How Personality Type Shaped My Life

Julie Linn Wedding PhotoLooking back on my own life through the lenses of both type and David Keirsey’s four temperaments, I could see the genius of the system everywhere.  I had clearly exhibited traits of an NT child very early: ingenuity, inventiveness and nonconformist tendencies, as outlined in detail in Keirsey’s book, Please Understand Me II.  I have no memory of being aware or concerned about what others thought of my marching to the tune of a different drummer. I do remember finding fault with my teachers’ job performances as early as elementary school.  When they seemed to underestimate my abilities, rather than feeling daunted or discouraged, I chalked it up to their lack of intelligence or judgment, although as an introvert, I kept it to myself.  And although I did well in school, it impeded my self directed learning, was terribly boring, and I disliked it immensely.

For most of my life I’ve had a keen interest in subjects related to self understanding. Needless to say, when I stumbled upon an abbreviated MBTI-type test twenty years ago and learned that I was an NT, (iNTj) my characteristic curiosity was piqued.  I devoured every resource I could find about psychological type and its history.  Being an iNTj, I realize now more than ever how fortunate I was to have been raised by an SP (iStP) mother and an NT (iNTj) father. Their hands-off style, love of learning and nonchalance about school’s busywork allowed my mind and imagination the freedom to soar.  I have a vivid memory of waking up one Christmas morning to their idea of the perfect gift for an eight year old daughter: a personal planetarium, which I adored!  They never seemed to question their daughter’s oddball interests, my fascination with my brothers’ rockets, animated dinosaur films or chemistry experiments in the basement, or my starting an astronomy club and writing a letter to the vice president in third grade. Although it was still the early ‘60s, there was no question in my mind that I was free to pursue any interest and become anything I chose, because gender stereotypes simply didn’t exist in my home. I think these examples speak volumes about my parents’ types.

My first attempt to apply my fledgling understanding of type was with my husband and children. I discovered that there was a logical explanation for what seemed like an invisible dividing line in the family early on that could be easily explained by type.  My son, younger daughter and I, who are all Notional “N”s often found ourselves in a group, while my older daughter and my husband, both “S” Sensorials, naturally paired off in their conversations and interests.  We introverted “N”s, with our philosophical bent, had conversations that usually centered around concepts and endless ideas. My very patient SJ husband (iStJ) and our older daughter, were “S”s whose focus was on tangible activities and were far more capable in all tasks relying on the 5 senses, from car repair to sewing and beyond. More and more, my fascination grew about how Psychetype could help to explain problems we were having in communication and other areas and enable us to better understand each other’s priorities and preferences.

Having read extensively about psychology and different educational methods sharpened my awareness of my children’s unique natures and learning styles. I had decided to home school my children in 1982 when my son was three years old. My firstborn, an NT (iNTp), seemed to flourish in an unstructured home learning environment. Having a somewhat typical iNTj parenting style, I was quite comfortable standing back observing, analyzing and guiding my childrens’ natural tendencies and innate talents as they developed. My son’s skills progressed on an even keel at first. But soon his handwriting precision/control and remarkable eye for detail brought about sharp growth in drawing skills, beginning at age three. His growing artistic skill and love of invention through drawing and all things science related are often common interests for the iNTp. He went on to pursue a degree in computer animation. Our shared NT habit of debating (arguing endlessly) about everything, in order to learn and to come to mutual understanding, offended my NF daughter’s warm-hearted relationship sensibilities and greatly annoyed the two “S”s in the family.

Our second child tested as an SP (iStP) in her late teens.  Typical of SP children, she was happy and bubbling over with unlimited excitement.  She was the queen of fun and play, which I loved to indulge, and I believed it was the best way for children to discover their innate gifts and talents. Precocious to a fault, she easily learned to read at the age of four.  Her learning speed was lightning fast for anything she was interested in, and she read the unabridged Little Women when she was eight years old.  Unlike her “N” siblings, she always thought of structured workbooks as fun.  As an NT, I never felt a need for convention or following rules or structure unless I absolutely had to, and I think I often made her feel bad for liking traditional methods of doing anything.  This conflict between us grew as she got older. “S”s are said to primarily learn through imitation and by being attentive to societal norms. In her teens, she was always acutely aware of the clothing styles and trends her peers were following. We had conflicts over current fads and her not having the personal freedom and independence that SPs, more than other types, desire and need. She excelled in the arts, and her natural precociousness lead her to easily learn computer skills alongside her brother. The two later started a jointly run multimedia/web design company.  She has since gone on to high achievement in her field of computer Applications Engineering. Looking back, I very much wish that I had known more about parenting the four quadrants and also the sub-types when my children were younger, so that perhaps I could have averted some pitfalls.  There was never a dull moment raising an SP child, though; full of brilliance, competence, fun and excitement.

Our youngest, is “P” child number three. Two parents with the “J” judicious/judging function having all Prospective (P) children is a formula for being made late for everything, but also for a lot of laughter! She is an NF (iNFp) and in many ways was the classic NF child.  She was stormy, passionate, affectionate and deeply spiritual from an early age.  Our pastor recognized her zeal and readiness and gave special permission for her to receive first communion a year early.  She was highly imaginative, adored animals and all nature and was deeply involved in family life.  I followed both my intuition and her very stormily expressed cues, which worked well for us both.  Like her siblings, she also excelled in the arts and also in areas which embodied her strong NF tendencies: a deep understanding and love of people, sensitivity, creativity, and her philosophical and spiritual bent.

One of the benefits of knowledge of type is to better understand and, hopefully, to improve ourselves.  It can help pinpoint inherent God-given strengths, as well tendencies toward specific patterns of problems.  I have a lot of iNTj-related flaws that need work.  In my family life, one of the areas that needed improvement was probably related to my iNTj dominant introverted intuiting function.  I sometimes intuit or foresee problems into being, and in an attempt to prevent bad things or mistakes from happening, my perfectionism sometimes over-controlled situations, and lacked respect and trust in others’ choices.  This trait at times affected my kids’ confidence in making adult decisions.  I also tend to read cosmic meaning into everything, and draw sharply judgmental conclusions, sometimes correctly —and often not.

But on a more positive note, my kids also call me Gandalf, after the good wizard of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, so being an iNTj does have its perks!  I’ve got a lot of work cut out for me, though, so I’d better get busy… now where did I put my staff?

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