Another, Sort of Interesting, Personality Typology Book

I saw this at my local library.

I like reading personality typology books — as long as they aren’t too dumb — because I’m interested in stories and people. And people within stories. I am aware of the limitations of personality typologies. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that can capture all the nuances of a person; and, in fact, it would be surprising if we could. I have a made a few previous posts about the MBTI, but I know that it has been criticized and has been woodenly applied in a business context.

The MBTI yields sixteen basic types, and even it is not perfect. So of course, any typology that only has four types is going to be even less of a fit, unless you apply it generously and with some fluidity. (Which is different from making your typing of people unfalsifiable by always having an explanation for features that contradict your theory.) Carol Tuttle’s typology is a four-typer. Her four types correspond roughly to the ancient four types of Sanguine, Choleric, Phlegmatic, and Melancholic.

The book is somewhat woo-woo. (And whoo boy — I mean, hoo boy, her web site is even more woo-woo!) The way Tuttle explains her philosophy is that there are four types of energy present in nature, and while all people use all of these four types, each of us “expresses” one of the types of energy in particular. When she writes about people who have attended her seminars, she tends to describe them as “a woman who expresses Type 3 energy” instead of saying “a woman who is a Type 3.” I feel like there’s wisdom in that. Other woo-woo aspects: she explains how each type handles its energy in terms of yin and yang, and in the profiles of each type, she even includes a description of physical features that people with that sort of energy are likely to have. It was the physical descriptions that lost me. That seems like way too much of a claim. I have a much easier time accepting a typology that is just based on the way you approach life and the effect you have on other people, not just with things you explicitly do, but with the energy you bring into a room (about which more in a minute).

And yes, people do attend her seminars. Each chapter in this book has testimonials from people whose lives were improved once they were able to recognize and accept their type.

And yes, she did name the Types 1, 2, 3, and 4, which I think shows admirable restraint. Here they are:

  1. Energy that is light, lively, cheerful, and vertical, like the movement of an aspen tree.
  2. Energy that is smooth and down-ward flowing, like the Mississippi River.
  3. Energy that explodes outward, getting things done, like the sun or the appearance of the Grand Canyon.
  4. Energy that is constant, still and stable, like a rugged mountain reflected in a glassy lake.

(Notice: Air, Water, Fire, Earth.)

One thing that caused me to actually read this book (and then even go so far as to review it!) was that, as soon as I started skimming it, I began recognizing family members in the descriptions. One of my children, for example, clearly has Type 1 energy, and even loves rabbits, which because they move by hopping are cited as a Type 1 sort of animal.

Of course, not everything applies perfectly. Not everything said about Type 2 express-ers is true of me, for example. (No, I am not diplomatic nor am I good with numbers.) And some people don’t immediately seem to embody these types. So, despite the testimonials, I am recommending this book as an item of interest, not as something that is going to change your life.

What it really teaches you is how to dress.

Apparently, Tuttle has an entire seminar called “Dress Your Type.” The idea is that, when you dress in a way that matches the type of energy you bring, people know what to expect from you and they are more likely to respond to you in a way that’s in keeping with your general approach to life. I am all in favor of letting people know what to expect. I relied heavily on this principle when naming my children, for example.

Tuttle recommends that only people with Type 4 energy wear black. These people tend to be striking and somewhat forbidding in their aspect, and serious in their approach. Other types, she says, will be made to look tired or older by black. I’m not sure I’m ready to give it up, but OK.

Her approach does explain an awful lot about my sartorial preferences. I love flowy things: long belts, fringes, shawls, ponchos, bell sleeves, long hair, medieval historical dress, and all of these things are totally impractical for everyday work around the house, but apparently they express my flowy, Type 2 energy, so you have been forewarned. (I also write long, rambling novels.)

According to Tuttle, Type 2 is “a double yin” whereas Type 3 is “a double yang,” which might explain the following story.

My husband and I had just come through an extremely stressful period at work. We then had to travel for some meetings. The site where we were staying was sort of a vacation site, but it was a working trip too. We were trying to do a good job in the meetings, but also sort of relax and process all the stress we’d just been through. It was also a place where many people were coming and going, including a very energetic gentleman whom we had first met about a month earlier. This guy was one of those types who do an amazing job at their own role, and also insist that “everyone can do it!”

I was supposed to be taking notes at the meetings, but one morning, I woke up feeling awful. I dragged myself down to the kitchenette area and was just trying to force down some breakfast, hoping it would make me feel better, when the door burst open and in rushed Type 3 Energy Man. He didn’t even speak to me, but his presence was all it took. I dashed outside and threw up in the flower bed.

3 thoughts on “Another, Sort of Interesting, Personality Typology Book

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s