It was during my DPP days that my interest in psychology first developed. I dealt with criminals every day. Many criminals are mentally ill or psychologically impaired. So quite often I would get to read all their psychiatric reports.
These days, my interest has veered away from abnormal psychology, into positive psychology. I'm also quite interested in the study of personality - for example, the Myers-Briggs system. The Myer-Briggs system is one of those very multi-faceted things. You think you've got it all figured out, but every time you come back to it, you discover something new. Either about yourself, or the people around you.
Recently, I have been thinking about the most common ways I upset people, and the kinds of people who are most easily upset by me. You can analyse it in terms of personality. The category of people I upset most easily are the Guardians (the SJ family, meaning the ISFJs, ESFJs, ISTJs and ESTJs). Unfortunately the Guardians are quite common - they comprise about 40 to 45% of the population. Whereas my own category - the Rationals - are estimated at 5 to 7%. So I'm outnumbered.
Why would conflicts arise between the Rationals and the Guardians? Essentially, Guardians are defenders of the status quo. They like things to stay the same. They seek to conform, they follow rules, they administer procedures, they respect tradition, they are the loyal, practical workers, the round pegs in the round holes, the reliable little cogs in the wheels that keep the world turning. Here, for example, is Keirsey's description of Supervisor Guardians (one of the sub-categories):
Supervisor Guardians are squarely on the side of rules and procedures, and they can be quite serious about seeing to it that others toe the mark-or else face the consequences ...
The Rationals, on the other hand, are the change agents of the world. They are constantly exploring new ideas. They are the inventors and the innovators. They have an intuitive understanding of complex systems and are constantly driven to create improvements. Preserving what is, is of no interest to Rationals, because their powers of imagination tell them about what could be, and they see that things usually can be a lot better. Here for example is Keirsey's description of the Mastermind (one of the Rational sub-categories, aka INTJs, which is my personality type):
Like all the Guardians, Supervisors worry a good deal about society falling apart, morality decaying, standards being undermined, traditions being lost, and they do all they can to preserve and to extend the institutions that embody social order. Supervisors are so in tune with the established institutions and ways of behaving within those institutions, that they have a hard time understanding those who might wish to abandon or radically change them.
To the Mastermind, organizational structure and operational procedures are never arbitrary, never set in concrete, but are quite malleable and can be changed, improved, streamlined. In their drive for efficient action, Masterminds are the most open-minded of all the types. No idea is too far-fetched to be entertained-if it is useful. Masterminds are natural brainstormers, always open to new concepts and, in fact, aggressively seeking them. They are also alert to the consequences of applying new ideas or positions. Theories which cannot be made to work are quickly discarded by the Masterminds.You can pretty much predict how a typical Rational-vs- Guardian disagreement would arise.
First, there would be a System. Rationals are naturally gifted at understanding systems, so they know how to step out of the System, look at it from different perspectives, and see how everything fits together. As the Rational's mind is always geared towards making improvements, he immediately zooms in on the flaws in the System and says, "This is bad, that is out-dated, this is irrational, that is wrong. All of these things must change - how can we allow this situation to continue?!". Because the Rational is both analytical and creative, he has no problems pointing out the flaws AND proposing a dozen new ideas to fix the flaws.
Then the Guardians get upset. Guardians don't like change. They are comfortable with what is, and they are afraid of what could be. They get angry with the Rationals and wish that the Rationals would just go away. For example, they might say, "Oh if you are so unhappy with Singapore, why don't you just leave and don't come back." Guardians are also loyal, dedicated followers, and they view the Rationals' ideas for improvement as disrespectful to the establishment and to tradition. So for example, the Guardians might say: "How dare you criticise the PAP? They have done so much for us, in the past 40 years."
Guardians desperately want the system to stay the same; so in a debate, they will keep making any argument they can, to keep the system the same, whether or not they really believe in that particular argument. For example, in order to keep homosexuality criminalised, they will argue that it is "unreasonable", "uncivilised", "unnatural", "worsening the aging population", "psychologically disordered", "immoral", "makes me afraid of getting raped by a man", "abnormal", "disgusting", "the law says it's wrong, so it must be wrong", "it disgusts me even if it happens in private and I don't know about it", and finally, even "I am entitled to be irrational in my hate for gays".
Another example is Edmund Khoo's letter. You can see that Edmund's overpowering motivation is to support Lee Hsien Loong. As I've mentioned, on that particular topic, it's possible to support or not support PM Lee, but whatever side a Rational takes, it will be on a rational basis. A Guardian, however, is more likely to take a position first (and as a result of his loyalty tendencies, he will tend to support the incumbent), and then simply make as many arguments as he can possibly think of, to support his leader (whether or not the arguments actually make sense).
I've generalised a lot. But if you read my blog and the comments, you'll note that very often, when readers disagree with me, the Rational-Guardian pattern seems to be at work. Guardians endlessly seek to guard the System from change; while Rationals endlessly seek to change the System to make it better. I, as INTJ, would be the Rational, while most of my regular critics, I suspect, are Guardians (the SF family).
These are the subtle patterns in our minds, the natural processes in our different brains that govern how we think and feel about approximately anything. Psychology is sooooo interesting.