7 January 2008
Among some people, the quest for knowing themselves takes the form of an endless series of tests. Tests ranging from getting your Myer-Briggs personality type ("I'm an ENFP!") via the Enneagram ("I'm a #9!") to sort-of psychological tests such as the Spiral Dynamics vMeme ("I am Green!").
I don't want to deny anyone their happiness about finding out what category of a particular model they fall into. However, I do want to point out that there is a difference between these typologies and who you really are. Typologies are not what determines you as a person. That's where developmental psychology comes in.
Ken Wilber described the difference between developmental psychology, such as his model of human development, and typologies, such as the enneagram, as horizontal versus vertical models. Horizontal models are those that typify people at a certain level of development and categorise them based on certain characteristic ways of responding to their environment. How do you behave when you end up in a large group of unknown people? What is your preference, mixing among them or standing aside and observing them? Vertical models, however, describe the developmental stage that someone is at for one their developmental lines. How have you developed emotionally? Where does this development take you in the future? That is what Spiral Dynamics did for values, what Piaget did for cognitive development, what Aurobindo did for spiritual development.
So what to do if you want to find out who you really are at this moment? Go for the horizontal typologies or for the vertical growth? My answer would be: check primarily vertically. Check all the major lines of development, such as cognitive, emotional, spiritual, social, cultural, physical development. Assess where you come from, where you are now and what is still ahead of you. Note that thy are not all equally developed. That will draw the in-depth psychological picture of yourself. Then, as a cream topping on the cake, assess yourself horizontally using one of the horizontal models and see what that tells you about your preferences at your current levels of development.
At least, don't simply identify with a type - you are so much more than just that!