Cognitive Dynamics is a lens that helps us see different aspects of our personality. It is grounded in the Jungian approach to understanding our psyche. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® instrument points us to our likely preferences between 4 dichotomies. This same approach is used by the many other personality type assessments you can find on the web. All this does is give us a four letter type code that may tell us something about who we are—if it is accurate and well rounded descriptions are provided. However, since there are 16 type patterns, it is hard to create a language where people can easily see their differences and appreciate them by referring to the type patterns. Therefore, the focus shifts to the four dichotomies and preferences for Extraversion or Introversion, Sensing or iNtuiting, Thinking or Feeling, or Judging or Perceiving. Then these become the label that gets attached to someone. We often see references to Thinkers vs Feelers or worse, Judgers or Perceivers, which was not part of the Jungian basis of personality type. The end result of this is very often stereotyping and limitation. People grab on to the overly simplistic definitions that label people and put them in boxes.
On the other hand, Cognitive Dynamics shifts the language away from labels to an understanding of the mental processes we tend to use most often and find most comfortable. In Psychological Types, C.G. Jung described 8 personality patterns where one of each of eight mental functions predominated. For Jung a function is a kind of mental activity that serves a function of producing products that have different results. Here are some examples of the products of the eight processes Jung identified grouped by the arena of the process: perception (getting information) or judgment (organizing that information for making decisions).
Perceiving Processes, which increase our awareness of things and are sources of creativity. They can be passive or actively transforming
- extraverted Sensing: Experiencing the immediate context. Actualizing what is really present in a current situation, increasing its reality and shaping it to bring it to fruition (which we call Presencing in its most sophisticated functioning).
- introverted Sensing: Reviewing past experiences. Clarifying the reality in ideas and information so that the concepts are more clearly understood based on what is familiar and real (which we call Preserving in its sophisticated functioning).
- extraverted iNtuiting: Interpreting situations and relationships. Introducing new possibilities in people and things and what might be (which we call Interconnecting in its sophisticated functioning).
- introverted iNtuiting: Foreseeing implications and likely effects. Imagining new ideas, images and a vision of the future (which we call Realizing in its sophisticated functioning).
Judging Processes, which help us organize and managing information, things, people, and thoughts
- extraverted Thinking: Segmenting and organizing for efficiency. Using logical connections to establish criteria for organizing time, events, or a logical argument (which we call Executing in its sophisticated functioning).
- introverted Thinking: Analyzing and categorizing to find the fit with frameworks. Seeing and building logical connections between ideas and information (which we call Revealing Principles in its sophisticated functioning).
- extraverted Feeling: Connecting and considering others and the group. Communicating and doing things that build harmony and rapport between people (which we call Unifying in its sophisticated functioning).
- introverted Feeling: Valuing and considering importance and worth. Giving weight to what is most important in a situation (which we call Establishing Value in its sophisticated functioning).
These eight processes operate in a pattern of use in our personality. One of these processes plays a leading role in our personality and is the way we can be heroic. Another plays a supporting role and is most often engaged in helping others. These are the two processes focused on in the four-letter type code, but we are much more than these two.
Following the work of Jungian analyst, Dr. John Beebe, the Cognitive Dynamics lens helps us identify what processes we might be using too much and what ones we might be underusing. It also helps us identify ways we can get stuck and some of our shadow issues.
Cognitive Dynamics mirrors our human complexity.
While a focus on the dichotomies seems simple, it misses the richness of what it means to be human. Why settle for less than we are. Using Cognitive Dynamics gives us a language to understand ourselves and others in a deeper, more accurate way.
Cognitive Dynamics keeps us from being put into a box (and putting others in a box).
First we have to realize that we can, and do, engage all of the mental processes (aka functions) at different times. So a preference for one or some of them does not mean we can’t engage those that are needed for different situations. However, it would be very draining to try to use them all to deal with every situation. And it turns out that we do have preferences for some processes and therefore we may exercise them more and develop more ‘muscle.’﹡ By understanding that there are other, less preferred processes and that each of these processes plays a role in our personality, we can be more agile in our use of the processes. We can open to bringing them from unconscious one-sidedness into conscious use.
Cognitive Dynamics gives us a roadmap to our development.
Development is a natural process. It tends to happen whether we want it to or not unless something interferes with the process. Our development starts out with us developing some of the processes to the point of one-sidedness. When we are introduced to our whole pattern of the cognitive processes, we can begin to see ways we can get out of our one-sidedness and relate better to others. This view gives us some clues about ways we can be more open to the natural growth and development process; whereas, a focus on the less refined definitions of our preferred dichotomies, can lead us to think that’s all we are capable of.
﹡Credit to Dr. Steve Myers for clarifying the roles of the processes and for the Mental Muscle concept .