The differences that alienate us have their roots in personality type preferences that we’re hardly aware we ever made. Preferences between introversion and extraversion, intuition and sensing, thinking and feeling, and judging and perception, to use the categories proposed by Isabel Briggs Myers in Gifts Differing.
These aren’t just “preferences.” They are biases. We begin life and interactions with one another unaware that we are already prejudiced for the types that we are and against the types that we aren’t. We carry these prejudices into our interactions. And when “otherness” gets in our way, things can turn nasty. The dearest friends and family become aliens, whether for a moment or for a lifetime.
We imagine ourselves to be open-minded, patient, and tolerant. We’re just “being ourselves,” as Isabel puts it. Yet monsters rear their ugly heads, tempers flare, and relationships suffer. Sensing-extraverts can be a real problem for intuitive-introverts and, of course, the other way around. Perceptives and judging types can come to blows as well.
I know because I’ve seen it, experienced it. Had I known then what I know now things would have been different. Knowing how much strife could have been avoided makes it hard to observe and be involved in personal dynamics today, because knowing things could be better doesn’t mean things will be better.
An INTJ who would bring personality theory to awareness with an ESFP, his or her opposite, must be well aware that miscommunication isn’t the same as misunderstanding. Forgiveness alone isn’t the cure. And restructuring of relationships by working with opposites rather than against them may be too much to ask. Well aware, also, that personality theory, by itself, isn’t enough.
What’s also needed is spiritual psychology, the guidance found in A Course in Miracles, that explains what all these personality type distinctions mean. Opposites can’t be reconciled without looking within (Introversion); without seeking guidance and vision within (Intuition); without joining Reason with Love’s values to decide (Thinking and Feeling); and without joining Logic, Order, and Discipline (Judging) with spontaneity (Perception) to exercise Free Will. In theory, an ESFP could access his or her own INTJ opposites to bring about peace and reconciliation, to bring about change. But does it work in practice?
Personality types with arrested development, at war with one another, can’t find peace by conquest or separation. They must go within. By accessing and balancing their own personality opposites, expanding into more fully developed personalities, and growing up. By accessing the guidance we need to find our way back -- in Intuition. Where dwells the Memory of who we really are, an Innocent Child. Where dwells the Memory of where we really are, in the Reality and Sanctuary of Creation.
When we pledge ourselves to peace in the New Year, when we tell ourselves that learning never stops, this is what makes it true. When we pledge ourselves to self-improvement, this is what we mean. There is still hope for peace so long as we grow.
For the New Year, a prayer:
to Mind and Love, our Parents in Heaven, who have blessed us
with eternal Life, with Free Will, with Purpose in Creation
in the Here and Now
and the joy and laughter that only Spontaneity can bring:
May the lessons of 2020 not be lost
And, please, may we not blow it in 2021.