Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Hounded to death: the last years of T. E. Shaw. 13. The introverted intuitive

Introverted intuitive types attributed to Lawrence/Shaw
Discovering your own Briggs Myers personality type is very simple: there are several free on-line questionnaires to choose from. Attributing a personality type to another is not so simple. For a start, if you attempt to do so through examples of the subject's writing you might enter a situation where that person expresses themselves very differently in their written communication than they would in any vocal communication, or through their actions. There is also the problem of the functional aspects of all of the types. I am an INFJ but many people who know me have a hard time seeing that because my feeling (F) function is extraverted. The least credible of all attempts to analyse the Lawrence/Shaw personality is through the movie "Lawrence of Arabia": What would a verbal analysis of the script reveal? If the line is not a direct quote from Lawrence, himself, it is from the mind of the scriptwriter who might be expressing his own views of a situation or estimating how Lawrence would have said something. And what if the director had a line changed as it did not fit his vision of the character? the movie, after all, is the creative product of a director. It is his movie not Lawrence's; it is not even the scriptwriter's.

We are further ahead if we look at his actions, but the best approach, in my opinion, is to take all aspects into consideration in a holistic manner and this is what I have been trying to do in this series. Failing to do that, the task can resemble the fable of the blind men and the elephant. However, the complexities do not end there. there is one biography (at least) which analyses Lawrence almost entirely from the Seven Pillars of Wisdom. First we must ask "which edition?". No one can do it from Lawrence's first draft which was lost. His rewrite, "The Oxford Text" suffers, somewhat from Oxford University Press's editors "house style" and that has been rectified only recently by Castle Hill Press; the subscriber's edition was an abridgment leaving out, significantly, much of Lawrence's inner feelings about himself. N. Wilson (one of the two editors of the latest Castle Hill Edition) was very pleased when I told her that my first impression of the text was that it felt "fresh". They had intended to remove all traces of the Oxford house style of editing, so it came across to me more as the work of Lawrence, himself. Lawrence also had a tendency to over-edit and this, in my opinion, is a common fault in all creative work. It is best-known, though, in painting where such a painting is said to be "overworked". I have seen the same phenomenon in a recording studio with a musician friend. She wanted things to be absolutely perfect, myself and the sound engineer preferred the previous version because it was a bit "edgy". Traditional Japanese pottery is a perfect example of "unmessed with" creativity: it is done with the minimal fuss and all at once.

Even if we pay attention to all that I have mentioned above, the fact remains that, on different days and with different circumstances, our personalities can change some what. In an extreme case we can exhibit our shadow. There is also the possibility that the core personality type can change over the course of a lifetime. I think that this is very possible with the transition from Lawrence to Shaw; his two 'hero-quests" that are very different from each other. I feel that he was able to transcend rather than that the two were examples of the conscious ego and its shadow.

So, given these many caveats, my impression is that he started life as an INFJ. I can see many similarities in my own early years, although I was not encumbered with any physical problem of being small and younger-looking with its resulting physical correlate of the puer aeternus that Lawrence spent much of his life overcoming by hardening himself and engaging in honest and thorough work. He did not dally with work as some of the purely psychological types with a mother complex do: he threw himself into the tasks regardless of how mundane they were. I think, too that this resulted in a later shift from the INFJ to the INTJ. The former pays more attention to how human systems work and the latter to how mechanical systems work. The INFP's creativity gives us a problem and this is the type most attributed through the examination of the movie. It is thus more likely that the it is reflected by the creative acts of the people who made the movie. Lawrence engaged in a number of events where you would not expect the involvement of an INFP.

Finally, there is yet another caveat: each type can exhibit, sometimes, traits of another type at first glance, and with an historical figure, we are subjected to something quite similar to the first glance phenomenon. There are two really excellent analyses of the problems we face here:



We have to consider, too, that the shortcomings of any function can be overcome through intensive training and practice and, naturally, this sort of thing improves over time. It will be less apparent in the younger person than in the older. Lucian's Herakles was an expression of the orator trying to overcome the "cult of the young" by giving an example of how an older orator (himself) could run rings around the young upstarts!

Back to the events of T. E. Shaw's later years tomorrow.

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  1. You certainly have developed an exceptional understanding and examination of the issues and challenges T. E. Lawrence encountered in attempting to transform his life. He was a valuable asset to his country for the courageous undertaking in extricating Arabia from Turkish control. After which he was elevated to the status of hero. In time, he comes to realize the anguish of being a hero is thwarted by being criticized, betrayed, ridiculed and abandoned. To help him over come his denouncement he makes the decision to change the direction of his life, so he can live a peaceful and solitaire life where he can write, listen to music, read and entertain chooses friends.
    As Jung states there is an equilibrium in our psyche and when things are dead balanced our psyche is in chaos.
    Did his friends not realize from his comments in his letters the state of his predicament?
    As I read the letters you included in the blog there were so many clues to his state of mind. His friends probably did not recognize the seriousness of his situation because as an introvert he was good at hiding his feelings deep within in himself. When things go off the rails, some introverts express themselves through sudden outbursts then pulling their feelings back inside. To me this is what Lawence was doing through his comments in his letters. He was letting out hints of the deep inner conflict he was experiencing.
    Looking forward to tomorrow's blog and further information.

    1. Thanks, Tannis,

      In all fairness, though, I picked the letters that I thought best revealed what I was looking for and letters to people he seemed to trust more than others. There are so many letters and I can imagine that in looking at them as whole; being more interested in incidents rather than clues to his psychology, some people have missed what I have found significant -- like his quote "Having done something with my life I am content to go back" seemingly innocuous, unless you think about the mythology of the hero's journey.

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