Introspection Time: MBTI Types

A few days ago I was reading something about relationships with the INFJ psychological type, from Myers-Briggs typology. Something about the description got me wondering, and I’m still wondering: am I an INFJ instead of an INTJ?

Normally I test very strongly as an INTJ:

  • Very high on Introversion, because I’m an introvert
  • Typically fairly highly on iNtuition, because I’m all about adding meaning and understanding (often to the point of distraction for someone, who might be me)
  • Decision making is usually fairly rapid and often based on the information at hand (thus the “Thinking” as opposed to “Feeling”). Feelers here tend to look at the specific circumstances and work on a case-by-case basis.
  • I tend to make decisions and run with them, this “Judging” as opposed to “Perceiving,” because “Perceiving” refers to being staying more open to options. My scores here trend to the “Judging,” but I’ve also tested as an INTP.

An important note is that Myers-Briggs tests are not conclusive in and of themselves; from skilled practitioners, they are expected to be around 70% accurate, and I don’t know that I’d consider online tests (the most common tests) as being administered by “skilled practitioners.” So my scores are anecdotal in nature; they’re fairly consistent, and the descriptions generally fit me, but they’re not expected to be absolute by any measure.

I can say without a doubt that the Introversion is strong; people exhaust me. I got into music because it was a way of forcing interaction with others without having to be part of the others (on stage, you’re with people but you’re separate from the audience). I played drums, in fact, for two reasons: one is that it’s fun (and cathartic) to hit things hard, and the other was that I could hide behind the kit.

Intuition is also strong; I can’t look at something without formulating something about it. It takes a lot of repetition and effort to avoid this; I look at a sunrise and wonder how the colors are generated that way. I identify phenotypes when I meet people for the first time (which allows my introversion to roam free, since while I’m identifying phenotypes I’m not interacting with the people I’m analyzing. Why, yes, I’m very friendly… what makes you ask that?)

It’s the “Feeling” and “Perceiving” that are in question, and “Perceiving” versus “Judging” doesn’t bother me; I’m not an artist, per se, but I love to create art, poetry, music, fiction, shapes. If Perceiving weren’t a capable feature for me, I don’t know if I’d approach seeing the world as a growing flower the way I do. At the same time, Judging is still strong as well; I have a largely-fixed moral compass (some would say it’s fixed in place and isn’t all that great of an actual moral compass, and I’d probably agree with them. I can be a moron sometimes… but even “I can be a moron sometimes” is an indicator of a powerful “Judging” impulse.)

“Feeling,” though…

That moral compass I mentioned in the paragraph on “Feeling” and “Perceiving” is just as relevant for “Feeling” as it is for “Judgement.” I believe in a fixed morality, but I also see that fixed morality as a Platonic ideal rather than an objective reality.

For example, I believe strongly that theft is wrong… but that there are circumstances under which it’s a moral imperative.

Here’s a dilemma that illustrates that concept. It’s probably something you’ve heard before, but in case you haven’t:

Imagine a poor man whose wife is gravely ill. A medicine is available which can heal his wife, and the local pharmacist has the medicine, but the man cannot afford it. Should he steal the medicine and save his wife, or respect the injunction against theft?

For me, that’s a no-brainer. He steals the medicine. It’s arguable that the pharmacist has an obligation to give the medicine, but the dilemma is meant to be considered from the poor man’s perspective, not the pharmacist’s, or the wider society’s perspective. (I would hope that the pharmacist would, of course, offer the medicine, and that the society as a whole would also be willing to share the burden of the medicine, in such a simple case, but… again, not the point of the dilemma.)

For others, it’s just as cut-and-dried – in the other direction. I know someone who was upset that the wife would die, but saw no other choice for the man. That’s fine; I understand that decision even while disagreeing with it and its reasons.

For that person, the rules were simple: you don’t steal.

For me, the rules are just as simple, but longer: you don’t steal, unless circumstances with higher priorities factor in. A life is a higher priority. If it were me, I’d steal the medicine and take my chances. I’d probably even leave a note: “I stole the medicine, here’s my number and my address and why I stole the medicine.”

Can I even describe every circumstance under which I’d feel theft was morally, if not legally, permissible?

… No. I can describe some – after all, I just described one – but I don’t think I can figure out a canonical, authoritative list of conditions under which I feel theft would be morally permissible. In fact, I’d feel icky even trying – it’d be sort of like saying “when is it okay to look at pornography?” – the question itself carries with it a sense of coarseness with which I’d prefer to not be associated.

The bottom line is, I don’t imagine when it’s okay to apply fluid judgement to “the rules,” but I can imagine the rules’ fluidity being perfectly valid. That’s the Platonic sense; there’s an ideal out there, but I don’t know what it is (and in most cases, I don’t need to know what it is.)

That’s a “Feeling”-dominant idea, more than a “Thinking”-dominant idea.

So… I don’t know, honestly. It’s not extremely important what my actual MBTI classification is (although I want to understand myself so that I can leverage my strengths well, and compensate for my weaknesses), but my type also factors into how much control I assert over myself.

That’s what really got me thinking about this: what if I want to be an INTJ, so I force myself to react as as INTJ would, despite being (for example) an INFP or INFJ? What if I’m not that good at, say, mathematics (and I’m not, honestly), and yet I desire more skill, so I force myself into being a mathematician? (If that’s what I’ve done, I’ve failed, BTW.)

It goes further: what if I am not an especially good person, but desire to be, such that I do only those things that allow me to see myself as a good person? That’s a question Orson Scott Card asked in Ender’s Game: if Peter, who is a murderous psychopath in his internal drives, ends up doing only good things, is he a good person, or is he an evil person who does good things?

I don’t know. I don’t know how to answer Orson Scott Card’s question; I don’t know how I would be able to tell if I’m subconsciously answering MBTI questions in such a way that I can admire my own answers. (For example, what if I would respond in one way to a question, but I find that I don’t like that answer – so I answer the other way? If that impulse to change the answer is so ingrained that I can’t tell if I’m doing it, is it really my actual answer, or am I subverting the test?)

It’s distressing to me. It’s why songs like Supertramp’s “The Logical Song” are so powerful to me: “Please tell me who I am…”

2016 Warriors against 1996 Bulls…

ESPN has a set of videos where they’re comparing the 1996 Chicago Bulls against the 2016 Golden State Warriors. They’re talking about this while the championship series is still ongoing (with the Warriors up 2-0 against the Cavaliers), so it’s a little premature – but having watched the Warriors eviscerate the Cavaliers twice, I can understand it.

The consensus is, from what I’ve seen, that the ’96 Bulls – generally heralded as the buzzsaw against which all other buzzsaws will be compared – would be at a disadvantage against the current Warriors team.

I’m struggling with that one.

I can see this Warriors team being a tough game for the Bulls. I can see them pushing the Bulls to the limit; maybe a seven-game series, even, especially with modern rules and the Warriors’ emphasis on the three-point shot, which the Bulls didn’t contend with as often.

I checked the numbers. In 1996, threes went up somewhere between 16 and 17 a game. In 2016 – now – they shoot 21 a game. GSW’s numbers, though, are unreal: in game 2 against the Cavaliers, they made 18 three pointers – more than the Bulls would have seen shot – and shot 43 three pointers. In game 1, it was more pedestrian: twelve of 33 from deep.

Yikes. The Bulls killed from midrange; the Warriors snipe you without you even knowing they’re there.

The Bulls had a lot going for them, though: Pippen, Jordan, and Rodman; Kukoç, Ron Harper, Bison Dele and Robert Parish.

Compare against the Warriors: Curry, Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Iguodala, Livingston (sort of).

On paper, the significant contributors for each team… the Warriors have more. The “significant” names on those rosters go three deep for the Bulls, and five deep for the Warriors, and let’s be honest: Jordan and Pippen would score on you at will, but Rodman’s usage would center on world-class defense and rebounding. He wasn’t likely to pour twenty points on you, ever, and the Warriors’ “big five” could all drop 20 – or 30 – on you, especially sharing the floor with the other options.

That’s what makes the Warriors so deadly. Through two games against the Cavaliers, I’ve seen a number of plays (where “number” means “more than five”) where the Cavs defender simply left the scorer alone simply by trying to defend the wrong guy; every play, you force the defender to wonder whether it’s going to be a pass to another scorer, or whether his guy’s actually going to shoot – and making the absolutely worst choice possible.

Would the Bulls make the same mistakes?

On paper, it’s hard to argue; looking at what the Warriors are doing to a great Cavaliers team, it’s easy to say “Oh, yeah… those geezers from 1996 are toast.”

But I don’t know; if it were a series between the eras, and we adjusted the rules to average between then and now… I’d be afraid to bet. I don’t think the Bulls are going to make the choices the Cavs are making; I think they can defend straight up, and Rodman’s going serve as the secret sauce, with Jordan’s homicidally-competitive nature being the fire.

I remember watching the Bulls. Sure, I know a lot more about basketball now than I did then, but I remember. I think the Warriors would make a series of it; I think they could even win the series. But … better than the 1996 Bulls?

The jury’s still out. I’d need to see the Warriors win this year, first – last year they had a 3-1 advantage and lost, thanks to Curry’s injury, Green’s ill-timed suspension, and some heroics on the part of the Cavaliers. Let them win, and I’ll think about it.

But for right now… I’d still bet on the Bulls.

Extremism

I find that I’m okay with extremism. If you want to hold to anti-Semitic views, okay; if you want to destroy America, fine; if you hate the President (whoever it is) so much that you wish something bad would happen to him or her, cool beans; it doesn’t really bother me that that’s how you feel.

What I am not okay with is the translation of those desires into action.

Do you hate Jews like me? Whatever. As soon as you attack Jews like me: you have crossed over to the Sitra Achra, the “other side,” the side of evil and Hell. That goes for Muslims, too: hate Islam with all your might? … big deal. Attack Muslims because of their faith? You’re evil and should no longer be considered part of the human race.

Do you hate America? Hey, it’s all good. You have every right to feel how you feel, even if you hate America while benefiting from its presence and largesse. But as soon as you take your hate and apply it by harming someone or something else: you have crossed over to the Sitra Achra.

Do you hate the President? Okay, fine. I’m not exactly a fan of the current guy in office either. But as soon as you translate that hate into action, whether attacking him or inspiring others to attack him, you have crossed over to the Sitra Achra.

I would rather have a world that didn’t need redemption. That’s not my choice to make.

But my choice to make is to act in such a way that the world is blessed through my presence in it, and not harmed. I’m not perfect about it; I’ve hurt people through clumsiness, through greed, through my own selfishness.

But I’m here to tell you right now that my intent is to cause no harm. My intent is to repair the world as much as I can. My intent is to preserve and inspire the good in the world, and to maybe influence the evil in the world to be less active, in any way that I can, as much as I can.

Again, I’m not perfect about it. I have harmed others; I will harm others in the future, I’m sure. But I can promise you that I regret the harm I have caused, and will address any harm I cause in the future, with an intent to leaving the world a better place than I found it.

That does not mean “… by leaving bodies in my wake.” Screw that. I’d rather die than refuse to allow you to live.

Accountability in Writing

I’ve been writing a lot lately, a trend that makes me very happy. I’m writing a fairly large variety of materials, too: poetry, fiction, even some nonfiction.

However, most of it is still under wraps. I have one fiction piece that took a while to write and edit (to be published soon, along with author’s notes), and I have a lot of nascent songs to work through, for which music hasn’t been fully composed; I also have works of poetry (that are, well, songs without music). The nonfiction stuff is probably going to remain private forever (as I’m not satisfied with the research I’ve put into them, such that I’m willing to show others what I’ve done.)

It’s been good, though. It’s been cathartic in some ways, negative in others (I write best when I’m trying to work through stuff, and it shows in what I write), but I’m glad for the creative spark.