174)
Later that day, I received some books from my Amazon wish list that I had ordered using a gift card from my birthday. It was a little like Christmas, getting these packages several days in a row. That night, I took a stack of my new books up to bed, and decided to a read a chapter from each - sort of a literary nosh, if you will. In the introduction of one of them, SoulTypes: Matching Your Personality and Your Spiritual Path, I read this passage:
A group of scientists interested in exploring whether there are brain-based differences that determine our religion are using the type of prayer described there to define who is and isn't "spiritual." In all religions, these neuroscientists say, mystical, spiritual moments happen when parts of the brain (parietal-lobe circuits) go quiet, turning off your ability to distinguish between the body and its surroundings. Without sensory data, you feel a sense of being part of infinity or, for the religious, being "one with God." They use SPECT scans to determine whether the person is having such an experience. Building on this research, books such as The God Gene describe how we either are or aren't wired for faith. Kenneth L. Woodward, a religion journalist for Newsweek, points out the problem with this approach:
"The chief mistake these neurotheologians make is to identify religion with specific experiences and feelings. Losing one's self in prayer may feel good or uplifting, but these emotions have nothing to do with how well we communicate with God. In fact, many people pray best when feeling shame or sorrow, and the sense that God is absent is no less valid than the experience of divine presence."
As I read that, I had an emotional experience - not of the presence of God, but of excitement over him having clearly communicated with me. He didn't do it through my feelings, an audible voice, or a supernatural sign - he did it through my life. He did it by leading me in one day to two books dealing with spirituality, which otherwise were totally unrelated, yet intersected at this one specific point, from whence they each went in very different directions. God used the second book to reassure me by validating/confirming the very thoughts that had come to my mind while reading the first book. It was especially powerful because it was merely a sidebar, so to speak, in the second book, and I therefore had no way of knowing that topic would be addressed, let alone that I would discover it just at that time!
Since I seem to be writing more everywhere else than my own blog, I figure I'll cross post whenever I write anything of substance or possible relevance to readers (if I have any) and googlers (lots of those!). Here's what I just added to a thread about personality types on The Well Trained Mind forums (pardon the bit of shameless self-promotion at the end but my type is actually the best at counseling others or so I'm told).
I'm a Certified Myers-Briggs Practitioner (and an INFJ), so I have to just mention that the online "tests" and such are not the best way to find out your type. In my training, I learned that even the actual MBTI instrument is only 70% accurate.
The best way to find your "best fit type" is to meet one-on-one with a practitioner who will help you self-select your type, then give you the instrument (that's what they call the authentic MBTI), compare the results, and work with you until you can harmonize them (we're trained in different strategies for that).
Also, if you get deeper into the MBTI, that's where it becomes the most useful. Each letter (preference) actually represents a different "function" which is introverted and extraverted. We all have 8 functions, which we use in a different order. The first four are our conscious functions and the next four are subconscious.
For example, as an INFJ, I operate like this:
Dominant function: introverted intuition (how I internally do stuff)
Auxilary function: extraverted feeling (how I relate to others)
Tertiary function: introverted thinking (my "hobby" function - in this case, analyzing)
Inferior function: extraverted sensing (my least developed of my conscious functions - in this case, "hands-on" stuff)
...and that's all for today's lesson in personality typing! I can't help myself because I've been giving seminars off and on since college, and used to blog about this often. I have a shelf of books - some incorporating Christianity - and a collection of the best website resources. Blame it on my INFJness! We're a little odd, being the rarest type (less than 1% of the population).
Seriously, though, if anyone is interested in a consultation, it can be done long distance - I charge the same price as the online option ($60 plus any long distance phone charges, if needed), but you'll get a real person taking you through the dynamic process instead of a static impersonal report.
(I'm planning to post my previous writings on this subject to the archives soon)
Did you know your church has a personality type? Chances are, it's similar to yours. Also, some of you missed the memo from way back about the Transformations videos being debunked. What you should be showing your congregation is Lord, Save Us from Your Followers (it's also currently on Netflix instant play). If you really want to see revival, then find out what it means to be missional. It's not just another Christian buzz word.
Some weird and dangerous stuff has been creeping into your church via well meaning but misguided homeschooling families who have been influenced by "family" ministries like Vision Forum, No Greater Joy, the Duggars, Bill Gothard (yeah, he's still around) and others who subscribe to a hyper-patriarchal theology (a.k.a. patriocentricity) that teaches legalism, authoritarianism, and the quiverfull philosophy of limitless childbearing.
And another thing--please leave politics out of church. We're not all republicans (or democrats). We're certainly not all fans of Sarah Palin.
I may elaborate on these and other church-related topics in the future, but in case it's a while, I needed to get it off my chest now...and get the word out. So pastors, please do your homework and encourage your flock to do the same. It's an uncomfortable place sorting through truth and error within the larger church world (and there are those who are overzealous and hyperjudgemental - I'm not advocating that), but please let's not turn a blind eye to, or unwittingly promote theologies which are unscriptural and abusive. Let's examine our own hearts - as leaders, as churches, as individual Christians who are, as the old saying goes, the only Bible some people will ever read.
One last thing...let your people go, and even tell them to leave, when necessary. After all, they're not really yours anyway. They're God's. And where they go, they are still part of the body of Christ, so please don't act like changing churches is akin to spiritual adultery. That's not Biblical. It also divides and wounds. Wouldn't you rather have them growing elsewhere than withering in your care?
Earlier I tried to correlate the classic four temperaments with the Myers-Briggs types, but I’m not completely convinced of my original conclusion, and have been revisiting other theories I’ve entertained throughout the years. It is also possible that there actually is no correlation, but being the intuitive feeler that I am, I “sense” there is a connection between the temperaments and type.
First, a clarification: when I say four temperaments, I am NOT referring to David Keirsey’s classifications which are actually based on the MBTI. As I mentioned in my previous post, people have (I believe) inaccurately correlated his system with the classic four temperaments like this: NF=phlegmatic, NT=melancholic, SJ=choleric, SP=sanguine. I find Keirsey’s classifications quite useful, but at the same time, a bit restrictive. I think there are commonalities between people who have any two preferences in common, and in fact, Isabella Myers was more prone to group them together like this: IN, EN, ST, SF. That makes a bit more sense to me since at least two of those (IN and EN) tap into the 8 functions, which is really the heart of the MBTI, and what so few people know about (including me for many years), but that’s a whole nuther topic…
…unless of course it relates to what I’m trying to do here, in which case maybe I should only use the 8 functions to try to make the correlation, and we’ll end up with this:
IN = melancholic (dominant or auxiliary function = introverted intuiting)
IS = phlegmatic (dominant or auxiliary function = introverted sensing)
EJ = choleric (dominant function = extraverted thinking or feeling)
EP = sanguine (dominant function = extraverted intuiting or sensing)
What’s interesting about this interpretation is that I checked it against my personality code and it still works with all the examples I gave.
The reason I reject the IF=melancholic and IT=phlegmatic is because I’ve known too many INTJs who were clearly melancholic (they’re way too intense to be golden retriever types). And the ISFJs I’ve known have been the gentle more passive types (which is another reason I doubt my original conclusion that IJ=melancholic).
As someone who prefers intuiting, I tend discover new things about my environment over time instead of right away. For example, I’ve lived in our house for almost two years, but just recently realized that the light over the shower gradually brightens the longer it’s on. I had always thought that my eyes were just fuzzy when I first woke up and that they adjusted better once I was in the shower. It wasn’t until I happened to look up at the light and see it getting brighter that I finally figured out what was going on.
I like the cartoon I saw of an intuitive type who’s on his computer, smoke and flames are coming up from the roof, and he’s reading email that says “your house is on fire.” Having sensing as an inferior function makes one prone to miss the obvious.
I was wondering if intuiting children tend to potty train later since they aren’t as in tune with their physical self. That’s been my experience with my first two children, whom I suspect are intuiting types. My oldest potty trained at 3.5 and learned to read shortly thereafter. My middle child is three and is already reading (at least sight reading), but is just getting started potty training. I’ve read that early readers are usually intuitives because of their penchant for the abstract–rather than just seeing literal letters, they get that they are symbols.