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Teaching Type as a System of Energy – Expanding Type Awareness

Part Four in a Five Part SeriesJungian Psychological Types are Systems of Energy

“Each of the 16 Types is a dynamic system between the flow of psychic energy from mental process to mental process and from our conscious to our unconscious mind. In essence, Type is personality in motion;…moving in and out of the mental processes that are required and appropriate for the situation.”

                              Katharine Myers and Linda Kirby, Introduction to Type Dynamics and Development


If you are a Type Practitioner, I bet you can relate to this: You have introduced a dichotomy of opposites, and you have asked participants to select a preference, after having said, “we do both”, or “we use both” , or “we use all of the preferences, we are not limited to one or the other”.  And then you hear this, “…but I can’t choose, I do both”  or, “I don’t want to box myself in”, or “I can do all of these things, why do I have to choose?”!

In the last three articles, I provided an overview for this series, and two of four Jungian principles, (click here for principles one and two) that if incorporated into an MBTI Introductory Feedback session, will provide participants with a richer understanding of Type.

Here is the third principle of Jung’s theory of Psychological Type that you can incorporate, more consciously, into your introductory feedback sessions (with a few nuanced and subtle tweaks):

Psychological Types are Dynamic – 16 Different Energy Systems

Many people, even after a Type workshop, talk about Type as if they are ‘stuck’ using the preferences in their 4-letter Code. When one feels boxed into a Type, it stops them from engaging less preferred functions, or even from thinking that they can access them!  When Type limits rather than expands self-awareness, people fail to appreciate differences or use Type to bridge those differences. A limited notion of Type prevents people from engaging in their own personal growth and development. In fact, it turns people away from the assessment and the theory altogether.

To the contrary, the 16 unique Type Codes point to underlying complex information about how we theoretically use Jung’s 8 mental processes. MBTI Type opens the door to the core of Jungian Psychological Type and the dynamic pattern of how our minds move from function to function; which processes are naturally more conscious and comfortable for the Types to engage and develop. Each of the 16 Types engage all of the 8 mental Functions in their Attitudes, just with different concentrations, regularity and levels of consciousness.

There are 16 different psychological energy systems that define how we naturally use our minds; and there is nothing static about our minds.

Our Training Challenge 

As practitioners, we sometimes take for granted the knowledge that we have about Type; this can in and of itself, be a training challenge. Our expertise can get in the way of our feedback design.

Consider this: we know that Type does not put people into boxes – and it is actually freeing to know your type – but during a feedback session, we ask people to categorize themselves in order to fit into a box. We know that Isabel Myers had very good reasons  for configuring the Type Table in the manner in which she did, but the Type Table has 16 separate boxes representing each of the Types. In a feedback session we are asking people to “box themselves in”, before introducing the concept of psychological movement.

Here is another hurdle: in feedback sessions, we talk about the E/I dichotomy as our source of energy without integrating it into how we use the functions (S,N, T, or F). Psychological Type theory states that we engage our functions in either the inner or the outer worlds. Depending on our typology, we have energy for some functions more than others and we engage them in different worlds. We tend to concentrate on the definitions of the functions, to the exclusion of how the functions move within our psyches.

And one final training challenge: being presented with a binary choice, and having to select between one or the other, automatically puts people in the mindset of “either or” rather than “and both” and this mindset is hard to change. I am not suggesting that this is not a necessary or warranted practice, neither am I criticizing the construction of the MBTI assessment. I am rather suggesting that as practitioners, we need to be more consciously aware of, and directly address, what might happen from a participant’s perspective.

Facilitation Tips

Here are just a few simple tips for you to add to your workshops to bring the energetic nature of Type to the forefront while facilitating:

  • Refer to and use the Handwriting Exercise throughout your entire program

The Handwriting Exercise is a classic to contrast the ease of engaging a preference with the discomfort of using a ‘non-preference’. When participants attempt to use their non-preferred hand to write their name, a dull roar of discomfort erupts from the class – people feel awkward, childish, it’s harder, writing is illegible, they feel foolish. But the most telling statement that comes up time and again, is that it takes more energy to write with their non-preferred hand. Here’s the tweak: direct participants to the flip chart while capturing, “takes more energy”. Leave the flip chart paper on the wall or easel pad for the entire workshop, and refer to it over and over again, regardless of the dichotomy you are talking about, to bring attention back to,  ‘I can.. I do.., I engage’.. but just like writing with your non-preferred hand, it takes more energy.

  • Demonstrate the movement of the preferences 

First, demonstrate, physically, what it would be like to use a preference to the exclusion of its opposite. For instance, (my theatrical nature comes in handy here) I demonstrate what total immersion in Introversion, with no Extraversion, would look like – I stand in front of the class, with no affect, and don’t move. It’s extreme, but it makes a point, and it evokes quite a bit of laughter. I do the same for Extraversion, with no Introversion – you can imagine what that looks like!  Second, I substitute the word ‘use’, e.g., “We use all of the preferences”, with the word ‘engage‘ to imply movement,  “We engage all of the functions when we need to“.  ‘Engage’ is more action oriented than ‘use’. Which leads to the next, more general tip.

  • Use adjectives rather than nouns to impart Type’s dynamic nature

When facilitating, take care not to fuse a function with an individual person. We engage the mental functions, but are not defined by the functions; we are not solely  ‘Sensors’, or ‘Thinkers’. To say so implies that we only use one function or are limited by Type (I realize that as practitioners we understand this, but participants may not). Instead, try using verbs when defining the functions and giving examples – rather than say, “A Sensor takes in data with the five senses”, try this, “When we are engaging Sensing, we are taking in information with our five senses (see: Gordon Lawrence’s Type Descriptions). Type is a living and dynamic system – and verbs, after all, describe action.

  • Have people select their Dominant and Auxiliary Functions

The Dominant Function provides us with the way in which we primarily face, and focus on, the world. The Auxiliary Function is opposite in all respects. If participants understand that they have a way to take in information and a way to make decisions, and a way to be in both the inner and outer worlds, it implies movement between the functions. For participants, understanding this piece of Type Dynamics, when they are first learning about Type, helps them to see that when we are awake, we move via our psychological processes between Perception and Judgment all the time! (See our Eight Jungian Function Image Metaphor Cards for a quick and easy way to do this at the end of an introductory session.)

By weaving more Jungian principles into your Introductory Type programs, and adding these quick, nuanced facilitation tips, you will provide your clients with a slightly different – richer – understanding of Type. This will help your clients  gain an expanded, deeper view of the nature of Jung’s theory, setting them up to accelerate their own personal growth and development, and to implement more advanced applications for team and leadership development.

Next Up: Principle Four – Jungian Psychological Type is a Theory of Development

The People Skills Group can help you add life, depth and practical application to your already existing MBTI facilitation and coaching. Whether you are an in-house trainer, or a coach or consultant, we can work with you, or your team of trainers, to help you take Type “Out of The Box”.  We can help you design and facilitate Type programs for improving team collaboration and fostering thoughtful and intentional leadership. 

Contact us for your train-the-trainer solutions at :

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