Mar 12, 2010

Creating a Positive Type Environment

In a previous post I mentioned that I had used socionics to help create a better type environment for myself:

Thanks to socionics, I became aware of the kinds of interpersonal factors that might have been causing my multi-month blues. I came to believe that the types of the people around me were having a great effect on my general emotional state, and that results could be obtained by changing the types in my environment by choosing more carefully whom I lived with, worked with, and was emotionally close with. This strategy worked! It took a couple years to make my "type environment" the way I wanted and to learn to stop nagging people with the "wrong" types to try to get them to start understanding and validating me. But since then, I have never had anything that I would call full-fledged depression.

This generated some questions, so I will go into some more detail here about my personal experience.

Before my turning point at age 23 when I learned of socionics, my type environment had depended almost entirely on forces outside of my control. I was born into a particular family with a particular lifestyle and set of life circumstances. Location, infrastructure, and family values influenced my personal contacts while I lived at home. As an exchange student, I was placed in a host family; at the university, I was placed in a dormitory with people I didn't know. As a missionary during a two-year mission, I was moved around and put with different missionary companions at others' will, as if a guinea pig in a gigantic socionics experiment where two months of peace might be followed by two months of hell.

This is often the situation for many adolescents. Part of becoming an adult is to begin making your own choices of "who, what, where, when, why, and how." Only a lucky minority get ideal conditions for their own personal growth and harmony handed to them on a silver platter right from their infancy. In my case, some things were given to me while others weren't. For instance, I had ideal conditions for intellectual development and imperfect conditions for emotional development. I had always managed to find friends at school and elsewhere who would listen with interest to my insights and laugh at my humor, but only by my mid-20s was I consistently living and interacting closely with people who could balance out my own tendencies and bring out the best in me.

At the time I learned of socionics, my personal and interpersonal lives were a complete mess. I did not have reliable confidantes that I felt secure sharing my problems with. I was trying to manage my inner life by applying learned religious formulas which did not work because I had such unfulfilled emotional needs and because my personality did not fit the formulas. I had not learned to recognize and trust my instincts regarding relationships, and had been dating a girl that I had had constant doubts about. I tried to ignore my doubts because on the surface it seemed like a really good match. I had years of personal and relationship issues that were eating at me, and I was unconsciously looking for a way out.

When I met my first teacher of socionics, I began to see the way out of my particular mess -- to stop looking for the sources of problems within myself and to start seeing the external causes, in this case the types of people surrounding me and affecting my emotional life. I quickly realized just how random my type environment had been until then, with just a few periods of good fortune where I was with compatible people (but not of my own choosing). I resolved to master socionics and work my way out of my problems into a happier situation. For a few years this was the guiding purpose of my life around which all my inner forces were "crystallized."

Immediately, I started making different decisions. For instance, I was living at the time with an EIE-LSI couple that I felt very uncomfortable with, and yet baffingly had never considered leaving. I moved out of their home and rented a separate apartment with a friend's help. I started relating to people at my work a little differently, allowing myself to be a bit more personal with some and remain comfortably distant with others. I found this took some stress off me, as I had previously worried about what kind of distance to keep with people. I found that I tended to relax around certain people and grow tense around others. I began to let these internal responses influence my actions with people, pushing myself to be more spontaneous and self-revealing whenever I felt comfortable with someone. My teacher helped by identifying the types of many people at my office, mostly correctly.

Fortunately, my teacher planted some very handy, if somewhat esoteric, ideas in me. One was to treat my own psychological type as a powerful piece of machinery that I had in my possession and could learn to use to my advantage by paying close attention to my machinery's "output" in response to the environment's "input" and by cleaning the machinery of stereotypes and other people's values that I had unconsciously picked up over the years. I found this to be a valuable metaphor for all the psychological and physical traits we are born with. It was exactly the kind of thing I needed to learn after having mistrusted my natural impulses for so long.

Another idea he planted in me was that to allow dualization to happen I had to do certain things to trigger a response in the other person. I needed to learn to "act my type," in a very general way. Then, the other person would respond in a typical way that would in turn set off a related mechanism in myself, and the process would start rolling and gaining a momentum of its own. This type of guidance from my teacher concreticized the things I needed to work on and helped me see a clear path of development in front of me.

I returned to the States from Ukraine and had a very peaceful senior year with vastly less personal and interpersonal anguish than before. Instead of opening up indiscriminately to whomever came along and seemed willing to listen (and often feeling burnt by their lack of response), I now tried to open up only to people who could realistically respond in the way I needed. I kept my eyes pealed for possible duals and tried to find ways to spend time with them and get to know them better. Luckily, a college setting is ideal for meeting different people. I wasn't wildly successful, but the results were at least quite promising. From my perspective, I had a lot of things inside me that needed "fixing," and only duals could provide the deep level of comfort and trust necessary to be able to fix them.

Luckily, I had met a dual in Ukraine who had started this process, so I was not thinking in abstract terms, but was simply looking for someone like my female friend in Ukraine, because I knew that's what I wanted and needed. Compared with just a year earlier, I was consciously paying attention to entirely different traits in other people.

From then on, I chose carefully who I lived and worked with. I moved in with some people in Kiev whom I'd never met before, simply based on their types. We turned out to have fairly little in common, but I did feel a basic level of comfort with them that allowed me to more or less be myself. I felt that each significant life change (move, change in employment, etc.) needed to put me in a more favorable situation than before.

At one point I was working for an American businessman of my own type. As a way of resolving some of the difficulties I was having as his assistant, I hired a local assistant of my own, using my teacher to help screen people based on type. In essence, I "bought myself a friend." Later we ended up sharing an apartment together, and he was an important source of moral support for a couple years and is still a friend today.

And still I had not been able to have a romantic dual relationship, which had basically been my goal all along. It seemed like there were some powerful barriers in place that I had to find a way to circumvent somehow. I found I kept ending up having purely conversational relationships with girls without a deeper emotional or physical connection. Since the sharing of broad insights and life experiences is perhaps my strongest trait, it makes sense that other people would respond to this aspect of me first. As I later discovered, for anything to work between me and a dual, I would need to experience a strong interest in them that compelled me to direct my mental energy at them. Then, they would respond physically and emotionally. In my "undualized" state, it actually seemed easier for me to develop relationships with other types, but these relationships wouldn't provide me with what I needed.

I tried meeting people through a socionics dating site but was ultimately not as lucky as other people (I know several married couples who met on the site). Something about the awkward format of meeting someone in person for the first time with all the attendant hopes and expectations did not work for me. Also, I was just too different for people to digest, and all the girls I met had ordinary histories and life experiences. At one point I had a relationship with a dual I met on the site, but it was not fueled by enough sincere interest and attraction, and I look back on it with regret. It turns out, duality only works if you fall in love! In fact, dualization is basically a synonym of falling in love and having your expectations fulfilled. Who knows -- maybe any two people who fall in love experience the same thing, regardless of their types?

Well, eventually I did meet someone through a more organic process, my hopes and expectations were fulfilled, and this chapter in my life gradually came to a successful end.

In my case, I was fortunate to come across a socionics mentor who helped me out on a personal level and gave me important keys for my further development in addition to mere socionics lessons. Also, my intent to improve my life situation was very strong and involuntarily drew certain opportunities and people to me. With this intent, I chose to make personal and professional sacrifices in order to pursue my single most important goal. It was more important to me to learn to be myself, attract compatible people, and become balanced than, say, to earn money or make my family proud.

I thought of myself as climbing up the steep side of a plateau. Until I had made it to the top through great personal effort and focus, there was always the danger of sliding backwards, but once I had reached the top, I would be on a whole new footing and my new relationships with others and with myself would begin to sustain me with a new momentum of their own. This analogy holds for any conscious improvements people try to make in their lives, be it emotional, interpersonal, physical, mental, or spiritual.


Anonymous said...

Thank you!

Ibrahim Tencer said...

Yeah, Rick, this is really great. I've experienced a lot of the same things. I think you're touching on this in the last paragraph, but I would like to point out that there are many reasons why relationships can be psychologically difficult other than type: differences in intelligence, interests, or views, etc.

On that same paragraph, now that I am a spiritual person I've had to completely re-evaluate my goals and situation, and I still need to make some adjustments to get to a point where I feel mostly comfortable (if it exists). Actually, I feel as though most of what I did in the earlier part of my life is totally useless to me now.


Monarc said...

My teacher is Carl Gustav Jung.

I too like extraordinary life experiences and your life seems fairly similar to mine only that those who fanned my intellectual flame were quite few but very significant. Mostly, people like my humor and counselling sessions. So now, let me say what I actually wanted to say after introducing Jung:

Do you know how I met Jung? I was about 16 then (22 now) and I was writing a verse of rap when a name that I had no history with whatsoever bubbled up into my mind while crafting a metaphor. It was uncanny. And for some reason I knew I liked him better than Freud who tended to pathologize everything. It was when started blogging and met my EII friend that I really got to know him as my friend was also a Jung and personality fanboy.

So many of the ideas I used to be so ashamed of are in Jung's works and in psychology and philosophy in general and these have also helped me to be more confident though I still fear, fairly. I cherish my ideas much so if I don't have them, what do I have? Also, my ten year long depression has died away slowly but satisfyingly