The Myers-Briggs Personality Types
We all think we are totally individual and to a certain extent we are but we all have our own quirks. The Myers-Briggs test, which is fun to take, actually says there are about 16 different types of personalities. Why am I mentioning it here? The short answer, so you can learn about yourself. A longer answer is you can learn about these 16 personality types; how they deal with life, what they are like in their interpersonal relationships, what careers they may be better at and their general attitude to life. You may be able to use this in profiling your characters. It is another way to add depth to them.
The basis for the test was Carl Jung’s work. There are four areas that are assessed:
- Favourite world – Introvert or Extravert
- Information – Sensing or iNtuition
- Decisions – Thinking or Feeling
- Structure – Judging or Perceiving.
After the test is assessed you get back the 4 letter combination that shows how you answered the questions today. There are variations in what your result is if you have grown or changed emotionally in your life. Today I got INTP-A. Introverted, iNtuitive, Thinking, Perceiving and Assertive or Logician which only 3% of the population is and I could be the philosopher, architect or dreamy professor. It’s probably why I like writing this blog on a regular (mostly) basis.
Myer-Briggs sorted out 16 personalities of four different types. Analysts – architect, logician, commander and debater. Diplomats – advocate, mediator, protagonist, and campaigner. Sentinels – logistician, defender, executive, and consul. Explorers – virtuoso, adventurer, entrepreneur and entertainer. There is a lot of information about these different types so it is better if you do the research yourself and file it away on your own computer for later use.
Possible websites to check out are:
http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/the-16-mbti-types.htm?bhcp=1 the original test makers
These can be the larger issues of mental health. It is not about being happy, sad, angry, embarrassed, or in love. It is the ones your mother worried about and which can end up with news items in the media. Your characters may have these problems. The antagonist may be a sociopath or a psychopath with the horrendous things they do and not being worried about it. So, information about these mental issues is needed because you need to do good research to get them right on the page.
Of course, those definitions sound too threatening so today they are called Antisocial Personality Disorders. Sociopaths and psychopaths don’t have empathy for other people’s feelings and have an unusual sense of right and wrong. Conscience wise, the psychopath does not have one, though he might try to make others believe he has so he doesn’t get caught. It does not impinge on what he wants to do. A sociopath has a conscience but even though he knows he is doing wrong will still continue on with his actions. It is the lack of empathy and not worrying about the effects of their actions that help decide which one they are.
Some can be your stone cold serial killers, rapists and other types of criminals. Some can be the CEO or owner of the biggest business around. We have read over the last few years about the business people who buy up companies, fire all the employees and tear down the buildings to put up an exclusive hotel or something similar. The stock traders; who put people’s livelihoods a risk to make another billion for their clients no matter what happens to anyone else. Probably the 1% of the world fit into some level of this as many have no concept of the destruction they reap at the signing of a document.
Sociopaths are more ‘on the spur of the moment’ personalities. They are only interested in themselves and it is all the other person’s fault; “I wouldn’t have killed him if he hadn’t cut me off and made me miss the next light.” Psychopaths are scarier as they are ‘cold-hearted’ personalities. They plan their actions and mimic ‘normal’ behaviour so well that it is totally unexpected behaviour if they are ever found out. Science is finding out that there may be physical changes in the brain that make them this way. “Silence of the Lambs” is a book that works on this premise to the nth degree.
Multiple personalities are now called Dissociative Identity Disorder. They can have two or more distinct personalities. Their life is probably been filled with severe abuse when they are younger and this is their coping mechanism. Earlier times would have called it demonic possession as the personalities can be vastly different and they may not remember anything from the time that personality took charge until the next one does.
The person can feel different emotions, speak or dress in different ways, remember the actions or memories of the ascendant personality but not for the others. Different personalities may take charge if a similar trigger occurs. It acted as a protection when the dissociation occurred as it enabled the person to survive but when it is diagnosed the professionals try to integrate the personalities back into one with therapy. There have been books, movies and TV series that have explored this theme. Fully understand this disorder before using it in your book. It is a sensitive issue but if used well can become a fascinating story.
A person with paranoia feels under threats from ‘others’ all the time. Conspiracy theorists come to mind though I sometimes think there is a basis for their fears. Paranoid people feel anxious and fearful. They can become delusional enough that no-one can change their mind no matter how much evidence there is against what they believe. Mistrust, suspicion, fear, anger and betrayal are emotions you can use to show their paranoia. Everything is looked at with a skewed view. The treatment for this is medication and CBT – cognitive behaviour therapy. It is slow but it may help in the end. I like the old saying, “You are not paranoid if they really are out to get you.”
This mental behaviour can give you a character that enables all sorts of interesting actions to happen. They could be the main character or in a supporting role. In the supporting role, they could end up saving the hero as they anticipate actions happening that the main character did not and set up escape routes etc. They make good informants as they notice everything because they fear everything.
The new full name is Narcissistic Personality Disorder. The person who feels this thinks that they are the most important person there is and everyone else is not important. They had grandiose thoughts about themselves as anyone who watches “The Real Housewives of …” will fully understand. They can be self-centred, manipulative, demanding and arrogant whether at work, out socializing or at home. The funny thing is their self-esteem is fragile and they need others to tell or show them that they are the best. They don’t like criticism as they feel empty or humiliated because of it. They think they should only have to deal with people ‘like’ them.
We see this in some rich people, actors, royalty, beauty competition winners and others like them. There is a deep sense of entitlement and “I should have the best because I am the best.’ They may or may not have a reason for their narcissism from an outsider’s point of view though. You can have the ex-partner not wanting someone else to come into their old partner’s life as it shows the narcissist is no longer important to them. They can attempt to destroy the new partner in some way. Action, action, action.
You can also have the Narcissist be one of the main characters and show the character being broken down and rebuilt into a loving, normal person through the course of the story. It may be more for show; as a reaction to what may have occurred in earlier life; cue high school bullying because they were poor, full of acne, overweight etc and this has now changed for the better through their own efforts. They just took their feelings of pride a few steps too far.
Depression affects how you feel, how you act and the way you think. It is not just being sad (often grief) though you may have feelings of sadness. The person with depression may not be able to function at home or work as they used to. There can be physical changes in response to the depression too. These changes are weight gain or loss even when not dieting, too much or too little sleep, lack of energy, tiredness, difficulty thinking, making decisions, lack of concentration, loss of pleasure in what they used to love doing, and at the worst contemplation of death.
There are some medical illnesses that can mimic depression and they need ruling out. Depression lasts longer and some reasons behind it can be family genetics, brain chemistry, the environment the person is in if it is abusive and their personality. Medication and psychotherapy can help. Some people find they also improve with getting more exercise, sleeping better and not having alcohol.
You can address this in your characters but understand what you need to about the illness before trying this. You can’t have them instantly changing because that does not happen in real life and real life is stranger than fiction, not the other way round. It may be addressed in a supporting character or the main character. They may still have problems at the end of your story but you should show that they are improving and will continue to do so in the future, outside the book’s scope.
Phobias are where you can have some fun. Phobias are the extreme, irrational, aversion to something. For most things, there are people who will have a phobia to it. Some will make you laugh but to the person reacting to the object of their phobia, it is no laughing matter. They fear something that really there is no reason for the fear (sometimes). I freak when flying insects come inside the house and I think they are cockroaches. Saying that a cricket kept flying in night after night this summer and each time I reacted badly. I don’t like big spiders, snakes, mice or cockroaches and react over the top at times.
The scientists have decided that some phobias have come down in our genes from our ancestors, others we have learnt in our lifetime. The three main ones are;
- Specific phobia to a trigger
- Social phobia with a profound fear of public humiliation
- Agoraphobia where there is fear of situations you are not able to escape from if needed causing major panic attacks with all the attendant physical reactions.
There are hundreds of phobias and many places on the Net where you can read about them. The funniest one I saw was a 36 letter word for the phobia of long words; talk about adding stress to an already stressful situation.
Phobias can be used to show why a person won’t do something that might save their life but their phobia prevents them from doing so. If I had to go down a long fire ladder to escape a fire I would have to be blindfolded first as I hate heights and get nauseous and panicked because of them. I’d never go out on a balcony in a high rise building unless it was ginormous and I would not go near the edge.
Don’t make your character the laughing stock because it is something that is uncontrollable at that time. Desensitization over a period of time can help. Medication may be needed in extreme situations.
Have you had psychological issues in your life?
If you have had psychological issues in your life they can be fodder for your writing. Who understands better the physical and mental responses than the person who has felt them? Many writers have written their way out of depression; along with other therapies. If you can’t use personal experience do solid research into the psychological problem you want to use as there are real people out there dealing with them every day and they don’t need you getting it wrong.
- What is a phobia you have?
- Does it stop you doing things you want to do?
- Why? Use this in your writing.
- Use the problems you have seen in other but make sure your friends won’t say that one of your characters is exactly like them if they read your book.
- Take the Myers-Briggs personality test as there are free ones out there. Find out more about your self.
- What characters can you create from the 16 personality types that may resonate with your readers?