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Fairy Tales, The MBTI and Other Truths

oatmealIt rained in Minnesota just about every day in June–after raining 28 out of 31 days in May. Granted we’re out of the severe drought that plagued our state the past 9 months, but I started wishing that I had control of a precipitation on/off switch. How hard could it be to keep it all in moderation?

Pondering this while out running in the local park-turned-rain-forest, the old fairy tale about the porridge pot came to mind. Grandpa had a magic porridge pot. He’d say “Cook, little pot, cook” and it’d bubble up perfect oatmeal. “Stop, little pot, stop” were the magic words that put a lid on it, so to speak. When the granddaughter was hungry one morning, she chanted, “Cook, little pot, cook,” and filled her bowl, but then couldn’t remember how to get it to stop. Soon the porridge overflowed, over the table, across the floor, out the door, down the streets…until Grandpa charged through the mess and cried, “Stop, little pot, stop!”

Sound familiar? Versions of this tale exist in folklore around the world. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, perhaps best remembered with all of the brooms chasing Mickey Mouse. In one country, rice overflows. In every case, humans think they know enough to take control of something–and learn quickly that they haven’t a clue. These may be folk and fairy tales, but they name a truth about human nature.

So does Jungian psychological type theory, or personality type, popularized by the MBTI (r). The theory describes a universal truth, recognized around the world for centuries: Yes, each person is unique, but there are certain patterns in how we approach life. The Greeks described these as temperaments. Isabel Myers and her mother Katherine Briggs recognized these patterns in the people around them, and then embraced how Jung described the same patterns in Psychological Types.

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