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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Reflections on Meetings with Isabel Myers and The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to Develop the Somatic Reflection Process on Gut Feelings

     Over the past four decades, many people have asked Robert Sterling and I about our relationship and personal experiences with Isabel Myers, who created the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator along with her mother Catherine Briggs. We have written in What's Behind Your Belly Button? quite a bit about our lengthy history with her as a colleague in the 70s. As we were creating a career storefront center for students and the general public alike affiliated with the local community college in Gainesville, Florida, we used the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator with hundreds of people. And we met regularly with Isabel Myers and Dr. Mary McCauley to give them, for their on-going research on the MBTI, the data from the inventories we had administered and to discuss the meaning of the findings. The MBTI was quite important in our development of the Somatic Reflection Process and really, we are not sure that without the MBTI we would have ever seen the importance of past childhood experiences in understanding our human needs nor the need to recover the unconscious information stored in our feeling memories.
So we wanted to share with all of you a few pages from WHAT'S BEHIND YOUR BELLY BUTTON? that describes much about our first hand experiences with Isabel Myers and Dr. Mary McCauley, director of the Typology Lab at the University of Florida, so you can get a true glimpse into the initial work of these amazing empowered women who struggled against lack of resources and how their work related to our work with gut feelings and the Somatic Reflection Process. If you enjoy this excerpt, then you will surely enjoy reading the book where it is all further discussed in depth and a complete protocol for the Somatic Reflection Process is given.


Excerpt below from page 119-124 of
What's Behind Your Belly Button? A Psychological Perspective of the Intelligence of Human Nature and Gut Instinct:


The MBTI and the Development of the Somatic Reflection Process


Early on, when we began our work at SFCC in Career Gap, we began to enjoy a special working relationship with Dr. Mary McCauley, Director, University of Florida’s Typology Lab, and our meetings with Isabel Myers and Dr. Mary McCauley, on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). We mention the importance of the MBTI in our work because it was through interpreting our own results before using it as part of a battery of tests in the Career Gap Center that we first had a need to reflect on our early childhood experience to assess if our type results had changed as adults, and if so, what that might have meant in serving our needs as a person. We were in search of the understanding if our type results were true for us naturally or if our type had changed due to necessity and environmental adaptation. And if our type had changed, we were interested to understand if the early type was more satisfying of our human needs. This deep unconscious information could only be accessed through a reflection on our feelings, rather than our thinking process, beginning in childhood and brushing up to the present time. And it was in our personal exploration and validation of the results of the MBTI that the Somatic Reflection Process had its beginning and served as a further guide toward understanding a new image of human nature. . . .
. . . . Many people in America during this post ‘60s period were going through profound transformations in their lives and experiencing confusion as they attempted to make drastic changes in career and life style toward the goal of higher personal fulfillment. We soon found the majority of people coming into the center not only had absolutely no idea of a suitable career direction for them but also had no idea who they were inside. We found that the usual career interest tests were meaningless for these people because they had no real idea of their own inner feelings and thus had no way to determine if the results were accurate and thus useful. Often the test-results would point the person in a direction that had more to do with their cultural and family values than their true inner feelings, instincts, and personal values.
Fortunately for us, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was at this time, in the mid ‘70s, being extensively researched at the Type Lab by Dr. Mary McCauley at the University of Florida, so we had the opportunity to abandon our idea of using standard personality tests for career counseling and employ the MBTI. For several years we had the opportunity to administer, interpret, and gather data from the MBTI for hundreds of people using the services of Career Gap and fed this data to the University of Florida Typology Lab, headed by Dr. Mary McCauley. Because of this association with Dr. McCauley, we were introduced to Mrs. Isabel Myers and had a number of private meetings with both of them.
Isabel Myers would come to town several times a year to check on how the research was going at the Type Lab. The MBTI was used at that time, more locally at the University of Florida and, perhaps, a few other university communities. Dr. McCauley and Mrs. Isabel Myers were struggling to provide additional research data on the use of the MBTI, though its validity and reliability had been proven in the early ‘60s. But the funding was so skimpy for the research project that we had to meet at Dr. McCauley’s home, because the Type Lab at the university was just a small office where she had a computer and one part-time assistant, whose name, our memories have barely recorded was Penny. (We can now actually remember more about her personality type than her name, as she was a very friendly ENFP). Funding was a struggle and on several occasions Dr. McCauley was not sure if they would be able to keep the Lab open due to the lack of support. But somehow they managed to continue their work, even with occasional cutbacks. Perhaps it was as they thought and on occasion told us, that their intuitive preferences, both being INFP’s, kept them persistently focused in moving forward, despite financial lack of funds, toward a vision of a future time when their research would be accepted and fully funded (Personal communication with Dr. McCauley and Mrs. Isabel Briggs-Myers, 1975).
On one occasion during a meeting in which we were handing over data to Dr. McCauley for their research, and Isabel Myers was also visiting, we asked Isabel if she would come talk to one of our freshman classes, an introductory course in psychology (BE100), in which we were using the MBTI. She graciously accepted and appeared the next week. It was long before the days of cell phones, and there was not an easy way to affirm the appointment, so we were a bit surprised and very much elated that she actually came. When she arrived at the class, she was wearing a simple housedress and had her hair in a bun. She was a lady in her early 70’s and made no pretense of being a professional. She sat with her legs crossed, in front of the students, her hands folded in her lap, and a relaxed sweet smile on her face. Everyone seemed to accept her as Grandmother for the evening imparting the knowledge of a wise old woman. The following is an account of what we remember of Isabel Myers’ personal communication to the class (Personal communication 1975):
"My Mother, Catherine Briggs, was a woman that noticed even small things about people. She wasn’t a psychologist and I don’t think she had read a word of Carl Jung. She just noticed the different relatives acted the opposite from each other when they all got together for Thanksgiving dinner. She would say, Uncle [Hank] always talks about only facts and Aunt [Sarah] always talks about possibilities. Sometimes they had whole conversations, my mother would say, without really listening to each other. She wouldn’t judge any one for being so different. She was just interested that it seemed to be that way. So she sat down over a period of time and wrote all the characteristics of each relative and made up a questionnaire. It was very different from the one you take now, although it asked about the same basic kinds of preferences."
Isabel Myers went on to tell the story of how the MBTI was developed, and we remember her saying she helped her mother by working with a Jungian psychologist to develop the inventory, fitting Jungian theory. What was really interesting to us was her account of how the Myers Briggs Type Indicator had its root beginnings as a homespun personal inventory. It was born out of the keen observations of the every day experiences with people of Catherine Briggs and her interest in helping people communicate with each other with greater understanding.
Most of the discussions we had in our meetings with Isabel Myers and Dr. McCauley centered around accounts of the research in the Type Lab. They were both quite excited that the research was going so well and the findings were coming up significant for certain job categories. They found it interesting that elementary school teachers came out a majority of sensing types and college teachers were showing results of being a majority of intuitive types. We talked about the implications of how type affects learning styles and how the difference in type can explain intuitive types who may do better in higher math like algebra while having had difficulty adding and subtracting, and sensing types doing well in applied math areas of study as a career choice. They also found a difference between the type outcome of police professionals—being sensing types, and the university students—being intuitive types, and mused over ways they could bridge the communication gap between these two types during student protests that were quite prevalent on campus at this time in the ‘70s.
Over and over, Dr McCauley and Mrs. Myers expressed that we all have the ability to understand each other and thus communicate more effectively if we can understand our different preferences in type. We do not think it was Jung’s intention that we label ourselves and obsess about our category or label or type. And we think that the MBTI was meant to be used by both Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs as simply a way of thinking about ourselves and our gifts, not a device to trick us into a typology box in our minds, but as a tool to guide us in life decision-making and communication with others. We base our opinion on the many talks we had personally with Isabel Myers and her close colleague, Dr. Mary McCauley, whose explanations of typology were always flexible and open to the person’s inner decision about himself or herself. We will add that both Isabel Myers, her mother Katherine Briggs, and Dr. McCauley were all Introvert Intuitive Feeling Perceptive (INFP) types, according to what we were told in our conversations with Dr McCauley and Isabel Myers. True to their types, they meant the MBTI to be a flexible and perceptive tool that the person could use as a guide to illuminate one's inner experiences and accept their unique gifts of perception and judgment.

 End of Excerpt

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