This week I’m happy to introduce you to Dr. Gary Lange as my guest blogger while I am traveling. Gary is a personal friend whom I’ve known for over 20 years. He lives locally, and besides seeing clients in his private practice, he also writes and teaches psychology at the nearby Cal-State University. While Gary and his husband Robert live very rightsized lives, he also spends much of his time focused on relationships and self-awareness. Thank you, Gary, for filling in for me and sharing some of your ideas with all of us.
Extroverted or introverted?
Methodical or impulsive?
Happy or glum?
Cautious or open-minded?
Past or Future-oriented?
Recently a graduate student of mine asked about the best ways to get to know herself. For many this may seem like an onerous project, so here are a few suggestions. You could always ask your friends and family but often they are not objective enough and are more likely to list things that stand out to THEM or bother them. That’s why I often suggest you ask yourself who you look up to, admire as an inspiration, or mentor you? If you can talk to these people, they may be able to give you some insight.
Often we feel less than others because we compare “our insides to others’ outsides.” This means we know all of our own inside feelings, thoughts, desires and memories, so when we compare ourselves to others’ outside actions, we come up way short. Others look and sound so much better on the outside than we feel on the inside. But even the most spiritual and balanced individuals can get frustrated or short with their spouse at home. We all have human emotions and challenges on this path called life.
Four suggestions I lean on for helping people discover who they are, include:
1) Myers-Briggs Personality Test. Take a few minutes now, click on this link and complete the free Myers-Briggs test.
Even if you think you know the results, you may want to take it again and find not only your letters but also the percentages. For example, if you are 94% extroverted that is very high. We all need to know if we need people around us and are energized by them (Extroversion) or are drained by others and need time alone to recharge our batteries (Introversion). It is best if we know this about our family and friends also. Do they need time to process issues or changes or can they respond quickly?
Another scale on this test deals with how we get and direct our energy. Some people are highly intuitive and imaginative. They are amazed at the information that comes to them even without having the facts like some others. This second group is more practical, highly observant and down-to-earth with strong habits. If your spouse is this second kind, don’t expect him/her to quickly or easily change life-long habits.
A third scale on the Myers-Briggs Personality test deals with whether you think or feel your way to making decisions and dealing with your emotions as well as others people’s emotions. Some highly emotional people often think that anyone who can see their way through an issue as being “cold.” Again, while this doesn’t excuse their behavior, it just may have a cooler, more objective personality style. As Kathy has written before, many think a high IQ is important. But EQ or Emotional Intelligence is more important in life. How people feel around us is usually more important than how intelligent we are.
Most of the couples I deal with in psychotherapy are opposites on the “J” decisive, organized scale while their partner is often “P” flexible and spontaneous. They may have been attracted to each other’s differences but this can bring strife in their relationship. I often use the example of the couple who are planning a vacation. The “J” partner plans numerous details in advance including hotels, activities and even having the car filled with gas and extra water to drink. The “P” partner gets up that morning and decides to either take their car or some other means of transportation and have an adventure. Together they soften their partner’s extremes but this can also lead to arguments or frustrations.
A final scale is Assertive vs. “T”. As we know, assertive people are self-assured, “blaze the trail” forward and don’t look back much. The other style is more sensitive to stress and if they have had a recent change or tragedy, their score may be higher since they are more self-conscious, perfectionistic and success-driven.
Once you know your specific personality type, you can look up really helpful video descriptions of it on YouTube.
We each have personality traits and none of them are wrong. We all are different and as we learn more about WHO WE ARE, our life and relationships flow more smoothly.
2) The second of my four recommendations involves analyzing ALL of your human interactions. Monitor how EVERY human interaction plays out and how it feels. When it doesn’t flow smoothly, our first reaction might be to blame the other and build a protective wall so that it can never happen again. (Sometimes people quit a job or end a relationship over one incident—remember they may have had a tragedy, bad day or were drunk and would apologize the next day.) I am encouraging you to look at YOUR part. After all, we can only change our side of the situation, and if you had said or done something slightly different, would the outcome have been better?
Recently I read about a woman who was taken as a hostage at gunpoint, but she listened and was compassionate with the gunman to the point where he surrendered himself. She knew and used her skills to bring about a much better ending. When you have an uncomfortable interaction with a salesperson, coworker or family member, look at YOUR part. Then do your best to avoid being so attached to your position that you can’t later come up with things you could have said or done differently. Make mental or literal notes about these things so you can learn more about WHO YOU ARE.
3) Another suggestion for learning more about who you are is to note, for example, the high and low points of each day. In the 12 step programs, the tenth step is to take a daily inventory. Whatever worked really well for you, try to enjoy that, be grateful, and try to do it again. Look at the low point and see what you could have done differently and/or what you might change. I encourage people to literally write these down or dictate them into notes on your phone and occasionally look back over them to see patterns for possible changes.
4) Finally, do just that—make a change. Consciously try to change one thing each day. Note it and watch how you feel.
Hopefully by now you have learned what your personality style is and more about WHO YOU ARE. Every day do your best to sand down any rough edges so you can live a more comfortable and SMART Life for all 365 days of the year.
Gary Lange, Ph.D., is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who works with people who are addicted, anxious or having problems in their relationships. Dr. Lange has also served as a professor of Psychology with Cal State University, San Bernardino for the past twenty years. He has been a long time friend of Kathy Gottberg and delighted to contribute to SMART Living 365.
Okay, your turn? Do you know believe that you know who you are? Have you taken any of these tests before? Do they offer any insights that will help you live a SMART Life? Please share in the comments below.