Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Pens and Personality : A Polaroid from the Past

Did you know that a simple pen can give great insight into personalities? My mother discovered this one day.

Our mom home-schooled us and one day she had us all at the kitchen table for a writing assignment. She gave us each a brand new pen while explaining the assignment. Suddenly, our personalities came to life before her eyes through the different actions we chose to take with our pens.

I began to ask for more specifics about the assignment. I'm the first-born, a conscientious Melancholy and duty-fulfiller ISFJ. I wanted to know exactly what was expected of me and I wanted to do it right. The pen was just a pen to me at that moment.

Our resident performer, the baby of the family and a Sanguine, stood up on his chair --not an unusual occurrence in those days-- and began waving his pen about like a baton, grandly and loudly telling us what he was going to do. He's an ENFJ, but back then it was just obvious that he was an extroverted Sanguine and acted more like an ESFP.

My mother then looked over at the quiet INTJ, the middle-child and a Phlegmatic. He had taken his pen apart and the pieces were neatly laid out in front of him. From many little incidents, this one included, it was obvious to us that he was the "engineering type."

Photo Credit: Edana A.
Please note: I don't know how The Humoral Personality System relates to Myers-Briggs. From my own experience, I wouldn't say all INTJs are phlegmatics nor are middle-children all Phlegmatics either. The same can be said with all the other personality types expressed, especially in connection to birth order. Not all ISFJs are necessarily Melancholy, but I suspect that Melancholy is either the prime or secondary type in their personality since Introverted Sensing is an ISFJ's primary function.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A real life example of Sensing vs Intuition

I'm not at all an expert on Myers-Briggs, but I've been reading, studying and exploring this personality system and there are times when I can see it playing out in my life. We didn't learn about Myers-Briggs until these last few years but looking back I have some fond family memories of our distinct personality types being clearly exhibited. I'm an ISFJ (Introverted Sensing Feeling Judging) and one of my brothers is an INTJ (Introverted Intuition Thinking Judging). Therefore, I'm a sensor (S) and he is intuitive (N).

The Myers Briggs website defines the differences between Sensing and Intuition by asking these questions: "Do you pay more attention to information that comes in through your five senses (Sensing), or do you pay more attention to the patterns and possibilities that you see in the information you receive (Intuition)?"

Sensors identify with these statements: "Paying attention to physical reality, what I see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. I’m concerned with what is actual, present, current, and real. I notice facts and I remember details that are important to me."

Those who rely on intuition identify with these statements: "Paying the most attention to impressions or the meaning and patterns of the information I get....I remember events more as an impression of what it was like than as actual facts or details of what happened."

Here is one anecdote that demonstrates the difference between a Sensor and an Intuitive:

When we were young, my mom read Bible stories to us from a children's bible. After the story she had us each recount what we could remember. I usually did quite well, (granted I had the advantage of being two years older than my INTJ brother and five years older than the ENFJ one, however they had their own abilities).

I remembered almost all the events and details in the story, even down to specific words. One time, after listening to a shorter story, I began to retell it word for word. Of course I didn't make it all the way to the end like this, but I got most of it word for word with a little help, then my mom read it again and had me try again since I was so close and I got it pretty much spot on. We were all shocked and amazed, myself included.

My INTJ brother had trouble remembering the details. His detail retention was probably about 50% of mine. My mom started to switch up the exercise and asked us to summarize the stories. He was able to summarize a story into a few succinct sentences. I couldn't summarize for the life of me. I was unable to grasp the central thread of the story, the bare bones plot. My best attempt was arbitrarily leaving out details and side-stories which I hated to do. But he found the point of the stories and could extract the major plot-line from amongst the details.

Here's a picture I created to demonstrate. The Sensor sees lots of little details that comprise the big picture. The Intuitive person sees the big picture of which the little pieces are a part of. These are all pictures I took in Iceland at Úlfarsfell.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

My Museum of Memories

Memory is a funny thing. Certain things we retain, and others we forget. Mark Gungor compares men's brains to boxes and women's to ball of wire. See the video on Youtube.  BBC's Sherlock has a "Mind Palace" which is like some extra deep place he'll go to retrieve information stored there to solve cases.

I've decided that my mind is like a museum. It's not a particularly well-ordered and logically laid out one either. Additionally, it's got a lot of cluttered rooms and a few with almost nothing in them. My museum contains little movie clips I play over and over, snapshots of the past, and other artifacts of memory. Some memories I frequent more often, they're on display. Others are stuck in the back rooms, not particularly special, just tossed into a corner somewhere. Others are like precious, fragile treasures I hide away to protect and keep them alive, I can't share those moments right away and hardly dare look at them myself lest I damage them with rough handling.

Yet time tells on my memories and like the Mona Lisa, they fade. Rusty old swords lie in some corners. It doesn't matter how hard I try to preserve them, whether by sharing, secreting them away, or playing them over and over. The closer I look at my museum pieces, the more I notice the decay, the blurred detail on a picture, or the missing page in a manuscript. I cringe at the faded paint and the empty casing were a gem used to be lodged but has now tumbled out of its setting. I might find it eventually in some unexpected corner...

Some of my memories I don't like, they're the ugly paintings. In these cases, time is often my friend. With time the garish colors fade, the wine mellows, and the pain no longer stings the same. And they say hindsight is 20/20 vision. I can see the good that came from pain and I can savor triumphs without the suspense and agony of the moment. Success memories are like award plaques, medals, and trophies in my collection.

My memory paintings attempt to capture a moment
in time, but what is a picture to the moment itself? If I write them down, the actual moment slips away like sand through an hour glass. It's like pressing a leaf: some of the colors are preserved but the leaf is dry and brittle, and not as bright and glossy as it once was. Artifacts and crumbled journals help us see the past, but they can't take you there. Still, I catalogue my treasures and I write my journals, but it's not the same.

I cannot share my memory museum, I walk these halls alone. When I share a memory it's like giving someone a postcard from the gift-shop. It's a photocopied memory that I let others see. Just as my memories are removed from the actual moment, so too my attempts at sharing them with others are removed another step further from that moment.

It's part of  my personality, I think, to capture and preserve, document, and convey. I'm always writing or taking photos. As a Sensor (Myers-Briggs), I learn from my past experiences, through physical sensations. And I want to share what I experience. How do I capture golden drops of sunlight that flicker through my lashes on a balmy summer morning? I add another artifact (a sensation) to my collection like one adds a painting to a gallery wall. A painting expresses something of its subject, but it's not like being there, in the scene in my mind, experiencing it the way I felt it. So I describe, like a painter paints, I add my own interpretation, how I saw it, and I try to express just what that moment felt like to me.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Inscrutable: Women and Sherlock Holmes

What did Sherlock Holmes think of women? There are a number of what appear to be incongruous reports in the canon, yet they're not entirely irreconcilable.  On some occasions he expressed approval of women, while Watson reported that he had an "aversion to women."  Here's a look at what I was able to untangle:

A Victorian Woman
Holmes really did respect women's intuition. On one occasion he remarked, "I value a woman's instinct in such matters" (The Adventure of the Lion's Mane, 1088)  On another, he praised Mary Morstan for retaining a piece of paper because she had an inkling that it might be important later, "You are certainly a model client. You have the correct intuition"  (The Sign of Four). The most astounding, and strongest statement of his belief in a woman's intuition/instinct is found in these words he said to Mrs. Neville St. Clair, "I have seen too much not to know that the impression of a woman may be more valuable than the conclusion of an analytical reasoner" (The Man with the Twisted Lip).

While Holmes values a woman's instinct and intuition, he has no intention of  letting romance and marriage enter his life because he doesn't see emotion and reason as being compatible: "But love is an emotional thing, and whatever is emotional is opposed to that true cold reason which I place above all things. I should never marry myself, lest I bias my judgment"  (The Sign of Four).

Holmes said of Mary, "I think she is one of the most charming young ladies I ever met and might have been most useful in such work as we have been doing. She had a decided genius that way, witness the way in which she preserved that Agra plan from all the other papers of her father"  (The Sign of Four). The key word is "might have." She and Watson were in love, and therefore their reasoning was impaired according to Holmes, and she could no longer be of much use.

Yet, while this phrase communicates his disapproval of their marriage, it also expresses an appreciation for her faculties and that he thinks she possessed potential for being of assistance in crime solving. It is hard to reconcile this with Watson's report that Holmes had an "aversion to women" (The Greek Interpreter). In this situation it seems he is not averse to Mary, just to averse to her marriage to Watson since it will cloud their reasoning. So perhaps, his "aversion to women" was in a general sense: womankind as a whole, or specifically in regards to romance: he decided not to marry and so pulled back from women generally. It seems that while he was able to appreciate a woman's merits he never pursued a friendship with one beyond what was needed to solve a case.

Additionally, "Holmes had, when he liked, a peculiarly ingratiating way with women, and...he very readily established terms of confidence with them" (The Adventure of the Golden Pince-nez).  Holmes could easily befriend women when he found it expedient, yet I don't recall any mention of his having a close or prolonged friendship with a woman in the canon and he certainly had no intention of falling in love.

From Harper's Bazaar, May 14, 1898
Perhaps part of his "aversion to women" stems from the fact that he finds the reasoning behind their actions hard to predict, "And you must have observed, Watson, how she manouvered to have the light at her back. She did not wish us to read her expression...And yet the motives of women are inscrutable. You remember the woman at Margate whom I suspected for the same reason. No powder on her nose--that proved to be the correct solution. How can you build on such quicksand? Their most trivial action may mean volumes, or their most extraordinary conduct may depend upon a hairpin or a curling tongs" (The Adventure of the Second Stain). This sentiment renders Holmes quite human and quite a man! He expresses the age old man vs. woman struggle for comprehension of the other, although based on his decision not to marry, his interest in this subject is entirely a professional one. --And, once again, he's an "automaton" as Watson called him in The Sign of Four.

Many people like to toy with the idea of a romance between Holmes and Irene Adler. Holmes was not in love with Irene Adler. "It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler" (A Scandal in Bohemia).

It's interesting to note that many of the women Holmes encountered throughout his adventures were brave, spirited, independent, emotional, and loyal. Most of them weren't silly, although sometimes over-run by passions.

Therefore, from the canon, it seems that while he is decidedly against romantic attachments, he is generally kind to women and values woman's instincts. 


The Sherlock Holmes stories were written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. There are many different editions and publications of these stories, and they are sometimes presented in part or as an entirety.

The first image is from Karen's Whimsy. Her website features collections of nicely sorted public domain images for free use.

The second is from Wikipedia. Due to its date, the image is no longer under copyright.