Improving Buddhism

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Dominant and Submissive Personalities in Improved Buddhism

Unfortunately, there is no clear definition of personality in psychology; the variety of human behavior has befuddled the profession of psychologists for over a century. One of the early attempts at classifying people by their personality was done by Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs, who developed a questionnaire designed to slot people into sixteen polar categories, along four dimensions first created by Karl Jung. Alternatively, one could use the questionnaire to deduce four variables, ranging from minus one to one, along Jung’s four dimensions, which more accurately describes the distribution of questionnaire answers, which are bell-curves, rather than bimodal. Jung’s dimensions were quite simple to understand: 1) Introversion/Extroversion, 2)Sensing/Intuitive, 3) Thinking/Feeling, and 4) Judgmental/Perceptual. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator guidelines were first published in 1944, and were merely the first one of very many personality type categorizations.


Answering a questionnaire is more likely a mirror of what a person sees in himself, as opposed to what actually exists within their mind. Personality typing is not very useful if it is restricted to one’s internal self-view. The utility would come if there were a way to extrapolate this internal self-image into operational terms, in other words, into a means of deciding how a person would act in a well-defined situation. This latter approach is how people seriously judge other people, by what actions they take, despite whatever they might say.


In the operational categorization of people, again the result is that there are bell-curves along most invented dimensions. People do not tend to extremes, but to some middle choices, acting sometimes one way and sometimes another, depending on a host of factors. This also means that preferences for a particular type of behavioral responses can be affected by what is asked for, by what is encouraged, by what is supported, by what is rewarded, by what is appreciated, and this in turn means that Improved Buddhism is not just an observer of personality traits, but an influence on their expression, hopefully for the betterment of the individuals involved, and of the organization itself. Personalities are plastic, and can be molded by circumstances and surroundings.


In building up the staff for a religion, even a non-supernatural one such as Improved Buddhism, it is important to provide guidance so that, in situations where there is a choice, the most appropriate person can be invited into the position. Experience is the best guide for that, which is why most hierarchies, in governance, corporations, military organizations and so on, promote upward in a gradual manner.


Success in a hierarchy is not seemingly dependent on the four characteristics that Jung initially devised, and which Myers and Briggs turned into a questionnaire, but on something else which might be called the dominant/submissive category, following the manner of inventing personality dimensions these pioneers devised. Another labeling might be leading/following as a preference, just as the four previous choices can be described as preferences for actions. This fifth preference is largely independent of the other four, which can be described as the preferences one has for making decisions. The first dimension, Introversion/Extroversion, is not explicitly whether a person is gregarious or not, but whether they seek to gain information by themselves or by asking others. The other three are even more clearly dimensions of thinking preferences, which makes sense as Jung invented these as a profound thinker, rather than as a sideline after being a great general or politician. A general might not have missed the leadership dimension.


Leading/following in an operational sense means that in a group, a person can have a preference to lead the group to a decision or a way forward. The Jungian dimensions might describe how the person might seek to have the group come to a decision, and the fifth one involves something different: taking responsibility for seeing that the group comes to a consensus. Leadership in a military hierarchy simply means making decisions based on higher level decisions, an implementation so to speak, and then ensuring that lower levels in the hierarchy follow through. Leadership in a political caucus means seeing that all members of the caucus, or as many as possibly, have their own opinions consulted and any decision made is one which has some reason for all or most to join in. Leadership in a religious hierarchy has some of both of these modes, and there are certainly more variations possible.


Consider the bell curve of leadership preferences. At one end are those individuals who want to be a leader, and will do whatever necessary to achieve this. In the hierarchy, the task of those above such a person is to guide them into preferred ways of leading, or interacting with others in their domain of activity. Recall the overarching goal of any religion, including Improved Buddhism, is self-preservation. This means that interactions between a member of the hierarchy and any other member should be designed to ensure that both members benefit in such a way that they wish to continue their activities within the religion. Obvious negatives include having a hierarchy member who does not understand how to best relate to other members, but instead is so far at an extreme of one of the Jungian personality types that he cannot adapt to the interactional needs of other members.


At the other end of the leadership spectrum are those who avoid any responsibility for ensuring a group comes to a decision, and who do not take any action whatsoever to see that it does. This means no facilitating agreement between factions, no demonstration of decisiveness, no persuasion to come together, in fact nothing at all which would make a group come to an almost-universally accepted plan for further action. It is important not to misclassify individuals into this extreme, by not recognizing the sixteen personality types would attempt to help the group cohere in very different ways. Someone who was very decisive might see a person who was a consensus-builder as one who was not trying to get the group to unity, as they would evoke different opinions for discussion. Yet this is certainly one mode of attempting to get a group to act as one or to follow some coordinated plan.


Those who enter leadership positions definitely need some instruction, if they have not had it already, about the differences in personality types, and the ways that these different types of people fulfill tasks, including those involving group activities. Improved Buddhism has a very important community element, and this community element is only going to grow if the leaders in the organization understand the total dimensionality of contributions that individuals can make, tempered by their personality type. It would not be a bad thing if such teaching were universal, so that any member of the religious community understood the different modes of thinking and reaching decisions, and became after this more tolerant of people in different modes. Some individuals with strong feelings of self-confidence may assume that their way of behavior, alternatively their personality type’s way of proceeding, is better or indeed the only effective way, and these individuals are among the group who would most greatly benefit from universal teaching of the different types of personalities.


The large bulk of the population of members lie near the middle of the leader/follower dimension, and therefore have the ability to comfortably take either a leadership role or a follower role, depending on what is needed for the task at hand. They represent a resource which is often untapped, when religious leaders are only chosen from the group who strongly wish to be leaders and may make their preferences heard. In Improved Buddhism, there must be a place for almost everyone, including those all along the leader/follower dimension, but since there are no professional leaders, people who devote their careers to being an official in the religion, but instead with few exceptions, only lay people who temporarily fill in one position or another, the huge resource of the middle of this dimension represents something which must be tapped. Taking a leadership position within the religion is a growth experience, as is learning of all kinds and apprenticeships and many other opportunities, and it should be represented as such. Rotating the leadership positions to as many as possible broadens the benefits of the religion to the members, and provides the community with members whose experiences have been strengthened, perhaps in unexpected and unplanned ways.


Thus guidance for leadership choices for Improved Buddhism must be based on potentialities of people, rather than by their stated preferences. It must be accompanied, if personality type training is not a universal part of the religion, by this training, so that anyone stepping up to become a temporary, short-term or long-term, leader in Improved Buddhism will have the basis for interacting with all members. Of course, there must be much more training involved in Improved Buddhism, as there is in all religions. Education in how to live is a lifelong adventure, and the quality of Improved Buddhism’s training will be one factor which determines its acceptability and success.

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