AC WP RSCN4338 ENH2In my book The Shyness Guide, I’ve written about C.G. Jung’s different conception of ‘introvert/extrovert’ – different, that is, from the view of most people today.

Since it was Jung who coined the terms ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’, he ought to have a say in how they’re used.

In his book Psychological Types, he proposed that there are four principal functions: 

Two perceiving functions: Sensation and Intuition

Two judging functions: Thinking and Feeling

Each person has a dominant function, a secondary function, and two repressed (unconscious) functions. The result is eight possible “psychological types”, of which you will have four:

Extroverted sensation

Introverted sensation

Extroverted intuition

Introverted intuition

Extroverted thinking

Introverted thinking

Extroverted feeling

Introverted feeling

What does all of this mean? Well, for example, while I used to think of myself as a full blown introvert, I discovered while reading Psychological Types that Jung considers me to be intuitively and sensually an extrovert. I have introverted thinking and feeling, but I’m intuitively and sensually an extrovert.

An intuitive introvert is most interested in the “inner” questions of life, like those in philosophy and religion.

An intuitive extrovert is more interested in what that cat across the street is about to do, or if the buds on the plants growing beside the path are near to flowering, or whether the river below the highway that he/she is driving over has fish in it, and what species they might be.

I’m like that. Nature caught my attention early in life and I’ve never looked away. I’m only an introvert with respect to my relations with people. Where trees, rocks, animals or galaxies are concerned I’m an extrovert.

But many people are like that. Darwin, who I often call my favorite introvert, was probably an intuitive extrovert too. He was acutely shy when he was among people, but he didn’t shy away from the world at all.  He was physically adept – a fast runner as a boy, an accomplished horseman, and an expert hunter with guns – very comfortable in the physical world. Where the non-human world was concerned, riding over mountain passes or hiking through jungles, he was very unshy.

And so, you are not always necessarily an introvert or an extrovert.

In my own case, this was quite a revelation. It helped me a lot in understanding what is really going on. If you would like to think more about it, the only book I know that deals with it is Psychological Types, which is a wide-ranging look at the whole question of human personality. You won’t read it in a day.

Except for the complexity, I find this idea of Jung’s easy enough to understand. Yet it seems to be one of the most misunderstood parts of his thinking. Or, maybe,  it is just  one of the most ignored.

One way or the other, I hope you see that, like Darwin and me, you might be both an introvert and an extrovert.



PS – Anyone who has read my book The Shyness Guide, will recognize the above as a revised version of my discussion of this in that book, which, of course, has much more to say. If you’re interested, take a look.

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