Four Types of Personalities and
Four Ways of Perceiving Time
(continued from "The Future of Time")
"To develop a
language of the heart, rather than the mind,
Both the thinking type and the feeling type try to establish continuity in their lives by relating previous experiences to the present. For the thinking type, time is on a line flowing from the past to the present, into the future. For the feeling type, time is circular: time past becomes time present, and then immediately returns to the past as memory.
Feeling types are chiefly concerned with their own personal pasts. They do not recognize what is unique in a given situation; their initial response is likely to be "Oh yes, this reminds me of..." Reminiscence, diaries, folklore and traditions are popular outlets for the feeling type. They tend to be uncomfortable in new situations, and to avoid making decisions that would sever ties with the past, or change their lives greatly.
As young persons, feeling types may be adventuresome and daring. They have not accumulated enough personal history to be bound by it. After middle age, feeling types tend to become conservative. Times change but these individuals cannot. They need to continue to see things in the ways that were popular and appropriate in their younger days. They are trapped in the remembrance of things past.
Feeling types evaluate events in terms of what place the events will take in the past, rather than in terms of what effect they have in the present, or where they might lead in the future. Only those events that are intense enough to become memories are really significant. Feeling types prefer strong emotions, even negative ones, to emotions that are pleasant but innocuous.
Because they value the recollection of emotion, feeling types are
extremely skillful at assessing
Feeling types provide warmth, joy, freshness, conviviality, companionship and cohesion. A party without at least one extraverted feeling type is likely to fail. Their goal is to intensify the emotion so that, in recall, a suitable level of feeling is available to recover the experience of the actual event.
Situations that contain bad feelings may work to terminate a relationship, in effect erasing or canceling out part of the past. Feeling types will try to avoid blaming others. They prefer to see themselves as being at fault. They commonly apologize too much for trivial shortcomings. If a relationship starts badly, it is very hard for them to reevaluate the person and see him as being better or kinder than he was at the first encounter. They are slow to change their opinions about persons because their first loyalty is to the past.
Since the maintenance of relationships is of such central importance to feeling types, they tend to see the events of the world in personal terms; who did what to whom. They are liable to impute sinister motives to persons whose behavior they find thoughtless or insensitive, for they do not believe that getting a job done may be, in itself, a motive. It does not occur to feeling types that others do things in a detached way because of principles (thinking), because of practicality (sensation), or simply out of a desire to make things more exciting in the future (intuition). Thus others are frequently annoyed or angered at what they interpret as prying on the part of the feeling type, who often is told; just accept things as they are and stop trying to read more into them. Such an admonition is both useless and meaningless. For a person of this nature, things are never what they seem. They are already resonant with their long-sustained echoes in the vaults of memory.
It is not easy for a feeling type to be punctual, because the ongoing emotion is more demanding than any commitment could be. Thus he is quite likely to remain hours too long at a luncheon, to extend a brief coffee break into a half-hour chat, to undertake a brief errand and find that he has spent so long at it that dinner is delayed. It is hard for him to disengage from any interaction, even if he "knows" that to remain will cause various problems in other spheres of his (or her) life.
Pasternak's novel Doctor Zhivago (1958) beautifully illustrates the life of a feeling type. In his younger days, Zhivago was an active, interested, alert young man, who was willing to consider the new ideas his countrymen produced. As times grew harder, the inability of the feeling type to cope with disorganization and unpredictability - the fact that one could not go on living the life for which one had prepared oneself - began to effect Zhivago strongly. He could not embrace the revolution, because, in the very nature of a revolution, people's feelings are hurt and events occur that are cruel, painful, deadly.
The more events became unsettled, the more unhappy Zhivago grew. The past lived in Zhivago, and each time he saw Lara, even if years had elapsed, the old emotions were present in full force. Zhivago love his wife, but he also loved Lara; he was incapable of choosing between them, and so remained with the relationship that was most visible and immediate, in which the deepest feelings were being invested. Only when Lara's life was in danger, and a practical and competent man offered to save her, did Zhivago part from Lara. He was offered an opportunity to go along, but he could not quite face up to leaving Russia, to abandon the known and the familiar, and so he remained behind.
For the rest of his life, Zhivago's life went downhill, becoming ever less able to cope, falling into sharp decline as he advanced in years. He experienced the greatest tragedy that life can present to a feeling type, the inability to see continuity between the experiences of youth and the realities of adulthood; his slowness, his lack of practicality, his vulnerability to emotionality, had no place in a country in chaos.
Pasternak is a poet, and poetry is the language of feeling. It is the natural expression of this function, as history is the natural expression of thinking, technology of sensation, and fantasy of intuition.
develop a language of the heart, rather than of the mind, is the
goal of those with a primary feeling function. To develop those
techniques that make memories live, and to dignify the act of
remembrance; these are the essential concerns of past-oriented
"For the thinking type, time flows from the historical past
Thinking types also experience time as flowing from the past, but their past is not the personal past of feeling. It is the detached, historical past. An issue cannot be discussed, nor can it be understood, without a statement of where the event originated, how it is developed, when it concluded, or, in the case of an ongoing event, where it is leading. This type is unwilling to recognize events that come from nowhere - out of the blue. Everything has a history, everything came from some unknown (or unknowable) root, and everything exists only insofar as it is heading in a specific direction.
Thinking types are often criticized for lack of enthusiasm and cold, detached, uncaring attitudes. The charge is not accurate. Their attachment and concern do not reside in any momentary existential happening, but in the whole process of which the current episode is merely one strand, no more intrinsically interesting than any other single event. Their delight and excitement must be projected through time. The extent of their joy is directly proportional to the scope of past, present and future that can be glimpsed in any set of events.
The ability to put events in historical order enables the thinking type to frame hypotheses, to draw conclusions, and to make predictions. Logical reasoning, whatever its degree of excellence, would be impossible without a linear time sense. Logic presumes that events follow each other in time, which moves from the past through the present and into the future. That others may perceive the future before the present is, to one of this nature, literally unthinkable.
Thinking types live according to principles. They care so much about continuity and consistency that they must behave in a way that guarantees that their actions will fit into some overall theory, and that reduces the likelihood of individual random events. Spontaneity is not particularly characteristic of thinking types. They want to make up their minds, arrive at logical conclusions, before they act. Because of this, they are often ineffective in crisis situations, though the ability to cope with emergencies improves as extroversion increases and sensation comes into play as a second function.
Thinking types are the greatest planners. No other type can equal them in ability to plot things out through time, follow each logical step and state its tasks, and work out the calculus for seeing a job through from beginning to end. For this reason, either a primary or secondary thinking function is extremely valuable in such tasks as administration and organization. Other types may also plan, as this is a skill that is taught, and highly valued, in Western culture. But only the thinking types take plans so seriously that they can very upset by having to change a schedule. To change plans denies the guiding power of time’s flow, and so the very orderliness of existence. Such harbingers of chaos affront and threaten them. Time for them is serious, real and demanding. They are likely to know what day of the week it is, and what time of day it is. This awareness is a normal aspect of their relationship with life. The attention to process, the love of planning, the respect for principles – these major characteristics of the thinking type are directly attributable to their temporal orientation.
Armed with their theory, thinking types go out to do battle with the world, often maintaining their version of reality against heavy odds. They ignore facts that disagree with their theories, or destroy them with logic and wit. Well-ordered words, deployed rationally, are the media of the great thinking type. History is peppered with idealistic, logical, determined thinking types striving to change reality, and to build a better, more logical society. Given opportunity and intelligence, they can be creative, systematic and productive. With less intelligence, and an equal amount of determination and faithfulness to their view of the world, they can easily become rigid, narrow-minded, and dogmatic. Such pejorative terms as ‘martinet,” “opinionated,” “difficult” and “arrogant” frequently are employed to describe these individuals.
Freud is an excellent example of a thinking type. He dug out a theory about abnormal personality largely from his own thoughts, and then spent years developing it and tying up all the loose ends. Two of Freud’s original followers, Jung and Alfred Adler, put forth psychological theories that differed significantly from Freud’s. This is hardly surprising, in view of the typological differences apparent in the three men.
Freud’s theory far surpassed Adler’s or Jung’s for consistency, logical development, and breadth. It is the product of a thinking type. Jung, an intuitive, presented a view of the psyche that has more depth and mystery, but to this day, few have been able to work their way through his wordy, obscure, and badly organized writings. Adler’s psychological approach is the work of a man with a predominantly sensation function. His work is brief and practical, but it lacks the vast structure of Freud’s or the imaginativeness of Jung.
Freud was shocked, hurt and angered by the defection of his closest collaborators. He could not allow the possibility there were different, equally valid, views of the world. He needed to prove that his theory alone could explain most phenomena. So sure was Freud of the essential rightness of his theory that he applied it to history, mythology, art, anthropology, and world politics.
Freud cared little for other people’s feelings in regard to his theory. He refused intimidation, and he brooked no opposition. Thinking types are similar in their adherence to logic, their faith in principles, and their ability to sacrifice friendship and personal gratification in the interest of suprapersonal goals.