A major shift in my views on personality and relationships has been gathering steam over the past 6 months, with several years of prehistory coming before that. I am preparing a special article on the subject, but will lay out the main points and factors here.
Basically, what has changed is that I've gone from generally viewing personality and especially relationships within a socionics framework, with caveats, to viewing things from an entirely non-socionics perspective, with occasional mental exercises such as, "is there anything typically socionic about this situation?"
Compared to where I was coming from 8-11 years ago, this is a spectacular shift. But it has come on so gradually — except for the last part — that it's been barely noticeable. Earlier this year, I was still pretty sure I was interested in completing some socionics projects, such as making an online test and perhaps putting together some compilation of essays. But now I am almost certain that my work in socionics is done for good.
That said, my Socionics.us website will be preserved in its current entirety and moved to a sub-section of another of my websites, TryUkraine.com.
Problems with socionicsWhat made me stick with socionics up till earlier this year was the conviction that, despite an increasing number of caveats, the "core" of relationships was still determined by socionics. This conviction was based mostly upon my experience of a set of very meaningful relationships in my own life, which I attempted to extrapolate — carefully — to those of other people. This summer and fall, I realized that I could have been wrong about one of those key relationships. I had always typed this friend as SLI despite her self-typings of alternately IEE and ILE. Then a friend got to know this person as well and disagreed strongly with my SLI typing (which already didn't matter as much to me anymore). As I looked at things through his eyes and saw a fairly convincing case for another type, I could feel it was time to leave socionics behind.
If she was indeed ILE, then it was ridiculous that I had had my major "dualization" experience with her — upon which I had based my understanding and descriptions of the process that have helped other people looking for the same thing in their lives. If she was indeed SLI, then it was ridiculous that I was the only person out of a fairly diverse group who could see it. Either way, the situation was entirely ridiculous and discredited socionics.
Shortly before this, I had finished rereading Richard Feynmans book, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! While reading, I had asked myself wryly, "what would Feynman have thought of socionics?" Feynman wasn't particularly perceptive when it came to psychology, but he had a very good B.S. meter. In one of his stories, he recalls his participation in a philosophical debate where the concept of an "essential object" was put forth, but none of the participants could produce a definition of what an "essential object" was, and so it could not be decided whether X was an "essential object" or not (read this short summary of Feynman's attitudes on philosophy). I couldn't help chuckling about this, since it is so reminiscent of socionics terminology (what does "inner statics of objects" mean? is X an example of extraverted or introverted logic? etc. etc.).
Granted, Feynman's attitudes on philosophy were no doubt rather extreme and misguided, since out of the mental exercise of philosophizing sometimes — occasionally — come ideas that flower into scientific fact and theory. However, there is no doubt that Feynman would have thrown socionics in the garbage heap of undefinable philosobabble after 3 or 4 questions posed to even the very brightest of socionists.
At the time I read this book, Feynman's invisible voice resonated powerfully with me. One of the reasons for this is that I had spent many months preceding it absorbed in modern research about the body and brain. The things science has taught us about ourselves over the past decade are truly amazing, and we are on the cusp of learning even greater things about where we come from, how we differ, and how our common neurophysiology operates.
Contrast that to the scientific output of socionics (none, basically). The main texts and premises were laid out in the 70s and early 80s and since then have been discussed to no end in a distinctly philosophical vein, with each socionist making tentative, non-confirmable, and non-transferrable conclusions based on personal experience alone. The "practical application" vector of socionics is following down the exact same path of Myers-Briggs Typology (whose influence, I believe, is already waning): personal counselling, forays into organizational management, courses for those who want to learn the typology, and of course numerous self-help books that all say roughly the same thing (and some splinter groups who mean slightly different things with the same terminology).
Meanwhile, a very large portion of mental energy in the socionics community is devoted to analyzing the community itself, which I view as a dangerous intellectual trap: such analysis appears promising, but ultimately is a waste of time and energy and actually stems not from the truth-seeking instinct, but from the "I'm right and everybody else is wrong" self-assertion reflex. It shouldn't be engaged in too much to avoid self-poisoning. A few years back I was gifted perhaps the fattest book on socionics ever written (in Russian, of course), titled, The Smile of the Cheshire Cat, or the Possible and the Impossible in Socionics, which was basically a study of how socionists think about socionics, and whether their views were substantiated or unsubstantiated, in the author's opinion. I wonder how many people got through this book.
I have been acquainted with the socionics community long enough (12 years) to see how people's socionics "careers" have taken shape. I have to admit that I would not want to be in their shoes. Those that are still with it seem (to me) to be at an intellectual dead-end, trying to continue extracting some kind of revenue and recognition from what they have invested their entire adult lives for, and still doing the same things they were doing 10 years ago with little discernable progress. And it's not as if you can easily "switch careers" from socionics to some other field — say, stand-up comedy or business management. Those socionists that have left seem (to me) to have wasted years of energy doing... what? It's hard to pinpoint any concrete benefits from "doing socionics," unless it directly enabled positive relationships or tangible personal growth. In contrast, in more practical fields you can learn something, apply it immediately, and experience the benefits or lack thereof. Most or all of the benefit of socionics, in my opinion, comes from a few broadly useful realizations about people and their interactions that one tends to pick up very early in the game.
I also used to think that socionics would take hold in the West or East and develop basically along the same lines as in the former USSR. I no longer think this is the case. It is now very clear to me that modern psychology and neuroscience are developing along a very different path than socionics, and there will be little or no convergence. The scientific research coming out now is exciting and promising enough that it is capturing people's attention and imagination, and they are becoming less and less prone to take interest in more theoretical, less research-friendly perspectives such as socionics. The further neuroscience progresses, the weaker pre-neuroscience theoretical approaches like personality typologies become.
Also, I see no hint that psychology is discovering the kinds of discrete categories of people that socionics talks about, or that research on human interaction is tending to see things in an "information metabolism" perspective. Rather, we're seeing more and more research into hormones, attraction, relationship building, genetic difference vs. similarity, concrete predictors of relationship success, etc. And individual differences are almost always proving to be points on a continuum rather than lightswitch-type categories (either on or off). At least for the moment, science is definitely not moving towards socionics. My nose for trends tells me that the future is not with abstract or philosophical approaches to psychology (e.g. typology), but with our rapidly advancing understanding of the actual physical processes that shape the nervous system and human behavior.
On top of this, as I considered the types of other people close to me, I realized that, in many cases, I was no longer sure of their types. Rather than thinking that this was a temporary moment of reevaluation, I have come to see this as typical. When people are psychologically closer than a certain point, "contradictions" in their personalities become more and more apparent, making their types harder to identify. I see this is a big problem; it really shouldn't be this way if socionics is indeed accurate.
On a final note, my research into physiology, health, and lifestyle has led me to see many traits increasingly on a "better/healthier — worse/unhealthier" scale rather than in an "all traits are created equal" vein, which was partly inspired by socionics and partly due to my own egalitarianism. "Weak T" or "weak sensing," for instance, really is probably best seen as a weakness, and not as "the flipside of your strengths," as I would have emphasized in the past. Improve nutrition and lifestyle, and many of these weaknesses can go away, at least in part. It's often not the best approach to assume — as socionics suggests — that such weaknesses can only be compensated for through other people (e.g. complementary types), though there is merit in that idea.
That covers most of what I wanted to say. I will write more on these subjects later, and this blog will continue to live on.