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  • Writer's picture Brian E Pearson

Naming Your Way

I am, according to the signs of the Zodiac, a Leo; an Enthusiast (a Seven) on the Enneagram; and an Introverted Intuitive Feeling Judging type (INFJ), according to Myers-Briggs. This doesn't tell you who I am. For that, you'd actually have to get to know me. But it does give me words for some of the ways I'm not you.

I used to enjoy doing marriage preparation, especially when a couple was finding the words to speak about their differences. One wants quiet at the end of a work day, to process the day and recharge their batteries; the other needs to off-load their day, by talking about it. This would be an important difference to recognize, and to name, from the start.

We're different. That's the point. Like Professor Higgins and Eliza Doolittle, in G.B. Shaw's play Pygmalion (unlike in My Fair Lady), no one gets to change anyone else to their liking. But we do get to respect, and even to enjoy, our differences. Not only does this make relationships better, it makes the world better!

Based on observations made by Carl Jung, the Myers-Briggs personality sorter recognizes key personality differences, such as: extroverted or introverted; intuitive or sensing; thinking or feeling; ordered or open-ended. Rooted in the dubious teachings of George Gurdjiev, an early 20th C, self-promoting, spiritual teacher, the Enneagram nevertheless surprises us with its uncanny ability to describe, in nine personality types, the motives behind our words and actions, from the Helper to the Leader. Even Astrology, scanning the heavens to locate our place on the earth, provides a language for our differences that is, at the very least, entertaining.

None of these systems know you better than you know yourself. In fact, their danger lies in a kind of fatalism. We could end up consulting our horoscope for advice rather than trusting our own God-given faculties. So the point is not to conform to any one of them. It is to borrow their words to describe the ways we are who we are. This helps us defend ourselves from those who, not knowing us, expect us to fit in with their programs; or perhaps, to give ourselves confidence when choosing a road less travelled.

Being "nobody-but-yourself," as E.E. Cummings wrote, is hard work; indeed, it's a lifelong battle. The world would have us fit in and not make waves by being different. But our Creator seemed to have another idea. It's precisely in our differences, and in the negotiations required by those differences, that we fulfil our purpose on earth.

Next Week: What is Your Wound?

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