What are the potential consequences of self-isolation on the Personality?
Updated: Apr 5, 2021
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Mount Chaltén aka Mount Fitz Roy - A few years ago, I made a life changing decision. I gave up my comfortable life in London and moved to Buenos Aires. I made this decision for several reasons but mostly because I was disenchanted with the culture of my workplace. I was in one of only three permanent jobs that I have had in my career. I was also bored with my personal life. It felt like a tension which subsided one typically dull, grey Monday afternoon in London. I was at a meeting with some work colleagues in the boardroom. As usual, the agenda was long and tedious, however, I tried to remain actively engaged in the dialogue in an attempt to exert my point of view. All of a sudden a question popped into my mind "What the hell are you doing here?" I began to lose track of the conversations around the table as I pondered this sudden question in my mind. What happened next not only surprised me but drastically changed the course of direction my life was taking.
Personality > The Big Four
The Big Four are essentially functions of consciousness. Each function pairs up with another function to create a pair of opposites. Thinking always pairs up with Feeling. Sensation always pairs up with Intuition. The Big Four therefore consist of two pairs of opposites:
Pairs of Opposites 1. Sensation and Intuition
Pairs of Opposites 2. Thinking and Feeling
The dynamic relationship between the functions and pairs of opposites manifests itself in the personality we show to others. The relationship is also influenced by our innate personality or character blueprint, upbringing and social environment. An individual will therefore tend to have a predisposed orientation to a function which will shape their life journey determining their interests, what skills come easily and what will be difficult.
The Personality cannot express all four functions at the same time therefore each function jostles for the No.1 spot in the individual’s personality. Once a function wins the No.1 spot (Superior), the Personality will arrange the remaining functions into a 2nd (Auxiliary), 3rd (Tertiary) or 4th (Inferior) position. However, the arrangement of the four functions by the Personality isn’t straightforward. The function that wins the Superior position will relegate its opposite to the Inferior position. The remaining functions jostle for the Auxiliary and Tertiary position. This is a universal rule applied by the Personality.
For example, let’s say Sensation wins the Superior position. It’s opposite, Intuition, will fall into the Inferior position. Therefore, Thinking or Feeling will take the Auxiliary or Tertiary positions. If Thinking wins the Superior position, Feeling falls into the Inferior position. Sensation or Intuition will take the Auxiliary or Tertiary position. The table below shows the eight personality types that develop as a result of this universal rule imposed by the Personality on the Big Four functions.
The arrangement of the functions as a four-fold compass is a useful way to visualise the dynamic interplay between the functions. The North represents the superior function, West represents the auxiliary function, East represents the tertiary function and South the inferior function. The Eight Personality types will express themselves in the order of rank shown above. So, how do the functions express themselves?
People who prefer Sensation like to take in information that is real and tangible - what they perceive using the five senses. They pay close attention to what is going on around them and are especially attuned to practical realities.
People who prefer Intuition like to take in information by seeing the big picture, focusing on the relationships and connections between facts. They look for patterns and are especially attuned to see new possibilities.
People who prefer Thinking like to decide things by looking at the logical consequences of their choice or action. They want to mentally remove themselves from the situation so they can examine the pros and cons objectively. They enjoy analysing what’s wrong with something so they can solve the problem. Their goal is to find a standard or principle that will apply in all similar situations.
People who prefer Feeling like to decide things by considering what’s important to them and to others involved. They mentally insert themselves into the situation to identify with everyone so they can make decisions that honour people. They enjoy appreciation and supporting others, and look for qualities to praise. Their goal is to create harmony and treat each person as a unique individual.
John Beebe (Energies and Patterns in Psychological Types 2017) came up with a set of key words which might help you get to the essence of the eight personality types.
In summary, Sensation tells you that there is something. Thinking tells you what it is. Feeling tells you whether it is agreeable or not, to be accepted or rejected. Intuition gives you a hunch.
The Big Four > Homeostasis
We often talk about the balance of nature and how everything has to stay in harmony. But your body is also part of nature, and it has its own balance. This kind of balance is called homeostasis. Homeostasis is a process by which physical and chemical conditions within the body are controlled to keep internal conditions stable and unchanging. For example, your body must maintain a temperature of 36.1°C, your blood's oxygen saturation needs to stay between 95% and 100%, and your blood has to sustain a pH between 7.35 and 7.45. If these things change even slightly, they can cause major problems inside the body. Even an increase in temperature of 1°C is considered elevated, and it only takes a temperature of 100°C to be considered a fever. Your body also needs to stay safe and protect itself to maintain homeostasis. The body maintains homeostasis by responding to stimuli. These complex responses rapidly return the body to its usual state. If they didn't, we would be constantly getting fevers or otherwise feeling sick. Dynamic homeostasis is the ability of a living thing's body systems to maintain biological and chemical equilibrium on its own.
The Big Four functions represent our consciousness. The dynamic interplay between the four functions characterises your personality. Consciousness also seeks equilibrium. It looks for a balance between the Big Four functions so that you can optimise your talents. This is known as psychic homeostasis. If your functions are in balance, you are highly likely to be effective in your job.
Homeostasis > COVID-19
Living organisms need to maintain homeostasis constantly in order to properly grow, work, and survive. Similarly, the Personality also looks to develop. In general, homeostasis is essential for normal cell function, and overall balance. If homeostasis is disrupted, it must be controlled or a disease or disorder may result. Your body systems work together to maintain balance. If that balance is shifted or disrupted and homeostasis is not maintained, the results may not allow normal functioning of the organism. The SARS-CoV-2 virus is just a microscopic bundle of proteins, fat and genetic material called RNA. But it is life threatening to the human. Once it is inside the body, it targets the cells and injects its RNA. It replicates and produces may copies of itself through a process called viral shedding. This disrupts the normal functioning of the body. The homeostasis of your personality can also be disrupted by external stimuli, for example, your experiences as a child or adult and the social, political and cultural environment in which you were brought up. COVID-19 disrupts an individual’s physiological homeostasis but paradoxically COVID-19 may help an individual return to their original psychic homeostasis.
COVID-19 > Recollection of the Personality
Self-isolation and lock-down means more time to yourself. Are you drawn inwards into yourself or outwards to the external world? Perhaps both or none at all? Are you in deep thought, exercising more, feel anxious, envision a new future for yourself as a result of COVID19? Is there anything about you that will change when you return to the workplace? What does this change mean for your workplace?
Our world has quietened down. The noise of everyday life has gone. There are less cars on the road, less people walking around, daily activities are curtailed. Modern humans are usually bombarded with external stimuli. This affects the homeostasis of the Big Four, exaggerating some functions or minimising others. So, what happens when the external stimuli stops? The Personality might return to its original homeostasis which can bring a sudden change to the individual’s personality when they return to the workplace. The Sensation Personality might move towards Intuition and start to find themselves in deep thought perhaps envisioning a new future for themselves or their working environment. The Intuitive Personality might orient itself towards Sensation focussing on a future strategy for their company. The Thinking Personality might move towards Feeling focussing on what COVID-19 means for employees in the company, asking themselves whether their employees being supported during this difficult time. The Feeling Personality takes a turn towards Thinking. They might start thinking about some new policies that need to be introduced to resolve a long standing problem with the company’s culture. This process is a recollection of the personality. The individual starts to remember aspects of their personality which are long repressed or abandoned because the personality decided at some point that the function has no use. But the quiet and solitude of self-isolation and lock-down drowns out the outer noise and draws the individual’s attention to their true homeostasis. A state which isn't infected by external stimuli.
Recollection and Re-collection of the Personality
Psychic homeostasis is a result of the recollection and re-collection of the personality. The reduction of external stimuli during self-isolation and lock-down sees the emergence of a different personality perhaps the one that always was. If the individual is aware of the way the Big Four functions operate in their mind then a more thoughtful and contemplative re-collection of the personality occurs. This can have a long standing impact on the Personality. The functions which haven’t yet peaked start to climb the Personality Curve and those that have reached the peak start to decline. The good news is usually one or two functions can reach the peak at any one time. The remaining two functions will operate at a much lower intensity. The diagram below shows an example of an individual’s function at various levels of the Personality Curve. Thinking and Sensation peaked at adolescence and adulthood respectively and are now in decline and no longer work as well as they used to. But having reached the age of maturity, this individual’s Feeling is developing, however, Intuition remains undeveloped. As we experience a massive reduction of external stimuli, we may become aware of our own functional arrangements, some may have peaked, some remain undeveloped. Self-isolation and lock-down might consciously or unconsciously prompt the individual to begin to express their undeveloped functions.
And this is what happened to me. As a No.2 Personality Type, my Thinking Personality had gone past the curve. It had peaked and it was no longer working. I was overidentified with my Thinking function. Many years of working as a consultant, ruthlessly ambitious and determined to succeed. I abandoned my superior function Sensation and I repressed Intuition and Feeling. The boredom I felt at the time was a manifestation of the imbalance of the four functions. I was not in psychic homeostasis. My disenchantment with my employer indicated that my Feeling Personality did not value the culture of my workplace. I fundamentally disagreed with it but I stayed on. If I had listened to my Feeling I would have resigned and moved on. I repressed Feeling and that led me to become very disenchanted. This experience went on for quite some time. It was a tension that was almost intolerable. The tension broke at that meeting. I listened to that inner voice that asked me what the hell am I doing there! Then, my Sensation Personality restored itself to the superior position, restarted its movement up the Personality Curve and peaked some years later. I resigned and a few months later, I decided to seek adventure and travel. I moved to Argentina where I lived for a while, enjoying life, drank copious amounts of Malbec, re-learned Spanish, met lots of new friends, and trekked all over Patagonia.
The Return to, or Exit from the Workplace
I think employers should be ready to see a change in their employees when the lock-down restrictions are lifted. We have been in lock-down for many weeks. People have experienced a massive loss of external stimuli which may affect their personality on their return to work. What can employers expect to see from their employees after lock-down?
Self-motivated individuals who have a renewed sense of purpose and keen to deliver results
A pulpable sense of growth in enthusiasm for their job
Individuals may want to re-orient their skills and knowledge to a new vocation
Some individuals will want to introduce new ideas
Others may seek new opportunities in the workplace
Individuals will get along better with others, creating more effective teams
Leaders and managers become more effective, emotionally invested in the health and wellbeing of their employees
But some might not come back. Some individuals will choose to exit the organisation, realising they want to achieve something else or something better for themselves, their workplace is not right for them and life is simply too short to hang around being unhappy
In summary, some individuals will look to move up the Personality Curve. They will get a sense of which functions have peaked and which functions need development. They might use their workplace to achieve psychic homeostasis. Employers can benefit from this by reaching out to their employees through line management and cultivating a workforce mobilisation culture which enables employees to develop their knowledge, skills and experience.
You can find out more about the four functions of your personality by completing an MBTI personality questionnaire. If you would like an MBTI assessment feel free to contact me for more information.