Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Wishing you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season! May your merriment be plentiful and your company warm.

--Aine and Jason

Friday, December 19, 2008

Visions of Sugarplums (with a few sugar quills and chocolate frogs...)

As I'm busily preparing for the Evans' family Christmas, I thought I'd share a bit about our celebration. Particularly, the food!

In our house, Jason is the cook, and I am the baker. (Though as most moms know, I cook the everyday, routine dinners--they're just not as gourmet or tantilizing as Jason's creations...) So for our family Christmas we go all out. I've been known to bake as many as 13 different cookies, plus other delights, such as a chocolate Yule log or German nut stollen.

I have recipes that my german grandmother shared when I was a teenager (thank goodness I set a date to bake with her, my notebook in hand to record them). She was a wonderful baker--she ran an informal baking "business" in her Philadelphia home with her girlfriend. They were known for the hundreds of tins of cookies and doughnuts they created and gave to churches and neighbors every year at Christmas. The recipes that I recorded that day are full of phrases like: "a pinch of...", "two handfuls", "about two cups", "until it looks like", "use a light touch", etc.

And, the dinner that Jason prepares to precede all these sweets is grand. Here's the main event:

Yes, we roast a pig in our fireplace every Christmas Eve... Jason is "the man"! He needs to turn the spit every hour through the night. Surprisingly, after twelve years of sleeping on the couch, he has yet to meet Santa...

But Santa snitches a piece of pork each year as he fills the stockings! The girls have wondered if he gets burned when coming down the chimney. We've explained that Santa has other methods of entering the house.

My personal belief is that he know, he is distantly related to that famous Dumbledore family. Have you noticed the family resemblance: long white beard, twinkle in the eyes, loves children, employs hundreds of house elves...? Santa uses reindeer instead of thestrals because they're less creepy. But clearly he is no muggle. He obviously uses a time turner to get the job done in one night, and I bet he makes use of an invisibility cloak through the year. (Otherwise the paparazzi would have had a field day!) But I digress...

So what are some of your favorite holiday foods?

Have a Happy Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Nutcracker Dreams

This post was inspired by K.Lawson Gilbert's poem "Jo"
Thanks, K!

When I was a girl I took dance lessons. Ballet, tap, jazz. The usual mix. But it was ballet that captured my heart, and "dancer" was one of the first roles added to my self identity.

I took lessons seriously and became competent enough to be invited to join the local company's production of The Nutcracker. As a result, some of my fondest Christmas memories are associated with practices and rehearsals. The Nutcracker Suite is now strongly associated with Christmas in my brain. Just hearing the first few notes of the overture instantly puts me in a "preparing for a holiday party" mood.

And just because this video is entrancing, here is a unique version:

My most special Christmas present ever was the nutcracker that my parents gave me at the end of the closing performance the first year that I danced in the Nutcracker. I spent hours in my room dancing with that wooden soldier as if I were Clara. I still get teary every year when I pull it out of the box where it spends most of the year nestled with my small collection of nutcrackers. I remember feeling disappointed that it had a screw mechanism to crack nuts instead of the usual lever, but now I am glad for its uniqueness.

For several years I danced with the Candy Canes, then I graduated to the Russian Trepak. Here I am, probably at dress rehearsal when Mom could make me pose for the Polaroid.

Hearing those parts of the Nutcracker Suite evokes visceral reactions and sensory memories. The sound of the orchestra, the hushed voices waiting in the wings, the smell of rosin, the swish of tutus as dancers hurried backstage for costume changes. Even today, when I hear the ending notes of the dance of the reed flutes (or "Mirlitons", which preceded the Candy Canes)-- I feel the fluttering in my stomach.

The first notes of the Candy Cane dance or Russian Trepak would sing, and I would be transported-- I was no longer me. My arms and legs knew when to flex, when to stretch. I gracefully moved through the choreography, barely aware of each step as it flowed into the next. Rather, I felt the warmth of the stage lights, noticed the brightness of the costumes blurring by, and of course heard the music which fed my muscles.

I was no longer me-- I was a dancer.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Single (the second in a series about relationship...)

(image from:

I'm finally adjusting to being single. Woo hoo!

Now, you can lower those raised eyebrows-- I'm not talking about my marital status! I'm talking about my sense of self. You see, unlike most people, I did not come into this world alone. I am a twin-- I have a twin brother. Since my first cell divided I have been with another. My first night sleeping outside the comfort of mom's womb, I was not alone. I was never just "me" in school-- I was "one of the twins" (kinda like "Seven of Nine"… ha!) So, it has shaped my sense of self in an unusual way.

When I first started dreaming of falling in love and getting married, I assumed that Mr. Right and I would have such a close bond that we would effortlessly know each other. I think my vision of a mate went beyond the typical best-friend and soulmate ideas, because I already knew what living as part of a pair entailed.

My brother and I were always together when playing. We helped each other throughout development. He made me laugh when I got frustrated. I pushed him around on a wheeled giraffe when I was first to walk. He fixed broken toys for me, I helped him with his homework. We often finished each other's sentences. And, to the frustration of my sisters, we frequently communicated nonverbally across the dinner table, laughing at unspoken jokes.

As we grew into the teenage years, we drifted apart, had different friends and different interests. I developed a strong, stable, healthy individual self. But my vision of a soulmate was already formed.

To make matters worse, I am an "Idealist" personality type. As Keirsey says in Please Understand Me II, Idealists are unique in their approach to mating. The other temperaments are realistic-- they assume their mates to be fallible. But Idealists look for "more than life partners in their mates-- they want soul partners, persons with whom they can bond in some special spiritual sense, sharing their complex inner lives and communicating intimately about what most concerns them: their feelings and their causes, their romantic fantasies and their ethical dilemmas, their inner division and their search for wholeness. Idealists firmly believe in such deep and meaningful relationships-- they will settle for nothing less-- and in some cases they try to create them where they don't exist." (Does this sound familiar those of you who are also Idealist types?)

Yep. That's what I did. But as I'm growing and experiencing life, I'm learning that such idealism does not lead to true intimacy. It can be taken too far. As much as an idealist would love to have a mate who fits their vision exactly, it is not reasonable or realistic. An idealist's vision of how things should be, can frustrate or even stifle others in their lives.

I've learned that for two to become one, they must first be two complete individuals. The early stages of a relationship feel like oneness, but that is fantasy. When a couple first falls in love they lower all internal boundaries and experience the feelings of merging with each other. Lovers often say that he/she "completes me". But this is not true oneness. True oneness can only develop over time. And the prerequisite is two complete people, each able to do all that relationship requires (according to Drs. Cloud and Townsend in Boundaries in Marriage ): give and receive love, be responsible, be independent and self-sufficient, live out values honestly, have self-confidence, deal with problems and failures, live out their talents, and have a life. My initial vision of a soulmate looked more like the merging of two incomplete people (very romantic, but not healthy!)

So, for the first time in my life I'm drawing boundaries around my "self" so that I can assess where I need to grow to become a more complete individual. It's exciting! I'm rediscovering the core of my self that is independent of any connections or relationships (a rather large task for me-- see part one). As I strengthen her, I will have more to give to others. And that is the basis for a true soulmate relationship!

Friday, November 21, 2008



What does that word evoke for you?

Last weekend, while dining in a restaurant with Jason and our girls, I saw the personification of that word for me. Two couples were sitting at the table next to us. One childless, the other with a precious little girl, who I would guess was about a year old.

As I often do (with such unabashed delight), I eavesdropped. The dad and the childless couple were discussing all sorts of office issues and how the economy was affecting change in company policy and the delights (or not) of daily commuting. The young wife was speaking with a new sense of adulthood, proud of her maturity as a grown woman; a married, yet independent professional. Her husband was enjoying the social experience of dining with friends. Across the table, the dad was engaging joyfully in the conversation. Happy to be out with friends. Proud of his latest success in life: fatherhood. But, one look at the mom's face and I had to fight the urge to cry and take her hand and run with her to anywhere. Anywhere but where people had no idea what she was feeling and experiencing in that moment. She needed understanding. She needed to feel a sense of belonging. And it wasn't going to come from any of the lovely people sitting at her table.

Motherhood evokes blackness for me. A loss of self. Yes, there's joy too. But that's overrated (in the early years). The fact is, motherhood is the great divide between youth and experience, freedom and dependence. I do love being a mother, but those early years… well, you moms know what I'm saying. I wish someone had told me….

American society (as seen on TV, magazines, movies, and books) packages motherhood as an image of pastel cooing, quiet softness, and women who are transformed into warm, lovely creatures who give of themselves unconditionally. When I got pregnant I cheered. I had been hoping to start on life's grandest adventure. And everyone I knew beamed with anticipation. People were genuinely happy for us. Support for pregnancy could be found everywhere: the monthly OB visits, friends and colleagues who were already moms, neighbors, even strangers in the grocery store provided friendly advice. All cares were focused on "mom".

Delivery was an amazing, inspiring event despite the hard work (I was fortunate to deliver naturally-- no drugs, no interventions). I was well prepared. For two weeks life was grand. That hormonal high was wonderful, the baby was beautiful, and life felt like an exciting adventure. Then everyone went back to their routines, their daily lives, their comforts.

Except me. For me, life was changed forever. And no one seemed to notice. When visiting, all focus was on the baby. No one seemed to notice that I was no longer me. I didn't know where my pre-baby self went, but I missed her terribly. Because in her place was an exhausted, depressed, over-sensitive caregiving machine. Insurance paid for one post-partum OB visit. When I walked into my doctor's office she said the sweetest words that I had heard in all of my six weeks of motherhood: "I don't want to talk about the baby. I want to talk about you." But fifteen minutes doesn't last long enough.

I have since read and learned much about motherhood. How our society masks the truth about motherhood. How our quest for independence and small, self-contained nuclear families inhibits women from receiving adequate support in early motherhood. How we are considered a "container crazy" society that deprives our infants of necessary touch. How there are cultures in the world whose babies don't cry (not because their babies are aliens, LOL), but because of mothering practices. And how poorly we educate our children about the job of parenting (though those new computerized dolls sound great-- a far cry from the egg that my partner and I nurtured for 2 weeks in tenth grade!).

So I sat in polite silence, preserving the privacy of our neighboring table in that restaurant. But my heart has been with that mom all week. I hope she finds her "self" soon. I hope she holds her head high as her world focuses on diapers and sleep issues and daily routines that consist of a neverending string of 10 minute tasks. I hope that her friends and family don't leave her behind as they grow socially and professionally, all the while telling her that she's doing "the most important job of all." And I hope that she finds others who understand and give her a sense of belonging in the world.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My First Meme!

Now that I've become a real blogger, it's about time I do a meme (isn't it like a rite of passage for blogging, or something?). I stole this from Vesper-- you know her, that chick with a quill… (thanks, Vesper!)

The question is “Have you ever…?”

Bold the things you’ve done and will admit to.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity (not sure what counts here)
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo

11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea(I wasn't exactly offshore, but boating during a storm in the Chesapeake is scary enough to count, I think.)
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping (does a hot tub count?)
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community (I'm not counting seeing them downtown shopping)

36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted (sort of)
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (been there but couldn't go up)
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Gotten flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma

65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar

72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (Technically, Jason did the killing, but I've helped with the butchering, etc. And I have caught and filleted fish on my own...)
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Connections (the first in a series about relationship...)

Recently, a friend reminded me of another song that was a favorite of mine when I was young: The Rainbow Connection. I haven't listened to that song for many years, and hearing it again brought back the sense of self that I discovered at eight years old. Connections. Relationships. That is how my view of the world is ordered. It is where I find meaning. And where I understand my self, my strengths, my weaknesses.

Now that I have learned so much about personality theory, I see how this way of being is a function of my personality type. As an INFJ, my dominant thinking process is Ni (introverted intuiting). Ni is the process that searches for connections and relationships, then uses that information to predict, enlighten, or transform (it is a future-oriented way of thinking). I find meaning and purpose in this structure or vision. Everything is interconnected, and once I can define the qualities of a connection I can intuit the future and understand the present. My Fe (the decision making process) uses the intuited info, passes it through the lens of extroverted feeling (considering others and the group, how can I best facilitate harmony and connection…) and I make a decision on which to act.

So, what is relationship? Listening to the Rainbow Connection reminded me of a common problem between people.

Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
And rainbows have nothing to hide.

Relationships are illusions. They aren't tangible. We can't touch them. And the only way we know they exist is when a behavior causes a ripple. Everything and everyone that feels that ripple can be certain that they share a connection with the person that generated the ripple. So, a relationship can only be known with certainty when there is change. But what is the relationship? The definition or quality of a relationship can only be defined by the two who are connected. No one on the outside can precisely describe it. And even the participants' definitions can differ greatly from each other. So what is the truth of this connection if it can only be defined inaccurately by each side? The truth is different for each party (and many of those differences can be explained by personality theory). "Relationship" therefore, is an illusion.

So we've been told and some choose to believe it
I know they're wrong, wait and see.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

I'd love to know what Kermit "knows" that gives him the confidence that there is a truth where there is a connection. I used to think I knew (my Ni in action!). But that was before I learned that there are ways of thinking that my brain would never have generated on its own. I was egotistical (in the sense that all children are egotistical until they develop enough abstract thought to see others as separate from themselves.)

Now I see how every relationship in my world (in the form that I believe it to be) exists only in my mind. But there are truly connections. That can't be disputed. I feel those ripples every day. And others around me tell me that they feel the ripples that I generate. Is it enough to believe that a relationship is what I believe it is? No, because that's only half the truth. How does the other person define our connection? And when they describe the connection, are they using words that hold different meanings in their way of thinking than in mine? When I hear their description I still have to decipher the meaning using my knowledge of their way of thinking, their personality type, their values and priorities. Ack!! This is hard work! No wonder there is so much confusion and disagreement between people.

How important is it to understand how someone else defines my connection to them? As long as it gives them meaning and pleasure (I'd like to not be the source of unhappiness!), maybe our connection can exist without further definition.

But, I think, when a connection starts to grow or change, it is important for both parties to understand the other's definition. Because if the change holds different significance, or alters each person's definition in a different way, then there will be confusion. So then what protects the connection? Should it be protected?

I am an Idealist-- one of Kermit's dreamers. I want to find that there is a universal "rainbow" connection. I think that our shared human desire to have connections or relationships is the universal truth. But everything else-- what the relationship means, how it is protected, the priority or significance that it is given-- are all illusion, created by each individual. And the best way to avoid confusion and pain is to share our thoughts, agree on a definition that works for both, and continually revise it together. In other words, we need to work together consciously to create and define a relationship that will be what both desire.

(Don't tell my fellow Idealists, but to quote Vernon Dursley from Harry Potter: "There's no such thing as magic!" Nothing just happens unless we make it happen. But it sure is wonderful when what we create feels like magic!)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Proud to be an American!

I sent the kids off to school this morning with tears in my eyes and hope in my heart. How do you explain to a 9-year-old the impact of this election? Should you? Or should the kids just know that the best man won and America will continue to grow stronger, without any mention of race? That's what I dream of for my children-- that they will never give a second glance to skin color or background. That America's diversity and equality are precisely what makes us strong and good.

"What do you say? We are growing up!"
~Maya Angelou on CBS's The Early Show, November 5, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My Obsession (and Happy Halloween!)

(image from: OneBluePebble on Flickr)

Some of you know I have an obsession with Harry Potter. For those of you who didn't know-- now you do. Yes, I'm a 40 year-old (gulp) mom who loves the books more than my kids do. I hid my obsession for years because, well, I was embarrassed. It's not exactly the kind of thing I could talk about during the law firm events that Jason and I attend, or at formal charity balls in Philadelphia. (Though I found one attorney who also loves the books, and another attorney and his wife were surprised when I knew all about the Yule Ball/ Wizard Rock Concert that their daughter was attending that night...)

(here's some mood music...)

You see, I'm not just the average Potter fan. I didn't just enjoy the books and share them with my kids. I've read each book at least 7 times. My copy of Order of the Phoenix still has post-its riddling the pages from the months that I spent in an online reading group discussing the clues and literary devices that Jo used. And yes, I refer to the well-known author as she requested her fans to do-- as "Jo".

When my daughter was 4, my most proud "mommy moment" was when she pointed her finger at my mother-in-law and shouted "Silencio!" (My mother-in-law laughed after I explained what the spell did.) Here's a photo of the same daughter sporting her Dark Mark tattoo:

As many folks did, I attended the midnight release party for Deathly Hallows. But I drove home with tears in my eyes while clutching my copy, because it marked the end of an era. The next morning my deluxe copy was waiting in my mailbox (pre-ordered from Amazon the day it was available). And they now sit on my bookshelf next to the Bloomsbury "adult" version of Half-Blood Prince that I had shipped from the UK.

I not only signed up my kids and I to attend a Harry Potter conference that came to Philadelphia, I signed up within the first two weeks that the conference was announced (nine months early) because I browse fansites daily. And, I wasn't just an attendee. I volunteered to organize the opening and closing feasts and created and ran the Tri-Wizard Tournament. While there I was very proud of my oldest daughter who was chosen to compete (for our "House") in the Jeopardy-style trivia contest because she had the most questions correct on her qualifying quiz for her age group. And I was shocked when my name was announced as the adult contestant for our House! (No-- I didn't win, but I did get to meet the guys who run Mugglenet and their weekly podcast, Mugglecast!-- that's like meeting the Beatles to Harry Potter fans....)

So, now you understand why I call myself "obsessed."

The question is why. I was never the type to be such a fan. I didn't have a favorite rock group, movie, or celebrity when I was a teenager. There was no precedent for me to become obsessed over anything.

I was given the Harry Potter books for Christmas in 2003 (at the time only 5 had been published). Reading became an escape from my mommy duties ( the girls were ages 2 and 4). I quickly became swept up into the world of Hogwarts, and read all five within a month. Then I started to re-read them, because I wasn't ready to leave the wizarding world. I remember the day that I googled Harry Potter. I didn't know about "fandoms" or news blogs or fanfiction. Wow-- what I found online that day changed my life.

What draws me to the books is the warm characters, the universal themes, the humor and the darkness, the mysteries, the complexity of so many subplots woven together seamlessly, and last but not least, how the books celebrate motherhood. Yes, I've used many references from HP while parenting. What a great way to describe that gray area between good and evil: Dolores Umbridge. And how about explaining ethnic cleansing to an eight year old.... The sorting hat is a wonderful device to explain how we often categorize people but that unity makes us stronger. And Dumbledore provides many pearls of wisdom: "It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities" (from Chamber of Secrets) and "It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends" (from Sorcerer's Stone). Not to mention all of the fabulous Latin roots that are used for spells through the books!

I am tickled every time I hear that educators are using the books, from elementary to college-level. There were wonderful discussions at Enlightening led by scholars (most of the presenters had PhDs and many were Ivy League graduates): including "Harry Potter and the Denial of Due Process" (taught by a law professor), "Motherhood in the HP Canon", a class on psychological processes represented in the books, and a discussion about the global perspective : how HP engages people from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Several weeks ago I found this article (warning: it contains spoilers for anyone who hasn't read the books) about a freshman seminar being taught at Swarthmore College. The article also states:

"This is one of several "Harry Potter"-themed courses being taught on a collegiate level throughout the country — and not all of them are in English departments. Yale has one that uses "Harry Potter" as a prism for theology. Georgetown uses the story to look at international relations. Frostburg State University in Maryland employs the series to teach Physical Science 100. And more classes just keep popping up."

So, now I'm not so embarrassed by my obsession. I feel validated by others who aren't just reading the books to their children at bedtime.

And, I can now share with you that my first thought on Halloween morning will be "Happy Birthday, Harry!"

EDIT: D'oh! Janey brought to my attention that I must've lost my mind-- perhaps I can blame it on inhaling too much Lysol (see The Clarity of Night if you want to hear about the state of the Evans household....) Harry's birthday is July 31st, just like Jo's. Halloween is the day that Voldemort murdered his parents. So I'll just have a moment of silence for Lily and James.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Individuation (Personality Talk, part 6)

(image courtesy of

I think I just stumbled upon the best part of personality theory! It explains so much in my life (remember, I'm an idealist: always searching for meaning!)

The theorists postulate that we prefer our dominant cognitive process by the time we're 12 years old. Then, through a process they call individuation (which you and I would probably call growth), we develop our second function by age 20, the third by 25, and the fourth by 50. And lastly, the four "shadow processes" may emerge after age 50 for some people (which can result in more balance and confidence). This developmental timeline is just a guideline. It is similar to physical development-- not all babies sit unassisted at 6 months or walk at 12 months, those are just norms or guidelines. Each individual grows at their own pace.

When we start gaining skill in each process, we become drawn to activities that will provide practice and lead to growth. For example, people who are beginning to develop Se (extraverted sensing--a perceiving process that involves taking in data through the five senses and attending to the here and now) may start doing activities that increase sensory stimulation. Perhaps they'll try new foods or suddenly take up a new hobby or sport such as surfing or hiking. Likewise, people who are developing their Fe (extraverted feeling) may start becoming interested in situations where they can interact with others, perhaps they'll seek new friendships or host a party.

So as I was reading this theory, I began to ponder my own type development. As an INFJ, my dominant process is Ni (introverted intuiting). That's the process that finds meanings in relationships and connections. It's a way of structuring one's understanding of the world. And it often is expressed as a feeling of just "knowing" something is a certain way or that something will happen, without being able to explain it in words. I remember at age eight "knowing" that I was different than other kids. I could "see" in my mind's eye how all the people in my life were connected to me and to each other. I "knew" how a schoolmate would react to another child when the other was behaving in a way that was typical of them. I was reserved and shy (introverted) so my teachers didn't notice me, except for the fact that I was an excellent student. When our school district started a gifted program, none of the teachers identified me for testing. I observed who was chosen, and who tested into the program. I "knew" I belonged there too, so I went home one day and told my parents simply that I should be in the gifted program. Thankfully, they were supportive and they hired a psychologist to come to my home to administer the testing. Sure enough, I made it! I now see how all of these moments in my childhood are related to my Ni function.

My second function is Fe (extroverted feeling). Well, that fits perfectly with my personal history. During my teen years I was working hard to overcome my shyness. I developed a close circle of friends, became a cheerleader (not what you'd expect from an introvert!), joined various school clubs, and loved family gatherings.

My third function is Ti (introverted thinking). Hmmm… again, as I look back at the years between 20 and 25, I see how my developing Ti shaped my activities. I became a healthcare professional which required a bit of diagnostic skill (definitely a Ti task!) I spent hours doing crossword puzzles, and fell in love with logic problems. And, last but not least, I married a man whose dominant function is Ti! (Is this weird or what?!)

Now at 40, according to the theory, I should be developing my 4th function: Se (extraverted sensing). Interestingly, the 4th function is very important for balancing the dominant function in all types. Types who have a dominant T function (either Ti or Te) need to balance that with the F function that is their 4th process. Dominant F types have a T as their 4th. Types that have a dominant N, have an S function as their 4th, etc.

The 4th function, therefore, presents a way of thinking that is almost opposite from a person's dominant process for most of their life. So, people will start to be interested in activities that may seem entirely "out of character". And look at when this happens-- sometime before age 50! Doesn't that sound eerily similar to what we call midlife crisis?! Wow! So, what has been happening in my life? I've started living in the present. I developed a fascination (Jason calls it an obsession) with Harry Potter. I started dressing up for Halloween for the first time in 15 years (I blamed it on the age of my girls and the obligations of parenthood, but truthfully, that was just an excuse-- I wanted to have fun!) I don't think my actions present as the radical change that looks like a midlife crisis, but that may be because my Se process started developing in childhood. I grew up with a twin brother who (I believe) has a secondary Se function. His influence led me to embrace the way of thinking that is Se when I was younger.
Which brings me to the last point about Individuation. Life circumstances can affect your development pattern. During childhood, the following situations can alter the development of processes:

  1. You received negative feedback when using your dominant process.

  2. A non-preferred function was necessary to survive family life (e.g., dealing with an alcoholic or abusive parent)

  3. You received positive feedback for using non-preferred functions.

  4. And in adulthood:

  5. A job requires extensive use of non-preferred functions.

  6. Parenting requires extensive use of non-preferred functions.

If you know your personality type (you are quite certain based on resonance with the type descriptions), can you see a pattern to your growth in the cognitive processes preferred by your type? And how about that midlife crisis theory-- does emergence of cognitive processes explain it? Perhaps we can better understand our spouses, friends, and family members when they suddenly start acting out of character. (Jason-- I'm on to you, dear!)

(back to part 5)
(on to part 7)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Conjunction Junction, What's Your Function?

No, I'm not blogging about the grammar rules that were so effectively drilled into my generation by Schoolhouse Rock. Though I did enjoy those ditties….

No, today I'm continuing my Personality Talk series by talking about the eight cognitive functions that are the basis of the 16-type personality theory. As I said before, each type is not simply the expression of the four functions (or preferences) that the four letter code implies. So, an INTP is not simply an introverted version of an ENTP. And an ESFJ is not simply an ESTJ that uses feeling to make decisions. There is a more complex underlying interaction that the four preferences represent.

The base of the theory is that there are eight cognitive processes (sometimes called functions) or ways of thinking. Everyone uses all eight, but we tend to prefer some over others. Think about how you first react (or your natural inclination) to a situation or when you need to make a decision. The theory says that we tend to use a few of these processes more automatically than the others.

The eight functions are:
Extraverted Sensing (Se)-- experiencing the physical world, enjoying taking action, recognizing "what is" rather than what "could be"

Introverted Sensing (Si)-- comparing the current situation to a remembered one, reviewing past experiences, recalling stored impressions

Extraverted Intuiting (Ne)-- noticing hidden meanings in the world and interpreting them

Introverted Intuiting (Ni)-- looking inward to foresee the future, conceptualizing new ways of seeing things, envisioning transformations

Extraverted Thinking (Te)-- segmenting, logically organizing people and situations, contingency planning and scheduling

Introverted Thinking (Ti)-- evaluating according to principles and whether something fits the framework or model, seeking precision through clarifying definitions

Extraverted Feeling (Fe)-- connecting, expressing appreciation for others, considering and accommodating others

Introverted Feeling (Fi)-- evaluating the importance and worth of something based on one's own values, clarifying values

Each of the 16 personality types can be defined by the hierarchical pattern of their preferred cognitive processes. For example, the dominant process of an INFJ is Ni, followed by Fe, Ti, and Se (the other four processes are weaker and called "shadow processes.") A chart of the processes used by each personality type can be found here (scroll down for the chart.)

Here is a fun example of the eight functions in action. Given the situation that you are considering building a fence, what is your first thought or reaction? (Disclaimer: this list can be found on various websites, I don't know who the author is.)

The Eight Functions and Fence-Building
Se - I want to decorate the fence and make sure that it looks stylish and appealing.
Si - I’ll take care of looking at the instructions and making sure that we follow the established guidelines.
Ne - I want to design the fence.
Ni - Why do they want to do this and what is the deal with fences anyway? Is this necessary?
Te - Is doing this cost effective? Will it be useful?
Ti - I want to analyze the structure and placement of the fence.
Fe - How will it affect the neighborhood, and what will the neighbors think?
Fi - I want it to be my own special fence that I can share with others over time.

Here is another example (from Understanding Yourself and Others by Linda V. Berens and Dario Nardi).

How do you decide what to wear?
Se - Notice what is available, try on a few things to see how they look.
Si - Remember the last time you wore an outfit and how you felt then.
Ne - Think about the meaning of an outfit, what it may communicate to others.
Ni - Envision yourself in the outfit and perhaps seeing yourself being a certain way.
Te - Sort through colors and styles, consider consequences such as "since I have to stand all day…."
Ti - Analyze options using principles such as comfort, or "red is a power color."
Fe - Consider what would be appropriate for the situation.
Fi - Evaluate whether you like an outfit or not, does it suit you and feel right?

Can you identify what your dominant function is (remember, you probably use several functions when making a decision, but what is your first thought or automatic reaction)? Does it match the dominant process of your personality type?

(on to part 6)
(back to part 4)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Setting the Mood

Do you set the mood? No, I don't mean with candles, flowers, and soft music. I don't mean setting the mood for others. I'm talking about consciously setting your internal mood.

When I was entering my teen years, my Dad habitually woke my brother and I with his rendition of the bugle song: "Oh how I hate to get up in the morning! Oh, how I'd rather remain in bed…" At some point in those teen years I remember thinking what a stupid song that was to start the day with. I didn't want to begin the day hating the fact that I was awake. So I began a habit of singing my own tune in my mind. The first was:
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay
My, oh my, what a wonderful day
Plenty of sunshine headin' my way
Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay

(It's impossible to sing that song without smiling-- I dare you to try.) Later, when my obsession with the Beatles began, this was my wake-up song:

I also ended each day by listing in my mind all the people who I was most grateful for. Granted, the list was recited by rote memory, but nevertheless, it worked. I always fell asleep with a sense of belonging and peace because I felt fortunate to have people to love.

Sometime as I was entering adulthood, getting married, and finishing my education, I stopped. I no longer set the mood. In the early years of my career I tried to affect a similar start to the morning. As I believe happens with most professions, the first year or so was particularly challenging because my clinical skills were still developing. So starting the day on a positive note was essential. I remember creating a positive mood with little details. Perhaps I had a new pair of socks to wear, or a favorite cereal that I hadn't bought in some time. Sometimes I would treat myself to a cup of tea (which I didn't usually leave time for). Or I would look forward to something planned later in the day. Then, as my career became second nature, those efforts fell away.

Now as I reflect on my past, I marvel at how wise I was during my teen years. (Oh no! Does that mean that I'm developing backwards?! Ha!) How lucky we are to be human. Really! We can change our mood consciously. We can turn on the brain chemistry that makes us feel good by simply having a thought. We don't have to react to our environment. We can create our environment.

So, do you set the mood? What works for you?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


And I have to say it now
It's been a good life all in all
It's really fine
To have a chance to hang around
And lie there by the fire
And watch the evening tire
While all my friends and my old lady
Sit and pass the pipe around

And talk of poems and prayers and promises
And things that we believe in
How sweet it is to love someone
How right it is to care
How long it's been since yesterday
And what about tomorrow
And what about our dreams
And all the memories we share

~~ Poems, Prayers, and Promises by John Denver

When I was nine, my babysitter gave me a 45 (that's a record, for those of you born after 1985) of John Denver's Take Me Home, Country Roads (apparently I sang it so often she got annoyed….) On the flip side was a little song called Poems, Prayers, and Promises. I remember sitting in my basement playroom the first time I listened to that song. At the ripe old age of nine, I sat with tears streaming down my face, reveling in the profundity and wisdom of John's message. It is a good life after all. And I promised myself that I would never allow life's challenges to cloud that perspective.

Now, in midlife, I still tear up when I listen. Because there are so many people who aren't happy despite what they have. Why are we so easily dissatisfied? Interestingly, a study was done in the late 70's in which accident victims, lottery winners, and a control group were polled on their life satisfaction. They found that after an initial period of adjustment (which was marked by elation for the lottery winners and depression for the paraplegics) they returned to their usual level of happiness. In other words, those who accepted and found positives in life beforehand, continued to do so. And complainers continued to be complainers.

I've recently found two new pearls of wisdom in The Science of Happiness by Stefan Klein, PhD. First, it's not enough to be happy-- we need to be aware of our happiness. My mother always said we need to count our blessings… science now says that she was right (LOL-- don't tell her that… she already says "told you so" more often than I'd like.) An Italian psychiatrist developed "Well-Being Therapy" to use with depressed patients. He asked them to keep a happiness diary in which they described in detail any happy moment in their day as well as their feelings. It was very successful-- after ten weeks their depression had lifted. When we keep track of positive moments our attention is brought to what makes us happy. And putting it in writing prevents our brain from diminishing the moment or dismissing the happiness later.

And the other bit I learned is that we are programmed to want everything (ack!-- we're doomed!). And, of most interest, the anticipation of something is far more powerful than the pleasure when we receive it. Apparently, when a reward is in sight, certain dopamine neurons fire like crazy so we experience pleasure. This was first demonstrated with monkeys, and later with humans. Monkeys were given apples. The sight of the apples started the neurons firing. Then, researchers lit a lamp before presenting the apples. Soon, the neurons started firing when the lamp was lit. But when an apple was offered, the neurons stopped firing. It's not the reward, but the expectation that gives us pleasure. So, we could lead a perfect life and still be unhappy… because we get bored. It seems to me that the best way to prevent this is to add variety to our lives. Studies have also shown that we don't have to increase the stimulation or constantly feel the need to raise the bar, because the memory of our expectation response isn't very long. Instead, we just need to rotate our sources of pleasure. (In other words, don't get into a rut!) Happiness doesn't come from getting something new. It comes from spicing up what we already have.

So go put a new spin on an old activity, surprise someone you love, try something that you haven't done in years. Maybe we can create happiness with what is already in our lives.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Personality talk, part 4

So, now you have discovered your "type" (go back to Personality Talk, part 2, if you are just joining us). The description is remarkably resonant with you. You are amazed that someone else has described you so accurately. (If you don't feel this way, you probably haven't found your true type yet-- keep searching!)

Now what? Obviously, knowing one's strengths and weaknesses is essential to set goals for personal growth, defining a self identity, and understanding why there are patterns in your behavior. I had fun discovering how much of "me" is related to my personality type. But I also had a surprise discovery. When I started reading about other types, I learned that there are ways of thinking or reacting to the world that I would never have conceived on my own (and I thought I had a pretty good understanding of people….)

In 1978, David Keirsey published Please Understand Me (and twenty years later, Please Understand Me II). He divided the 16 types (which he also ascribed descriptive names) into four Temperaments based on observable behaviors and viewpoints. Keirsey's four Temperaments are:

SP Artisans
(ISTP-crafter, ISFP-composer, ESTP-promoter, ESFP-performer)

SJ Guardians
(ISTJ-inspector, ISFJ-protector, ESTJ-supervisor, ESFJ-provider)

NF Idealists
(INFP-healer, INFJ-counselor, ENFP-champion, ENFJ-teacher)

NT Rationals
(INTP-architect, INTJ-mastermind, ENTP-inventor, ENTJ-fieldmarshal)

As an INFJ, I read the Idealist description and found myself nodding. Jason, an INTP, felt a resonance with the chapter about Rationals. The beauty of Keirsey's book is that he demonstrates the contrasts between temperaments in simple, but very effective ways. For example, in his chapter on mating he observes that each Temperament has a different style or goal in what they want from a mate. Artisans want a playmate, Guardians want a helpmate, Idealists want a soulmate, and Rationals want a mindmate. Here are a few more traits of each temperament for comparison:

value being: excited
aspire to be: virtuoso
trust: impulses
seek: stimulation
yearn for: impact
self-esteem comes from being: artistic
feel confident when being: adaptable

value being: concerned
aspire to be: executive
trust: authority
seek: security
yearn for: belonging
self-esteem comes from being: dependable
feel confident when being: respectable

value being: enthusiastic
aspire to be: sage
trust: intuition
seek: identity
yearn for: romance
self-esteem comes from being: empathetic
feel confident when being: authentic

value being: calm
aspire to be: wizard
trust: reason
seek: knowledge
yearn for: achievement
self-esteem comes from being: ingenious
feel confident when being: resolute

Wow! Now we can begin to understand each other better! No wonder Jason looks at me like I'm a dork when I say things will work out because "I just know they will." I trust intuition, he trusts reason. And you can just imagine how my yearning for romance and his yearning for achievement play out… ;) My parents are both Guardians, so Jason and I now understand when their trust of authority clashes with our points of view. And, gosh, I thought everyone knew what having a soulmate means... man, was I wrong! Learning how differently people view life has helped me understand others' behaviors, values, and motives when they differ from mine. As a typical idealist, I've always wondered why we can't all just get along. Now I've got some tools… mwah, ha, ha, ha… (remember, I am a counselor!).

Let me know if there are questions you'd like me to answer or ideas you'd like me to address in a future post about personality type.

(on to part 5)
(back to part 3)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Personality Talk, part 3

Wow-- I'm amazed at the level of interest that this has sparked in all of you (I'm giddy with excitement! I love this stuff!) There is so much to share, so many questions to answer. I'll start by answering some of the more specific questions that you raised in this post. Then, later this week, I'll continue with my original plan of discussing David Keirsey's work and how he expanded our understanding of the Myers-Briggs types.

First, I want to say that no type is "better" than any other. We are all capable of using all of the functions, we simply tend to be more comfortable with certain approaches, and therefore have preferences in how we gather information, get energy, and make decisions.

Second, I have only shared the basics of the underlying theory. The four functions interact with each other in complex ways to create each type. So, an ISTP is not simply an introverted version of ESTP. If you delve deeper into the theory you'll discover that there are terms such as "shadow types" and "dominant, secondary, and tertiary functions." Each type uses the iNtuiting, Sensing, Thinking, and Feeling functions in different situations for different reasons. A scholar must understand how all of these preferences interact before they can write the wonderful descriptions of each type that amaze us.

Can one's type change?
No. I believe that we develop preferences in the way we process the world by young adulthood (if we are not in fact born with preferences-- that's still up for debate). These preferences form our personality type. It is the way we feel most comfortable when relating to others, making decisions, and thinking about our world. As we grow and have new experiences we may learn to use the less comfortable functions more easily. Our family background and careers often facilitate such growth. A "J" type who has "P" parents will learn to be more flexible and spontaneous to avoid discord. A physician who is an "F" type may need to develop their "T" function in order to succeed in medical school. But, our preferences don't change. It works much like physical preferences. A left-handed person can learn to use his right hand very competently, but he will always prefer the left-- it always feels more natural.

Why do I get so many different results when I take the tests?
That is the limitation of free online tests. The best way to determine your type is to go to someone who is certified to administer the MBTI. Second best is to read descriptions of all the types that are one letter removed from your test result to eliminate any other possibilities, and gain a deeper understanding of the theory so that you can discover your natural preferences. Asking others how they see you sometimes offers more accurate insight into your preferences.

Are there certain types that get along better or form more stable relationships?
As you can imagine, this is one of the hot topics on personality type forums. I've read scholars who say opposites attract (INFJ and ESTP, for example). Others say that people with similar temperaments make the best matches. And some even cite studies that the most frequent marriages are between Artisans and Guardians or Rationals and Idealists (these are Keirsey's terms, I'll explain them in the next post). But-- I believe that two people of any type can work well together. They simply need to understand and accept their differences. I found a book (Just Your Type, by Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger) that pairs each type with the others and gives pointers on the "joys" and "frustrations" of each match as well as "how to reach your (insert personality type) partner."

If anyone has specific questions about your type, please email me at I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have books that may prove helpful.

I'll leave you with some type humor (source: Doug Bates.) Isn't there always some truth in humor?

Illusions of the Unhealthy XXXX

ESTP - "I'm a stud and the world revolves around me"
ISTP - "I can make anything work"
ENTP - "I can come up with a solution for anything"
INTP - "I'm brilliant and you'd better bow to my genius"
ESTJ - "I am in control"
ISTJ - "I do everything right"
ENTJ - "I am all-powerful"
INTJ - "I am all-knowing"
ESFP - "I am the most glamorous"
ISFP - "Nobody has better taste than I do"
ENFP - "I have the most enthusiasm"
INFP - "I have the most sensitive conscience"
ESFJ - "Everyone likes me and wants to be like me"
ISFJ - "Nobody can get along without me"
ENFJ - "I can teach anyone anything"
INFJ - "I have the best intentions"


ESTJ Be back next year with flowers!
ISTJ Forever on time
ESFJ Arranged my own funeral
ISFJ Wish I could still help
ESTP Well, *this* is boring
ISTP Build a better coffin
ESFP Where did everybody go?
ISFP Smell a flower for me
ENTJ Whoever did this, I'll get you one day
INTJ *Now* try telling me what to do!
ENTP Death is being out of options
INTP Talk about "analysis paralysis"
ENFJ Another opportunity for learning
INFJ The ultimate clarity
ENFP Catch you on the flip side
INFP Eternal harmony

(on to part 4)
(back to part 2)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Personality Talk, part 2

So many of you responded positively to part 1 (thank you!) that I couldn't put off part 2 any longer. As promised, let's explore what personality type each of us is. First, the theory in a nutshell. If you're not the type (pun intended) that gets into theory discussions, scroll down to the links for online tests. I'm focusing my discussion on the most widely used theory-- the Myers-Briggs Types.

Carl Jung developed a personality typology to classify the way people deal with the world. He first defined the distinction between introversion and extraversion. Then he theorized that there are four functions or ways to process our world: sensing, intuiting, feeling, and thinking. We all can use these "tools", but we tend to prefer one or two over the others.

In 1962, Katharine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers developed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) based on Jung's typology. They placed Jung's four functions into two dichotomies: sensing vs. intuiting and feeling vs. thinking, included Jung's introversion vs. extraversion observation, and they added a new dichotomy: judging vs. perceiving. Each function is represented by a letter.

introversion(I) vs. extraversion (E) : preference for how and where you get your energy

These functions refer to the way a person is energized. An Extravert draws energy from outside themselves, from people, activities, and things. They tend to be action-oriented and their energy declines when they are inactive. An Introvert draws energy from an inner world of ideas, emotions, and impressions. They tend to be thought-oriented and need time to reflect to renew their energy.

intuiting (N) vs. sensing (S) : preference for what you pay attention to when you are gathering information

These are the information gathering functions. A person who prefers Sensing focuses on what actually exists, paying attention to their five senses. They like concrete facts and details, and find meaning in the data. A person who prefers iNtuiting gathers information from internal sources such as insights or a sixth sense, and they focus on future possibilities. They like information that is abstract or theoretical. And they derive meaning from how information relates to a pattern or theory.

feeling (F) vs. thinking (T) : preference for what system you use to make decisions

The decision-making functions are both used to make rational decisions based on information gathered in their preferred way (iNtuiting or Sensing). Those who prefer Thinking use a logical, objective approach. They decide things from a detached viewpoint, using reason, logic, and sets of rules. A person who prefers the Feeling function makes decisions based on emotions and value systems. They make associations, consider the needs of others, and empathize with a situation to achieve balance, harmony, and consensus.

judging (J) vs. perceiving (P) : preference for lifestyle

These functions refer to how you relate to the outside world. Judging types like a planned, organized life. They show the world their 3rd function (Feeling or Thinking). So TJ types appear logical, while FJs appear empathetic. Perceiving types, on the other hand, prefer to live in a more spontaneous and flexible way. They show the world their 2nd function (iNtuiting or Sensing). So SP types appear concrete, while NP types appear abstract.

That's the basics. When you take a personality test, your preference for each of the functions is determined and your type is determined by the four-letter code (ESFJ, INTP, etc…)


The MBTI must be administered by a trained tester. However, there are several free tests online that I have found to be reliable. Before you start a test, here are a few tips:

- Choose the answer that reflects your most comfortable response or first instinct. Sometimes it's helpful to think about how you would have answered the question when you were 20 years old (our personality type is most pure during young adulthood). As we age we strengthen our weaknesses, so we may not choose to act in our preferred, natural way.

- Take several tests to see if you get the same type consistently

- When you get your results, read several descriptions of your type and read several descriptions of types that are one letter off. In most cases, when you find the one that fits, you'll know it.

Here's a few online tests:

1. HumanMetrics test
2. Skeletus test
3. Similar Minds test

Oh, and I promised some predictions. I expect the majority of you will be "IN" types. Let's see if my "inner eye" has clarity...

(on to part 3)
(back to part 1)

Personality Talk, part 1

I only want you to see
My favorite part of me
And not my ugly side
Not my ugly side

So calm... and now it's dark
I look for you to light my heart
I'm in between the moon and where you are
I know... I can't be far

~Ugly Side, by Blue October

Though this song is about the fear of vulnerability, the last stanza reminded me of how much personality type can affect our relationships. How often do we feel that struggle to connect with another? When understanding seems to be mutual, yet you sense a faint misinterpretation? As if the other person came from a parallel planet where everything looks the same but something just feels off. Or perhaps you both reach the same conclusions, but the path to get there is strikingly different.

These differences in two seemingly compatible people fascinate me. We are all human, yet the way our brain works can be very different. We each have a unique perspective, a unique way of processing our world.

Or do we? According to leading personality theories, there are just 16 "types." Whoa! I'm not unique? Actually, each of us is unique because of our rich experiences and memories. But the way our brain deals with the world, makes decisions, and decides on actions is shared by others of the same "type."

When two people of the same type come together they speak the same language. They understand each other's way of thinking. But, they are limited by their shared type--they don't have the opportunity to learn a new perspective from each other. And I can tell you from personal experience, there is nothing more eye-opening and exciting than suddenly seeing the world from a new perspective. A perspective that you were previously unable to even conceive of, let alone understand.

Want to know more? I'm going to continue this as an ongoing series. In the next personality post I'll invite you to discover your "type" and share it with us-- I have a few predictions regarding that....

(PS-- If any of you recognized that song from Stephenie Meyers' playlist... yes I am a Twilight fan also!)

(on to part 2)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Basics of Type Theory

Rather than trying to draw a picture of each personality's characteristics (which would be an endless job, since each person truly is unique), type theory looks at how our brains work. Quite simply, we take in data (through our senses) and make a decision about what to do with that data. That's it. Our day is an endless stream of noticing stuff and deciding what to do with it.

This morning I became aware I was awake and noticed a beeping sound. I decided to turn off the alarm clock. Seeing the time, I decided I needed to get out of bed. I noticed the cold air and decided to put on sweatpants. You get the picture. Each moment we are doing one of these two processes: taking in information or making a decision.

What's fun about humans is that we have different ways of doing these cognitive processes. Two ways of gathering data, and two methods of decision making. We are all capable of using all of the processes (and we choose which to use in any given situation), but we all prefer one way of gathering data and one method of decision making. These cognitive preferences are hard-wired, just like physical dominance (as in right-handed or left-handed.)

Methods of gathering data:
Sensing (S)-- preferring to pay attention to information that comes from the outside, data that we gather through our 5 senses, tangibles, reality. Noticing "what is".

Intuiting (N)-- preferring to pay attention to information that comes from inside us, such as gut feelings, seeing possibilities, connections, patterns, or noticing "what could be".

Methods of decision making:
Thinking (T)-- making a decision based on logic, reasoning, a set of principles or objective criteria.

Feeling (F)-- making a decision based on feelings, values, what is important.

The "type code" is comprised of four letters. The second letter reflects our method of gathering data (either S or N). The third letter denotes our decision making preference (either T or F). To complete the type code we identify two "attitudes" which describe how we get energy and how we prefer to live our life. The first letter of the code reflects our preferred energy source and the fourth letter is our lifestyle attitude.

Energizing attitude:
Introverting (I)-- gets energy from within. Stimulated by ideas, emotions, and impressions. Usually needs alone time to recharge. Interactions with others tend to drain energy. Prefer to process and think alone, then will share results and conclusions.

Extraverting (E)-- gets energy from outside the self. Stimulated by people, activities, and things. Likes to be involved, gets restless when alone too long. Tend to think out loud, often doing their best thinking when brainstorming with others.

Lifestyle attitude:
Judging (J)-- prefers planning, structure, and order. Is more comfortable after a decision is made.

Perceiving (P)-- prefers spontaneity and being flexible. Is more comfortable when options are kept open.

Type Dynamics
Now here's the less understood part of type theory. The four letters interact with each other. So an ISFP isn't simply an introverted version of an ESFP. The attitudes (first and last letter of the code) tell us which cognitive process is our dominant.

I'll break this down using my own code, INFJ. The lifestyle attitude (J or P) tells us which cognitive function (data gathering or decision making) we project externally (what others see.) So, J's extravert their preferred decision making process (Thinking or Feeling), P's extravert their data gathering process (Sensing or iNtuiting). As a J, my decision making process (F) is extraverted. Which means my data gathering process (N) is introverted. So, Fe and Ni are my preferred processes. To determine which is dominant, we turn to my energizing attitude. I'm an I, so the introverted function is my dominant (Ni) and Fe is my "auxiliary function." Intraverting types don't show their dominant process to the outer world. Extraverting types display their dominant function (which explains why they feel so comfortable when interacting with others.)

So, we now know that Ni and Fe are my preferred ways of gathering information and making decisions. But we all use all four functions (S, N, T, and F). So can we determine my relative skill in using the others? Yes-- the fourth or "inferior function" is always the opposite of the dominant. So my fourth is extraverted Sensing (Se), leaving the third position to be T. There is disagreement in the attitude of the third function, but I tend to agree with the idea that it takes the attitude of the dominant. Therefore, my process hierarchy is Ni, Fe, Ti, Se.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Hi There

Well, here I go. I'm just holding my breath and jumping in.
My first blog post.

I suppose I should start with the customary explanation of my blog's title and purpose. Isn't that how we introduce ourselves? Give our name and why we are here (often reciting our connection to others)?

Life is Beautiful was my motto in high school. My friends labeled me "the optomist" when it became clear that I always found the good in things. Some considered me naive-- they were watching in anticipation for the day to arrive that I would become jaded and cynical (just to prove that they weren't missing something in life, I believe....) One even teased me that I was the only person he knew who could find a reason to celebrate nuclear war, such as the idea that it would end world hunger (bet you can't guess which decade I was a teenager).

But I never questioned my outlook, because I knew that they were missing something. The ability to not just adapt, but to thrive. And they didn't understand the power of humanity: choice. We can choose how to label things around us. We can choose how we behave. We are not bound by instinctual reactions. I choose to focus on positives, and that creates happiness.

Why a blog? The usual: to share ideas, connect with others, gather my thoughts in one place so that I can read them again when my memory declines with age....

Oh, and my connection to others. My husband has been the Twilightkeeper over at The Clarity of Night for three years now. He brought me into this crazy blogosphere. Blame him. ;)

Phew! That wasn't so hard. To those of you who have read this far: Thank you! and Welcome! I hope you'll stay a while to enjoy sharing ideas.

And I hope you leave with a smile, because, after all-- life is beautiful!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Clarity of Night Connection

I am the resident night owl on the Clarity of Night blog where I occasionally collaborate with my husband, Jason Evans. We have two girls who bring unending joy and laughter to our otherwise normal suburban life. Visit The Clarity of Night, and you may find more bits of me woven into the verbal paintings that Jason creates.