Mar 30, 2010

Career Recommendations for Socionic Types: 2010

Socionics can be a powerful tool for making wise career choices and achieving professional self-realization. Here I've listed the best professions for young adults of different types given their particular functional strengths and weaknesses:

ILE: farming, crafts and traditional skills, physical labor
SEI: farming, crafts and traditional skills, physical labor
ESE: farming, crafts and traditional skills, physical labor
LII: farming, crafts and traditional skills, physical labor
EIE: farming, crafts and traditional skills, physical labor
LSI: farming, crafts and traditional skills, physical labor
SLE: farming, crafts and traditional skills, physical labor
IEI: farming, crafts and traditional skills, physical labor
SEE: farming, crafts and traditional skills, physical labor
ILI: farming, crafts and traditional skills, physical labor
LIE: farming, crafts and traditional skills, physical labor
ESI: farming, crafts and traditional skills, physical labor
LSE: farming, crafts and traditional skills, physical labor
EII: farming, crafts and traditional skills, physical labor
IEE: farming, crafts and traditional skills, physical labor
SLI: farming, crafts and traditional skills, physical labor

Career preparation

  1. Stay out of debt at all cost.
  2. Consider college only if it costs you nothing and can provide opportunities to learn more about the areas of specialization listed for your type above.
  3. If you're paying for college and are in debt, you've almost certainly been tricked. Do a clear-headed cost/benefit analysis given the realities of 2010 (see below) and consider whether to continue studying law, business, or whatever it was the economy needed 10 years ago.
  4. Cultivate meaningful relationships in the real world. Put the Internet in its place, if necessary. Get to know your neighbors. Experiment cooperating with people in little, material things like cooking, gardening, sharing tools, etc.
  5. Decrease your energy consumption and lower your baseline expenses as necessary to ensure your continuing security and freedom.
  6. Find mentors and develop the professional skills needed for the careers listed for your type above.
Outlook for 2010 and beyond

Economic stimulus packages have helped the economy make a modest comeback, and 2010 should see a tentative economic recovery, despite lingering unemployment and a depressed housing market...

Blah blah blah. You've heard it all before. How about a different perspective that doesn't come from the mass media?

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.

3 Relationship Tools

In my opinion, there are three classes of things worth learning about in order to enjoy positive interpersonal relationships. Maybe I will add more over time as I discover them.

1. Individual psychological differences.
Example: Socionics
Innate individual differences are vast and can potentially take a lifetime of study to grasp, but it makes sense to at least familiarize oneself with a system of psychological types such as socionics. No concept of interpersonal relationships can be complete without an appreciation of personality and how it affects, even determines, our interactions.

2. Gender differences.
Example: John Gray's books (Men, Women, and Relationships; Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus)
Personality typologies tend not to describe gender differences at all, yet these psychological differences affect the dynamics of any inter-gender relationship regardless of the personality types involved. Gender differences are the easiest of the three categories to understand and apply because there are only two basic types to learn, and type identification is no problem!

3. Personal development.
Example: Stephen Covey's books (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and others)
Once we understand some or most of the deterministic factors affecting our relationships, it would be a mistake to stop there and decide that nothing can be done to influence interactions one way or another, since all is determined. There is still the art of life to learn. This is the realm of personal religion, mythology, or spirituality, which can never be replaced by science.

The examples I give are just samples of some of the routes available to learn about each particular category. As the most subjective of the three, "personal development" has the greatest number of possible routes. I find Stephen Covey's approach to be particularly comprehensive and understandable to the western mind, but one could just as easily find guidance for personal development in Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, neopaganism, the writings of Joseph Campbell, Osho, Krishnamurti, etc. etc.

As I've studied each of these three areas, I've been astonished at how they ignore the others or mention them only in passing. For instance, socionics has nothing to say about how the psychology of a female SLI differs from a male SLI, though the differences are hardly trivial in the context of "dualization." John Gray's otherwise excellent writings say next to nothing about the importance of choosing the right partner to begin with; he focuses only on living with the partner after the choice has been made. Likewise Stephen Covey, who talks about all the synergy and intimacy that he and his wife share, while ignoring the fact that he obviously made a very wise choice to begin with. If there were serious compatibility issues between him and his wife, all the "personal development" in the world would still not be able to produce the same results as with a more compatible partner.

In other words, existing knowledge in each of these three areas tends to have significant shortcomings. Taking only one class of knowledge as your ultimate guide on the subject of relationships can lead to naivete and disappointment when the tools don't always work -- for reasons you are unable to discern because you lack knowledge of other important aspects.

Mar 2, 2010

On Melancholy

I just read (skimmed, actually) an interesting article called "Depression's Upside" at Chances are, if you end up reading the entire thing, too, then you must be melancholic yourself.

Depression is one of those age-old phenomena that has been taken over by commercial interests who would like as many people as possible to think they have a problem that requires treatment. I prefer to divide what we today call "depression" into two categories -- pathological "depression" and normal "melancholy." Melancholy is the historical and more accurate term for what so many of us experience on a regular basis.

The article talks at length about research that shows that melancholy is associated with greater focus, creative output, and analytical thinking. It states,

In a survey led by the neuroscientist Nancy Andreasen, 30 writers from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop were interviewed about their mental history. Eighty percent of the writers met the formal diagnostic criteria for some form of depression. A similar theme emerged from biographical studies of British writers and artists by Kay Redfield Jamison, a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, who found that successful individuals were eight times as likely as people in the general population to suffer from major depressive illness.
Wonderful. Surely this should be included as one of the "7 habits of highly effective people." Actually, it may already be implied. Who else would be predisposed to ruminate over their long-term goals, form "personal mission statements," and to spend time analyzing their behavior, attitudes, and assumptions? I'm sure Stephen Covey is himself depressed -- just look at his writing output. Something is clearly bugging him! In fact, all the people I know who've really gotten into Stephen Covey have been melancholic. Hmmm....

I laugh at this topic because I am myself a writer, am prone to introspection and extreme focus over long periods of time, and am highly analytical and generally perceived as a creative person. Melancholy is a normal part of my life, a valuable resource to be utilized but not overexploited. I owe many great ideas and wonderful decisions to my propensity to think long and carefully about things, introspect, and distance myself from social stimuli. I wouldn't trade my melancholy for a million dollars (indeed, to earn a million dollars in the first place one would have to be melancholic).

While I scoff at the thought of ever thinking of myself now as "depressed," there have been a few times in the past when I would have certainly qualified for the term. In each case there were objective causes -- always interpersonal -- to my protracted malaise.

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.

And yet, the melancholy continued to come and go even as my life circumstances improved. I believe it has a physiological component that is built into my temperament, whereas my "depression" was the result of external factors that could be influenced or removed.

I observe that melancholics can be of any socionic type, and that many IEEs are not melancholic like I am. Melancholy seems to be something that is mostly or fully independent of type.

My experience is that melancholic IEEs tend to be introspective, slower-paced, and share more original thoughts. Those who lack the boon of melancholy seem to easily lose their train of thought, jump from topic to topic, and engage in more superficial conversation and gathering of random but "potentially interesting" data. They are more sociable and spend less time alone, thinking or working.

In general, melancholic individuals of any type seem to be a bit distanced from society, which is virtually a prerequisite to doing most kinds of creative work. One of the challenges in life for these individuals may be connecting with other people. At the same time, when they do connect, it may seem to be a deeper kind of connection than non-melancholics enjoy.

Most melancholics seem to need things to be "a certain way" so that they can work productively. Their special demands may make it harder to find a spot for themselves in the workplace, where conditions are adapted for the average person's needs (at least theoretically). On the other hand, given ideal conditions, the melancholics can be particularly productive and creative.

In terms of interaction, too many melancholics or non-melancholics together may be a bad thing. Melancholics may tire of the excessive seriousness, while non-melancholics may tire of the lack of substance. Both groups have something important to offer, and they tend to intermix to a degree.