Matrignosis: A Blog About Inner Wisdom

Think Pyschologically; Live Spiritually

Personality Type and Personal Growth October 8, 2019

The beautiful grounds of King’s House Retreat & Renewal Center in St. Louis, MO.

If you’ve ever wanted to understand yourself better, or if you’ve ever wondered if there’s something wrong with you because you’re different from most people around you, I urge you to take the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about it:

“The original versions of the MBTI were constructed by two Americans, Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs MyersThe MBTI is based on the conceptual theory proposed by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, who had speculated that people experience the world using four principal psychological functions – sensation, intuition, feeling, and thinking – and that one of these four functions is dominant for a person most of the time. The four categories are Introversion/Extraversion, Sensing/Intuition, Thinking/Feeling, Judging/Perception. Each person is said to have one preferred quality from each category, producing 16 unique types. The Center for Applications of Psychological Type states that the MBTI is scientifically supported, but most of the research on it is done through its own journal, the Journal of Psychological Type, raising questions of bias.

The MBTI was constructed for normal populations and emphasizes the value of naturally occurring differences. ‘The underlying assumption of the MBTI is that we all have specific preferences in the way we construe our experiences, and these preferences underlie our interests, needs, values, and motivation.’

Though the MBTI resembles some psychological theories, it is often classified as pseudoscience.

The scientific validity of this introspective self-report is certainly worthy of study, but I don’t see any lack of it as a valid reason to write it off. There are some things science can’t measure. Like the practical usefulness of prayer, meditation, music, writing, or art to the individuals who practice them. Or which partner in a relationship loves the other more. Or which internal realities — subtle attitudes, needs, preferences, emotions — are helpful and which are harmful to healthy growth.

Every psyche has the same psychological potential, but each of us is a unique being with different traits, personalities, and experiences. How can a scientific test measure the value of one psyche over another? The things I know the most about are based on my personal experience. I can tell you with absolute certainty that the MBTI has had a profoundly positive impact on my life.

The first time I took it I was a thirty-something wife and mother who had gone back to school for my doctorate in the hope of finding….what? I didn’t know. Something to fill the ever-present longing that prevented me from enjoying my life.

I didn’t know why I was so restless and unhappy sometimes. I thought being a producer of children’s programming at a local television station would be a dream job. But when I was honest with myself, I knew there was nothing I really liked about it except creating the show and writing the original scripts for the children I hired. What was that about? I had no idea. I had spent years expecting my religion to satisfy my longing, but that was not enough either. In my worst moments I believed I was so deeply flawed that I would never be satisfied with my life.

So when professor Gordon Lawrence had our class take the MBTI before reading his book, People Types and Tiger Stripes: A Practical Guide to Learning Styles, I had no idea my life was about to be changed forever. I learned that my behavior followed certain patterns that Carl Jung called “psychological types.”  I learned that I could not totally change my basic type but I could develop and gain maturity within it. I learned that every type has its strengths and weaknesses, and that while my culture seemed to prefer a particular few types, none were inherently better or worse than any of the others.

This Station of the Cross at King’s House Retreat & Renewal Center in St. Louis was a helpful reminder to release my fears of unworthiness and replace them with love.

Knowing my type and feeling its rightness lifted a lifelong burden off me that I hadn’t known I was carrying. My husband’s type is common and highly favored in our culture. He’s comfortable in social settings. People understand and accept him wherever he goes. I had seen him as the standard and judged myself as severely lacking. My type is the rarest. I’m basically an outsider who dwells in the fringes and is rarely understood.

But I had a type. And it was okay!  I’d been floating aimlessly in a raft atop a sea of confusion for most of my life and finally, miraculously, I’d found a solid foundation I could stand on and trust.

The midlife discovery of my fundamental okay-ness changed me, my marriage, my self-concept. My perfectionism, my false expectations for myself, my fear I would never be good enough or contribute anything of value to society began to fall away. Gradually I grew more emboldened to trust my inner realities and take steps in directions that were true to them. Nine years later I resigned from my college teaching position because I had found my passion: writing about the inner life. Pursuing that passion ever since has made all the difference.

Last weekend I attended a Jung in the Heartland conference in St. Louis. Almost every person I talked to was an INFJ like me, an INFP, or an INTJ like my son. I was with my tribe. It was a most joyous homecoming.

 

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Her new book, The Soul’s Twins, will be launched next year.

 

Sex, Suffering, Shadow, and Alchemical Transformation September 24, 2019

The secret of alchemy was in fact the transcendent function, the transformation of personality through the blending and fusion of the noble with the base components, of the differentiated with the inferior functions, of the conscious with the unconscious. Carl Jung, Vol. 7 of CW, par. 360.The

A friend and I have been discussing painful, life-changing experiences and what we’ve learned from them. Why do they happen? Why do they cause us and those we love so much suffering? Is there meaning in humanity’s endless suffering? The suffering of our planet? Can anything good come from it? Here are my thoughts on one of life’s biggest questions.

Jung said we have five instincts—nurturance, activity, reflection, sex, and creativity. Normally, we’re unaware of our instinctual needs, but at a deep unconscious level, our inability to fulfill them causes great suffering. The instinct for sex is associated with humanity’s desire for love and pleasure. These days, experiencing love and pleasure seems to be our top priority. Not finding it creates enormous suffering, which may be why we are so obsessed with sex. But our failure to satisfy the other instincts can also cause us to suffer. 

strong attraction to another person might initially appear to be about sex, but the love and pleasure you desire is not always or only sexual. Other instincts are also involved. You can find deep pleasure in loving yourself, others, and life. You can’t force love, and you won’t feel the real thing if your youthful need for safety, guidance, and reassurance aren’t met. So maybe there’s something about this person that involves your instinct for nurturance. Maybe your parents couldn’t give you what you needed and this fascinating person instinctively feels like someone who can.

Or maybe your attraction comes from an unfulfilled yearning to express your creative instinct. If you repressed your artistic interests in your youth because of cultural standards and pressures, your attraction to art and artists could be rooted in an unconscious desire to actualize your own creativity. Awakening that instinct will likewise provide access to untapped reservoirs of passion and pleasure.

Regardless of why you think you’re suffering or which instincts are involved, at bottom your pain is caused by your separation from your transcendent function—your true Self. What you don’t realize is that your ego’s conscious life is only the tip of your psychological iceberg. Beneath the water’s surface, you harbor memories of past experiences, forgotten thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and emotions. Deeper than that, the collective unconscious you share with every other human being contains myriad archetypes—each with different personality traits—and at least five different instincts—each with specific needs and urges. Like the inhabitants of the ocean’s depths, your unconscious entities interact with one another, and the alchemy of their interactions transforms you.

To live oneself means: to be one’s own task. Never say that it is a pleasure to live oneself. It will be no joy but a long suffering, since you must become your own creator. Carl Jung, The Red Book, p. 249.

Facing dark inner realities is painful. From childhood you’ve unconsciously disowned traumatic experiences and memories. When they seep into your awareness, it can feel like a matter of life or death to ignore, escape, or rise above them. But anything you have repressed simmers in your unconscious where it can morph into a powerful shadow you can no longer contain. When this happens, like steam from a pressure cooker, your shadow can burst into your consciousness and instigate a personal crisis.

This is a shattering experience that can seriously mess with your life. But things will not necessarily stay this way forever. As my friend wisely wrote when we discussed these matters, “the trauma creates the roots for the drama that cannot be resolved without trauma.” Pure poetry. In fact, this scenario is typical of the Hero’s Journey.

This is not just an imagined story.  Myths are rooted in psycho-spiritual processes with transforming power. Like caterpillar whose body has to dissolve before it can morph into a beautiful new butterfly, your ego has to die to old habits and fears before your true Self can revel in the light of day.

With enough time and effort, you can acquire self-knowledge, love for yourself and others, and gratitude for the miracle of life. Even then, your suffering will not be over. Like the poor, our dragons will always be with us. But you will find comfort in the knowledge that you are taming yours and that your heroic accomplishments make a difference. In assuming the burden of your own suffering, you lighten the load carried by your loved ones, our planet, and every form of life. 

Image credits: Alchemy, from Camille Flammarion’s 1888 book L’atmosphère: météorologie populaire (“The Atmosphere: Popular Meteorology”).Google images. Butterfly, personal photo.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Her new book, The Soul’s Twins, will be launched next year.

 

 
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