Monday, 16 January 2017

Otto I (LSI): Personality Type Analysis

Otto I, known colloquially through the epiphet Otto the Great, was originally the Duke of Saxony and King of Germany in 936 and considered by some historians to have been the 1st Holy Roman Emperor, reigning from 962 to 973. He is known well for sustaining the efforts of his father Henry the Fowler in unifying all German tribes into a single state under the monarchy. By doing this, he had greatly expanded on the powers of the king, leading him to take on large reforms, such as the transformation of the Roman Catholic Church and its clergy to be under monarchical control. Throughout his reign as King of Germany, he had dealt with Hungarian invasions in the Battle of Lechfeld in 955, successfully putting an end to these invasions and thus became highly respected by the Christian world as a result. After conquering the Kingdom of Italy in 961, the territories he owned flourished under the Ottonian dynasty as patrons to art and architecture. During this period, he was eventually crowned as Holy Roman Emperor by Pope John the XII, ruling for 11 years until his death on May 973.

To gain more insight on what Otto's socionics type is, it would be best to look at his life before his coronation as German King and Holy Roman Emperor. Of his four siblings, Otto I was considered the most courageous and fearless of his kin and was appointed as a military commander when he became an adult. His contemporaries compared his tremendous physical strength to that of a lion, learning all the art of war tactics very quickly in his youth. As military commander, his first military victory resulted after campaigning Slavic Invasions of the Germanic Kingdom in 929, resulting in the ensured protection of his father's kingdom and arranged marriage for Otto to improve relations with Anglo-Saxon England. Once Otto was married to Edith of England in 930, Otto continued his efforts of watching over the German army as a cautious administrator who understood how to keep his troops in line and the importance of adequately using his position as royal authority to his advantage. This already points to strong and valued F, likely as in the Ego Block.

Six years after Otto's marriage, his father Henry died on July 936 and he assumed the throne as the next in line on August 936. The new Duke of Bavaria, Eberhard quickly came into conflict with Otto, greatly opposing the sovereignty of the German king over Bavaria, Eberhard disregarded the peace treaty already in place and decided to rebel against the king. In two graceful and swift military campaigns in 938, Otto exiled Eberhard after his defeat, stripped him of his titles and ensured that his actions would be met with equal and necessary punishment. Even after this victory, Eberhard was already plotting another rebellion in his exile and gained the support of Otto's brother Henry to claim the throne for himself. After hearing about this, Otto exiled his own brother and began to ally with supporters like Hugh the Great to track down the rebellion. Unfortunately, the armed forces could not track down the leaders of the rebellion, despite the first few victories that Otto had against the rebels. Archbishop Frederick even intervened and wanted to mediate peace between belligerents, but Otto ignored this qualm for peace, allied with the Duchy of Swabia and Alsace to eliminate the rebellion entirely and kill Eberhard. After claiming yet another victory for Germany, he divided the Duchy of Franconia into smaller counties that were more manageable from an administrative perspective. What can be said about the evidence available, is that Otto the I was very much an omnicompetent ruler who had great political awareness in what they did in terms of war, maintaining their power, and administration. His focus between his reign in 941 and 951 was on restructuring the government and consolidating his power; increasing centralisation in the monarchy. This approach indicates stronger L blocked with F, rather than R, which would result in the L1+F2 rigidity of the rules he created and the flexibility of using force when L let him down.

Otto had dealt with previous issues right before restructuring governmental powers, for instance, Louis IV had asserted himself yet a second time to rule Lorraine independently in 940, which was based on his claim to be Duke of Lorraine due to his marriage to Gerberga of Saxony, Otto's sister. Otto thought this claim to be unworthy of his attention and instead appointed his brother Henry as Duke of Lorraine, not because he personally trusted him as family, but because he thought he was could perform the job of managing a Duchy better than Louis IV. Hugh was to perform an act of submission to Louis IV, and in return Louis IV was to waive any claims to Lorraine. This pattern of mediating conflicts that he thought would ruin the royal marriage and effort to repair relations with France. Burgundy, Bohemia and the Byzantine empire does show that Otto cared enough about R to use it for his own reasons, but didn't really care much for Henry or Gerberge as individuals and seldom got to know them personally outside of political relations. This points to weak and unvalued R, though not completely distended as R4, making R3 the most likely possibility.

However, during his rule as Holy Roman Emperor, Otto frequently encountered complications that threatened his position has emperor and dealt with these situations in a peculiar way. To clarify, Pope John XII eventually turned against Otto because of his increasing political power, so he arranged to have his ownership of the papacy revoked. Otto immediately realized this and quickly imposed the rule that no pope could be elected without the emperor's approval.  This proclamation opened an era of German domination of the papacy and resulted in Otto to remain as head of the Christian community for the rest of his reign.

To gain a better understanding surrounding his ability in R, it would be best to look at those who personally knew him. However, since accounts of such people are very limited, the The Catholic Encyclopedia described him fluently as:

"His contemporaries compared his tremendous physical strength to that of a lion. He was a Saxon through and through. In his youth he had learned all the arts of the profession of arms. Though subject to violent fits of temper, and conscious of his power and genius, he prayed devoutly as a child. A shrewd calculator, always convincing and always toiling, he correctly estimated the importance of diplomatic negotiations. He was a keen observer and possessed a fine knowledge of human nature which always enabled him to select the proper persons for important offices in the government." - Kampers, Franz. "Otto I, the Great."

From that, moving onto Otto's coronation as Holy Roman Emperor would further bring more insight as to what type Otto I would be. With Clarity-Seeking and World-Rejecting values, that already puts Otto the Great squarely in the Beta quadra. Later in life, the new Holy Roman Emperor of the Ottonian dynasty had put forth projects or a "limited renaissance" as it's often called in history.

Otto I's Imperial coronation had a massive effect on German culture and arts, in that it created a renewed faith in the Holy Roman Empire and reformed the Catholic church. This immediately resulted in a period of profound development in "Ottonian art" as they called it, or art by the court to confirm his Holy and Imperial lineage through associations with Constantine the Great (EIE) and Justinian I (EIE). Otto I relished in this atmosphere and felt great admiration towards the people who respected him in this way and allowed the arts to thrive in a way that best fit the vision of the future kingdom. The truth is that Otto I didn't participate in these arts, it was created for him to appreciate, which he did. From what the information available suggests, is that there wasn't much E at all coming from Otto himself, but he greatly appreciated the efforts of German artists to paint an image for him as this magnanimous emperor, which fits weak and valued E5. In addition, later in life, Otto became more interested in more artistic and architectural projects that gave him a chance to improve the aesthetic value of the Empire, with great emphasis on the organization of such projects and to take part in leisure only when his duties were fulfilled. This would be a unusual for a Beta type like the EIE or SLE with S as a vulnerable or ignoring function, Otto's approach to this would seem to fit a type with quite strong S, likely that of the LSI's S8 rather than the IEI's S3.

Otto's general focus is on the present moment, yet persistently carrying on with his own mission of continuing what his father started for the glory and future prosperity of the Holy Roman Empire does suggest T6. His T was considerably weaker compared to what he was like later in life, in his youth, his campaigns relied on more direct tactics rather than much forethought or strategic planning (Whether it was luck or his own shrewdness on the battlefield is left up to debate).

The overall evidence thus far points to LSI as the most likely type for Otto I, with arguments addressing L1, F2, R3E5, T6 and S8. A magnanimous, yet paranoid emperor who stuck to his "vision" of how the empire should be, managed the state well and centralized power to the monarchy to carry out these projects.

To learn more about LSI, click here

If you are confused by our use of Socionics shorthand, click here.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Nero (SEI): Personality Type Analysis

Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, originally Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, usually known simply as Nero, was the 5th Roman Emperor, reigning from 54 to 68. Along with his uncle Caligula (EIE), he is the most (in)famous of all emperors, with the reputation of having insanely set fire to Rome, singing while it was burning, and cruelly executing Christians whom he made scapegoats for it. From a scholarly historical perspective, though, most of the above is dubious. Nobody questions that there was a devastating fire in Rome in 64, and that there were rumours at the time that Nero had started it himself. There is evidence that the small Christian community in Rome was persecuted in the aftermath. For a Socionics analysis of his type, I will focus on what seems historically certain about him and ignore the “mad pyromaniac” version.

Nero’s name at birth was Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, his father a member of a family that had been prestigious during the Republic, his mother Julia Agrippina, better known as Agrippina the Younger (SLE). Agrippina was a member of the first ruling dynasty in the Empire. Her life went through ups and downs in the reigns of her great-uncle Tiberius (ILI) and her brother Caligula, until she rose to the top as the new wife of her paternal uncle, the then Emperor Claudius (ILI). He adopted Lucius as his son, changing his name to Nero. Claudius died in 54 – possibly poisoned by Agrippina – and Nero was acclaimed as emperor at the age of 17, the youngest ever at that point.

At first, the actual business of government was guided by Agrippina, as well as Nero’s tutor, the philosopher Seneca, and the Praetorian Prefect, Burrus. This resulted in a period of moderate, rational government with Nero as a figurehead. Early on, Seneca and Burrus managed to push Agrippina aside, with Nero’s agreement, as she was interfering too much in his sexual affairs. A few years later, Nero arranged for his mother to be discreetly assassinated on the coast, as she was allegedly intriguing to return to power, even if that meant deposing her son. As Seneca and Burrus later retired and died, Nero became free from anyone claiming to have any authority over him and could finally be himself, as it were.

That brings us to Nero’s visible priorities in his life choices, which gives us information on his Socionics type. First, he was little concerned with government policies as such. Especially in foreign policy he let the men on the ground carry on with the job – that includes very serious rebellions by provincials in Britain and Judea, and a major war with Parthia (Persia), which were dealt with by Nero’s appointed governors but with little or no input from him. He was the first emperor to not see the need to even pretend to be an active, hands-on commander-in-chief with a personal relationship with the army or to take any interest on military power or to seem a strong leader - that already points to weak or unvalued F.

 On a daily basis he was far more focused on artistic pursuits, especially as a keen composer of poetry and songs, and playing his favourite instrument, the lyre.  He liked to entertain a circle of poets, artists, connoisseurs and hedonists, performing for them in private and exchanging views. That circle included the author of the "Satyricon", Petronius, and the future emperors Otho (IEI) and Nerva (IEI). Nero later moved on to performing in public, at first in Naples, becoming the only emperor ever to play and sing before a large audience. Happy with the result, he took part in the arts festival that he had introduced in Rome, not only singing and playing the lyre but also as an actor in theatrical plays. He always got enthusiastic applause from the general public and that encouraged him to continue. Whether he had genuine talent, or he was applauded only because of his position, is impossible to know.

Besides such artistic pursuits, Nero was also a keen chariot racer, practicing in Caligula's race track (at present-day St Peter's Square). In the later years of his reign, he went for a tour of Greece and participated in the Olympic Games of 67, reportedly always winning, even a race where he fell off the chariot. He was so pleased with his reception in Greece that he abruptly, in a speech in Corinth, actually freed all Greece from paying taxes to the Empire (from an inscription):

"I am showing my gratitude by a gift that was unforeseen by you, men of Greece, though also hardly unexpected in the light of my grandeur, a gift so great that you have not been able to ask for it. All those inhabiting Achae and what was until now the Peloponnese are to receive a freedom from fresh taxes, which you did not all enjoy even in your most prosperous periods (when you were either slaves of outsiders or of one another). I wish that I were offering this gift when Greece was at its peak, so that more could enjoy my generosity. Hence I begrudge the passage of time for having eaten into the greatness of my generosity. Now, however, I am not being generous to you from pity, but from kindness, and I thank your gods whose continual goodwill to me I have experienced by land and sea, that they have allowed me to be so generous to you. For various emperors have likewise given freedom to cities, but I, Nero, am giving it to the entire province."

All the evidence so far points strongly to a man who not only genuinely enjoys artistic pursuits of all kinds but clearly enjoys, craves, perhaps demands even, applause, admiration and obvious flattery from those around him - even, or perhaps especially, from crowds of people he has no acquaintance with individually. That makes essentially certain that Nero had E as an ego function or perhaps a mobilizing function, that is, E1, E2 or E6, putting him squarely in the Alpha or Beta quadras - Alpha more likely with unvalued F.

Something that Nero did not understand, or preferred to ignore, was that the above antics were greatly diminishing his standing, his respect, among the elites of the Senate, and the soldiers. In that society, to perform as a singer or actor was considered vulgar and lower-class. Competing in chariot races was somewhat more acceptable, but Nero's behavior in those areas, in Rome, might be equivalent to Princess Kate performing in strip clubs, in terms of social acceptance. Likewise, his total neglect of building up an image as a military leader, however fake (as in the case of his predecessor, Claudius), suggests that his E was more about receiving positive emotions from his immediate environment, rather than projecting an image or shaping emotions according to his inner visions or longer-term goals. That is, Nero seemed to have E blocked with S rather than with T, that is, again Alpha instead of Beta. Especially as that would eventually lead to his destruction. It could be argued that Nero was behaving like that precisely in order to shock the elites, like a troll, (like his uncle Caligula) but I think the evidence points otherwise.

Nero's regime remained reasonably stable until precisely the great fire of 64. Although he acted quickly to relieve the immediate suffering of the population affected with practical measures of shelter and food, he decided to re-build the affected areas according to his specific designs. Not only the streets and houses had to be rebuilt in ways that would minimise future fires - which nobody objected to - but he also set aside a vast area in the center of the city for his own personal use, an area of the size of Hyde Park, or one third of Central Park, the Domus Aurea, "Golden House", consisting of green parks, an artificial lake, a 98-ft bronze statue of himself, and a large pleasure pavilion. The existing remains are remarkable for their elaborate, even revolutionary techniques in engineering, architecture, and fresco painting - the Renaissance painters Michelangelo (LIE) and Raphael studied the frescoes as soon as they were discovered and imitated their techniques. Recently the remains of a dinner room were discovered, with a sophisticated water-powered mechanism to make it rotate slowly as the guests enjoyed the view of the Forum.

I suggest that that all points to a concern with artistic and sensory pleasure, E+S, with a touch of a fascination for the innovative and creative, I, pointing again to Alpha as Nero's quadra. It has been suggested that he built the Domus Aurea as a statement of his power, like Louis XIV with Versailles. The problem with this theory is that it did not achieve anything of the kind. Nero himself observed that he built it so that he "finally could live like a human being", ie, for his own personal enjoyment.

Nero's spending on the rebuilding of Rome after the fire, and on the construction of the Domus Aurea, strained the state's finances, indeed to near bankrupcy, which was made even worse by gestures like removing the whole of Greece from the tax base in that period, and starting the construction of a canal dug across the isthmus of Corinth. That necessarily meant a steep increase in taxation, something that he seemed to shrug off. The cumulative effect of rapidly increased taxation (except in Greece), the suspicion that he had set fire to Rome in order to build his Domus Aurea, (he did not seem to realize that that would be the impression), and his personal lower popularity for having divorced and banished his first wife, Octavia, Claudius's daughter, besides his lack of respect in the army - all that led first to a failed aristocratic conspiracy, with its members being executed, and then in 68 something "snapped" as there were sudden military revolts by the governors in France, Spain and Portugal, with Nero's political support in Rome melting down overnight, the Senate declaring him an outlaw and the Praetorian Guard essentially telling him that he was on his own. Nero's power disappeared before he had seen anything coming. He was reduced to fleeing the city disguised, dressed in rags, with a small number of loyal slaves and freedmen, going to hide in the country house of one of them, finally committing suicide by plunging a dagger in his neck.

I would say that Nero's attitude to spending recklessly according to his personal pleasure, while making it even worse by reducing the tax base for no good reason except on-the-spot popularity, and his constant lack of interest in the actual running of government, preferring to focus on his artistic pursuits, strongly point to P as a very unvalued and weak function, fitting best P4. His focus on the immediate present moment and surroundings, with what seemed like a complete lack of foresight, confirms very weak and unvalued T, although arguably it looks even weaker than T3.

I argue that the evidence so far already points very strongly to SEI as Nero's likely type. Regarding his relationships with individuals, R: Nero liked to have specific individuals around him, also getting easily infatuated with beautiful women, like his second and third wives, and men whose respect he sought, like Petronius. He was however also quick to banish or execute them if he felt betrayed or judged by them - but, as Tacitus (LSI) observed, Nero did not enjoy at all actually watching anyone suffer. Remarkably, he did not even like watching deadly gladiator fights. Nero's attitude seemed to be, he wanted individuals who were bugging or threatening him to just disappear "somehow", including by death - even as he did not want to watch that actually happening, I daresay because it was too unpleasant. This seems like a man who has some appreciation for R but also dismiss it in favor of his S+E well-being. Interestingly, for a man of his position, he seemed to have little focus on F and the need to cause an F impression on others, which fits F7.

I think that the overall evidence strongly points to SEI as Nero's type. One final point: it is reported that even when he was about to kill himself in wretched conditions, he asked his companions to collect the available bits of marble around, so that his grave, however humble, could at least look a bit pretty. An aesthete to the end.

Sources: the main primary sources for Nero's reign are the histories by Tacitus, Suetonius and Cassius Dio. The best modern scholarly biography in English is Miriam Griffin's "Nero; the End of a Dynasty"

To learn more about SEI, click here.

If you are confused by our use of Socionics shorthand, click here.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Barack Obama (IEI): Personality Type Analysis

Barack Hussein Obama is an American lawyer, book author and politician who served as the 44th President of the United States.

He was born in Hawaii in 1961. His father and namesake was a Kenyan student who met his American mother, Ann Dunham, as they were studying in Honolulu. They got married in early 1961 when they were 24 and 18 years old respectively. The three of them only lived together as a family in Hawaii for some months, as Obama Sr’s and Ann’s studies separated them geographically, with him eventually returning to Kenya in 1964, around which time they divorced. Ann then met and married Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian student at the University of Hawaii. She moved to Jakarta with the then 6-year old Barack Obama to join her husband.  In 1971, Ann decided to send her son back to Honolulu to live with her parents, the main reason being, according to Obama himself, her desire for him to get the best possible education. Ann eventually also left Indonesia and divorced Soetoro.

Obama enjoyed a fairly comfortable middle-class life in Honolulu with his grandparents, attending a very prestigious high school, moving to Los Angeles in 1981 to attend Occidental College and later transferring to Columbia University in NYC to study political science. After graduating he had for one year a standard entry-level corporate job which he then quit to look for jobs in community organising. After about 6 months unemployment he finally found such a position in Chicago, moving there from New York in 1985. In 1988, after visiting his relatives in Kenya, and famously seeing his father’s grave, he entered Harvard Law School and in his first year there became an editor of the Harvard Law Review, and its president the following year. Becoming the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review made Obama a public figure for the first time, attracting media attention and leading to an advance for writing a book, which would become eventually “Dreams from my father”, published in 1995. Obama himself has written that becoming the president of the Harvard Law Review was the major turning point in his life as far as a political career was concerned.

In the following years, Obama worked in several law firms in quick succession and as a lecturer in the University of Chicago Law School, while also active politically in a voter-registration campaign in 1992. This eventually led to his career in electoral politics, first as State Senator in Illinois in 1996, and later as an US Senator in 2004. That year also saw his other “big break” as a national public figure as he was asked to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention that confirmed John Kerry as presidential candidate, immediately attracting national attention. Three years later, at the suggestion of his leader in the Senate, Harry Reid, Obama announced his candidacy for the nomination for President of the United States. He beat Hillary Clinton (LSI) for the Democratic nomination and John McCain (ESI) in the general election. He was re-elected in 2012, beating Mitt Romney (LSE).

For a Socionics analysis, there is, in principle, a nearly unlimited material in the form of speeches, interviews, debates, and the like. Yet, most of that is material from his career as a highly successful, professional politician, which will inevitably be politicised, carefully tailored to promote him and advance his agendas. So, I am focusing mostly on the available material that precedes his political career. By that, I mean his 1995 book “Dreams from my father”, and videos of the time for what they reveal: both of Obama’s priorities and of how he processes his thoughts, as well as testimonies of people who knew him back then, complementing that with observations of him as president that seem obvious.

Dreams from my father” can be described as Obama’s memoirs (not as his autobiography), but focusing very heavily on his search for personal identity – a personal identity in the sense of finding out which group, which collective, he could belong to, since having just an individual identity was not meaningful enough. He needed to feel he belonged to something larger than himself – that is how Obama explained his motivations to write the book in a Q&A session  in 1995. Reading the book, it is very obvious that that is something very important to him, indeed the very core of his thoughts. For a Socionics analysis, that already suggests the Beta quadra,  the most likely to be concerned with issues of personal and group identity, those being related to T and L. 

That book also illustrates very clearly the content of Obama’s thought and how he processes information. He is constantly describing how what he sees or experiences is affecting him, in the sense of triggering emotions, images, and memories – but in a sort of uncontrolled way, that is, as he himself puts it, he is not immediately aware of the meaning of those images and emotions, and what is triggering them, and how they fit together. Indeed, a large part of the book is precisely about trying to understand precisely that.

One example (among very many in the book) is this bit – Obama reacting to his first telephone conversation with his half-sister in Kenya:
“After she hung up, I left my office, telling my secretary I’d be gone for the day. For hours I wandered the streets of Manhattan, the sound of Auma’s voice playing over and over in my mind. A continent away, a woman cries. On a dark and dusty road, a boy skids out of control, tumbling against hard earth, wheels spinning to silence. Who were these people, I asked myself, these strangers who carried my blood? What might save this woman from her sorrow? What wild, unspoken dreams had this boy possessed?
Who was I, who shed no tears at the loss of his own?"

As described in the summary above, Obama gave up what seemed like a promising, conventional corporate career in NYC to go into community organising – before he had any position or plan for that. He himself explains that when he took that very important, life-changing decision, he had no idea why he was doing it:
“Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can construct a certain logic to my decision, show how becoming an organizer was a part of that larger narrative, starting with my father and his father before him,  my mother and her parents, my memories of Indonesia with its farmers and the loss of Lolo to power, on through Ray and Frank, Marcus and Regina; my move to New York; my father’s death. I can see that my choices were never truly mine alone – and that that is how it should be, that to  assert otherwise is to chase after a sorry sort of freedom. But such recognition came only later."

I re-emphasise that this kind of description of his thought process, based on images and emotions of meaning not always clear to him or to the reader, is present everywhere in the text (it is also very present in his later, more politically aware book, "The Audacity of Hope"). As per his own description, Obama saw himself not as a free agent, but as moving in a “narrative”, which he followed as he perceived it, well before he understood how it all fit together logically – while thinking that was better than “a sorry sort of freedom”. 

The above points strongly to T as an ego function, T1 more likely than T2, with L as a valued but weak function; he needs to find a logic to his thoughts and actions but is consistently insecure about that. Also, the fact that he finds it natural not to be a free agent as an individual, or even to not always be consciously aware of the reasons for his decisions, suggests also that F is not a strong function. That again points to IEI or EIE as Obama’s likely type. Obama’s thought pattern is to react to T and E information that will eventually lead to L conclusions and worldviews, but in a way that he is not fully conscious of.

Connecting that to how Obama approaches his relationships with other individuals. He described many, maybe all, of the encounters he had in Kenya with his relatives – several half-siblings, aunts, grandmother. Revealingly, the only one he very clearly could not relate to at all, and whom, as he makes clear, he had no wish to see again, is his younger half-brother, Mark, son of his father and Ruth, his father’s other American wife. Mark was a physicist and student at Stanford. Obama saw him as his "foggy mirror image" and he describes their only in-depth conversation:
“Mark cut off a bite of his samosa and put it into his mouth. ‘As for the rest of Kenya, I don’t feel much of an attachment. Just another poor African country’. 
‘You don’t ever think about settling here?’ 
Mark took a sip from his Coke. ‘No’, he said. ‘I mean, there’s not much work for a physicist, is there, in a country where the average person doesn’t have a telephone’. 
I should have stopped then, but something – the certainty in this brother’s voice, maybe, or our rough resemblance, like looking into a foggy mirror – made me want to push harder. I asked, ‘Don’t you ever feel like you might be losing something?’ 
Mark put down his knife and fork, and for the first time that afternoon his eyes looked straight into mine. 
‘I understand what you’re getting  at’, he said flatly. ‘You think that somehow I’m cut off from my roots, that sort of thing’. - - ‘Well, you’re right. At a certain point, I made a decision not to think about who my real father was. He was dead to me even when he was still alive. I knew that he was a drunk and showed no concern for his wife or children. That was enough.’ 
‘It made you mad’. 
‘Not mad. Just numb.’ 
‘And that doesn’t bother you? Being numb, I mean?’ 
‘Towards him, no. Other things move me. Beethoven’s symphonies. Shakespeare’s sonnets. I know – it’s not what an African is supposed to care about. But who’s to tell me what I should and shouldn’t care about? Understand, I’m not ashamed of being half Kenyan. I just don’t ask myself a lot of questions about what it all means. About who I really am.’ He shrugged. ‘I don’t know. Maybe I should. I can acknowledge the possibility that if I looked more carefully at myself, I would...’ 
For the briefest moment I sensed Mark hesitate, like a rock climber losing his footing. Then, almost immediately, he regained his composure and waved for the check. 
‘Who knows?’ he said. ‘What’s certain is that I don’t need the stress. Life’s hard enough without all that excess baggage'. 
We stood up to leave, and I insisted on paying the bill. Outside we exchanged addresses and promised to write, with a dishonesty that made my heart ache."

Obama does not say explicitly why he knew he would not contact Mark again. He seemed to think that what he described above made it obvious. Mark was not at all interested in what was the very core of Obama’s mind. He was what Obama elsewhere called "a practical man" concerned with his own life, not his group identity, and focused precisely on the “sorry sort of freedom” Obama despised. Another major example of such a "practical man" was his Indonesian stepfather Lolo Soetoro, a pragmatic man focusing on progressing on his career working in the oil sector, also so that he could provide better for Ann and Barack, a man personally kind to him but whom he didn't understand and never got really close to. Actually Lolo's priorities, which seemed very P focused, alienated not only Ann but Obama. Both saw the economic realities in Indonesia as due to power (F) structures, and as per Obama's account saw Lolo's career focus as "surrendering to power". That points to Obama's stronger focus on F than P, with very low understanding for those focusing on P, like Lolo and Mark. That is perfectly consistent with the P4 of IEIs.

And the above is also revealing about Obama’s approach to R – that is, his personal relationships with individuals. From what he describes, it is very clear that his default inclination is to establish a closer connection with every member of his family, however distant – but only, as is clear with Mark’s case, if they share basic L worldviews and premises, or at least if they don't clash too obviously. 
Obama made this explicit when he describes how he chose his friends when at Occidental College:
“To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets.

Obama’s priorities for choosing whom he wants to get closer to are thus based more on L, i.e. impersonal criteria (such as ideological agreement or consanguinity) than R criteria, i.e. assessment of individual character – the opposite of his brother Mark, who seemed to prefer R criteria as per his remarks on their father. That again is consistent with Obama being of the Beta quadra. Obama is however very much aware of how R individual connections operate, as per other observations in his book, which points to it being in a strong function, very consistently with the R8 of IEIs. .

Moving on to Obama’s E. Besides what he describes of his thought process – which shows T blocked with E rather than P – I think it is self-evident that one of Obama’s greatest strengths as a politician is his skill as an inspirational speaker. In his 1995 video, as he reads from his book, his mastery of oratory, of how to act out the voices of the different characters speaking, of how to make the narrative flow flawlessly - all of that is obvious, and I daresay it is obvious to anyone who has observed Obama at any point in his life. Also, if there is one aspect in his life that Obama does not show the slightest bit of doubt or insecurity in his memoirs, it is how to approach people, individually or collectively, independently of the social situation. That is characteristic of types with strong E, and again, I suggest it's self-evident in Obama's case.

Some remarks by two ex girlfriends who knew him well in his New York years, as reported here, are revealing as well. One of them said that in those years nothing much seemed to be happening in Obama's life, but she said that that was a mistake, since a lot of what was happening to Barack Obama was happening in his own head” - a characteristic observation of Intuitive Integrator types. The other ex remarked that it was clear to her what kind of woman Obama needed and was dreaming of - "very strong, very upright, a fighter, a laugher" - that is, someone with strong F, and that fits perfectly the F5 of IEIs.

T1, E2, P4, F5, L6, R8 - they are very obvious and point clearly to IEI as the socionics type of Barack Obama.

Sources: besides the videos linked and Obama's book Dreams from my father and to a lesser extent The Audacity of Hope, I also consulted books and videos by several people in a position to observe him more closely, such as Game Change by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann on the 2008 election, and The Stranger by Chuck Todd on how Obama interacted with Washington politicians as president. All confirm IEI in my view.

To learn more about IEI, click here.

If you are confused by our use of Socionics shorthand, click here.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Taylor Swift (EII): Personality Type Analysis

Taylor Alison Swift is a female American singer-songwriter, currently 27 years old, who has an estimated net worth of $250 million USD and is considered to be one of the best-selling artists of all time. Swift has produced a total of 5 studio albums since her 2006 debut, when she was 16 years old: Taylor Swift (2006), Fearless (2008), Speak Now (2010), Red (2012), and 1989 (2014). She has garnered both commercial and critical success: as of 2016, she has sold a total of 40 million albums and has received 10 Grammy Awards, 19 American Music Awards, 23 Billboard Music Awards, 11 Country Music Association Awards, 8 Academy of Country Music Awards, 1 Brit Award, and 1 Emmy.

Besides her music, Swift is most famous for her personal life, which often catalyzes her songwriting.  Most of her songs employ diary-like lyrics to explore the bases for her failed relationships with other high-profile celebrities.  Swift’s pattern of celebrity dating followed by deeply confessional songwriting has caused many in the media to speculate that she is a ruthless, publicly capitalist pop star who has beenstrategically employing famous boyfriends to shape her music and public image since it was legal for her to do so.” For her part, Swift denies the cynical motivations and seems to claim, instead, that she cannot do otherwise than try to understand her own personal experiences, even if it is partly to her detriment:

People have essentially gotten to read my diary for the last 10 years. I still write personal songs, and sometimes people like to put a very irritating, negative, spin on that — as if I'm oversharing, as if it's too much information — when this has been the way I've lived my life and run my career the entire time. So I do think it's really important that I continue to give people an insight into what my life is actually like, even though it comes at a higher cost now.”
Whatever one thinks of her motives, it is clear that relationships are a focal point for Swift.  Her songs describe her relationships with ex-boyfriends—Joe Jonas (“Forever & Always”), Taylor Lautner (“Back to December”), John Mayer (“Dear John”, “I Knew You Were Trouble”), Jake Gyllenhaal (IEI) (“We Are Never Getting Back Together”, “All Too Well”), Conor Kennedy (“Begin Again”), and Harry Styles (“Style”,“Out of the Woods”) — as well as her parents (“Best Day”), other celebrities such as Kanye West (“Innocent”) and Katy Perry (“Bad Blood”), the media (“Shake It off”, “Blank Space”), and critics (“Mean”).  She occasionally writes about her observations of other people’s relationships (“Fifteen”, “You Belong with Me”), or speculates on her ideal relationship (“Love Story”) or on unrequited feelings and relationships that never were (“Teardrops on My Guitar”). Swift’s lyrical preoccupation with relationships strongly suggests an R-valuing, i.e. Integrity-Seeking, quadra (e.g. Gamma or Delta) over an E-valuing, i.e. Clarity-Seeking, quadra (e.g. Alpha or Beta). Unlike E-based artists such as David Bowie (EIE), Freddie Mercury (EIE), or Bob Dylan (IEI), there is an absence in Swift’s artistry of any sentiment-based rallying or visionary redirection of the status quo (e.g. Mercury’s “We are the Champions”, “I Want to Break Free,” “Don’t Stop Me Now”, Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind”, “Times They are A-Changing”, and Bowie’s “Heroes”, “Young Americans”). 

Instead, many of Swift’s songs read more like Jane Austen-inspired lessons on what constitutes a good relationship:

"we think that Prince Charming's gonna come along, is gonna have a white cape on, is going to put us on a pedestal. And the bad guy wears black and we always know who that guy is. But what we don't realize is that, in reality, the bad guy is wearing jeans. And he's cute. And he's charming, makes you laugh, and you believe him. You think he's the good guy. Then, you realize he's not" (on “White Horse”)

Or analyses of the personal characteristics of the individuals involved that ultimately led to the relationship’s undoing:

"And he’s long gone when he’s next to me/And I realize the blame is on me." ("I Knew You Were Trouble”)

Already, Swift’s self-generated fixation on defining her life according to relationships suggests an R-ego type over a P-ego type that merely values R.

Moving away from analyzing her artistic expression, Swift’s actions also betray many signs of an R-ego type. Swift is well known for her “girl squad” of celebrities from diverse industries, whose eclectic composition is governed entirely by Swift’s personal relationship with each individual rather than over-arching commonalities amongst the members (as more commonly seen in E-valuers). Her friend Karlie Kloss has described this ability to bridge relationships across individuals as Swift’s hidden talent. Others have her praised her for her generosity and loyalty:

"It’s amazing to have a friend who’s that busy and also so available. Even if she’s in Hong Kong on tour and I’m going through something, if I text her, I get an answer in two seconds. If something good happens to me—say, I get a nomination, or it’s my birthday, or the day before my birthday, or my book comes out—I get a text from Taylor way before I get a text from my mom” (Lena Dunham).

This confidence and aptitude in developing close relationships, as well as a propensity to focus her communication to interpersonal themes—both in song and in person, strongly supports an R-ego type for Swift (e.g. SEE, ESI, IEE or EII).

In considering Swift’s use of R, it is important to note that it is often employed at a detriment to E.  In concerts, Swift has a propensity for making pre-song speeches that are intended to explicate her state of mind or even her “rules for friendship.”  These speeches are often widely panned by the media as awkward or self-absorbed (see The Soup).  To add insult to injury, Swift frequently responds to perceived “character assassination” by further attempting to explain herself.  In general, Swift seems to overshare personal information in an attempt to correct misinterpretations of her character, without consideration for how it will be generally received or whether it is in accordance with the current social climate.  This approach is also evidenced in her song “Blank Space,” which Swift intended to be a satire of the media’s misconceptions of her:

"Some of the things I write about on a song like "Blank Space" are satire. You take your creative license and create things that are larger than life. You can write things like I get drunk on jealousy but you'll come back each time you leave, 'cause darling I'm a nightmare dressed like a daydream. That is not my approach to relationships. But is it cool to write the narrative of a girl who's crazy but seductive but glamorous but nuts but manipulative? That was the character I felt the media had written for me, and for a long time I felt hurt by it. I took it personally. But as time went by, I realized it was kind of hilarious."

Rather than respond to the media by altering her image, Swift either explicates her motives or continues to act according to her own preferences (e.g. Swift looking shocked at wins). Swift’s approach well-characterizes someone whose R, or personal sentiments, causes them to disregard their public image, i.e. E7:

In contrast, R2 types such as IEE or SEE effectively parlay their stronger E8—i.e., their popularity and understanding of other people’s needs— toward relationships that serve their leading functions — i.e., exploring new experiences or expanding their influence, respectively.

Swift’s social inflexibility and static approach is also more consistent with L3 (EII and ESI) than L4 (IEE and SEE).  In an interview with Barbara Walters, Swift stresses the importance of acting in a principled manner:

I did wait until I was 21 to drink. I was so paranoid about getting in trouble or setting the wrong example or sending the wrong message.  I put every one of my actions through a filter before I do them because that's the way my life is. …
…. If I do something reckless or thoughtless or careless, or I treat someone badly, that doesn't just affect me; it affects that person. Then, if that story gets out, or some 10-year-old sees that I did that in a news article… my actions do have ripples …
… It would be really easy to say, 'I'm 21 now, I do what I want. You raise your kids,' but it's not the truth of it. The truth of it is that every singer out there with songs on the radio is raising the next generation, so make your words count." 

ESIs and EIIs, with L3, try to respect social rules, particularly when these rules are perceived to be consequential toward fostering well-being or general good.  In contrast, R2 types, e.g. Britney Spears (SEE), Elizabeth Taylor (SEE), Amy Winehouse (SEE), James Franco (IEE), with L4, can often be inconsistent in their actions and heedless of societal norms. Moreover, Swift seems to lack the impulsiveness or moment-based explorations of a type with T5 (SEE) or T7 (IEE).  Rather, she conveys a level of self-control governed by her contemplation long-term impact, indicating T in a more pronounced position. Consistent with a type that employs L for the sake of R, Swift has stated that she enjoys her designation as a role-model because she considers it a compliment on your character.” This leaves ESI and EII as possible types for Swift. 

Swift’s need to be understood by most people, often at injury to her own goals, suggests EII over the more self-preserving ESI with strong and valued F.  Swift seems unable to create psychological distance to her own benefit.  In feuds with other celebrities such as Kanye West (EIE) or Katy Perry (SEE), Swift describes herself as vulnerable (The support I got from other artists and from the fans, and so many people sticking up for me, that’s what got me to the place where I could accept that apology. And I’m just very thankful that everyone showed me so much love.”) and aversive to conflict (“I'm surprisingly non-confrontational - you would not believe how much I hate conflict. So now I have to avoid her. It's awkward, and I don't like it”).  Rather than approach confrontation head-on, Swift oscillates between victimization and avoidance:

“With the song 'Shake It Off,' I really wanted to kind of take back the narrative, and have more of a sense of humor about people who kind of get under my skin — and not let them get under my skin. There's a song that I wrote a couple years ago called "Mean," where I addressed the same issue but I addressed it very differently. I said, "Why you gotta be so mean?," from kind of a victimized perspective, which is how we all approach bullying or gossip when it happens to us for the first time. But in the last few years I've gotten better at just kind of laughing off things that absolutely have no bearing on my real life.”
Moreover, Swift seems to not even consider the possibility of striking back or standing her ground: in reference to her song “Shake It Off” she stated,
“I've had every part of my life dissected—my choices, my actions, my words, my body, my style, my music. When you live your life under that kind of scrutiny, you can either let it break you, or you can get really good at dodging punches. And when one lands, you know how to deal with it. And I guess the way that I deal with it is to shake it off.” 
Swift’s inability to apply pressure or establish boundaries, even when reasonably needed to avert painful outcomes, effectively rules out the F-ego types of SEE and ESI.  Moreover, it suggests a type with extremely weak F, likely F4.  Taken together with the other type-based observations of Swift, we are left with EII.

Consistent with this typing, Swift conveys a very weak understanding of F in which she seems to liken most attempts at dominance to bullying (a negative manifestation) and fails to consider its intrinsic value (instead attributing insecurity as the only possible motive to its employment):
When I was in middle school, I had this fantasy — and I really thought this was how life worked — that when we were in school, we had to deal with bullying and kids picking on you for no reason, or making you feel like somehow don't deserve what you want, or you're not what you should be. And I thought that when you grow up and you're not in school anymore, when you're out there in the world with adults, that it's not like that anymore, that people don't attack each other for no reason or try to tear each other down. And I realized when I grew up that it's the same. It's the same dynamics, except we're not walking from classroom to classroom. It's just interesting how you have to learn how to deal with this at one point or another in your life because people don't necessarily ever grow out of those impulses to pick on each other. Some of us do; some of us realize that's something you do when you're insecure, you try to lash out at someone else. But a lot of people will always do that to other people.”
In further support of a Delta typing, Swift’s approach toward individuals who have wronged her is frequently generous rather than vindictive. During Swift’s acceptance of an MTV Video Music Awards (2009), Kanye West interjected his opinion that Beyoncé (SEE) should have won the award instead, insulting Swift and effectively prohibiting her from completing her speech. In response, Swift wrote the song “Innocent.” Rather than just forgive West, Swift’s “Innocent” goes so far as to suggest that West is “still an innocent” capable of redemption— i.e., “today is never too late to be brand new; Who you are is not what you did.” In a display of good-will and newfound friendship, six years after West’s interruption and at the same award show, Swift praises West and presents him with his own award:
“'I first met Kanye West six years ago — at this show, actually!' she said, noting that West’s freshman album The College Dropout, was 'the very first album my brother and I bought on iTunes when I was 12 years old…I’ve been a fan of his for as long as I can remember because Kanye defines what it means to be a creative force in music, fashion and, well, life. So, I guess I have to say to all the other winners tonight: I’m really happy for you, and imma let you finish, but Kanye West has had one of the greatest careers of all time.'"
This apparent desire for harmonious relations is consistent with Delta, over Gamma, quadra values for Swift.  Moreover, the basis for Swift’s amicability seem driven by R+I beliefs of an individual’s latent potential for improvement, which she again references (this time explicitly) in her “1989” album foreword:
The debate over whether people can change is an interesting one for me to observe because it seems like all I ever do is change. All I ever do is learn from my mistakes so I don’t make the same ones again. Then I make new ones. I know people can change because it happens to me little by little every day. Every day I wake up as someone slightly new. Isn’t it wild and intriguing and beautiful to think that every day we are new?"
In spite of Swift’s seemingly optimistic belief in human potential, she takes a more fatalistic stance on relationships that is consistent with EII over IEE. In reference to “I Knew You Were Trouble” Swift explains that she often knows when relationships are ill-fated, but chooses to pursue them anyway:
"I had just gone through an experience that made me write this song about like knowing the second you see someone like, 'Oh, this is going to be interesting. It's going to be dangerous, but look at me going in there anyway... I think that for me, it was the first time I ever kind of noticed that in myself, like when you are curious about something you know might be bad for you, but you know that you are going to go for it anyway because if you don't, you'll have greater regrets about not seeing where that would go."
Unlike an IEE, with T7, Swift seems predominantly cognizant of, and confident in predicting, how relationships might end given sparse momentary information. Moreover, rather than relishing moment-by-moment exploration of unknown possibilities, Swift seems motivated to avoid regret for a lost experience that might have had the potential to go somewhere meaningful. This approach well-characterizes that of an I-valuer whose stronger T8 results in a somewhat paradoxical openness to forging new and interesting experiences and a need to reconcile these pursuits with their long-term impact. Swift references this conflict again when discussing a song:

‘Wildest Dreams’ is about a relationship that is just beginning and already foreshadowing the ending of it….. That's actually a really good example of the way I go into relationships now. If I meet someone who I feel I have a connection with, the first thought I have is: ‘When this ends, I hope it ends well. I hope you remember me well.’" 

This forward-looking tendency of Swift is strongly evidenced in her approach to relationships, which have often been characterized as too fast-moving and intense. Swift even says of herself, “I used to think that, you know, you find 'the one'... And it's happily ever after, and it's never a struggle after that.” This idealization of the future is also evident when Swift claims that “the most heart-breaking part of a break-up [is] that moment when you realize that all the dreams you had, all those visions you had of being with this person, all that disappears." Consistent with T-usage for the sake of I, Swift’s music seems to interrogate past relationships for meaning, speculating on reasons for their failure as a way to learn how to choose relationships with greater potential in the future. This approach makes other types, including ESI, unlikely and typifies that of an EII.

I suggest that Taylor Swift is EII. Consistent with this typing, Swift seems to view her music as a means to communicate her relationship understanding to others (“These songs were once about my life. Now they are about yours”).  Moreover, Swift interacts with the world largely via small, well-meaning gestures toward distinct individuals, typical of Delta-quadra types. “Swiftmas” is her yearly holiday giving of gifts to fans whom she researches and hand-selects. These actions have been criticized for the insignificance of their impact— e.g., she once gifted a fan $1989 to help defray her > $35K cost of tuition.  Moreover, though Swift has seemed to act rather consistently and rather without guile (even going so far as to invite 89 fans to her house for a pre-album release), she seems dismayed and perplexed by the media’s interpretation of her actions.  This media misunderstanding, as well as her multitude of failed romantic relationships with celebrities, are likely a consequence of being a Delta-quadra type in a predominantly Beta-environment.  Swift seems to reject a desire to be famous or increase her power for its own sake: she admires other musicians, such as Debbie Harris, because It's not about fame for her, it's about music.  For Swift, music seems to be a vehicle for empathy: “hearing a song by somebody singing about their life, and it resembles yours so much that it makes you feel comforted.”

Taylor Swift displays consistent traits of an EII.  She employs a Delta HumanitarianR1+I2, approach of understanding the world through the lens of her personal relationships. Her I2 belief in human potential seem to be mediated by her T8 quest for an ideal mate over the long-term.   Swift seems to act in a rather principled manner, aware of the need to set a good example (consistent with L3). In spite of this, Swift has problems with how she is interpreted. Her need to accurately represent her own motivations is already an indication of a type with weak and devalued E and contrasts from the more Beta mentality of "any press is good press." These qualities are characteristic of the image-ignoring tendencies of an E7.  Adding to this, her F4 makes her ill supported to handle this backlash.  
To learn more about EII, click here.

If you are confused by our use of Socionics shorthand, click here.