About 50 million people were counted in 2012 to have taken the famous personality type assessment test. Perhaps you still remember the questions that were asked to try to find out if you were a J or P type: “Are you organized or messy?”, “Do you spend more time planning your life or adapting to what comes?”, “Do you follow a schedule?” or “Are you working methodically or through random energy spikes?” You may also remember having hesitated on some of these questions, recalling both an event which demonstrated your tendency to plan, but also another which proved your ability to adapt easily to situations. You answered, got your type, but the question was still there: did you change your type temporarily? Maybe you are one of those people who have taken the personality test several times and have had different types. So the question still remains: can your personality type change?
Here’s what we at Birdy think:
Tests are limited
Let’s get back to the principle of a personality test. The goal is to evaluate yourself on who you really are. The accuracy of the test therefore depends strictly on the objectivity of your self-evaluation, in other words, how well do you really know yourself? The point is, there are many, many factors that can influence your judgment of yourself:
- during a time when you are not talking to many people, you might unconsciously identify yourself as an introvert
- during a time when your organization is critical to the success of your projects, you might identify yourself as a type J
- if your work or family environment favors socialization, you might want to comply and therefore more likely identify yourself as type E, or F
Your family, your friends, your work, the culture of your country (or in other cases, trauma) can literally conform you to act in a certain way, whether you do it voluntarily or not.
What is a personality
There are different ways of conceiving what personality is. There is your everyday personality, influenced by everything around you. This is the growing part of you that makes you someone different everyday. Your encounters, your lessons, your emotions, your decisions and their consequences are things that shape you day after day. You grow, mature, and so does your “surface personality.” But what about your inner personality, the unvarying part of your psyche? How can we know this?
A quick bit of history
In the 20th century, before talking about personality types, we were talking more about psychological types. Carl Jung managed to build such a system by observing and analyzing the behaviours of patients with various mental disorders. It was not a question of defining a personality, a behavioural preference or what one values, but rather of finding the unconscious patterns of the human psyche that lead its patients to sink into very severe neuroses.
From the start, the cognitive functions described by Jung (on which personality tests were later built), describe what kind of information you see first, and then what the mental processes are that lead you to make your decisions.
Cognitive functions have never been a choice. They represent what you naturally focus your attention on. As you regularly bring your attention to the same things, you also develop repetitive behaviors, and that is what you are looking for when trying to take the personality test. But keep in mind that these behaviors are basically just a consequence of your consciousness, limited to a few cognitive functions, which themselves never change. What you do may change from day to day, but what you are aware of has never changed, and will never change.
A few examples:
Ti is a function that makes its user aware of the intrinsic truthfulness of each piece of information, and it is this awareness that then leads Ti users to assess for themselves whether something is correct or not.
A Ti user bathed in an environment where they are forced to socialize and sympathize with others will succeed in integrating and establishing healthy relationships because they will learn the influence of their actions on the well-being of others. But they will never forget what they consider to be true (what others fundamentally don’t like), because it is and always will be part of their deep personality.
The Ne user, naturally aware of the possibilities of the moment and the potential of what can be explored will never be able to change. Certainly, they will sometimes get organized and concentrate on carrying out meticulous tasks, respecting the rules and steps to be followed, but it will never be without forcing themselves to go against their natural tendency to seek what is new.
Same story for the Fe user, who is naturally aware of how others feel. Immersed in a somewhat malicious and competitive environment in which the stronger ones win, they will succeed in going against their natural empathy and fight to win, but at no time will they be able to fully forget the influence of these actions on others.
In his writings, Carl Jung referred to the “mid-life crisis,” during which an awakening of your lower consciousnesses takes place, thus connecting you with the part(s) of your personality that you have always partially repressed and leading to a more general awareness of your life situation and more or less radical changes on the intra- and interpersonal levels.
Apart from cases of trauma or personality disorders, the mid-life crisis is surely, for most people, the event in your life that changes the most what you really are.
Again, you cannot lose your initial cognitive functions, but you will simply discover a new form of consciousness (opposed to your initial predominant consciousness). This ultimately allows you to achieve a balance with who you are. In other words, you develop your third and fourth functions further in your second half of life to fill a void.
For example, this is the case of Te users who realize their sense of values and that they are more than what they accomplish (rise of Fi), or the case of Ni users, who realize the happiness of living in the present moment (rise of Se).
There is another type of cognitive transition: cognitive transitions to our unconscious functions. Indeed, it is important to know that everyone uses all 8 cognitive functions. There are times when we are obliged to use functions that are not part of our 4 conscious functions. These behaviors are natural for each type, and are in no way correlated to a change in personality: you cannot indefinitely imitate cognitive functions that are unconscious to you.
So yes, a part of your personality is constantly changing because you have to adapt to your environment, but personality types define something else: what you are always aware of, and existing independently of your will. So does a personality ever change? Short answer: no.