Kissing Cousins, Driving Fast, and a Great Fall Movie

In Ron Howard’s new movie, Rush, we see the story of James Hunt and Niki Lauda, rival Formula One race car drivers and the dramatic events of the 1976 racing season. Like the sport, the movie is fast-paced and exciting, but while I was expecting to find Formula One racing center stage, I was surprised to see such good type examples on display in the two lead characters.

Rush 2Rush Trailer

Rush depicts Formula One star James Hunt as a hard-charging, fast-living and fast-driving party guy. He’s in it for the excitement, the risk, the thrill and the speed. This is a vivid (and textbook) depiction of an SP—I would argue ESTP, specifically. This depiction of Hunt shows us a man who is intensely social (he hates to be alone), gregarious and always on the go. Not only is he always ready for a party, he tends to turn every room and group he is in into a party.James Hunt of Rush

While attractive to others in his extreme appetites and his fun-loving nature, Hunt is actually rather interpersonally disconnected and somewhat insensitive, even admitting that he “falls out” with people with great frequency. Disregarding the past—he is not procedural or traditional—and with no apparent thought of the future—he also is unconcerned with risk, Hunt embodies the SP (especially the ESTP, with dominant extraverted Sensing) in his total emersion in the present. He seeks fun and high octane sensory engagement—through sex, drugs, and break-neck speed.

Niki Lauda in RushNiki Lauda, as depicted in Rush, is as introverted, measured and serious as Hunt is gregarious and fun-loving. Presented as a rather severe NT—I would argue INTJ, specifically, Lauda becomes a great race car driver by sheer force of calculation and intellectual force of will. His drive towards competence and achievement is telegraphed through pensive expressions and a frequent scowl on his face. Lauda intentionally avoids parties and crowds, preferring instead the inner-world of his own thoughts, goals and calculations.

Lauda’s drive to construct the fastest car, be the best driver and eventually become champion of the world leads him to be constantly striving and quick with criticism, and while he and his achievements are respected, he is not widely liked by those who know him. He readily accepts his lack of popularity as a badge of honor—it is proof of his success and competence.  Lauda, while a bit extreme, embodies so much of the NT temperament (especially the inner vision and outward problem-solving of the INTJ).

OKA’s founder, Otto Kroeger, wrote of the behavioral link between the SP and NT temperaments.  He called the two temperaments Kissing Cousins, very different styles with a couple of striking similarities that give them a similar look and feel. NTs quest and strive for competence, but this competence can only be achieved through repetitive action and practice. SPs quest for action and physical engagement, and as a result of their perpetual activity, SPs frequently become competent at an activity. Because of the Kissing Cousins link between NT and SP, it can be hard to ascertain whether someone is showing NT or SP behavior. Are you seeing a quest for competence and improvement (resulting in action) or a love of the action itself (resulting in increased competence). A lot of athletes and sports stories repeat these common narratives.

Another terrific Kissing Cousin example is in Rush. From a distance, the story seems to be two race car drivers at the top of their field–competing for a championship. But Niki Lauda and James Hunt are, oddly enough, typological Kissing Cousins. Lauda quests for competence and mastery of the car, the track, his rivals, the whole field—he is driven to be (and remain) the best—and this competency drive compels him to action. James Hunt, on the other hand, simply loves to race—he quests for speed, for fun, for the physical experience of life lived on the edge, and the continued engagement with this activity makes him highly competent.

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3 Responses

  1. Rohit Ramachandran says:

    Nice article! James Hunt is definitely ESFP, I think. I think Fi is what drove him to feel the pangs of empathy in the beginning when the driver was set ablaze in his car, and later to attack the reporter who asked Niki Lauda if his marriage would survive. Niki Lauda, no doubt, is INTJ. Being one myself, I could relate a lot to him, especially ‘Happiness is the worst enemy.’

  2. Gayle Weinraub says:

    I just saw this movie on Tuesday at a dollar theater in San Antonio and thought it was outstanding! I agree with this post in that I also saw James Hunt as an ESTP. But I assumed that only SPs would be race car drivers so I saw Niki Lauda as an ISTP, though I did wonder if he could be a J. I never heard of the Kissing Cousins concept and find in fascinating! Are there any other Kissing Cousins? If so, what are they and how do they work? Thank you for a very interesting and enjoyable post!

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