I’ve always been interested in personality studies. In college I was disappointed that my sociology class was not about interpersonal dynamics or different elements in small group interactions. After the class ended, I promptly forgot almost everything from it, except how the professor, a capable and intelligent man with a heavy Hispanic accent, talked often about scientific urinals. (I guess no one told him about that.)
When Mike and I were engaged, friends shared a book called The Color Code with us. This book is based on the theory that our personalities are driven primarily by motives, and that there are four primary motivations or desires: power (red), fun (yellow), intimacy (blue), and peace (white). Most if not all people are a combination of two or more colors. Here I found my dream sociology class: not only a diagnostic for discovering what percentage of what colors I am, but what it looks like for people with different color combinations to function and how people of different primary colors interact best. Mike and I had fun going over the test together and reading about how our personalities interact. It was like someone read us our mail. No new information, but a helpful format for viewing the why behind our actions, a filter that can be used to interpret our interactions in a clearer light. To this day we get an occasional kick out of guessing people’s colors-but of course, caution is important here.
I recently rediscovered the Myers-Briggs personality test (so!much!fun!) and frantically shared my findings with a like-minded friend. Of course, the flip side of categorizing anything, no matter how much you try not to pigeon-hole the objects of study, is that sometimes you will end up doing just that. Another friend of mine’s experience serves to remind me that these things, The Color Code and the Myers-Briggs test, are tools to be used, not be used by. Or, in Latin : uti, non abuti. Use, not abuse. This friend’s results to a similar test were so rare that at least one person reacted to them with something like “that can’t be right. Those results are typically accurate for a man, not for women.” Well, the thing about people is that we are not objects of study, but human beings-complex, unusual, defying ‘normal’ while at the same time trying to make sense of ourselves by creating truly fascinating frameworks of study that can easily be wielded too heavily or clumsily.
My point? If you are interested in personality studies at all, remember that while they can shed significant light on behavior and interaction, people are more than their personalities or motivations.
And if you’re a writer, have fun creating characters with recognizable traits and personalities. It can be great fun to watch them interact with one another and navigate choices. Or, the perfect headache if you try to squeeze out every detail of their personality into some safe little grid. Either way, they’ll probably surprise you at some point!