A user’s guide to finding yourself

My horoscope on Saturday said “adventures await, so get an early start.” I slept in, of course, and then read the paper. Maybe, though, I was having my adventure while I was sleeping, running with the bulls in Pamplona or scuba diving on a secret mission for the CIA. I rarely dream anything quite that fantastic, though. Mostly it’s things like long, involved journeys searching for my car keys.
I rarely know where they’re coming from, these cryptic messages from my unconscious. But every once in a while, it’s possible to pinpoint the link between metaphor and real life. But then, I usually don’t write them down, and quickly lose the moral of the story.
Is it possible that the two things are combined, the horoscope and the dream, making up some sort of cosmic blueprint for the psyche and fate of each of us? I mean, that’s what we’re looking for, isn’t it, in horoscopes, dream analysis and marketing reports — some insight into what it is that makes us tick and drives us? I’d like to know, as would a few advertisers: Who am I, really?
There are many ways to find out. Taking the modern trek through psychology and biorhythms or using the ancient traditions of meditation and star gazing, we can strive to better understand our tendencies and character traits. It could be pretty handy to know that you — because of the placement of the stars at the time you were born or the genetic history of your forebearers — are prone to fits of impatience, in the same way that it would be handy to know of an allergy to polish sausage before you got yourself into some serious trouble at Nye’s.
And the polish sausage makers would like to know a little about your psyche as well. Because it’s no use to set up a sausage stand in the middle of a group of waif-like Generation Xers. There’s much better profit potential within a group of Baby Boomers of Czech descent. Know your audience. That’s Marketing 101.
Uncovering the treasures of your subconscious is an intriguing concept. It’s like Peter Pan looking for his shadow. The more you look, the more you find that can be both enlightening and misleading. I found a bit of each. But it’s really quite interesting just to look around and see what this all can tell you about yourself, and what it is telling industry about you. Here is a little of how I’ve been defined.
First, the horoscope. I’m a Taurus (Sagittarius rising). My Sun is trine to Uranus, Pluto and Medium Coeli. How’s that for insight? According to my CD-ROM astrology chart, I might possess a good singing voice. And since I can’t sing, I take that to mean Taureans might or might not possess good singing voices. It says I am detail oriented, which should nab me about 80 percent of the jobs listed in want ads. I am said to be motivated by a desire to obtain possessions, often compulsively. The only possession I am really compulsive about obtaining are wine glasses, but that’s only because I seem to break a lot of them — probably a deep-seated psychic quirk I should be looking into.
I am also described in my chart as stolid (which doesn’t sound good), loyal and opinionated. I can buy that. Actually, sometimes it’s scary to read those books on your sign. It’s spooky how often they can hit the mark. One book ended its exhaustive character analysis with the thought that it might be easier for a Taurus to have a chair and a fork near the fridge, and just pull the chair right up to the open door and dig in. Well, yes, but ouch!
Another personality reference, the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, is a handy office tool. We took the test at my office. It did offer a glimpse into how people go about making decisions. And that’s half the battle in an office, knowing how to pitch to your co-workers. It seems that I scored far to the right on the spectrum of intraversion, intuition, feeling and perception — which could make me an easy target for those justice-bent extraverts putting on a sensitivity show for me. But, then again, if they’re willing to go through the trouble, who am I to argue?
From what I can remember from a high school personality inventory, my potential career choices included both nun and sanitation engineer. I certainly got a lot of direction out of that. I wear a lot of black, and my apartment is pretty clean, especially when there’s a major paper to be written and I just can’t get to work on it until the floor gets mopped.
But by far the most amusing personality profiles have been circling my e-mail recently. You can test your deepest values or your romantic potential — of course, there’s always the perspicacious Cosmo quiz for this, too. According to one, because I envisioned six people in my lifeboat, I have six true friends. There’s surely something Freudian lurking there. But then, on the same test, the number of shoes I imagined I would take from the lifeboat to the deserted island was representative of how many true loves I would have before getting married. That analysis is more along the lines of those pinwheels we made in junior high, lifting up the paper to reveal one’s fate behind the pink corner.
The idealistic Sagittarius rising in me sees the allure of the romantic predictions of paper pinwheels and clairvoyants. But probably the sensible Taurus kept me from ever giving in to the late night seduction of the Psychic Friends Network. I just don’t think I can trust a psychic organization which wasn’t able to forecast its own bankruptcy.
But the most commonly used, and probably the most lasting of characterizations, is one’s placement in a generation. By some definitions I am just between the maturing boomers and the up-and-coming X generation. By some charts, the boomers ended in 1964 and Xers started in the seventies. I am in between, and comfortable in this limbo, though other charts have me as an Xer. I’d rather not be historically blamed for anything, as tends to happen to generations. It seems this way I am just one of the essential transitional folks, bridging a few gaps and doing some translation. But the chasm between the two generations is obvious.
The best definition came from an Atlantic Monthly story referring to the two groups as self-righteous neopuritans and nomadic survivalists. A generation with more security than this country has known before and antsy with the surroundings, the Xers (and a few of us in the transition generation) have taken what a Meyers Briggsian might call the introversion role, still testing limits, but in a very individual way. As our family defines us, so does our generation. It is our shared experiences growing up which make up much of who we are.
These characterizations get played out every day. If you want to know how your society defines you, pick up a magazine and check out the ads, or better yet, watch television. This is what is being said about us. From the brooding dankness of Calvin Klein’s Obsession scenes to the sweaty intensity of a Bally’s ad, these are the definitions that are sticking, like it or not. At the very least, we should know what the personality inventories are saying about us.
Christine Tomlinson is the Daily’s opinions page editor. She can be contacted at [email protected]