Myers Briggs

What is Briggs-Myers Typology Good for and What is it Not? Part 2

In “Part 1: A Cautionary Tale” (linked in the comments below) I explored my concerns about Typology being used in hiring/firing/performance evaluation. If it isn’t the right tool for this job which so many social scientists seem to want to measure it by, then what is the point of finding one’s type?

The most valuable use of Typology in my experience (other than just getting turned on by a big sexy psychological theory in and of its self) is energy management for personal development. When our energy is wasted and we are spinning our wheels without commensurate gain, this is when we feel frustrated with life, futile, depressed, stymied, drained, lost, anxious, distracted, angry, even hopeless. These types of experiences are often what start people on their type discovery journey. They may express it as “I need to decide on a career”, but concrete career advice is not the outcome of type discovery, nor is it usually the real question people seek an answer to. While type is not the determinant of how successful someone will be in a certain field, different types experience dissatisfaction in different contexts and the directions to invest one’s energy to overcome them is very different for different cognitive types as well. This is the essence of the power of the model.

Personality Hacker has established a powerful framework of laying out the time and energy management strengths and needs of different types and the role each function in the “stack” (or “seat in the car”) plays. I highly recommend their material on the Car Model, and How Personality Types Manage Energy (linked below) which are the basis for what I will cover here.

The first, or dominant function (Driver) is like the air we breathe, necessary for our survival. It is energy positive, how we feel most like ourselves and is endlessly energizing. We generally unconsciously set up our life to get as much access to this process as possible. But if the context of our life cripples this process, preventing us from being our best selves, it results in deep dysphoria. For example an ENTJ leads with Te which thrives on high level execution of resource management. They will, without even trying, find themselves coordinating multi-tiered operations to generate novel sustainable systems. However if they find themselves in a situation where they are disempowered in terms of bringing their visions to fruition, maybe even punished for their decisive and action-oriented strengths, they’re likely to feel inadequate, punished by circumstance, powerless, helpless, and at a loss for a purposeful identity in the world. There is no worse feeling for an ENTJ.

The second, or auxiliary function (Copilot) is a natural talent, but it takes effort to develop it into a skill. It is energy negative, so it comes at some cost, and may be avoided if one is already drained because they aren’t getting enough time in their 1st function. This process is the sweet spot of talent vs. challenge that engages a person to invest energy into solving the problems that are interesting to them. When you are energized this is the best area to invest that surplus of mental energy to develop greater and greater skill in this process which makes the best sidekick to your driver. For someone starting from energetic solid ground this is where the treasure is in personal development. An INFP who is secure in their sense of identity and honors unique human experience does well to explore using Ne to experience more people and contexts, fueling their poignant understanding of what it means to be human.

So what if you are drained and don’t have the energy (or maybe don’t have the opportunity) to embrace your auxiliary/Copilot function? You will likely find yourself drawn to the 3rd function which in the car model is represented as a 10 year old in the back seat behind the Copilot. This function doesn’t cost you like the 2nd function does, so it is a way to conserve energy. I think of it as energy neutral in this sense, and in the short term it may be a healthy way to shelter yourself from extremely demanding situations. In the long term though, it adds up to stagnation. Especially if you are letting the 10 year old call the shots, you are not showing up as all that you could be. The 10 year old shouldn’t be paying the bills, so to speak, that would be selling yourself short. Getting into this conservative defensive state is how an INFJ might show up as exactingly critical (of both self and others), de-identify with Feeling because it is siphoning what little Ni energy they are able to accrue in this loud, fast-paced, on-demand, self-interested world many of us are immersed in whether we like it or not. If there isn’t enough space, time, and stillness to get what dominant Ni needs, and the omnipresent unrest of others around you feels like kryptonite sucking your strength away, then building emotional walls of stone and sticking to detached Ti logic is sometimes the only answer to be found. But an INFJ in this situation would be wise to change some of their circumstances to allow for that Ni stillness to re-charge, and then investing that energy into actively setting the positive social standard, mediating win-wins using Fe attunement to interpersonal dynamics.

And what of the infamous “inferior function”? Many have pointed out how this function unfairly gets a pretty bad rap, and I don’t disagree. It is in my view the most complicated territory represented on the cognitive map, so much so that I think it needs its own post in the future. It is often thought of as a “blind spot”, however the flip side of that is an aspiration. A blind spot prompts us to solve the problems that arise in that unseen area in unique ways using our other functions. John Beebe describes the 4th function as the animus/anima – kind of a spirit guide that can lead us to truths we try to hide from ourselves. In the car model we represent it as a 3 year old. A 3 year old can throw a tantrum if it doesn’t get the attention it needs, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t loved and valued as much as any other member of the family. If anything it needs more protection and support from the others. I like to think of it as a release valve.

The bottom line of the 4th function in terms of what Typology is good for, is that knowing your 4th function gives you a mirror to check your blind spot, and a release valve to decompress when your driver needs a break. Even when we are energy positive, fully charged from our dominant process, if we are exercising it and our auxiliary in high complexity ways then they will need a break at times. Being the polar opposite of our dominant function, the 4th function is the break the driver needs. It just isn’t a good way to get the heavy lifting of life accomplished, just as you wouldn’t want the 3 year old in the family driving the car. So an ENFP who thrives on innovation, tearing down the status quo, believing nothing impossible when it comes to human potential – will want to embrace the grounding effect of the stable and familiar a little here and there. They will aspire to make the impossible dream become the norm within everyone’s reach – the aspiration of creating an all new revolutionary status quo! Knowing this about yourself as an ENFP will help you create the lifestyle you need to honor both the driver and the 3 year old.

When we are able to design our life to be able to charge up in our dominant process, and push ourselves into gaining new ground with the talents/skills of our auxiliary, with a leg up from our tertiary, and aspiring and decompressing with our 4th function, we are equipped to fully contribute our unique gifts to the world. THAT is what Typology is good for.

To discover your type, schedule a 60-90 min video chat Personality Type Discovery Consultation with me!

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