Can Custer really be an Si type? Is he not rather a man characterized by extroverted sensation (Se) and thus an ES-P type as his popular image would seem to suggest?
When we started doing research, a penchant for Se was indeed what we expected to find. And while ideally, the best practice when dealing with the study of personality is to try an approach a person with an empty and open ‘beginner’s mind’, disregarding what we think we know of a person’s personality and resisting the natural human impulse to just jump ahead and conclude that a person’s type must always be equivalent to his popular image.
But even so, it can nevertheless be difficult to shake all accumulated prejudice, especially in the case of historical figures who are so well-known to the public eye that they have grown to serve as stock examples of stereotypes in the public discourse.
And so, as history would have it, the American cavalry commander George A. Custer is just such a man. A man who is commonly seen as flamboyant; a soldier of fortune and as a reckless daredevil; a man of many pursuits and of great adaptability.
However, once we started looking beyond the stereotype and did actual research, it seemed to us that we found very little, if any, evidence supporting a preference for extroverted sensation (Se) in Custer’s psyche. Once we look beyond the myth, and at the actual man, we see in fact a man who has a great preference for subduing the objective, immediate aspects of the facts in order to categorize and tame them; to order them into long chains of exceedingly detailed narratives like the following:
“On the same day our train of wagons set out for Fort Wallace to obtain supplies. Colonel West with one full squadron of cavalry was ordered to escort the train to Beaver Creek, about midway, and there halt with one of his companies, while the train, under escort of one company commanded by Lieutenant Robbins, should proceed to the fort and return – Colonel West to employ the interval in scouting up and down Beaver Creek. The train was under the special management of Colonel Cooke who on this occasion was acting in the capacity of a staff officer.”
This is the style employed throughout all of Custer’s numerous dispatches and memoirs. So when we look at the actual man, the written relics that he left for posterity do not indicate a preference for extroverted sensation (Se), but rather for introverted sensation (Si).
Where a person marked by a preference for Se will generally see things photographically, that is, see things just as they are and on their own terms, a person marked by a preference for introverted sensation will rather see things impressionistically, that is, the objects that are being perceived by the subject will be subdued to an ordering faculty which allows for each detail to find into an overarching systematizing of facts.
Thus, the Se type’s direct seizure of the facts naturally lends a vibrant and immediate quality to their storytelling. And by contrast, the Si type’s heedful ordering of the facts means that the order comes at the expense of the objects themselves. Thus, the Si type is often more subdued where the Se type is often more vibrant.
With this insight it soon becomes evident why so many successful military commanders have been Si types: For Si allows each individual fact to be cognized, not on its own terms, but on the terms on which the individual fact fits into the larger background of facts. Si thus offers the subject an ordered view of the physical world without overstressing individual points (as an Se type would do), or subjecting the entirety of the order to some abstract idea (as an intuitive type would do).
And so, returning to Custer, it would be seen that if Custer did indeed have a preference for extroverted sensation (Se), then we would expect him to seize upon the facts of the immediate moment in each moment, with simplicity and vitality, and a very direct manner of communication. Yet as we have noted, that psychological pattern is not what is found in Custer’s book ‘My Life on the Plains’ which is above all an exhaustively ordered and meticulously detailed account of his years on the prairie. Within the book, it falls to Custer to relate the specific goings-on in exorbitant detail and so he may perhaps be contrasted with Winston Churchill (an Se type) who in his book ‘My Early Life’ recounts activities of a similar sort, namely his activity in the Second Boer War.
In the following extract, Churchill is narrating a series of events quite similar to those described in Custer’s words earlier in this video (that is, a small group of military men traversing in foreign lands).
In Churchill’s prose, the narrative is less tangled up in a system of facts. The focus is rather on the facts themselves and the narrative is brisk, straightforward, and lively:
“We … wanted to let off our guns. We had not come all this way and endured all these heats and discomforts – which really were trying – you could lift the heat with your hands, it sat on your shoulders like a knapsack, it rested on your head like a nightmare – [we had not come all this way] in order to participate in an interminable interchange of confidences … on the other side we had the very strong spirit of the ‘die-hards’ and the ‘young bloods’ of the enemy. They wanted to shoot at us and we wanted to shoot at them.”
Thus we can see that while the matter described by Custer and Churchill is largely identical, the manner of expression is almost a mirror image of each other: While even the gunfights in Custer’s book are delivered in a restrained tone, even the non-fights in Churchill’s book are teeming with the tension of a potential shootout ahead.
And Churchill and Custer as mirror images of each other would indeed make good sense if one of them was an Se type and the other an Si type.
- Custer’s quotation is from Custer’s ‘My Life on the Plains’, chapter 6
- Churchill’s quotation is from Churchill’s ‘My Early Life’, chapter 10
With this short video we hope to have at least raised the possibility that Custer could be an Si type. We know, however, that the argument was by no means exhausted by this video, which is why the matter is further examined on our website.