So a few months ago, we (all the managers and leaders at Hope Network, my base camp for changing the world) took a personality inventory that gauges our leadership style. Psychologists famously pooh-pooh this kind of thing, especially because of use of the Myers-Briggs inventory*. But it is kind of fun, and, well, you know you take Playbuzz quizzes, so don’t even start with me. We used a tool called the DiSC in this case – it analyzes people based on four personality characteristics – dominance, influence, conscientiousness, and steadiness. Most people, according to the model (which at least, in any event, is closer to the most validated five and three factor personality models) are somewhat more reliant on one of the four dimensions than any of the others. Somewhat unique to the business application of this model, it also analyzes a “natural” style – how one behaves when not under stress or pressure, and an adapted style. Some people change their style dramatically, whereas other people (like me) make more subtle changes, whether because we are self-confident or arrogant. It also provides some analysis with respect to how people perceive someone differently, under varying degrees of stress. I might seem bubbly and enthusiastic under low stress situations, and more of a shameless self-promoter under high-stress situations.
In my case, I am an “influencer” at the core (we apparently rate the only lower-case letter in the acronym, although apparently it’s just branding), and this is a very pronounced bias.
I like to promote and be passionate about things. I like to build an army of friends and people who love me, and act indirectly, through them. One thing that was somewhat different from how I perceived myself, but actually, when I stop and think about it, makes sense, is that I always thought of myself as not liking to make decisions and then becoming dominant when I didn’t see anyone else acting. The tool said, in contrast, that I can be somewhat dominant when I’m not under stress – but I actually become much more passive/submissive when stressed (see how the red bar drops on the left graph, below). I do think this makes sense, when I stop and think about it – I know that in high stress situations, I feel a sense of bitterness or annoyance that I’m the one who has to make decisions (although I usually feel like I’m better than many people at making decisions that value everyone’s concerns), whereas I actually don’t mind making them in day-to-day life. It can, and sometimes does, make me passive aggressive in those situations, whereas I am not very passive aggressive by nature.
My results generated some less-than-flattering generalizations about me. “Flattery will always generate a positive reaction from her**” and “Mira tends to break the rules and then attempts to sell you on the fact it was the proper thing to do***.” “She believes rules exist to serve rather than to be followed by her****.” Apparently, I really want everyone to like me, and not because it makes me happy, but because it’s good for them (it is!).
One of the things that came out of the analysis of my personality style, and this was something I was already aware of, but I’ve reflected on a lot more in the last few months (I originally took this quiz at the end of October last year), is that I am really drawn to the notion of life as an adventure. I don’t relish drama in the sense of interpersonal conflict (although I’ve learned not to always shy away from it). But, I do relish drama in the sense that I need everything – even my trips to the grocery store (okay, this isn’t an exaggeration, and so it goes in a parenthesis and not a footnote, I’ve blogged about the grocery store as an adventure at least once) – to be epic.
I remember taking the MMPI-2 back in graduate school*****, and there was a question that was something like, “I like to go to parties where there is loud, lively music,” and I used to quip, “I like to go to breakfast where there is loud, lively music!” If I were just a neuropsychologist who put on her white lab jacket and saw a few patients everyday, then wrote my notes, and hung up my jacket, I would be sincerely bored. One of the things I love about Hope is how much this is not my job. I get to create things and change kids’ lives, and I get to play, every day. And I do need that, desperately – no clarifying footnote or anything. I need my life to be an adventure. People who just have a “job” that “pays the bills” make no sense to me whatsoever – it’s like I know they exist, conceptually, and I’ve learned to understand how they think and act, to some limited extent, but I have no intuitive grasp of them at all.
This is reflected in my icons – my namesakes who lived an epic life (Princess Mira) or wrote epic stories (Charlotte Bronte). It’s very much reflected in the stories I love. I understand and accept that there are tragedies and dark endings, but I need everything to be a love story – I don’t get stories that aren’t love stories of one kind or another. And I see the epic in everyday life. Mostly, Teri and I don’t watch much science-fiction or fantasy or anything like that, but I do get him to let us watch a lot of epic love stories (and usually he likes them as much as I do). Last night was fantasy. It was Teri’s pick, Stardust.
So, so satisfying. Later that night, I did have another one of those nights when I spent a little bit of time crying in the middle of the night, nestled in between Teri and Iago. Like the lost star in the movie, Yvaine, who fell to earth, I thought about our child, lost and alone out there, looking for us but not knowing how to find us, just as I was lost and alone, not knowing how to find Teri, until I finally did. I know our child is strong and will survive and persevere. And I thought about Teri going through things in his life – leukemia, bullying, family challenges, and so much more – and how I couldn’t be there for him, yet (Teri says I was there in spirit, and he’s right). But Teri pointed out that, like us, our child, out there, frequently lost and alone, would see life as an adventure, just like we have always seen and will always see life as an adventure. And like us, our child, out there somewhere, will have so many adventures, will make so many friends, will have so many people echo in a small way the love that they will know when they find us, before they ever come to us. Our child will know joy before we finally meet, because people like our child are the reason there is joy. Because our child may not carry the marker that they are our child because their eyes look just like Teri’s, or their smile looks just like mine, but our child will be marked in this way, and when we finally meet each other, we will know it. Just like Teri and I knew.
Way back when – and I’ve referenced back to it a couple times – I mentioned the very first book my book club read, Life of Pi, and the challenge it makes to the claim that the adventure is not “real.” This isn’t some psychotic dream. I don’t see dragons, and I am no damsel in distress. Magic may not let people disappear in clouds of smoke, or turn into doves, but it is real. It exists in this world, drawing meaning and deep structure between us. There are not wizards or Muggles, per se, but there is another kind of magic, and in some it runs deeply, and in others only a trickle or not at all. The magic runs deeply with me, and it is why my life is full of the amazing experiences with which it has been stocked. It runs in places, and those places call out to people like me, but people like me also infuse places with magic. The magic is why magical people sense a natural kinship and stay near to me, whether by miles or by the units of distance of the heart. Like the impromptu party towards the end of The Fountainhead, when we magical people draw near, we have a natural kinship that crosses boundaries of wealth and experience and time and space.
This is how I see life. It is my strength and weakness, both. I believe in it. And I embrace it.
* Oh, psychologists, why ya gotta hate on pseudoscience?
** Okay, kind of true.
*** Okay, totally true.
**** It’s like you know me. Stop talking.
***** It used to be a thing, that psychology trainees had to be patients of their professors or adjuncts associated with their department, as part of graduate school (this is more of a psychoanalysis era thing), and that MMPI’s were not only administered but had to be shared and interpreted by one’s professors, in a clear conflict of interest. We were simply asked to take it, to know how it worked and to see the results, ourselves, without having to share them with anyone. Now, this was my first year in graduate school, at the tail end of the most severe era of my eating disorder. I saved my MMPI, and I still sometimes show it to trainees as a cautionary example of understanding the resiliency of humanity. My (completely valid and not at all just suggesting I am histrionic) profile suggested fairly extreme, “lock her up, stat” distress in those days… I think I had six of 10 significantly elevated clinical scales, and this was during a time when I was making new friends, succeeding (and frequently knocking it out of the ballpark) in an extremely challenging graduate program, adapting to life in the South, training to run a full marathon for the first (and ultimately only) time, and recovering by pulling myself up by my bootstraps. That time was incredibly hard for me, but without medicines or therapies or anything but the kind of magic this post is all about, I not only survived, but this time became a gateway into thriving more than I have ever thrived.