Knowing others

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. - Carl Jung

I thought I'd start with a joke, or not a joke, I'll let you decide that. Understanding others has similarities to understanding yourself, one of the main differences is that you have a lot less information to work with. People will rarely make available in-depth information about themselves, instead whatever contact and experiences you have with them is all the information you have available. If you have friends that you can have deep conversations with, then you also try to deepen mutual understanding through explicitly talking about it.

picture of three ropes together
We are rarely alone in this world, and most people wouldn't survive if they were truly alone in this world.

If you read the Knowing yourself section, then you will know something about MBTI and the work of John Beebe on cognitive function attitudes. The way people process information is not the ultimate definition of who they are as a human being, however it can tell you something about differences between people. On a high level the difference in preference for Intuition vs Sensation can lead to a lot of misunderstanding, while the difference in preference for Feeling vs Thinking is more likely to cause conflict or hurt.

If you didn't already I know I have a preference for Intuition over Sensation, and that puts me in the minority of about one quarter of the world population. Most people I encounter find me far too abstract and hard to understand. Similarly I could say that many people only look at what is directly in front of their eyes. The truth isn't as black and white as people sometimes would make it, both ways have their uses. What helped me a great deal was my experiences with my Anima, and associated development of Sensation (Se to be precise, as a counterpart of Ni). I found the capacity to be present with people, and actually talk to them, rather than via some abstraction in my own head. Next to Fi (Introverted Feeling) that was already mentioned in Knowing Yourself, I also developed Ti (Introverted Thinking, which uses informal logic to structure information). The reason for this is quite simple, the information in my head, which is stored in a sort of data network, is quite incomprehensible for most people. I use Ti to break it down in steps for those who have a preference for Sensation, this is part of my personal communication challenges, you will most likely have different challenges needing different solutions. It might be interesting to know that Ti for me is associated with the so-called Bad Parent archetype, also known as Senex, also known as cranky old man. This personal complex lies in the shadow, and while it is one of the most accessible, the negative name of the archetype already indicates it isn't the nicest thing. Several years ago I discovered I would look for flaws in other people's arguments, and if I found one I would break down the entire logical reasoning. When I realized I was being a Bad Parent, I decided instead to more gently point out possible weaknesses in their arguments. Nowadays it's a common tool for me to use, to get out of a situation of misunderstanding.

Head vs Heart
Which one weighs more heavily for you?

Now on to the Feeling vs Thinking gap. Let me start by saying by every Human has feelings, I am here talking about a preference for communicating primarily through feelings or not. Coming from the Thinker camp, I have first hand experience of how people who don't prefer communicating through Feeling can be unaware of how to communicate effectively with people who prefer Feeling. Let's start at the root with emotions. I cannot speak for everyone, but most people with a preference for Thinking do not appear to excel in emotional awareness. This lack of awareness creates difficulty, because most people with a preference for Feeling have emotions more at the forefront of their awareness. It doesn't mean they are incapable of Thinking or logical reasoning in general, but they have chosen not to avoid emotions. As such, people with a Feeling preference will be much more aware when they are not being respected, or otherwise being mistreated. And thus they will be more likely to withdraw compared to a person with Thinking preference. Emotional awareness, and a slightly more sensitive approach to people, can help anywhere, because all people ultimately have a Feeling side to them, some of them just keep it a little bit hidden.

Just as Thinking exists in an introverted and an extroverted attitude, so does Feeling also have two attitudes. These attitudes are important to understand, because they result in very different people. Extroverted Feeling, by looking at the external world, usually tries to create an emotional connection with a large group of people. It respects externally defined values, looks for harmony within the group, and people who use this is a lot usually suck up the emotions of the people around them. Introverted Feeling, is focused on the internal world, and is primarily concerned with their own emotions, their own identity, and usually prefer depth of connection over having a very large amount of connections. This difference can create a lot of misunderstanding, where one side blames the other for being selfish, and the other side blames the other for being shallow. All I can recommend is patience, and openly communicating how these interactions make you feel, giving both sides a decent change of actually connecting.

Now that we visited the two attitudes of Thinking and Feeling, you might be wondering if the same applies to Sensation and Intuition. Well ofcourse, just have a look here and compare the ISTJ and the ESTP, they are entirely different beasts, the ISTJ uses Sensation with the introverted attitude and will often remember how they personally experienced things in great detail. The ESTP who uses Sensation with the extroverted attitude is more looking to go into the world, and experience the many things that are out there in the external world. Similarly the INTJ and ENTP will draw their intuitive insights from within themselves or from the outside world, this is a consequence of using Intuition with the introverted or the extroverted attitude. The potential clash between two people who use the same cognitive process as their dominant function (read: hero complex) is that it's really hard to truly embrace the opposite orientation. For myself Introverted Intuition made being present with someone who heavily uses Extroverted Intuition a challenge because the energy flows have the opposite direction.

Why would anyone come up with so many ideas, when there is a single idea that is clearly the best?

These kind of questions I had to deal with, to face my own subjectivity and recognize that the opposite orientation can be immensely valuable, enjoyable and even healing. The truth is often that extreme approaches to life rarely work optimally in all cases, and the challenge is to combine the best of all the people involved. To appreciate the gifts they bring, and be present with them without trying to change or judge them, and avoid robbing them of the energy that drives them.

A true friend knows your weakness but reminds your of your strengths.
A true friend knows your weakness but reminds you of your strengths.

I used to be a little misguided believing that a desire for connection between people and love, came from the ego, thus the truth, which could not involve propping the other persons ego, was always harsh and unkind. This proved to a bit of a misunderstanding, because having meaningful connections with people is supposed to be very easy. Friendships and such can be somewhat easy once you realize, that just like yourself, the other person is also looking for connection and for love. The ego after all does not relax when under attack, but experiencing meaningful connection with another person is a far more relaxing experience. Love in the broadest sense of the word is one of the many ways to grow in life, and if you have healthy people in your life, that you manage to convince somehow that being totally open and connected with you is a good experience, they are a gateway to greater understanding. I'm convinced that keeping the gift of love on the inside throws up unnecessary boundaries between people, and when the time is right, the right connection will feel right. Initially you might need to take a risk on someone, because you can never truly understand what you have not yet experienced.