Type Under the Tree

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. 

Happy Holidays!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.  


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  1. Sonya

    #1 by Sonya - December 14, 2012 at 1:38 AM

    Hi Susan,,

    Do you have any suggestions for someone who has lived most of her life like an ISFJ, but thinks that perhaps, she at core may be INFJ? I went to boarding school just prior to turning six years old so feel there is a good chance I did not truly develop as freely as would be idea!. (I'm nearly fifty now) Any thoughts would be appreciated.
  2. Susan Scanlon

    #2 by Susan Scanlon - December 16, 2012 at 2:24 PM

    Dear Sonya,

    When people are unsure of one letter of their type, I usually suggest that they read both profiles and underline each sentence that describes them very well. Then you can see if one profile has a lot more markings than the other.

    Also, there is good book you might be interested in, called Navigating Midlife: Using Typology as a Guide. It's by Eleanor Corlett and Nancy Millner. You might find that you're exploring your intuitive side in the second half of life.

    It sounds like you're going through an interesting time of self reflection though. I wish you the best.
  3. Sonya

    #3 by Sonya - December 18, 2012 at 12:49 AM

    Hi Susan,

    Thank you for your thoughts. Yes, I am going through quite a time of self reflection. If all this interest in personality and how people function is second half of life intuiting, I wonder then if I am, at core, ISFJ and Ne is filling in the picture? In my thirties I experienced a few very definite Ni experiences (feeling something internally and 'knowing' something was happening to my sister who was more than a thousand km's away, ringing her and discovering she was checking into the hospital to have her baby!) And a few other premonition type experiences. I guess this also happens to ISFJ's? From what I've read these types of things happen to INFJ's.

    Thanks for recommending the book, I'll check it out.

    Again, thank you.
  4. Paul Shorock

    #4 by Paul Shorock - December 18, 2012 at 5:55 PM

    Greetings Sonya,

    May I also suggest the Hartzler's Facets of Type? I've found it to be a solid resource to explore and expand other dimensions of me. Individuation can be a fun time of life.

    Paul (INTP)
  5. Joie Lake

    #5 by Joie Lake - December 19, 2012 at 1:12 AM

    I just found you on FB and want to know more about your system and receive your posts! Your blog sounds exciting. ~Joie
  6. Sonya

    #6 by Sonya - December 19, 2012 at 10:18 PM

    Thanks Paul. I appreciate your response. I have found learning about type so absorbing and fun.
  7. Susan Scanlon

    #7 by Susan Scanlon - December 22, 2012 at 12:55 PM

    Dear Sonya,

    My daughter is an ISFJ and she is spooky sometimes in her "knowing" when things aren't right. It may be that she can just read people's cue's very well. We have learned to take her suspicions seriously in our family.

    I think of myself (an INFJ) as being better at knowing when systems aren't right, when they aren't fair or humane.
  8. Sonya

    #8 by Sonya - December 27, 2012 at 6:57 AM

    Hi Susan,

    This helps me a lot. I know I can read peoples cue's really well. I pick up a lot of things that are happening with the people around me that other people don't appear to notice: things like relationships developing etc that others never get to know about or know about a lot later. It's strange knowing that things are happening with family members who are living on the other side of the country though. This really had me thinking that I must be INFJ.

    I understand when you say you are better at knowing when systems aren't right. That makes sense to me because both INFJ and INTJ are good with systems, aren't they?

    The way I am understanding myself, is as an ISFJ with strong empathy.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
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