My best Christmas had to be the year I first learned about type. I traveled back to my childhood home in Ohio, anxious to share the new knowledge with my large family of ten brothers and sisters. I had a lot of fun as, one by one, they were able to identify their types.
The best moments, however, happened after that. In response to what I told them about their type, they started revealing things to me that I had never known about them. The one that really sticks with me is my ISFP sister. When I pointed out that she was the only perceiver among six judging sisters, she said something to the effect of, “I always felt like I was different from you guys. You were always so sure of things, but I never thought it was that simple.”
This sister had shared a bedroom with me all through my childhood. They used to call her “Me too, also,” because as a little girl she followed me around all the time and wanted to do everything I did. We often talked late into the night, and shared all of our thoughts. In those two decades of being close friends, however, I never knew her as well as I did after she told me that she was an ISFP. I never knew that she wasn’t just my little follower; she was a strong individual with a strong belief in staying open to life and its uncertainties.
When I told my ISFJ mother that her type values tradition, she told us how much it had hurt her in the last few decades to see her traditional ideas of womanhood being trampled on by screaming Beatles’ fans, bra-burning feminists, and the smart-mouthed character of Roseanne. We were all surprised to hear that the cultural changes we had found so exciting were a source of pain to her.
When I told my ESFJ sister that her type was very attentive to people’s needs, she revealed that she used to have nightmares about not being able to take care of all of us. None of us knew that underneath her confidence and social charm there were such feelings of responsibility for her family.
When I told my ISTJ sister that she was the only thinking type among seven sisters, she could suddenly understand why she had such difficulties with us. “All I’ve ever wanted is to be able to be honest with people,” she said, “and not have to waste time being nice.” After that we understood her direct speaking style much better, and we realized that it was motivated by a desire for efficient solutions, not a desire to hurt.
When I told my family that I was an INFJ, and intuitives prefer to be original rather than conventional, my mother said, “I never knew what you would be when you grew up, but I knew it would be something different.”
I sometimes take psychological type for granted, as if the knowledge it brings was always there. It’s good to recall how little I knew about people, even the people closest to me, before I knew their types. It’s good to remember those conversations when thinking about the sudden realizations that came from learning about type. The people who meant so much to me came to mean so much more, because I could see not just what they were to me, but what they were to the whole human race.
It’s the best Christmas gift I ever gave, and the best one I ever received.