Entering the Mystery of Myself


I’ve been trying to understand myself for most of my adult life. I first became aware of this idiosyncracy in college. One day I was in the library browsing through the psychology section and came upon a book about personality types. I was as thrilled as if I had discovered a treasure map. Or the key to the weathered door of a mysterious hidden garden. Or the holy grail!
I found an empty table and sat down to read, glancing around self-consciously like an adolescent devouring a book about sex. I’d spent my teens masking my insecurity and self-doubt with a persona of poise and confidence and didn’t want to blow my cover.
It was everything I’d hoped for. The first part was a lengthy questionnaire.  I savored each question the way an oenophile relishes each sip of wine, rolling it this way and that to consider every nuance of flavor. Like a writer of wine labels I suffered the delicious agony of indecision over which subtlety had priority. Like a reluctant suitor I hesitated to commit myself. Rarely had I enjoyed myself so much.
When I was finished I tallied my answers and arrived at a number which took me to the description of my particular type. My key was in the door and I was standing on the threshold. With a mixture of excitement and apprehension I prepared to enter the mystery of myself.
But what I read disappointed and puzzled me. To this day I do not know the title of the book because I was afraid to write it down in case someone should go through my papers and see it, so I can only paraphrase the essence of what I recall. It said something like this “We are not sure who you are. You are like a tree with many branches reaching into the sky. A flock of birds flies to the tree and perches on the branches. Then without warning they scatter and fly away in all directions.” I imagined the tree barren of leaves, silhouetted against a gray winter sky. The birds were black. Crows, perhaps. Or ravens. There was no garden.
At one level this seemed a terribly romantic image, but as I read through the other descriptions I grew increasingly uncomfortable.  Mine was the only one with no clear answers. What did this mean? Was it a good thing or bad? Did it mean my personality was gloriously flexible and open to whatever life might bring, or did it mean I was so flighty and unformed that I was vulnerable to whichever way the wind blew? Was I some sort of mysterious nature child, part grounded in the physical world and part free to follow the truths of my soul, or did I simply have no more substance than a ghost or puff of smoke? Did I have an old soul or an extremely young one?
I see now that this was one of the defining experiences of my life.  For the first time it occurred to me that I had absolutely no idea who I was. That’s when the hunger settled in, and I’ve been trying to satisfy it ever since.
If you recognize this hunger in yourself, do yourself a favor and check out this site about the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator. Based on Jungian psychology, it was responsible for my first major breakthrough into the mystery of myself and has provided an enormously useful framework for my inner work ever since.
You can find Healing the Sacred Divide through this Amazon link and at Larson Publications, Inc.

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0 Responses

  1. From an ENTP, I can sympathize. I also like Performax (DISC), where I’m a high “I” with “D” under pressure!

  2. Hi Susan,
    As one who knows you pretty well, I can say that your Myers-Briggs type designation is right on. As an ENTP your driving force is definitely the search for competence or excellence. The driving force of my type, INFJ, is also perfect: the search for meaning and purpose!! It looks like we’ve both been lucky to find the ideal work for us.
    I’m not familiar with Performax, but thanks for the tip. I’ll check it out.

  3. Bravo Jeanie,
    Your story, so beautifully told, captures the eternal quest. How strange, but how true, that in our younger years and even sometimes in our croning time, we are so reluctant, so afraid to expose our quest for self knowing. Myers Briggs, somehow makes it legitimate, a helpful tool that gives us permission to explore further through dreams and attentive awareness.
    Your stories and insights are magical. I so appreciate you sharing your journey,

    1. Hi Sally,
      It is strange, isn’t it? I think it’s because the conventional ego in the Western world defines success in terms of fame and fortune, not authenticity and self-knowledge. How sad that those of us who seek the latter are made to feel like outsiders!
      I think it was businesses and the military who legitimized and popularized tests like the Myers-Briggs as a means of directing personnel into the most compatible kind of work, which then, of course, increases job satisfaction and productivity.
      Thanks for your kind words. I appreciate them very much.

  4. I totally know what you mean! I first took the Meyers/Brigg in the early 80’s before we moved here. Steve and I went to counselor that the Scarlett’s saw who administered to the both of us. EYE OPENING about the way we do things. I’m always looking for the inner meaning, where to Steve, it’s just so obvious! Love your blogs!
    Love, Donna

  5. Hi Donna,
    Thanks for writing, and Happy Valentine’s Day to you and the family!
    So you must be an intuitive/feeling type and Steve must be a sensing/thinking type? Fred and I are the same way. It certainly makes for an interesting marriage, doesn’t it? Teaching each other the processes of our souls gives us plenty to discuss and there’s never a boring moment!

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