Convoluted Conservative-Mindedness

The conservative-minded are a unique species with their high conscientiousness, thick boundaries, love of orderliness, and narrow focus; weakness for authority, submission to fear, and disgust toward impurity. They have a preference for the known, certain, familiar, and acceptable; although with an odd relationship to the larger world — their literalist beliefs often set against scientific facts and their simplistic nostalgia often set against any genuine historical accounting. That is a quick summary from a biased liberal perspective, but this isn’t far from their own self-descriptions.

From a study in 1980, conservative (and presumably W.E.I.R.D.) high school students “regarded themselves as more conventional, responsible, dependable, orderly, neat, organized, successful, and ambitious.” No doubt this self-assessment is fairly accurate, as many studies have shown in comparing conservatives with liberals. The trait conscientiousness is the hinge upon which the conservative mind swings, combined with the trait openness being locked down. When considered in the fuller context, this disposition can lead to mixed results as demonstrated by the sometimes convoluted thinking of the conservative mind. If there isn’t a rule, norm, guideline, direction, law, protocol, or authority to tell them what to do and not to do, the strongly conservative-minded can become confused and frozen in inaction. Helpless as little children.

The liberal, on the other hand, gets in trouble for not simply doing what told or expected to do with very real consequences such as higher rates of addiction. Because the law says not to use an addictive drug that might be all the more reason to try drugs to find out for oneself — Nancy Reagan’s message “Just Say No” sounds like a challenge. It’s similar to why, shortly after my mother told me as a child to not stick anything in outlets, I stuck a paperclip into an outlet. It was a shocking lesson about electricity that forever emblazoned on my young psyche the wisdom of maternal authority, not that it caused my foolhardy liberal personality to be any more obedient. This might explain why I’m such a liberal loser for surely I’d be more successful in life if I just could do what I was told.

Liberals learn from experience and sometimes suffer and die from experience. But at least liberals are more likely figure it out for themselves and maybe discover something new in the process. Not helpless children, although one might see high openness and low conscientiousness as being differently abled. Anyway, it’s more fun and exciting to learn through experience. When my young nephew asked my brother if he could shove a matchbox car up his butt, I like to think my nephew was just being a good liberal trying to think outside the box. It is a valid question he asked. When you start to think about it, there are all kinds of places a matchbox car could be shoved, limited only by the openness of one’s imagination. And who knows what might happen until you try. After all, speaking of butts, as Sarah Silverman asked, how is “the next milk” supposed to be discovered?

Conservatives simply take things on faith and act accordingly. They are less likely to do illegal drugs because they are illegal. They are less likely to stick something into an outlet (or into their butt) when told not to by a parent. Such thoughts would likely never cross their minds in the first place. They will be good citizens, good workers, good Christians, good Nazis, or whatever else is upheld by social norms. High conscientious conservatives will be effective and efficient, industrious and hard-working, ambitious and successful… that is within the constraints of the social order. Outside of those constraints, though, they are lost sheep looking for the herd.

At times, there can be a refreshing directness to conservative thought. But that isn’t always the case. Because of reactionary tendencies, the conservative mind can wind around in strange machinations and rationalizations, such as seen with conservative political correctness. It’s the “Faceless Men” aspect of the reactionary mind that never can be straightforward about what it is about, and I’ve come to suspect this exists within every conservative. Even in the more moderate variety, the conservative mind can go round and round. I must admit I find it fascinating.

One doesn’t have too look at the extreme examples such as evangelicals justifying their support of Donald Trump. Let me describe a situation involving my mother, an old school conservative who is no fan of Trump. But before I get to that, let me explain exactly what is represented by her conservatism.

My mother is conventional in thought and behavior, just wanting to go along to get along. Even if there was an authoritarian takeover of the country, she wouldn’t join the freedom fighters but instead would simply keep her head down, although she might also try to do the morally right thing in small ways as long as it didn’t bring her any negative scrutiny or otherwise threaten her life and lifesyle. She means well and genuinely acts accordingly, but it simply isn’t in her to defy authority or to act foolhardy, not aspiring to be the next Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The moral acts she does such as volunteering are motivated by their being part of a system of hierarchical authority, in this case a Christian church, telling her that is what she is supposed to do. I suppose that, if she belonged to an evangelical church instead of a mainline church and if everyone she knew including the preacher supported Trump, she likely would have gotten in line to vote for Trump no matter her personal opinion. After all, she strongly defended Sarah Palin and it is a small step from that to where the GOP is now.

My father, less traditionally conservative, almost voted for Trump just to spite Hillary Clinton. What ultimately stopped him from voting Trump and so maybe stopped him from swaying my mother to follow suit was the sense of social judgment that would follow, as most of his immediate family and many of his friends, church members, etc aren’t Trump supporters — even if that imagined social judgment was limited to the confines of his own mind. They now live in this liberal college town where the conservatives here are likewise more liberal-minded. But if they had remained in the conservative Deep South and had still been attending a highly conservative church, my parents might have voted for Trump because that is what so many people around them would have been doing.

Social situation means everything to the conservative sensibility, in their sensitivity to social pressure and persuasion. My parents achingly long to fit in, to belong, to be accepted, to conform. Because of this, they are highly malleable in their views, depending on the community they happen to be living in at any given period of their lives. When younger, they became surrounded by liberals and went through an extreme liberal phase (my father claims my mother used to be pro-life). This left a permanent imprint on their children, my brothers and I who span from liberal to left-wing, not having changed over our lifetimes. Yet my parents’ have swung back and forth from outwardly conservative to outwardly liberal, as their social group shifted. This happened multiple times for my parents as they moved to diverse kinds of communities.

That is perfectly normal behavior for the conservative-minded. If my parents had spent their entire lives in a liberal community, in submitting to local social order and conforming to the local social norms, they simply would have always identified as liberal and would have never known otherwise. I suspect many self-identified liberals (along with many self-identified ‘centrists’ and ‘moderates’), specifically partisan Clinton Democrats, would measure higher on conscientiousness and lower on openness (as compared to voters who are independents, third partiers, left-liberals, progressives, etc), which is how the Democrats have become the new conservative party since the GOP went full hog reactionary right-wing. Conservative-mindedness, like many psychological tendencies, is relative and context-dependent, existing as it does along a spectrum within a particular place and time. No one, however low they might measure, is entirely lacking in conscientiousness (or openness) without being severely dysfunctional. That is how most traits operate, in serving some necessary or useful function, typically being problematic only at the extremes of either end.

With that wordy introduction out of the way, let me get to the recent situation with my mother (for background, see two earlier examples: here & here). It really amused me because it was one of those moments I could see the gears moving in her conservative mind.

The context at present is this liberal college town where recycling for many liberals might be genuine environmental concern or might be mere virtue signalling but for my parents it is simply an act of conforming to local social standards. All of their neighbors weekly put out their recycling bins along the street and my parents might be embarrassed to be the only people in the neighborhood to not do so. Recycling is what good liberals do in a good liberal town and, to that extent, my parents play the locally expected social role of the good liberal. It’s the conservative-minded thing to do. But at times the socially expected behavior isn’t entirely clear, making the conservative uncomfortable and distressed.

The city government picks up some recyclable material but not all. Since Iowa has a five cent refund on cans, my parents collect those in separate bags to take back to the store. This past week, they took the cans with them when they went shopping. For some reason, the machine that takes returns wouldn’t take a certain brand and my mother couldn’t find on the label where it showed they have a refund value. This really bothered my mother and she didn’t know what to do. It didn’t seem so complicated to me. I honestly don’t care about the refund and, after all, they were mostly my cans that I paid for. I gave mother some suggestions, such as putting them by a dumpster and letting a homeless person take care of it, but she said that it was illegal to put things in a dumpster that isn’t yours. That is true and yet, to my liberal mind, irrelevant.

Here was this situation where the normal rules, processes, and laws didn’t allow a straightforward course of action. So, my mom brought the cans home and fretted over the situation. She was about ready to throw them in the trash because, to her conservative mind, that would be a more appropriate response than the less conventional options I suggested. I eventually solved the problem for her in a way that isn’t relevant for my telling this anecdote. The solution wasn’t complicated and the cans got recycled.

How my mother and I perceived this situation had everything to do with conservative-mindedness versus liberal-mindedness. The reason my mother has never stuck anything inappropriate in an outlet or in her butt, as far as I know, is the same reason she couldn’t resolve this seemingly minor conflict. To her conservative mind, this was about appropriate behavior and there were no guidelines to follow. But to my liberal mind, the possible options were multitudinous. I’ll worry about what is illegal when there is good reason to worry such as a cop driving by, no different than my only having been concerned about what happens by sticking something into an outlet after I got shocked.

There can be a simplicity about liberal-mindedness, not that it always lead to happy and beneficial results, as I can attest. In comparison, the obsessive and excessive worrying of conservatives can seem perplexing, at least to the liberal, but it makes perfect sense to the conservative mind.

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MBTI: INFPs & INTPs, Global Chatter & Theory

I was talking to someone online about INFPs and INTPs.  It reminded me of my days at infp.globalchatter.com which is a now defunct forum.  😦  *sigh*

It was nice to summarize my experience and understanding.  So, I thought I’d share my thoughts here with some links to cached pages from the INFP forum.

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FIRST RESPONSE:

Hello.

Your query amuses me. I understand. Life is more confusing than the strict personality types can portray. It took me a long time to make sense of it all.

I guess theoretically I could be a Thinking person. It doesn’t really matter to me how I’m labelled by others, but I’ll give you the reasons I identify with INFP.

I took many online tests and I always tested as INFP. I joined an INFP forum and it was utterly amazing how similar I was to many people there. I did meet some other INFPs who were more of an intellectual bent (afterall, INFPs have Ne just as much as INTPs). I finally took the official test (including the Step II) and I tested as INFP.

I’ve had to study theory to a great extent to understand my sense of being an INFP (by the way, many INFPs love theory especially as it relates to psychology as the MBTI was developed by an INFP; I had my best discussions on an INFP forum with a mix of INFPs and INFJs).

There are two ways of understanding an extremely intellectual INFP.

First, there is Beebe’s function roles. The auxiliary for INFPs is Ne which when strongly developed can lead to an intellectual bent. INFPs use Ne to deal with the world and so intellectuality is one way INFPs learn to adapt (and to protect their Fi). This especially makes sense when you consider that the INFP’s inferior (Te) is also (according to Beebe) their aspirational. INFPs, as long as they don’t become psychologically stunted, will always feel lacking in the Te department and will be drawn towards this ability (either in developing it or attacking it).

Apparently, I inherited my grandmother’s INFP-like genetics; but, as I was raised by two Te parents (one being a dominant Te intellectual), I had Te modelled for me. I aspire to prove myself to my dad through intellectuality, but in INFP fashion I see intellectuality as an ideal of truth (i.e., authenticity; there is no greater ideal for an INFP).

Secondly, there is MBTI Step II. I’d recommend you check out this test and maybe take it as it gives a much more nuanced view of type. Each function is broken down into 5 factors. Very few people fit perfectly into a specific type, but on any given factor it isn’t unusual to be strong. A factor that goes against the overall function description is called out-of-preference (OOPs).

There were only 2 OOPs in my test. I was strongly Questioning rather than Accomodating (which the latter is a factor of Feeling). And I was strongly Methodical rather than Emergent (which the latter is a factor of Perceiving). So, to be precise, I’m a Questioning, Methodical INFP: who is precise, challenging and wants discussion; and who is more intellectually organized.

However, there is one further aspect to consider. In the MBTI Step II results, it is also shown how your results compare to others who test as the same type. It’s perfectly normal for an INFP to test as strong in Questioning and Methodical. Interesting!

Furthermore, from a traits viewpoint, type theory doesn’t make any sense at all. Most people test in the middle rather than strongly to either side. Barcode (barcode9588) points this out in her later videos and as INTP she is drawn to the scientific precision of the traits model. However, as an INFP, I think the Jungian model captures a more subtly nuanced understanding that science as yet doesn’t know how to test for.

I hope that is helpful. If you want to study it more for yourself, I can give you some website and book recommendations.

I’d be curious to know what type you’ve tested as. Are you wondering about Thinking and Feeling in your own experience?

Nice to meet you,
Ben

 
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SECOND RESPONSE:
 
Hello
 
Do you ever visit online typology forums? I learned the most about typology in discussions with people of the same or similar type as it helped me to understand why differences exist. Maybe it’s an INFP thing, but I appreciated seeing how people wrote about their experience as it related to type descriptions and theory.
 
That relates to your first question. For an INFP, subjectivity and objectivity aren’t as easily separated… and it seems somehow different than it is for most INTPs.  But, in general, my observations are that a less mature INFP will have less sense of objectivity and a less mature INTP will have less sense of subjectivity. 
 
The difference is that both an INFP’s auxiliary Ne and their aspirational Te can attract them to objectivity (logic, rationality, etc.), but an INTP also has auxiliary Ne and so is more rooted in the abstract.  The INFP’s Fi balances the abstract Ne whereas the INTP’s Ti magnifies the abstract Ne.  Or that is how it seemed to me when dealing with INTPs on various forums including INTP Central.
 
It’s hard to describe the difference and I don’t know if you understand what I’m trying to communicate.  There are different aspects to this.
 
First, INFPs’ greater potential for mixing subjectivity and objectivity allows for them to be (when mature and confident in themselves) more aware on multiple levels. What I mean is that INFPs can divide or spread their focus on what to an INTP may seem like unrelated areas. 
 
A group of INFPs discussing a topic will be just as wide-ranging as a group of INTPs in terms of ideas.  But the INFP group won’t focus as exclusively on just the ideas.  INFPs love ideas and love abstract theory.  It’s just INFPs also love relationships, emotions, and subjective values; and INFPs are equally trusting of rational thought and non-rational hunches. On top of that, INFPs (along with INTPs) love imagination and considering possibilities, and so they’ll go where ever their curiosity leads them.
 
For INFPs, they simultaneously think and feel out a set of ideas and the people discussing those ideas. INFPs are very aware of the subjective and inter-subjective.  They can learn to be very good at reading people, and so they look at what is assumed/implied and not just what is overtly stated.  INFPs can be downright paranoid about the unstated. They want to know a person’s motivation… the person’s true, authentic self even. A discussion is not only an opportunity to learn new information or a new perspective but also an opportunity to observe human nature in action.
 
This is why INFPs love MBTI. It allows them to simultaneously explore the subjective and objective.  INTPs, on the other hand, love MBTI maybe just as much but they focus on theory and data to the extent that (especially in a debate) they can almost forget that psychology is about real people (i.e., non-abstract entities; although well-developed INTPs can be extremely perceptive of others; as it’s their aspirational, INTPs potentially could develop Fe more than INFPs).
 
Furthermore, there is also an element in how ideas are seen to be connected and how they’re communicated.
 
Thinking causes INTPs to be more competitive and it can give an aggressive (or even snarky) edge to their Ne (this is more how an INFP perceives it and not how another INTP might perceive it). Feeling causes INFPs to be more collaborative and it can give a more child-like imagination/playfulness to their Ne (also, it causes the INFP to become more emotionally invested in or even identified with the ideas/views being discussed or rather what is perceived as being behind those ideas/views). Of course, the situation can be entirely different when other function roles are in play such as being in the grip of the inferior (when INFPs can become very intellectually combative and dismissive; I recently wrote a blog post about Beebe supposedly considering INFPs to be the most judgmental type – https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2009/12/11/infp-most-judgmental-type/).
 
Also, INTPs can at times be extremely nitpicky. If an INTP isn’t relaxed, it’s hard to know what they actually think because when INTPs feel uptight or on the defensive they can become overly analytical and confrontationally contrarian.  Even when relaxed, INTPs often act less immediately friendly (i.e., easygoing, inviting, emotionally open; especially a group of INTPs where they can sometimes require a hazing period for new members).  INFPs, however, want to be included and want others to feel included (i.e., touchy-feely; on an INFP forum, smiley faces and *hugs* are very common and new members are made to feel welcome). They would rather laugh with you than at you. 
 
INFPs are less concerned about analytical details or even the exact logic (although they can learn to highly appreciate those things if it becomes central to their value system).  INFPs have a slightly more holistic way of thinking than even INTPs because for an INFP thinking includes the subjective.  Ideas are about abstract and objective thought, but ideas are grounded in human experience and profound feelings/values which aren’t always so easily communicated.  If the INFP never fully develops their intellect and never learns to integrate their Fi and Ne, then they might feel very divided and pulled in too many directions.  Some INFPs avoid this fate by simply not developing their intellects and dismissing objective thought by idealizing something else (love, peace, God, universal health care, etc.).
 
Of course, both types are similar in that they use Ne to perceive connections and patterns, to create models that express their internal understanding.  The main difference to understand is between Thinking and Feeling.
 
INTPs will appear more formalized in their thinking (more analytically careful, more logical, more concerned about precise definitions).  As such, INTPs focus on distinctions (which applies equally to people as to ideas… meaning that many INTPs probably feel more autonomous or even isolated than INFPs).  INTPs have more clear sense of what is intellectually correct or false, and so temd to be very intellectually opinionated.  I think this can lead to a hierarchical way of thinking we’re ideas are ranked according to their superiority (this may be even more true for NTJ types). 
 
INFPs, on the other hand, are more accepting of different ideas as simply being different intellectual perspectives.  They’re less attached to intellect in general (but specific intellectual ideas or theories may become entangled with their deeply held values) and so are more open to trying to understand another’s perspective (as long as the other is willing to do the same).  INFPs have a clear sense of right/wrong, but it just plays out differently on the intellectual level.  Instead of focusing on distinctions, INFPs want to know how ideas (like people) relate (because ideas also are experienced subjectively… not just thought but felt and contemplated upon, and must be translated into their personal Fi understanding).  As a model of thinking, relationship leads to a more lateral (rather than hierarchical) way of determining truth.  INFPs are emotionally snesitive and so they don’t enjoy heated debate as much as INTPs.  INFPs, instead, seek out agreement and common ground.  A correct idea is only as meaningful as it’s connection to authentic understanding (which includes the authentic truth of what it means to be human).

 
Did I end up answering your questions?  Much has been written on these topics in books, websites and forums… certainly, my view is just one of many.  I’m not sure if I’m in a position to conclusively answer your second question about the possiblity and commonality of rational/logical INFPs.  I have met many intellectual INFPs, but extremely intellectual INFPs do seem relatively uncommon as compared to INTPs.  According to theory, no INFP is primarily intellectual in the sense of the NT pairing.  A more practical possibility to consider, using trait theory, is whether there are people who not only are in the middle of Thinking and Feeling but who are born with or learn early on a proficiency in using both.  To tell you the truth, I haven’t looked extensively into trait theory and so I don’t know what researchers have concluded.
 
Anyways, all that I’ve written is based on my studies of the typology theories of others, but it also includes much of my own theorizing based on my own observations.  I can’t claim I’m absolutely correct in my conjectures.  It’s just what has made sense to me up to this point. 
 
If you’re interested in seeing the origins of my personal theorizing, I did manage to dredge up a few cached pages from a now defunct forum (infp.globalchatter.com).
 
INFP subypes?
Page 2 (not found in Google cache)
 
Thinking Styles and You: Part II
 
Levels/Layers of Individuality
 
As I remember it, I started the “INFP subtypes?” discussion thread before I had heard of the MBTI Step II.  So, my theorizing in that thread probably can for the most part be explained by Step II’s more detailed factor analysis, but it was fun to look back at my developing thoughts on the matter.  I mentioned in that thread Dario Nardi’s subtypes as presented in his book Character and Personality Type.  Nardi claims he based his subtypes partly on his own observation of working with clients combined with some theoretical knowledge such as life themes, but I’ve never come to a conclusion about whether Nardi’s subtypes make sense to me (I will say I like the series of books that were made by Dario Nardi and Linda V. Berens which are some of the best introductions to type theory, and I’m very intrigued by Berens’ Interaction Styles).  I generally prefer to think in terms of Beebe’s role functions (see these articles: Evolving the eight-function model; and Type and Archetype – Part One and Part Two). 
 
There are a lot of other good resources out there: Personality Type by Lenore Thomson and The Lenore Thomson Exegesis Wiki, Compass of the Soul by John L. Giannini, Facets of Type and Functions of Type by Gary Hartzler and Margaret Hartzler, Building Blocks of Personality Type by Leona Haas Integrity in Depth by John Beebe, and Pathways to Integrity by Blake Burleson.  If you prefer learning by discussing with others, then I’d recommend the forum Typology Central which has a good mix of different types and is a very active community.  If you want an even more detailed understanding about personality, I’d research other models such as Trait Theory (Big Five, for example, has been correlated with MBTI) and Ernest Hartmann’s Boundary Types (there are some books and research papers on the topic, but here is a short introductory article, How “Thin” Are Your Boundaries?; also these types have also been correlated with MBTI and are similar with many other psychological categorizations).  The closest to an overview on my thoughts on personality types can be found in my post Psychology and Parapsychology, Politics and Place.

Personality Theory and Research (videos)

I was just watching Youtube videos about MBTI and other personality systems.  I started watching videos of INFPs as I test as an INFP, but I won’t post any of those videos.  I just wanted to collect some of the interesting videos that weren’t about specific people talking about a specific type.

The person going by the username barcode9588 has a Youtube channel (In the Middle of Nowhere) filled with many videos about the theory of MBTI.  She says she is an INTP and I’m glad some INTP felt motivated enough to create these nice explanatory videos.

Vicky Jo also has a Youtube channel (Type Insights) also with a number of videos about MBTI.

The rest of the videos are a mix (including some more odd and humorous videos).