Here’s Why I Don’t Like The Way David Keirsey Talked About Personality Types

One of the most influential names in personality theories surrounding Myers-Briggs® types is David Keirsey. His book Please Understand Me II was one of the first I read when I decided to study personality theory because it was so widely recommended.

The more I studied Myers-Briggs types, though, the less comfortable I felt with Keirsey’s version and the more questions I had. Was his insistence on grouping the 16 types into 4 categories really all that useful? Is the practice of giving each type nicknames doing more harm than good? Why did he seem to ignore Jungian psychological functions? I started to think maybe he’s not the best resource for studying Myers-Briggs, though he does offer an interesting perspective on how the 16 types might relate to historic 4 type systems.

I’ve debated quite a bit whether or not to actually write this post. But I’ve been reading Personality Type: An Owner’s Manual by Lenore Thomson, who is a former managing editor of the Junginan journal Quadrant and who has taught courses on psychological types at the C.G. Jung Foundation in New York City. In her discussion of the ITP and IFP types, she voiced some of the same frustrations with Keirsey that I’ve felt, particularly in regard to how he talks about the SP types.

  • If you’d like to get a copy of Thomson’s book, click here. Please note that this is an affiliate link, which means that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase.

Keirsey’s Focus on SP Types

I do want to start out by saying that I know Keirsey’s intentions were good in how he described SP types. He saw himself as “championing” the SPs (who he called “Artisans”) more than any other type because his parents, brothers, and many of his friends were Artisans. In addition, much of his work for 30 years as a family therapist was spent working with Artisan children who gave their parents and schools a hard time when they were noisy and restless or didn’t finish assignments.

My long association with and understanding of Artisans of all ages has enabled me to be more useful to them than to others of different temperament. I think Artisans ought to be enjoyed for what they are instead of condemned for what they are not, something that can also be said of the other three temperaments. (Keirsey, Please Understand Me II, p. 33)

While I agree with the sentiment, I think that some of Kersey’s theories did a disservice to SP types by constraining them into an art-making, hedonistic stereotype. There’s so much more to them than that, and I think by simply focusing on their shared SP traits we lose a lot of the nuances of each of these four type. I doubt this was his intention, but that’s how people seem to have used/misapplied his theories. Read more

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What Does Each Myers-Briggs® Type Look Like If They Get Stuck In A “Loop”?

When someone interested in Myers-Briggs®talks about loops, they’re referring to what happens when a person bypasses their co-pilot function and starts relying on their dominant and tertiary process instead. This can be a temporary situation, or it can last for quite a long time depending on the individual and their circumstances.

Some people teach that the Dominant-Tertiary Loop leads to personality disorders, but I have not found any good research to back up this claim. We can slip into a loop pattern without developing a disorder, and specific mental illnesses aren’t tied to any one personality type. It seems more likely to me that, as a general rule, loops are part of a reaction to stress or an attempt to avoid discomfort.

If you need a refresher on how cognitive functions work, click here to read “The Simplest Guide to Myers-Briggs® Functions Ever.”

We all need a balance between inner and outer world feedback, a way to learn new information, and a way to process information and make decisions. We’re got all that covered in our dominant and co-pilot functions because one is introverted and one is extroverted, and one’s a perceiving/learning function (Sending or Intuition) and one’s a judging/decision-making function (Feeling or Thinking).

When we skip our co-pilot function and go for the tertiary instead, we’re replacing the co-pilot with a function that fills a similar role because the tertiary and co-pilot are both either Perceiving or Judging functions. However, the tertiary has the same orientation (Introverted or Extroverted) as the dominant function. Going into a “loop” means we’re ignoring the world that is most uncomfortable for us and we’re opting to use a function that’s less mature than our co-pilot. This “loop” is going to look different for each type, but in all cases it means we’re not balanced. It also usually means that we’re avoiding personal growth. Read more

What Role Does The Tertiary Function Play In Myers-Briggs® Personality Types?

When we talk about psychological functions in Myers-Briggs® types, the tertiary function often gets over looked. Usually, we talk about the two that we use most often or about the inferior function that usually shows up under stress. These three functions are hugely important. Our dominant and co-pilot processes need to work together for us to have healthy, balanced personalities. And we need to understand the inferior function so we’re better equipped to recognize and deal with how we react to stressful situations. But the tertiary function is also important.

To learn more about how your inferior function works, check out my article “What Does Each Myers-Briggs® Type Look Like When They Get Stressed-Out?” And if you need a refresher on cognitive functions, or if this part of Myers-Briggs® is new to you, read “The Simplest Guide to Myers-Briggs® Functions Ever

The tertiary function is also called the “relief function.” In Personality Hacker’s car model (affiliate link), they call it the 10-year-old because that’s the level of maturity this function typically has. Psychologist John Beebe named it the “Eternal Child” after one of Carl Jung’s archetypes. Though we don’t talk about this function nearly as much as some of the others, it’s also a key part of our personality. Understanding the tertiary function, and how it relates to the other functions, can really help us understand ourselves.

Growth And The Functions

In terms of typology, personal growth happens when we’re using both our introverted and our extroverted sides, as well as our judging and perceiving sides. Working to find a balance between our dominant and co-pilot processes leads to growth and change because we’re exercising all these aspects of our personality. Read more

What Does Each Myers-Briggs® Type Look Like When They Get Stressed-Out?

Stress is something we all have to deal with. It’s part of being human. But how we each react to stress is, at least partly, determined by our personality types.

Each personality type has four mental processes called “cognitive functions” that they use when living their day-to-day lives. These functions describe how our minds work. For example, an ESTJ type is most comfortable using Extroverted Thinking to make decisions in the outer world. That’s supported by their co-pilot Introverted Sensing, which is their preferred way to learn and process information. Then they have a tertiary process called Extroverted Intuition, which they’re not quite as comfortable with. The fourth function, in this case Introverted Feeling, is called the inferior process and it’s not well developed at all.

For more information on how cognitive functions work, read “The Simplest Guide to Myers-Briggs® Functions Ever

When we’re stressed-out our minds typically go to our inferior process. (We can also “loop” between our dominant and tertiary, but that’s a topic for another post). This explains why we start acting out of character when under stress. Stress throws off the familiar, comfortable balance of our mental processes and changes how we deal with things. And because we each use a different combination of these mental functions, a stress-response is going to look a little different for each type.

Why Study Stress-Responses?

Recognizing what a stress-reaction looks like for different types can help us in several ways. If you’re in any kind of relationship with someone, knowing what happens when they’re stressed can give you a different perspective on them when they start to act out a character. Instead of being puzzled by their behavior, you can recognize it as the way they respond to stress.

In terms of our relationship with ourselves, knowing our own stress reactions can help us recognize when we need to practice some self-care. If you’re starting to go into your inferior function, then it’s time to take a look at your life and figure out what’s the cause of your stress and how you can get yourself back into balance. Read more

Why Is It So Hard For Certain Personality Types To “Just Get Over It”?

You know when you’re struggling with something bad that happened to you and someone says, “Just get over it,” but you know it’s not that simple? For some reason, this particular hurt lodged deep inside and letting go seems well-nigh impossible.

For this post, I’m not talking about a hurt like grief over losing someone you love. We know why things like that are hard to “get over,” and in many cases it wouldn’t be appropriate to move on quickly. Most people recognize that hurts of that sort require time to heal and grieve. I’m talking about interpersonal hurts that might seem “little,” but have a big impact anyway. For example…

  • You express an authentic part of yourself (like your happy, fun-loving side), then people assume that’s all there is to your personality.
  • You receive 99% positive feedback about a project, but that 1% haunts you anyway.
  • You help someone out of the goodness of your heart, but others misinterpret your motives.
  • You decide to open up to someone, then lie awake at night worrying about their reaction.

Hurts like this touch on the core of who we are and/or our relationships with other people. These hurts are often deeply individual, and others might not understand them. If you don’t care what other people think of you, then you’re not going to understand why someone else is so upset about the one person in their life who’s a critic. If you find it easy to adapt to different social situations, you might not understand why someone’s so upset about not being able to express their true self all the time.

The reason why things like this can hurt us so deeply is often nuanced and complicated, but it has a lot to do with how we use the Feeling sides of our personalities. Everyone has a Feeling side (whether or not there’s an F in your four-letter Myers-Briggs® type), and we each use this part of our personality a little differently. Read more

Fictional MBTI – T’Challa (ISFP)

I saw Black Panther yesterday. So naturally today’s post is a new installment in the superhero Myers-Briggs types series. I know I get pretty excited about most of the MCU films, but this one is seriously good. I love the hero characters and the principles they stand for like loyalty and peace. The acting is great, the plot’s tight, I love the music (I’m listening to the score as I type), and while it still has a superhero-movie feel it doesn’t shy away from digging into some really deep and difficult subjects.

Basically, you should go see the movie. And if spoilers bother you, see it before reading any further in this post. We are going to talk about key plot points and character moments. You’ve been warned.Fictional MBTI - T'Challa (ISFP) | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Okay, let’s start typing. T’Challa’s judging functions are pretty easy to pin-point: Fi/Te. But the fact that he uses Introverted Feeling and Extroverted Thinking when making decisions only tells us he’s either a TJ or FP type. We’re going to need a little more to go on than that.

After Captain America: Civil War came out, most people typed T’Challa as an ISFP. A couple of the discussions I found online also pointed out that he’s an ENTJ in the comics (which I haven’t read, so this typing is only going to focus on his film portrayal). I ended up going with ISFP. And here’s why: Read more