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 aineevans@yahoo.com. 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.