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.  
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
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
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
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.  

3 thoughts on “Three bears, cults and extraversion”

  1. I don’t know if you read my recent review of Quiet by Susan Cain but after reading it I’m willing to be persuaded that I’m more of an ambivert than a full-blown introvert. The last thing I am is an extrovert. I’ve sat the Myers Briggs test a few times over the years and I agree with you that the options are too restrictive; the best we can get is an approximation of what we’re like on that day. I just sat the Humanmetrics Jung Typology Test and my scores were: Introvert(78%) iNtuitive(12%) Thinking(12%) Judging(44%). If we consider my answer to one question you’ll see the problem: It is easy for you to communicate in social situations? I answered ‘No’ but the fact is I don’t have a problem communicating in social situations; I just don’t like doing it. From the look of things we’re not much alike. I wonder why we get on so well. Maybe we wouldn’t in real life although I suspect we’d both make more of an effort with each other. Apparently George Smiley, John le Carre's master spy and Hannibal Lecter are both INTJs. Not sure how I feel about that. What I’d like to know is how mood disorders affect this test. If I was in a blue funk would I feel more or think more? When I’m depressed both my thinking and feeling seem to be on overdrive. Not simple, is it?

    I know we Scots tend to be associated with porridge and whisky but I can’t stand either of them. Just the smell of porridge is enough to make me retch although the worst smell in the world in Ambrosia Rice Pudding.

    One of the nice things about not working is not having to attend Xmas parties. I always went (ever the dutiful employee) but excused myself straight after the meal before people got too drunk. I don’t drink anymore. Never been able to handle my alcohol—three pints and I’m smashed—and so I avoid it. Carrie’s been trying some liqueurs recently and I’ve had a sip of each of them but I really don’t miss the drink besides the last thing someone like me needs to be chucking down his throat is a depressant. That’s another thing these tests don’t factor in. I’d have no problems attending a conference but a party’s a very different ballgame.

    I’ve never been on a retreat of any kind. I’ve hardly ever been on holiday. I’m definitely a home bird. Prayer is a whole other subject. I never prayed as a kid. I was never taught to. Looking back it seems such a terrible omission on my parents’ part but there you go. The only time we prayed as a family was at mealtimes and it was the briefest giving thanks you could imagine, as close to “Rub-a-dub-dub and thanks for the grub” as you could get. I was a teenager before I was asked to pray in public and it was such a strange experience but I faked it and even became quite good at it but there was nothing personal about it. I never prayed at any other time. I never felt the need. To my mind—and I think to my parents’ minds too—prayer should’ve been something that one did naturally, that it would be harder not to pray but that was never the case with me. I enjoyed Bible study—can’t pretend I didn’t—but I’d no concept of spirituality and still don’t. I didn’t need to talk to God. Just had a wee look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and I don’t see ‘spirituality’ anywhere on it. Wonder why not?

    The word ‘cult’ gets bandied about quite a bit these days. I think it’s best applied to small groups in the dozens or hundreds rather than the millions. I’m very familiar with Anthony Hoekema’s book The Four Major Cults: Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, Seventh-day Adventism but whether you agree with what they teach these are bona fide religions. Is Islam a cult or Shinto because they don’t believe in the Bible? Some of their ideas sound pretty kooky to me. Organised religion just makes me tired. All of it.

  2. I've taken the Myers-Briggs test several times over my life and I come out as INFJ. The fact that I score as an introvert does;t surprise me, but it seems bit strange for a person with a relatively high public persona. I've learned to be extroverted, to deal with the three-quarters of society which function that way. But I also pay a price for that learned extroversion.

    One thing that introverted life does is give me lots of time to think. And hence to eschew a lot of strange behaviour, like that of cults. I still focus on things which improve Community and individuals.

    Blessings and Bear hugs!

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