Tuesday, December 12, 2006

My personality type

Ah, time. Such a commodity...

I spent today on the McGill campus, scouring the libraries for materials on Gaudiya Vaishnavism, in preparation for my course. Doing a lot of photocopying but I still haven't found the combination of materials that I am looking for. I was horrified to see how many of the books still had traces of my previous readings--unforgivable ethical lapses like highlight marker underlinings, indignant exclamation marks and the like.

One book that I picked up was that old favorite of mine, the Hare Krishna Personality Type, which was so striking when I first read it. It is strongly based on the Meyer-Briggs Personality Inventory, which divides the world into basically 16 personality types. One of the things that was so astonishing about this research was that it showed an overwhelming preponderence of two personality types in the Iskcon of the early 1980's: ISTJ and ESTJ (Introverted/Extroverted Sensing Thinking Judging). You can look these up on Google; there are many summaries available.

Extroverted STJs are practical, realistic, and matter-of-fact, with a natural head for business or mechanics. Though they are not interested in subjects they see no use for, they can apply themselves when necessary. They like to organize and run activities. ESTJs make good administrators, especially if they remember to consider others' feelings and points of view, which they often miss. (WIKIPEDIA, see also ESTJ)

Introverted STJs are often called inspectors. They have a keen sense of right and wrong, especially in their area of interest and/or responsibility. They are noted for devotion to duty. Punctuality is a watchword of the ISTJ. The secretary, clerk, or business(wo)man by whom others set their clocks is likely to be an ISTJ. (http://typelogic.com/istj.html) See also ISTJ.

Both of these descriptions will immediately, I think, conjure up images of the Iskcon leader and footsoldier respectively. But K-P put the accent on the sensory orientation (the "S"), which though originally meaning a kind of "concrete" orientation to information ("just the facts, ma'am"), they take to mean a preoccupation with the body and senses. They see this as a source of internal conflict ("You are not this body.") and consequent ambivalence to sense gratification.

I don't have the book before me, but I would like to go back to it one more time and just see what their analysis of these two types is, as I think it differs somewhat from the above. No doubt there have been numerous changes to methods of collecting and analysing such information over the past 20 years. I just read somewhere that the MBTI may one day become as ubiquitous as one's blood type.

Whatever the case may be, I believe that these personality types are probably quite fluid. I remember distinctly thinking when I first read this book 20 years ago that I may have been an ISTJ at one time, but that I had "matured", at least progressed from the description that K-P gave of this personality type. In recent years I have taken the test more than once and have had both INFP and INTP results. In my current situation, my tendency to be T-(thinking)-dominant over F (feeling) seems to be a disadvantage rather than an advantage. It feels like the INTP tendency to want to have all the ducks in a row before acting can be really immobilizing. A little bit of passionate spontaneity rather than stultifying open-ended analysis would perhaps be desirable. Furthermore, the INFP character, the desire to actively do good is stronger than the "observer" attitude that the INTP takes. An INTP seems to be a passive nerd type, whereas the INFP is more genuinely spiritual. My personal story wants me to be an INFP, but I am stuck in an INTP rut.

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