Saturday, May 17, 2014

INTJ / Bipolar / Asperger, cont.

I have been comparing the preferences associated with the INTJ personality type as described by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (see previous posts) with supposed symptoms of Asperger's Disorder, and have noticed a curious coincidence, or is it more than that? 
     I was diagnosed bipolar 30 years ago, after a 26-year quest to discover the cause of mood swings that manifested as a self-confident 'high' that alternated with the desire to be alone and away from stress. Anxiety was a near-constant symptom regardless of highs or lows. As soon as I was legally able to do so (in the old days, parental permission was required to obtain help) I sought medical and psychiatric help and worked diligently to understand and change my behavior. I did everything that was suggested to alleviate periodic switches from moderately manic to increasingly serious depression. However no medical doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist from whom I sought help could diagnose what was really going on. As I gew to be an adult, the frequency of these mood alterations gradually changed from years to a semi-annual event. This was a time in which there was little knowledge of 'mental illness' as the result of physical conditions as opposed to the belief that moral or character deficits were the cause.  
Fast forward to the present:
While visiting INTJ sites, it's easy to recognize a mild to moderate type of self-love or over confidence that doesn't go over well with other people. This feeling of absolute and smug happiness was how I felt and behaved when manic. It's an intoxicating state, as though one is united with all that is beautiful and grand about the universe. This euphoria makes it difficult to comprehend why people are upset with your confidence.  

<--How some see the INTJ type.
A Disclaimer: I am not saying that INTJs are bipolar. I am pointing out a tendency for some INTJ individuals to be mighty pleased with themselves, and that as a young person I was prone to this 'natural high.' This mental state of grandiosity in my experience is coincident with mild to moderate mania.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Asperger's: Pathology or a Personality Type?

If you have been given an Asperger's diagnosis, or personality disorder and / or mental illness diagnosis, check out the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). You might discover that some of your frustration, unhappiness and self-defeating behavior is due to a lack of knowledge about your personality. You may be living and working in an environment that doesn't suit you, and that your lifestyle is causing stress. I am NOT advocating the MBTI as a substitute for medical evaluation or treatment, but it is a valuable tool that can add specific and reliable information about your personality-based preferences.

Are you an introvert or an extravert? Do you make decisions based on thinking or feeling? Do you accept information 'as-is' or do you add interpretation and meaning? When interacting with the world, do you rely on logic or perceptions of people and their circumstances? Sixteen personality types are derived from the interactions of these 4 dimensions. Perhaps the most important factor for those individuals who have been diagnosed with 'pathologic' behavior is the stated goal of the MBTI, which views human differences as just that: Differences. 

"The goal of knowing about personality type is to understand and appreciate differences between people. As all types are equal, there is no best type. The MBTI instrument sorts for preferences and does not measure trait, ability or character. The MBTI tool is different from many other psychological instruments and also different from other personality tests."

For complete information about the MBTI, please go directly to the official website for The Myers & Briggs Foundation.
I filled out the MBTI long before being diagnosed as Asperger, and fell into the INTJ type, sometimes referred to as The Scientist. Having the INTJ personality type does not carry the negative baggage of Asperger's Disorder, although many people do regard the INTJ group as arrogant know-it-alls. Some INTJ people are adamantly against any identification of the two assessments, but others are intrigued, as am I. Females of either designation are rare. There is an overlap of 'symptoms' or 'preferences' in Asperger and INTJ descriptions. 

'Symptom' assumes that the behavior is a problem, whereas 'preference' assumes a normal variation in human likes and dislikes. 

The psychology of pathology and developmental retardation identifies Asperger behavior as NEGATIVE and DEFECTIVE. A long list of offensive behaviors is identified and experiments are designed to ferret out individuals who exhibit some specified number of "symptoms" - a number which is arbitrary and keeps changing. Those individuals are then cast out of "normal and acceptable humanity" like blemished peanuts that are sorted and discarded in order to maintain a false standard of peanut perfection - which every peanut must strive to achieve. This is why we see a very long and bizarre array of supposed symptoms attached to the Asperger's diagnosis. The message is, "We don't like people who display these behaviors; they are not normal." The intent is to control the definition of what it is to be truly human. The search for pathologies is embedded in a social (hierarchical) and religious (Puritanical) agenda.

In sharp contrast, the MBTI, which is based on the work of Carl Jung, views human behavior as part of nature and arising from the individual. It respects human diversity. The focus is on self-ownership and the equality that only comes with individual expression in society and the greater world.

These are two extraordinarily distinct and important philosophies, and represent a long-standing struggle between fundamental concepts about being human.