The Psychology of Personality Types (Know Yourself)

We all have a particular personality type, and at the same time, we are all unique. To partake in the journey of discovering who we truly are, it is necessary for us to know our true and authentic personality. The quest to know ourselves allows us to better understand the complexity and intricacies of the human condition, improve our relationship with ourselves, with others, and with the world.

Introversion and Extraversion

Carl Jung

In one of his earliest and most important works, Psychological Types, published in 1921, Swiss psychiatrist and psychologist Carl Jung coined the two well-known attitude types: introversion and extraversion. He writes:

“This book is the fruit of nearly twenty years’ work in the domain of practical psychology. It grew gradually in my thoughts, taking shape from countless impressions and experiences of a psychiatrist in the treatment of nervous illnesses, from intercourse with men and women of all social levels, from my personal dealings with friend and foe alike, and, finally, from a critique of my own psychological peculiarities.”

Carl Jung, C.W. Vol 6: Psychological Types

His initial motivation for investigating typology was his need to understand why Freud’s psychology was so different from Adler’s. He realised that Freud’s pleasure principle and Adler’s will to power arose from their own psychological peculiarities.  

With Freud objects (things, and people), are of the greatest importance, which, according to their specific character, either promote or hinder the subject’s desire for pleasure. An emphasis is particularly put on the parents. The subject remains remarkably insignificant and is really nothing than a “seat of anxiety”. For Adler, on the other hand, it is objects that are regarded as vehicles of suppression that overwhelm the subject, who seeks to overcome his inferiority complex by securing a sense of worth and belonging. These differing views arose because Freud was primarily an extravert, and Adler an introvert.

“When we consider the course of human life, we see how the fate of one individual is determined more by the objects of his interest, while in another it is determined more by his own inner self, by the subject.”

Carl Jung, C.W. Vol 6: Psychological Types

The fundamental difference between the two types is that the extravert has an outward movement of interest towards the object (outer reality), while the introvert has an inward movement of interest towards the subject (inner reality).

The reflective nature of the introvert causes him always to think and consider before acting. His shyness and distrust of things induce hesitation, and so he always has difficulty in adapting to the external world. Conversely, the extravert has a positive relation to things, for he is attracted by them. New unknown situations fascinate him. As a rule, he acts first and thinks afterwards. The one is reflective; the other is quick to action. The introvert is like Prometheus (forethought) and the extravert like Epimetheus (afterthought).

For the extravert, it is the object that works like a magnet upon the tendencies of the subject. His attitude is constantly related to and oriented by the object, thus his interest and attention are directed towards his surroundings, including things and people. They have an almost inexhaustible fascination for him, so that ordinarily he never looks for anything else.

The danger is that he can get sucked into objects and completely lose himself in them. Such is the case of a businessman who is constantly oriented towards expanding his company. In the long run, this often leads to mental or physical problems, that have a compensatory value, as they force his attention back to himself. A frequent neurosis of the extravert is hysteria, excessive emotional behaviour that seems out of control, a constant tendency to make oneself interesting and to produce an impression.

For the introvert, it is the subject that remains the centre of every interest, as though the subject were a magnet drawing the object to itself. However, to describe the introverted attitude as autoerotic or egocentric is thoroughly misleading. Jung writes:

“Everyone knows those reserved, inscrutable, rather shy people who form the strongest possible contrast to the open, sociable, jovial, or at least friendly and approachable characters who are on good terms with everybody, or quarrel with everybody, but always relate to them in some way and in turn are affected by them.”

Carl Jung, C.W. Vol 6: Psychological Types

These types seem distributed quite at random, in the same family one child can be introverted, the other extraverted. For Jung, one’s type cannot be a matter of conscious intention, but must be due to some unconscious, instinctive cause. Therefore, it must have some kind of biological foundation. We are not born tabula rasa.

There is also an incalculable importance in parental influence. In normal cases, however, it is one’s natural biological tendency that will determine one’s type, despite the influence of external conditions.

It is important to note that while one mechanism will naturally predominate in everyone, a person can never be purely extraverted or introverted, everyone possesses both mechanisms, andonly the relative predominance of one or the other determines the type.

With the introvert extraversion lies dormant and undeveloped, and with the extravert introversion leads a similar shadowy existence. In fact, the undeveloped attitude becomes an aspect of the shadow, all those things about ourselves we are not conscious of, our unrealised potential, our “unlived life.”

Example of Introvert with Extravert

Ubbergen Castle – Aelbert Cuyp

Jung gives an example of the relationship between an introvert and an extravert. There are two youths in the country who come upon a fine castle and want to enter it. The introvert draws back thinking that they might not be allowed in, with visions of policemen, fines, and fierce dogs in the background. The extravert answers, “Well, we can ask,” with visions of kind old watchmen and the possibility of meeting an attractive girl.

Once they enter the castle, they find out that it contains nothing but a couple of rooms with a collection of old manuscripts. This happens to be the chief joy of the introvert, who utters cries of enthusiasm, and rushes to contemplate the treasures. His shyness vanishes. The introvert loses himself in the object, forgetting the presence of his friend.

The extravert starts to feel bored and begins to yawn. While the enthusiasm of the one increases, the spirit of the other falls. The manuscripts remind the extravert of a library, which he associates with university, university with tedious studies and difficult exams. For one the place is marvellous, for the other it bores him to extinction.

We see how the introvert who first resisted the idea of going in, cannot now be induced to go out, and the extravert curses the moment when he set foot inside the castle. The introvert became extraverted, the extravert introverted. But the opposite attitude of each manifests in a socially inferior way: the introvert doesn’t appreciate that his friend is bored; the extravert, disappointed in his expectations of romantic adventure, becomes moody and doesn’t care about his friend’s excitement.

The two youths are in happy symbiosis until they enter the castle. They enjoyed a degree of harmony because the natural attitude of the one complements the natural attitude of the other. Both wanted to enter the castle, the doubt of the introvert as to whether an entry was possibly was useful for the other, as was the initiative of the extravert to go and ask.

The Four Psychological Functions

Example of psychological functions. Dominant function: thinking. Auxiliary: intuition and sensation. Inferior function: feeling.

Experience taught Jung that an individual can be further distinguished by their basic psychological functions, these are: thinking, feeling, sensation, and intuition.

Sensation tells us that something is present, thinking tells us what it is and enables us to give it a name, feeling tells us what it’s worth, and through intuition we have a sense of what can be done with it, what its possibilities are, and where it’s headed. All four functions are required for a comprehensive understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

Thinking and feeling are rational functions, while sensation and intuition are irrational functions. Each of these function types may be either introverted or extraverted, which are attitude-types.


The Beer Drinkers – Honoré Daumier

Attitude-types are distinguished by their direction of interest to the object or the subject, while function-types are concerned with the movement of libido. The concept of libido, for Jung, is not limited to sexual desire as with Freud, but rather consists of the totality of psychic energy.

“[Libido] denotes a desire or impulse which is unchecked by any kind of authority, moral or otherwise. Libido is appetite in its natural state. From the genetic point of view, it is bodily needs like hunger, thirst, sleep, and sex, and emotional states or affects, which constitute the essence of libido.”

Carl Jung, C.W. Vol. 5: Symbols of Transformation

Thinking and Feeling

Isaac Newton – William Blake

Thinking and feeling are the rational functions which depend on how we take decisions, and are influenced by judgment.

Thinking refers to cognitive thought, our ability to analyse and make logical judgments about information and facts. Thinking-types are good problem solvers and usually ask themselves: “What do I think about that?” They can take a more detached view of the subject and elevate themselves to an objective point of view. By contrast, feeling is the ability to evaluate the emotional states of oneself and others, it tells us the value of something, if it is to be accepted or rejected. Feeling-types tend to ask themselves: “How do I feel about that?”

For example, if a feeling type writes a paper and the teacher points out that it is very good but in a minor passage there seems to be a mistake, the feeling type can get very emotional and say that it is all ruined and that one might as well just burn the paper. This can continue, even if the teacher assures the student that he or she only needs to add one little sentence between the two paragraphs.

A thinking-type, on the other hand, may not be able to express his feelings normally and in the appropriate manner at the right time. It can happen that when they hear that a friend of theirs has died, they begin to cry. But when they meet the widow not a word of pity will come out. They had the feeling before, when at home, but now in the appropriate situation they cannot pull it out, and so they look cold.

Feeling, Emotion, Affect

The Cat – Peter Birkhäuser

In everyday usage, feeling is often confused with emotion. It is considered “irrational” when feelings get in the way of facts. However, psychologically, both feeling and thinking are considered rational functions.

The feeling function is the basis for fight-or-flight decisions. While feeling is often voluntary and comes from reflection, emotions occur involuntary, and grip us without our control.

The more technical term for emotion is affect, that is, emotional reactions marked by physical symptoms and disturbances in thinking.

An affect is an involuntary reaction due to an active complex, a term coined by Jung which refers to an emotionally charged group of ideas or images.

Jung stressed that complexes in themselves are not negative; only their effects often are. In the same way that atoms and molecules are the invisible components of physical objects, complexes are the building blocks of the psyche and the source of all human emotions.

Sensation and Intuition

Night & Day – Jonah Calinawan

Apart from the two rational functions, we have the irrational ones, which are our direct modes of experience in the moment, influenced not by reflection, but by perception. These are: sensation and intuition, and depend on how we take in information. It must be emphasised that by irrational, Jung does not mean something contrary to reason, but something beyond reason.

Sensation is our ability to perceive immediate reality through the five physical senses: vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. It deals with reality as it is. Sensation types are more down-to-earth, immersed in the moment and highly stimulated by the senses. They are less interested in profound or abstract topics.

On the other hand, intuition is our ability to grasp complex patterns beyond the immediate sensory data. It allows us to perceive possibilities inherent in the present. A content presents itself whole and complete, without our being able to explain or discover how this content came into existence. This happens when we have a certain hunch that something is going to happen. One may receive information from within (for instance, as a flash of insight of unknown origin), or be stimulated by what is going on in someone else.

If an intuitive type is working, for example, with moulding something into clay and makes a crude figure of an animal. Instead of looking at its concrete nature, and try to make another figure with less defects, he’ll start to go on about how this practice should be introduced into all schools, about all the possibilities of clay moulding, what could be done with it in the education of humanity, and so on.

Unlike sensation, intuition perceives via the unconscious and is not dependent on concrete reality. Intuitive types are more immersed in abstract reality and deal with metaphors.

The two attitude types together with the four functions produce eight function-attitudes or personality types, which all have their own peculiarities: extraverted thinking, introverted thinking, extraverted feeling, introverted feeling, extraverted sensation, introverted sensation, extraverted intuition, and introverted intuition.

Jung pointed out that “the classification of types according to introversion and extraversion and the four basic functions [is not] the only possible one.” Nevertheless, Jung seems to have stumbled upon a psychological goldmine. This fourfold structure of the psyche remains one of the most remarkable descriptions of how people can understand themselves, and their relation with others, and the world. For Jung it was a great discovery when he later found confirmation of his more intuitively conceived idea in the fact that everywhere in myths and religious symbolism there appears the model of the fourfold structure of the psyche.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

The Doctor – Joseph Tomanek (reproduction of original by Luke Fildes)

Jung’s work inspired the popular personality type test, known as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). The creators of the test felt that Jung’s book on psychological types was too complex for the general public, and therefore they decided to make the concepts more accessible. In the test, there are a total of sixteen different personality types.

However, with making things more accessible, one also risks misunderstanding and trivialising the complexities of personality types. We do not know if Jung would have supported this test, or any other ones for that matter. In fact, he warned against the misuse of his types as a “practical guide to a good judgment of human character”.

Typological analysis determined by written tests can be misleading, at worst downright dangerous. They do not consider how one’s type may have been falsified by familial and environmental factors, or if one is putting on a persona while taking the test. They are static and time-specific, and say nothing about the possibility of change. The very core of Jung’s analytical psychology is the lifelong dynamic process of individuation, which consists in bringing our unconscious contents into consciousness, allowing for psychological maturation.

As long as one is aware of the dangers, the MBTI, can serve positively as a tool of reflection and orientation. If we are lost, it provides a map for us. However, a map by itself, without knowing the direction of where to go, is not worth much more other than just being a piece of paper. Our task is to find the coordinates to our true self. Only then can we access the fullness of our being, and understanding one’s own type is necessary in this process.

Jung’s model of typology is not a system of character analysis, nor is it a way of labelling oneself or others. Much as one might use a compass to determine where one is in the physical world, Jung’s typology is a tool for psychological orientation.

Dominant Function

Playing at Giants – Francisco de Goya

If one of the four functions habitually predominates, a corresponding type results, which is called our primary or dominant function.

As children, our natural tendency is to do what we are good at, and defer things in which we do not feel superior. By such natural behaviour, the one-sidedness is increased more and more. Then comes the family attitude: the child gifted in building or construction, must become an engineer. The surroundings reinforce the existing one-sided tendencies, the so-called “gifts”, and there is thus an increase in the development of the dominant function and a slow degeneration of the other side of the personality. This is an unavoidable process, and even has great advantages, so long as one’s natural type is allowed to flourish.

All functions can be conscious, but we speak of the “consciousness” of a function only when its use is under the control of the will and, at the same time, its governing principle is the decisive one for the orientation of consciousness. This is true when, for example, thinking is not mere afterthought, or rumination, and when its conclusions possess an absolute validity. For Jung, this absolute sovereignty always belongs, empirically, to one function alone.

Differentiation and Distorted Types

Flock of Sheep – Caroline Skinner

Through what Jung calls the process of differentiation, we separate one function from the others. Without this we have no direction, since the direction of a function towards a goal depends on the elimination of anything irrelevant. An undifferentiated function is an archaic condition characterised by confusion and ambivalence, which can bring about a dissociation of the personality.

This happens when people have trouble in finding their own type, which is often because they are distorted types, forced by the surrounding atmosphere to develop another function than their natural one. For example, a child who wants to become an artist is told that he must become a doctor. Or when the parent’s attitude is extreme, and a similar attitude is forced on the children too.

For example, let’s say a boy is a feeling-type surrounded by thinking-oriented parents and siblings. He will naturally be the black sheep, and has to supress his main function. He may follow his father’s footsteps and become an engineer, but have great trouble with studying and later with work, he will feel bad about himself, and think of himself as a failure.

There may come a time, however, when the man realises that he has never felt at home in the world of machinery, but rather in dealing with people. Suddenly he finds the path that resonates with his being, and which nature carved for him.

As a rule, whenever such a falsification of type takes place, the individual becomes neurotic, and can be cured only by developing the attitude consonant with his nature. However, not all is lost. Such a person is forced ahead of time into doing something that in the second half of life he would have had to do anyway. In analysis, one can very often help people switch back to the original type, and they are then able to pick up the other function very quickly and reach a developed stage.

In normal cases, however, the first half of life consists in the development of one’s dominant function, while in the second half of life one develops the inferior function.

Auxiliary Functions

Multiple Personalities – Paulo Zerbato

Before one can even think about developing the inferior function, which is completely incompatible with the dominant function, one must develop the auxiliary or complementary functions, a second and third function that have a co-determining influence on consciousness. These are at the border between consciousness and the unconscious.

Jung writes:

“Naturally only those functions can appear as auxiliary whose nature is not opposed to the dominant function. For instance, feeling can never act as the second function alongside thinking, because it is by its very nature too strongly opposed to thinking. Thinking if it is to be real thinking and true to its own principle, must rigorously exclude feeling.”

Carl Jung, C.W. Vol 6: Psychological Types

An individual can well have both thinking and feeling on the same level, but this is a case of undifferentiation. The auxiliary function cannot be antagonistic to the dominant function. For instance, thinking can readily pair with intuition or sensation as the auxiliary, which as functions of perception, afford welcome assistance to thought. But as observed, never with feeling. The auxiliary function is possible and useful only insofar as it serves the dominant function, without making any claim to the autonomy of its principle. Jung writes:

“The resulting combinations present the familiar picture of, for instance, practical thinking allied with sensation, speculative thinking forging ahead with intuition, artistic intuition selecting and presenting its images with the help of feeling-values, philosophical intuition systematising its vision into comprehensible thought by means of a powerful intellect, and so on.”

Carl Jung, C.W. Vol 6: Psychological Types

Inferior Function

Untitled – Zdzisław Beksiński

It is not easy to determine our personality type because we tend to associate it with functions we wish to possess, rather than those that we have. This is natural as the psyche seeks to compensate our one-sidedness. Often people will assure you that they belong to the type opposite from what they really are.

One must ask oneself: “What do I habitually do most? From what do I suffer the most? Where is it in my life that I always knock my head against the wall and feel foolish? That generally points to the inferior function. One must always deal with the real person, true education can only start from naked reality, not from an ideal.

Unlike the dominant function, and the auxiliary functions, the inferior or fourth function is fully immersed in the unconscious, and can only be partially integrated. It is our least developed function.

However, the inferior function is often where the gold is, the treasure hard to attain. It is the door through which all the figures of the unconscious come into consciousness. What you need most is always to be found where you least wish to look.

Jungian analyst Marie-Louise von Franz writes:

“One can say that the inferior function always makes the bridge to the unconscious. It is always directed towards the unconscious and the symbolic world. But that is not to say that it is directed either to the inside or the outside; this varies individually. For instance, an introverted thinking type has an inferior extroverted feeling function; its movement will be towards outer objects, to other people, but such people will have symbolic meaning for the person, being carriers of symbols of the unconscious.”

Marie-Louise von Franz, Lecture on Jung’s Typology

For Jung, the inferior function contains the anima or animus, the contrasexual soul images of the psyche. If someone is an introvert feeling type, he or she can be very attracted by extravert thinking types. It is common for a person to have a relationship with the opposite type, so that one is momentarily freed from the disagreeable task of confronting one’s own inferior function.

This is one of the great blessings and sources of happiness in the early stages of marriage, since the whole weight of the inferior function is gone, and one lives in blessed oneness with the other. Everything seems magical and romantic. However, after some time in a relationship, it is this very function that can make a relationship destructive and toxic. The inferior function is a double-edged sword.

The trouble starts when instead of seeking balance, one tries to influence the other with his or her personality type, and tries to look for understanding – only to discover that they have never understood one another, for each speaks a different language. Then the conflict between the two types begins. The value of the one is the negation of value for the other, thus there is mutual depreciation.

Jung writes:

“The inferior function is practically identical with the dark side of the human personality.”

Carl Jung, C.W. Vol. 9.1: Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious

The same happens again in the choice of analysts. The job of the analyst is to create an adequate environment for the development of the patient’s functions. One should never jump directly to the inferior function. But rather develop the auxiliary functions first, complementing the rational function with an irrational function, or vice versa. This allows the patient to slowly work his way to the inferior function. The process should follow a serpentine movement.

The analyst must not do the work for the patient, but rather guide him to work it out on his own, or else, the patient can engage in transference, such as considering the analyst a parental figure. This creates an absolute dependence on the analyst, which can only be brutally terminated.

If the analyst is the opposite type of the patient, he or she must be careful not to display the superior function too much, or to appear as a wise figure, but rather become an ally in the patient’s psychological journey. The analyst must go against his real feeling, pretend that he doesn’t know, or feels incapable, so as to not paralyse the first attempts the patient might make in this field.

The essence of the inferior function is autonomy: it is independent, it attacks, it fascinates and spins us around. It tells us that we are no longer masters of ourselves and can no longer rightly distinguish between ourselves and others. Most people, when their inferior function is in any way touched upon, become terribly childish: they can’t stand the slightest criticism and always feel attacked. However, simply to shoot criticism at people will only get them absolutely bewildered and emotional, and the situation is ruined. One must wait for the right moment, for a peaceful atmosphere, and then carefully, with a long introductory speech, one might get across some slight criticism about the inferior function.

It is common to lose one’s patience in this process, and give up. That is hopeless. But it is this way for very good reasons. If we think about the turning point of life and the problems of aging and of turning within, then this slowing down of the whole life process by bringing in the inferior function is just the thing that is needed.


Untitled – Peter Birkhäuser

It is important to emphasise again – to avoid misunderstanding – that no system of typology is ever more than a gross indicator of what people have in common and the differences between them. Once you label someone, you negate them. For Jung, it is not the purpose of a psychological typology to classify human beings into categories – this in itself would be pretty pointless. What it does not and cannot show, nor does it pretend to, is the uniqueness of the individual. Conformity is one side of a person; uniqueness is the other.

But one thing Jung did confess: that he would not for anything dispense with this compass on his psychological voyages of discovery. Without a model of some kind, we are simply lost in a dark cave without a light source.

We cannot say, think or do anything that is not coloured by our particular way of seeing the world, which in turn is a manifestation of our typology. This is a psychological law of nature. It allows us to see how we function, if our actions and the way we express ourselves truly reflect our judgments (thinking and feeling) and perceptions (sensation and intuition). And if not, why not? What does this say about our psychology? What can we do about it? What do we want to do about it?

Regarding Jung’s own typology, he talked about it in his last interview. His scientific investigations and insights point to a dominant thinking function, he had a great deal of intuition, too. His relation to reality was not particularly brilliant, and he had a great difficulty with feeling. He makes it clear, however, that the type is
nothing static. It changes in the course of life.

As to whether Jung was primarily introverted or extraverted, one feels on safer ground.

“When no answer comes from within to the problems and complexities of life, they ultimately mean very little. Outward circumstances are no substitute for inner experience. Therefore, my life has been singularly poor in outward happenings. I cannot tell much about them, for it would strike me as hollow and insubstantial. I can understand myself only in the light of inner happenings. It is these that make up the singularity of my life.”

Carl Jung: Memories, Dreams, Reflections

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The Psychology of Personality Types (Know Yourself)

We all have a particular personality type, and at the same time, we are all unique. To partake in the journey of discovering who we truly are, it is necessary for us to know our true and authentic personality.

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In Pursuit of Meaning. I hope to help as many people as possible who seek to enrich their lives with value and meaning. That is the ultimate purpose of Eternalised.

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