Nov 13, 2007

Further Discussion of Model A Blocks

As we can see from the previous post, people prefer to be in an environment where their Ego and Super-Id functions are most activated. Other environments require strain and engage them less. This accounts for the phenomenon of quadras. In addition, these four information aspects are what types like to talk about out loud. The other four aspects people prefer to either not talk about at all or talk about very carefully, weighing one's words. This accounts for the fact that all people are closed and secretive about some things (or are perceived as such by some other people).

The Super-Id is interesting in that people like to talk about these information aspects and even freely initiate or provoke conversation, but they don't like to have to do anything themselves. It's like they are asking other people to do the real work. The Super-Id is not all just "fun and games"; being expected to do work or take the initiative for other people in these areas is often extremely irritating. Yet it is enjoyable to experience and talk about these areas when someone else is taking the lead and accepts responsibility for the results.

Mental and vital rings
These rings differ in that one (mental) likes to think about things, and the other (vital) -- have things happen by themselves. Thus we get:
- Ego: think, talk, and do (take the lead oneself)
- Super-Ego: think, but not talk and not do
- Id: not think and not talk, but do
- Super-Id: not think, talk, but not do
(Remember, lists like this must always be taken with a grain of salt. Of course the Super-Id functions "think" to some degree, but they like to talk more than they like to mull over things.)

Functional preferences (so-called "valued information aspects")

Blocks of Model A

Here is a sketch of some of the defining characteristics of each of the blocks of Model A. These come from observing how functions work in real life and generalizing across types. Terms are explained wherever they appear for the first time, and they or their opposites can be applied everywhere).

Enjoyable to experience (fun to be in this environment)
Easy to use (doesn't require much conscious effort or "willpower" to focus on)
Prone to burnout (gets stuck in a rut and become overworked)
Normal state of mind (what a person is usually like when interacting with others)
Very high endurance (functions can easily effectively be used for hours at a time)
High initiative (person foresees problems in these areas and manages them in advance)
High tolerance (can handle being exposed to these types of information for a long period of time)
Likes to talk (about things from the perspective of these kinds of information)
Thinks openly (involves other people in thinking/experiencing process)
Likes to do (turns talk into action)
Likes to lead (sets the tone in these areas for others)
Doesn't like to follow (others' initiative without adding new initiatives of one's own)

A strain to experience
Hard to use
Tense state of mind
Low endurance
Low initiative
Low tolerance
Doesn't like to talk
Thinks to oneself
Doesn't like to lead
Doesn't like to follow

A minor strain to experience
Fairly easy to use
Unusual ('weird') state of mind
Medium endurance
Medium tolerance
Doesn't like to talk
Doesn't think
Likes to do briefly
Likes to lead briefly
Likes to follow briefly

Enjoyable to experience
Medium-hard to use
Prone to neglect
Regenerative state of mind
Medium-high endurance
Medium-high tolerance
Likes to talk
Doesn't think
Likes for others to do
Doesn't like to lead
Likes to follow

Nov 10, 2007

The "Problem" of Expert Use of Weak Functions

Many newcomers to socionics and "type watching" tend to underestimate the complexity of personality and socionics' ability to handle that complexity. Many assumptions are made, such as:

  • a type is "supposed" to do and say everything using its strong (esp. Ego block) functions
  • types are "sensitive" about their weak functions and avoid their use or need assistance with them
  • types are incompetent in the use of their weaker functions and competent in the use of their strong functions

Each of these statements is partially true, but they break down in numerous situations. It is not rare to see people who appear to have achieved great mastery of their weak functions, or display sloppiness in the use of their strong functions. These cases make some people question the validity of socionics in the first place or suggest that the person cannot be of their stated type. With a little bit of effort and understanding, however, these seeming contradictions can be reconciled.

When people display expert use of weak functions (3, 4, 5, 6), there is almost always a very good reason for it. Most often, it is related to their professional field or to a long-standing hobby of theirs. For example, mastering socionics entails understanding and being able to apply a large number of categories (introverted logic information). Within a socionics context, it may seem that someone with an excellent command of socionics is "proficient in introverted logic" in general. However, that same person may display all the signs of subdued introverted logic outside of the context of abstract discussions of socionics (yes, I'm speaking about myself).

Likewise, it might seem that LIE boxers (such as the Klitschko brothers, according to many socionists, me included) are "too proficient" in extraverted sensing to be LIEs. Shouldn't LIEs be too hesitant and unsure of themselves physically to be good boxers? Again, the answer can be found by looking at these boxers' life and behavior outside of the context of boxing. Strong (especially leading) functions, in contrast, leave a heavy mark on all areas of a person's life.

Jane Fonda (who I have typed as EIE) is well-known for her popularization of aerobics as a sort of fitness guru. Wouldn't that imply strong introverted sensing or extraverted sensing? Once again, by broadening the context beyond her fitness activities, we can see that sensing is not the focus of Jane Fonda's life. She does not apply sensing to nearly every situation like sensing types do.

Countless other examples can be found. Whenever someone masters anything, they master all aspects of it at a high level. Mastery is driven by the leading function's deep personal interest, but other functions follow along as well. Mastery of aspects that are secondary to a person and require use of weak functions often comes through lengthy, repeated exposure without focusing on that aspect directly. For instance, grammar of a foreign language can be mastered by studying it heavily from the outset, by skimming over numerous grammar books and exposing oneself to grammar rules without really focusing mental energy on them, or simply by correctly repeating phrases that natives say and not even thinking about grammar.

When someone becomes a master at something, there is always some innate talent or physical basis for the mastery. For instance, the Klitschko brothers were born with large, athletic bodies and excellent coordination. Jane Fonda was born with a flexible, well-built body that allowed her to excel in fitness. Sergey Korolyov (powerhouse behind the early Soviet space program) -- a SLE on the Russian benchmark list -- was born with a piercing and inquisitive intellect.

Transcending Type

To what degree can type be transcended? Is "overcoming" or "moving past" one's type a worthy cause? Does this allow one to change one's type or one's intertype relations?

Somewhere in the book In Search of the Miraculous, Gurdjieff (a well-known 20th century mystic) said something to the effect of, "as a person I may not like many of you -- the way you walk, the noises you make, certain habits of yours, etc., but as your teacher I have the responsibility to treat you a certain way regardless of my personal sentiments." This statement, I think, sums up well the possibility of "transcending" one's type:

  1. One will always have uncontrolled personal sentiments that cause them to be attracted to or put off by people on a personal level.
  2. Thus, in personal relationships one will never be "free" from the laws of intertype relations, no matter how much personal growth takes place.
  3. Outside of one's personal relationships, however, there is great room for learning to manage one's behavior and treatment of other people and "disassociate oneself" from one's type-related attitudes and sentiments.
  4. One can, through understanding, come to appreciate the value of other people regardless of one's personal sentiments towards them, which can come to be ignored on a mental level, though remaining important in one's private life.

A hierarchy of development or understanding could be created showing how much people at different 'levels' let their type-related sentiments color their view of life, but I won't do that here. For instance, a low level would be someone who believes that entire categories of people should be eradicated, disciplined, remoulded, etc. because they "serve no purpose" and "only make life worse" (specifically for the speaker, but he projects his personal sentiments onto society as a whole). A high level of development would be someone who recognizes the limitations (i.e. subjectivity) of his personal sentiments and is able to limit their influence to his private life and personal decisions. The more one is able to separate oneself from one's personal sentiments (including type-related likes and dislikes, type and quadra values, etc.), the greater objectivity one is able to reach in one's understanding of other people and life in general.

So, transcending type is not about "changing" one's type or freeing oneself from the "restrictions" of type behaviors and intertype relations, but rather about learning to apply personal, type-related sentiments only to one's private life and personal decision making where they are truly useful and necessary.

Nov 9, 2007

Recognizing Group Threats

From the title it may seem that this post has very little to do with socionics, but it actually ties into the quadras and their roles in society. When we look at history, we can easily recognize periods where power was more or less centralized and when nations were in a state of alarm and readiness or in a state of ease and complacency. It seems that the presence of external threats slmost inevitably leads to a greater concentration of effort and power within countries, while the absence of clear threats generally leads to a decentralization and overall "relaxation" of society.

At the same time, there is also a tendency for centralized states to "create threats" in order to preserve the need for centralization of power. Decentralized states, in turn, downplay threats in order to preserve their comfortable, individualistic status quo. When the difference between the actual threat and the perceived threat reaches extreme levels, society becomes unstable and the whole government system can fall apart.

I believe that the ability to recognize threats to one's group is related to socionic type and to quadras. The greatest extremes in this regard seem to be the Beta and Delta quadras. Beta types are naturally attuned to the territorial expansion and contraction of systems (extraverted sensing blocked with introverted logic), while Delta types are attuned to recognize the traits and potential of individuals within the context of personal interaction and relationships (extraverted intuition blocked with introverted ethics ).

Beta types perceive people within the context of social groups and systems, the development of these systems over time, and feelings that are expressed between different groups. This doesn't mean that they are blind to individual traits or much more prone to stereotyping, but simply that they are more likely to talk about these aspects out loud, comfortably and naturally. Delta types perceive people as individual "case studies" who have different skill sets, relationship patterns, personality makeup, and daily habits. They are more likely to keep their thoughts about group patterns to themselves or state their observations very carefully and tactfully (which basically means restricting the use of these functions).

What this means in practice is that Beta types are much quicker to recognize and respond to threats to their group and to society at large, often banding together at the mere hint of such a threat. EIEs generate awareness of the threat within society and stir up people's emotions. SLEs mobilize people into bands to fight off attackers. IEIs and LSIs perform subtle, behind-the-scenes operations (of course, these are just broad generalizations). The "weakness" of the Beta quadra is that many Beta types are prone to see threats when there actually are none or exaggerate the danger of minor threats, thus wasting people's energy on fighting a nonexistent foe. When the danger is real, however, Beta quadra's ability to mobilize society is critical to the survival of society as a whole.

Delta's attitude towards threats is quite different. They are not good at operating in a state of fear and anxiety and try to find ways of avoiding whatever is causing these negative emotions. They prefer to make preparations in advance to reduce the likelihood of threats to an absolute minimum, because when a threat actually arises, they don't know how to mobilize for action. Because of Beta types' confidence in repelling threats, they seem less prone to lengthy advance preparations.

In my opinion, what we see across much of Europe now is a Delta stage of national ambivalence coupled with unforeseen material wealth. For decades now since WWII, European countries have been freely accepting immigrants, ignoring the cultural and now political threat that this has begun to pose. This attitude of acceptance and "extreme" rejection of anything that could be construed as racism is probably a reaction to the atrocities of WWII. Individual freedom and (probably) material prosperity are the result of this worldview, but it may be reaching its limits as threats to society grow and governments take few measures to counteract them.

Meanwhile, a Beta-dominant, xenophobic Russia is seeing threats all around them. What many people in the West don't recognize is that Russia is also experiencing a cultural revival. The benefit of being equipped to recognize and eliminate threats is, of course, a strong will to survive. The drawback is that if the threats are in fact too greatly exaggerated, maniacal leadership can lead to bloodshed and impoverishment.

The United States -- almost in the position of an island country (just two bordering countries) -- has historically flipped between isolationism and international involvement. During periods of isolationism, power tends to be more decentralized, and more energy is spent on perfecting domestic policies; during periods of international involvement, territorial interests are under threat and power becomes more centralized. Obviously, the U.S. is currently in a stage of involvement. This leads to a certain loss of freedoms within the country in order to better fight the country's enemies.

(I'll stop there for now)

Nov 8, 2007

"Openness" of the Mental Functions

If you look at the mental functions (1 through 4), there is a clear tendency for each function to be more restrictive than the previous one, with the 1st function most open to new information and the 4th function most closed.

The base function is open to new experience and is willing to consider pretty much any information that comes its way, even though this function forms opinions quickly and often categorically (and loves to exaggerate). The creative function has a considerably more restrictive view of reality and doesn't want to consider "useless" information corresponding to this aspect. The role function is more restrictive yet and "tries" to operate just enough to avoid major risks to one's well-being and social reputation. The vulnerable function barely tries to consider new information -- much less information that is clearly inapplicable to one's situation -- and only considers information that the individual has dealt with on a personal level.

Here are some scattered examples:

  • IEEs and SEEs believe that all relationships should be good and don't want to invest in or waste time with those that aren't ideal or don't go anywhere (restrictions on 2introverted ethics ). EIIs and ESIs do not shun "bad" relationships, but see them as an integral part of life that must be worked with and learned from (no limitations on 1introverted ethics ).
  • IEEs believe that people are the way they are and are worthy of study and understanding no matter what makes them tick (no limitations on 1extraverted intuition). EIIs believe that people should strive towards certain ideals (restrictions on 2extraverted intuition).
  • LSEs and ESEs find recreation, enjoyment, and comfort very important, but try to "perfect" these activities by ridding them of unpleasant sensations (restrictions on 2introverted sensing). SEIs and SLIs are more open to experimenting with new sensations, even if not all turn out to be positive.
  • ILIs and SLIs try to avoid doing any "useless" work and applying ineffective methods that don't bring any immediate returns (restrictions on 2extraverted logic). LIEs and LSEs are more open to experimenting with new methods to test their effectiveness, even if that means wasting energy and discovering dead ends.
  • IEIs and SEIs try to brighten up the emotional atmosphere and avoid "negative" emotions (restrictions on 2extraverted ethics). EIEs and ESEs are less likely to avoid or skirt heated negative emotional situations, because this is part of what life is about.
  • ILEs are likely to ignore logical systems and classifications that they see as pointless or lacking in insightfulness (restrictions on 2introverted logic), while LIIs are more open to considering any systems, perhaps to hone their logical thinking skills or to whet their mental appetite.
  • IEEs and EIIs both don't appreciate coercive or overbearing behavior (who does, really?), but IEEs believe they personally need to be capable of coping with it effectively, while EIIs believe it should be eradicated altogether (greater restriction on 4extraverted sensing than on 3extraverted sensing). Similarly, SEEs and SLEs have more open attitudes towards changeable, unpredictable, and finicky behavior in others and try to be prepared to deal with the unexpected in people and events, while ESIs and LSIs try to limit the possibility of unexpected changes in direction to a bare minimum (greater restrictions on 4extraverted intuition than on 3extraverted intuition)