Covid-19 and Us

April 2020. Originally copyrighted and posted in "Type for Life" by the Center for the Applications of Psychological Type, Gainesville, FL. Used with permission.

Like most of us, I'm in a shelter-at-home mode. My means of communication are electronic ones: e-mail, telephone, text, What's APP, and video chats on Zoom and FaceTime. There are probably more but that's all I can handle right now!

I've been wondering how both our connections and our types can help us during these times. One of my favorite cartoons sent via text from my ENFP daughter in Australia has a picture of Yoda and the tagline, "Introvert me, excited for the quarantine, knowing I've been training for this my whole life."

When I first sent that to an INFP friend in Chicago, she remarked that her life under quarantine really wasn't that much different but she missed the freedom to be with her friends and colleagues when she wanted to be. And now, it seems that more people than ever are connecting up with her so that some of her solitude is gone!

As an Extravert, I am finding it odd to be cut off from the outside world. But I was raised with an introverted family so I developed several introverted facets (Contained, Intimate, and Reflective on the MBTI® Step II assessment) and they are handy to use now. I'm doing more reading. Each day I make it a point to call a different friend for an in-depth conversation.

And it's now fun to use my ESTJ organizing skills to orchestrate Zoom conversations with friends here (in my high rise, my water aerobics group on land — pool sessions are cancelled, etc.) and from around the world. In case you're wondering, this means 3 pm for me in Minneapolis, 10 pm for my friends in central Europe, and 7 am the next day for my friend in Australia.

My ESTJ friend in Australia (who has all extraverted facets on the Step II instrument) has begun putting a chair in her front lawn so she can talk with neighbors as they walk by. She also loves to make posies (flower bouquets) so she is teaching that skill to the children in the neighborhood all while maintaining that six feet distance.

A friend in the Netherlands (ENTJ) sent me a snippet of a (fake) quiz show. The question to the contestant was "Would you rather be in quarantine with (a) your wife and children or (b)"…and the contestant immediately answered "b! b! b!" without even hearing what choice (b) was. That is an example of extraverted Thinking in action… coming to a conclusion without even hearing all the options. As an ESTJ I do have to guard against that one!

Then there's the toilet paper issue. Perhaps all of us now are tuned into our Sensing function and many of us are not using it well! I've seen a mockup of a panic room with toilet paper on toilet paper rolls all over the wall. And from an ESFP friend in Germany, this: "September morning 2050: John opened the last package of toilet paper bought by his parents in 2020." There's the video showing a safe being unlocked with a roll of toilet paper inside. And I could go on.

The "work-at-home with your children" dilemma is illustrated with a picture of Queen Elizabeth sitting in full regalia in the palace next to Prince Charles with the caption "When you cannot find a babysitter, bring your child to work."

An ENFJ friend spends at least an hour a day via FaceTime with her grandchildren to help her son and daughter-in-law get some of their work done. She has them read to her, teaches them a new word a day, and she reads to them. One INTJ grandfather admitted that for the first time, he is now playing video games with his grandchildren!

At this time especially, we need to use the best of our creativity from both our Sensing and our Intuitive Sides. I find Kirton's model of adaption-innovation helpful.

Our Sensing creativity is adaptive creativity. What tweaks can we make from what we already know? Some engineers in my home state of Minnesota have made ventilators from small motors and other stuff (you can tell I'm not an engineer!)

Our Intuitive creativity is like generative creativity — the ideas that come out of "nowhere" that are unrelated to what currently is. All of what comes forth from both types of creativity can help us get through this and come out better (I hope).

The reminder to use Judging has been spelled out by Scott Kelly, the astronaut who experienced isolation in the international space station for a year. Among other things, he emphasizes the importance of a following a schedule.

And for me that's a prompt to get dressed each morning instead of lounging around in my pajamas! And also to read at least one magazine per day from that huge pile that has been building up.

Of course, our Perceiving side enables us to be open to whatever comes our way, and at this point there are both a lot of possibilities in our world and very little here in my own home!

You probably recall the decision-making Zig-Zag model of using our four functions/processes. First use Sensing to gather facts and information, next Intuition to generate alternatives and possibilities, third Thinking to analyze those possibilities, and finally Feeling to see what you're really committed to given your values.

When you cannot decide what to do, the strategy forward is to "go back" and start again with the Sensing facts. Obviously one problem is we're not sure about the facts! But as I've considered my activities in the weeks ahead and I've postponed decisions, it's amazing to me how when more facts come into the picture about Covid-19, it becomes clear what my decision needs to be.

As I think ahead, I'm reminded that we are in a huge transition in how we will live our lives. William Bridges, in his model of transitions, describes three stages: Endings, the Neutral Zone and New Beginnings. (An aside - he wishes he had chosen a different term for that middle stage so as not to invoke Star Trek fans going off on a different meaning.)

We are not even sure now of what really is ending in the long term. We are in the neutral zone as we try to figure out how to move forward while sheltering in place. And who knows what new beginnings we will have.

Finally, we all need to tune into our Feeling function, both our Introverted Feeling that reminds us of our values and what's really important and our extraverted Feeling connecting and helping others around us to be well and to cooperate. We are a world community!

An activity to tap into our Feeling function was suggested by my Unitarian minister (she does not claim authorship). We can be GLAD. Reflect at the end of each day,

  • what you are G — Gratified and Grateful for
  • what you L — Learned today
  • what you A — Accomplished
  • hat D — Delighted you!

I hope to learn from all of you what you are doing/experiencing that is helping you in these uncertain times. I look forward to being delighted by your responses!