In part one of this blog I mentioned that many people lack a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives.  I touched on things that can help to fill that void, among them spirituality – my main theme here.

I pointed to the importance of individual temperament in the development and extent of spirituality in a person’s life.

I referred to two psychological tools that are often used to assess temperament:  the Myers-Briggs Temperament Indicator and the Enneagram.  I am focusing here on the Myers-Briggs method which, along with the Enneagram, can be adapted to assist in discovering ways into one’s own spirituality.

In part one I also described how the Myers-Briggs approach posits sixteen basic psychological types.  I looked at its exploration of introversion and extroversion and its analysis of how we perceive new data and then make decisions based on it via the ‘Functions’ of sensation, intuition, thinking or feeling.  Finally I mentioned its recognition that people often have preferences about bringing things to closure or leaving them more open-ended and unresolved.

There’s much, much more to Myers-Briggs than I have had space to say but this gives a quick sketch of some of its foundations.

An example

It’s possible to do a Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator test in order to find out which of the sixteen personality types you are.

You could, for instance, be an ENFJ (Extrovert, Intuition, Feeling, Judging) – that is, an extroverted person who relies a lot on feelings and also intuition, less on sensations and still less on logic.  The Judging part is Myers-Briggs jargon meaning that you will like to have things organized, planned and settled.  If you are an ENFJ you may be charismatic, empathetic, a people person and a good communicator.  You may be attracted to careers such as acting, sales promotion, teaching, counselling or journalism.

Myers-Briggs and spirituality

Eight decades have passed since all this work was first done and there has been much thinking about how it relates to spirituality.  Much of the thinking has been from a Christian perspective but the resulting guidance can be applied to other religions or to a non-religious standpoint.

Sensation and spirituality

Someone with a naturally developed sensing Function may find the world of nature to be their gateway to spiritual experience.  Candles, music, dance, incense and art may also have an important part to play.  A simple, realistic and practical outworking of spirituality may be in evidence.

Thinking and spirituality

On the other hand, someone with a dominant thinking Function may value a more intellectual approach to spirituality.  Logic, for example in the form of a cogently argued book or talk, may appeal.  Ditto intellectual meditation.  A person may want to see how their spirituality fits in with or challenges current thinking in science or personal conduct and how it relates to social action.

Feeling and spirituality

The person for whom feeling is especially important may require spiritual practices that engage the heart.  Group activities may be favoured where friendships can be established and, if there is a belief in the divine, anything that enables relationship and intimacy with it may have a pull.  At those times solitude may be needed to explore this intimacy.

Intuition and spirituality

Silence and stillness may be essential too for those of a more intuitive bent.  If they pray, then that prayer may be wordless and tend to move away from intellectual meditation towards contemplation – setting themselves directly in the presence of the divine.  There may be a thirst for what’s known as the inner life and these people may be on a continual quest for the hidden, the beyond.  Intuition, after all, is an apprehension of the facts beyond the facts.

A place for spirituality

So those are some very rudimentary thoughts about how spirituality can be developed along lines that accord with one’s own temperament.  There’s no question that spirituality can bring profound meaning and purpose to life.  There’s evidence too that it can benefit mental health.

If you’d like to read more about temperament and spirituality, there are quite a few books out there on the subject.  A very popular introduction to personality types is David Keirsey’s Please understand me II.  It helps you find your own temperament type, gives vivid portraits of different temperament and character types and looks, among other things, at how those affect one’s choice of partner and choice of work.  With that foundation in place, Chester P. Michael and Marie C. Norrissey’s seminal Prayer and Temperament then discusses specifically how different personality types might find their own particular avenue into spiritual experience.

Psychotherapy and spirituality

I believe there’s a place for spirituality in psychotherapy.  Sometimes people think that’s not the case because therapy is all about psychology, isn’t it?  Well, I prefer to say that psychotherapy is all about life and spirituality is part of life.  Those are not empty words.  Discussions of spirituality in, for example, small therapy groups can enrich a person’s experience of therapy itself.  That’s because therapy is about an individual’s whole development and not just, as people sometimes imagine, about dealing with emotional problems.

I wish you a Happy New Year.