MBTI® is a personality scheme that was developed by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, modified from a scheme originally proposed by Carl Jung, the psychologist. It is probably the most widely used system of cognitive styles. It divides people up using four categories:
- Thinking versus Feeling: Thinking has to do with head and logic. Feeling works with heart and emotions. Thinking is objective; Feeling is subjective. In the Western world, this distinction is extremely pervasive. In Asia and Africa, it is not as iron clad.
- Perceiving versus Judging: MBTI® views this as an overall preference. The Perceiving person likes to ‘keep options open’; the Judging person likes to ‘have matters settled’. I interpret this as a distinction between energy and structure, or between pleasure and work. Pleasure is supposed to be spontaneous and free of decisions. Work, in contrast, is something which you like to have finished. The Perceiving person enjoys what he is doing while he is doing it; the Judging individual likes the satisfaction of being able to finish the task and check it off on the list. Notice that the cognitive style of Perceiver is totally different than the MBTI® category of Perceiving.
- Sensing versus iNtuition: Sensing deals with the real world and the physical senses. It plods along through certain reality, one step at a time. iNtuition (with a capital N to distinguish it from Introverted), in contrast, deals with ideas and thoeories, leaping lightly from one concept to another. I view this as a distinction between actions and words, for action can only reach its goal one step at a time and it will experience painful consequences if it does not consider carefully the constraints of reality. iNuition, on the other hand, can use words to avoid reality and build ‘castles in the air’, full of generality, possibility and hot air.
- Introverted versus Extraverted: This is also a more general category and refers to an overall direction of attention. The extravert directs his attention to the external world of people and objects, whereas the introvert focuses upon internal concepts and ideas.
MBTI® also refers to a dominant and auxiliary function, and uses a slightly complicated method for determining these based upon the specific type. If you want to know the mechanics of the dominant and auxiliary, you can find this explained on many websites. I interpret dominant and auxiliary as functionand assumption. The dominant is the method of thought which I normally use. But, this way of functioning is based upon a major assumption about either the mind or the real world. For instance, the Perceiver person is typically an INTJ. His dominant is IN or Introverted iNtuition, and his auxiliary is ET, or Extraverted Thinking. Thus, he assumes that the external world can be analyzed through the using of Perceiver facts—Extraverted Thinking, and then based upon this assumption he builds an internal world of logical thought and understanding—Introverted iNtuition.
MBTI® states that its four basic categories are fundamental and unbridgeable. In contrast, I suggest that they can be integrated, but only with great difficulty and only in a certain order. That is why I often refer to these division as a pair, such as T/F or Thinking/Feeling, or Thinking versus Feeling. Going further, I suggest that the goal of mental development is to reach mental wholeness, and that mental wholeness can only be achieved by integrating the four MBTI® divisions. In other words, I view these four divisions as accurate descriptions of the partially developed mind and the sixteen types of people as states of ‘mental resonance’ within which the human mind naturally enters.
Thinking/Feeling: I suggest that this is the first mental division that has to be tackled. Bridging Thinking and Feeling means learning to think rationally about emotional issues. Childish identity naturally separates head from heart, and Western society tries very hard to keep objective and subjective distinct. If I want to learn how to think rationally about emotional experiences and personal identity, then Perceiver thought must gain the confidence to handle emotional issues. First, it must ‘wake up’ from the sleep of childish trust and blind faith. Then, it must go through a time of confusion and uncertainty. Only then is it sufficiently ‘awake’ to be able to build solid connections between emotional experiences. When childish identity goes through this process, it feels like mental rebirth.
Perceiving/Judging: MBTI® views this as a secondary division and I agree. Integrating these two, I suggest, is like trapping steam in a boiler. Perceiving is the steam; Judging is the boiler. In order to do this, I must have mental building material that is solid enough to handle emotional pressure without falling apart. Integrating T/F gives me this raw material; bridging P/J takes this mental material and uses it to construct a mental container that can enclose and channel mental energy.
I suggest that T/F and P/J are personal splits. That is because integrating them is a personal task that I must do as an individual.
S/N and I/E, in contrast, are corporate splits. It is very difficult to tackle them as an individual, and bridging them must normally be done with the help of a group of people.
Sensing/iNtuition: This is the other primary division. Bridging this means ensuring that my words and my actions are always consistent, that my verbal theories are backed up by application, and that my actions are guided by understanding. In order to do this, words and actions must first be made compatiblewith one another. If words are to be compatible with actions, then I must build a Teacher understanding about myself, for ‘me’ is the person who acts. And that means, thinking rationally about emotional issues, which requires integrating T/F. And, if actions are to be compatible with words, then actions must also be guided by rational thought, which means integrating P/J. Once these two are mutually compatible, then it becomes possible for them to become integrated, but this will only happen if one of them falls apart and is brought back together by the other. Until then, they may be compatible, but they will not be unified.
Extraverted/Introverted: As MBTI® states, this is also a secondary division. Bridging these two means bringing together two entire worlds—the internal world of thought and imagination and the external world of words and existence. The internal world is ruled by words; it is internal speech that makes it possible for me to conceive of theories and concepts. The external world, in contrast, is governed by action. In order to live in the world, I must do. Obviously, reconciling words and actions is a prerequisite for bridging the internal and external worlds. As with Sensing and iNtuition, these two worlds will only become unified if one falls apart and is brought together by the other. One option is for a person to fragment mentally and then be brought back together by the structure of society and civilization. In that case, E rebuilds I. This sort of person becomes locked into his culture and finds it impossible to conceive of anything outside of this external environment. The other option is for a person to hold on to internal structure in the face of external chaos. In this situation, I rebuilds E. This person also becomes locked into a mindset, for he finds it impossible to live in a way that is inconsistent with his internal world. Attempting to integrate I and E deals with major issues such as mental sanity and societal collapse, so it is not a task to be taken on lightly.
I mention that S/N and I/E are societal splits. I say this because Western civilization has integrated them externally as a group. Science and technology have brought Sensing and iNtuition together. Science uses experiment to build understanding, or in other words, it builds iNtuition upon a foundation of Sensing. Technology goes the other way, using theory to guide action, thus using iNtuition to guide Sensing. Tying these together is a system of objective facts about the external world. Thus, in the objective, S/N is integrated. However, bridging science and technology requires many people working together with many specialized skills, along with a vast network of external buildings and machines. That is why I refer to this as a societal split.
As I intimated above, Western civilization has not reached the point where I/E are also starting to come together. Almost the entire external world has been civilized and brought into the external web of science and technology. We can create computers—thinking machines that mimic the human mind, and we can use brain scanners to read our very thoughts. And, the external control of the state extends into ever more personal and private areas, to the point where government is trying to tell us what we can and cannot think. Thus, the realm of the Extraverted is invading the internal world of the Introvert, and E is threatening to take over I.
Meanwhile, education is attempting to program the internal world, while democracy tells the individual that his activity must be guided by internal drive and content. And, I have done my best to build a comprehensive model of the internal world which I present on this website. Thus, my goal is to use I to reprogram E.
You can find more details about my analysis here, where I have excerpted a section of my book Higher Thought and Lower Motives. I look there at the four Introverted types and hopefully I can add a description of the other types in the future.
I have also gone through the 16 types in detail and analyzed them in reasonable depth using the theory of Mental Symmetry. You can find this analysis here.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Myers-Briggs, and MBTI are trademarks or registered trademarks of the MBTI Trust, Inc., in the United States and other countries.