Understanding MBTI: Part I
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator initially stemmed from Carl Jung’s discovery of psychological types in the 1920’s. Isabelle Myers and her mother, Katherine Cook Briggs, utilized Jung’s teachings and established the MBTI tool in the 1940’s and 50’s after conducting extensive research on personality theory. They essentially found that there were inherent and consistent traits hidden within ourselves which were independent of environmental influence. Essentially, we’re not completely blank slates as children. We have personalities. This doesn’t necessarily discount the impact our environment has on us in how we develop, it just shows there’s something more than what may be apparent.
Within MBTI, there are 16 different personality types. Each type uses two modes of perceiving information (Sensing and Intuition) and two ways of reacting to that information (Thinking and Feeling). The order of the functions as well as each function’s orientation (extraverted or introverted) make up the letters of your type. Our first two functions, or preferences, are considered our strengths, whereas our last two functions are our weaknesses. These remain the case from the day we’re born to the day we die. Through growth and awareness expansion, we can begin to improve upon our weaker functions. However, this occurs after we transcend Reason along the calibration scale. We’ll save that explanation for another day once we discuss the levels of consciousness. This post is made primarily explain MBTI and the significance of the functions.
Listed is a brief explanation of each of the four primary functions:
Intuition – observes the big picture, connects the dots between ideas and theories; tries to understand the meaning behind things, forward looking, strategic, detached, independent
Sensing – perceives the details of the physical; focuses on being present; looks to the past for guidance; emphasizes the experience of life
Feeling – reaction from the heart, focuses on what others want and what they care about, tries to empathize and understand where others are coming from; looks at people’s potential; roots for the underdog
Thinking – reaction from the mind, focuses on what makes the most sense objectively; tries to take feelings and biases out of the equation and arrive to an independent conclusion regardless of how it affects others.
In addition to having four different functions, each one has either an introverted or extraverted orientation. This is significant to understanding what people focus on and what matters to them.
Introverted vs. Extraverted orientation
Introverted functions are black and white. They by nature are pinpointed and direct. Also, there is a hierarchy of what is perceived as best within that function.
Extraverted functions are open ended. They are outwardly focused on what’s possible. These functions also try not to pick favorites because they see all perspectives within that function as valid.
I’ll use two different personalities with the same functions but different orientations of those functions as an example:
In the INTJ’s personality, the two dominant functions are Introverted Intuition and Extraverted Thinking. The two weaker functions are Introverted Feeling and Extraverted Sensing. Conversely, the ENTP shares the same dominant functions as the INTJ, but its orientations are flipped. These are what we call mirrors. When looking at personalities, it’s important to understand the functions themselves. It’s the only way you’ll be able to truly comprehend yourself and others when trying to read MBTI personalities, because it allows you to separate other determinants of the personality (e.g. astrology, environmental factors, demographics, awareness levels, enneagram, and numerology to name a few).
Most articles discussing MBTI focus on the letters within the type description (e.g. INTJ) as a way to describe the personality. They label the difference between the I,E; N,S; T,F; and J,P and describe the characteristics of the personality. However, this doesn’t really get to the root of the type. In the example of the INTJ and ENTP, only by looking at the specific functions themselves do you see that they view the world in a completely different way.
The INTJ pinpoints his Intuition while explaining his logic outwardly. The ENTP explains his Intuition while he pinpoints his logic.
In my next post, we’ll go deeper into MBTI and discuss compatibility as well as the primary focuses for each type. This will help show the beauty and harmony that underlies MBTI and what makes it such an important part of who we are!