Sep 21, 2011

Socionics Antidotes or Transcendence

What are the things that can allow one to overcome supposed limitations imposed by socionics theory on self-expression, self-development and interpersonal interactions?

Given that socionics is an intellectual framework, it may not be surprising that its "antidotes" are emotional and experiential in nature and involve relying on other parts of the brain in situations where one might have previously engaged in analytical thought or normal mental activity.

Put simply, the antidotes to socionics are things like compassion and instinctive, "because it feels good" behavior.

The practice of compassion is perhaps best developed in Buddhism. A quick search led me to this introductory article. The Dalai Lama also has some good writings on the subject. While experiencing compassion, you may find yourself doing and experiencing things that are hard to explain or describe socionically, like connecting deeply and meaningfully with people of every possible type. If you're honest with yourself about the experience, you may come to realize that type and quadra-based chauvinism and exclusivity are delusions and that the thinking behind them is simply erronious, despite being superficially logical.

Doing things that feel good in a holistic way is another antitode to construct-laden thought. Have you ever rejoiced in the process of physical movement, just because your whole body was working together in an efficient and pleasuresome way? Have you ever taken a dip in an ice-cold stream or lake and emerged from the water euphoric? How about building something with your own hands? Providing the body with positive holistic experiences and giving it a more significant role in your life allows you to continually take part in things that have no socionic explanation and engage universal biological mechanisms.

I have experience leaving a semi-authoritarian religious community that fostered a variety of feelings-based delusions. The antidote to that was science and rational thought.

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?