These excerpts are from my book on personality types: 16 Kinds of Crazy: The Sixteen Personalities.
Nothing is ever what it first appears to be, and a surface evaluation of a topic doesn’t interest me. The obvious answer is never the one I want to pick. I always search for another interpretation. A diverse perspective to bring up in a conversation that seems cut and dried. I look for hidden connections between things like a spider who feels the vibrations of each strand of a massive web strung up over everything I know. It all connects through me. I mine data hoping one day it will provide a fresh insight into another topic.
I look past situations, information, and individuals in search of patterns that reveal what else is going on or what could happen. I see ways to improve reality through imagination. The real thing is mundane by comparison. I build my conscious awareness and self-identification around my thoughts. A setting, conversation, even a person interests me less than the ideas they spark in my mind’s eye. If we meet for the first time and I like you, part of me stays present. The rest of me imagines our future adventures together. I see us as best friends or lovers and ponder what it might look like in the years ahead. My attention zooms out to the big picture and tries to see everything all at once.
My focus never stays on one thing, but likes to wander and come up with alternative theories to my own conclusions. I chase after any idea that catches my attention. Follow any train of thought. Indulge every fantasy. I don’t intend to follow through on most of my ideas; they’re just fun to discuss! Implementing ideas requires too much effort. It’s hard for me to stick with them long enough to flesh them out, if I live them out in my head beforehand.
My attention automatically shifts to an interesting train of thought, even if it has nothing to do with the current conversation. Stuck in history class, I think about traveling in a hot-air balloon. My mind builds a series of rapid connections between unrelated things, and takes me on a stream of consciousness ride to something better than Napoleon’s defeat. How did I get to the hot air balloon? The rose on the teacher’s desk reminded me of a ringmaster’s jacket, then a circus tent, which made me think about hot air balloons. Linking unrelated topics is one of my skills. I sit down to watch the musical Sweeney Todd. During the song about serving up people in pies, I start thinking about the parallels to Henry VIII. Why? He “cannibalized” the people in his life through his ego, sacrificing, consuming, and destroying them in his gluttonous lust for life.
You don’t see the connection? Well, I do. Trust me.
I know things without being told the details. After a few minutes of absorbing a discussion or topic, I can talk about it intelligently. My brain fills in any gaps in my knowledge with assumptions. This quality makes people assume me more educated on a wide variety of topics than is true, even though I know a little about everything. My interests are diverse, so I read many things to pick up random pieces of information. I get easily distracted, because my mind flits between ideas. An article on decluttering a closet leads me to read about ancient civilizations, which causes me to research the Titanic. Despite voraciously absorbing details, I don’t retain most of them.
My predictions and assumptions about people, places, and things are constant. I treat them as factual, even without any evidence to support them. I am right more often than I am wrong. Whenever I feel a situation isn’t complete, I form a theory to fill in the missing pieces. If it’s important to me, or interests me, I seek out facts to prove my theory is correct.
None of my hypothesis stay the same in the discovery process. I leave room for reinterpretation, because I automatically generate alternatives to my own theories. Let’s say a friend hasn’t spoken to me in a month. Since the days all run together, I don’t notice this right away. Once I do, I wonder about the reason for their strange silence. Various possibilities occur to me. Is her aunt visiting? Did she get a new partner? Is college exhausting her? When did we last speak? What was our last conversation? Oh yes. I asked her to read my novel and share her thoughts. So that’s it! She loathes conflict. She hates my book, or hasn’t read it, and is hiding from me rather than admit it. It’s time to test my theory. I email her and thank her for offering to read my book, but I no longer need her feedback because of other readers. Bingo! She pops back into my life.
A hunch leading me to discover information to support my idea happens in my studies as well. I watched Rebecca, a film based on a novel about an introverted heroine overshadowed by the specter of her husband’s first wife. Its villain is their sinister housekeeper. This made me wonder why unmarried female villains are a popular trope. I had never researched this topic, just made assumptions based on my historical knowledge. All the tales coming out of the Middle Ages associated single women with witchcraft. Why? It was an undesirable state of existence and seen as unnatural, because it was different from the norm. Most women had to marry to protect themselves. Few could own property or support themselves. The majority were uneducated, so they had to depend on men. Society grew accustomed to marriage and childbearing among women, so any woman who avoided it became suspicious.
Catholic teachings were prevalent in the period, among them the symbolism associated with women as a “temptress.” Eve, in the Garden of Eden, ate of the forbidden fruit and led her man astray. This led them to associate female sexuality with evil. Fears arose around the idea that if a woman has no husband to satisfy her, she may copulate with the devil. Thus the witch who lives in the wood and feasts upon children came into being. It bled down through the stories, and influenced the evil housekeeper in Rebecca. When I got curious to see if anyone else had noticed this, I found evidence to support it by researching the Salem witch trials. I did not spend much time thinking about these assumptions; they just came to me based on what I know of history and I surmised the rest. I build my life on these connections by asking questions and looking for the answers. I develop theories to explain what I don’t know.
Many of my predictions about future events come true, but by then I’ve forgotten the details of my hunch or changed my mind. People give me grief for reversing my positions, but it feels wrong to cling to an outdated perspective when a new one appears. I see through my own arguments, reverse them mid-conversation, and convince myself of the opposite approach.
It’s unnecessary for me to connect to a position to argue for it at length. I may suggest it just to see if your reasoning can defeat it. I’ll irritate you by reversing positions and saying the opposite after convincing you of my former stance, because our debate showed me the weak points in my position! I saw a fresh way to envision this scenario, conversation, or person and went with it.
My brain is like a speeding train. It changes tracks so fast, others struggle to keep up with my conversational shifts. I can’t help this. One thought spirals into a dozen ideas and carries me away. I find my thoughts more stimulating than my surroundings. I focus on the potential of things, not their reality. I care about how people can be, not their true self, and build ideas around it. If my dad will embrace this mindset, it will transform his life! It worked for me!
Double-Sided Sticky Tape
Like a roll of double-sided sticky tape, ideas, thoughts, theories, and opinions attach themselves to me just by being around them. Once they convince me of their worth, I rush to share them. Unless I develop discernment, I float through life, identifying with everything for a short period of time only to soon abandon it. I become a hub for new ideas without caring about them or argue positions I don’t hold, because they sound good!
I welcome alternative opinions so much, I seek them on purpose to challenge my thinking out of a determination not to be “closed-minded.” Anyone who seems too sure of a rigid viewpoint annoys me, because they can’t possibly have considered all the alternatives! I needs us to have an open discussion where more ideas surface! My purpose is to find a truth that gives me broad insights. I want to bring what I don’t understand into focus. I absorb others’ ideas and opinions in case it gives me new insight into a topic. Once that happens, I abandon my earlier assumptions or conclusions to embrace it. It’s my new truth, even if it contradicts last week’s truth.
I don’t want absolute truth, just the truth of this moment. I love anything that offers me fresh perspectives. Situations that forbid me from learning, sharing, or finding new thoughts frustrate me. I hate studies that forbid innovation or creativity. Something built on a foundation I cannot question feels stagnant. Boredom soon sets in. Introduce me to an idea that reverses everything I know about psychology! Blow my mind by framing Hamlet through a new lens! Tell me what events caused a historical figure’s decisions! Blow the dust off history’s dry bones and let me see it anew!
I don’t realize how much unproven assumptions drive me until my friends ask for evidence. The “facts” I take for granted are a product of instinct. I form assumptions so fast, I don’t notice it. A friend drops out of sight. I assume it’s connected to her new lover. A classmate treats me rudely in a lunch line. I know he’s resentful of my status in “the in crowd.” A politician takes an unexpected stance on a social issue. I see this as a subtle shift toward closing out dissenting views. A friend talks about how dealing with their repressed childhood memory reframed their past. This makes me think about whether psychologists plant ideas in people’s heads.
The best ideas hold up to experimentation. I want to test them, share them, and change the world with them. My expectations may be unrealistic, but I don’t care or think about that. I can live ideas out in my head without needing to do them, or get halfway into them and quit. My boredom often follows a public announcement that over the next month, I will perform a juice cleanse, release content for my video blog, or devote time to a massive project. It goes great for two days. By day six, it’s a drag.
Reality exists as a starting point for forming theories or insights. I don’t mind physical activities, but I’d rather imagine a castle full of dragons than visit a tourist trap. Real places, people, and things pale compared to my imagination. Once I arrive at a destination, I don’t know what to do with myself. Being there is okay, but unless something is happening to hold my attention, I wander away into my imagination. People disappoint me for not being open-minded. Others accuse me of ignoring reality in favor of an idealized version of it. That’s fine. My attention goes to how nothing is perfect, and everything has room for improvement. How could this individual become better? Can my invention change the world?
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ENTP: The Innovator
I believe every problem has a solution. If I haven’t found it yet, I haven’t tried enough things. Give me sufficient time to tinker with it. I’ll figure it out. Before I can conceive an answer, I must know how whatever I am working on operates on a basic level.
Let’s say an algorithm that tracks website hits to a specific page isn’t working. This information gives us data on the popularity of a topic to determine if we should write additional material on the subject to earn hits, which gives our advertisers better exposure to our readers. The more people see an ad, the more revenue we can charge for it. Since the defective code is not tracking hits, they ask me to fix it as the resident coding expert. How did I reach my skill level? I spent hours taking apart/studying codes, and building and improving computer systems to figure out what makes them tick. I know all the short-cuts and what happens if a line of text gets forgotten. If I leave out a cp code, the paragraph goes wonky. My process builds an understanding of the entire operating system in my mind. I know each line of text, how it connects, and what it does within the software program.
To solve the algorithm, I look at the results (it’s not collecting data), and assess likely causes first, working my way through them until I try enough things to fix it. Once it’s solved, I know what caused the problem. I add this to my theoretical knowledge. It will let me solve similar problems faster in the future. I can theorize on what might be wrong, but I need to get into the program to know for sure. My investigation backs up my guess about what’s causing the error and proves me right or wrong. I’m not married to any of my proposed solutions; if they don’t work, I try another. Being able to conjure up many possibilities means I never get stuck.
It’s so enjoyable for me to discuss theoretical solutions, I do it for fun. I invent scenarios or discuss them. How much fuel would the Millennium Falcon need to reach another quadrant? I take what I know about space engines, add it to the relevant data from the Star Wars universe, and wind up arguing about it on a forum. I might even write out a detailed schematic to prove my opinion.
I want a way to leverage everything to my advantage. If life gives me lemons, I make a chocolate soufflé. Being able to hack a situation, computer code, or individual means understanding the process behind it. Everything is an operating system to me, including people. Psychology, personality types, Enneagram, etc., are tools to assist me in understanding their psychological development. I can adjust my approach to individuals, based on a schematic of that type. Where are their strengths and weaknesses? In grasping what makes them tick, I can appeal to and understand them on a technical level, even if I don’t get their feelings. Those are irrational and unpredictable. I create workarounds to avoid them, but don’t always succeed. If my bluntness triggers people, I don’t know why my analysis offended them. I asked if they wanted burial or cremation after they die. Why is that hurtful?
I can’t make sense of people all the time, despite my best efforts. I’d rather not deal with their emotions. They get tiresome after a while. It is easy for me to create workarounds in other areas. Once I know how an independent technical system functions, I figure out how to make it work better and faster. I branch into a new innovation or maneuver around a problem by inventing a shortcut.
It must make sense to me on an internal level and be consistent. I notice when things contradict themselves. Inaccurate statements, points of view that cancel each other out, etc., stand out. I try to avoid it in my personal life, though my idealism carries me away. To evade contradictions in my philosophy of life, I question all external ideas or moral viewpoints for soundness before adopting them. They need to make sense to me and line up with my beliefs.
My goal is to create an inner framework of logical truths. Even theoretical information needs to be rational. A cracked foundation can’t sustain the weight of the house built on it. It may collapse. I want to add only relevant, proven, and logical information to this inner structure. While I generate lots of possibilities (too many for me to use), anything I focus on must be accurate. If I want to learn anything, I take what I know about it, study it, and create a model in my head. I picture how it all connects. Each piece that fits into it becomes a mental 3D mold I can take apart and reevaluate.
There’s a personality system called the Enneagram that uses nine separate motivations to describe nine individual personalities. Such theoretical systems are not only easy for me to apply to people, but take apart, scrutinize, and capture in my mind. I must slow down to process the information by thinking about what makes each type distinct from another. How is a 4’s isolation different from the withdrawn nature of the 5? I make sense of it by pondering what motivates each number, and storing that information in my head as a diagram. The over-reaching theory, combined with my analysis of how it operates, lets me use it effectively.
Doing this creates mental shortcuts, so I needn’t rethink a logical premise. My tendency is to pose a theoretical argument based on solid principles. My approach works off deductive reasoning: two pieces of correct information pave the way for a third assumption that is likely to be true. This leads to fewer errors, since it reduces any kind of guesswork.
Aristotle offers a simple example: “All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.” Two factual and proven statements allow for a third logical hypothesis. Men are mortal, which means no one avoids death. To escape death, we must solve the problem of mortality. How might we accomplish this? Can we record a human consciousness on a computer as a backup? To do this, we must know… what gives us our personality? Is it the mind? Do we have soul? What makes up the soul?
Logical theories need tested before they’re accepted as truthful, but sometimes reality confounds a machine. A simulated test may work in theory, but not in actuality. That’s why I conduct physical experiments to confirm or disprove my theories. My ideas all look forward. I build them around suppositions about what the future might look like. Before the world even had light bulbs, Benjamin Franklin theorized lightning as a potential source of electrical currents. He tested this theory by using a kite to attract a strike. Aware of the danger of this, he grounded it through a metal key tied to the string. It was one of many experiments conducted over his lifetime. In both our minds, logic and concepts are inseparable.
Franklin invented the lightning rod based on what he learned. It protects people, animals, and buildings from strikes by redirecting the electricity into a charged metal sphere that channels the surge into the ground. He also invented bifocals, swimming fins, a stove, and a more flexible and considerate catheter. My favorite is a glass armonica, an instrument he designed to replicate the sound caused by running a finger over the brims of water-filled crystal glasses.
Even if I don’t make a living as an inventor, innovations interest me. I want to question, challenge, deconstruct, or study everything.
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ENFP: The Enthusiast
I never let my personal feelings about a subject impede me from giving it a fair trial. Opinions without room for debate turn me off. Nothing is off limits. I want to hear about it, think about it, and discuss it. I consider topics from many angles to judge their worth and theorize about them. Though my opinions may be strong, I can detach from them to see the other side of an argument.
Others dismissing people without knowing their story or letting them speak irritates me. It’s automatic for me to see their side. I think everyone deserves to share their ideas and beliefs, even if I hate what they have to say. Shutting down discussions keeps out fresh ideas that could shed new insight. I welcome multiple points of view. Stagnation repulses me. If there isn’t a new way to see a topic, I lose interest. Everything deserves consideration. I dismiss no one and nothing without listening to it. It may contain truth, broaden my mind, or introduce me to a better method of thinking.
Unless something upsets me on a moral level, I consider it and its implications from an unbiased angle to determine its worth. Interacting with new ideas helps me discover my beliefs. My values are mine alone. Despite my uncompromising values, any subject that doesn’t trigger a “no” from me is open for debate. Though I understand and respect other people’s views, if you dismiss things without trying them, how do you discover anything new?
I use new experiences to test my inner sense of things, prove or disprove my theories, and determine my true feelings. I get caught up in a theoretical version of myself and forget to pay attention to my emotions. I need reality to trigger my feelings. Sometimes, they aren’t clear and fly under the radar. Caught up in a situation, I may assume I can do it despite my feelings and find out… I can’t.
A college course demands I write a paper defending a political stance that doesn’t match my beliefs. It’s easy to parrot a party line, but I can’t submit it because I don’t agree with it. I can’t be inauthentic, but my open-mindedness makes me assume I can get it done. I get into it, read the information provided, and say, “No.” This sets off a chain of thoughts. Does this make me a hypocrite? I talk about being open-minded, but I am not! What does this say about me or my character? How does it reflect on me? What has it taught me about myself? My mental development is important to me. I want to be my best self, and to live up to an ideal.
My attention isn’t just focused on me, but on you. I see where you are going or how you could improve and change. You interest me, both as an individual and for the information you give me. All our interactions build into insights into you and your character. I value moral stances, compassion, authenticity, and principles.
My idealism has high expectations. I set unreasonable values for myself and hold myself responsible if I can’t maintain them.
Emotional dynamics make up my interactions. I hate to offend people or hurt their feelings, but also form strong judgments about their behaviors. Even if it doesn’t make me stop socializing with them, I won’t go along with it. Any person condemning someone else without knowing them annoys me. I’ll assert different theories for their behavior to give them the benefit of the doubt. Yes, she’s late, but there are a dozen explanations for her absence. I settle on one that satisfies my curiosity until I find out the truth.
I can talk to anyone about anything. People fascinate me, and their road through life interests me. I like to cultivate friendships and talk to interesting folks. Often, I can see how nudging them in a specific direction might help them. I create a lot of ideas around them based on ways their life could change for the better.
I care about their inner self and character. Testing them in subtle ways shows me who they are, what they will tolerate, and the kinds of conversations we can have. I’ll bring up topics related to what I want to know. Their response tells me how they might react. I get a sense of someone this way. Are you open-minded enough for us to have discussions? Will you shut down my ideas or hear them?
This information builds me an emotional impression of you. I know what your barriers are, how to provoke you, and your no-go zones. My treatment of you relies on how I want you to treat me. I don’t mind putting my opinions aside to maintain a connection. I can stay friends with those whose values I don’t share, provided they don’t ask me to compromise mine.
I am witty, interested in good conversations, and attentive, but I don’t know how others feel about me unless they tell me. I can give them the impression we’re close without realizing it. They see me as a romantic partner, but I consider them a casual friend. If I sense how they feel about me and don’t share it, I will drift away. I’m aware of their feelings, but unable to ignore mine. If you catch me off guard with a declaration and demand an immediate answer, I won’t know what to say without being blunt.
Emotional and mental stimulation is a must for my relationships or I get bored. I feel the same way with entertainment. If it gives me nothing to think about, I lose interest.
My Inner Self
There’s a disconnect between my theoretical stance and my beliefs. It’s possible for me to debate ideas, but not know my true feelings until a situation unfolds. Reacting to unexpected scenarios forces me to check in with myself. Does this bother me? Do I even care? The answer to that question determines what happens next.
It’s important for me to be honest about my inner reaction. I would rather leave a situation than violate my conscience. I need to live with myself. That means not doing anything I deem wrong. I don’t care how you feel about it or what you say. I won’t do it. Being true to myself is more important than appeasing others.
My waffle between my desire to nudge people toward their best self and not wanting to violate their right to choose their life and live it according to their standards. I get very uncomfortable in situations that demand or enforce conformity, since each person should do what they believe is right. Pressure to do otherwise feels like violating our individual rights. I don’t want anyone to ever feel like they should betray their principles to fit in!
I want the freedom to be myself. Don’t ask me to fake emotions to suit the situation. I can’t. It’s impossible for me to express what I don’t feel, though I may stay silent to keep the peace. In return, I invite you to share or withhold any emotion. I want you to be true to them, even if they don’t match my expectations. It’s hard for me not to read into situations and consider how someone might feel after a traumatic event. I care about that. My decisions involve factoring in how it will impact those I love. I want to be my best self, someone compassionate who cares about others.
Though I can’t predict my emotional responses, I theorize about them and frame things in relation to myself. Watching a movie, I think about how much I would hate that happening to me or what I’d do. Sometimes, my fantasy reaction doesn’t match the real one when that day arrives. I convince myself I would react a certain way only to discover I didn’t know myself that well.
My fantasy self doesn’t match my real self. I don’t know who I am until I live through experiences and react to them. My inner response reveals my deepest-held values and beliefs. It shows me what bothers me enough to stand up against it. I can’t explain to you why this is important to me, but it is. How others feel about it doesn’t matter. They won’t change my mind. It’s just wrong.
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