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"An Overview of the NT" from Kiersey and Bates's Please Understand Me

Also called the Promethean Temperament. To make man more like the gods, Prometheus gave him fire, the symbol of light and energy. In harnessing light and energy mankind gains a control and understanding of nature. To understand and control nature is to have real power, this is what sets the Promethean apart from the rest.

These are NTs. They are rather infrequent, only about 12 percent of the population, or some 24 million people. In school, only four in a class of 32 would be an NT. Of these four only one would be introverted, an INTP, or INTJ. They must live with aliens, while the SP's and SJ's are continuously surrounding them. The teachers and parents of NT's are likely not to understand the motivations of the child.

Power fascinates the NT. Not power over people, but power over nature. To be able to understand, control, predict, and explain realities. Note these are the four aims of science, control and understanding, prediction and explanation. Scratch an NT, find a scientist.

The Promethean NT loves intelligence, which means: doing things well under varying circumstances. The extreme NT can even be seen as addicted to acquiring intelligence, hooked on storing up wisdom, just as Aesop's Ant must store up goodies. Tell the NT that he is a fake, a liar, a cheater, lacking in responsibility and spontaneity, and he will reflect on your criticism and reply that "you may have a point there." Not that he is perturbed or offended, for he often wonders and doubts his sense of freedom, responsibility, and authority. But tell him he is foolish, stupid, or incompetent and discover the exact value he places on your warrant to say so. Only he can judge his capability, and he does so with ruthless self-criticism. Wanting to be competent is not a strong enough expression of the force behind the NT's quest. He must be competent.

The NT is the most self-critical of all the types. He badgers himself about his errors, taxes himself with the resolve to improve, and ruthlessly monitors his own progress. He continually checks the pulse of his skills and takes his conceptual temperature every hour on the hour. He must master understanding of all objects and events whether human or extra-human, physical or metaphysical, in whatever domain he stakes out as his area of competency. And the more extreme the NT style, the more exacting and stringent the demand placed by the NT on himself in the acquisition of skill and knowledge. The NT must be competent in whatever domain of enterprise or inquiry he chooses; he will settle for nothing less.

The NT has accumulated massive lists inside his head of things that he knows and things that he should know. He is inclined always to accumulate more items, never deleting any. He runs a kind of mental bureaucracy of excellence, and thus can be a perfectionist, becoming tense and compulsive in his behavior when he comes under too much stress. He may greet with scorn and amusement the criticism of others concerning his powers. He may or may not express this reaction, although the extraverts are more likely to do so, but the NT is very conscious of the credentials of his critic and in what degree they license comment. Allied to this demand for competency in critics is recalcitrance on the part of the NT, even from an early age. To accept an authority figure based solely on the fact that he is an authority figure, to the NT is ludicrous. The fact that a person proclaims something, whatever his or her title, reputation, or credentials, leaves the NT indifferent. This tends to make others see the NT as arrogant, and unusually individualistic.

The NT is also overwhelmed by a sense of always being on the verge of failure. Constant self-doubting is the hallmark of the NT, so severe, that because of these doubts the NT often does not react at all because of fear of failure. He can be completely immobilized by self-doubt so far that his resolution fades.

Watching the NT at "play" is apt to be touching and a little sad when compared to the SP's and SJ's. The NT, knowing logically that recreation is necessary for health, schedules his play, and during that "playtime" taxes himself with improving his recreational skills. For example, in a game, he must make no mistakes or lapses of logic or strategic inaccuracies. In tennis, each set must be the occasion for the improvement of certain strokes or the elimination of previously-noted errors. The opponent of the NT may feel that he cares nothing about winning, and is in his own world separate from the game. The NT even demands of himself that he have a good time, since recreation is so defined.

An unfortunate by-product of the signals the NT unconsciously sends out, are that those around him are intellectually inadequate. In time, NTs become defensive, withdrawn, and make little effort to communicate their ideas. The consequences of these transactions, is, of course, that the NT confirms his perceptions of the trivialities in the minds of others.

In his communications the NT is likely to speak with little or no redundancy. His communications tend to be terse, compact, and logical. He has a deep reluctance to state the obvious, restricting his verbal communications because, he believes, "Of course, everyone knows that..." And, it follows, for the NT, that if he did state the obvious, his listeners surely would be bored. The NT is oblivious to emotional overtones, and non-verbal communications.

Because the NT is so serious about the knowledge he must have to be competent (and to be seen by others as competent), he does, in fact, frequently gain proficiency in his field. The dominance of his power-hunger over his lesser hungers for action, duty, of self-actualization often exerts itself early in life, usually taking the form of a childish curiosity as to how things work, especially machines. The NT begins his search for explanations as soon as he has the language for questioning. He is puzzled by the world around him and is not satisfied by the answers from his elders. Learning for the NT is a 24-hour preoccupation, and this characteristic exerts itself early, particularly in the case of the extreme NT.

Perhaps more than any other style, NT's live in their work. For the NT, work is work and play is work. Condemning an NT to idleness would be the worst sort of punishment. Work is done not so much to achieve a product or for the pleasure of action, but for the improvement, perfection, or proof of skill or knowledge required by the work. The NT does not have the function-lust of the SP; rather, he has, through his work, a law lust. He is ever searching for the why's of the universe. He ever attempts, in his Promethean way, to breathe a fire of understanding into whatever area he considers his domain. NT's are, understandably, drawn to occupations which have to do with the formulation and application of scientific principles. Science, technology, philosophy, mathematics and logic, design and engineering, research and development, management, manufacture, criminology, cardiology, securities analysis - all appeal to NT's. Sales and customer relations work do not hold such attraction, nor do NTs tend to gravitate toward services such as clerical work, repair, maintenance, entertainment, or distribution. They can be found in high frequency in engineering and architecture, in the teaching of mathematics, sciences, and philosophy. Wherever they are and whatever they do, the NTs strive (and usually succeed) to perform competently.

He tends to be straightforward in his dealings with people, although others report often finding the NT cold, remote, and enigmatic. Yet if an NT is asked outright his position on any issue, he is more than likely to state his ideas on the subject without equivocation. The NT is vulnerable to the all-work-no-play syndrome and can easily become isolated in an ivory tower of intellectualism, seemingly cut off from the world that other types find as reality. The NT is, at times, the eccentric genius. Einstein shuffled in the streets of New York in his bedroom slippers and communicated intelligibly with only a few. Doubtless, Einstein had no regrets concerning this situation, and fortunately his work has not been lost. There always is, however, the danger that the work of NTs will be lost to others because of this tendency to communicate at levels of abstraction others find unintelligible.

NTs as a group tend to enjoy playing with words, finding pleasure in exploring verbal intricacies. Convoluted phrases and paradoxical statements fascinate them. Contemplating Einstein's comment, "The laws of mathematics, as far as they refer to reality, are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality," would give delight to the NT, as does the reading of satire and the savoring of such complicated word structures as those found in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.

NTs tend to focus on the future, regarding the past as something dead and gone. What matters most is what might be and what might happen next. The past is useful only as a means of giving direction to the future and for deciphering the lessons of history, taking heed to the warning that "He who remains ignorant of history is doomed to repeat it." The NT is never willing to repeat an error. And it is quite humiliating for an NT to be in the position where others are witness to the errors he makes in his work, especially errors in logic.

As the NT speculates about the possible motivation and thoughts of those he is with, trying to fit his experiences into some system he carries around in his head, he sometimes misses direct experience. He may be so occupied with trying to figure out what is happening, as it is happening, that he misses living the event. At times, the NT seems to stand beside, instead of in the stream of life, seeming to watch bemusedly as the river flows by - a little distanced, a little detached, a little uninvolved. This distancing sometimes causes the NT to make personal commitments which he later regrets. In particular, the NT whose feeling is not developed can become involved with members of the opposite sex who might be totally unsuitable as life companions. At times, an NT can be quite oblivious to the emotional responses of others and may not always be sensitive to the complexities of interpersonal relations. People report that they sometimes feel that they do not exist when they are in the presence of an NT, and they may react to this by hostile, attacking comments directed to the personality of the NT. NTs generally react to these comments with bewilderment and seldom strike back. If he chooses, however, the NT is capable of biting sarcasm that can be devastating to the person at whom it is directed.

The Spirit of the NT is caught in the myth of Prometheus, the Greek God who created man from clay. Disappointed in his lifeless sculpture, Prometheus enlisted the help of Minerva. She carried him to heaven where he stole fire from the wheel of the sun. Prometheus applied the stolen fire to the breast of man, giving him life. Prometheus paid for his theft by being "nailed hard and fast in chains beneath the open sky." A greedy vulture tore at his blackened liver all day, year in and out. And there was no end to the pain: every night, while Prometheus hung bound on the cliff, exposed to the cruel frost and freezing winds, his liver grew whole again. Prometheus rescued man from ignorance, even though he had to rob heaven to do so. He proclaimed the doctrine of progress for man and secured the gifts of the science and technology.