Wellness, Health and Personality Type
"Looking at healing simply from within the medical model is extremely limiting and, in many cases, no longer serves. A nonlinear, holistic approach which includes body, mind and spirit is the only approach that truly makes sense."
Pat Wyman, Three Keys to Self-Understanding
The sixteen personality types identified by the MBTI® instrument describe all of the basic configurations of human beings' approaches to perception, information-processing, and choosing a course of action.
Like all organisms, humans have evolved with fundamental needs—for nutrients, water, rest, exercise, stimulation, social interaction, etc.—and with instinctive drives to fulfill those needs. Pursuing one need usually takes energy away from the pursuit of others; and some needs (e.g. rest and exercise) are clearly mutually exclusive. So achieving the ideal condition—the state in which all the basic needs are met so that the organism can thrive—is a matter of proportion. We call this condition of optimal balance, "wellness." A state of wellness makes desirable manifestations possible: good health, high energy, happiness, fulfillment, effectiveness, productivity, etc. Wellness is obviously not the only factor that can influence our lives; but it is the essential foundation for everything else. It is the fertility of the soil into which the seeds of our life's journey will fall. It determines whether a lush, healthy crop can grow or is destined to be stunted and fall short of its potential.
Achieving the ideal condition, in which all basic needs are met so that the organism can thrive, is a matter of proportion. We call this condition of optimal balance, "wellness."
Unlike other organisms, humans' double-edged sword of self-awareness opens up a myriad of ways in which we can confuse ourselves and build mental barriers to our natural wellness: patterns of bias, of poor choices, and of internal conversations which override our natural awareness of what is good for us. Our "habits of mind" provide our individual approaches to constructing these personal barriers. Any particular habitually unbalanced perspective toward the world, toward others, or toward ourselves—a skewed approach to how we understand things, make decisions, and take action—can become entrenched in us, building and maintaining the obstacles which hold us back from wholeness and balance.
We all experience this to some degree. But when the imbalance becomes rigidly entrenched and is sustained long-term, it can set the stage for dis-ease: in the form of depression, patterns of problematic relationships, ineffectiveness at work, chronic physical conditions, and even catastrophic life-threatening illnesses. Sometimes our mental barriers are minor contributors to the visible problem. Sometimes they are the primary cause. But they are always a part of the picture. Therefore a true and lasting cure must address them. Likewise, effective prevention must involve rebalancing our thought and behavior patterns before they lead to crisis.
If the sixteen Jungian personality types truly describe the basic constellations of our mental habits; and if our development according to the model of psychological type describes our ability to use and balance the different perspectives; then it follows that personality type may provide a way to describe the specific complexes of imbalance that these mental habits can create; and even predict the types of disease manifestations that are most likely to result. It would also follow that our type preferences should provide keys to regaining a more healthy balance through focused, intentional type development.
"Whatever is flexible…will grow; whatever is rigid and blocked will wither and die."
The current Western medical system, with its focus on reacting to crisis, is clearly becoming unsustainable as a stand-alone approach to health-care. Likewise our systems of law enforcement, mental health, and social service clearly cannot cope with the growing psycho-social dis-ease and dysfunction in our culture. A more historically traditional focus on taking responsibility for one's own well-being seems to be the key missing piece. With an attitude of personal responsibility; with awareness of health issues through the more proactive and effective focus on wellness; and with availability of better information and skilled and knowledgeable wellness professionals, we could deal with most health issues before they reach the crisis levels that require costly intervention.
Understanding wellness through the sixteen types may provide a key to just such a democratization of our understanding of mental, physical, and spiritual health.
It must be acknowledged that several of the premises outlined above are not universally accepted by those who view the human condition exclusively through the lens of Western science. On the other hand, validation of such assumptions and connections from outside the scope of Western science can be said to be overwhelming. Our overall hypothesis takes a broader "systems" view of wellness and health and it is therefore not surprising that it is amply reflected in the more holistic approaches of traditional healing methodologies such as acupuncture, Chinese medical tradition, and American Indian spirituality/healing. Furthermore, the systems upon which holistic therapies are based (such as the chakra system of energy flow and the world view embedded in the "circle of life") appear to be consistent with the concepts and relationships of Jung's system of psychological type.
We are in the process of constructing a large-scale survey-based research project to look into the possible correlations between verified MBTI® type and physical diseases. Check back on this site for updates.