Friday, December 27, 2013

Personality, Personally.

     The MBTI has been very useful to me personally.  There are arguments against its usefulness, based in large part on problems with the tests that are supposed to determine personality type.  I don't believe that a test can determine one's type nearly as well as prolonged, and honest, observation.  The tests are filled out by people who want to figure out what type they are, those people have personal biases for and against various personality traits, and how one gauges one's behavior is often influenced by what one has been doing recently.  If all a person wants is a set of four letters, and puts as much stock into the importance of those letters as I do into an astrological sign, then the test will suffice.

     But if you want to figure out how you operate, how other people operate, and how you can better operate together, then it takes work.  It takes honesty, and it takes the ability to acknowledge and set aside those biases that tell us that we "should" be more Thinker, or more Feeler, or what have you.  I very often see people who consistently make decisions based on Feeling judgements, decide that they are Thinking types, because they feel that they are supposed to be Thinking types... rarely do I see Thinkers make the corollary mistake.  The same can be said for Sensing types having a bias toward trying to fit into the N-mold.  It's generally considered better for women to be Feelers, and men to be Thinkers, but overall, the types people tend to view as the "best" are INTJ and ENTP, in my experience, so they will gravitate toward those on tests.

     All that to say that, like anything related to who we are and how we work, it takes honest examination to gain anything actually useful.

     My mother is an INFJ, and not the healthy sort.  When I was growing up, and still to a certain extent, she consistently pointed out my personality flaws; namely, that I wasn't sensitive enough, and that I was wrong because I wasn't more like her.  If she lied, and I pointed out the lie, I was being mean.  If she was mistaken about a concrete fact, and she didn't like the way the fact felt as much as her mistaken idea, I was being mean.  If I did not take people's feelings about everything as the primary value when I made decisions, I was being mean.  If I pointed out that my brother and sister were her children, and not mine, or that her husband was away on drinking binges more than he was at "home," I was being mean.  To the point where I was kicked out of her house at 17, because I wasn't nice about it when he beat her and neglected his children.

     I grew up being consistently bullied for my personality, and that was not enough to change it.  I still generally value honesty over "a nice lie" and I still generally value accuracy over "a nice story."  I spent a lot of years, though, believing that I was a bad person, because I wasn't more like my mom.  My first husband was much the same way, and similarly berated me for the way I thought... since I had always been taught that I was wrong, because I was less sensitive, I didn't think there was anything wrong with what he said and believed.

     A couple of years after we separated, I discovered the MBTI.  I read about the various types, I observed and stripped away my biases, and I uncovered my ISTP nature.  I finally had something that taught me that my way of operating was just one of many valid ways of operating.  I had some semblance of validation for who I was, and why I couldn't just mold myself to be more of who the people around me wanted me to be. No matter how hard they pushed, and how much I didn't like myself.

     Because of this, I started a lot of subtle changes which snowballed into a me who is much happier, and content with who I am.  I stopped feeling guilty for failing at my first job, as a telemarketer, and found the job I have now, which suits me so well.  I realized that while I wasn't wrong for being less sensitive, I probably shouldn't get into relationships with more sensitive people in the future.  At that point, I went ahead and married Thoth, because he was the epitome of not-so-sensitive; he didn't really care about much of anything.

     Present day, I have ended up with Ptah, who is an ISFJ, and Horus, who is an INFP.  Ptah and I don't have issues with sensitivity, or the lack thereof, but Horus and I do.

     When I met Horus, he had an outer shell which matched more what I was looking for in a partner.  He'd spent much of his life idealizing a version of "what a man should be," (which is actually pretty close to ISTP) and that was what he presented in the beginning of our relationship.  It didn't take very long for me to see that there was more to him than that, but by then we were very much emotionally involved.  Since shortly after we moved in together, when the shell became to difficult to maintain, it's been a hard, but mostly rewarding, road. 

     The biggest issue is that I am generally not sensitive enough, then my intent is assumed to be something it's not, then Horus reacts to what he assumes my intent is, and I am angry for being inaccurately misrepresented in a negative way... You see, it is very rare that a more sensitive person will assume Good Things when they misinterpret a less sensitive person.  We recently had one such event turn pretty serious.  Especially after other people felt the need to weigh in and defend Horus for crap they really have no idea about.  But that's understandable, when people don't actually know me at all, are sensitive, and assume the worst. 

     One of the funny parts is that it was explained to me by a friend that there's a negative vibe when they're at our house, because Horus is unhappy.  When I talked to Horus about the situation, he did not have the same perspective.  But imposing upon other people, one's own assumptions about a situation based on one's own Feelings and sensitivities, is something I've been the recipient of many times.

     When you are less sensitive, people assume that they are right and you are wrong, when they have feelings about a situation.  They think nothing of telling you all of your personality flaws, especially if one of your personality flaws is "being nitpicky."  The irony of this escapes them, even if they spend hours pointing out your flaws to you, and asking you multiple times why you don't just change.

     When you are less sensitive, explaining that the thing they're complaining about is a part of your personality, and one which has been valued by many other people in your life, is pointless, because they are usually making complaints based on their feelings.

     And when you are less sensitive, the whole point is that you are wrong, because you aren't considering people's feelings enough.

     When you are less sensitive, it never occurs to people that personal attacks might actually have an effect.  They tend to assume that they can tell you how mean and wrong you are, without end.  This is partly because, being the more sensitive party, they feel justified, but also because it just doesn't occur to them to care about the feelings of the less sensitive person.  The irony of this escapes them as well.  Everyone has feelings, just like everyone thinks, but if you're not always hurting over some incident real or imagined, people tend to think they don't need to care about your feelings.  Because they are busy caring about the feelings of whoever is more sensitive, and telling you how important that person's feelings are.

     Because I am less sensitive, Horus let other people say negative things about me to him, doesn't feel the need to say positive things about me to anyone, and felt fine telling me how many other people feel sorry for him because I'm not sensitive.  Things that he would never find acceptable if I were more sensitive, or if they were being done to him.

     It is not in my nature to consider people's feelings before anything else, though I do consider people's feelings when it makes sense to me to do so.  It is not in my nature to engage in sentimentality for sentimentality's sake, or to keep people in my life if we don't bring good things to each other.  (This Christmas was the first time I had seen my mother in a few years, because I won't put up with the way she's always treated me anymore.)  It is not in my nature to always know how to interact with more sensitive people, so assuming the worst from me until it all comes out in an attack, isn't the best way to handle me, either.

     The fact that I am less sensitive does not mean that it is solely my job to keep relationships smooth, or that I am always wrong when it comes to a matter of feelings.  It is not solely my job to figure out how to handle other people better.  Because I am not automatically wrong.

     I am glad I found the MBTI, because if I hadn't, I would still think that my personality is objectively wrong, that all of the issues between Horus and me were solely my fault, and that it was okay for me to accept those ideas from other people.

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