Tuesday, February 10, 2009

MBTI & Illness: Judgers and Perceivers

In my previous articles about MBTI, a widely used personality profile instrument, I wrote about the four dimensions of personality preferences MBTI measures and about one dimension in particular - Thinkers and Feelers.

In this post, I write about another dimension of personality preference- the dimension that is about one's basic orientation to the world. Within this dimension people tend to have a preference for either Judging or Perceiving.

Judging does not mean being judgmental. Rather it means that one prefers to move towards organization and closure -- to consider a defined set of options, make a clear choice, and head toward action. A Perceiving preference means that one likes to remain flexible, adaptable, and to keep options open and add choices to the mix.

Neither preference is better. And we all have both Judging and Perceiving capabilities and can be both flexible and decisive. But, we tend to have a natural affinity for one or the other.

I have a strong preference for Judging. Richard has a strong preference for Perceiving.

If I am hungry, I like to decide what food I want, pick a restaurant, and get in the car. Richard likes to play what he calls "the restaurant game." He likes to keep throwing out cuisine and restaurant choices up until the moment we arrive at the door of the restaurant we had originally agreed we would go to. For him, this is creative. For me, this is madness.

How does this Judging-Perceiving difference play out in terms of illness?

My pain condition was (and is) a diagnostic mystery. This meant that I saw dozens of specialists in different disciplines and had dozens and dozens of tests. The ongoingness of this experience and the increasing number of options for diagnosis and treatment pushed me so far out of my comfort zone that I fell off the edge of reason and landed into a stinky puddle of blithering anxiety. I wanted the answer!

In the face of the unknown, Richard was reassured by the plenitude of options. His mantra became, "There's always someting more to try." Each successive doorway was a portal that could lead to something that might work to quiet my pain. Another thing to be tried was another reason for hope.

Understanding MBTI gave us tools and a language for harmonizing our differences. He wasn't a foolish dreamer; and I wasn't a narrow-minded dogmatist. We were just different. I'm a "J" and he's a "P."

Richard learned to temper his plasticity with some empathy for my frustrated drive for certainty. And I learned, when the known doors closed, to find some solace in his faith that something else, some healer or medication waiting just around the next corner, might work.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My husband just completed a 12 month treatment for Hep C. Because we are both Perceivers it was an endless twisty road to navigate all the symptoms - and remedies. Thanks for helping me understand this AND why are restaurant decisions take sooo long.