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Acknowledging the Complexity of Type

Mar 7th, 2012

Trying to work with type theory over the years has led me to start calling the four letter types type codes because I felt treating the four letters as a code was more accurate than treating them as an identity.  Today I revisited my 1985 MBTI® Manual written by Myers and McCaulley to learn what Myers said about the four letter system she created.  Myers said, "The four-letter type formulas stand for a complex set of dynamic relationships between the functions (S, N, T, and F), the attitudes (E and I), and the orientation to the outer world (J and P).”  Myers use of the word "formulas” reassures me that I’m right in my thinking of the four letter types as type codes that need to be deciphered or as formulas that need to be applied instead of an identity. 

Treating it as Myers intended would keep us from referring to people by the letters in the type code, such as you are a sensor or a thinker.  I’m sure that like me you’ve probably done that and you’ve probably heard others do the same.  Treating the four letters as I believe Myers intended would also keep us in line with Jung as he wrote, "If one studies extraverted individuals, for instance, one soon discovers that they differ from one another in many ways, and that being extraverted is a superficial and too general criterion to be really characteristic.” (The Undiscovered Self,
§499) 

It isn’t easy to follow Myers guidance and apply her formula to uncover the dynamic relationships between the positions and to understand how each mental process changes from position to position.  This requires an understanding of each of Jung’s eight mental processes, the role of each dynamic position within the psyche, the emotional energy each position carries and how that role and emotional energy affects the mental processes in each position.  

So if we are to apply type theory as Myers and Jung presented it, we can’t do it in a simple way.   I believe we need to acknowledge the complexity of type theory as we work with instrument results and best-fit type codes, otherwise we give people a feel-good session while we rob them of the riches the theory offers and our clients deserve.  For a different perspective on this issue, read the article in Personality Type in Depth entitled, "What do J and P really mean?”  At least this is what I think; what is your opinion?  Post your thoughts here.

Learn more about the Eight Functions

References to learn more:  Building Blocks of Personality Types, Introduction to Type Using the 8 Functions


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