Thoughts on Lenore Thomson’s Personality Type(TLTPT)-part 1.0

So.. I’ve been reading this book gifted to me by a great iFriend who thought that all of my ruminations on here about MBTI might be furthered by taking a gander at this here, book:

Lenore Thomson, Personality Type: An Owner’s Manual. Shambhala Publications Inc.: Boston, MA. 1998.

.. and this friend was correct.  Many thoughts that I’ve had about MBTI, Functions, etc. have been altered since I started reading this book.

Most surprising, perhaps, is that reading this book has made me question the underlying assumptions of the whole MBTI system more than I ever have before.  Specifically, it has made me really think about the whole set of constructs involving “functions” and the ways in which people talk about the functions (namely iNtuition(Ni, Ne), Sensation (Si, Se), Thinking (Ti, Te), and Feeling(Fi, Fe)) and how these functions actually function within the human mind.

Importantly, it has made me want to take a further step back and wonder whether the “functions” should be treated in the way that they have been in MBTI, and especially whether they should be addressed as Thomson does, which is often as if they were almost quasi-independent conscious entities inhabiting our heads and fighting battles over who has control over our everyday actions, perceptions and thoughts.

The one thought I wanted to get out today was that rather than thinking about functions, what I think I’m coming to believe is that the MBTI system is helpful in acknowledging that there are four kinds of activities that humans all have to engage in that shape a lot of how we interact with the world. These activities are:

a)Recognizing and interpreting patterns (iNtuition)
b)Sensing and reacting to the details of immediate reality (Sensation)
c)Applying logical and abstract rule systems upon data to organize and evaluate it (Thinking)
d) Applying a set of values criterion towards our social interactions with other humans and groups (Feeling)

Now.. what I think is also an important insight of the MBTI system is that individuals have different strengths/talents with regard to these four kinds of activities and that they have preferences towards which of these they like to engage in.  One could also describe this by saying that individuals tend to be more dominant in one (or actually a combination of two) of these kinds of activities–it plays a more central role in their lives and comes more naturally to them–and that the other activities play lesser roles in their lives.

I would also be willing to go a bit further and state that it does seem to be true that there are some recognizable patterns amongst the populace with regard to how these different processes are combined–such that there are–to at least some extent–recognizable “groups” of people who combine two of the functions in a way that makes their behavior relatively similar amongst them.  However, I do think that this observation can be pushed too far and that many in MBTI get caught up trying to create an abstract system that has more theoretical elegance to it than is warranted by the actual application of these processes in real life human affairs.

Finally, I would also argue that the MBTI observation that these activities can take place within an internal/subjective or external/objective context and that these contexts shape the activities in important ways–is very, very insightful and useful.  Again, I think that this contrast can be pushed too far in certain people’s understanding and application of MBTI–but I do think that this is a very fruitful avenue to explore and flesh out..

In any case–that’s my first observation of the book–and, again, it is a kind of negative observation in that the arguments in this book have made me more suspicious of the structure of MBTI than I had previously been.

As it stands, I’m about 60% of the way through the book and will probably start throwing out more observations of it as I get through more of it.

Any and all comments from those who have read it are encouraged and welcome!

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8 Responses to Thoughts on Lenore Thomson’s Personality Type(TLTPT)-part 1.0

  1. Ms. Question-Everything Danson says:

    Note: I have seen this. I shall respond when my eyeballs are less likely to be drowned in snot… or is that my brain liquifying?

    • tricstmr says:

      take your time.. I’m slowly reading it each night and getting a bit further–I just passed page 300.

      Seriously–I think her description of Ti makes no sense at all in general. She’s basically describing instantaneous decision-making and/or wisdom through her general examples of what Ti means.. and that either means that all people are using Ti all the time when they aren’t being consciously analytical–in which case I want to know why all sports stars aren’t all ISTP’s or INTP’s all the time–and so on and so on…

      It’s not that she doesn’t have some useful descriptions in there–the INTJ description seems pretty spot on–but I find the whole “most people in every type actually need to use their aux function more to keep from being neurotic/sociopathic and evil” schtick to be very, deeply strange. It’s as if she’s writing a book not about types as evaluated from people who are competent and coherent and functional–but rather as if she’s constructing her understanding of types from completely dysfunctional people…

      And maybe she is… but to me–many of her observations, analogies, and claims come across as if she were a primitive technologist trying to explain how clocks work–only having ever seen broken, non-functional clocks… While some observations of a clock in that case might be insightful–the actual process of how they work in reality doesn’t come across at all to me… (and there, according to her, I just totally used Ti to do this–because Ti is all about verbal stuff and analogical thinking–unlike Te or Ni… which I just don’t buy at all.. )

      and now–really, I’m going.. I MUST get work done before class today.

      Again–take your time–I have to finish the book first anyway–and I’ll probably write about days of the week more first…

      • Ms. Question-Everything Danson says:

        Have you asked other types what they think of their descriptions (and functions) in the book?

    • tricstmr says:

      Since I cannot appear to apply to your last question…

      I have not. I don’t have an equal spread of people around me, however, that match up to the types that are in there. Once I finish the book.. I will go do that..

      Interestingly–I often find the particular type descriptions to be less problematic, than the sections before the type descriptions where she talks about the function itself… and I often don’t see how the two parts fit together… for example–her talk about Ni and generally about INJ to be very weird–but then INTJ to be on… I’d have to go back and look at other sections–it was about that part of the book that I actually started writing in it..

      I do know that I often find that the overall function descriptions seem really to fit one of the two types that match up to that dominant function–like the Te talk fit more to the ESTJ’s that I know than the ENTJ’s that I know.. (whereas each of the specific descriptions for each seemed to describe the people I know only partially well for each.. less so for the ENTJ’s overall..)

      Okay.. again.. I must stop.. have work to do…

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