The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® assessment, which is the result of Isabel Briggs Myers’ insightful system of personality typing, can be traced back to the groundbreaking theories of psychoanalyst Carl Jung. Amongst Jung’s prolific work in the arts and sciences, his seminal book, Psychological Types, presents the foundation for Briggs Myers' theory.
The two theories are not exactly the same, however, and Jung’s work can be pretty esoteric in places. In fact, Isabel Myers started her own work on personality with the express aim of making Jung’s work more understandable and useful in everyday people's lives.
Our Personal Journey Begins
According to Jung, every person is predisposed to be dominant in either Extraversion or Introversion, indicating where we direct our energy—outward, toward the external world, or inward, toward our own minds. It’s a profound beginning. Whether our dominant or “general attitude type” is either E or I, it will influence pretty much everything else during the entire span of our personal growth. Our energy expression, E or I, influences the development of all other “functional types,” such as Thinking, Feeling, Sensing, and iNtuiting.
Jung’s 8 Personality Types
Jung formulated eight personality types, which are the basis for the Briggs Myers' 16 personalities. The eight types are:
- Extraverted Thinking
- Introverted Thinking
- Extraverted Feeling
- Introverted Feeling
- Extraverted Sensation
- Introverted Sensation
- Extraverted Intuition
- Introverted Intuition
You’ll notice the absence of Judging and Perceiving. Jung made no mention of these traits and they were added later in Myers and Briggs' system.
According to Jung, we all have complex psychologies and there can never be a pure type. Jung never intended to label people. If we identify as an Extraverted Thinker (ET), for example, our less developed Introverted (I) or Feeling (F) side will still reside in our unconscious. Jung referred to these less developed traits as ‘repressed.’ He believed that our repressed traits will rise from time to time, perhaps in dreams, as we embark on our process of individuation. This is the process of becoming aware of yourself and achieving a sense of wholeness.
Extraverted and Introverted Thinking
When we describe the ET personality type, Jung would have us think of naturalist Charles Darwin. After he received his education, Darwin catalogued the species living in the Galapagos Islands to develop his Theory of Evolution. Like Darwin, Extraverted Thinkers build their thinking upon ideas gleaned from education or tradition. This personality tends to do well in engineering, science or business. In our society, this type is most widely validated because ET's utilize objective data and produce tangible results.
Often seen in leadership positions, ET's adhere to a personal formulaic approach. If circumstances fall within their formula, it can only be right. Anything outside of it is quickly dismissed. They can be great reformers when they maintain a level of flexibility. When an ET is too uncompromising in their formula, Jung says they can “develop into a grumbler, […] a self-righteous critic, who would like to impress both himself and others into one schema.”
Moving on to the IT personality type, a strong example would be Immanuel Kant who philosophized about education chiefly through culture. Sometimes labeled as headstrong, IT’s often find themselves misunderstood when they attempt to get a point across. While they internally struggle to communicate their thoughts, they also may come off as haughty. They may be overcome with what we call today, analysis paralysis.
Though wonderful learners, teaching can be difficult for an IT personality. They would be more interested in understanding the subject matter than presenting it.
Extraverted and Introverted Feeling
EF’s are likely to express their feelings in traditional ways proper to the situation or experience on hand. EF’s are affable and accommodating people. According to Jung, when an EF inauthentically deviates from their genuine interest for social harmony, they’ll appear to be assuming an affectation or a false pose. Jung says, “No longer does it speak to the heart; it merely appeals to the senses, or –worse still— to the reason.”
In the case of an IF personality type, Jung characterizes them by the proverb, “Still waters run deep.” IF types can be quiet and difficult to know. They resemble the sensitive mimosa plant. The leaves of these plants shy away from touch or change to their environment.
The IF type shares similarities with the IT personality—though it can be argued that IT personalities have an advantage with communication. Their thoughts already exist in a reasoned format, whereas an IF must translate the internal sum of their ideas into something the listener would both understand and feel. Jung believes they’re always “striving after an abstraction of abstractions.”
Extraverted and Introverted Sensing
ES personality types value intense realism. Their perceptive functions are free from personal subjective feelings or experiences. They attribute value according to the strength of their sensations of reality. According to Jung, ES personalities usually enjoy themselves and can be very charming people. Jung describes them as well dressed with a “a good table for his friends.” To an ES, reality is the ideal.
Jung shows us the effect introversion has on our sensing function with landscape painters. Artists with the IS personality type, given the same landscape and ability, would attempt to reproduce the setting faithfully. However, their work would certainly differ in color and form. It would inevitably be influenced by their moods and experiences at an unconscious level. IS personalities also tend to weave their current expressions with everything that once was and everything that could be.
The IS type can also be hard to read and are notoriously difficult to judge. This personality type doesn’t give much away on the outside. They can be great teachers while they share culture with others. IS types seem to exude the gift of inner understanding without simply recounting or relying on traditional methods or canons.
Extraverted and Introverted iNtuiting
Since intuition is usually a function of the unconscious, it’s challenging to exactly pinpoint. Jung describes the EN type as having an “attitude of expectation.” The EN personality is always on the lookout for new experiences and change, even if it’s to take apart what was only just built. They’re continually on the lookout for new possibilities to satisfy their intuition.
EN’s are often very inspirational people and have a great capacity to learn about other’s abilities and enthusiastically direct them. The risk to an EN is that they may not live the life they prescribe to others. An EN is apt to quit their “newly planted field, while others reap the harvest.”
Finally, IN personality types flow from “image to image, chasing after every possibility in the teeming womb of the unconscious, without establishing any connection between the phenomenon and himself.” This resonates with me. As an IN type, I conjure vivid, detailed scenes and change minor details. It’s like tugging at a thread in a tapestry just to see its effect.
According to Jung, if we’re artists, we can share the full spectrum of the “extraordinary, remote things.” Or if we do not find adequate expression, we’re “frequently an unappreciated genius.” As dreamers, we can be impulsive.
Personality Type of the Ages
He uses extraversion and introversion to broadly capture the essence of the classical and medieval periods. According to our surviving legacy of classical art, we have the sense that the E attitude was the more valued energy expression. With a study of sculpture or architecture, there is an emphasis on ideal physical outward form and aesthetics. Whereas, the medieval period, through reverence to subjective religious ideals, favored the I attitude.
In our day, both E’s and I’s leave their mark in history. We allow arts and sciences to blend in our culture. From personality theory, we better understand our differences and commonalities. From those, we see that each personality type has their role to play in our society. We share in the quest to fulfill the enormous promise of personal potential—becoming who we truly are.
What personality type do you think Carl Jung had?