Now that I've criticized socionics in several blog posts, I will present a new perspective that may begin to reconcile different viewpoints on the accuracy of socionics*.
* When I write "socionics," I am referring to intertype relations — the core and purpose of socionics theory.
How acutely a person experiences socionics depends on their current life circumstances. You may go through phases where socionics seems to hold little sway over you, and phases where socionics seems to imprison you or dictate how you feel and what you are able to accomplish.
Here are the kinds of things that influence your sensitivity to intertype relations:
- How well-adapted you are in general at this stage in life. How stable your work and close relationships are.
- How much freedom you have to choose and regulate relationships and activities.
- Whether you are spending more time one-on-one with people or in groups.
- How much variety is built into your lifestyle.
The "worst" possible situation is when you are poorly adapted, have few friends, unstable work, are stuck with whoever you live and work with and are unable to maintain personal boundaries and spiritual hygiene, belong to no groups, and live a lifestyle with little variety. In these life circumstances socionic relations are likely to be experienced very acutely, with many or most intertype relations producing distress. The range of acceptably compatible people narrows to a very small group that is able to reach you through your chronic stress and defensive position.
The "best" possible situation is when you are well adapted, have several close friends and confidants, a stable work situation, freedom to choose and adjust your partnerships and activities to suit your tastes, belong to groups where you participate in interesting and enjoyable group interaction, and have variety built into your lifestyle such that you are engaging the mind, body, and emotions in a number of different ways on a regular basis. In these life circumstances socionic relations may seem to hold little sway over you, and virtually everyone seems compatible in some way or another. The range of people you are able to connect with meaningfully expands, and your openness and sense of security makes it easy to brush off slight manifestations of incompatibility that you might otherwise be sensitive to.
But beyond the influence of life circumstances, it seems that some inherent and developed personality traits can make a person more or less susceptible to socionics. For instance, a typical extravert (in the popular sense) may find that while they personally don't sense incompatibility with other people, for some reason others often react negatively to them and say they are "pushy," "overbearing," "too talkative," etc. Typical extraverts may generally feel untouched by socionics, while occasionally experiencing periods of intense loneliness when they feel that everyone dislikes them and they have no true friends (or for other reasons). Typical introverts (in the popular sense) may generally feel highly susceptible to intertype relations and only able to tolerate a narrow range of highly compatible people. Occasionally some of these introverts may experience states where they can open up and briefly abandon their sensitivity.
Furthermore, one can develop attitudes that affect how acutely socionics is felt. I'm not sure "develop" is the right word, because I think even this type of development is largely outside of conscious control. For instance, if one comes to believe things like — 1) one's own perception is innately limited and prone to error, 2) all people contain some amount of wisdom to be learned from, or 3) all people experience the same basic things and can thus be empathized with — then a greater openness can be felt towards other people, softening the effects of socionics. Likewise, beliefs such as — 1) I know the truth, 2) it is my duty to bring the truth to other people, 3) some people are good and others bad, or 4) some people are innately defective — will tend to make one's experience of intertype relationships more acute than otherwise.
Some life circumstances allow a person to escape the "necessity" of duality (or let's just say, "fulfilling intimate relationships"). The formula I have discovered for this is:
- a vastly simplified lifestyle that allows you to keep your mind uncluttered
- a high degree of freedom and elective solitude
- large amounts of group interaction
- frequent new acquaintances with the option of getting to know people quickly and thoroughly
This is the lifestyle of the wandering philosopher, the spiritual teacher, the long-distance hiker or skilled solo traveler. Those in this position get to experience the best of people (their life experiences, accumulated knowledge, hopes and dreams) while avoiding the worst (finding ways to cooperate in day-to-day living). Living this way, you may develop a kind of "love of mankind"; instead of emotionally latching on to particular individuals you know well, you experience positive feelings for everyone you meet and for the world in general. In this state duality and deep intimacy may lose their importance because you are regularly connecting deeply with many different people. This is the lifestyle of Jesus (assuming the New Testament is accurate), the Dalai Lama, Ghandi, and some long-distance travelers I've met. I think some types are more predisposed to develop this way.
(I encourage readers to think about if there are other types of lifestyles that produce similar effects but work for different kinds of people.)
To summarize, sensitivity to intertype relations as described by socionics is highly influenced by how healthy your life circumstances are at the moment, how sensitive you are physiologically and psychologically, what attitudes you have developed, and whether you are traveling.