Remembering Robin

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In honor of Robin Williams, whose sun set prematurely on August 11, 2014.

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Who do you think you are?

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Our personalities are as distinct as our clothing choices, but commonalities exist among people with similar psychological traits just as they do with shoppers who are guided by similar fashions. Among the options available to learn more about what makes us tick, becoming aware of one’s Myers-Briggs personality type is perhaps the most powerful. For me, a reflective individual who has spent years contemplating why I think and behave as I do, identifying my personality type — and studying its characteristics — has been life-changing.

recommend three online resources for learning more about your psychological wardrobe. If you wonder why you instinctively feel drawn to the noisy center of a crowded room or why you exhaustively analyze all of the competing variables before making a decision, these three websites could provide meaningful answers. Whether you possess a casual interest in gaining more personality insight or a gnawing hunger to interpret the complex inner workings of your mind, these platforms serve as worthy portals to the knowledge you seek.

First, a brief background.

Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung (1875-1961), who was a younger peer of the legendary Sigmund Freud, developed a theory of personality concepts as part of his pioneering work in analytical psychology. Two of the best known of these concepts are introversion and extroversion, which many contemporary practitioners believe exist on a continuum. Those who are more introverted in nature generally gain energy in solitude; those who are more extroverted typically charge their batteries when in the presence of others.

In the 1920s, an American educator named Katharine Cook Briggs (1875-1968) took a keen interest in Jung’s work in personality concepts. She did so after investing considerable time and energy formulating her own personality theories while raising and homeschooling her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers (1897-1980). After Katherine Cook Briggs read Jung’s work in the early 1920s, she dove into the psychiatrist’s theories and convinced her daughter to follow her on the intellectual journey.

What emerged from their collaboration — and the resulting decades of scholarship with her husband, Lyman Briggs (1874-1963), an engineer with the National Bureau of Standards in Washington D.C. — was a four-letter personality type. Today it is identified as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® or MBTI®. Once you become aware of which of the 16 four-letter code combinations you most closely align with, an extraordinary door opens into a room (or a walk-in closet) filled with wonder and understanding.

My first recommendation for learning more about your personality type is the official Myers & Briggs Foundation website, which is the authority on all things related to this renowned — yet still sometimes controversial — framework. The beginning of the “MBTI® Basics” page is featured here:

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My second recommendation is for MBTIonline.com, which allows you to discover your official MBTI® identifier by taking the 93-question Myers-Briggs assessment for $49.95. The estimated time for this instrument is 15 minutes. (Note — A link to MBTIonline.com is also found on the Myers & Briggs Foundation site.)

The welcome page of MBTIonline looks like this:

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My third recommendation is for 16Personalities, which is hosted by UK-based NERIS Analytics Limited. This user-friendly and pleasingly visual website offers insightful descriptors of NERIS’ own modified versions of the official MBTI® four-letter designator.

The modified versions, which feature a fifth letter — A or T, representing assertive and turbulent, respectively — still include the sixteen separate personality types. However, each one is complemented by the fifth A or T descriptor*. The sixteen basic types are presented here using names, illustrations, and four categorical groups (Analysts, Diplomats, Sentinels, and Explorers).

You can identify your type by taking their free NERIS Type Explorer®.

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Each of these sixteen types features its own detailed series of pages that offer insights into how that type’s tendencies (in thought and behavior) manifest in such areas as Friendships, Romantic Relationships, Parenthood, Career Path, and Workplace Habits.

Here is an overview of the ESFP type, which 16Personalities identifies as “The Entertainer.” The four-letter acronym stands for Extroverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving.

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As an INTJ (“The Architect,” pictured below) — a type that describes introverted individuals who rely on intuition and deep thought to navigate their lives — I have found tremendous value in both the Myers & Briggs Foundation website and 16Personalities.com. By revisiting these destinations, I am reminded why I possess the psychological wardrobe that I do — the symbolic pants, shirts, sweaters, and shoes that reflect the different parts of my personality.

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When I find myself struggling to understand why and how I act, I am grateful for the insights that these sources offer. Although I give serious consideration to the materials they provide, I also scrutinize them as a healthy skeptic. I think it is best to be cautious about adopting any framework in its entirety. The three resources recommended in this post provide general roadmaps for greater understanding — not prescriptive, turn-by-turn directions for living a better life.

* — Please be aware that this fifth letter is an element that is not endorsed by the Myers & Briggs Foundation.

Note — All of the images in this post were obtained from the official Myers & Briggs Foundation website and 16Personalities.com.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

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Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions impact 1 in 5 adults every year. That is why, since 1949, May has been recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month.

Whether you are a trial attorney, a truck driver, or a teacher, you can be susceptible to these painful and sometimes debilitating conditions. They can emerge slowly or suddenly.

Unfortunately, the stigma surrounding mental health is significant — especially for men. All too often, those who suffer remain silent, fearing the shame of being perceived as weak or faulty.

If you are struggling, please summon the courage to reach out to someone you trust. Asking for help does not mean that you are helpless. It means that you are human.

The first step may be terrifying, but it is necessary for finding long-term relief. Trust me. I am “1 in 5 adults.”

And I am someone who cares.

Yours in support,
Brian / Mr. Bishop 🙂

To learn more, please visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

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The NYT’s “What’s All This About Journaling?”

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On October 25, 2018, the New York Times published an online article by Hayley Phelan — who generally reports on fashion, shopping, and culture — entitled “What’s All This About Journaling?* It’s worth seven minutes of your time.

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Why? In her short piece, Ms. Phelan (who is pictured above) shares details of her recent return to journaling as an adult. She also provides commentary from two of the most respected names in the field of expressive personal writing: author Julia Cameron and social psychologist Dr. James Pennebaker.

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Now in her early thirties, Ms. Phelan began journaling as an adult at the age of 29. Why? Her now ex-husband recommended she do so to, in part, cope with the stresses of their dissolving marriage. At the time, he was journaling by following the recommendations that Julia Cameron describes in her landmark book The Artist’s Way, which has sold more than 4 million copies since its publication in 1992.

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In her seminal work about creativity, Cameron challenges readers to pen three hand-written “Morning Pages” shortly after rising from bed each day. As Ms. Phelan notes in her article, Cameron describes this writing as “strictly stream of consciousness.” To read about how Cameron addresses questions related to the Morning Pages routine, please see her 2017 blog post entitled Morning Pages: FAQ.

In addition to interviewing Julia Cameron for her article, Ms. Phelan corresponded with the foremost researcher in expressive writing, Dr. James Pennebaker of the University of Texas at Austin. Nearly every news story about the process and potential of journaling written in the last decade features at least a quotation from Dr. Pennebaker, who is recognized as one of the world’s experts on writing therapy, a form of expressive writing that he is credited with developing in the 1980s.

Pennebaker’s book Opening Up by Writing It Down, which is now in its 3rd edition, shares his research about how focused writing can help us process trauma and lead to faster recovery. Ms. Phelan notes that Dr. Pennebaker is not necessarily an advocate of daily writing. Why? If frequent journaling results in “rumination” that causes anguish, he recommends a shorter-duration approach. His research has revealed that just several intensive writing sessions lasting 15-30 minutes can yield measurable decreases in stress and increases in one’s ability to cope effectively in the aftermath of trauma.

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Ms. Phelan describes how her journaling practice, which has now stretched into its third year, resembles Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages. She writes “three to five pages every morning by hand.” And how does Ms. Phelan assess the effectiveness of this routine? She explains: “[J]ournaling provided me with an important outlet for the debilitating anxiety that had come to paralyze me at odd hours each day. And besides, I enjoyed it. It was fun to wake up every morning and spew a hurried black scrawl all over those straight blue lines.”

Please see her full article “What’s All This About Journaling?” if you are interested in personal writing; it is worth seven minutes of your time. And stay tuned for future blog posts about Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and Dr. Pennebaker’s Opening Up by Writing It Down later this spring. In the meantime, pick up a pen and give journaling a try!

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* — Three days later, a version of the article was featured on page ST7 of the paper’s New York edition with the title “Writing in a Journal Can Help.”

Note — The photograph of Haley Phelan at the top of this post was obtained from her website, hayleyphelan.com. The illustrations featured in this post were borrowed from the online version of Ms. Phelan’s article, which can be reached at nytimes.com. The covers of The Artist’s Way and Opening Up by Writing It Down were taken from Julia Cameron’s website and the website for the Guilford Press, respectively.

Stickers take flight on dragons’ wings!

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These stickers are taking flight on dragons’ wings. Thank you for supporting the North Oakland Community Coalition. Your generosity has already produced $36.00 in donations.

For every ink + sky sticker that is sold, $1.00 is given to the NOCC to provide education and programming for local youth in these three critical areas:

  1. Underage drinking
  2. Substance abuse
  3. Mental health

If you would like to purchase ink + sky stickers for your water bottle, laptop, snowboard, or class binder, please click here.

Thank you for your generosity and support!

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One small sticker for you — one giant lift for youth.

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If your laptop, class binder, water bottle, or car window could use a boost of color, consider these ink + sky stickers. They feature rounded corners, so they won’t roll up once applied to a surface. And the stickers are made of glossy laminated polypropylene, so they are durable enough for outdoor use.

Better yet, for every sticker that is sold $1.00 will be donated to the North Oakland Community Coalition. The NOCC is a Lake Orion-based 501(c)3 non-profit that works closely with area schools, health care providers, law enforcement and emergency personnel, local governments, and other service organizations.

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From noccmi.org:

“Since 2007, the North Oakland Community Coalition provides critical prevention education and programs related to underage drinking, youth substance use, and mental health to encourage a responsible community where healthy decision making is valued and where individuals and families thrive.”

By purchasing a sticker, $1.00 will be donated to the NOCC so that it can continue to provide critical resources and education for our community. Most recently, the NOCC brought the award-winning film Suicide: The Ripple Effect to the auditorium at Lake Orion High School. The free screening occurred on January 14.

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Purchasing an ink + sky sticker allows you to support this website and a local non-profit that makes a positive impact on area youth. As a former Laker Orion teacher, I stand behind the North Oakland Community Coalition’s mission and message.

Two different stickers are available for purchase using PayPal or a credit card. Regardless of the quantity selected, they will be shipped for FREE in the continental United States. After you place an order, expect them to arrive in 4-5 business days if you live in Michigan. An extra day or two may be necessary for delivery to other states. If you  live overseas (e.g. Ireland, Germany, etc.), please contact me about shipping options.


ink + sky sticker — $3.75

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This sticker measures 1.5″ tall and 4″ wide, and it features rounded corners. It is made of glossy laminated white polypropylene, so it is durable enough for outdoor use. A $1.00 donation will be made to the NOCC.

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inkandsky.com sticker — $3.75

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This sticker measures 0.75″ tall and 4.5″ wide, and it features rounded corners. It is made of glossy laminated white polypropylene, so it is durable enough for outdoor use. A $1.00 donation will be made to the NOCC.

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Direct donation to the NOCC — $5.00

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Would you like to do more? Show your support for the North Oakland Community Coalition with a direct donation in $5.00 increments (example: a quantity of 2 will result in a $10 donation).

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You don’t need to walk on the moon to make a difference for our kids and their health. You only need to take one step forward and demonstrate that you are sticking with them.

The North Oakland Community Coalition and ink + sky appreciate your support.

Thank you!

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Note — The North Oakland Community Coalition logo and the promotional image for Suicide: The Ripple Effect were obtained from noccmi.org. The photograph featuring the moon was taken by Ganapathy Kumar, and it is available on unsplash.com.

A letter to Terry Bradshaw

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With the Super Bowl coming up tomorrow, the time is right to share these two artifacts from my younger days — a colored-pencil illustration and a printed letter to former Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw. If you watch Fox NFL Sunday, then you are likely familiar with Bradshaw’s unique mix of humor and insight.

Growing up in the 1970s and early 80s in Pittsburgh, PA, my brother and I quickly became fans of the hometown Steelers and their roster of now-legendary players including wide receivers John Stallworth and Lynn Swann, defensive tackle “Mean” Joe Greene, linebacker Jack Lambert, fullback Franco Harris, and center Mike Webster. Please see the end of this blog post for critical health information about Webster, who tragically died at the age of 50.

These men that we cheered on felt less like all-stars and more like the tough blue-collar laborers who spent their days in front of blast furnaces in Pittsburgh’s steel mills. The members of our football team were symbolic neighbors. Here is an example of those everyday heroes. These are the members of the formidable defensive line known as the Steel Curtain: Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Dwight White, and Ernie Holmes.

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Although I never played even one season of touch football as a kid, cheering on the black and gold was almost a cultural requirement if you lived in Pittsburgh at that time. After all, under the watchful gaze of coach Chuck Noll, the Steelers won the Super Bowl in 1975, 1976, 1979, and 1980. They were the first NFL team to win four championships.

It must have been close to 1980 when I created the illustration pictured above — and the letter seen below. Despite the time and effort that were invested in these two pieces, I never mailed them to their intended recipient. Sorry, Terry. I hope you can forgive me.

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The sheer number of spelling errors is laughable given the fact that I became a high-school teacher and earned a master’s degree in English literature and composition. But at least you can see that even as an elementary school student I was dutifully editing my initial draft. The erasures are evident, but my “corrections” may be just as bad as — if not worse than — the mistakes that came before them. I was really trying hard, though.

What I find especially charming is the question that concludes the letter:

isn’t it niec Terry _____?”

The superscript yes no and accompanying arrow bring to mind the stereotypical folded paper note passed to a love interest across the classroom. Such missives often seek an answer to this question: “Do you like me? Yes or No.”

I’ll never know if Mr. Bradshaw would have found value in my artwork or composition skills, but as a man in his forties I take pride in the fact that I created these offerings — and that I was thoughtful enough to keep them as part of my small collection of childhood memorabilia. I still enjoy expressing my creativity, and I love to explore the possibilities of the written word. Those two interests have only grown.

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This Sunday the venerable Tom Brady (age 41) and the much younger Jared Goff (age 24) will take the field at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta with their teams, the Patriots and Rams. Although I may watch part of Super Bowl LIII, I’ll still be rooting for the Terry Bradshaw and Pittsburgh Steelers of my youth. The game seemed much simpler then, more like a true athletic contest than a media-saturated “event.”

But I recognize that somewhere in New England and Los Angeles there are young boys — and girls! — excitedly drawing pictures of their gridiron heroes and penning sincere letters of admiration. I hope that the parents of those children encourage them, and that they search out stamps, envelopes, and mailing addresses. But before you send off their illustrations and fan mail, please take pictures of their finished work. Years from now, you’ll be grateful that you did.

The Brothers Bishop (1980) — Pittsburgh, PA

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The importance of Mike Webster (1952-2002):

If you have seen the 2015 film Concussion, which stars Will Smith as the real physician Dr. Bennett Omalu, then you are likely aware of Mike Webster’s name. In that sobering movie, Webster is played by actor David Morse; his portrayal of the declining physical and mental health of the former Pittsburgh player is haunting. If you enjoy football, I strongly encourage you to watch this film.

Mike Webster, who was a Hall of Fame athlete and recipient of four Super Bowl championship rings, played for the Steelers from 1974 to 1988. But the man known as “Iron Mike” eventually suffered unbelievable horrors because of the game he loved. As a center, Webster’s body — including his head — was hit repeatedly by opponents. The innumerable collisions caused what is now recognized as CTE or chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The condition, which forensic pathologist Dr. Omalu was instrumental in identifying, is unforgiving in the way that it destroys the brain.

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After his career ended in 1990, Mike Webster’s life began to unravel. The best description of what occurred to him can be found in his New York Times obituary. In that article, Webster’s downward spiral into homelessness, addiction, and psychological trauma is described. Mike Webster went from an on-field superstar to a divorced, confused, shame-filled, and broken man in less than ten years. He died at the age of 50 of a heart attack.

The damage from concussions is very real. And those injuries harm not only the physical body, but the mind.

Please investigate the topic of CTE, and please use good judgement when deciding how you, your friends, and/or your children play sports that can result in repeated blows to the head. Short-term success is no replacement for long-term suffering.

Note — The photograph of the players who formed the Steel Curtain was obtained from the Heinz History Center. The photographs of Terry Bradshaw and Mike Webster were borrowed from the website of Behind the Steel Curtain. The publicity image for the Super Bowl was found on the website of the Tampa Bay Times.