Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pretending to be Myers-Briggs, Part 3

When we were discussing the topic of emotions at the lunch table one day, I made the observation, “My brain can beat up my heart.”

Sometimes this is true, and I can tell my emotions to sit down and shut up. And other times it’s definitely not. I’m a thinker-feeler. I love debate and heart-to-heart conversations. My driving force is justice, or maybe mercy, depending on the day. The theological problem of evil hit me with a two-punch blow; I struggled with it on an experiential “heart” level and a logical “mind” level.

By all accounts, my personality shouldn’t exist. But it does, because we’re people, and people are more complicated than tests used to categorize them. Because I’m a thinker-feeler hybrid, though, there’s always a lot of conflict going on in this area of my personality.

It’s not a professional boxing match. It’s more like the part in Remember the Titans when Gerry and Julius start punching each other, someone casually yells, “Fight!” and everyone shows up to cheer and take sides. I’m sure it would be fun to watch my brain and my heart go at it.

In the end, Myers-Briggs put me out as a Feeler, not a Thinker, and I know why. Here are three key areas where I think Ts and Fs are different.

Thought Process: I am a One-Domino Processor

When someone is hurting, I don’t take time to step back and see the logical progression of what might happen if I intervene. I take the situation one domino at the time. The line might eventually light the fuse of a bomb that will destroy the entire five-block radius, but at the moment I do not care. We’ll deal with that when we need to. Right now, someone needs a hug or a place to stay or someone to cry with them.

Ts typically have the ability to see multiple dominoes ahead, sometimes figuring out an entire chain of cause-and-effect before they make a choice.

Relationships: I am a Wheat Thin

My freshman year, my roommate and I kept all of our food in one area. Not having learned the college necessity of having enough rations to supply us during an extended siege, this consisted of two bags of mints, gum, and a box of Wheat Thins. After a while, I noticed that the crackers tasted strangely like mint. They had absorbed the stronger taste.

Applied to me, this means that I hurt for other people in a very real way. I absorb people’s suffering, cry tears that aren’t my own, and mourn for losses that had no impact on my world whatsoever. This can be a very scary thing, especially in a global society. People and causes that are trying to raise awareness to jolt people out of apathy should realize that, for some of us, their condensed version of the world’s suffering is a burden that is too overwhelming to bear. This principle is also what causes people to cry during sad movies or books.

In contrast, Ts can step back and look at a situation from a more objective perspective, especially if they’re not personally involved.

Values: I am a Poet

No, not literally. I don’t actually even write poetry, unless you count treasure hunt clues or the occasional song parody. I’m also not a bare-foot hippie who makes daisy chains and goes around talking about how we should all love each other and get along and recycle stuff.

But I do love beauty and music and the way words can be strung together to mean something. I care deeply about other people and what they think of me. I value dreams, hugs, and all kinds of subjective experiences.

It’s not that Ts don’t care about any of that. It’s just that they often value things like truth, logic, justice, and certainty over these things when it comes down to making a choice. They like to be able to know things. (This is the area where I am most like a T, actually. My brain and heart get into conflict a lot because I can’t decide which set of values to choose.)

I mentioned last week that there are a whole lot of stereotypes with these categories. Some of these are especially relevant to writers. Here are a few that first came to mind.
·        Picture a girl with a Feeling personality, the first image that pops into your head. Now think about me. I do not like chick flicks. I don’t feel the need to give every puppy I see a hug (actually, to be honest, I don’t really like animals in general). I would probably have to read a manual on how to flirt with guys, and even then I’m not sure I could pull it off. There maybe be some Fs who do all of these things. But not many.
·        Feelers have brains, and Thinkers have hearts. I can’t emphasize this enough. I am not an unintelligent person, nor am I incapable of logical reasoning or debating (see, you can tell ‘cause I just used the word “nor” and that’s a word smart people use). Someone who leans more toward the Thinking side of things isn’t always a cynical chess player who thinks poor people should be allowed to starve in order to solve population growth. It’s just which side of us we prefer when it comes down to making a decision.
·        Thinkers will not always do better than Feelers even at things that are seemingly logic-driven. Take a strategy game, for example. I’ve seen several Fs that can beat the Ts before they even know what’s going on because they tend to be better at the interpersonal aspects of the game, such as persuasion and reading other people.
·        Pretty much no one makes a decision by “following their heart” in a random Disney-movie-sense. This is a common F misconception. Fs are emotion-driven, yes, but there is still a process that they go through (such as considering their values, thinking about what impact their choice will have on relationships in their lives, and deciding what their priorities are).
·        Not every villain is a T. And this is not just because villains in some stories are really stupid. Villains who are Fs will be motivated by revenge, or by power, but in a different way that Ts. Ts want power for the sake of the game and the feeling of accomplishment; Fs want power because they want recognition or the lifestyle that power will give them. An F villain is usually more relatable, and more likely to do something that may not be the best move ever (although they’re also more unpredictable).

Next week is Judging vs. Perceiving, probably the most vaguely-named pair of the lot, and usually the one where the most conflict occurs between people with strong preferences in opposite directions.


  1. I like your third stereotype point. Another thing that is useful to remember is that these types of tests identify the methods one uses to interact with the world, but not if the method is used successfully or skillfully. A Feeler could be better at thinking than a Thinker, but prefer to interact with the world through emotion most of the time. The same is true in the reverse and for the other three sections.

  2. Do you have any idea how these manifest in children? I tend to think that children are more emotional, but I don't have a lot of experience with them. I am a strong T and my mother tells me that I have been all my life. Apparently, as a child I didn't care much if someone hit me, as long as I was allowed to hit back(which I usually wasn't). I would say that my strong need for justice and fairness has mellowed in time as I came to realize that the world doesn't actually work that way.

    1. I'm not exactly sure, since the age group I like best is jr. high. Your comment about not changing much since childhood is pretty true for me also. (Especially my strongest preference, N.)