This blog post was written just after I attended the European Association for Psychological Type conference in Paris. The presentations I attended were stimulating and highlighted a need for a shift in how psychological type is traditionally presented—something I’ve been saying for a long time. About 50 percent of them focused on development, especially ‘vertical’ or transcendent development. One of the most talked about presentations was that of Steve Myers. His topic was “Can Psychological Type Be a Barrier to Individuation?” As I understand it, Individuation involves a growth process. Steve defines it on his website as "Individuation is a process that leads to a more mature, balanced, 'rounded' person."
Since writing the material on his website, he has further articulated what is involved in this growth process. Currently, Steve differentiates between Myers Briggs Theory and Psychological Type Theory as Jung meant it to be. He frequently quoted Jung’s writing on this topic so I want to share some of these with you.
[C]lassification is nothing but a childish parlour game… My typology is… not in any sense to stick labels on people at first sight… [A]ny typological terminology superficially picked up… serves no other purpose than a totally useless desire to stick on labels. C.G. Jung, Psychological Types, pp. xiv-xv
The transcendent function… comes… from experiencing the conflict of opposites. You can find a detailed exposition of this problem in my Psychological Types. C.G. Jung, 1939, Letters 1, p. 269
Individuation is closely connected with the transcendent function, since this function creates individual lines of development, which could never be reached by keeping to the path prescribed by collective norms. C.G. Jung, Psychological Types, p. 449
The persona is always identical with a typical attitude dominated by a single psychological function, for example, by thinking, feeling or intuition. This one-sidedness necessarily results in the relative repression of the other functions… In consequence, the persona is an obstacle to the individual's development… C.G. Jung, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, pp. 288-289
My understanding of Steve’s message is that when we focus the use of type on identification of one side of the dichotomies used in the MBTI® instrument we limit development. We become identified with those preferences and do not focus on holding the tension of the opposite side, which is what encourages development.
I have long said that the ‘functions’ of Sensing, iNuiting, Thinking, and Feeling are not types, but are instead processes. A process is an activity that we can engage in and use. It is not the driver of who we are, but the means to help us be who we are. An important aspect of who we are is the pattern of our personality that has been there from the beginning. I often say, ‘Patterns rule processes.’ We use the processes in service of the pattern, but more on that later.
As to Extraversion and Introversion, Steve provides another quote from Jung.
These contrary attitudes are in themselves no more than correlative mechanisms: a diastolic going out and seizing of the object and a systolic concentration and detachment of energy from the object seized. Every human being possesses both mechanisms as an expression of his natural life-rhythm… A rhythmical alternation of both forms of psychic activity would perhaps correspond to the normal course of life. C.G. Jung, Psychological Types, p. 5
If you want to read more from Steve Myers, I suggest you go to his website, I always learn a lot from Steve. Note: Steve has since published his book, Myers-Briggs Typology vs Jungian Individuation; Overcoming one-sidedness in Self and Society