Table of content
Some people push our buttons and we find them difficult to be around. This brief introduction to the theory of the Seven Types will help you to understand how we can develop more empathy for ourselves and others, including ‘difficult’ people.
By Kenneth Sørensen and Karianne Stenshagen
(This is an edited version of a Facebook Live discussion from Kenneth Sørensen’s channel Psychosynthesis and The Seven Types.)
Kenneth: Welcome to this Facebook Live session where we will give you an introduction and some perspectives to help you empathise with different types of people. One of the questions we would like to reflect on is how to deal with difficult people. So let me start with a question: Are there some types of people you find it difficult to be around? I can, of course, relate to this – I am well aware of the type of person I find it difficult to be around. However, after I started working with the theory of the Seven Types, it has become much easier for me to understand people, their motivations and where they are coming from. Today, I have invited Karianne, my dear wife, to join me. You also work with typology?
Karianne: Yes, I do. I work with astrology and, in particular, the female archetypes related to the Greek goddesses Pallas Athene, Medusa, Vesta, Ceres, Persephone and, of course, Venus and the moon. Typology is a great way to understand and access the full spectrum of what it means to be human.
Kenneth: Great. So what we would like to do today is offer a very brief introduction to the Seven Types. We all know how it is to be around people that annoy us in some way – it could be our children, it could be our partners, it could be family members, it can be people at work, or our neighbours, anyone. Some people just seem to annoy us – it’s difficult being around them – and very often it’s because we don’t know their world, we don’t know where they’re coming from, their qualities. Their psychological qualities are perhaps very different from ours. And here the Seven Types model offers us a very, very good model for understanding diversity so we can see the unique qualities of people, even people who are very different from ourselves. Can you relate to that Karianne?
Karianne: So much, Kenneth. And I just want to add that probably most of you don’t know what the Seven Types are – I know we will come back to it, but there are several types of typology that we can use to understand our different aspects and qualities. There is astrology, there is the Enneagram, and many more typologies, but today we are looking at the Seven Types. Kenneth has just written the book The Seven Types, which is based on psychosynthesis typology.
I can so relate to what you say, Kenneth. There are some people who I find very challenging and sometimes I notice it’s the same type of person that can trigger me.
I love your intention, your approach, Kenneth, that you use typology to better understand your own triggers, your own reactions, because, of course, it can be, I guess, a little bit limiting to put people in boxes, but if you have the right intention, it’s a way to understand: “OK, this type, it’s so much the opposite of my type, so this person is really triggering me.” I understand the goal is to try to integrate some of that other type of person, then maybe it will be easier for us to relate to that person.
Kenneth: Good points, Karianne, and perhaps from the very start I should like to say that we are not labelling people. It’s very important that we don’t box people into being only one type because that is a very limiting approach. The Seven Types is actually unique because we say that we have all the seven types within us, but some of them are more developed than others. And another unique feature of the Seven Types model is that the seven types are present at five different psychological levels.
For example, we can see that we each have a unique body type, because we can see that bodies are different. And, indeed, our body is a level at which one of the seven types will be most dominant – we call this our body type. We also have different temperaments and react to things differently – this refers to the fact we each have a different feeling type [which is the most dominant one of the seven types]. We also have different ways of thinking and communicating – this is the level at which we find our mental type. We have the different personality types, which are what most typologies tend to focus on and describe – but in the model of the Seven Types, personality is only one of the five levels [along with the levels of body, emotion, thought and soul]. Soul is the level at which we seek meaning and purpose in life, it refers to how we connect with the heart of our self as a loving being. [So, at each of these five levels, one of the seven types will be most dominant – this gives each of us a unique combination of a body type, feeling type, mental type, personality type and soul type.]
So, psychosynthesis typology presents a full spectrum of human difference. However, it’s also important to say that even though we are each a unique complex combination of types, typology can never fully explain a human being. We each have a unique background, culture and family history which has molded us and co-created our experience and our history.
Another thing that typology isn’t showing us is the maturity of the type. We all have different maturity, different abilities to express ourselves at the five levels. So there’s a lot that typology doesn’t cover, but there are also many things that the Seven Types can tell us.
Karianne: So I have two comments, Kenneth, are you planning to go through the seven types here today?
Kenneth: Yes, absolutely.
Karianne: OK. Then I have a little invitation if you are listening (or reading), and for you as well, Kenneth. Think about which type of person you get triggered by. Maybe you have a memory of someone in your life at this moment, maybe someone in the workplace, a family member, your extended family, or maybe someone from the past. So, think about that person you get triggered by and the qualities of the person, and, as Kenneth describes the seven types, see if you get a feeling of which type is difficult for you, or which type of energy you get triggered by.
Triggered by dominating behaviour?
Kenneth: Exactly. Let’s take some time to go through the seven types and see what you get triggered by.
The first type I would like to address is the dynamic type. The dynamic type is very much about will and power; if you have this type of person around you, you will see they are leader types, they are forceful and they can be domineering. So perhaps you are triggered by very domineering people. This is very common, nobody really likes to be dominated. The dynamic type can be powerful. They are motivated by doing things – getting things done – and they have a lot of fire inside. So it’s not necessarily that they want to dominate you, they just have so much energy and are so full of power and will that they often push to get things done. So this is one of the types. Do you recognise that type?
Karianne: Absolutely, Kenneth. Sometimes when we watch TV together in the evenings, we often like to play at identifying which types the different characters are, and immediately I can get triggered if someone is this dynamic leader type because this type is not someone who has the patience to listen to your feelings, et cetera. But I guess if you understand that we need leadership, you understand that this is not the person that will cuddle you if you feel emotionally upset. However, they have this strength you can rely on and it helps when we understand that leadership is really necessary. I guess if this is a type you get super-triggered by then you might have to connect more with your own leadership – and not give your own authority away so easily – and when you work on that issue you will not get triggered so much by this personality type.
Triggered by neediness?
Kenneth: Exactly. The second type is the sensitive type, full of love and wisdom. This type is very sensitive, we call them the sensitive type. They are very empathetic, they feel a lot, but they can also be over-sensitive, and perhaps you will get annoyed when you are among people who are very sensitive and demand a lot of attention and perhaps protection because they are so sensitive. If this is a trigger for you, understand that we all have all of the seven types within us. The sensitive type is a person who comes from a place where relationship and connection is very, very important. Perhaps you can feel this type is too clingy or too needy or too attention-seeking in their need to connect with you, so this could be a problem for you. But also understand that this type is very important because they really want to make this world better by creating new and healthy relationships.
Karianne: You said that well, Kenneth. So let’s go to the next type.
Triggered by busy people?
Kenneth: The mental type. So, we have the dynamic type which is based on will, the sensitive type which is based on feeling, and now we come to the mental type which is based on thinking. The mental type is very active, they are very busy, and they talk a lot. So if you are annoyed by people who talk a lot and are often busy and full of stress and have short attention spans, then perhaps you are with a mental type. They are so curious, there’s so much for them to understand, so much to discover, so they can be all over the place and very hard to connect with. They often talk too much, and if this is a problem for you, please understand that these types are really good at creating networks: they tend to know everything and everyone. So you need this type to know where you can get the best price for different things and how to get from one place to another – they are a complete library!
Karianne: I can say I know this type because I grew up in a culture that cultivated this type and there was a lot of activity, a lot of networking, and I can see that it came to a point in my life where it became quite triggering because I needed to develop more of the sensitive type because if I was too active myself, I felt so fragmented. Since integrating much more of the sensitive type, the mental type isn’t such a trigger anymore and I can see the value of this type.
Kenneth: Exactly. They get a lot of things done because they are so active and have very high work ethics too. So try to see their motivations: they are really curious and want to understand how the world functions, so that’s why they ask so many questions and why they communicate that much.
Triggered by chaotic behaviour?
The next type is the creative type. The creative type is built on imagination or fantasy or, to put it another way, they primarily operate through the psychological function of imagination. They tend to be a lot of fun, very imaginative. They’re sociable people, they talk a lot and tell a lot of stories. They often have a lot of things going on and know a lot of people, though some are more introverted. They are spontaneous and artistic people. They love beauty and making deep connections, but they can also be quite chaotic in their expression, and can easily forget things. If you have some kind of a schedule with them, they may come an hour late or change their agenda because their mood has changed. So it can be quite difficult being around a creative type because they change their opinions often. However, we tend to forgive them because they are so charming and pleasant to be around.
Karianne: Do you know someone like that?
Kenneth: My wife 😊! If you are a structured person you can be very annoyed by a creative person.
Karianne: Exactly. It can be super-triggering if you are a very scheduled, very tidy and organised person. You can be triggered because you will see the creative type as chaotic and maybe you will feel let down when they suddenly change direction or change an appointment or something like that.
Kenneth: Yeah, I think it’s worth mentioning that we are currently describing the immature aspect of the creative type – not all creative types are chaotic, but there is definitely a theme around chaos. But it’s very important to see where they are coming from. They are very motivated by the here and now. They want to explore the possibilities of the Now, so they are motivated by all types of possibilities, to have fun, to explore what is going on in a relationship, so it’s never boring to be around a creative type. Sometimes there is too much drama but, on the other hand, they bring in a lot of new energy and they can really transform your life by expanding your horizon regarding what is possible.
Karianne: And, please, when you hear us go through these different types, think about the people in your life and also think about yourself.
Kenneth: Yeah, and remember you each have all of the seven types within you [a dominant one at each of the five levels], albeit some of the types you will be more familiar with than others.
Triggered by critical behaviour?
OK. The fifth type is the analytical type, which is based on logic. The analytical type is a scientific type: these are people who love facts, they love to understand how the world functions in a detailed way. So, these types can be a little bit dry, and socially that can be a little awkward, but they have a really good head and if you need heart surgery you would like to have a doctor who is an analytical type because they will do the job in a very thorough way. This type is very detailed and disciplined, very reliable and serious. They are always some kind of expert in their field, and you can rely on these people being honest and serious, but you might also be triggered by their critical mind. They can be absolutely ruthless if you offer an opinion that is not founded on facts, and if you believe in fairy tales or believe in something spiritual, some of them will be very critical and narrow-minded.
Karianne: And I just want to add that they have a clarity about them, they can easily step out of emotional drama because of this really clear head. For each of us, the goal is to develop all of the seven types in some measure, so we need to bring in the qualities of the analytical type as well.
Kenneth: Absolutely. Because what we can learn from the analytical type is something about objectivity. Life is not all about subjective feelings, but also about the objectively true. So we really need this type to ground ourselves in reality, which is where this type is coming from. So if you have a problem with this type, then notice also that they are able to teach you how to be more grounded and how to relate to facts, which is important.
Karianne: Yeah, because I guess if you are a very creative and very enthusiastic person and you meet this type, maybe you will feel that they are being very critical or negative towards you. But the positive with an analytical type is that they can help stop you from being fooled because they will insist that you check your facts and don’t get swept away, so you won’t get carried away with your emotions because you will also be including the facts.
Triggered by missionary behaviour?
Kenneth: OK. The next type is the dedicated type. So where the analytical type lives in a world of logic, the dedicated type lives in a very different world of passion and possibility. So the dedicated type is full of desire, full of wishes, full of dreams, they can really see the future, they have so much enthusiasm, and you can’t stop them in their forward motion. They can also be quite noisy when they start agitating – they are often activists or have a strong belief in something: it could be the local football team, it could be religion, it could be veganism. They are always on a mission and they want to convert you to their personal passion or group. Some people get very annoyed with this type’s positivity because it can be difficult to relate to them in a calm way due to their constant enthusiasm.
Karianne: You see me laugh, it’s because you have a lot of that, yes?
Kenneth: I have a lot of that, yes! So, the dedicated type are the missionaries of the world, within politics or with any type of idealism. And you could be very annoyed by immature dedicated types because they are very loud and they try to convince you about what is right and wrong. They can also have a bad temper, so they can be very angry and emotional and create a lot of drama around issues of good and bad.
Karianne: Especially, I guess, if you’re a mental type, the dedicated type can seem overwhelming.
Kenneth: Yeah, because the mental type is cool and the dedicated guy or woman is very emotionally invested. But it’s also important to see where the dedicated type is coming from. They are very loyal people and they want the best, they really want to achieve something that is good and beautiful and right. So they have their place in the world. I’m a dedicated personality type myself, so I know this type.
Triggered by controlling behaviour?
The last type we will cover today is the practical type, which is based on action or sensation. This type is very organised, they are the doers of the world. They are typically the ones who organise events for the family, they invite people and arrange the food and entertainment, and create a birthday party. In terms of employment, they are the people who lead through planning, systematisation and organisation. They are motivated to create order, so they want to see how everything works down to the last detail and they really like to have control, you can even see this in how they dress.
Karianne: You can?
Kenneth: Everything is just in order, it sits perfectly, their hair is done and they are very diplomatic. They don’t like excess because they are afraid of losing control. They can be rigid, so being around a practical type can be really annoying. If you are a creative type or you just want to hang out and not do anything in particular, then having a practical type around can be tense – you might feel you are being supervised by a strict Dad or Mom and that can be annoying. Indeed, the big issue for the practical type is their tendency to want to control people and circumstances because they are motivated by achieving good results, by having smooth co-operation where all the parts work like a Schweitzer watch. The sensitive and creative types will be upset by the practical type’s cool and impersonal way of being.
Karianne: Kenneth, I’ve just remembered something, because we have a good friend that is this type and, like you say, how they dress, they always look so perfect. I remember a couple of years ago when we went overseas and were at the airport, I was so chaotic – “Where’s my passport? Where’s this and that?” – I remember we came up with a little game in which we both played the role of the practical type, we became these super-organised types and competed to see how smoothly we could get through check-in!
Kenneth: Yes, that was fun. However, the real practical types are just so elegant and smooth in the way they handle their affairs, so it is hard to compete with if we haven’t developed their qualities. Role-playing is something we like to do in our relationship. We play the types to bring them into our life, and it’s really fun when we learn to feel what it’s like to be the different characters or types, playing them.
Ok, let’s summarise. We each have access to all seven types. We have the dynamic type, related to the psychological function of will. We have the sensitive type, related to the psychological function of feeling. We have the mental type, related to the psychological function of thought. We have the creative type, related to imagination. We have the analytical type, related to logic. We have the dedicated type, related to passion or desire. And we have the practical type, related to action or sensation.
Karianne: Yeah, you can see them all here.
Kenneth: This has been a very brief introduction to the seven types and we hope you have gained some insight into where they come from, so when you encounter these different types you might be able to better understand where they are coming from. You might be reluctant to relate to a particular type within yourself – as mentioned, we each have all seven types in us, and sometimes we find it difficult to relate to some of them. Perhaps we have some unresolved anger within and this might be a repressed dynamic or dedicated type. Perhaps we have a hypersensitive inner side we struggle to deal with, and this could be the undeveloped sensitive or creative type. So we have all these types more or less developed [on the five levels] – but we will not go into further detail this time. We only wanted to give you a flavour of how these types show themselves in our relationships.
Karianne: Yes, we hope you have had a little taste of the different types and have a feeling of which types are most developed in you, and which types are most likely to trigger you.
Kenneth: OK, have a great day and thank you for your participation.
Karianne: Have a great day.
Kenneth: Bye bye.