Thursday, 5 January 2017

MBTI for Healing after Emotional Abuse

Studying Myers-Briggs typology (MBTI) and finding my best fit within it has contributed greatly to my healing from emotional abuse.   There is much criticism of the MBTI and it certainly is not based in what most people call hard science.  It is a model with limitations and is often misused or misapplied but it still has some use and it remains popular.  Some have compared it to astrology but I think that comparison is based on some misunderstanding as well as the tendency for internet users to spread memes and and write blog posts that suggest it is a guide to personality in its entirety.  Unlike astrology, which claims that your time of birth has some sort of connection to personality traits or to how your life will unfold, MBTI describes 16 different sets of cognitive styles and posits that everyone falls into one of these categories with some variation  (It's somewhat like how many different women might wear a size 6 but not have identical body shapes.)  and works from the hypothesis that how you think will have some significant effect on how you behave.

I am not going to spend much time explaining Myers Briggs or defending it nor explain how I arrived at my own type, but I spent some time at it beyond just a quizz or two.  I studied the eight cognitive functions in order to identify my dominant four which is what leads to a designated type.  In my initial conclusion I made an error based on mistaking behaviour and values I was taught for my own preferred behaviour.  The fact that this can happen illustrates that these types are in no way an excuse for bad behaviour or unhealthy behaviour because we can all adapt and modify our behaviour to some degree.  There is a stereotype that the INTJ is usually an unfeeling robot genius.  This is a bit silly, but the stereotype persists and perhaps it is there because an emotionally unhealthy INTJ is likely to perform this way but it is not a given that every INTJ is cold and socially inept. It is possible that INTJs need to put extra effort into learning social skills as they may not come as naturally as to other types.

(I used the word behaviour five times in that paragraph)

I have spent most of my life living with people whose types differed significantly enough from mine  that it was obvious that I was the oddball.   In varying degrees of subtlety I got the message that I was a bit defective, a bit off, a bit too intense for most people to take.  Whether that message was intended or whether that is just how I took it I can't really know.  But later in life when I married, I did end up married to someone who steadily and frequently told me that I was defective, wrong, incapable, and in general causing him strife and harm.  I have since learned that this is called gaslighting.  Anyhow, it worked.  It was persistent and consistent and pervasive and I was perhaps already primed, because I already knew I was different.  It wasn't a big leap to turn different into difficult.

Fast forward to my emancipation and the journey of self-rescue.  Reading about a cognitive style that fits me, matches many aspects of my personality and shows me that while I may not be typical I am just fine as I am has been a very healing experience. It is obvious to me that MBTI is quite irrelevant for some people.  It worked well for me and contributed to my healing so I am inclined to be supportive of anyone who is interested and to suggested to anyone who is trying to better understand themselves.  When you need to heal from emotional abuse and gaslighting, anything that can help direct you towards self-understanding and self-acceptance is a good thing.


  1. I have never heard of the term "gaslighting" before - where does it come from? Gah, people who tell you that you are wrong generally have something "wrong" with themselves that they are projecting onto you. My ex was constantly berating me for not being what he wanted, and when I tried to be that person (physically and emotionally) he said he liked me better when we first met! When I was more "me" - go figure. It's taken me many years to figure out (and I am still figuring out) myself. I laughed at your previous comments (in amusement, not derision) about not thinking I was introverted. I rarely let that side of me out with people I don't know REALLY well - and I felt a lot of pressure (mostly from myself) to be "on" at that blogger meet-up. My favourite thing to tell my coworkers (IT workers, mostly introverts) is, "I'm an introvert, but I'm paid to be extroverted." I've just learned how to fake it really well.

    On a tangent, I saw Henry Rollins last night - ex-punk singer, now does a lot of spoken word performance talks - and he is very ADD/hyper/routine-focused. It was inspirational to see him portray himself (in a funny way) and how he deals with people who expect him to be a certain way. I felt like he understood.

    If you ever come down-Island, we'll go do something introverted (like shop). :)

    1. LOL- about being paid to be extroverted. That was life as a teacher for sure. I still fake it socially too, but it's pretty exhausting. There are probably people who have no idea that I'm an introvert because they only ever see my performance. Wish I could have seen the Henry Rollins show.
      I believe the term gaslighting comes from an old movie called Gaslight with Ingrid Bergman. Those who are expert at it are very subtle and you don't realise it's happening to you. They convince you that you are wrong or that you are making them suffer and they are the victims. Ugh!
      I would LOVE to hang out with you. If I make it down-island I will definitely let you know.

    2. Yes! It is so exhausting! And people just don't get that I have to recover from being "on"! I need to hide away and talk to no one until I'm ready. Shopping is recovery for me - I don't have to talk to anyone, and I can just slowly and methodically go through the racks. It's very Zen.

      Cool - I am familiar with that movie, but haven't seen it, thank you!

      Awesome, it's a date...sometime. No pressure. :)


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