A few words on Jungian typology

The aim and scope of this blog is not to describe the Jung-Myers-Briggs personality types in any great detail, since these are covered quite extensively and with amazing clarity and accuracy here: http://personalityjunkie.com/. The goal is more to explore my ideas/thoughts/experiences as I come to terms with my new-found self-awareness (which has been exhausting to say the least) and share my new insights on love, life and the human experience.

My first thoughts when I came across Jung’s theory of personality types (from spending a few days at the Limerence Experienced website http://tribes.tribe.net/limerence and seeing people labeling themselves with funny acronyms): wait… what? Is this for real? Is it really possible to deconstruct our complicated human minds into 16 little “boxes”? And if so, why haven’t I heard about this before? I was immediately intrigued and kept reading.

The moment of realization that this theory could actually be for real was when I stumbled upon the INTP profile on Personality Junkie and A.J’s description of the inferior function. Naomi Quenk’s “Was That Really Me” has also helped solidify my life experiences/awareness/importance of this theory in my own inner world. As a trained scientist, I was of course skeptical that I was riding the wave of my own subjective personal experiences, perhaps giving them too much weight. I searched for criticisms of the theory on the internet– and  there are many– notwithstanding the fact that the theory has seemed to be dismissed by the scientific world (and psychologists?), because it is based on “observation” and “anecdotes” rather than solid and rigorous scientific testing.  Yet, I was not willing to disregard Jung’s theory just because some scientists were quick to dismiss someone who didn’t align himself with the traditional scientific approach. One of the most important things I’ve learned from typology is that every type has it’s own personal “filter” or “framework” through which they perceive and judge the world (even if some types are more flexible to adapt their filter). No type is truly objective, we all have our own internal biases and will tend to overvalue points-of-view we agree with and devalue points-of-view we disagree with. As a scientist, having to confront this reality was scary to say the least (but no wonder the academic system is so messed up!).

Even before this particular experience– which has dramatically expanded my scientific interests and has provided me with a satisfactorily “big picture idea” that I can potentially contemplate from a wide variety of angles, keeping me busy for a while, I hope– I was always a big believer that all fields of science (“soft” “hard”) can contribute in someway to advancing our collective knowledge of the human condition. Since our minds are indeed quite complicated, it is naive to think that this understanding can come from only one field or will be answered using only quantitative measures.

Anyway, I’m going to say this now for all to see– I believe that Carl Jung is to the study of human behavior/decision-making and consciousness what Ramon y Cajal was to the study of the fundamental properties of the brain. And now that we’ve advanced quite significantly in the realms of understanding the basic fundamental units of the brain– the neurons– now it is time for us to start asking– well, but how does it work when we put it all together? Are there some basic principles that underlie the decision-making process and consciousness? After reading about the dynamics of personality types, grip experiences and the influence of stress (and love) on our decision-making process, I believe that Jung’s personality type theory will play a significant role in defining these basic principles.

One of the questions that popped up in my head after discovering typology, was: “well what did I think about personality and the human mind before”? For one thing, although I was aware that everyone had a different personality and that I was good at adapting myself to each individual’s personality, it never actually crossed my mind that people used completely different frameworks/cognitive processes when going about their daily lives and making decisions. This persisted even in the face of contradicting evidence– my husband, an ISFP– (predictably) behaves in exactly the opposite manner!!!  I thought our differences were due to the fact that we were very much strong “individuals”. The fact that our brains work differently completely baffled my mind– although it makes sense in retrospect. I always met his seemingly irrational outbursts with some logical reasoning! It also makes sense that my main life goal has always been to find/do “what makes ME happy” and his life goal since we met is now “to make ME happy” (via satisfying his own needs, but that’s ok).

When I thought about the origin of all these different personalities, I definitely would have agreed with a view that there was some genetic component to each personality trait (of which there are potentially many, we probably haven’t named them all) and that these would be randomly assorted in different proportions across the population, giving an infinite number of different personalities. Add to this an interaction of genetics with “nurture” and different personal experiences, and to me it would seem you would get an infinite of different personalities! It is much more satisfying to think that personality and decision-making could be “broadly” defined by one of 16 personality types, when healthy, or their opposite, when in the “grip”, and that personal experience just defines what you’ve been exposed to, been captivated by and “chosen” to develop an interest in. For example, all INTPs “think” alike but based on our individual experiences, what we spend our time pondering about will be different and the conclusions we’ve drawn about the world may also be different.

Of course with this welcomed realization of the existence of typology, comes so many more questions:

1. Where is the “locus” of the eight cognitive processes?

2. Do all, or most, identical twins, share the same personality type?

3. How are the eight cognitive processes genetically-encoded? (I tend to side with the “genetically-encoded” argument since regardless of our personal experiences or conscious awareness of our decisions, it looks like we all “strive” towards behaving in a manner suited to our type.)

4. How does stress activate the “inferior function”? How does it shut off or cloud the “dominant function”. What brain regions are activated/shut-off during stress?

As usual, feel free to comment and question.

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About intpblogger

I'm a 29 year old female currently wrapping up my PhD in Neuroscience, which looked at the molecular underpinnings of learning and memory. I've just recently stumbled upon the fascinating world of personality types and how our type guides our perception of the world, the people around us and the decisions we make. I'm especially interested in the process through which neuromodulators, released during periods of stress, bonding and romantic love/limerence influence our personalities (and how this might differ between types). My posts will be based on a mixture of thoughts, personal experiences, ideas and things I've read along the way. Since I've traditionally stuck to the molecular/cellular side of neuroscience and possibly scoffed at social psychology in the past (ashamed) I only "discovered" Myers-Briggs theory and myself a week ago, after a seemingly long period of a what I would call an "identity crisis". But more on that later. As an INTP (I think), I'd like to think I have some unique insight to share with all of you, but I don't necessarily think I hold all the answers nor will I be able to express them as clearly as some would wish. So, I welcome all clarifications, challenges, criticisms, different perspectives, thoughts, personal experiences from other INTPs as well as all other personality types that choose to join me on this journey. The idea here is to gain insight into my mind and the mind of others through the mutual sharing of ideas, thoughts and experiences. Onwards.

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