Monthly Archives: July 2012

Personality Tests

I enjoy taking these, for the process at least as much as the results.
(That’s the kind of question they ask.)

Getting them is a conflicted experience.

I feel a mix of pleasure at not being boxed or fitting their schemes, and the wish to be understood and for greater self knowledge.

I was asked to test one of these for a careers department. I answered honestly and was told “Your answers are not valid”!

I quickly realised how to answer to get a chosen result. I further mocked this fledging programme when it made suggestions for me that I thought way out… though over a decade later, I understood that those career paths were latent in me.

When you take one in a magazine, it’s fun and the people making the test are not claiming to be experts. I often wonder whether the sort in women’s magazines are composed over a liquid lunch amidst much squealing, and how much of an understanding of life the composers have.

But psychologists do take themselves and their tests more seriously, and they expect you the respondent to. I think that means greater responsibility on their half and more caution on that of the test taker, because their analyses can hurt and mislead.
One of them made you take a kind of risk assessment on the potential damage the test could cause!

The academic in me picks holes in their poorly framed questions and easily is bored with repetition. Often I do not feel any of the options presented suits me, at least without a large proviso. When asked if I prefer justice or mercy, it depends on whether I am speaking of wrong done by a huge corporation or a needy individual, and justice can be restorative, not punitive.

One test was a secret megalomaniac finder under the guise of Self Esteem. It asked things like “Would you make a good world leader?”! – I wasn’t sure that position had been created. Of course some people really could answer yes to national leadership (and in comparison to some of our leaders, I think we could feel safe to assert we could do a better job!) It also made you think it was asking if you have a good body image when it was really trying to catch you as an exhibitionist. It asked other questions with loaded answers which often forced you into saying something they took as delusional.

Another was about whether you saw yourself as lazy, and how much you wished to be. Generally we are expected to want to be diligent and hard working and organised and not the opposite. There are traits we are expected to be or desire to be – warm and gregarious being others. I felt there are any presuppositions by the psychologists, reflecting their own values as much as the women’s magazines.

Many tests ask what country, sex and age you are. I amused myself by changing that and found that the results came out differently – eg being seen as less immodest as an American male than a Botswanan woman.

They score you on averages from not only country, sex and age but in comparison to others that took the tests. But people who take the tests already have certain personality traits in common – curiosity, desire for self knowledge and enjoying questions; perhaps too in having some time to spare. I think that undermines the methodology somewhat.

Having preset answers also boxes you and I felt there were aspects of myself not being asked about – for instance, less about kindness and empathy, and lots with leading words about annoyance and selfish sounding behaviours which translated the answers into more emotive and extreme results – eg angry becomes enraged; resentful, bitter. It is not good at nuance or contradiction or variation.

Sometimes I was surprised that they did come out with some accurate and perceptive statements despite not being impressed with the test. But if you do more than one by the same people, you find cut and paste statements which really stand out as being inauthentic.

My favourite are the Jungian ones – not as a fan of him but because I like what it said about me. It generally picked the right careers and interests, said some flattering things, and put me in a rare category which suited me nicely 🙂
And I am apparently in the same one as Nathan the Prophet who clearly took the test in Biblical times, along with some notable Greeks and canonised saints.

The most ridiculous question was how would you react to a friend who claimed his lateness was due to a penguin.

I am right to be critical of the questions and the values portrayed in them. I note that what comes out is the wish to conform and seem nice vs honesty; and also some negative beliefs about myself.

I close with my favourite question – about your reaction to your lover being caught in bed with a dignitary. I shall not share which answer I chose, but its perceptiveness did make me smile!

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Are you a team player? I hope not!!

I’ve just been turned down from a rather dubious sounding blogsite for saying I wouldn’t be a team player.

Too right. Team leader, not player!

The comment was made regarding Facebook which you know by now I take issue with – and Twitter. I am however a MySpace girl… and of course I use the internet for other things, such as this blog. (See https://elspethr.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/erosions/; https://elspethr.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/why-i-left-twitter)

Doesn’t “team player” reek of social control, of lack of individual and independence? Miss Jean Brodie was against team spirit, though ironically what she cooked up was a posse that looked to her but not to each other.

It is not that working together is bad, although I prefer small groups in almost all interactions. But I respect that some people enjoy groups. It is not about… I was about to use “co-operation” but that word has bad connotations too. Co-operation as in the Cooperative movement of an organisation owned by a workforce and its customers without hierarchy. Cooperation can have the friendly tone of working with someone, a thank you for reasonableness and having stretched yourself a bit to help. But cooperation has a corporate legal, military feel: your cooperation is expected. If you do not there will be unpleasant consequences. It speaks of large machines crushing the small cogs that won’t comply and who have little thought for the cogs.

That’s why if I see a job description with “Team player” I know to stop the application. It’s not because I don’t like working with others or am incapable of the the consideration and communication needed – quite the reverse. But in using the phrase, it speaks to me about the company’s ethos and sends out a warning alarm.

Although perhaps it will be no great surprise to learn I am mostly self employed.

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Going off Gandhi

I know this must sound like I’m doing a series dissing famous people. I wrote an article “Going off Austen” ( http://bookstove.com/book-talk/going-off-austen ) which to my surprise but pleasure was picked up by the official Austen magazine for a guest article. Not sure the Gandhi society will want this for their news letter, and I’m not writing to be rude about famous people for the sake of it, although I know I have also critiqued Shakespeare, the films Inception, Batman and generally like going against the grain.

http://bookstove.com/classics/shakespeare-is-stupid/

http://cinemaroll.com/science-fiction/inception-4/

Like Janey, Gandhi began as someone I admired, also in my teens. It began with seeing the 1982 film starring Ben Kingsley, which so impressed me that I chose the scantily clad Indian for my school research project. I am pleased to see that even as a fifteen year old with narrow Christian views that I admired an inclusive Hindu and foreigner; and that I called myself a pacifist as soon as I heard the word – during that course.

But discussing my view of pacifism leads to why I soon parted company with the Mahatma, and why, until I found the project whilst tidying a cupboard, I have not thought about him or watched the film in 20 years.

One of Gandhi’s most distinctive ideals was what is translated as “truth weapon”. The Attenborough film has many disturbing scenes of Gandhi and his followers being repeatedly hit without hitting back. As the teenage me quoted, Gandhi saw that the hurt should be taken by us, not the opponent. I do not like this.

Ever since Gripper bullied Rowland on school TV series Grange Hill, I have hated to see victims not stand up for themselves, whatever the situation. My pacifism is not to take up arms in war, rebellion, or revenge. It is not to never defend.

Self suffering is another theme I have always rejected, which includes asceticism. I wonder how his wife felt about the decision to have no sex anymore. A sexual guilt that parallels St Augustine’s (father of Christianity’s Original Sin) came from Gandhi being in bed with his wife whilst his father died in the same house. Understandable, but it is sad to think that Gandhi saw this act as giving into carnality and letting his father down. Gandhi, the same age then as I was when I wrote the project, had spend many hours massaging his ill father’s feet. My view now would be that not only had Gandhi cared well for his father, but that his father chose his time of departure when his son was close but otherwise engaged in a positive act, not something unspiritual and undisciplined to feel shameful about.

What most stuck with me is the related subjects which I did not put in that project, but that I clearly recall, two decades on. To prove his lack of attachment to earthly desires, Gandhi would sleep naked with young pretty virgins to show his control. Recalling the elderly King David’s young human bedwarmers, this is gross and arrogant and abusive. There is a cult around him, with women flocking to his exposed though wrinkled body. Gandhi is strangely sexual and taunting, giving off a mixed message of abstinence and temptation, perhaps a little distorted by the thin aging body he sported. It also makes me think of the disgraced Sheffield vicar I deliberately won’t name who was put in prison for his posse of massaging women, as an abuser.

I was also struck by the cult status around Gandhi when he twice threatened to starve himself to death to quell his angry followers. At once it is a shrewd move, knowing his importance and death would stop the riots; but it’s a also egocentric and a form of masochistic blackmail, typically putting the suffering onto himself but demonstrating his truth weapon that you can make others suffer for what’s going on in your body. It is not overcoming through love but subjecting your opponent to an inverse torture until they too give in – like the show down with Wonder Woman and the Japanese relocation camp victim, to see whose willpower gives up first.

The possessionless leader is something I have thought about with other Hindus and societies, and may form a post in itself (I havae written a sermon on it – the Wisdom of the Smurfs). Living without a home expects others to finance you, that those in the system allow you to stay out of it. And Gandhi’s ashrams do not appeal – a life of sewing, toilet cleaning and other practical tasks. You can clean toilets, Gandhi as a spiritual exercise – I shall find something else!

I can see why Gandhi fell off my list of favourite films and favourite or influential people, though it is good to be reminded of him and to work out my own spiritual and political beliefs in contrast to his. However, I do remain inspired that a man could head a movement to achieve so much, and rightly allow India to become free.

One thing did resonate – the story of how he confessed something to his father and instead of remonstrations or punishments, his father cried, and that moved Gandhi more than any chastisements could. Now, there is a sermon in that…

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