Friday, February 12, 2010

"Basically, I'm Complicated" (15/90)

Today I had to take the Myers-Briggs personality assessment for my Marketing class.

Now, it's not often that I get worked up about things like this.  But this really got to me, and as I was anticipating taking the test for the past week or so I’ve been trying to figure out why.

It could be that I had to pay $25 for the thing when there are several free versions available; in the career center on campus, online-- oh look, here’s one for you to try if you so desire. Granted, mine will be a bit more in-depth but I won’t get the results until next week and you could get a satisfactory understanding in five minutes. I mean come on, it’s 2010 let’s learn to use our resources.

But it’s not just that, there’s more.

I’m extremely interested in Psychology. Only two years ago I was a Psych major trying to decide whether to pursue clinical or counseling psychology. In the meantime I was planning a life around this career I’d hoped to have. I knew the clinic I wanted to intern and then work at in Destin, Florida.

And then, I was made aware of the harsh realities of the field that I was pursuing when a family member began dealing with mental illness. That’s one of those things that no matter how much you read about or watch movies about and try to understand on your own, you will never truly understand until you come face to face with someone that’s struggling, really struggling, to gain control of a tormented mind.

Let’s just say this, dealing with people with mental illness is serious. And while incredibly rewarding, it is draining on every level. As is counseling. Rewarding and worthwhile, but draining.

Just from the little bit of life experience I’ve had so far I know that I have a tendency to internalize other people’s pain. Those I am close to and care about I hold in my heart constantly. Foe that reason I don’t mind not  having a ton of close attachments in my life. I think it’s much more rewarding to be there completely for a few people than to be a there a little for a lot of people.

I’ve said all that only to say that I am fascinated by the field of Psychology and continue to be a student of it on my own, reading all manners of studies that I come across.  I am not ignorant of the brilliance or  the flaws of personality testing.

This isn’t really about that. This bothers me on another level.

Let’s look at a few of the questions that I caught myself lingering on for a bit too long.

This is the way we got started, and I was already a little upset.

“How satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?”

            Would you say you are:
                        -Not at all happy
                        -Not very

Now, I checked "rather happy". But, these are ill-defined terms. I’ve compartmentalized my life. In some aspects I’m very happy, in others not at all happy. So, I’m assuming on the whole the best way to characterize that is to choose neutrally, but what is neutral here? Is it not very happy or rather happy?

I chose not to look borderline depressed and chose "rather happy".

So, then I finished up the preliminary questions in which they tried to get a general feel for me, on to the first of the 144 questions. The first few weren’t so bad.

Here’s the next question that made my stomach tighten a bit:

“Are you usually a good “mixer” or rather quiet and reserved?

Well, it depends. It depends on my mood, on who else is in the mix and what kind of function it is.

So, despite all of these things I begrudgingly chose “quiet and reserved” Ignoring the fun, flirty, outgoing girl that I am when I get in a group of good folks that I trust.

Here’s another:

In reading for pleasure do you enjoy odd or original ways of saying things or like writers to say exactly what they mean?

Well, uh that depends on what I want at the time. But you know, depends or both isn’t an answer. Sigh.

Finally, I moved on to pairing questions. I was asked to choose which set of words in the pair was more appealing. Here's an example: 

                        Tender hearted

I am both. Not an answer, of course.

I got to the end feeling frustrated, which was furthered by the fact that I’d have to wait for a week to know just who I am according to Myers and Briggs.

But this is not my first personality test. I took a Personality class last year in which we took several different personality tests. Even before that I’d taken several personality tests on my own. They are fascinating. And for the most part quite accurate.

I can tell you that according to Personality Plus, I am Choleric-Melancholy. I’ll be honest, knowing that did help me to understand myself a bit. I do agree that understanding one’s own temperament is important in that it allows us to build on our strengths and work with our weaknesses.

I’m not sure that I agree that it is a good measure of where we should be career wise or whom we should be with.

I first took the Personality Plus test in a church group with some friends and a “mentor”. There’s a reason for the quotations, I know now that that title wasn’t befitting of that person, but we’ll get to that some other time.

So, I got the results of this test, Choleric-Melancholy, that’s me.

The “mentor” then says aloud as we were standing outside the church, “So, how does a choleric-melancholy fit into my life?”

This was a serious question, and I should have known right then and there to sever this relationship, but only hindsight is 20/20, so I did not.

This personality typing was a big theme in our toxic relationship. Everything I did, everything, was attributed to my personality type. I was constantly told to strive toward being more Sanguine and praised for being Choleric.

I was always too much and simultaneously not enough.

The days that I was Sanguine, I was loved. The days that I was melancholy, I was a burden. The days that I was choleric, I was praised. And, well I am rarely if ever Phlegmatic.
 But understand, these days when I am something other than Choleric-Melancholy are great. I, like all of us, am a complicated creature. I, like all of us, am not easily generalized.

I am not a personality type. I am all of the intricacies and “it depends” and the “well, sometimes” it is all of those variants make me who I am.

I am fine with personality testing on the whole. I’d even encourage you to take the Myers-Briggs and the Personality Plus; both are wonderful resources and help us get to know ourselves.

But, lets not take the easy way out on getting to know other people. Don’t take Myers and Briggs word on it, dig a little deeper and find out who the people around you are.

We are fascinating, all of us, thanks to the little surprises and intricacies. Let’s not overlook those things. 


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