Currently there is a lot of chatter on social networks and in my circles as well. A so-called ‘documentary’ was recently released on HBO Max entitled Persona. I say it is a so-called documentary, because it seemed to have an agenda to prove that personality instruments are all bad, especially typology ones. To be fair, they mostly mentioned the MBTI™ instrument in negative ways, but there are several other reputable, researched instruments that are based on Jungian typology and actually based on the work of Isabel Myers’s elaborations on Jung’s theory of psychological type and so they will also be harshly judged.
Unfortunately, all personality exploration and models that link to that 4-letter type code are likely to be tossed into the mix as bad. There is a huge difference between the instruments and their misuse and the work we do with personality type. So please don’t throw that baby out. First of all, the use of multiple lenses, multiple data points, and the self-discovery process is no longer a baby. It is a methodology that has guidelines that can be followed and a long history of transforming people’s lives. I personally have not used the MBTI instrument for years because we found a better way.
The practice, or methodology, of helping people identify their own personality patterns is alive and well. In our experiences since 1997, using clear descriptions based on years of experience are good enough to use all by themselves, rather than using an instrument that has measurement error and that people are likely to take as ‘the truth’ just because it is a ‘test.’ This practice is trainable, and the supporting materials are easy to read and understand by most readers. Our certified practitioners know how to guide people through a self-discovery process without using an instrument. Because we teach people how to hold the models lightly and to use gerunds (…ing words) instead of nouns, participants in this process are free and safe in entering into a self-discovery journey where they have control over what patterns they select as their best fit.
The goal of the InterStrength™ Approach or practice is to increase self-awareness from the beginning. It is not to get a 4-letter code without much deep understanding of what it means. It is not to find what someone can and cannot do or who will be most successful in a job. Never should the results of this process or of an instrument be used for selection. The information about what energizes us can help us find better job satisfaction, but it is the individual’s exploration that will make that effective, not the results of an instrument.
Many type professionals have put forth all the reasons that the MBTI® instrument does not advocate doing what this documentary says it does. Yes, if you follow the ethical practices put forth by the Association for Psychological Type, International, then the instrument itself will not cause harm. What causes harm is when we talk about those who have preferences for Thinking or for Feeling as Thinkers or Feelers. This puts people in a box and if you know the real basis of the instrument, it is really about which of 8 Cognitive Processes (or Functions as Jung described them) we prefer. And as noted in the video, any use of selection based in an instrument will cause harm. A typology is not a label, it is a way of understanding and identifying patterns.
What the creators of Persona left out are how many people’s lives have been enriched and transformed by having this understanding of themselves and others. That might have been instrument assisted or a very rich self-discovery process like the InterStrength™ Approach.
One thing to keep in mind is that a typology is a very different thing than the instruments that attempt to identify it. A typology identifies different patterns of living systems. Instruments can only attempt to differentiate among the more complex patterns of a typology. Most, like the MBTI, look at dichotomies that point to the patterns. None of them are holistic pattern descriptions so they are doomed to failure.