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.

 

Five Effects of Aging I’d Rather Not Acknowledge May 23, 2014

Dorothy'shouseOkay.  Time for a confession.  Until recently I’ve been quite mature about aging.  I’ve believed platitudes like, Why fight the inevitable?  It’s just a number.  Accept it with grace.  It’s a phase everyone goes through…if they’re lucky enough to live that long.  Stay active. You can still be a useful member of society.  Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera….  Then, about halfway into my 70th year, the s**t hit the fan.

It began with some pain in a toe after a few weeks of vigorous walking on brick roads in wornout tennis shoes.  The coup de gras was delivered on Thanksgiving Day when I squatted for about three minutes in front of a low kitchen cabinet looking for just the right serving dish.  The next morning my toe was so painful I couldn’t walk without limping.  Determined to tough it out, I didn’t consult a podiatrist until January.  The black boot I had to wear until my stress fracture healed wasn’t pretty, but at least it brought me a lot of sympathy! Squatting, for heaven’s sake?  Who knew squatting could be a health risk?

Then one day in February I woke up with the lids of my right eye stuck together.  When I got them open I was appalled at the intense shade of pink staring at me from the mirror. Could I get an eye doctor to see me?  Of course not!  I’d just have to tough it out until next Monday.  Fortunately, I had an appointment with my podiatrist that afternoon. After his eyes widened at the sight of mine, he asked his assistant to make me an appointment with the eye doctor down the hall. The good news is that I saw him 30 minutes later.  The bad news is that the next day both eyes were stuck shut and as red as alligator eyes in the glow of a flashlight at night. Eat your heart out, Bob Costas!  Speaking of… that was a weird coincidence, especially since I had made such a big deal about his case of pink eye at the Winter Olympics only a few days earlier.  “Look at that, Fred! He’s got something wrong with his eye.  Gross! What is that?”

The third indignity, this one even grosser than pink eye, cropped up soon afterwards.  One day I developed an annoying itch in the center of my upper chest.  Several mornings later I awoke scratching a wart!  A wartSeriously?  I’d always secretly suspected that only people with character flaws got warts and now I was one of them! How could that be? Luckily, specially treated Band-Aids make them go away, but I have to tell you, hiding mine was a wardrobe challenge for the next three weeks!

So now I was hobbling around with a bum toe, alligator eyes, an unsightly growth and high-necked blouses! Next came a sinus infection. What was happening here? After a few weeks of moping around the house feeling as sorry for myself as a child, I finally had to admit the universe was sending me a humbling message:  “Wake up, Princess.  You’re not in Kansas any more!  Aging is no tea party and you might as well get used to it!”

I’m trying. So here, thoroughly chastened by this latest wake-up call and determined to handle it like a grownup so I can get on with my life,  I present my top Five Effects of Aging I’d Rather Not Acknowledge.

1.  To my horror, health complaints are getting to be a common conversation topic.

2.  When I don’t feel well I get cranky, petulant and depressed.

3.  Your reflexes actually do get slower as you age, which explains why your driving does too.  I’m thinking that if you see me behind the wheel 20 years from now  (I’m determined to be optimistic about this) you better hope I’m headed the other way.

4.  I don’t laugh at people who watch Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune in bed any more.

5.  I’ve been sitting at my desk writing all day every day for so many years that sometimes just walking requires aspirin. I hope I haven’t done myself some permanent damage.   At any rate, now I get the Tim Conway shuffle.  (Check out the link for some good laughs.)

I still intend to live this phase of my life with grace, but after this winter I’m aspiring to more kindness and humor too.

Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks .

 

 

Something Different About Last Weekend November 7, 2013

Nearing the End of a 20-Year Wait

Nearing the End of a 20-Year Wait

I want to tell you about last weekend.

But first, some background.  Around 35 years ago, my husband’s youngest brother, Tony, called us late one night from college to tell us he was gay.  My first reaction was surprise.  This was in the late seventies, when homosexuality was still so closeted that the average straight person rarely thought about it, let alone openly encountered it.

My next reaction was a flash of understanding. Suddenly Tony’s unhappiness and occasional troubling behavior as a teenager made sense.  How alone he must have felt. How he must have despaired of ever finding acceptance.

That’s why my third reaction was admiration for Tony’s courage. Where had that come from? What pain had brought him to this place?  How much more would he experience now that he had chosen to reveal his truths to a judgmental and unforgiving world? I had never met anyone with that kind of bravery before, and I was in awe of it. Could I be that brave?  I didn’t think so. I was still too afraid of failure and censure to leave the conventional path I was on.

Years passed.  Tony became an interior designer and thrived in a profession he loved. Eventually he started his own successful design firm in Houston. Meanwhile, I grew increasingly unhappy with myself. Unlike Tony, I didn’t love my work as a college professor, but I was too afraid to quit and start over.

Then, when I thought there must be something terribly wrong with me and had given up hope of ever finding fulfillment, I discovered Jungian psychology. Afraid of what I might learn about myself, but even more afraid of wasting my truths on an unlived life, I turned within and stepped into a bold new adventure of self-discovery and authentic living.

By the time Tony and Scott met I had quit teaching and written my first book. Two years later they invited Fred and me to Houston where I conducted their commitment ceremony. Never have I felt such warmth and kindness, such sincere interest and approval, as I received from their friends that weekend. The natural, unforced acceptance of these total strangers was a revelation.

Since then I’ve encountered this attitude many times. Always from Tony and Scott and their friends. Most recently I felt it last weekend at the city clerk’s office in New York where Fred and I went to witness their marriage. While waiting for their number to be called I sat next to a producer of Broadway musicals. In just moments, he and his partner would be legally married after being together for 35 years. They, too, exuded a rare, unguarded friendliness.

It's Official!

It’s Official!

What makes people like this so different from the norm? I found my answer at the play we attended that night. Kinky Boots is a delightful musical about a young man who saves his father’s shoe factory by making boots for drag queens. Its theme is acceptance: how it is withheld by some and freely given by others.

Most of us have been hurt by some form of prejudice, whether because of our nationality, race, religion, social or economic class, age, appearance, gender or sexuality. The people who automatically judge and reject us do so because they fear and reject their own differentness. Those who freely accept us have broken through their fear and found the courage to accept themselves.

Reflecting on last weekend, I realize why it was so very special for me. Since that late night phone call so many years ago Tony has been a beloved teacher who paved the way for me to stop fearing my life and start living it. He did that by showing me what courage, self-acceptance, and open-heartedness look like. These are among my most treasured lessons and I will always be grateful.

Congratulations, Tony and Scott!!  May your marriage be long and happy.  And thank you for being in my life.

You can find Healing the Sacred Divide at Amazon and at Larson Publications, Inc.

 

 
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