Sep 19, 2011

Reflections on the Value of Socionics

A Ukrainian friend mentioned today that he had discovered my socionics website on the web when trying to find my contact information online.

- "Oh God," I answered, rolling my eyes with a laugh. "I swear that's not me!"
- "So you've recovered now?"
- "Oh, for sure. 100%. Getting over socionics is a greater achievement than learning it in the first place."
- "Yeah, socionics is quite a potent Trojan."*

* My friend is a software engineer and obviously chose his metaphor carefully. "A Trojan horse, or Trojan, is software that appears to perform a desirable function for the user prior to run or install, but (perhaps in addition to the expected function) steals information or harms the system... A destructive program that masquerades as a benign application. Unlike viruses, Trojan horses do not replicate themselves, but they can be just as destructive. One of the most insidious types of Trojan horse is a program that claims to rid a computer of viruses but instead introduces viruses onto the computer" (from Wikipedia).

Some more excerpts from our conversation:

- "Socionists spend so much time talking about how to develop socionics and overcome stagnation, but the problem is not in the people or their resources, but in the fact that socionics originated and developed as a philosophical school."
- "It lacks experimental repeatability. You can spend years studying socionic phenomena and report your conclusions to other socionists, but there is no way they will be able to build upon your results."
- (Him) "Did you know there's a socionics club that meets here every Friday? I attended for a while some years ago. It was always either dismal, very dismal, or hopelessly dismal."
- "People learn a new language to be able to think about and discuss socionics, but soon they find that they can't talk to other people anymore because they don't know socionics speak."
- (Him) "I learned about socionics in 2005 and for the next year and a half basically disappeared from society. I finally realized I was free when a girl asked me what type I was and I said, 'I don't know!' At that moment I realized I didn't care anymore."
- (Me) "At this point I have no internal need to discuss socionics with anyone. Now I can easily go for a year or more without mentioning types or the 'S' word."
- "Socionics frees a person from one set of delusions, only to replace them with new ones."
- "It gives people a way to justify their own shortcomings and failings. And it leads to new types of chauvinism."

Note that at this point in the conversation we risk falling into "delusions of disgruntled ex-socionists." Sometimes negative experiences can cause people to lose all objectivity in their criticism of whatever they have left behind. In socionics, this negative experience is usually acquired at online socionics forums or at socionics clubs, schools, or conferences when a) fruitful discussion or consensus fails to materialize (due, of course, to "stupid" or "dogmatic" people) or b) there are serious disagreements about people's types, particularly that of the disgruntled person (due to "incorrect typing paradigms"). It can be hard to get over the bad experiences and gain a more objective and moderate perspective, because it means rising to a higher level of understanding than the level one was at when the bad experiences occured. That may take years and multiple major life changes.

Our conversation continued:

- "At the same time, socionics has an unmistakable kernel of truth in it — the observation that interactions with different people tend to be quite different."
- (Him) "For me, the notion of complementarity was the most important thing I got out of it."
- (Me) "And I became very attentive to people's personalities. I don't just mean their types, because once you know 20 people of the same type you start paying attention to all the things that make them different."

So it's obviously not all bad after all! In my case, I would say socionics has been more positive than negative. It was like serving in the army. You go through some hard training and earn some battle scars, but come out (hopefully) wiser for it and perhaps more of a "real man." But many people's experience of socionics is more like joining a cult; instead of performing your service and returning to the real world, the socionics community becomes your primary social outlet, socionics lingo becomes an involuntary part of your thought and speech, and you lose your desire to connect deeply with people outside of the socionics community (or try to draw them into it in order to be able to connect with them).

I sometimes wonder if the universally applicable "kernel of truth" within socionics can be separated from the parts that seem to engender negative experiences, or if the two are inextricably connected.

Now that I am "beyond socionics," I could easily imagine training another person to observe other people's expressions of personality and individuality, as well as their own responses to these expressions, without resorting to a single socionics term — even hidden terms (i.e. by replacing a "foreign" socionics term with a more familiar word). I think a person could learn to recognize and develop potentially fruitful relationships and gain more social confidence through this type of training. I can't imagine that it could have any negative effects at all. But would something important be lost with all the categories removed?


Filambee said...

I think that you could remove the socionics terms but it's impossible to remove these categories. There are people in life that naturally pick up on the patterns of people and so the categories have been and will always be in existence. It's the terms and the fuctions and terms of functions and all that other crap that has confused people more than it has helped them. The importance of these categories and relations have been known for a very long time, way before socionics or even Jung. Think about matchmakers, they instinctively know whether two people should be together or not. I think that if you take away all the Socionics terms, the importance would not be lost. Instead, hidden underneath all of the complexities, the simpiler, true importance of the patterns in people and their relationships would be revealed.

Anonymous said...

Obsessing and learning socionics over the past couple of years has severely stunted my social abilities, which is what I tried to use it for in the first place. At first socionics was useful, but then it got out of control. I am recovering but it has been a slow and frustrating process. I am waiting for a dual to come and change my life when I actually need to make these changes on my own.

Ashton said...

Reminds me of an article I found titled Stages of the Socionics Disease:

"Described here is the progression stages of the Socionics disease, resulting from years of observations of a large number of infected patients and many clinical experiments. I assume with some adaptation it would be applicable in equal measure to other brain trojans—typologies of personality in particular…"

More here:

Ричард said...

Filambee: astute comment.

Ashton: thanks — that was a terrific and very well written article (in Russian at least:), but it's not the whole picture. Sometimes socionics actually proves useful and helps a person gain some practical life skills that may have been lacking, or provides them with some new ideas which then lead to other useful things. These people tend to quickly end up on the periphery of socionics and don't take an active part in the community, so socionists rarely notice them. But they are there...

Anonymous: please see my subsequent blog post. Perhaps it will give you some ideas.

Anonymous said...

it might be oversimplification, but one can imagine socionics (theory) like a book. it's interesting, even revealing, but you don't have to read the same book all the time. there are plenty other books on the shelf that might be of interest. it's also a fiction book. and not only because it has its own characters and culmination of dualization. it's neither true nor false, and you cannot falsify it. so it's difficult to develop it further. but it's just another way of look (to yourself and others), and quite enrichening. personally I am glad to encounter it, and despite of danger to get stuck with that, I've found a way to counterbalance it by other intellectual activities and likes. just reading new books, and of course not forgetting that it's the only thing to do.


Anonymous said...

corr. "that it's NOT the only thing to do".

Outwit. Outkill. Outclass said...

i found socionics interesting and applicable to human relationships.

however, i wasn't really caught up in the disease, i just used it as a reference.

my 'dual' close friend and i clicked instantly, but she isn't my closest friend of all. it is ironic that i always get along with my mirrors or a person who is similar to me in everything except introversion/extroversion...

and i DO NOT get along well with my activators. LOL.

I get along with my semi duals, though. and surprisingly, my supervisors -.-

Anonymous said...

The issues described here, are because Socionics is presented as a theory that describes real life perfectly, but unfortunately real life doesn behave perfectly. But when Socionics is used as an instrument for measuring real life, e.g. as a system of Ideal Types (Max Weber) or a theory of Second Level Constructs (Alfred Schütz), virtually all roblem with Socionics are solved, and Socionics is turned in awonderful tool to be used alongside many other tools.


Ashton said...

"Sometimes socionics actually proves useful and helps a person gain some practical life skills that may have been lacking, or provides them with some new ideas which then lead to other useful things. These people tend to quickly end up on the periphery of socionics and don't take an active part in the community, so socionists rarely notice them. But they are there…"

Yes, I agree Socionics can be useful in these respects. And that unfortunately, those who do utilize it in a more pragmatic manner as this, are frequently overlooked—something which I gather contributes in large part to the undoing of Socionics.

Personally, I regard Socionics as an over-written theory—it attempts to explain and predict far too much, with too great of specificity. So, I'm not surprised when it fails to live up to expectations.

What I salvage from Socionics, however, is that it does point the way towards things about people, interpersonal dynamics, etc., which are actually interesting and insightful—it's just that Socionics as a theory doesn't model much of this particularly well, despite its attempts at doing so.

I'd like to think I've long since grown past Socionics and the prescribed theoretical limitations of it, and moved on to at least better perceiving some of the phenomena that Socionics was (ill-fittingly) designed to circumscribe.

Anonymous said...

...big negative impact of socionics (or rather of 'socionics' because i am not able to understand abstract theories with my limited mind) on me - with the knowledge about limitations of my type, my self-esteem couldn't be lower,
now i see myself as just one of those 'irrelevant', 'whats-wrong-with-these-people' ethics from gamma.

Ibrahim Tencer said...

Hi Rick,

Great article. I think I'm at a similar stage as you regarding socionics. I am glad that I took the time to learn about it. I still mentally type people, but now it is more of a subconscious process of interacting with someone over a long period of time, and I don't try to rush it. Even when I do type someone, I would be hard pressed to articulate how I use the information. When it comes to relationships, having a general intuition about how to be a good and friendly person seems far more valuable.

But now I hate to talk about socionics. It seems almost impossible to talk about typings without intellectual ego (and conversely, self-doubt) rearing its head. I prefer to talk about general things like the ones you've posted here, the basic facts about people that socionics makes one aware of. But even then, most people are not capable of gleaning these facts in the first place, at least when they learn socionics on the internet.

There is so much to life than socionics, despite its grandiose appearance. It's just one of many kinds of knowledge that are worth having.