Vancouver, Washington

After my latest apheresis donation at the Red Cross in Portland (gallon number seven), Erin and I crossed the river for a party at Maria’s place in Vancouver. There we met up with Maria, Dennis, Matt, Ginger, Joe, and Carol for conversation, food, and games.

Several of us took an online Jung-Myers-Briggs psychology test while others chatted, snacked, or prepared dinner. My profile is still INTJ, same as when I took a more extensive version of the test about 10 years ago. INTJ stands for Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Judging. The more notable INTJ textual description available post-test is titled “The Portrait of the Mastermind,” an ego-boosting title if ever there was one. Here’s a little bit of the verbiage, courtesy of

Of the four aspects of strategic analysis and definition it is the contingency planning or entailment organizing role that reaches the highest development in INTJs. Entailing or contingency planning is not an informative activity, rather it is a directive one in which the planner tells others what to do and in what order to do it. As the organizing capabilities the INTJs increase so does their inclination to take charge of whatever is going on.

It is in their abilities that INTJs differ from the other NTs, while in most of their attitudes they are just like the others. However there is one attitude that sets them apart from other NTs: they tend to be much more self-confident than the rest, having, for obscure reasons, developed a very strong will. They are rather rare, comprising no more than, say, one percent of the population. Being very judicious, decisions come naturally to them; indeed, they can hardly rest until they have things settled, decided, and set. They are the people who are able to formulate coherent and comprehensive contingency plans, hence contingency organizers or “entailers.”

INTJs will adopt ideas only if they are useful, which is to say if they work efficiently toward accomplishing the INTJ’s well-defined goals. Natural leaders, INTJs are not at all eager to take command of projects or groups, preferring to stay in the background until others demonstrate their inability to lead. Once in charge, however, INTJs are the supreme pragmatists, seeing reality as a crucible for refining their strategies for goal-directed action. In a sense, INTJs approach reality as they would a giant chess board, always seeking strategies that have a high payoff, and always devising contingency plans in case of error or adversity. To the INTJ, organizational structure and operational procedures are never arbitrary, never set in concrete, but are quite malleable and can be changed, improved, streamlined. In their drive for efficient action, INTJs are the most open-minded of all the types. No idea is too far-fetched to be entertained-if it is useful. INTJs are natural brainstormers, always open to new concepts and, in fact, aggressively seeking them. They are also alert to the consequences of applying new ideas or positions. Theories which cannot be made to work are quickly discarded by the INTJs. On the other hand, INTJs can be quite ruthless in implementing effective ideas, seldom counting personal cost in terms of time and energy.

I’d call this a reasonable descriptor of my personality and attitudes. I don’t see anything in there with which I particularly disagree, though I hardly would say this encapsulates who I am. Indeed, one of the biggest dangers of anything which purports to tell you “who you are” is that it’ll be used by an individual as a self-limiting identifier or by a group as a means to impede who you can be. Since people are different and even those who share traits have diverse life experiences which inherently change who they are, no set of answers to test questions can do much more than reveal tendencies and inclinations.

The other crucial caveat is that these tests offer nothing in the way of solving deeper psychological problems. If you have issues with any kind of neurosis, psychosis, or character disorder, Myers-Briggs is useless toward affecting a cure. There is a temptation to say, “You’re INTJ and I’m ENFP. I’m OK, you’re OK” because the various personality profiles are morally neutral descriptors. That’s about as wrong as one can get in using these things. People with severe psychological problems or mental illness are not OK, and regardless of what personality type they have. Hannibal Lecter of Silence of the Lambs fame would be an INTJ and so would the late Christian author C.S. Lewis; anyone wanting to argue a moral equivalence between those two on the basis of a personality test is on a fool’s errand.

None of which is to say that you shouldn’t take the online test and have a good time with the results. Growing self-awareness is a great and sometimes wondrous thing as long as it’s not seen as limiting and not something that’s taken for more than what it is. All that in mind, I say feel free to take the test and knock yourself out.

After dinner, we played The Game of Real Life, sort of a modernized version of the old board game of Life. Real Life is darkly comedic, with a wide variety of calamities befalling every player in the course of the game. You record a diary of events as you go—I thought for sure somebody would start their diary like Steve Martin’s The Jerk (“I was born a poor black child….”)—and track both money and health points (an unfortunate term for a lot of us ex-AD&D players who kept calling them “hit points”). For my part, I was an orphan who started with lots of money which I inexplicably lost when I was disowned by my boss. I’m sure that makes sense in somebody’s universe. Anyway, I was also hung by neighborhood kids as a child, leading to my first near death experience. I married a rich woman, we had a kid with head lice. I bought Air Jordans and joined a Christian rock band. Then Maria rolled a six, abruptly ending the game in an huge nuclear holocaust. Honestly, we weren’t even half way through the board, and -boom!- it’s over. That was weird. Regardless, I enjoyed hearing others’ diaries read at the end of the game, and it was fun to play despite (or maybe because of) the extraordinarily pessimistic outlook of the game.

Afterward, Joe, Carol, Matt and Ginger departed for their respective homes, and Erin and I hunkered down for the night in Maria’s charming second bedroom for some much needed sleep. A good day, and great way to start week 11!