Whole Type and Beyond

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Among type practitioners, we often speak of ‘whole type.’ For many this means something about treating the 16 personality types derived from the theory of Carl Jung as ‘wholes’ rather than as adding up the parts. For example, INTP represents a holistic pattern with a theme that is more than the sum of the parts I + N + T + P. Often people give lip service to the statement that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, but don’t really have much available to use to describe the whole type patterns. Then they are likely to revert to describing the ‘parts’ of the type code such as Sensing versus iNtuiting. And they may even use language such as, “She is a Thinker.”  The incongruity between the language and the statement about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts doesn’t occur to them.

The view I find that honors how we are naturally as human beings is one that says there is a whole pattern and that pattern has a theme that we can describe holistically. For example, Dario Nardi and I developed some short themes that are not composed of the traits from the ‘parts,’ yet you can see the theme of them running through them. We used two word names for the themes, with the first word identifying how they see themselves and the first word, how others tend to see them. So for my type pattern, INTP, here is the name and the short description taken from our book, The Sixteen Personality Types; Descriptions for Self-Discovery:

Designer Theorizer

Becoming an expert. Seeing new patterns and elegant connections. Talent for design and redesign. Crossing the artificial boundaries of thought. Activate the imagination. Clarifying and defining. Making discoveries. Reflect on the process of thinking itself. Detach to analyze. Struggle with attending to the physical world.

This little theme speaks volumes to me and the last statement makes me laugh when I find myself in that struggle. While I can see evidence of the Essential Motivator (temperament) pattern and extraverted iNuiting, most of the statements are more than just anyone of the aspects of type.

Understanding Aspects of the Whole through Multiple Lenses

There is more to understanding each type than the whole type or the separate letters of the type codes. Using a multiple lens approach allows us to better understand each of the personality types and use more holistic language. Each lens stands alone as a separate model and each brings a different kind of information to understanding ourselves and others better. Each lens describes a core driver such as a psychological need, core values or beliefs, and core talents that help get those needs or drives met. Then there are some behaviors that make up part of the pattern and relate to the core of that aspect of the personality. These lenses all meet at the level of the sixteen types and in some ways modify each other.

Essential Motivators, (aka Temperament) describes four patterns of why we do what we do or our deepest motivations—Improviser, Stabilizer, Theorist, and Catalyst.

Interaction Styles describes four patterns of how we interact with others to communication with and even influence them—Chart-the-Course™, Get-Things-Going™, In-Charge™, and Behind-the-Scenes™.

Cognitive Styles describes four patterns of what our intentions are as we think about things—Authenticating, Enhancing, Customizing, and Orchestrating.

The fourth lens of Cognitive Dynamics gives us a sense of the kinds of information we are likely to privilege and the ways we are most likely to come to conclusions. It is grounded in the work of Carl Jung and the elaborations of Jung’s theory by John Beebe who recognized that the eight Jungian Functions occur in a holistic pattern where different processes tend to fill different archetypal roles such as the Hero, the Good Parent and so forth. This lens gives us information that helps us work with our shadow selves as well as a path to development.

I’ve written about most of these lenses in other articles such as The Five Lenses of Coaching  and The Leading Edge of Psychological Type. Cognitive Styles is a new lens that emerged out of our research and I wrote about this lens in a blog called Cognitive Style: Respect and Forgiveness  and What Do INTP and ESFJ Have in Common?.

Beyond Whole Type to Integrated Type™ 

All of these lenses help us see the whole better by looking at aspects of the personality in terms that we can easily understand and speak of holistically. They all meet at the level of the sixteen type patterns identified by Isabel Myers and often expressed with that four-letter type code. So no matter which lens you start with, you can always add in another to deepen the understanding and get a fuller picture of the whole type.

Beyond whole type lies a more integral look at personality type in relationship to many other aspects of our being such as environment, culture, relationships, life conditions, and ego development to mention a few. If we don’t integrate these aspects we can mistake development patterns for type or cultural influences for type and we miss out on honoring the unique richness of what it means to be human.

So now if we look at INTP as a whole, we see, Designer Theorizer. We could also call this pattern,

Behind-the-Scenes Theorist


Enhancing, Behind-the-Scenes Theorist.

Furthermore, I tend to lead with Analyzing (introverted Thinking), support with Interpreting (extraverted iNuiting), find relief with Reviewing (introverted Sensing) and aspire to Connecting, (extraverted Feeling). At my age with and some type development, I have really good access to Reviewing and at least internally think about Connecting. In addition, in many contexts I also have good access to Noticing (extraverted Sensing) given some training I had with Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

And then let’s factor in that I am a Caucasian woman who grew up in a small town in Kansas in the 1950s, experienced the women’s movement during my ‘hippy days’ volunteering at the free clinic, trained as a family therapist, schooled in systems thinking and…., and…, and…Then we have a richer understanding of the whole of me that goes beyond whole type as an INTP. We can see that that background might make me look more ‘INFP’ than INTP. And the variations go on. In reality, the names of the various ‘sub patterns’ of my whole type really speak to me about my inner reality and my behavior. Whole type is a useful construct and as Isabel Myers is rumored to have said to David Keirsey when he introduced her to the four temperaments that he linked to the MBTI® instrument, “David, remember that there are sixteen whole types.” (I hope I can be forgiven my paraphrase.) And Margaret Hartzler told me, “They all meet at the sixteen types.”

So let’s keep our focus on whole type and don’t forget the ‘beyond.’ Start with the lens that speaks to the situation, then add the other lenses as them make sense or are needed.