Matthew Hogg BSc (Hons) mFNTP mNNA mABH mABNLP
Registered Nutritional Therapist, Hypnotherapist & NLP Practitioner
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, more often referred to as simply MBTI®, is a unique tool for understanding a person's personality type through the many inate traits they exhibit. For more than 25 years it has been the most widely used tool in the world of psychology for this goal. Its popularity has also skyrocketed in recent years due to social media. Many of the 'personality quizzes' you'll no doubt have seen on Facebook and other platforms now rely on questions derived from MBTI®, with the number of YouTube videos on the subject being enormous and hugely popular. We will look at some of the personality quizzes later as some are actually well researched and give a good idea of what 'type' you are likely to be. To be 100% certain, you need to have undergone thorough testing with a quaified MBTI® practitioner, of course.
The reasons for MBTI® becoming so popular are many, but most likely the simplicity (at least on the surface) of the testing and the clear cut and the usually astoundingly accurate and detailed descriptions people find of themselves in one of the 16 types, is very appealing and even awe-inspiring. However, MBTI® is not as simple as it may first appear, as we will dig into a little below, but the hidden complexity simply adds to its accuracy and usefulness.
Uses of MBTI
How well do you know yourself? Some people would say "very well", others feel they don't understand why they think, feel and act how they do, while the remainder probably haven't given it a second thought. The use of the MBTI® tool can be of benefit to all three of these groups, since it's most likely those who'd say they know themselves well in actual fact, do not.
MBTI® offers a means of truly understanding oneself and this can be amazingly enlightening and open up numerous avenues for self-growth and self-improvement. Once you genuinely know your type you'll gain a deep understanding of who you really are, why you think, feel and behave how you do, and how you can use this knowledge in a positive way rather than ending up stuck in a self-destructive cycle, doing the same things that lead to failure to reach your goals over and over. Through understanding MBTI® and your own type you will become better at spotting other people's types, for example, which can lead to more fulfilling relationships and more positive interactions with others.
The tools provided by the MBTI® are also widely used in psychological therapy settings to help those suffering with mental illness like depression, anxiety or phobias, in marriage counseling, and to improve learning / education and job opportunities and advancement. MBTI® is not often used alone but as part of a comprehensive positive psychology approach to helping people overcome obstacles in life and allow for self-growth and development.
History of MBTI
The Myers-Briggs Type Indictor® (MBTI®) has its roots in the work of the great Carl Jung. In his work as a psychotherapist, Jung saw many patients who had serious mental illness, were ineffective in their endeavors, or simply unhappy and seeking professional help. Jung was known to be intrigued by the differences and similarities in the personalities of others and thought people could be categorized. In the course of his psychotherapy work over 70 years ago he developed a theory of personality types and was interested primarily in those people who were unhealthy and he saw as having an unsuccessful or unbalanced development of type. MBTI® is much more general and can be of benefit to anyone seeking help with a problem or simply exploring self-development, unhealthy or not. Just as a brief aside, it's now generally thought Jung was an INFJ type, which will mean a lot more as you explore MBTI® further.
MBTI® draws on the work of Jung and expands upon it in a specific direction. It was Isabel Myers and her mother, Katherine Cook Briggs who undertook this work and thus where the name originates from. Where Jung had identified various personality types he did not develop a test that could be used formally by other psychologists. Myers and Briggs were looking for a way after WWII to help returning soldiers find work for which they were a good fit based on Jungian type theory; but after years of searching they turned up nothing and decided to create their own. Both had no initial formal academic training or credentials in psychology but it was their passion, and Isabel Myers in particular had a razor sharp intellect and capacity to learn and gather the resources she needed. In a man by the name of Edward N. Hay she found someone with the skills and expetise from which to learn test construction, scoring, validation, and statistical analysis. Thus, the MBTI® was finally born.
Initially the psychological community greeted the MBTI® with total lack of interest or acceptance, as may have been expected but Myers was undeterred, since the public took to it with open arms; as they are now doing on a much larger scale through the internet and social media. The vast majority of people to whom Myers administered and explained her Indicator reacted with delight on recognizing themselves in a particular type; Myer's would describe this as the "aha" reaction. Today MBTI® is accepted by psychology and as mentioned has long been the most used tool of its kind in the field.
Basics of MBTI
Let's start with a few essential pieces of information about the terminology of the MBTI®:
- There are 16 Types
- Types are identified by 4 letters (e.g. INFJ, ESTP)
- Each letter corresponds to an aspect, or trait, of personaility (e.g. "I" for introvert, "E" for Extovert)
- The first letter is the most dominant, and so forth
Now we can move on to what the 4 letters in each type stand for:
I = Introverted
E = Extroverted
S = Sensing
N = Intuition
T = Thinking
F = Feeling
J = Judging
P = Perceptive
Now let's look at all 16 types. Note that there are varying degrees of each trait and each type, nobody is 100% introverted and your type is not 100% who you are, for example.
The following is a simple description of each type taken from the essential book on the subject, Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type by Isabel Briggs-Myers with Peter B. Myers. This writer is purposefully trying to keep things simple in this overview, so hasn't attempted to split the types in any way in the hope things will start to come together in your head:
ISTJ = Introverted Sensing with Thinking (Judging)
ISFJ = Introverted Sensing with Feeling (Judging)
ISTP = Introverted Thinking with Sensing (Perceptive)
ISFP = Introverted Feeling with Sensing (Perceptive)
ESTJ = Extraverted Thinking with Sensing (Judging)
ESFJ = Extraverted Feeling with Sensing (Judging)
ESTP = Extraverted Sensing with Feeling (Perceptive)
ESFP = Extraverted Sensing with Feeling (Perceptive)
INFJ = Introverted Intuition with Feeling (Judging)
INTJ = Introverted Intuition with Thinking (Judging)
INFP = Introverted Feeling with Intuition (Perceptive)
INTP = Introverted Thinking with Intuition (Perceptive)
ENFJ = Extraverted Feeling with Intuition (Judging)
ENTJ = Extraverted Thinking with Intuition (Judging)
ENFP = Extraverted Intuition with Feeling (Perceptive)
ENTP = Extraverted Intuition with Thinking (Perceptive)
So there you have the 16 personality types as laid out by the MBTI® tool. Remember that no two people of the same type will be the same as each will have varying degrees of each of the 4 major traits.
We will leave this introduction here with the 16 types all with their 4 major traits. Investigating MBTI® further you will find there are also secondary characteristics that further refine your type; but we don't want to overcomplicate the system at this stage. If you are interested by what you have read so far and want to dig deeper you will find much more information and details on this website and others, along with social media, YouTube channels, and some great books on MBTI® (many you will find here at EiR Psychology).
If you wish to discuss the subject or are a qualified MBTI® professional and want to share your knowledge, why not join our dedicated MBTI Discussion Group.
For definitive testing of your MBTI® type you should consult with a Qualified Administrator of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® instrument. You will find more information and resources to point you to organizations and individuals who are qualified as such at The Myers & Briggs Foundation website - https://www.myersbriggs.org. A Qualified Administrator has been certified to take you through the comprehensive MBTI® testing instrument and fully explain what your typing results mean for you.
You can however get a good idea of what your type is likely to be through online questionnaires available from popular resources including Human Metrics and 16Personalities which both provide testing and a good level of description of type for free - although they may charge a relatively small sum for in-depth reports - of which they provide many.
The online testing is a good place to start your MBTI® journey and if you are intrigued by the results (and you most likely will be!) you can consider being formally tested by a Qualified Administrator to confirm your type, obtain professional advice, and take things further.
MBTI and Invisible Illness
It goes without saying that being diagnosed with an environmental / invisible illness forces you to reavaluate everything about your life. Getting to know yourself better through the MBTI® tools will give you great insight into youself and others and help guide you towards healing. For example, many introverted MBTI® types need a lot of time of solitude, away from other people and stimuli, which ties in with the the sensory overload experienced by those living with the likes of chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), fibromyalgia, or chronic Lyme disease. Knowing your type means you can adopt a lifestyle that suits your mind and body and can give you back some precious energy and reduce other symptoms; helping you heal and allowing you to pursue other means of getting well at the same time.
The work of Carl Jung and the Myers and Briggs family members has led to a very powerful psychological tool in MBTI®. Whether you are sick with an invisible illness or mood disorder, need help with relationships or employment, or simply wish to learn more about yourself in the pursuit of self-growth and self-improvement to reach your life goals; you will find no better means than learning more about this subject.
Briggs Myers I & Myers PB (1980, 1995) Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type CPP
Dunne C (2012) Carl Jung: Wounded Healer of the Soul Watkins