So I noticed lately I’ve been on this blog for over two years! Within those two years I’ve posted about anything from introversion to nutrition – anything that has helped me to grow, love and know myself and that might help you to do the same 🙂 I’ve never wanted to offer advice from a pedestal – I want to be real, to be down to earth and to show that I didn’t come to those realisations without my own personal struggles. I also realised recently how I immerse myself in many self development articles, books, etc without really thinking about the person behind them. Even at home in my bubble I am surrounded by humanity – take my bookshelf: those pages not just paper, they are full of years of the hard work and dreams of many souls and the challenges and curiosities that led them to create.
So I want to get human for a while and share some of my general thoughts and opinions and experiences that led me to be passionate about the topics I share here in a q and a format so it’s like a good old natter… Part 2 on mental health, my chronic illness and loving nature is on its way 😊
Do feel free to skip to the topics you’re interested in!
MBTI (Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator)
What’s your experience with MBTI?
I have been fascinated by MBTI for perhaps five years now and it’s something that I will be writing more about in future – I have also spent a fair amount of time active on many MBTI forums and social media groups. Also, I’ve got many of my friends into the typology system which is awesome! I love how it can help us expand our understanding of the different psychological spaces we occupy within the human condition and a tool to advance our communication and self awareness.
What got you interested in Myers Briggs?
I took a test once in my mid teens and thought nothing of the 4 letters. It was mildly interesting to me but didn’t seem to perfectly match… I think I recall it mistyped me as ENFJ. I then took the test again another time and was blown away by the result – It was me to a T! I then found another article about INFJ childhoods that was so spot on that I couldn’t believe it – it was as if someone had specifically written it about my life! Prior to this I had genuinely been concerned I might have some unknown personality disorder because I thought so differently to my peers – now I just see it as my introverted intuition superpower 😉 Preferring INFJ as a child and teenager was tough – I usually felt like I had to build a socially acceptable persona to fit in and I found it really hard to join in typical sensor topics because my mind didn’t understand things in the same way. I wanted to move the conversation towards how the subject had a deeper meaning or taught us something about life or suggest theories I knew that related to the subject but I learned people didn’t often like the tone of the subject being changed suddenly which is what expressing many of my thoughts would have done. Having the label of INFJ now allowed me a language to explain myself better to others and a useful theory to understand why others acted differently rather than taking their reactions personally as a sign that I was defective and too different to be accepted. I found I could increasingly type people accurately and use this to know how to communicate with them better – what we might have in common, what topics could well make them uncomfortable, how much they likely value security, adventure, efficiency, reliability, intellect, practicality vs idealism … It even helped me to help friends solve problems by looking at situations differently by how the personalities involved affected the best approach. To me it’s like a handbook to humans unmatched by any other personality system I’ve come across!
Doesn’t following MBTI detract from following a spiritual path? Is it not egoic to get wrapped up in a system that emphasises the differences between people and puts them in a box?
Certainly is is very possible to use MBTI in egoic way, if one defines others decisively by their type and believes everything to be in relation to their type in a dogmatic way. MBTI is not a doctrine, it is a set of observations that at this present time appear to correlate quite well with different ways people experience the world. It is a guideline and not a rulebook, the start of an exploration not the end of a conclusive report. People are varied and on a physical level we recognise this whether we are ‘spiritually inclined’ or not – just as we know there people drawn to science and maths and sport and theatre and that some are short and some tall… recognising the differences between people is an essential ego pursuit to keep us alive – how else would we recognise a murderer from a friend, a person who is trying to hurt us from a person who cares for us? Understanding others, getting a deeper look at how our inner universes are different from one another can be an immense tool for compassion . Furthermore MBTI has no superiority or inferiority based around the different types. It can however help us identify possible passions and strengths and find our specific life purpose and guide us through our relationships on our path. But we must not be overly serious about limiting ourself to its way of thinking or indeed of any one way of thinking. But as we can’t comprehend infinite facets of human behaviour I think MBTI is one potentially useful place to begin.
Do you know other INFJs in real life?
Yes. I have had INFJ friends, acquaintances and romances and can think of a few of my old teachers who I suspect of being INFJs. Although I found MBTI after his passing I am confident that my father was also an INFJ which would explain how we got along so well! We had a strong silent mutual understanding that is very rare for me to come across.
What would you say to someone who doesn’t believe in MBTI?
You can check out my blog post on MBTI misconceptions here.
How do you know you are really an INFJ and not a mistyped INFP or another type?
To really understand the MBTI you have to look into the 8 cognitive functions. A four letter score on an online test is often inaccurate hence you can score differently on different sites’ tests. But there is a huge difference between say INFJ and INFP – they have NO functions in common: INFJ: Ni Fe Ti Se and INFP: Fi Ne Si Te. Finding the best fit of your cognitive functions is the best way to confirm your type through self study. Although I noticed a lot of similarities to INFPs (probably because my Enneagram is 4 (see below) and many INFPs are also 4s and 4 is associated with the cognitive function Fi which is the dominant function of IxFPs) once I found out about the functions I was totally confident of my INFJ typing as I related to introverted intuition so well and introverted feeling not so much. I also recognised such INFJ stress behaviours as the Ni Ti loop and my ESTP shadow whereas I couldn’t relate to a Fi Si loop or ESTJ shadow associated with INFPs. Also talking to lots of people of the types you suspect you may be can help you differentiate.
Just thought I’d drop this in for MBTI fans: At the time of writing this I haven’t written any blog posts on the Enneagram but it’s also something that I passionately pursue – maybe a future post? For those that don’t know, the Enneagram is another personality system like MBTI but based on your motivations and fears rather than your preferences for the cognitive functions. MBTI is more about how you perceive the world and Enneagram about what drives you to act as you do. I know a lot of MBTI fanatics are also into the Enneagram as it furthers our understanding of ourselves and allows us to type others more accurately because the enneagram styles give slightly different ‘flavours’ of each MBTI type. It also is particularly helpful for spiritual development as it highlights which patterns of thinking our ego gets stuck in.So for now I’ll keep it short and sweet and say Enneagram is awesome, check it out.
Are you part of any religion?
I consider myself spiritual but not religious.
What about your family?
My dad was non religious and my mum is a Catholic and would take me to church every week as a child.
What makes you interested in spirituality?
It’s natural as a human being to have these questions: how do I best live my life? What is right and wrong? What is the nature of reality? What happens after we die? In that way we are all spiritual beings, just some are exploring those questions more consciously than others whereas some people are more immersed in the external details of their life: career, possessions, hobbies, status etc. A life ruled by building our identity on those things is an essentially lonely existence – don’t we all long for some sense of meaning and connection with others? In an age where our mass material consumption threatens the future of the planet I think a return to exploring our spiritual values and learning to live with peace and love is necessary to move us forward in a positive direction as a planet and a global society.
So how do you ‘practice spirituality’?
Meditation, mindfulness, exploring spiritual resources, keeping an open mind and heart, connecting with nature, holding compassionate space for all people and living things, being kind to others, wildlife and the environment through my everyday actions. Those are a good start. A post on the different ways I practice mindfulness is coming up! 🌒
So do you believe in God?
I don’t believe in God in the traditional sense – The concept of ‘God’ that I embrace is not a ‘man in the sky’ but more of an acceptance of the mystery of the universe. Whether you put your faith in the Big Bang and the discovery of physics or you pray to Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva as a Hindu, there is a universal experience as humans that we all go through with our limitations through the five senses and where we ultimately realise we don’t have access to the complete truth, that we can’t comprehend that in these bodies we have been put in and we collect evidence that best fits our experiences during our lifetime. ‘God’ to me is the unknowable, the awe, the miracle of existence – whether you choose to explain that using an atomic model or a creator model the creation itself is still amazing. ‘God’ is the unifying underlying patterns – the wonder of fractals, the golden ratio, the remarkable quality of how laws of nature about one thing appear again elsewhere in a seemingly unrelated instance… (see awesome video below.) There is a level of interconnectedness we can become aware of that is too infinite to fully grasp…
‘God’ to me is the humbleness of knowing that regardless of whether some other sentient being holds the key to the answers of all of existence we in our human bodies don’t and keeping an open mind and open heart. Spirituality is accepting our unknowing and with it beginning to untangle the untrue stories we manufacture because we are afraid of not knowing…realising concepts and past and future and basically everything we can label and narrow down by thinking about is an illusion, doesn’t fully represent the thing itself. Of course defining something is also very useful & we want to know the answers because knowledge on a material level equates with survival… but knowing ‘God’, knowing the nature of reality cannot be accessed through these limited words and concepts and accepting another truth of reality : impermanence – that the survival of our body is eventually a fruitless goal and choosing to live with another aim in mind – to be open to joy rather than living in fear as our physical wrapper decays… I think there is a tremendous beauty in knowing that you cannot die out of existence for even without the question of a soul your atoms will become the rebirth of something else. Organised religion is just one pathway to becoming at peace with the reality of life and death, of the impermanence of all things but you don’t need a man in the sky to do that for you, you can find it in biology and chemistry, you can find it in the communal spirit of humanity, you can find it in joy… Or put more simply I see the God-nature in things but I don’t follow a God in a religious manner. To me, God is whatever is left that cannot be destroyed or defined.
Who are your favourite spiritual influences?
Eckhart Tolle, Thich Nhat Hahn, Alan Watts, Elizabeth Gilbert. But even then I don’t have to agree with every aspect of their views and teachings – I use their ideas as springboards to explore my own understanding.
Hmm, this is getting super long! Final question:
If you had a magic wand how would you change the world for the better?
Wow, I could be here all night but for starters:
- Rehaul the education system: mindfulness, psychology, emotional intelligence, self esteem and nutrition classes would become essential parts of the curriculum as well as lessons on essential life skills such as handling finances and understanding how the law works and education on important topics such as sexual consent, mental health… Stress reduction classes would be offered teaching mediation, deep breathing, tai chi, yoga etc. Focus on education as a preparation for a happy, healthy life and focusing on the individual’s talents and ambitions as opposed to indoctrination into the current system.
- Encourage visits from outside speakers, school trips to local businesses, culturally significant places, farms etc to help children to relate practically to the world around them, to respect people living different lifestyles to their own and animals/nature.
- Religious education and philosophy would be implemented on a more basic level for younger students, and a broad range of ideas and beliefs would be learnt for a culturally expansive worldview rather than just learning one religion such as Christianity in the UK
- The school system at present caters mainly for xSxJ MBTI types – teachers would be educated on psychological differences and learning styles and how to identify them in students. Teachers would use a variety of methods for kinaesthetic, auditary and visual learners. Students would also be asked for more input on the ways they like to learn best and given more options to specialise in the subjects they want to pursue for a career earlier and more options to study topics out of personal interest. The only way we can have a more conscious society is by teaching kids to be conscious as many of their parents have not acquired the skill to a level to pass that understanding on so school must be responsible for this catalyse the fastest improvements.
- Focus on using sustainable technology e.g. wind power, solar power, test tube meat to reduce greenhouse emissions and end animal slaughter (this is already possible just a financial issue, e.g. www.supermeat.com! .
- Faster mental health services response and a range of therapies offered e.g. art therapy, support groups… CBT & NLP (neuro linguistic programming) could also be taught in schools so coping strategies are already in placeto prevent some mental health problems in the first place!
- Create an integration of western medicine with holistic disciplines:
- Adequate nutritional training for doctors. More testing of natural alternatives to medicines, particularly those with potentially serious side effects e.g. clinical trials with scientifically backed pharmacologically active herbs, acupuncture etc. Implement diet & lifestyle measures to treat curable diseases – so many pop a pill and get on with and miss out on their full wellness potential by not addressing the route cause of their illness!
- Greater focus on wildlife conservation – many species are essential to preserving our ecosystem!
Basically it all boils down to the same thing. Love. Taking care of our fellow living beings, living in harmony, putting aside our superficial differences and realising we’re all on this journey of life together. There is a quote by Ram Dass that I absolutely love:
We have a fear in western culture in speaking about death but we all have the same fate, we’re all going to die and when we realise that most deeply at the deathbed of a loved one or the end of our lives isn’t it incredible how people pull together? How different would life be if wasn’t only at such difficult times we notice the preciousness of the moment, the value of life? Life is insane when you think about it, how the perfect conditions have been created from the sum of everything that has ever come before to allow you to experience you at this moment! We can become so accustomed to our environment, to having a scientific explanation for awesome and curious things that we don’t notice the beauty staring us right in the face.
So here’s one thing about me that’s more simple and yet maybe more important to my wellbeing than anything in these long winded paragraphs:
I am still a human being that looks around and thinks ‘wow.’
Enough about me, let’s hear about you! I’d love to hear your thoughts on spirituality and personality tests like MBTI and Enneagram. What are your favourite self development tools?