I’m not crazy; I’m just not you

Do you sometimes feel like a square peg in a round hole, or a round peg in a square hole? What is “normal”, anyway? If we really think about it, most of us would agree that there are many different personality styles that fall within the “normal” range, yet we sometimes can't help but question ourselves, when our way of looking at the world is at odds with those around us. On the other hand, we may look down on others who don't see things our way.

Some examples illustrate these common everyday conflicts.

Joe and Sandra are a couple trying to plan their wedding when they have their first real disagreement. Sandra wants a formal ceremony and carefully considers every little detail. Joe on the other hand is impatient with all this planning and would prefer to elope, followed by a spontaneous party. Melissa is a college student who just moved into an apartment with two new roommates. She likes each of them, but they have friends over constantly. She has to seek refuge in the library just so she can get some quiet time for herself. Her roommates are starting to resent her non-participation in their activities.

These conflicts are common problems resulting from differing personality styles or temperaments. Carl Jung, a Swiss Psychologist and anthropologist first noted these types in 1921 in his book “Psychological Types”. After studying a variety of cultures, both ancient and modern, he noted patterns of differences in the way people take in information (perception), how they make decisions or judgements, and where they draw their energy (extraversion or introversion).

Two American women, Katharine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers developed an instrument, based on Jung's work, to help people identify their personality type, promote understanding among different types, and to improve each individual's chance of success in their work and their relationships. The resulting instrument, the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Inventory (MBTI), was first published in 1962, and since then has undergone almost four decades of application, research, and refinement. About 5 million people a year worldwide take the MBTI, as it is offered now in 30 languages. This instrument is unique because it measures and values normal human differences rather than classifying them as normal or abnormal, rating them as better or worse. Taking the test helps people clarify their preferred ways of taking in information, making decisions and where they draw their energy and translates these into shorthand letters that describe a specific personality type.

Sandra and Joe decided to take the test and found that they have very different personality types that reflect their different values. Sandra's type prefers to work with facts, details and an orderly presentation of ideas among other things. Joe, on the other hand, prefers to keep his options open and improvise rather than plan. By understanding these normal differences they can learn ways to communicate, problem-solve, and appreciate what each other brings to their relationship. Melissa and her roommates might benefit from learning the difference between introversion and extraversion so that can accommodate their differing needs for quiet time and privacy.

If you would like to know more about the test, come to the presentation offered by the Student Health Center, “I'm Not Crazy, I'm Just Not You” on Feb. 14 from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Campus Center, room 105. If you have taken the MBTI in the past, this presentation will help to further clarify your own personality preferences and give you tools to improve relationships. If you do not know your type, testing is available for a $10 fee at the UAA Advising and Counseling Center, BEB 115 on the first Wednesday of the month at noon or the third Wednesday of the month at 4 p.m. You may also take the test by appointment at the Student Health Center. For more information contact the StudentHealth Center at 786-4040.

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