Thursday, June 13, 2013
I have recently been fascinated with the “childhood patterns” found in each type, and how these lead directly to the characteristics of each type. Type seems to emerge very early in life. There is debate about whether we are born our type or whether we become our type in the first few days of life in reaction to our environment. In any case, personality type is established when we are very young. For example, infants who are 8’s are often observably different from infants who are 5’s.
(Most of this is based on Don Riso's work, first appearing in Personality Types, published in 1987.)
There are two functions we perceive as infants: nurturing and protecting. Traditionally we identify these with mother and father respectively, but since this is not always the case I will be talking more inclusively and generally about functions and figures. (Sometimes, however, it is helpful to invoke “mother” or “father” as a helpful shorthand to make a point.)
It is very important to realize that the reactions we have to these figures are not necessarily the figures’ fault. The infant is predisposed to experience each figure a certain way. It may have nothing to do with anything the figure actually did or didn’t do. (To say an infant “feels” rejected does not mean in any way that the parent actually rejected them.) Or the figure may unwittingly play into the infant’s predisposition. In any case, as infants we react to our early experience in a particular way.
These reactions take three forms: we can feel (1) attached to, (2) frustrated with, or (3) rejected by, either or both of the figures, depending on our type.
(1) We may feel attached to one or both of these two figures. This leads us to identify with that figure. We see to become, emulate, please, and reflect the energy of that figure.
(2) Or we may feel frustrated by one or both of these figures. Not getting what we need, we set out to provide this function for ourselves. In other words, we try to become our own nurturer and/or protector.
(3) Or we may feel rejected by one or both of these figures. Rejection means we don’t have any experience or knowledge of this function at all. Our response then is to overcompensate and adopt the role of the other figure, mainly in how we deal with others. We will see how this relates to each type, even forming the basic dynamic of the type.
Here’s how it works out in terms of each type.
The “childhood pattern” of the eight is an experience of being rejected by the nurturing figure. This prompts the eight to overcompensate by taking on the protective role relative to others. In short, they try to become like “fathers” to others. At their best, eights are nurturing protectors; at their worst they are heartless, dominating tyrants.
The “childhood pattern” for nines is attachment to both the protecting and the nurturing figures. Identifying with both figures, they have little psychic room for themselves. They want to become their parents. They identify with others so much that they need to feel others are okay before they will feel okay about themselves.
Ones’ “childhood pattern” is to feel frustrated with the protecting figure. This leads them to try and fill this function for themselves. They try to become “fathers” to themselves, so to speak. Their energy is directed inward against their own internal impulses.
For twos, the “childhood pattern” is to feel rejected by the protecting figure. This leads them to overcompensate by emphasizing the nurturing function especially towards others. They try to become others’ “mother.” They focus on what they think others need or want. They try to please.
The “childhood pattern” of threes is attachment to the nurturing figure. They try to satisfy, appease, and please this figure. They want to become their “mothers” by dedicating themselves to what is held up as valuable in their own family system.
Fours’ “childhood pattern” is to feel frustrated with both the nurturing and protecting figures. Thus feeling alienated and out of place in their own families, they try and provide these functions for themselves, attempting to parent themselves in both areas. Directing their attention inward, fours create a self-image based on being different, unique.
For fives, the “childhood pattern” is to feel rejected by both figures. Thus they have no experience or knowledge of either parental function. However, since they can’t overcompensate by turning to either figure, they resign themselves to not getting either benefit. They try to fill the void with an intense mental life, observing the world.
Sixes’ “childhood pattern” is to feel attached to the protecting figure. They thus internalize the guidance, as well as the anxieties, of this figure. They try to become their fathers. Inwardly, sixes strategize, mentally trying to provide for every eventuality, and outwardly they create alliances that will provide support and guidance.
Finally, the “childhood pattern” of sevens is to feel frustrated by the nurturing figure. This leads them to try and to provide this function for themselves, becoming, in effect, “mothers” to themselves, ever looking for ways to self-nurse. Sevens are therefore adventurous—filling life with activities.
Anyway, I have found looking at these “childhood patterns” to be very helpful in understanding the emotional root of each type.