Storytelling



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Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin …

We’re all constantly telling stories; from personal mythology, to collective folklore. They are the way in which we breathe meaning into things. They bring sense, and direction. They guide us, tell us which steps to take, and when. Sometimes we update them, or rewrite them. Sometimes we scrap them and start anew.

A story is akin to a constellation, something that brings together what was separate; from atoms, to planets, to human beings. Stories are what bind us; they get us moving in the same direction; promote cohesion, and harmony. ‘Tribe’ is another way of saying ‘a shared story.’ When a story is shared it becomes a truth, at least among those who share it. But what was yesterday considered a truth, may today be considered a delusion.

In times gone by a collective story - a story of the people - would be commonplace. The stronger this story - the greater its reach and influence - the stronger was the collective. A shared story is a place in which to live, offering shelter from the whirling confusion and maddening incoherence of the outside world. Of course, in erecting walls it also places limits; and those societies with the strongest stories also have the firmest boundaries.

Without a shared story, a group is no more than a collection of individuals. In an environment like this, individual stories take precedent. No longer bound by the imperatives of the group, each individual is free to move in whatever direction they wish, and the synchronised choreography of the collective gives way to the freeform improvisation of the individual.

Society is, then, a collection of stories; from individual tales to collective folklore. Whilst our modern societies are increasingly individualistic, the individual story has not gained total precedent. As long as we wish to be more than isolated units, then we will always need stories to bind us. 

However, the kind of overarching fiction that defined traditional collectives doesn’t seem to be so common today, due perhaps in part to the scale and diversity of our societies. Whereas once an entire society would have been bound by a single fiction, this unity has since fractured. Although ‘grand narratives’ may not be fashionable, we still have our various tribes: from those that believe in the stories of holy books, to those that believe in the stories of science books. We may, then, have our short stories; but we’re certainly no longer all on the same page.

The lack of a common story has created a vacuum in which new stories compete for dominion. One tribe claims it has the story, whilst another rubbishes its claims and offers its gospel. There is also a growing chorus of individual voices, each offering their own interpretation on how things are, and what we should believe. This blog is one example among many.

From scientific theorists, to religious theorists; from pulpit to blog post; from expert to amateur: stories abound. Our age faces us with a confusion of stories to choose from. How, then, do we do our choosing?

From canon to conspiracy

In the diagram opposite I’ve pictured a society as a series of concentric circles, the largest of which define its boundaries. To transcend this boundary is to step outside of the society. 

The inner circles represent the differing voices within the society, or the differing stories advocated by these voices. I’ve offered real life examples of the kind of voices that you could be exposed to within my own society, here in England. I offer these examples based on the kind of things these voices generally say, which isn’t to say that they are forever anchored at certain points on the spectrum. David Icke’s trajectory attests to this.

At the centre we have voices that seem to be widely accepted. They espouse ‘mainstream’ stories and are exemplified by the Prime Minister who, being the focal point of officialdom, is an arbiter of official truths. If, for instance, the Prime Minister were to suddenly veer off-piste and start spouting ‘conspiracy theories’ then this could lead to one of two things: either the Prime Minister would be ousted from their role, or; the conspiracy theories would be accepted as mainstream truths. Because the role itself does not allow a condoning of fringe fiction, either the stories must move inwards, or the person move outwards.

As we move further out the voices become less mainstream and more contentious; bringing us to the niche stories of the ‘lunatic fringe,’ as exemplified by the likes of David Icke. One of the many reasons that David Icke could not be Prime Minister is because he holds beliefs that are entirely incompatible with the current set of accepted core truths.

From centre to outskirts

In all things there is a pull towards dissolution, and an opposite pull towards unification. This tug of war is everywhere, at all scales; from a society, to the bodies that make up that society, to the cells that make up those bodies. It is the interchange between life and death.

We can describe a society, much like the nucleus of an atom, as a centre of attraction; which is another way of saying a centre of life. To be part of a society is to be within its field of attraction. So whilst those near the outside may appear to be opposed to many of the central truths of the society, it still exerts a pull upon them, albeit a comparatively weak one. They have not left the society, and are still a part of it, if only minimally.

The centre of a society is where its attraction is at its strongest. It is the area of greatest overlap and, therefore, of greatest consensus; and is where its accepted truths reside. These are popular fictions, hardened into granite-like truths through endless repetition. They're generally regarded as self-evident, and so are rarely questioned. They are deeply rooted and not easily displaced.

The further we move from the core, the weaker its pull becomes. Those voices at its centre are less diverse because its core truths - those fundamental stories that bind it - are exerting more of an influence. As with our example of the Prime Minister, voices must align with these truths or move further out. You cannot, generally speaking, be a mainstream voice whilst rejecting mainstream truths; or at least, not insofar as you pose a threat to the status quo.

Like any centre of life, be it a galaxy, a planet, or a human being, a society exists by preserving its core fictions. For instance, an important part of the story of ‘liberal democracies’ is that every person within that society ought to be granted free speech. Another is the belief that democracy is the best system of governance. If these fictions were ousted by counter-fictions, then the society would cease to exist (in its current form at least) morphing into something else instead. It is fictions such as these that separate liberal democracies from, say, illiberal autocracies.

Consider your own personal fictions, those strands that thread together to make you who you are. Which of these, and how many, would have to change before you became someone you no longer recognised?

A society is, therefore, most conservative at its centre. If we see a society as a point of life, attracting things toward it, then its core is the focal point of this attraction; the point that pulls towards unification, and life. And life is, essentially, a conservative process, a combining of things.

Those that reside nearest the centre will, then, tend to be more interested in preserving and defending its core truths. As I’ve mentioned, these voices tend to be more homogenous because they ‘tow the company line’ and are less interested in questioning collective assumptions or exploring alternatives. It is, after all, not in their job description. Every collective - every structure - needs those individuals that guard its premises and work to keep it structurally sound, and these people fulfil that role. They are its antibodies, working to conserve the status quo.

Icke himself refers to this area as the ‘postage stamp consensus’ alluding to its narrow range of voices. However, having polarised himself at the fringes - having cast his anchor at a certain location - he views things in a rather one-sided way. In choosing a side he is unable to transcend the binary itself and see the value of both sides. When he talks of his opposite, of the central area of society, he uses embattled language. He does not talk of its value, or even seem to recognise that it has a value. In this he mirrors the way that the centre tends to talk about people like him, on the fringes.

The further we move from the centre of attraction the weaker its pull becomes, and the less influence its core truths have upon people. This leads to a greater diversity of voices, especially around the fringes. This is the place that entertains heretics and blasphemers, iconoclasts and dissenters. Core truths are handled roughly, without reverence; are tested to the point of failure. Once their shells are cracked their fictional nature is exposed. What was once objective and beyond question, becomes subjective and questionable.

If the core is the conscious mind of a society, then the fringes are its unconscious. As with our own unconscious, the outer limits breed alternatives to the status quo; and whilst they can pose a threat to the prevailing order, they also serve as a source of rejuvenation and creativity. After all, many of a societies core truths will have started life in the shadows of the lunatic fringe (let us not forget that at one point the world was flat). Destruction and creation go hand in hand; the fringe threatens the centre - unconscious threatens ego - but it also balances it. One could not exist without the other - although in truth, both are part of the same process.

In my diagram I’ve marked out five concentric circles, illustrating a relatively diverse range of voices; from the very conservative to the very dissentious; a diversity that seems to show a large degree of permissiveness - when it comes to speech at least. Indeed, I think that my society, as with other Western democracies, can be characterised by its lack of boundaries; it does not erect the kind of towering perimeter walls that we see when we look at other, less permissive, cultures.

Its worth bearing in mind that we’re talking about freedom of speech, not freedom of action. When it comes to action, we are certainly much more limited. As Gene Ray reminds us, “one may question the bourgeois paradigm, only not in any way that is effective or has results; one may play with the symbols of radical politics, but one must not act on them; anyone can say the emperor has no clothes or even scream it within the closed walls of a gallery, but no one may cut off his head.”

So more freedom means more diversity. If there are no walls to stop them, frontiersman will always be tempted to explore new territory. It is in their nature to pull away; to look for alternatives. In this they are analogous to the process of genetic mutation, allowing an organism to change and evolve in response to environmental demands. They maintain a critical amount of diversity, offering fresh insights when they are needed (and when they aren’t). They are the hand that stirs the sediments; the oil that prevents parts from seizing. If evolution is important to a society then it must allow its fringes to flourish; it must allow an area in which alternatives can be proposed. The fact that voices such as David Icke’s are permitted could be seen as a sign that our society currently allows this area, and that free speech is flourishing.

It’s worth noting that not all societies value the idea of evolution in the way that ours does, and accordingly these collectives tend not to allow the kind of permissiveness that characterises ours. Orthodox religious communities such as the Amish offer examples of this kind of society. They erect tall walls around their culture, and patrol these perimeters vigilantly.

If I were to draw my circular diagram for an Amish society, then it would likely consist of only one or two circles, as opposed to five. Theirs is a restrictive environment, in which certain things must not be said, as well as done. Yet, whilst I, peering in from a distance, may characterise it a restrictive, those on the inside will no doubt feel differently. Walls may confine, but they also protect. The Amish have managed to maintain a strong cultural identity in the face of powerful outside influences; due, in no small part, to their strong boundaries.

A chief concern of communities like these - and that faces any organism with a relatively narrow range of voices - is how to prevent stagnation. Inasmuch as the problem of permissive societies is dissolution, the problem of restrictive society is petrifaction.

Seeing through

I think that there are ‘truths’ at all levels, from the core to the fringes, and that whilst they may seem contradictory, each is vital to the other as part of a larger balance. Inasmuch both central and fringe voices are crucial to this balance, then neither ought to be dismissed out of hand. Truths contradict; fictions do not.

I recognise that most of the things that I am talking about are very simple, and perhaps very obvious. I think that this conversation is important, not because it is original or revelatory, rather that it brings to mind a simple truth; one that, in an age of partisan polemic, of mass projection and scapegoating, we are apt to forget: that there is no ‘other’ out there, only parts of ourselves that we don’t yet know.

Carl Jung proposed that a whole and balanced individual is someone who is able to transcend a one-sided perspective and to see value in both sides of an opposition. In order to do this we must become multilingual, gaining an understanding of languages other than our own.

We see that the spectrum of voices is not only out there, but is also in here; and that to countenance ‘other’ voices, strange voices, is to shine light on our own dark recesses: a process that naturally leads to an enlargement of the self. Indeed, the word ‘development’ forms close kinship with words like ‘enlargement’ and ‘growth’, and is often associated with the image of ever increasing circles, or a radiating spiral. Returning to our diagram, it may be that a whole and balanced individual is one who is open to voices from all five circles, from the centre to the fringes - the conscious to the unconsious - and who is able to up anchor and voyage between them when necessary.

Jung described this enlargement as ‘individuation,’ a process of making the unconscious conscious. It is like fishing in a vast dark sea and dragging strange and sometimes horrible things to the surface. Instead of casting them back into the depths - away! be gone! - our task is to bring them closer, and accept that these things are our things. It is making the foreign, familiar; the blind spot a seen spot.

The more things we bring to the surface, the less repulsed we will be when we see them in others. If we can, for instance, find that part of ourselves that is open to outlandish theories then we will be more amenable to the likes of David Icke. We needn’t believe in his theories, but we also needn’t reject them out of hand, or condemn him for holding them.

Jung once went as far as to propose that the way to world peace was through this process of finding the other within the self. However, he also inferred that individuation isn’t for everyone; that for some it may be neither possible, nor appropriate. It may be that some of us must believe that the world is ‘real’ and not ‘fictional’; that stories are stories and truths are truths; that the game is a matter of life and death, and not just a game. It may be important that there are those of us who believe in the superiority of red, and ignore the virtues of blue; or vice versa.

But if this is the case, then it is equally important that there are those of us who can mediate this divide, by seeing through things to their relative, fictional nature. It is important that there are those who can listen to a wide range of voices within a society; who can fish their stories from the narrow banks of the mainstream, or the wide expanse of the lunatic sea. Lines of communication between opposing parties must always remain open, and emissaries must carry messages between them; lest they get it into their heads that the opposition really is evil and must, therefore, be wiped out.

Inasmuch as we live in an age of bitter antithesis, of diversity and fracturing, in which the stories that bind us are breaking down, or are already long gone, and in which new fault-lines appear daily; then the ability to see-through, and synergize, is vital.


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Related posts:-

Bondage

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When a thing reaches a certain size the bonds between its constituent parts begin to weaken. These bonds consist of the sorts of things that tie things - tie people - together; and imperative amongst them is 'trust.'

Because real trust does not function at larger scales, we must invent ways of simulating, or augmenting it. In much the same way that we augment the human eye with telescopes and microscopes in order to allow us to 'see' at non-human scales, we augment our human capacity for trust with bureaucracy.

Bureaucracy is, amongst other things, a formalised simulation of 'trust.' It substitutes trust engendered through familiarity, with 'certification' by means of 'testing.' I do not need a DBS form in order to be around the children of friends or relatives, but I do need one in order to work with children in my community.

In modern societies we are asked to experience ourselves as a part of an increasingly large collective. Whereas once circle A would have defined the boundaries of our collective, now it is defined by D.

As the perimeters of our collectives widen, the need for simulated bonds increases. If human trust fails beyond the borders of A, then any level beyond this will require artificial trust. At these levels it is our red tape that binds us; and increasing levels of scale (i.e. complexity) require increasing amounts of red tape.

The fact that we often feel bogged down by red tape is a sign that we're operating at an unhealthy scale. I'm not saying that there are too many people, rather that the way we think of ourselves - and organize ourselves - is dysfunctional.

Inasmuch as we are imbalanced in favour of the large-scale, then our remedy must involve tipping the scales back toward the small-scale. In practical terms this involves, amongst other things, devolving power; splitting our over-grown structures into smaller pieces, and reducing the scale of things to a level in which artificial trust is manageable, and in which human trust can thrive.


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Related posts:-
The Pyramid
Small Scale/Large Scale
Close To Extraordinary
The Earth's the Limit 
Masters of the Universe
Making a Difference
Small Mind/Large Mind
Everything is Connected 
One to One 
Exclusion 

How Simple is Too Simple?



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Simple                      -                    Complex
Zoom-out                  -                    Zoom-in
Abstract                    -                    Concrete
General                      -                   Specific
Heaven                      -                    Earth


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I recently took an online personality test at 16 Personalities. The site states that there are sixteen core personality types (first identified by Myers and Briggs) and that all of us can be allocated to one of them. Using a questionnaire to gauge a respondent’s personality traits, it suggests a personality type based upon the intensity of these traits.

I found its results interesting, informative and useful. However, having spoken with others about such tests, and having perused some opinion online, I know that many people dislike them.

A common criticism, and one that I’d like to address, is that they over-simplify a complex subject.

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A human being is certainly a complex subject, and to group all of the myriad individuals in the world into sixteen categories is certainly reductive. No two human beings are identical, and each of us, when viewed from a certain distance, is entirely unique.

As with all ‘things,’ a human being is comprised of details. Every detail is a point of distinction, thus the more details we see the more difference we see. In this sense, a detail is synonymous with a difference. Let me offer a couple of illustrations:

1. I am short sighted. If I remove my glasses I no longer see as much detail, and things - including people - become a lot more homogenous.

2. I draw two circles on a piece of paper using a compass and pencil. I try my best to draw these circles in an identical manner, locking the compass so that its legs remain at the same angle, and applying the same pressure when drawing the circle. When I look at my circles they appear identical.

However, when I examine them under a microscope my smooth pencil lines become something else altogether; they turn ragged and incoherent, as unique and unrepeatable as a Jackson Pollock painting. The microscope has allowed me to see details that I had formerly overlooked; and it is these details that form the difference between my circles. 

Things, then, can be seen as either simple or complex, depending on our viewpoint. When we zoom-in and look for details, they appear complex; when we zoom-out and look for generalities, they appear simple. Inasmuch as it is true that beneath every simple view there lies complexity, it is equally true that above every complex view there is a unifying simplicity. Neither is more truthful than the other.

The '16 Personalities' test is founded on the notion that people, in spite of their complexity, can be simplified and sorted into sixteen broad categories. Indeed, for me one of the appeals of this theory is its simplicity. When it comes to understanding ourselves, and each other, I think there is much to be gained from taking a simple view.

Simplification

In our daily lives we encounter a multitude of ‘things’ - from desks, to chairs, to cups, to roads. If we were to take every thing we encountered as an individual - in other words, as something unique in itself, rather than a single instance of a more general type - then we would barely be able to function. It would be like arriving in an alien world, in which nothing is familiar.

For instance, instead of a ‘cup’, we would encounter a hard object, with a cylindrical shape and a strange curved protrusion. Its label ‘cup’, is a shortcut; it gives the object a meaning, or direction - ‘this is for drinking from’ - but in doing so, it also distracts from all other possible directions; all of the other things that this object could be. Our shortcuts may limit possibilities, but they also allow us a crucial measure of expediency.

The process of getting to know things is, then, a process of simplification. We group similar things together and give them a label - conceptualise them - and relate our concepts to one another. Inasmuch as we are predisposed to conceptualise, we are also predisposed to simplify.

And yet the infinite complexity of reality can never truly be pinned down by concepts. It is liquid, constantly slipping out from under our definitions. We can pour it into a glass, and observe how it takes on the shape of its container. But nothing lasts forever, and eventually our glass will crack, and shatter; and its contents will spill out, go here and there, and become other things; new things.

If our intent is to accurately represent things as they are, then we must accept that all of our containers, our concepts - indeed, our whole way of looking at the world - is an over-simplification; because no matter how hard we try, we can never capture everything. There will always be something left out, or overlooked. Every picture is incomplete. This is probably what Eckhart Tolle was referring to when he said that “To reduce the aliveness of another human being to a concept is already a form of violence.” 1

Thus, we find ourselves caught between the chaotic infinity of creation, and the harmonious unity of the Creator. We are not omniscient: we cannot see every thing, only some things. Our experience is, then, always a concession of sorts; founded, as it is, on the acknowledgement that in order to experience things we must simplify them.

The question is: how simple do we want to make things?

Context

It seems to me that the answer to this is determined by the context in which it is asked. In other words, what are the intentions of the person doing the asking?

If you want to view yourself, or human beings in general, as complex things that cannot be simplified into types, then certainly a personality test will be an ‘over-simplification.’ If you want to view them as things that can be seen as both complex and simple, then a personality test will not be an ‘over-simplification.’ Intention is key.

If it seems like I’m pointing out the obvious, then I’m doing so in order to bring to mind something that is all too often forgotten: that what is true for you may not be true for me.

‘Simplify’ is a judgement, a statement based upon observation that ought to be true for most observers. ‘Over-simplify’ is a value-judgement, a statement based upon personal standards or priorities, that will likely not be true for most observers. Thus most will agree that to group human beings within sixteen personality types is to simplify them. However, a smaller number will agree that to do so is to over-simplify them.

I labour the point because I find that we often seem to forget this distinction. It is all too easy to get trapped into one view and to think that it is the best view, or the only view. When we do this we lose sight of the bigger picture, of the continuum of views in which our own is contained.

Whilst it is true that each of us is entirely unique, I think it is equally true that each of us can be reduced to the black and white simplicity of a binary. From one view we are analogue, from another we are digital. Which of these is the most useful is defined by those doing the looking. It may be that in situation A it is more appropriate to see complexity, whereas Situation B may demand simplicity.

Seeing human beings as unique individuals, as things that are too complex to be grouped, is one way of looking at them; and this view has much to offer us. But if we feel that we, or human beings in general, are too complex to be grouped then this suggests that we’ve fallen into the trap of believing that there is only one way to look at things - that there is only complexity. This view is unbalanced, because it chooses to see only one half of the binary whilst ignoring the other; it makes its home within complexity and forsakes simplicity.

We needn’t pick sides. Both the simple and the complex view are open to us, and both offer us something that the other cannot. To see things simply needn’t be a denial of complexity, as long as we recognise that we are choosing to use the simple-view; and thus, could also choose not to.

Telling stories

Along with the '16 Personalities' test, I also took an online version of the ‘NEO Personality Inventory test’. Much like '16 Personalities', the ‘NEO’ test is a questionnaire consisting of a series of statements (e.g. ‘Make friends easily’) which must be rated based on how close they are to describing the respondent in question. There are five categories of applicability to choose from, representing a sliding scale from ‘Very inaccurate’ to ‘Very accurate.’

Although the process of these two tests is relatively similar, they differ in the way in which they present their results. On completion '16 Personalities' labels its respondents with one of sixteen core personality types, and presents a description of the various attributes of this type. The NEO test does not go this far; rather it presents the ‘Big Five’ personality traits (Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness to Experience) and shows how much of each trait the respondent possesses. This is done with a percentage value.

Whilst the '16 Personalities' test also shows how much of certain traits the respondent possesses, again, through percentage points, it goes one step further in that it attributes a particular meaning - or tells a particular story - about these values.

In telling a story we take separate things - objects, people, places - and weave them together in order to convey sense. A story synthesises, organises, and directs its contents, pointing them in the same direction in order to serve a shared meaning. It is synonymous with a constellation - an imaginary line that links a number of separate points, aligning each with a higher purpose.

For me, part of the appeal of a personality test is that it helps me to explain myself. Aspects of my personality that I may have looked upon negatively - my need to be alone at certain times, my tendency towards abstract thinking, my tendency to get lost in thought - are suddenly attributed meaning and importance; and instead of looking upon these things as deficiencies, I am given permission to see them in a more positive light. In giving such permissions - in spite of how simple they may seem - an explanatory story can have a significant impact upon the way a person views themselves.

For instance, the fact that we can now describe certain people as 'autistic' allows us to better interpret and understand behaviour that may previously have been viewed as deviant. Every label is a generalisation, and ’autistic’ is no different. However, prior to the invention of this label autistic people were more likely to be held to the general norms that are imposed on the wider mass of society, and their behaviour was interpreted accordingly. In some cases this may have led to them being seen as  ‘deficient’ or ‘strange’; because, judged against the yardstick of normality, they are. The concept of ‘autism’ gives sense and meaning to their behaviour - it explains it - and in doing so, allows us to accept it for what it is and to view it as more than an aberration. It erects a fence around these behaviours and creates a space in which they are acceptable; both to those on the outside and those on the inside.

Every collective has a strong centre of gravity, a dense core which defines and protects its norms. Thus the more rarefied members of a society, those outliers that do not conform as strictly to its norms, always need a certain amount of protection from its gravitational pull. There will always be a temptation for those in the middle to view those further out as aberrant; and in light of this to want to bring them inwards, and make them conform to more common ways of being.

If a person is not sufficiently anchored then they may fall prey to this centripetal force, casting off important elements of themselves as they are pulled inwards. A story provides this anchoring. It ring fences a way of being, making a person less vulnerable to homogenising forces.

I think the simple recognition of difference can be a profound step for many, and especially so when this difference is reinforced as something that is important and necessary. In my own experience I have come across many people who believed, albeit perhaps unconsciously, that everyone ought to be more like them, and who criticised and condemned others for being different. I am frequently guilty of it myself.

For me this is one of the invaluable uses of personality typing: its stories, those sixteen fictional types, give meaning to the many differences that we see in one another. By attributing value to behaviours that may otherwise be dismissed as deficient or aberrant in light of personal or societal norms, they foster an understanding and respect for those differences.

As with the label ‘autistic’, a personality type gives us permission to be ourselves; and, crucially, to accept ourselves. It also provides a positive spin on our behaviours, suggesting that they are not only acceptable, but vital to the wider scene; that our sharp corners and strange angles are designed to fit into something larger.

Of course, the pendulum swings both ways: and where a label can be liberating, it can also be restrictive;  condemning someone to a seemingly rigid definition. In this we see a timeless paradox at play: our structures provide us comfort and shelter, but they also confine us. The more bricks we add, the more confined we become.

Yet, if we see our structures - in this case those sixteen personality types - as stories, then we can understand that they are not definitive; that they are fiction, and thus needn’t be taken too seriously. Psychologist James Hillman described a fiction as “a formula that must necessarily posit itself as beyond criteria of true or false […] fantasies by means of which we fashion or ‘fiction’ a life or a person […]” 2

Psychologist Adolf Guggenbühl-Craig adds, “Such creative fantasies are often quite far removed from so-called reality; they are as unreal, and as true, as fairy tales and myths. They use imaginative images to grasp the nature of the other person […] Even if they are not expressed, fantasies also influence the other person, awakening new living potential in him […]

[They] are related to the nature of the other person; they represent, in symbolic-mythological form, his life potential […] Everyone needs to fantasy about himself, to circle about and awaken his own potential in mythological or fairy tale form.” 3

We can, then, see these sixteen types as fiction, or fantasy; whose proof is in whether they resonate with us - whether we find them useful, or satisfying.


Creating Types

Must we see ourselves as representative of a type? Does each of us not have our own unique case-history, our own individual story?  Is it not enough to say that everyone is different, and that individual differences ought to be respected?

Whilst every individual has their own set of whys and wherefores that make their behaviour understandable, it is, as we’ve seen, impractical (if not impossible) to apprehend every thing we encounter as something new and unique. It is impractical to learn the story of every person we meet; to spend time mapping out their terrain in order to learn their shape; and clearly, not every person would even be capable of doing this.

This is where a collection of general types comes in handy. They act as a set of common stories, as shorthands we can all use in order to further our understanding of each other. For some, even the simple knowledge that there are different types of people could be a revelation.

I think it is vital that we use whatever tools are at our disposal in order to further our understanding of each other and ourselves. Attaining this understanding is a challenge that faces any collective, and its health depends upon how successful it is in this. A society that does not understand and respect the diversity of its members may well end up promoting certain types of people at the expense of others - in thrall to red, it overlooks blue - and end up hopelessly imbalanced.

With this in mind, I think we can gain much from personality typing, in spite - or because - of its simplicity.


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1 Tolle, Eckhart, Stillness Speaks, p. 20
2 Hillman, James, Healing Fiction, p. 13
3 Guggenbühl-Craig, Adolf, Power in the Healing Professions, p. 45-7


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Related posts:-
The Colour Wheel
Land and Sea
Guiding Fiction
Simply Put 
Short Cuts

Professional Distance

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Professional              -                    Layman
Limited                     -                    Unlimited
Defined                     -                    Undefined
Solid                          -                    Liquid


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Unlike the professional nature of counsellor/client relationships typical of Western cultures, Aboriginal people prefer to "just to have a relationship," he says.

"There is no professional/personal dichotomy, which means they are quite happy to come and have a yarn to you in the shops, or catch you on a Saturday to talk things through.

"If you expect to see people pouring in your door at the office, it won't happen. You have to work more flexibly and actually meet people where they feel comfortable, like in a park, or going for a drive or a walk."

[Sarah Ford]
Bridging cultures: psychologists working with Aboriginal clients


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Sean breaches a couple of ethical rules that could get him into serious trouble were he not in a Hollywood movie: he physically assaults his patient in the first session, and he regularly discloses information on the progress of the therapy to Lambeau.

His therapy is highly unorthodox in other ways too. He holds the second session in a park; he ends the fifth session early and angrily sends away his patient because he is frustrated by his ‘bullshitting’ (this would be highly unusual even if he were a Lacanian); he also talks freely and abundantly about his own private life and suffering.

One wonders if these sessions should be viewed as serendipity rather than therapy – an encounter in a special situation between two men with similar roots [...] The treatment takes on the character of true horizontality, and gains an existential quality for both parties.

[Tamás Szabados]
'Good Will Hunting'

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