Sensor Feeler Thinker Intuitor: John’s Myers-Briggs Type
If you need a refresher on Myers-Briggs Personality Theory, please refer to here.
Sherlock’s type analysis can be found here.
John Watson is a man defined by extreme loyalty and dutifulness. He’s dedicated most of his life so far to serving society as both a doctor and a soldier, and currently his life is dedicated to his friend Sherlock Holmes. All of this suggests that his preferred judging function must be extraverted-feeling, which organizes the world based on one’s relationships to others. We see this very clearly in John prioritizing his entire life around Sherlock; he quits his job, dumps girlfriends, forgoes food and sleep, lies, kills, and even risks his own life for his best friend.
You would do anything for him!
However, in general John is a reserved person who, though warm, is not particularly gregarious or social. Other than Sherlock, he seems to have few other friends; in fact, when he first comes back from Afghanistan, he seems to have none at all. All of this suggests that extraverted-feeling is probably John’s auxiliary rather than dominant function. Otherwise, I believe we would see John being much more active about cultivating a wide circle of friends or even his own community.
This means then that John’s dominant function is an introverted-perceiving function, either introverted-intuition or introverted-sensing. If it is the former, then John’s dominated by the insights and ideas he gleans from his own mind. If it is the latter though, then he’s dominated by what he knows about himself, mainly facts and beliefs that he has learned directly through past experiences.
While John is by no means unintelligent or unperceptive, “insightful” is not a word I would use to describe him. Outside of his friendship with Sherlock, his views and lifestyle are rather conventional. A person dominated by introverted-intuition is always trying to develop a unique, personal way of seeing the world, and would therefore be far more idiosyncratic both in outlook and behavior.
On the other hand, John, in his own way, is extremely self-assured. Even under great stress and danger, we rarely see John fazed. He knows exactly who he is and what he stands for, at every moment. He knows this the way that he knows that apples are red and ice is cold, as indisputable facts, which is why he is capable of such incredible feats of unwavering loyalty and bravery. When John Watson believes something, there is no doubt in his mind. All of this strongly suggests that his dominant function is, therefore, introverted-sensing.
You don’t seem very scary…
Introverted-sensing also implies physical self-awareness, so that those with it as a dominant function are usually naturally athletic. This coupled with extraverted-feeling makes John suited both for work as a soldier and as a doctor. His strong inner-knowledge provides him with solid learned skills as a foundation, and his adeptness at interpersonal relations allows him to both support his comrades and to soothe ailing patients.
With extraverted-feeling as the auxiliary function, John’s tertiary-function will be introverted-thinking, the function which attempts to organize one’s mind logically. As his tertiary-function though, this function would primarily be an aid instead of being an influential force of its own. While there isn’t much apparent evidence of John’s introverted-thinking aiding his higher functions, we can still infer some of its workings in his overall character. First of all, introverted-thinking helps John be even more self-assured than he might otherwise be. Throughout the show, we never see John have any kind of self-doubt or self-conflict; when he does occasionally have doubts about what to do in a situation, it is always for external reasons. He always knows who he is and what he believes in, which could come from introverted-thinking organizing the past experiences of his dominant introverted-sensing in a logical way, providing John with a consistent, seamless foundation of self to stand on.
Furthermore, we usually see John acting in a rational, straightforward manner, at least in accordance to his identity and external relationships. When John seeks explanations for what he does not understand, he also seems to want it presented rationally (hence his compatibility with Sherlock), more evidence of the presence of introverted-thinking. In fact, this function presents itself most strongly in John’s interactions with Sherlock. John has no trouble appreciating and understanding Sherlock’s deductions when spelled out, even though he can’t think of them on his own. At times he can even offer up a bit of his own deduction, his much weaker tertiary introverted-thinking attempting to support Sherlock’s dominant one. (I’ll discuss this more when I write about Sherlock and John’s friendship in posts to come.)
Onto the inferior function. Having introverted-sensing as his dominant function means that extraverted-intuition will be John’s inferior function. This means that John both has trouble seeing patterns and possibilities in his external environment and that the desire to see such connections serves as the unconscious inspiration for his conscious actions. I think there is ample evidence to support both aspects in John’s personality. Despite accompanying Sherlock on all these cases, most of the time John sees only the obvious in the scene. To him the various elements remain just that, various elements; when he does try to tie it together into his own theory, it ends up far off, such as with the Connie Prince case. (On the other hand, from time to time John’s observation of discrete, independent details does keep Sherlock from being too lost in his own big-picture.)
In fact, I think John’s depression at the beginning of the show can be chalked up to an inability to see new possibilities for himself in the world around him. He knows himself as a soldier-doctor, but his injury makes it impossible for him to fulfill that role now, and he has absolutely no idea what to do next. John is good with what he knows, not what he doesn’t know.
Nothing ever happens to me…
At the same time, he’s also not satisfied with the ordinary, mundane civilian life. He could work as a civilian doctor, but he doesn’t. Some part of John yearns for the unusual and the extraordinary, even if he has no idea how to bring about that life on his own. Perhaps that’s even part of the reason why he joined the army instead of civil practice. When Sherlock comes along, he offers that opportunity to experience an extraordinary life which, though fantastical, is grounded in logic and sensory facts, in the known. Moreover, John can join this life without changing his core identity as a soldier-doctor. He is able to satisfy the desires of his inferior function without challenging the goals of his dominant function.
So by my analysis then, John is of the type ISFJ: introverted sensing feeling judging. He is dominated by introverted-sensing, aided by extraverted-feeling and to a lesser extent introverted-thinking, and finally both troubled and inspired by his inferior function of extraverted-intuition. ISFJ’s are often called “protectors” and are supposed to be the most loyal of all the Myers-Briggs types, which fits very nicely with John Watson.
Now, you may have noticed that an ISFJ has the exact same four functions as an INTP (Sherlock’s type), except that the orders are different:
In fact, the two strengths of one type correlate with the two weaknesses of the other without the dominant and inferior of each being directly opposed to one another. This type relationship is called the supplement (each supplements the other’s weaknesses), and it provides a simple illustration as to just why Sherlock and John fit together so well.
Next time: Sherlock and John, Part I
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