The Most Powerful Personality Test You'll Ever Take...Or Force Your Friends & Family To Take
As is human nature, we find ourselves always itching at the desire to label ourselves perfectly.
The Zodiac has had our personalities written in the stars since birth, and can reveal our greatest strengths and weaknesses, while a Buzzfeed quiz can tell you which Disney character you resemble based on what you had for breakfast.
Ayurveda, the traditional Hindu system of medicine and healing, labels us in accordance with our habits and appetites. Depending on her tendencies, Ayurveda would say you’re controlling, manipulative boss is suuuuch a Pitta dosha. (Don't give her anything spicy!) In Shakespeare’s day, your personality was based on your dominant “humour,” or body fluid. If you were a melancholy wet blanket, obviously you had too much black bile. Fetch the leeches.
The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Revised NEO Personality Inventory, both extensive personality tests, have made fantastic strides since we were measuring the bumps on each other's heads. (Yeah, that was called phrenology). And we now have bdsmtest.org to figure out how we like to be spanked, traumatest.com to figure out why we like to be spanked, and 5lovelanguages.com to figure out why the quality time spent being spanked means more to us than a gift-wrapped new paddle with a leather bow.
Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is an approach to language usage and communication, as well as understanding and influencing the behavior of oneself and others. It’s not generally used to categorize or identify personality types and tendencies, but it has given me a simple way to quickly assess what I think of as “mentally healthy,” or, “not being an asshole” with only two very simple questions I call…
The Biven Frame Scale
1. Is one’s frame secure, or insecure?
2. Is one’s frame tolerant of others, or intolerant?
I first encountered the concept of someone's “frame” (and perhaps more importantly, the concept of reframing) when I read Neil Strauss’ wanton tale of lonely penises, The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists.
From Chapter 7 of The Game:
A frame is an NLP term: It is the perspective through which one sees the world. Whoever’s frame—or subjective reality—is the strongest tends to dominate an interaction. ‘Style (Neil’s PUA alter ego) has all these really subtle ways of keeping control of the frame and getting people to qualify themselves to him. He makes sure that the focus is always on him. I’m writing a post about it.
That second short sentence hit me between the eyes. “Whoever’s frame—or subjective reality—is the strongest tends to dominate an interaction.” In an instant, I finally understood why I had inexplicably spent years in an abusive relationship with a pathological narcissist. His internal reality, his frame, was stronger than mine. So I allowed him to reframe me, and dominate every facet of the relationship. I wasn’t handcuffed to a radiator. But psychologically, I was lying on the floor with invisible handcuffs slicing into my wrist. When I met him, I thought I was smart and capable. But my low self-esteem allowed him to reframe me as someone who couldn't do anything right. My frame was insecure so I allowed him to bully me out of it. Ugh. I know. Gross, right?
So I got my frame up! I became someone who genuinely likes herself so no one else’s opinion of me can rattle my frame. I became someone who would never tolerate being mistreated, because I know I deserve to be treated as kindly as I treat others. I dug into my history to unravel my childhood programming. My frame became secure, unassailable.
But it bugged me that anyone, hero or villain, mensch or monster, could share the quality of a secure, ironclad frame. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader have pretty equally matched frames in terms of strength. Putin and Pussy Riot are both pretty confident they should be able to do what they want. Both Hillary and Donald share(d) a bulletproof belief that they should be in the White House.
I understood that maintaining your frame when others assert dominance was a necessary quality of inner game. (Inner game means genuine self-esteem. As opposed to surface game, which means basic social arts practices like opening a conversation, body language, vocal quality, grooming, etc.) But a secure frame doesn't mean you're not a douche bucket. There had to be more to inner game than that?
If the first question is about how you relate to your own frame, the second is about how you relate to other people’s. The biggest jerk alive can have a secure, unflinching frame, and the sweetest person alive can have an insecure, malleable frame. But only emotionally healthy, secure personalities can be tolerant of others’ frames, beliefs and opinions. Narcissists and sociopaths cannot tolerate people with their own worldview. I finally had the heads and tails of the inner game coin: emotionally healthy people have a secure frame that is NEVER subordinate, but doesn't NEED to be dominant.
I used to have an insecure frame. I could be bullied by people I deemed more worthy. And I was frame intolerant! God, I was such an asshole! I’m now a very chill, friendly atheist. But before my epiphany, when people would ask why I’m an atheist, I’d say I don’t need magical thinking to satisfy my emotional needs. Now I just smile and say being an atheist is clearly G-d’s special plan for me. Fuck it. Believe in angels if you wanna. It’s a free country. I used to tell people their taste in music was pedestrian if they’d never heard of Nick Cave. The old me would’ve spent hours on Facebook CAPSCREAMING™️ AT TRUMP VOTERS. Now I just shrug and let them be. I save my bile for Mitch McConnell’s answering machine.
So, how to use our two question personality test:
1. Is one's frame secure, or insecure?
2. Is one's frame tolerant, or intolerant?
Ask yourself these questions about yourself. Figure out where people intimidate you, so you can give yourself a pep talk, or push back when someone asserts dominance. Is your frame insecure around people you consider more attractive or successful, even though they do nothing to make you feel less-than? Notice that, and get out of your head. Is your frame secure at work, but at home you walk on eggshells around your volatile partner? Notice that, and fix it, or exit the relationship. Are you cool with your roommate being hardcore vegan, but you wanna punch him in his tofu hole when he says the Patriots are the best team in NFL history? Notice your triggers.
How can these questions provide insight in different contexts?
On a first date, your companion fails to speak up when a couple who arrived later than you was seated first (INSECURE FRAME), but then he berated you for not thinking Game of Thrones is the absolute best television show ever aired. EVER! (INTOLERANT FRAME).
Your chubby first grader defiantly tells a fat-shaming third grader that she likes her Buddha body. (SECURE FRAME), but she threw a tantrum when her sisters voted to see Lego Wonder Woman while she wanted to see Kung Fu Panda 4: Enter the Panda. (INTOLERANT FRAME).
Your receptionist transfers through everyone who says they “need” to talk to you right now (INSECURE FRAME), but she'll pick up your coffee and smokes, even though she's Mormon. (TOLERANT FRAME).
The character is a retired Navy SEAL who disappears into the nearest bathroom to hide his PTSD-induced panic attacks (INSECURE FRAME), but he dates a pacifist anti-war activist. (SECURE FRAME).
She makes him feel neutered, while he makes her question her attractiveness (INSECURE FRAMES). She despises his friends as much as he loathes her driving. (INTOLERANT FRAME).
The suspect politely says she has nothing to say until her attorney arrives (SECURE FRAME), and she smiles calmly when ushered into a cell with a woman who is screaming at a ghost, while taking a dump in the middle of the floor. (TOLERANT FRAME)
You sit down at the Chanel counter to try a new blush, intending to buy nothing, but you leave Nordstrom's with the blush, a mascara, two eyeliners, and an entire skincare line (INSECURE FRAME). You spent the whole makeover cringing over the Chanel girl's unfortunate Long Island accent (INTOLERANT FRAME).
You like a politician who calls out a rival who for lying (SECURE FRAME), and you like the fact that he cares about constituents who didn't vote for him as much as cares about the ones who did (TOLERANT FRAME).