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The Examined Life

By Patricia Day Williams, M.D.

For me self-understanding—or, as Thoreau might have said it, the examined life—is key to finding one’s own meaningful and successful life path, however each of us experiences meaning and success. My first introduction to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator™ was a typical mis-introduction from a misinformed person: “Here’s a printout of who you are. You might want to work on the J-P thing.” My second experience was revelatory, with astounding insights: “Ah, this explains my marriage…my relationships with my parents and siblings…my career choice and subsequent satisfactions and dissatisfactions with it…etc.”

Imagine my surprise and delight when I had similar insights from my first astrological birth chart reading ten years later:

“Wow! This confirms the gifts and challenges of my MBTI personality type—the ones I’ve been working with for years!”

As I learned more about both systems, I found that each offered both confirming and complementary insights. With a deeper understanding of my personality type, for example, I came to understand the particulars of how I can be triggered by unconscious complexes that erupt under stress. I could see that these complexes manifest in emotional and behavioral patterns confirmed by my astrological chart. Delving further into astrology, I learned about the developmental journey of my lifetime. This learning then boosted my ability to grow into a more psychologically healthy version of my personality type.

When I or those I’ve worked with have been puzzled by something related to either type or birth chart, a look at the other frequently clears up the puzzlement, sometimes in astoundingly helpful ways. I believe it is because both systems offer a window into self-awareness through two different meaning-making lenses. Using both systems together gives combined insights of even greater value than the sum of their separate offerings.

Our excitement at having experienced this synergy led Suzanne Stevens and me to offer the upcoming workshop Astrology - Typology and the Life Path from Jan 16-20, 2020. We hope you will join us to explore each lens and the additional self-understanding they bring when used together. You can sign up now at

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