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Jung’s theory concerning personality types and their relationship to different forms of psychological disturbance


David Kraft PhD


The purpose or this report is to outline Jung’s theory of personality types and to suggest how these might relate to different psychological disturbances. It is almost impossible to define and evaluate Jung’s theory of personality types without mentioning some of the many theories that have been developed since that time: for example, Cattell’s (1977) Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire, Costa and McCrae’s (1988, 1994) ‘Big Five’ and NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI), Goldberg’s etic and emic approaches to cross-cultural research (see Roth, 1996), Eysenck’s (1998) personality questionnaire, and Myers and Myers (1995) questionnaires which analyse personality types. These approaches are all useful developments of Jung’s theory and, although reference will be made to them during the evaluation of his theory, for the purpose of this report, the author will focus on Jung’s subdivisions and on their implications to contemporary psychotherapy.

Jung was not the first to theorize about personality types, but he has been influential: his categorizations have been used and developed for many years. This theory is a classification system in which individuals are placed into discrete personality types. Personality types are sometimes called personality traits and these terms have been employed inconsistently amongst psychologists. For the purposes of this report, the term ‘type’ will be used throughout; however, some psychologists make clear distinctions between the terms ‘trait’ and ‘state’. A trait refers to a personality characteristic which is consistent over a number of years, whereas a state is short-lived (AllPsych On Line, 2011).

Jung’s development of typological studies stemmed from his own investigations into limitations of Freud’s approach to psychoanalysis. He pointed out that one’s personality type may either reduce an individual’s judgement or stimulate it (Jung, 1961). Thus, by understanding individual differences, a therapist is more informed to make appropriate decisions during the course of therapy. Jung intimated that, by understanding these personality types, the therapist would be more likely to understand the source of the ‘neurotic’ behaviour (Jung, 1966).

Jung set out two opposing cognitive functions which are present in all humans—(1) judging functions, which include thinking and feeling and (2) perceiving functions which are expressed by sensing and intuitiveness. He described function 1 as being ‘rational’ and function 2 as being ‘irrational’. Jung also pointed out that the psyche had four basic functions: (a) sensation, (b) intuition, (c) thinking and (d) feeling. ‘Sensation’ refers to the perception of the sensory organs: these are sight (ophthalmoception), hearing (audioception), taste (gustaoception), smell (olfacoception or olfacception), and touch (tactioception). Intuition is also a perceptive mechanism which has an unconscious element; thinking is an intellectual cognitive function, while feeling is a subjective evaluation.

Jung added to this two further types which distinguished types of temperament—namely, extraversion and introversion. He explained this theory by examining motivation and how individuals gain energy; indeed, he went as far as to say that this flow of energy was akin to the flow of libido. Jung pointed out that extraverts become more motivated and have more energy when they act: they act out, evaluate and then act out again; however, if they are on their own and are unable actively to be involved in the outside world, their energy levels and, hence, their motivation decrease. Introverts, by contrast, become stronger and more content when they are able to reflect on their own, but, surrounded by noise and other people, they find that their motivation reduces. In addition, introverts rebuild their energy levels on their own, while extraverts find that they become more motivated in a group setting, or at least with another person. The following table outlines the characteristics between the two types.

Extravert: action-based, frequent interaction with others, re-charges with others, diversity of knowledge

Introvert: thought-based, fewer and more in-depth discussions with others, re-charges alone, in-depth knowledge

Jung went on further to define two pairs of psychological functioning and these have formed the basis of many assessment measures and psychometric testing in the workplace (e.g. Eysenck, 1998; Myers and Briggs, 1980; Furnham and Crump, 20005). There are two perceiving functions (sensing and intuition) and two judging functions (thinking and feeling). Both sensing and intuition are related to gathering information. Individuals who are sense-dominant act on stimuli which are concrete and which can be perceived by one or more of the five senses. Intuitively-dominant individuals are more inclined to trust and react to information which is abstract: their judgement is based on wider, contextual insight. Both thinking and feeling are decision making functions. Those individuals who are placed within the ‘thinking’ category measure up the possibilities of their actions and do this in a consistent and logical fashion. By contrast, those who feel their way, empathize with others and their predicament before making a decision: this decision is often based on the needs of other people as well as themselves.

Of course, most of us do not fit entirely within one of these discrete categories, and we all vary our behaviour and cognitive functioning in different circumstances. Certainly, during our lives, we act in different ways in extreme situations. It is perhaps for this reason that Jung further subdivided the above—that is to say the four psychological functions, four functions of the psyche and two psychological temperaments—into eight psychological types. And yet, in most individuals, one of the above functions—sense, intuition, thought and feeling—is used more than the others, consciously or otherwise. This function, known as the ‘dominant function’, is supported by the other three—the second (‘auxiliary’) function, the third (tertiary) function and a fourth (inferior) function. The table below outlines Jung’s eight personality types while including more up-to-date acronyms for reference.

Type and modern-day equivalent

Extraverted sensation= ESFP

Introverted sensation= ISTJ

Extraverted intuition= ENFP

Introverted intuition= INFJ

Extraverted thinking= ESTJ

Introverted thinking= ISTP

Extraverted feeling= ESFJ

Introverted feeling= INFP

Jung redefined Freudian theories of repression by relating it closely to these functions; he stressed that a dominant function was conscious and that an inferior one was unconscious. Many individuals favour their dominant approach to decision making and problem solving; however, most are able to develop the other three functions. By communicating with and fusing together both dominant, auxiliary, tertiary and inferior functions, one is more likely to progress and develop as a well-adjusted person—no doubt, this is also relevant to psychological progression during psychotherapy. Further, Jung focussed on the fact that often psychological imbalance occurs when an individual is unable to develop inferior functions—for example, a patient who cannot ever feel or empathize with others would, no doubt, find it difficult to form meaningful relationships.

As a psychotherapist, it is important to be aware of these personality types, traits and temperaments; however, there seem to be a number of limitations to these principles. For example, Cattell and Kline (1977) believed that personality was too complex to be represented by a small number of types. They, thus, created the ‘Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire (16PF), and this model has been used in research and clinical practice or many years; it has also been used in the business world for selection purposes.

However, although Cattell and Kline gathered results over and over again and did this for many individuals in order to test for reliability, the calibration of these tests did not consider the fact that many individuals often do not have a fixed personality type, and the characteristics of one’s behaviour and cognitive functions are likely to change over a period of time. In addition, some of the types had attached to them traits which were not consistent. For example, the right score meaning for their ‘dominant type’ (dominant personality, not dominant trait) has the following characteristics: assertive, aggressive, stubborn, competitive and bossy. It is quite feasible for someone to be stubborn but not bossy or to be assertive but not aggressive: these examples clearly illustrate that many of the features that were included in the categorization were not necessarily interconnected.

Costa and McCrae (1988, 1992) went some way to address this problem by limiting and unifying personality traits into five commonly found ‘factors’—this is often referred to as ‘the Big Five’. According to Costa and McCrae, the five main personality factors were: neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness. They also calibrated their findings by creating psychometric tests which were tested and re-tested for reliability. The five factors are shown in the table below:

Neuroticism: hostility, anger, self-consciousness, vulnerability, anxiety, depression, impulsiveness  

Extraversion: activity, gregariousness, excitement, warmth, assertiveness, positive emotions

Openness: fantasy, actions, ideas, values, aesthetics

Agreeableness: altruism, compliance, tenderness, modesty, trust, straightforwardness

Conscientiousness: order, success building, self-discipline, dutifulness, competence, deliberation, achievement striving

As a result, they were able to show that adults, over the age of 30, were much more stable over a period of six years, whereas before this age, personality was much more variable. They also found that, between late adolescents and the age of 30, neuroticism, openness and extraversion reduced, while conscientiousness and agreeableness increased. Importantly, however, it is important to remember that many individuals can change the way that they think, feel and behave very quickly after a life-changing event; and, in some cases, ‘neuroticism’ can increase over a period of 6 years in the over 30 age group. There are also a number of individual differences that, according to Goldberg (1981), are not included in the Big Five: these include promiscuity, shyness, beauty, wickedness and so forth.

These traits, types and categorizations help us to understand individual differences in the population, but it is hoped that the questionnaires might also be useful for theorists and clinicians to explain behaviour patterns. Suffice it is to say, that the information regarding personality types can be helpful in clinical practice, and the following looks at how, specifically, Jung’s theory on personality, relates to psychological disturbance. It is important to note here that the term ‘neurotic’ is now rarely used and certainly it has been excluded from most, if not all, diagnostic manuals—for example DSM IV (APA, 1994), However, the author, because of its links with Jung’s theory, and also recent categorizations, has retained this term for simplicity. The term refers to psychological disturbances which are categorized by stress without hallucinations or delusions.

Type theory can be used in conjunction with psychodynamically-orientated psychotherapy—that is to say, therapy which looks closely at the family dynamics which may be responsible for the psychological problem. Take, for example, a man suffering from depression. During the initial phase of treatment, the client might, as is often the case in therapy, describe that he is depressed and that he can’t understand why he is crying all the time. It is important for the therapist to encourage the client to use free association to explore his feelings at these times and to explain what is going on in his life. In some instances, the therapist will pick up on the fact that there are problems within the family and that this needs to be addressed in order to deal with the depression. In fact, depression can be caused by a number of factors—biological, psychological and social—but often there are problems in the family or in maintaining a meaningful relationship with a significant partner (Hollis, 1996). During the free association, the client might talk about a partner’s personality traits. Indeed, he will probably be unaware that his partner has contributed or has been largely responsible for his depression. For instance, if he is an ESFP and his partner is an ISJ, their expectations and judgements with regard to their friends and to each other will be very different. And, by addressing these differences, the client will be able to come to terms with his own ‘natural’ way of behaving and feeling: as a result, it is hoped that he would be empowered to practise his own behaviour within the family context and this would help initially to reduce his depression. This approach is much more difficult when working with a client who has a very different personality to his father or mother, and this is presumably the case because the mis-attunement has been there since early childhood. However, knowledge of our personality and that of others, is very helpful for developing our own sense of well being, in that it can give us a clearer understanding of how we react and how others behave in our everyday lives. Indeed, type theory can also be utilized in marriage therapy (Barber, 1992).

Focussing on introversion/extraversion, problems are likely to occur when an individual is unable to function because of their unwillingness to adapt their behaviour in the outside world—this is the case with extreme extraverts and introverts. For example, extraverts thrive on being able to converse and give their opinions to a number of people; they are interested in what is going on around them and make new friends very easily. However, if an extreme extravert is denied these opportunities, this can cause frustration and can lead to depression, intense irritability or lead to the development of any number of the concomitant psychosomatic features of stress.

Perhaps more problems occur with individuals who are extreme introverts: one of the reasons for this is that they choose to be at home and on their own, and they thus have more time to ruminate or ‘rehearse’ negative beliefs. Introverts tend to think about their own feelings, need their own space, work on their own, have fewer contacts, and also appear thoughtful and reserved. In the busy world in which we live, there are many instances in which he introvert will feel uncomfortable, and this can cause a great deal of anger and internalized disturbance. High introverts are very likely to develop a psychological disturbance within the neurotic spectrum because of the fact that they are closely linked to their internal ego, and also their superego. Long periods of rumination can lead to depression, anxiety, phobia, OCD, sleeping disorders, sexual dysfunction, psychosomatic pain, IBS, eating disorders and stress, amongst many other conditions. Extraverts are not more balanced than introverts, but they are able more efficiently to overcome their problems through their environment than introverts, particularly in this day and age. Indeed, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has for some time been considering including the term introversion as being one of the main sources of psychological disturbance, and this might well be included in the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). According to Psychology Today (2011), high introverts withdraw from other people, and this restriction of affective stimulation can lead to a reduction in pleasurable experiences.

Being over stimulated is as much a powerfully destructive force as being under-stimulated. Introverts are more likely to experience stress as a result of being over-stimulated in the outside world than extraverts. Outside the home, amongst the cars, ambulances, people and traffic, extraverts gain energy; but, by contrast, high introverts become more and more stressed. Stress can the cause a plethora of psychological problems, and there are many examples of this in the literature (see for example, Watson and Pennebaker, 1989; Kiecolt-Glaser, McGuire, Robles and Glaser, 2002; Segerstrom and Miller, 2004). It is for this reason that hypnosis is so powerful in clinical practice because it helps patients to reduce unwanted sympathetic nervous system activity and increase parasympathetic activity: as the stress reduces, cortical levels drop and any psychosomatic manifestations—such as IBS, headaches, phantom pain, back ache, vaginismus—can be eliminated. This principle can also be applied to other conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder, phobic anxiety, sleeping disorders, performance anxiety, PTSD and panic disorder amongst many others.

However, it is important to note that introversion is not an illness and that knowledge of the way introverts feel, think and behave is, if used appropriately and efficiently, can be very helpful for clinicians in practice. Certainly, in the psychotherapeutic context, often introverts will already have an insight into their behaviour and that of others; and, if not, they will, no doubt, have the capacity to understand the dynamics surrounding their experience at home and in the outside world. Moreover, in some cases, high introverts are able to develop fears because of a heightened ability to use their imagination inwardly; but, in the same way, skilled clinicians will be able to utilize this imagination in hypnosis to effect change in their overall well-being.

So what of thinking and feeling, and, for that matter, intuition and sensation. Many psychotherapists tend to focus on clients’ feelings during therapy, and thought patterns are sometimes of secondary importance. It is essential as a therapist to be aware of our clients’ intrinsic needs and to be aware of how they make their decisions—whether they are intuitive or base their actions on their senses, whether they are thinkers or people who act predominantly on their feelings. One might go as far as to say that congruence and rapport will not be achieved unless there is a connection between therapist and client on this basic level. Indeed, in order for therapy to take place effectively, the therapist must begin to understand, at this most important functional level, how his clients are feeling and thinking. Once this process has begun, the therapist can then utilize Jung’s personality type theory to do one or more of the following. The therapist can describe the personality type to the client and then discuss his problems in light of this information. It is hoped that the client would then be able to understand his behaviour and why he is having problems. Once the client is aware of his own personality type, he will be more likely to be able to analyse, and begin to understand, the behaviour of others. This is particularly helpful if, during this process, he can understand the feelings and thought patterns of close relatives. A further stage in treatment might include a discussion as to how to develop other traits which are not being utilized efficiently by the client. Homework tasks can then be given to the client in order to develop these skills at work and amongst friends and family. The aim of this is for the client to be aware of his strengths and to develop new ways to deal with situations. As a result, over a few weeks, it is hoped that he will begin to see changes in his behaviour, and this empowerment will help him to resolve inner conflicts and psychological disturbance. In conclusion, Jung’s theory of personality types is relevant to contemporary psychotherapy and it is important to consider these types when working in clinical practice. In addition, knowledge of other people’s intrinsic strengths and weaknesses can be an extremely valuable tool in the workplace, and it is for this reason that psychometric testing has been so important for managers in the workforce.



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