When you read about INFJ strengths or dig-in to tips for personal growth, one of the things that often comes up is the potential for INFJs to act as peacemakers. As an INFJ, you might have mixed feelings about that idea. Sure peace sounds nice — we love peace — but peacemaking assumes that there’s a lack of peace when you start out. In order to make peace out of conflict, you need to be able and willing to wade-in to that conflict.
Many INFJs, including me, find conflict extremely uncomfortable. Our palms get sweaty. Our insides start to shake, and possibly our hands or whole bodies as well. Our throats start to close up and our thoughts race to worst-case scenarios for how this might end. We’d often far rather quietly slip away from the conflicts, hold our tongues, or give-in on issues that don’t seem “all that important” right now than risk escalating a conflict. If we can get past that fear, though, INFJs have innate skills that we can build on to become good at conflict resolution.
We Value Harmony
Because external emotions affect us so much and we’re quick to notice disconnects between people, INFJs typically have a heightened sensitivity to conflict. We notice when something is off between two people (whether or not it directly involves us). INFJs place a high value on peace and we’ll do almost anything to preserve it.
For many INFJs, that means avoiding conflict even when something really should be addressed. We fear conflict rather than resolve it because we want harmony so much. But we need to learn that sometimes in order to create harmony, we have to deal with conflict. Read more →
I started graduate school last week! It’s a Master’s program of Rhetoric and Writing, and it means I suddenly have less time for blogging than I did before. But it also means I’ve been reading a number of books and scholarly articles that are prompting me to think more deeply on topics related to teaching and the writing process.
That might not sound, at first glance, like something that has to do with “finding our true selves in the people God created us to be.” However, I’m struck by similarities between best practices for teaching students to improve as writers and what I know about personal growth. We don’t all follow the exact same patterns for personal growth, nor do we all grow at the same pace and in the same way. Similarly, one-size-fits-all is not a great approach to teaching writing. There are, of course, certain things we look for in “good writing” — a strong thesis, structure that supports the thesis, integration of quotes and examples, etc. But to a certain extent, whether or not something is “good writing” also depends on the individual writer. Read more →
Someone once asked me if there are any aspects of Myers-Briggs® theory that I disagree with. I told them that my main issues have to do with ways it can be misused rather than with the actual theory. But as much as I like this type theory, I also acknowledge that it’s not a complete system for personal growth or even personality. Myers-Briggs® theory just describes how your mind works by talking about the psychological functions that you use most comfortably.
You can use type theory to help you develop those psychological functions, but they’re still not the whole story of your personality. There are other things we layer on top of that like personality traits, lived experiences, and personal beliefs. The functions are like a canvas we paint on; a foundation for building. They’re not the only things that make us who we are.
One of the dimensions that a system of psychological type does not cover is spirituality. That’s not to say that psychologists like Jung (whose work Myers-Briggs® theory is based on) would have denied there’s an essential spiritual component to humans. Far from it! It’s just that type psychology wasn’t designed to be a path in and of itself for spiritual growth. For that, we need something else.
A Connection Between Psychology and Spirituality
I had the idea to write this post last week, when I was listening to a podcast from Joel Mark Witt and Antonia Dodge of Personality Hacker. They’d recently attended an Enneagram workshop where one of the hosts, Uranio Pae, made the statement, “Spiritual work without psychological work is dangerous. Psychological work without spiritual work is incomplete.”
Whether or not your personality type can change is quite a point of debate in the Myers-Briggs® community. Officially, Myers-Briggs® theory holds that your personality type is inborn and does not change. In other words, you cannot start out as an ISFP and then transform into an ESFJ (or any other types) over the course of your life.
Practically, though, we know that people take personality tests all the time and get different results. It’s one of the big arguments leveled against Myers-Briggs® theory — that the tests don’t deliver consistent results and are therefore not valid, repeatable, or scientific. On top of all that, you might have seen articles about new research over the last few years that indicates your personality can change over your lifetime. How do we make sense of all that in relation to type theory?
Personality Traits vs. Personality Type
On the surface, it seems that Myers-Briggs® disagrees with psychology studies that say personality can and does change. But when you take a closer look, you’ll see there’s not really a disconnect. There’s a big difference between personality traits and personality type. The personality model that most psychologists favor today is called Big Five. It includes five key traits — extroversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, contentiousness, and openness.
Where you fall on these traits can change, though they’re considered relatively stable. When change happens it tends to do so gradually over many years (change is more likely and more rapid when something significantly life-changing occurs, such as a traumatic experience) . We also tend to be more stable in some traits and less stable in others. You can read more about this in the following articles: Read more →
I’ve been trying to study the Enneagram for several years now. I’ve read highly recommended books by Helen Palmer, Don Richard Riso, and Russ Hudson but for some reason none of them really made sense. I mean, I got what they were saying and it seemed like a useful system but I didn’t feel like I understood it well enough to actually use it in my life and especially not in relating to other people.
This latest Enneagram book I’ve tried is one that my first counselor recommended over a year ago. I’ve finally been able to get it through a digital library (didn’t want to buy it if it would just sit unused on the shelf like all my other Enneagram books). I haven’t quite finished it yet, but what I’ve read is enough to know The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabileis the best Enneagram book I’ve read (please note this is an affiliate link, which means if you click on the book title and make a purchase I’ll receive a small commission at no additional cost to you).
I’ll be talking in more general terms about the Enneagram in later posts, but today I wanted to share a personal story. I know my enneatype is 4w5, but until now that knowledge as been more depressing than helpful. Myers-Briggs® types tell you how your mind works. We can talk about healthy and unhealthy versions of each type, but overall it’s usually a fairly neutral description. Your Enneagram tells you how you’re broken. It talks about your deadly sin, your childhood wounding message, and your core fears. To me, it seemed overwhelmingly negative. Read more →
Think about your favorite novel, movie, or TV show. It probably begins with the main characters going about their ordinary lives. Bilbo Baggins lives peacefully in his hobbit hole (The Hobbit). Elizabeth Bennet is socializing with her sisters and putting up with a mother eager to marry her off (Pride and Prejudice). Luke Skywalker is moisture farming on Tatooine (Star Wars). A pastor is sailing with his family to a colony in the South Pacific (The Swiss Family Robinson).
Then Gandalf arrives with a party of dwarves. Mr. Bingley moves to Netherfield. Droids arrive carrying secret plans that must be delivered to the Rebellion. The ship crashes on an uncharted island. Something changes, acting as an inciting incident to push the main character out of their normal life and into the events of the story.
We’re currently living in a time of great change. People are talking about what the “new normal” will look like and speculating about how much things will change now that there’s Covid-19 in the world. There have been many other times of great change throughout history — pandemics, the industrial revolution, natural disasters, colonization by European powers, terrorist attacks, the falls of empires, the birth of Jesus Christ. Some are terrible, some depend on your point of view, and a very few are spectacularly good.
We have very little control over how the world changes. But we do have some control over if and how we change in response to those changes. In many ways, we get to decide whether the effects of this pandemic will be an inciting incident for personal growth, a speed bump as we continue on much the same as before, or something that derails our path.
We would not have had a story if Bilbo stayed home, Elizabeth refused to speak with Darcy a second time, Luke didn’t follow R2-D2 into the desert, or the Swiss family had been rescued after only a week on the island. Now, I’m not saying you should ignore social distancing guidelines and go running off on a grand adventure. For us today I’m talking more about an internal adventure and a commitment to positive change.
Some of the greatest journeys we can go on are those of self-discovery, and they’re often prompted by change. The biggest moments that stand-out in my mind as times that sparked personal growth were starting college, beginning a dating relationship with a man I’d been friends with for years, and then the breakup which ended that relationship. Maybe this pandemic will be another one for me, and for many other people.
Whether you’re stuck at home and have some extra time on your hands or not, the changes in the world around us can serve as a reminder to look inwards and evaluate ourselves. We might ask questions like, “What impact am I having on the people around me for good or ill?” or “How can I become a healthier individual mentally, emotionally, and physically?” or “What do I want the next part of my story to look like?”
We can’t control when quarantine restrictions lift, who gets sick, or most other things associate with this pandemic. But we can control how we respond to the changes that are happening in our lives and the world around us. Let’s commit to making sure the great changes we’re going through now spark great next chapters in the stories of our own lives.
I haven’t quite finished it yet, but even just reading the introduction and chapter on my enneatype has given me some additional clarity on a couple issues I’ve been struggling with for a while. You might want to check this book out if you’ve been curious about the Enneagram or want some ideas for personal growth. I borrowed it from a digital library, so that might be an option for those who (like me) prefer to try out a book before buying it.