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Carl Jung and the Psychological Types

Introduction to Carl Jung, the father of Individuation Psychology.

Jung was famous for his work on personality psychology, personality types, and individuation. His aim was not to organize people into types or labels. In his introduction to the Argentinian Edition of Psychological Types, his bestseller on personality types, he exclaims that his work has been highly misunderstood. Most people only read the main chapter on personality types, not what came before or after that.

In his own words, categorizing people into types is a childish game. What he meant to do was try to explain different psychological forces that exist and some typical ways these forces can develop to help us better understand a person’s psychology. He has said before that people could be organized or differentiated in any possible way.

He came to develop and manage the mind in this way because it was something he would commonly observe in the patients in his study. He would also say that these types develop when we start to develop a chronic and often unhealthy fixation with this psychological force. A type, when taken to the extreme, is a pathological, psychologically unstable person. Such a person has a severely biased and limited understanding of the world. Jung’s work is of primary importance in describing the psychological forces that drive us and our behavior. In simple words:

Don’t obsess about what type you are or your dominant function; instead, reflect on how each psychological force is present in your life and how you have developed to relate to it.

The study of introverts and extroverts described two ways a person can relate to the world. In Extraverted psychology, we see the object or outside world as the driving, in principle, the most critical factor. When we take on an introverted orientation, we see ourselves as the center of our psychological landscape. When we take on an extroverted viewpoint, we see the objects around us, like other people, money, or outside status, as the central point.

To give some practical examples of how this might manifest:

As an introvert, you see the world from a subjective perspective. How do I feel, think, or experience the world? You also centralize your subjectivity. You can still relate to the outside world and even care for other people or things outside of yourself, but only as long as these things are considered subjectively valuable or essential. Things that happen around you that are outside of your interests or that disagree with your personal views are often unconscious or viewed as disturbing.

As an extrovert, you prioritize what others think or do. You consider things like wealth, status, or what resources are available to you. If the outside world disagrees with your personal view, you try to adapt your views to fit in more with the outside world. You consider your individual views or personal skills as long as they can fit in with or relate to what is happening around you. If not, they remain unconscious.

If the extroverted viewpoint becomes central or dominant in the world or society, we might become increasingly preoccupied with things like status, popularity, or social approval. We would increasingly shape ourselves and how we look and act to fit in with and connect with our culture. Our personality and how we look and appear would become more critical. We would also spend more energy on the outer world, becoming more involved in communities, politics, and whatever trends in our culture. We would also emphasize the importance of action or doing. A king’s success would be understood as a result of the people around him, the available material resources, and the weakness or internal division of his enemies.

If the Introverted psychological force comes to dominate a culture or society, people will move increasingly towards more moral discussions, such as a person’s values or character. Is a person morally good or bad, strong or weak? We would also develop a stronger fascination with the inner world of people, what they think, and what their dreams and visions are yet to crystallize. We would spend more time in theoretical discussions. We would emphasize solitary work, individual achievement, the integrity of a person, and how well they live according to their own beliefs. We would downplay the importance of material resources or status. For example, a king would rise to power and success because of his mind and wit.

Carl Jung and Psychological compensation

Most people are not this extreme. Carl Jung said that determining your personality type can be very difficult. He argued that everyone has some bias, some more than others. For example, you could be more or less introverted. But even when you are very introverted, it can be hard to say that you’re an introvert because your level of compensation increases relative to your psychological imbalance. Jung described a psychological force he called Enantiodromia. Everything is moving to become its opposite. A severely introverted person will constantly develop compensating extroverted mechanisms and vice versa. Often, these can be called defensive mechanisms, which exist to protect or rationalize unhealthy or compulsive behavior. So what can this psychological compensation look like?

In an unhealthy introvert, it might look like this:

  • I love socializing and connecting, but I don’t know anybody interesting enough. [There is an idealized conception of the outer world, high expectations far removed from reality]
  • I am very focused on my family and my kids [Who have become an extension of myself and who are supposed to say, think, and do whatever I think or believe]
  • I care a lot about the outer world and other people [As long as it or they match up to what I believe it should look like or behave like]

In an unhealthy extrovert, psychological compensation might look more like this:

  • I need a lot of alone time [The object is so important to me; the only way I can maintain balance is by forcibly isolating myself for short bursts of time]
  • I need to take care of myself [So that I can make a good impression on other people]
  • I love deep conversations! [By having deep conversations, I can look more intelligent to other people, and get more status]

These psychological compensations are normal and how the psyche tries to maintain balance and avoid extremes. Jung believed that we should develop to become fully integrated, and whole beings, which represent a complicated mix of both personality traits. To him, an individuated or self-actualized person is somebody who is able to bring their entire psychological force into their life. Fully aware of all their thoughts and feelings and with a healthy relationship to the inner and outer world, such a person is the same both on the inside and on the outside.

Such a person can still have and probably always will have a minor bias for either Introversion or Extroversion. And even a small difference can make a big difference. You might also find that you are more introverted and more extroverted in different situations, depending on whether you are at your job, or depending on who you are spending time with. Your unique mix and relationships to these traits make out your individuality. You are not one of 16 Myers Briggs Personality Types or 8 functions, you are a unique web of thoughts and experiences, and your psyche has built its own hierarchy and operating system. This allows you to serve a unique function and purpose in the world. Find out what that purpose is, and go out and enrich the world. Only you can do what you are uniquely crafted to do.

On a good day, you might switch from an introverted to an extroverted viewpoint, depending on what is most appropriate at the time. When the object was more influential, that should be your primary focus, when the subject is more important, that should be your perspective. When we have a compulsive introverted or extroverted perspective, that’s a psychological bias. We misunderstand the world or what has happened because we didn’t fully understand the object, or the person driving the event.

Because we don’t always know which perspective is correct, it’s good that people are different. Some can speak out for the subject, and some for the object, and together, we can find a healthy compromise, or everyone can go off and do their own thing, and we will find out eventually which perspective was correct at the time. We are all different and that means we live in a dynamic world.

There is much more to say about Jung, but all these ideas can be explored in his book Psychological Types, where he also moves on to describe thinks like Intuition, Sensing, Thinking and Feeling.

Learn more about Jung’s book here:

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Dan
Dan
17 days ago

Extremely well put, both the point about Jung not wanting people to use his ideas as typology and the differences between traits like introversion and extraversion.

The necessity to be able to move between the two opposite states is definitely a key point from Jung here, the type of idea that is also often alluded by philosophers (like Aristotle’s golden mean) or the idea of “not too tight, not too loose” from the Buddha. The idea being not so much that there is a real ideal middle point, or that either side is ideal, but that the ‘ideal point’ between (in this case) extraversion and introversion, is ultimately always dynamically shifting — moment by moment. A moment might benefit from 90% extraversion, while the moment after might benefit from 30% introversion.

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