Depth psychology looks at the cognitive blueprints (natural tendencies) that frame a person’s basic perceiving and decision-making processes. These blueprints are the foundation which our personalities are built upon. They are shaped by character, environment, faith and culture, making every person totally unique. I believe that understanding these blueprints can make us better communicators and help us understand others better. As a teacher and a parent, I think that learning our children’s basic blueprints will help us do a better job in guiding them in the way they should go as they grow.
I am, at the core, basing my ideas in this post on the works of John Beebe, Dario Nardi, Linda Berens, Vicky Jo Varner (whom I took an online course under when I won it in a competition on a typology forum), Mike Boudria, C.S. Joseph, Cynthia Tobias, Howard Gardner, Anna Barsova and Tim LaHaye, all who have, in one way or another, influenced my thinking on this subject.
PHASE I: Teacher Test
I was an eighteen-year-old artist who was recovering from bulimia and I had been accepted into college. I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of others, to sow seeds of kindness, joy, hope and love. In my freshman orientation class they plopped a “test” down in front of me to help me identify my “calling” in life. The results would give me a bunch of letters like I, F, S, P and so forth. They told me these letters would be arranged in one of sixteen ways. So, I read the questions and answered them based on what I thought it took to be a “good” teacher.
My call letters turned out to be an ENFJ. All that mattered to me about that result was that it had the word “teacher” listed under the recommended occupations. A few months before, all that would have mattered was the word “artist.” But I had decided, at the urging of one of my own teachers, that I would make a better living as a teacher. I watched Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie and Christy and read Jesse Stuart’s, A Thread that Runs so True and I wanted to be one of these heroic people that made a difference in the life of a child, that changed someone’s future for the better, so I answered as if I was Anne Shirley herself.
By the time I graduated there were no teaching jobs in my area so I went to work in a hospital as an X-ray clerk. My favorite moments were the ones I spent alone, quietly working at my desk, developing film in the darkroom (yes, it’s been a while.) Co-workers said I was a ray of sunshine and patients loved my quiet mannerism and gentle nature. Of course, everyone loved my humor that was quirky and innocent. I mean I was still very young.
Then came the day that I finally got that teaching job and I was off and running. Little did I know that my personality wasn’t a typical elementary teacher’s personality. In fact, I would be reprimanded for “being too timid” on more than one occasion, until the day I realized that what others mistook for timidity was simply my preference for being calm. It was during these early years as a teacher that I was sent to Dayton, Ohio, to a teacher’s convention that would lead me to seek to not only understand myself, but everyone around me.
PHASE II: Temperament Tantrums
I attended that convention in Dayton where a gregarious and bouncy blonde public speaker introduced me to the concept of temperaments. The lady gave us a paper test with columns where we could read statements and rate them from “most like me” to “least like me.” We were all supposed to discover our primary and secondary temperaments. Of course, I had a tie. I mean, I would be the only person in the room who tied on all four temperaments, so I went to her to help me break the tie and “learn about myself.” She took a look at me. I was wearing a white sweater with a teddy bear on it and a pair dark-washed-jean. She said, “Oh, you’re a Sanguine. I can tell by your clothing. Only a Sanguine would wear that sweater.”
I was miffed. How could she tell by my clothing? That was silly. I stewed about it all the way home. I then started buying books on the Four-Temperament theories and it didn’t take me more than a chapter to realize that the lady had read my teddy bear sweater all wrong. So, I decided to order myself the genuine Tim LaHaye Temperament Analysis. I was so excited to receive my manila envelope in the mail and took great pains to read and re-read every question on the test. I said a prayer that I would answer honestly and truly tried to step outside myself and analyze myself. I knew there was something to the idea that we all come into this world wired differently and any two people facing the same situation will react differently. I wanted to understand my “human” nature, my initial blueprint. I wanted to know what made ME tick. I didn’t think the idea was wrong or that it had no validity. I DID think the presenter was too quick to form an opinion.
I took the test, sent my answers in and waited about a month to receive my results: Melancholy Phlegmatic—a creative introvert who loved peace and harmony, who internalized things and was reluctant to ask others for help, who had trouble saying “no” to others, who was highly gifted and slightly messy. Yes. That was me. As it turned out, my report went on to say that I was not extremely introverted but I definitely was not an extrovert, not a Sanguine. So, Melancholies and Phlegmatics COULD wear teddy bears on their sweaters! All joking aside, this basic understanding DID help me understand myself and somehow it helped me to stop being so hard on myself. More years would pass before I started to go beyond the Four Temperaments of Hippocrates.
PHASE III: Depth Psychology and Jungian Cognitive Preferences
Somewhere along the journey I began writing novels and my desire to learn more about human nature sky-rocketed. I didn’t know what I was looking for. I only knew that I couldn’t stop looking. I used my temperament knowledge to write the characters in my first few books.
Many years after the ENFJ test at college and long after the Temperament phase, I was assisting two people with their undergrad homework, a man and a woman. They were taking a test called the MBTI. I recognized it as the same one I had taken in college. So, we took it, all three of us together. The man came out as ISTJ. The woman came out as ISFJ and I came out as INFJ. So, together, we sat down and looked up our call letters and read the descriptions.
His fit him—perfectly. Hers fit her—perfectly. And mine fit me—well, beautifully. My ENFJ was gone, because it was never there in the first place. This time, I was already a teacher and had been for over ten years. I didn’t need to answer like what I thought would be the “ideal” teacher. I just answered true to myself. This revelation led me to interacting with others online, to joining a forum and buying books by the authors listed above. I wanted to understand the Love Languages, Multiple Intelligences and more than anything, Depth Psychology.
By this time, I had several published novels under my belt and I realized that going beyond temperament, beyond the basic Myers-Briggs test and really understanding the idea of cognitive functions, allowed me to write characters with emotional depth, three-dimensional characters. It also caused me to differentiate with my students and to realize why I had so much more trouble with some students, parents and co-workers than others. We were speaking entirely different languages! We had completely different values.
PHASE IV: Sharing a Passion
I do not believe that we can be pigeon-holed and each person in the world is a unique snowflake of sorts, yet, we DO all come into this world with different natural tendencies, blueprints. However, the house that is built upon any single set of blueprints can be vastly different from every other house that is built upon those blueprints. In the same way that paint choices, flooring choices, furniture choices, window dressing choices, appliances, etc. can make a thousand houses built from the same blueprints different, so can our environment, education, faith, life experiences, and so forth can make any two people with the same personality blueprints different.
It is my hope to delve into the sixteen types in the next few posts and hopefully, those of you who are interested will find something of value. I also have started doing youtube videos on Depth Psychology, not because I’m an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but merely because I love the subject and I have a profound need to learn and to share.