Jung and Jesus walk into a church for Advent...

Today I began an Advent series - Prayer and Temperament - utilizing the work Chester
Michael and Marie Norrisey have done with spirituality and personality type. As one person said after worship: Wow... Jung and Jesus for Advent! It is one way to both "stay alert" as the gospel for today urges, and, connect our 21st century lives with ancient wisdom  

This week was an overview of the Myers Briggs typology. Next week we'll look at two discrete prayer styles - Ignatian (Sensing /Judging) and Augustinian (Intuitive/Feeling) contemplation - that respectively resonate with these different ways of interacting with the world. During week number three of Advent, we'll try on Franciscan Prayer (Sensing/ Perceiving) and Thomistic Spirituality (Intuitive/Thinking) with the final week given over to conversation, questions and commentary.  

My hope is two-fold. 1) Those who know about the Myers-Briggs types mostly know it from their work places and have not used it for the inward journey. And 2) Most of us need all the help and encouragement we can get when it comes to nourishing our inner journey. For without a strong and mature spiritual life, we tend to be trapped in the fears, shame and pain of our broken world. That is, we are reactive rather that directive from the perspective of God's grace and compassion.

So here's my take-away/home-work summary for the First Sunday in Advent.

The first temperament involves the polarity between extroversion and introversionThis is all about where we draw energy for living. It has to do with our preferential attitude towards our relationship with the world.

+  Extroverts are people who rely on other people or things to receive psychic energy and enthusiasm for living. They love to be in public and thrive on human interaction.

+  Introverts are those who rely on the inner world of ideas, concept and spirit to find the energy to live rich lives. They are much more private and thrive on quiet, alone time.

The second temperament is more psychological and involves how we both gather data and information and what drives our decision-making process.  This polarity involves those who are either sensates or intuitives – very different ways of both perceiving reality and what to do about it.

+  Sensates are individuals who look at the facts – the physical, real world as it is – and make decisions about what is the best choice at this moment in time.  Their emphasis has to do with what is happening right now – and dealing with it.

+  Intuitives, however, process reality in terms of possibilities – what COULD be rather than just what IS – so they go inward and ponder the creative potential of a situation.

The third temperament or personality type is defined by the thinking or feeling function. It is directly related to how we use the information we discern and what type of decisions we are likely to make as a consequence.

+  Some of us process information in a thinking way: we are rational, objective linear and head-oriented. We just want the facts, ma’am because we’re compelled by truth and fairness.  This category has been called the thinking function.

+  Others among us process information from a feeling function: we are heart people who explore the context and compassion of a situation – the relationships that are involved – before making a decision. This grouping involves the feeling function.

And fourth there is the way different people sense individuals should act in public: this is the distinction between judging and perceiving temperaments.  Those shaped by the judging function are interested in public order and personal morality; while people guided by the perceiving function always want more information before making a call.  They tend towards watching and waiting. So you have some seeking a structured and decisive way of life while others want to be flexible and open-ended.

A simple recapitulation:

+  Some of us were created to be public people and others favor a more private approach:  extroverts and introverts.

+  Some of us look to the present moment and want to act on what is visible right now; while others take reality inwards and want to consider the creative possibilities of what could be: the sensates and intuitive.

+  Some of us are primarily objective while others are essentially subjective: the thinkers and feelers among us.

+  And then there are those who favor acting on what SHOULD be right now while some need more information and flexibility before acting: judgers and perceivers

For more information – and on-line resources – please consider the following:

+  A free, brief Myers-Briggs quiz to give you the basics of your temperament:

+  The official Myers-Briggs site with information and an in-depth test for $45:

You might also enjoy Chester Michael and Marie Norrisey’s book, Prayer and Temperament, as well Marilyn Bates’ book, Please Understand Me.


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