Jung’s Theory of Psychological Types
We use Psychological Type theory – the theory upon which Isabel Myers created the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – as a theoretical foundation for many our workshops and coaching. Psychological Type is about our focus and perspective, our mindset and how we think about the world. It is one ‘why’ behind our behavior. Understanding the why behind our behavior is powerful for self-awareness and growth and development.
Carl Jung (1875-1961), a Swiss psychiatrist and the father of analytical psychology developed a theory of personality which he called “Psychological Types”. His theory is a dynamic theory of personality which looks at the different ways in which people focus their energy to process information; it is about our perspectives and how we most naturally tend to think about things.
Jung postulated that we primarily do two things with our minds when we are awake – when we are thinking about things – we alternate between taking in information or Perceiving, and evaluating that information or Judging. Jung named two psychological processes or “Functions” for Perceiving – Sensing (S) and Intuition (N) and two processes for Judging – Thinking (T) and Feeling (F). We focus our perception and our judgment toward the world outside of us as we Extravert (e) and the world inside of us as we Introvert (i).
We use all four psychological processes, or mental functions, in an Extraverted and Introverted way, yielding eight Functions, or perspectives, also known as Jung’s Types or “Function-Attitudes” (Functions in their attitude). We exchange our mental energy all day long between Perceiving and Judging, in our outside world, and inside world, as we engage the Eight Functions of Type.
Jung’s Eight Function-Attitudes
Jung’s four functions of Sensing, Intuition, Thinking and Feeling, when used in the outside (e) and inside worlds (i), take on very different forms. When a function is used in the outside world, it is more or less objective and carries with it the fast and active energy of Extraversion. When a function is used in the inner world, it is subjective, known only to the person engaging the Function, and can appear to the outside world to be more slow, hesitant or incomplete. We engage all eight functions in our inner and outer worlds, but with different levels of comfort and ease.
Each of these Functions, when in the Dominant position, possess unique gifts and blind spots, and contributions that manifest in the workplace. Additionally, each Dominant Function takes on a different perspective which seeks information around a “central question” . The unique properties of each of the Dominant Functions are highlighted in our Eight Jungian Function Image Metaphor Card Sets.
[ESTP / ESFP] Extraverted Sensing (Se) – Perception in the outer world that gathers data by way of the five senses in the present to direct the next move. Asks: What is coming my way and what action will I take?
[ISTJ / ISFJ] Introverted Sensing (Si) – Perception in the inner world that gathers data through reviewing or “re-living” relevant sensory experiences from the past, to understand and differentiate that from the current situation. Asks: How are my stored experiences informing me about the present?
[ENTP / ENFP] Extraverted Intuition (Ne) – Perception in the outer world that gathers information by connecting the dots between disparate data to brainstorm ideas and possibilities that catalyze forward movement. Asks: What patterns are emerging and what do they mean?
[INTJ / INFJ] Introverted Intuition (Ni) – Perception in the inner subjective world that gathers information by way of the unconscious; “sees” the bigger picture, the essence of things and potential for transformation in the “minds eye”. Asks: How are my insights shifting my perspective?
[ESTJ / ENTJ] Extraverted Thinking (Te) – Judgment in the outer world that seeks to evaluate information through applying logic, in order to organize and systematize the task for maximum effectiveness. Asks: What is the most clear-cut and efficient course of action?
[ISTP / INTP] Introverted Thinking (Ti) – Judgment in the inner subjective world that searches for answers by categorizing, analyzing and giving order to data through applying subjective frameworks – to see if something fits into the mental model. Asks: What is the most precise and refined answer?
[ESFJ / ENFJ] Extraverted Feeling (Fe) – Judgment in the outer world that evaluates situations by pinpointing the values of a group in order to facilitate and accommodate others in the most appropriate way. Asks: What is the most harmonious decision?
[INTP / INFP] Introverted Feeling (Fi) – Judgment in the inner subjective world that seeks to decide based on a set of ingrained values; seeks the answer that maintains congruence of values with the outer situation. Asks: will this decision sustain who I am?
Jung hypothesized that if we are supported in our Type by our environment – our family of origin, context, surroundings, jobs, etc. we will naturally progress from comfort with our Dominant and Auxiliary through the first stages of life, to becoming increasingly more comfortable with engaging our less preferred functions, the Auxiliary, Tertiary and Inferior functions as we age. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) created by Isabel Myers (1897-1980) provides us with a 4-letter Type Code, when “de-coded” helps us understand how we access and engage Jung’s Eight Functions through what she called a “type hierarchy”. A Type’s hierarchy of functions are ordered from most to least conscious providing us with a theoretical path for use, growth and development.
The Dominant Function
The Dominant (or leading) function is the first mental function in the type hierarchy of each of the 16 types; it appears as one of two middle letters of the type code and is the function that guides the personality, giving it direction – like the captain of a ship guiding the way. The Dominant function defines the way in which we most comfortably adapt to the world; we rely on it the most to guide us through life’s situations, especially during the first half of life.
The Auxiliary Function
The second function in the type code hierarchy is the Auxiliary (or supporting) function. It is represented by the middle letter in the type code that is opposite the Dominant. The Auxiliary Function guides the Dominant function by providing it with the opposite perspective, as if to say – look, this is what you have forgotten to consider! The auxiliary provides balance for the dominant in both how we process information and how we use our energy.
The Tertiary Function
The Tertiary function is opposite the auxiliary on the same dichotomy; it is used in either the same OR the opposite attitude of the dominant function. The tertiary function does not appear in the four letters of the MBTI® type code as it is one of the functions that is more or less unconscious and takes us more energy to use. Like the Auxiliary function, the Tertiary helps the Dominant function navigate in a different direction to keep us balanced.
The Inferior Function
The Inferior function (also known as the fourth function) is opposite the Dominant function on the same dichotomy and is in the opposite attitude of the Dominant.
We have a harder time accessing, using and becoming comfortable with this function than we do with the other three mental functions in our type hierarchy. The Inferior function can be the most problematic of the functions in our Type Code as it is inherently contradictory to the Dominant. The Inferior function’s purpose is to provide us with an entirely different perspective from our Dominant. It provides us with and ability to tap into the world of the unconscious.