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MBTI: The Epitome of Normal Behavior

The more that I talk about MBTI(Myers Briggs Type Indicator), the more people start asking about using MBTI to resolve psychological issues.  This is my first red flag to stop and explain that although knowing your type is a useful self-development tool, it does not correct or deal with personal psychological issues.  Carl Jung was a contemporary of Sigmund Freud, but unlike Freud who studied abnormal behavior and defined the ego and id, Jung studied what it means to be normal.  In reality, everyone has issues and some can be resolved by understanding your personality preferences.  Others can be resolved by understanding your friends and families personality preferences.  There are still others that are not at all related to MBTI, but are better suited for Freud’s work.

To help contextualize the idea, I’ll explain how I have found the MBTI tool very useful and when I drew the line between MBTI and psychological therapy.

  • MBTI is a great self development tool.  By knowing your preferences you can facilitate environments that work with you and are in line with what you need.  I am an ENTJ and know that I need people around (Extrovert), that I need to plan everything out (Judging), that I need some quiet time to think about the big picture and observe(Intuitive) and finally that I need to debate my decisions with peers (Thinking).  I interpreted this and know that I do not work at my best in my home in a quiet space.  I work at my best with people around and ideas flowing aloud.  I also came to realize why I love confrontation (Thinking) and rarely use empathy in my decision making process.  Introducing Feeling and empathy in my decision making process has been the hardest and yet most rewarding development that I have been working on.
  • MBTI helps understand why certain interpersonal relationships are easier than others. When I took my certification course at AMA, I learned that Judging types have a hard time accepting Perceiving types.  This is because the Judging type wants closure on all issues as soon as possible, whereas Perceiving types prefer to defer decisions until they are necessary.  Understanding this difference allowed me to take a step back and recognize that it is not that I don’t like the person, I just have a hard time accepting their preference.  To resolve this, I often try to compromise with my peers by setting deadlines that appease my Judging preference and put constraints on how long my Perceiving-preferenced peers can deliberate.
  • MBTI does not explain your issues with your parents.  I don’t know if everyone has issues with their parents, but Freud certainly believed many people did.  Those issues are sometime driven by trauma or years of conflict or whatever the reason, but ultimately they are not resolved by understanding your core personality preferences. These issues require time with a professional discussing what the root causes might be and how to get past them.

Over the last week, I celebrated Passover with my family and always appreciate all the conflicts of personalities in the room.  The matriarch of my father’s family is an ESTJ and lets everyone know how every task should be done.  The fact that all of her children have a preference for Feeling helps explain some of the tension, but many other issues stem from years of other “stuff” compounding.  I typically stop using MBTI after accepting who everyone is and what their preferences are.  I am not equipped to resolve the other stuff.

If you are an MBTI enthusiast like me, I hope you recognize that MBTI is a tool that can be used often, but does not fix everything!

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