Saturday, December 14, 2013

Three bears, cults and extraversion

I made up a bowl of porridge for my daughter this morning, the easy stuff out of a sachet, with two minutes in the microwave instead of one and a half, given I had put in too much milk.  My daughter was in a rush for work and I was trying to help her get out the door in time. 

The porridge at first was too sloppy and therefore needed more time in the microwave and then when she did not eat it immediately it became too lumpy.
I think of those three bears, and Goldilocks’s desire that things – chair, porridge, bed – be just right.

I did another Myers Briggs test this week and came out with a slightly different score from the first time I’d tried it. 

I’m sure this is not the official test but it’s one that’s free to try on line. 

My daughter reckons I should take the results of the first test seriously, at least more seriously than later results because by the second and third times I was likely to answer less honestly given I could anticipate the questions.  

Funny questions like: after you have been socializing heavily do you prefer to spend time alone.
Well, yes and no.  I can manage more company after a I’ve been with a crowd but equally there are times when I’d like some quiet time. 

This is why I dislike these tests so much.  They tend to demand 'yes' or 'no' answers and therefore become reductive. 

I know the test managers ask the same questions in reverse order to try to trick the truth out of you but I suspect people can become test-savvy and answer in whatever way they feel might best suit their purposes. 

These tests to me are like horoscopes.  You go along with whatever suits you – namely the positive interpretations, and ignore the rest.

I came out as Extravert 78%, Intuitive 38%, Feeling 62 % and Judging 22%.

At a glance, I’m not much of a judge.  The other results don’t surprise me so much.

I have my third Christmas party this afternoon, and my last bar Christmas day on Monday evening.  I haven’t done too badly.  I do not yet feel overwhelmed by the sense of excess this time of year brings. 
Shades of the question I quoted above from the Myers Briggs test.  That one is to root out the introverts,  I'm sure.  
My husband and at least one of our daughters are so-called introverts.  My older sister reckons a person on the introversion scale a la Myers Briggs, is simply one who derives energy from their own company, from quiet times.  While an extravert is a person who derives energy from time spent with others. 

I’d like to think I derive energy from both sources and to an extent I suspect we all do.  But it’s true, I prefer the company of others to total and prolonged solitude.

When I was a school girl we went on retreats once a year.  A week or maybe three to five days during the school day dedicated to prayer.  I pretended to enjoy those days.  The imposed silence. 

During retreats there were times when we sat in chapel together and a nun read to us or the priest held  Mass or benediction, something that involved noise, voices, or better still singing, but then later we were meant to make our own entertainment, namely in the form of more prayers and contemplation.
I can see us now, thirty or so fifteen-year-old girls, our missals in hand wandering around the gardens of Vaucluse Convent ostensibly in deep contemplation.

The more outgoing girls caught one another’s gaze and burst into fits of giggling.  The nun in charge who stalked around behind the rose bushes offered an unspoken reproach and silence prevailed again.

I longed for the hours to pass.  It felt as though I had been tied in a strait jacket and could not move my arms.  I should have known from this experience that I would never make a nun. 

Nuns take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.  All three would have been impossible for me, and yet there was a time in my life when I contemplated taking on such a life, out of love for my favourite teacher, whom I once decided I had wanted to emulate.  Even if it meant hours of imposed silence and a pretense – for me at least – of prayer.  

This nun has since left the convent but not before I gave up on that particular vocation. 

The other day I listened to Phillip Adams during his radio program Late Night Live on the topic of cults.  Apparently there is a group of people in London who were arrested.  Three women had been held in enforced captivity for thirty years, one of whom must have been born into slavery.  Apparently they are part of a cult. 

Their story fascinates me but the discussion of cults fascinates me even more.  One speaker made the point that if you get a group of people together and keep them separate from outside influences for long enough they can begin to develop kooky ideas. 

Madness breeds out of too much introversion, though equally there is the opposite madness, that of the mob. 

It all comes down to balance I suppose, a bit like my daughter’s porridge this morning: not too runny, not too firm.  
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