Isabel Myers’ theory of personality types* says the answer to the question posed by this essay is yes. In theory one individual can coach a personality opposite in the use of faculties that his or her type typically underutilizes. In the example addressed here those would be introspection, reflection-intuition, thinking-reasoning, feeling-evaluation, and judging (INTJ), faculties typically under-utilized by the opposite type extravert, sensing, feeling, and perceptive (ESFP).
According to Isabel’s theory the faculties that make up our types are preferences, and since they’re largely responsible for performance it’s only a matter of preference whether we improve our performance by making better use of them, specifically by expanding into faculties associated with our opposites. This must happen routinely, for example when circumstances compel perceptives who prefer to experience life in the moment to use their judging faculty to plan ahead. What seems less likely is that any type would seek help from an opposite to gain competence with the opposite’s faculties.
Isabel’s theory is intriguing nonetheless, not just because it makes sense but because, if it could be put into general practice it would help with personal growth and better relations. How often do relationships and projects come apart because personalities lack the will or ability to share what they’re experiencing? Because, lacking a feel for other types, they blunder unintentionally into misjudgments that end goodwill and cooperation.
One faculty too many
The ideal setting assumed by Isabel’s theory would be two individuals with opposite personality types in cheerful collaboration. Two opposite types could be the best of friends, and if they are one might even welcome the other’s kindness. But what if the type being coached senses that the other is turning him into a copy of himself? Is manipulating preferences to assume control over the relationship?
It would be remarkable if even an individual crippled by ineptness with under-utilized faculties were aware of it. Or, if he were, comfortable exposing his ineptness to an opposite type for strengthening unless the other were already a trusted personal friend or a paid professional. Our personality types and how we go about relating to them are our psychological underwear. By a certain age we’re partial to our preferences. We don’t take change lightly if it can just as easily create distance as close it. Perhaps help with one or two faculties won’t feel like a humbling makeover, but what if help is needed with three or four?
Guides locking horns
Isabel’s theory would still be feasible in the right moment for the right relationships. That is, if they’re the only voices in the room. But what if one or both is self-consciously submitting its judgment -- the product of its Judging faculty -- to guidance from another voice? What if “opposites” are not only opposite faculties but opposite guides? The individual might be the soul of agreeability but not if his guide recoils at being sidelined by an opposite guide. By the competition. By the enemy if the guides represent opposite takes on the values of moral character or competitive prowess.
We may have begun not with John Locke’s tabula rasa but with Carl Jung’s psychological types locked and loaded for combat. Which means there could be four voices in the room to manage instead of two. There could even be a situation where two plus two doesn’t equal four. Where the guides of one or both have become so involved in shaping their personalities that the boundary between self and guide is obliterated. Two plus two could now equal three or only two. Two individuals with opposite personality types who consciously or subconsciously identify with their guides. Guides who themselves are personality types with their own faculties and preferences. Committed to blocking their host from even detecting another voice let alone listening to it.
Two models of authority
The mind’s faculty of sixth sense or Intuition that led to the theory of psychological-personality types presupposes a quasi-professional setting where self-analysis can be conducted objectively and safely. Where both parties are open to faculties of mind -- introspection, reflection, reasoning, evaluation, and judging. But if one or both has identified with will instead of mind to direct behavior, for the very reason that its perceived strength compensates for weakness, then self-analysis isn’t an option. It will be strenuously opposed. The type who identifies with will won’t want anything to do with it because of its purpose: to overturn the iron rule of mindless will with the civilizing governance of mind.
The theory of personality type opposites has then strayed into the great divide in human thought and behavior: between the “realist” model of authority that deifies rule without opposition from the top down -- the authoritarian “triumph of the will” that crushes individuality and free choice -- and the democratic ideal of Lincoln’s Gettysburg address: governance from the bottom up that cultivates and respects individuality and free choice. Absolute authority, a mythical beast, vs. the indomitable spirit of freedom. Not absolute freedom without limits that’s another mythical beast but freedom of thought, expression, and choice that recognizes the necessity of Order in a shared world.
Respect for Free Choice
Personality types in the grip of either of these impossibilities -- absolute authority or absolute freedom -- will treat self-analysis as an existential threat because it threatens self-delusion, the state of mind of anyone lost to nonsense. All that can be done to rescue mind from captivity, with Isabel's theory, is to coach an empty room, record the attempt, and leave it to the spontaneity of intuition to bring it to its host’s attention. That is, when the beast has let down its guard. When its host decides with his own intuition, on his own, to exercise his indomitable Free Choice.
It's all an act
Alternate “reality” is an intentional act of self-delusion by Child-Mind, disabled and disempowered by unconsciousness, corrupted by misidentity with its own shadow, the code that defines its opposite, the Joker-magician. Which makes alternate “reality” an act. A performance by a magician. A magic act meant to hypnotize and captivate with its “entertainments:” hilarious perversions of Truth and horrifying perversions of Justice. All of it an impossibility that can’t be taken seriously. Adding the lure of magic and retribution -- the consummation of victimhood -- to the lures of the absolutes: authority and freedom. The lure of “fun.”
Plato’s Cave would then be a stage and its occupants play-acting puppets. Like the actors in the Truman TV Show, some so deluded, so closely identified with the Cave master, that they think they’re the producer. The occupants would then resist Truth because it would turn up the house lights. It would ruin the atmospherics of darkness, disembodied voices, laughter and screams, flames and flickering shadows -- the smoke and mirrors required to sustain illusion and fend off disbelief. It would expose the trick and stop the show. It would take away everyone’s “fun,” and, make no mistake, they think this is fun. So long as it’s “others” who are at the wrong end of violence and retribution they’re living the dream.
The boredom of “fun”
The Cave and its magic act are the production of a split Mind that’s Free Choice as well as corrupted. Its occupants may be deluded and confused, but given direction and incentive, they’re capable of folding the show on their own. The Mind that was lured into the Cave still retains the faculty of Intuition. The portal to spontaneous insights and understanding that is the sixth sense, that can neither be blocked entirely nor indefinitely. From awareness of an incentive to stop pretense more powerful by far than the magician’s lures: the will to Freedom. The indispensable function of Free Choice. Somewhere in the back of their minds is the memory of Free Choice and the ability to reclaim it. Whenever they choose.
When “fun” isn’t fun anymore. When Pete Hamill looked down at his drink and realized he was done with it. Done with the drinking life and its one-dimensional comic book “reality.” Done with “Brooklyn.” Done with adolescence, taverns, street fights, and mock comradeship. Ready to live a life with intimacy, maturity and responsibility, talent and creativity. Ready to have fun.**
The delusion then isn’t fully a delusion. It’s a self-willed adventure-fantasy conjured by adolescence to get into mischief with impossibilities. With dangerous toys in a shallow make-believe world. A universe of scary objects like black holes that fascinates with its vastness, complexity, violence, and pointlessness. All to avoid Reality mischaracterized by the Joker as boring.***
Bubbles within a bubble
Preoccupied with its production, the Cave’s fantasy troupe is inaccessible to anyone but its own members. It can’t be concerned with consequences beyond the show that must go on. And if any of its members carry the fantasy into their own lives; if they choose to live an adventure-fantasy, they, too, will be inaccessible.
For what will their lives be but re-enactments? Mimicking the Joker-corrupted Mind’s projection of an alternate reality. Monkey-see, monkey-do. Dragooning family and friends into playing scripted parts to keep the act alive. The wishful thought that action-comic impossibilities are possible: fantastic characters, hair-raising encounters, nonstop “action.” To keep themselves persuaded that it’s “real.” To keep the “fun” going at all costs. At the cost of wholesale disrespect for character, honesty and integrity, individuality and creativity. Their own and the captives to their adolescent, senseless will.
What will their lives be but alternate realities within an alternate “reality.” Bubbles within a bubble. Detached from reality. Wholly out of touch.
Persuasion from a leash correction
An adolescent Child’s corrupted mind intentionally “choosing” self-delusion was an act of wrongdoing and so is its re-enactment. While the Cave’s troupe gets around to stopping the show it might motivate them if individual re-enactments in our midst receive a leash correction. The correction administered to untrained dogs by leashes when they race off in pursuit of prey. They learn that the costs of misadventure can’t all be displaced onto others with impunity. That there’s a price to pay -- a dose of Reality.
What then is Isabel’s contribution? An intelligent analytical approach to the problem posed by Plato’s Allegory of the Cave that complements leash correction. That will work beautifully someday when its light reaches the occupants of the Cave not from without but from within. When they tire of delusion and choose of their own free will to work toward self-awareness instead. With help from Intuition’s gift: respect for Free Choice and the Logic and Love of explanation that leads to Understanding.
*Gifts Differing (Consulting Psychologists Press 1980) based on Carl Jung’s Psychological Types (Must Have Books 2019)
**A Drinking Life (Little, Brown 1994)
***Jerry L. Martin, God: An Autobiography (as Told to a Philosopher) (Caladium Publishing Company 2020)