I’ve always been interested in behavioral assessments and personality tests: Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Predictive Index, Enneagram, and others. I think I might uncover patterns in my motivations and become more in tune with my strengths and weaknesses, my desires and fears.
That kind of knowledge would prove helpful in navigating relationships, work, the self, and the world in general. Maybe I’ll even find ways to improve my character and personality, because there’s always room for improvement, plenty of room in my case.
Thinking in terms of personality types is useful when I’m creating characters in fiction. Holding in my mind a personality type sets up a few guardrails and helps me make decisions about a character’s thoughts and behavior that make sense and can drive a story forward. Types don’t deliver a definitive or complex character persona, but they offer another useful writer’s tool.
Most people are familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which is founded on Carl Jung’s theory of personality. I’m an INFP, which stands for Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceptive. People with this kind of personality tend to be reserved, idealistic, creative, and driven by high values. That’s a fair assessment of me. There are some downsides as well: I am hard to get to know, don’t pay enough attention to details, and tend to take things too personally. Personal memory: my mother used to call me too sensitive.
Julia turned me on to the Enneagram personality test and we’ve had good conversations discussing our results. There are a number of similar variations of the test you can take for free. I took two different Enneagram tests, and came up with the same result each time. The test involves rating a series of value statements (about 100 of them) on a five-point scale, from accurate to inaccurate. Examples:
“I seek out experiences that I know will make me happy or excited.”
“I have a sense that other people will never truly understand me.”
“I strive for perfection.”
I turned out to be a Type 4 (Individualist), Wing 5 (Investigator). The Wing is the next closest category to you.
Here’s a description from the Enneagram Institute:
There’s a bunch of stuff in that description I don’t like, so the first thing I’ll say is you can’t take these things too seriously and allow yourself to be pigeonholed. You can’t foster your self-image based on a personality type. Still, that Individualist description definitely scored points.
But am I really so self-absorbed? Well, here I am writing about myself again as if anyone might be interested. So if the shoe fits . . . On the other hand, at my best I’m said to be inspired and highly creative. Can I have one side without the other, please?
The origin of the Enneagram test is unclear, with several psychiatrists and philosopher types getting partial credit. It’s said to be about 70 percent accurate. Since I took two different tests and got similar results, I’d say the accuracy part holds. But consistency of results doesn’t equal validity.
I couldn’t find any research studies that prove the Enneagram is scientifically valid. Some people claim it’s nothing more than pseudoscience, along the likes of astrology or crystals. Still, the Enneagram has a devoted following and has spawned many businesses. The Enneagram Institute, based in Stone Ridge, NY, offers courses and workshops. The International Enneagram Association offers membership and a path to becoming an IEA Accredited Professional. Companies and organizations pay to have employees tested. There’s an entire assessment industry and Enneagram is a common assessment tool. Some psychologists and therapists find the Enneagram useful, just as they find Myers-Briggs useful: it provides additional, but certainly not undisputed, data to help understand a person. Other professionals despise the typecasting.
I’m no professional at anything (grammar and usage?), although I do occasionally dispense advice from my Ask Dave column. Despite my lack of credentials, I find the Enneagram interesting, entertaining, somewhat valid, and certainly more on the mark than my horoscope (I’m a Capricorn), which today says:
I think they cut and pasted this horoscope from yesterday, or from last week. Because really my horoscope for today should say: “Stop being so self-absorbed and start thinking of someone or something or anything else.”