Who are we?

One of the benefits of being part of the whole corporate world is the access to resources it gives you, including just being exposed to different ideas and ways of thinking.

Several years ago, we used the Strengthsfinder tool, which aims to give you insight into your strengths (you might have guessed that already), ranking all 34 in order (see here for for all of them with brief descriptions). Alongside this is a commentary on each of the strengths. It’s basically applied psychology. At the time, I was conscious of one line of commentary in particular, as part of my ‘Intellection’ theme – ‘Take time to write. Writing might be the best way to crystallise and integrate your thoughts.’

And then, more recently, we did a different exercise, the Myers-Briggs (MBTI) assessment, another example of looking at ourselves, and how we interact with others, through a psychological lens, this time apparently based on Jung’s work (that fact didn’t mean much to me, I aspire to be an amateur in the field). The first thing you tend to do once you get your ‘results’ is Google it. It’s amazing how many ways you can view your four letters (mine are INFP, Google it…). One of the more amusing things you can then do is find out which real people and fictional characters share the same Myers-Briggs type with you. My conclusion is that most people think that Jesus had the same type as them. And you can find former US presidents and Star Trek characters all over the place.

When I looked at ‘INFP’ I found that they are all writers. Or John Kerry. My cynical side tells me that I bet all of them are also on a list of other types, and that you can make things fit whatever you want to if you try hard enough. But the consensus of the internet (take that as you will) does seem to be that writing and INFP work well together. We could then get into the cause and effect issue with that conclusion, but I don’t think it matters.

I was reflecting again on what makes some writers really stand out from the rest. I think it’s an understanding of us humans, of our characters, what makes us tick, and an ability to create fictional characters who mirror that. Which I think is another way of saying they have an understanding of psychology and how we react, behave and interact with each other. So I’ve dug out a book I got a while ago when I was looking at the psychology of religion (from what I could see, there’s not much on that), an American textbook called Social Psychology. The best part was that the second most recent edition tends to be relatively inexpensive (unlike the most recent one which seems to be in the £120 bracket!) and the content doesn’t change enough to matter to us amateurs. They are all equally heavy and there’s no lightweight version. It’s not a book to carry around with you all day. So this evening I am going to spend some time reading that and see if I can figure out better how we tick and how I can use that in my own writing.




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