Empowerment Starts Here

This site is dedicated to the professional and academic work of Dr. Angela Dye.

The Case for Personality Theory

For the past twenty years, I have been interested in personality theory, a field of psychology that explains the different ways people think, feel and act. I particularly fell in love with Meyers Briggs in that its treatment of Carl Jung’s cognitive functions finally gave me words to explain my inner world as its own unique brand.  As an INTJ personality type in that system, my driving functions are introverted intuition and extraverted thinking and my inferior functions are extraverted sensing and introverted feeling.  In short, this means my primary mode of thinking is to perceive and make meaning of the abstract world and take action in unique ways based on what only I can see.

Two years ago I started giving my attention to the Enneagram. However, when I was first introduced to it six years ago as a personality system, I hated it.  Whereas Meyers Briggs, through the cognitive functions, presents the person as neutral (neither good nor bad), the Enneagram is all about showing both—the good and the bad. And while I knew that I was not exclusively nice and shiny, having to face what I call my uglies was a bit much.  But years later, I was drawn to what is called the instinctual stack in that system.  I was finally ready to learn about the non-thinking part of me.  As a person that primarily identifies with rational thought, I had become curious about the irrational that governs every person– even those with the INTJ personality.  So, I came to learn that I am an Enneagram 8 (with a social/self-preservation instinct) and I can now explain my sensitivity to power and abusive- dominance. I accept that I cannot be controlled; I have a deep appetite for understanding the social word and locating the different agendas of its actors; and I am comfortable with being in my body when it is time to take action. This is the nuanced part of me that the INTJ framing alone cannot explain.

Pushing these two systems together, I now identify as an INTJ8 which together means I think primarily about problems of the social world and am in my strength when I am able to design and implement unique solutions to solve those problems.  I intellectually challenge and confront when there is an opportunity for rational thought and when there is no room for rational behavior, I withdraw. Finally, I am sensitive to irrational behavior, inefficiency and, as already said, abusive-dominance. And, if I do not have the means to implement solutions to the cognitive dissonance I experience because of this sensitivity, I will experience an intrapersonal disconnect.  

My primary mode of thinking is to perceive and make meaning of the abstract world and take action in unique ways based on what only I can see.

It has also been about 20 years since I have given birth to my own theory… the empowerment framework which identifies seven conditions for being empowered: P3 Commitment; Innate Power; Personal Assets; Global Efficacy; Individual Responsibility; Sense of Self; and Shared Accountability.  While this birthing happened almost at the same time I was introduced to personality theory, I never put these two events together until now.

Often people ask why I am so obsessed with personality psychology and up until recently, I told them it was about my own liberation. I grew up in a world (both at the micro and macro level) that offered negative messages of what it meant to be. Whether it was related to skin color, gender, or personality, I had to work to connect to myself as an entity that was complete. It was not until I experienced post-secondary learning, and all of the ways that it invited me to think about the social word and act in uniquely rational ways, that I found a way to be in harmony with my dominant self. And truthfully, in the past ten years as I have come to also value the non- thinking side of me, I can now truly connect to what it means to be fully human.  This is my liberation story and personality psychology has played an important role in all of it. 

While empowerment has been a professional pursuit, as I have given almost thirty years of my life to the advancement of marginalized communities and their children, I did not understand that it was my own fight for liberation that was working in tandem with my career.  My first inclination that my fight for empowerment was more personal than I had originally thought was when I wrote and published my first book.  I somehow was led to talk about my home life and what came out on paper was very similar to that of my students. It was not that I had repressed some of these experiences; I just did not have them in context to what it means to do the work of empowerment.

Writing about empowerment put my childhood experiences into perspective with my work.  I was not a good teacher because I possessed some magical treatment to my training. I was good because I knew on an unspoken level what my students needed and then I had the internal wiring (yes, an INTJ8-wiring) to give them the instructional environment they required to produce and prosper.  But nine months ago, I realized that the interrelatedness between my personal and professional lives extends beyond the classroom.  They also connect at the academic level where I have been theorizing what it means to be empowered. 

Whether it was related to skin color, gender, or personality, I had to work to connect to myself as an entity that was complete.

As a part of a new job (not in anyway connected to my business), I once participated in a training called Cognitive Coaching.  This training is based on a belief that we are all semi-autonomous entities connected to larger semi-autonomous entities. Within this dual structure is a dynamic tension that says we want to assert our autonomous nature through “ambition, initiative, competition and aspiration;” yet, “It is impossible for autonomous individuals to function without connection to a larger whole” (Learning Guide, 2019, p. 18).  In order to be independently linked to the whole (as one semi-autonomous entity connected to another semi-autonomous entity), a state of holonomy is required.  Through holonomy, the whole, as relating to its semi-autonomous parts, interdependently functions at high levels.

The training went on to offer five states of mind that are necessary for holonomy:  consciousness, craftsmanship, efficacy, flexibility, and interdependence.  For some reason, this part of the training reminded me to think about my empowerment model as seven states of empowerment… that when a person is cut off from more than one of these seven states, they are not empowered.  While holonomy is the interrelated condition of effectively working within a larger system for production, empowerment is the interrelated condition of wholeness while effectively engaging in that larger system. 

Paulo Freire (1970) in The Pedagogy of the Oppressed makes two propositions that challenges a treatment of holonomy that does not interrogate power.  The subjects of power (the oppressor) and the objects of power (the oppressed) maintain the established hierarchy of power.  Revolutionary leaders (from power) and liberated individuals (from powerlessness) must disrupt this hierarchy in order for true liberation to occur.  Talking about holonomy without also discussing the disruption of the hierarchy invites a permanent position of marginalized persons in the whole to exist as mere laborers.  And this position of laboring as opposed to leading is the second proposition of Freire.  Through a praxis of thought and action, the oppressed becomes a subject of his own person, allowing him to name and transform his own world.  This power to name and transform one’s world is essential to freedom and should be linked to the interdependence necessary for holonomy.  If a person is not a subject of his own person, then he cannot be fully interdependent with the whole. 

It is a dangerous thing to juxtapose these two systems together as it intimates a competition for an ideal state of being.  One focuses on the wholeness of the larger system and the other focuses on the wholeness of the sub-system.  And while I do believe these two systems are of equal value, my lens for seeing power and unequal distributions of power (as an INTJ8 and a trained academic of power), I believe the world needs a model for ensuring marginalized subsystems are positioned as whole (regardless if they are semi-autonomous within a larger semi-autonomous system). 

This power to name and transform one’s world is essential to freedom and should be linked to the interdependence necessary for holomy. 

All of this thinking about power, subjectivity, transformation and holonomy brings me back to personality theory.  One of the states of mind necessary for holonomy is craftsmanship—being skilled.  While most professionals undergo a certain level of training, it is important to note that such training sits on top of natural talents and dispositions.  In other words, two people with the same background and training can have different states of craftsmanship because they are using different talents and dispositions for which they were given at birth.  My question as of late is: Where are we taught about these natural talents and dispositions in real, concrete ways if not through some form of individual personality assessment?

Pausing the conversation on natural talents and dispositions for a second, let us look at two other states of mind necessary for holonomy:  efficacy and flexibility.  Through efficacy, one has a sense of his own capacity and a sense of ownership in achieving results by way of that capacity.   In the text used for the training, flexibility is presented in two ways.  First there is the ability to see and respect multiple perspectives for doing the work and second is the ability to see and engage one’s self in different approaches toward the work.  Nothing allows us to do this better than personality theory.  Through personality theory, one better understands the unique skill-set he naturally brings to the work and once he can see that in himself, he can better understand the unique capacity of others.  When we are taught in school that we each are unique in what makes us special but never have the language to define this special uniqueness, one’s sense of efficacy and flexibility can be easily hampered.  One cannot do what one does not understand.

Outside of interdependence (the theory’s fifth state), the last one that I’m actually challenging as relating to holonomy is consciousness.  In the text provided by the training, consciousness is limited to the work but, as linked to efficacy, one also needs to know the self IN the work. Without personality theory, one might struggle to understand the particular ways he truly is connected to his work.  How he thinks, how he feels, what he believes and what he does are all data points from the inner world of the self.  While it is important to have consciousness about the work, it is equally important (if not more) to have a consciousness of the self in the work.

Through personality theory, one better understands the unique skillset he naturally brings to the work and once he can see that in himself, he can better understand the unique capacity of others. 

In my theory for empowerment, one of the states of power is Sense of Self.  In this state, the individual must have a deep sense of who he is according to space and time; perception and perspectives; and personal production.  Personality theory is, in my professional opinion, the best way to teach about this sense of self.  And while I’ll be the first to argue that there might be more scientifically valid personality frameworks available to do this, I want to argue that depth psychology (particularly Myers Briggs Typology Indicator) can do the job with a level of poignancy needed for the work of empowerment.

I’m glad I was trained on holonomy because learning about the five states of mind as related to high performance has reinvigorated me to look at my empowerment framework. And just like I accept that you need all five states to truly perform at high levels within an organization, I ultimately believe you need my seven power states of empowerment to truly engage in such performance.

I think Sense of Self (my sixth state of power) is, however, the most critical for the work holonomy.  In that craftsmanship,  consciousness, efficacy,  flexibility and interdependence cannot truly happen until you know and own your interior landscape, Sense of Self is the power point most relevant for that process.

As an INTJ8, I must advocate for what I need in order to be independent, flexible, efficacious, etc.  I need a position that allows me to think big, abstractly and systematically and allows me equal access to power.  That’s my holomomy. That’s my empowerment.  That’s my story. I hope it encourages you to go find yours.

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This entry was posted on July 16, 2022 by in Uncategorized.
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