Credibility and connection: personality theory

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It really infuriates me when people dismiss a topic out of hand. It often happens when I mention something I believe in that is slightly off the beaten track, and whoever I’m talking to gets the smug look on their face that precedes their making a definitive statement about a topic they know almost literally nothing about.

“Oh, personality types?” they say. “Well, that’s just putting people in boxes, isn’t it?”

I don’t know, is it? Do you know anything about it, or are you just working off an assumption you’ve made based on a comfort born of ignorance? Have you taken the time to try and understand the topic before assuming you can dismiss it?

The answer is usually, no.

Human nature

Don’t get me wrong, I can see what’s happening – I’m surely guilty of it myself often enough. I understand that we fear new knowledge, and that not everyone possesses a need to analyse and understand everything. Or perhaps lots of people do, but they confine their interest to certain widely-accepted fields of knowledge, such as the natural world, politics, philosophy or general history.

Or perhaps they just want to watch some TV.

My primary area of knowledge is people, which I consider a valid category for understanding in the same way as chemistry or mathematics.

From my observations over my short life so far, there is a human system at work, maybe more than one, and I intend to understand what it consists of. I maintain that understanding people, their motivations, fears and desires, is not simply restricted to the fields of psychology, sociology or psychoanalysis, though one could be forgiven for thinking it was.

Systems thinking

In the same way as I want to understand computer systems, I want to understand human systems.

I think it comes down to labelling. A fear of putting things in boxes, and wanting to stay inside a box of your own making, and so closing your mind to any system that usefully might be able to categorise difference, because it threatens your complacency about yourself and others.

I think the basic problem is a failure to understand that personality typing is a system rather than a set of static definitions – but first, what is a system?

For the explanation of which, we will turn to Wikipedia:

A system is a set of interacting or interdependent components forming an integrated whole.

That is the point of personality typing systems. The purpose of the system is up to us, and therefore it is admittedly open to abuse.

People who are interested in the theories place their own values on using certain labels to justify their actions, find affinity with their ‘type’ or dismiss other types, but that is not the fault of the system.

That is the fault of human nature.

Value versus objectivity

I’ve been thinking about forms of knowledge and the tendency of human beings to create hierarchies. We impose values on systems which are actually just neutral, and therefore risk the integrity of the system.

Typology systems are frequently abused by their own zealous adherents, who for example want to find a link between being a certain personality type and liking a particular flavour of ice cream, or suggest that their type is more ‘intelligent’ than other types.

Hardly anything could be further from the point of Jung’s original personality theory. I think he’d be baffled and amused by the notion, and probably write down some notes about it.

The two main personality systems I’m interested in at the moment are: Jung’s theory of psychological functions, and Riso and Hudson’s Enneagram theory, which is a system of spiritual and emotional development.

Together, they represent mind and spirit respectively, and I believe they are interconnecting systems.

As an aside, I’m also interested in other systems that can help me to understand the rest of the human experience: for example, neurobiology to understand the body, and I’m working on finding one to apply to the external environment.

What’s the point?

But why be interested in systems at all? Why not just accept life as it is, and stumble relatively blindly through it?

It arises from my need to understand my environment and the people in it, and a belief in the greater possibilities for achievement and growth that can be attained if one uses a sensible system. Systems provide appropriate language we can use to understand each other more deeply and effectively, and a roadmap to help us navigate through the quagmire of life.

Unfortunately, many misconceptions arise from mistaking the part for the whole, and mistaken notions about typology – both Enneagram and Jung’s theory – fall into this category.

Labels are a necessary component of a complex system, and are what you could term the language of the system, but are not the system in its entirety.

Labels like ‘INFJ’ and ‘Fours’ are not the purpose of personality systems, but simply a language for people to use to express themselves and communicate these ideas with each other. The reason personality systems can be difficult to penetrate for beginners is the fact that, to use a system, one must first learn its language, which takes time and dedication.

Rather than limiting or restricting the staggering complexity of human experience, labels are signs and symbols with which to express phenomena that is readily observable using basic powers of perception.

We can also use such observations to formulate insights able to predict patterns and behaviour, and hopefully even avoid potential pitfalls.

Where does it come from?

Whether personality systems are embedded in the fabric of our biology, or a pattern we unconsciously choose to see because it’s in our nature to do so, isn’t really important to me.

Divinely ordained? Maybe, maybe not.

Whatever caused a system to exist wouldn’t change my desire to understand it.

All this talk of systems is exhausting, especially as someone who operates primarily based on feelings and whims. But I’m trying to develop my logical capabilities, and hopefully not sounding too mad or stupid in the process.

But why, why try to understand human beings? For a very human reason.

To help with self-development and growth, and try to understand and nurture the complexity of being human. To see where we fit into this cohesive, magnificent whole. The idea of being connected spiritually and mentally to a system of human beings is thrilling to me: not limiting, but expansive.

The need I have  to define and explain this experience is almost impossible to ignore.

Read some more about prejudice against certain types of knowledge, or some nice poetry. 

300x350-catCatherine Julianne is a writer and digital communications professional interested in the field of personality theory. She also likes drawing, meditating and being in nature. 

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Tips for creative productivity

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These are general tips for all those secret artists in the world who need a little bit of help to get started. We’ve all been there. Where do you want to go next?

  1. Start small so it gets finished. Long projects are great and necessary too, but the immediate gratification of finishing and showing people something can keep your enthusiasm up.
  2. Do a little bit every day, even just for ten minutes, so you’re always making progress. Protect your time, so on some days you can do more than ten minutes.
  3. Identify what art form makes your heart sing – drawing, writing, poetry, song writing – and go with it.
  4. Get people to look at your work even when you think it’s not perfect or finished. They’ll see things you haven’t yet, and you can start improving it earlier than you would have otherwise.
  5. Ask for help and guidance when you need it. If you’re stuck on where to take your novel, or how to print your postcards, ask someone who knows how for help – everyone is usually really happy to advise other budding artists.
  6. Use visual aids – if you’re writing a story, for instance, find pictures of people who you think are most like your characters so you can see them, or sketch out the room your scene takes place in.
  7. Make friends with other people who produce creative work so their drive can inspire you.
  8. Go to places like DIY art fairs where people are out there actually selling their work and see them in action. It will then be easier to imagine yourself taking the same action.
  9. Tell people about what you’re doing – this is motivates you to actually produce something.
  10. Find other people to work with. Seeing their creative process can spur you on to keep persisting at what you’re doing. You can meet up with someone to draw or write together, and bounce ideas off one other.
  11. Find a place you like to work in that reflects your creativity. That could be coffee shops, parks or a studio space, if that’s available to you.
  12. Think of yourself as a creative person. When this becomes part of your identity, there will be nothing more natural than producing creatively.
  13. Dress creatively – let your creativity permeate every part of you.
  14. Offer your creative services to others. When there is a demand for your work, you’d be surprised at how this ups your drive to produce.
  15. Consider your productions a gift for others. This is motivating as it then comes directly from the heart.
  16. Speak to your friends about how they get their work out there. For example, you can get tips on whether Blogger or Tumblr are the best platforms to use and how they use it. Maybe you can distribute what you create together, such as at art fairs or through various online platforms which they might be able to recommend.
  17. Post your work on free online platforms like WordPress so you can signpost people you meet towards it, and share the links using social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
  18. Collect work that reflects what you’d like to produce. For example, if you’re making a ‘zine, buy some ‘zines like the one you want to produce so you have inspiration and something to reference (if money will allow).
  19. Always remember that each experience gives you something to reflect on and learn from.
  20. Think about the future. Have an idea of what you’d like the outcome of selling/distributing your work to be, but be willing to do less well than you expect. 
  21. Have business cards so people can find you and your work after they’ve met you.
  22. Imagine yourself giving the finished article to people. Visualise their positive feedback and imagine them spreading the word.

JessJessica Marie is an aspiring novelist living in London. She’s inspired by new experiences, ideas and music. 

It would be amazing if these tips spurred you on to do something creative. Now, take a look at some webcomics.

Image: Unsplash

Writing tips for budding authors

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Here are some writing tips from guest contributor Jessica Marie. These are aimed at those skilled, budding authors out there. Remember, you’re not alone!

  1. Finish what you start. If you can’t think of an ending, a middle or even a beginning, make it bad. At least it will be finished, and then you’ll have something to bounce off and improve.
  2. Don’t wait for perfection. It doesn’t strike, but is crafted. You have to push through all the less great ideas/words/characters/settings/images and refine. If you’re waiting for that inspiration that hasn’t struck yet, do something useful in the meantime and write anyway. It’s good practice.
  3. Develop your narrative voice. For me, I go for a poetic-come-philosophical narrative voice/style, with a view of the horizon as well as an anchor in the present that emerges from the past. Go for mundane details, then polish them into something with a flavour of the narrator that interweaves perspective, opinion and observation.
  4. Make use of imagery. Make me see everything.
  5. Think about your own reaction. If you’re bored, the reader will be bored.
  6. Look around you at the world, take note of things. Your characters can then take notice of these things. Take notice of people. Your characters can become more real. Perhaps sit in a cafe to write: people-watching really is good inspiration.
  7. Use Enneagram/Myers-Briggs Type Indicator/any credible personality typing system to flesh out character.
  8. Take time out. Leave it for a bit and then come back to it.
  9. Make time for writing. Even just fifteen minutes a day is a good habit to get into.
  10. Put your heart into it. Put your self into it
  11. Have confidence – dream big, be fierce, and also be a sensitive storyteller. Look for examples of this kind of story-telling in films and books.
  12. Create beautiful scenes which you would like to be in, live out, feel out.
  13. Enlighten. Tell the reader things they already know but have not yet found the words to express themselves.
  14. Know what excites people.
  15. Move away from speech. Dialogue and setting are great, but scenes with no dialogue – that incorporate action and movement instead – have complementary charm. The keywords are: wittiness, action, emotion, revelations, growth, philosophy, mistakes, fallibility, heart.
  16. Show people your work, get feedback, and listen to some of it. Ask them to put smiley faces next to bits they like, which will become good indicators of what to keep in during the editing process.
  17. Write with others. Perhaps start a weekly writing club with a friend that takes place in a favourite spot.
  18. Work through night if inspiration strikes.
  19. Find a cheap way of printing drafts. Work is a good place. Don’t leave copies lying around the printer, though – it might raise awkward questions.
  20. Read books that are like those you want to write. Read books that are different. Read about writing.
  21. Imagine. Imagine people reading your book. Imagine the whole process from writing to dissemination. Imagine people telling you they’ve really enjoyed it and that they’re dying to read another one of your novels!

Jess

Jessica Marie is an aspiring novelist living in London. She’s inspired by new experiences, ideas and music. 

We hope these tips are in some way helpful and inspire you to start (or keep) writing. Now, have a read of some poetry.

Image: Unsplash