Carl Jung was a Swiss psychologist and psychotherapist best known for his founding of analytical psychology and his work Psychological Types. This book was the result of twenty years of research in the domain of practical psychology. It was an attempt to find a compromise between two mainstream theories that existed at the time — one of these theories belonged to Sigmund Freud, and the other one belonged to Alfred Adler. Carl Jung was the first to introduce the concepts of introversion and extroversion (also spelled as extraversion), although the modern usage of these two principles has deviated from his original definitions and intent. He concluded that Freud’s theory was extroverted in its nature while Adler’s theory was introverted. In his book Psychological Types, Jung attempted not only to find a compromise between the two theories but also define how his own view differed from Freud’s view and Adler’s view.
Contrary to what one might expect, Jung’s personality types (or typology) isn’t a horoscope-like system for character analysis, it isn’t a system to label people, it wasn’t invented to simplify our understanding of people and personality types; instead, it was invented to demonstrate the complexity of human typology and its consequences.
Jung’s original typology is built on
- two personality attitudes: extroversion and introversion;
- four functions (or modes of orientation): thinking, sensation, intuition, and feeling.
The four functions are divided into what Jung called rational (or judging) and irrational (or perceiving) functions. Thinking and sensations are rational, according to Jung, while intuition and feeling are irrational.
It is important to understand what Carl Jung meant by introversion and extroversion. Jung saw both introversion and extroversion as attitudes. Introversion, according to him, is one’s focus on inner world, while extroversion is one’s focus on the outside world.
According to Jung’s view, it’s not possible to demonstrate extroversion or introversion in isolation. To become obvious, it must be associated with one of the four functions — thinking, sensation, intuition, and feeling. This results in eight variations:
- Extroverted thinking
- Introverted thinking
- Extroverted sensation
- Introverted sensation
- Extroverted intuition
- Introverted intuition
- Extroverted feeling
- Introverted feeling
All four functions — thinking, sensation, intuition, and feeling — are used at different times depending on circumstances, but, according to Jung, typically there will be preference for one single predominant function or “superior function”. This tendency may be either inborn or developed over the course of one’s life. The less preferred function — the fourth function — is used unconsciously; Jung called it “inferior function”. Inferior function is always the opposite of your primary function. According to Jung, your dominant function represents your conscious behavior, and your inferior function represents your unconscious or repressed behavior.
According to the theory of Jung personality types, the opposite of thinking is feeling, and the opposite of sensation is intuition. Here is a drawing of Jungian functions and their opposites:
If your superior function (or primary function) is thinking, your secondary functions (or auxiliary functions) are intuition and sensation, and your inferior function (less developed, unconsciously used function) is feeling. According to Jungian psychological types theory, if your primary function is thinking, feeling cannot be your secondary function, because it’s on the opposite side of the spectrum. Similarly, if your primary function is sensation, your auxiliary (secondary) functions are thinking and feeling, and your inferior function is intuition.
Same logic applies to personality attitudes — extroversion and introversion. If your primary mode is extroverted thinking, your less used and less conscious mode would be introverted feeling.
Generally, people find it hard to operate using their least preferred function, but this doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t develop your inferior function and raise it to a more conscious level. Marie-Louise von Franz, Swiss Jungian psychologist and scholar, wrote in her Jung’s Typology:
In the realm of the inferior function there is a great concentration of life, so that as soon as the superior function is worn out – begins to rattle and lose oil like an old car – if people succeed in turning to their inferior function they will rediscover a new potential of life. Everything in the realm of the inferior function becomes exciting, dramatic, full of positive and negative possibilities. There is tremendous tension and the world is, as it were, rediscovered through the inferior function.
Activating your inferior function is not without side effects. First, strengthening your inferior function would automatically mean weakening of your superior function. Second, according to Jung’s theory, switching to your inferior function could result in strong emotional reactions from falling in love to blind rage. If you would like to activate your inferior function, you need to realize that it takes time as you should go first through one of your auxiliary (secondary functions). For example, a path from superior feeling function to inferior thinking function could look like this:
You may be disappointed to hear that there is no Jung personality test. Although Carl Jung couldn’t have predicted the commercial use of his psychological types, he did leave us some warnings:
Even in medical circles the opinion has got about that my
method of treatment consists in fitting patients into this system
and giving them corresponding “advice.” . . . My typology
is far rather a critical apparatus serving to sort out and organize
the welter of empirical material, but not in any sense to
stick labels on people . . . . It is not a physiognomy and not an
anthropological system, but a critical psychology dealing with
the organization and delimiting of psychic processes that can
be shown to be typical.
From this quote we know that it’s highly unlikely that Carl Jung would approve usage of his model for personality tests. In addition, the author warned that using his theory for better self-understanding is not that simple. He said:
Although there are doubtless individuals whose type can be
recognized at first glance, this is by no means always the case.
As a rule, only careful observation and weighing of the evidence
permit a sure classification. However simple and clear
the fundamental principle of the [opposing attitudes and functions]
may be, in actual reality they are complicated and hard to make out, because every individual is an exception to the rule.
Although popular Myers–Briggs personality test is based on Jungian psychological types, there are some important differences between the two theories. In addition, both theories have been criticized for the lack of controlled scientific studies that support their claims.
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Group photo 1909 in front of Clark University. Front row, Sigmund Freud, G. Stanley Hall, Carl Jung. Back row, Abraham Brill, Ernest Jones, Sándor Ferenczi.
C.G. Jung. Psychological Types
C.G. Jung. Two Essays on Analytical Psychology
Daryl Sharp. Personality Types: Jung’s Model of Typology