When I was 23, I abandoned the faith-based worldview of my youth and began to subject everything I thought I knew to rational standards of knowledge, such as how do I know that? and what hard evidence exists to support that belief?, and if I would find a belief to be untenable, I would ask myself where the belief had come from and why it existed in the first place if it were untrue.
Mar 20, 2009
When I got into socionics, I found both answers to personal questions that had (in my opinion) a rational and supportable basis, and also elements of faith that I found disturbing. I thought the faith-based elements were the doings of individual teachers of socionics rather than something inherent to socionics itself. For instance, my teacher insinuated to me that his group's method of typing was the only accurate one, that they were better than everyone else, and that there were grave risks to be had if one got involved with socionists who did not have their unique skills. I had no way of knowing whether that was actually true or not, and my teacher assured me that over the course of time I would realize all these things for myself. That all smacked of the religious worldview from whence I had come, and I would challenge him on these points for several years, to no avail.
As I got to know more socionists and learned of different groups in the community (in the Russian speaking world), I eventually gained an accurate, and quite different perspective: I had been studying with people who were peripheral members of the community and viewed as semi-authoritarian quacks by other socionists who had dealt with them. It took a long time for me to overcome the negative programming I had been given regarding the socionic mainstream, and see that the mainstream was actually moving along in a healthier, more rational direction than those I had studied with.
The group I speak of was not unique. Similarly dogmatic socionists with a siege mentality could be found in many places, and some were quite prominent on the web. Their concept of socionics was always significantly different than that of the mainstream. I don't mean to suggest that the mainstream view is necessarily the correct one; however, my experience showed that peripheral socionists with authoritarian tendencies had less rational and more idealized or illogical views of socionics. A certain charisma to these socionists helped them instill in their followers the faith necessary to overcome the doubts that would naturally arise. Those that lacked charisma or other necessary qualities simply had no followers, but wished they had.
To illustrate how a dogmatic, faith-based mentality develops, imagine you believe that 90% of people are intuiters, and that the holy grail of duality is accessible to only a tiny minority of the population. This would require a modification in practice of how the intuition/sensing dichotomy is applied, and members of your school would inevitably encounter opposing views on the matter when exposed to other schools of thought. So, you instill them with the belief that other schools are "way off," that they have "no practical experience, just empty philosophizing," etc. This creates an "us versus them" mentality for those who stay in your school (those who disagree, leave). Your unusual views place you in constant opposition to stray outsiders who decide to come and argue with you a bit. When asking for proof of your typing method, you say, "well, first you have to learn it; once you begin to apply it, you'll see for yourself that it works. I'm not here to prove anything; try it for yourself." If they continue to criticize, but never try to learn the method, you simply call them closeminded and other bad words, and the feeling grows within your community that everyone else is "dogmatic," thus bonding the community even tighter in the face of a hostile environment.
People can grow up in these environments and take years to come to see that they were falsely programmed. In many cases, that realization never comes. When it does, it creates a strong backlash.
So, we find many teachers of socionics invoking -- overtly or covertly -- faith among their audiences. Is this the problem of those individuals, or of the field as a whole?
I'm inclined to believe it's characteristic of the field as a whole. Really, nothing in socionics is provable in the scientific sense of the word. Only the most basic of observations are indisputable, such as the fact that relationships tend to differ quite a bit, that getting close with certain people tends to bring negative consequences, while with others you experience positive changes. Also, people with whom you may have difficulty interacting often have positive relationships with others. Finally, the mundane observation that people are very different and have different natural inclinations.
None of socionics' original constructs, however, are indisputable (this does not imply they are incorrect). Nothing about types, dichotomies, or the socionic model of the psyche can be demonstrated scientifically. This means that people must accept the constructs because they seem to make sense, rather than because they have been proven.
As a result, people find themselves believing (assuming to be true without having adequately tested it) that relations between certain types will have certain characteristics, that dual relations will be the best, that they will get along better with certain kinds of people, etc. Having just a bit of experience that appears to confirm parts of the theory, they will take other people's word for the rest of it. They will say to other people, "there's this theory that describes relationships between types. It says that... ", thus passing on the socionics meme without having submitted it to rigorous testing. Because of the difficulty of objectively determining types, rigorous testing can only take place on an individual basis and takes years and years of experience. Meanwhile, the socionics meme marches on, passed along by people who think it makes sense, but are unable to confirm or disprove it.
There are many people in the socionics community, such as myself, for whom socionics has answered many questions about personal relationships. For us, socionics provided an explanation for our actual experience. For many others with less experience, however, socionics is received as a "neat system to learn more about myself and others." For the first group, there's not too much faith tied up in their study of socionics, but there is for the second. The assurances of the first group that "it works" then stimulate belief among the second group, who don't have enough experience of their own to know either way.
Whether or not socionics phenomena actually "work" or not is irrelevant in a way; I think putting yourself in a position where you are taking other people's word for something can weaken you psychologically, especially if you are taking people's word for something as intimate as your own personality, potential, and relationships. Basing personal choices on unproven psychological theories rather than personal experience and impressions can narrow your possibilities. Also, such an environment can easily give rise to authoritarian leaders who tell weaker individuals what to think about themselves, their potential and relationships, and about other people.
I wish I could say there were some easy trick to avoiding placing faith in socionics, but I don't know of any. Perhaps with this and subsequent posts I can help sow some seeds of healthy skepticism.