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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Carl Jung on the nature of the “Introvert” and “Extrovert”

Dear Friend, [undated]

Before I respond to the particular questions raised in your letter, I would like to deal with a question of terminology.

We speak of “thinking” and “feeling,” and we name the types concerned accordingly.

As you know, I have introduced these types in an earlier publication, under the names of the introverted and the extraverted type.

For the former, adaptation proceeds via abstraction from the object, for the latter, via feeling into the object.

The term “introversion” thus describes an inward turning of the psychic energy, which I called “libido,” because the introvert does not comprehend the object directly, but by means of abstraction, that is, by a thinking process that is inserted between himself and the object.

The attitude he assumes toward the object is a certain rejection, therefore, which can even develop into a kind of fear of the object.

His primary reaction toward the object is actually not love but rather fear.

The ancients knew these two original powers well, the eros and phobos.

It is not permissible to say that fear of the object is just a repression of an unbearable love of the object, because then we could also say that the
extravert’s characteristic love of the object is nothing but a repression of an unbearable fear of the object.

It is more likely that in the unconscious of the introvert there is a love for the object that compensates his fear of it, while in the unconscious of the extravert there is a fear that compensates his love for the object.

In pathological cases, as you know, unconscious love also becomes a source of heightened fear of the object for the introvert, and, conversely, unconscious fear becomes a source of powerful attraction to the object for the extravert.

These remarks may characterize the choice of the terms introversion and extraversion sufficiently enough, so that we will be able to use them in further discussions.

We thus also avoid a possible misunderstanding, namely, that the thinking person is characterized by the absence of feeling, and the feeling person by the absence of thinking, which would certainly be completely wrong.

The introvert does feel, too, and very intensely so, only in a different way than the extravert does.

Turning now to your letter, you state that you find it inconceivable that one could adapt to the object by way of abstraction.

This is actually the leitmotif for all misunderstandings between extraverts and introverts.

They misunderstand each other thoroughly as far as their behavior toward the object is concerned.

Despite your optimism, so characteristic of the extravert, I find this difference somewhat deplorable. (This is where the feeling of the introvert comes into play.)

For it is this difference that causes many of the most painful experiences in life, and many of the most acrimonious fights over attitudes and views of the world.

In my last letter, I described the introverted and the extraverted ideal to you, namely, the desire of each type to crystallize its pure essence.

Now this description has already led to a kind of misunderstanding.

I did not express any personal conviction with this description, nor did I want to convey an expression of my personal opinion through it, but I was thinking hypothetically.

This hypothetical thinking— which is by no means the expression of a personal opinion— is extraordinarily misleading for the extravert, because he is always inclined to understand such an expression in a concrete way.

Conversely, the introvert is always led by the nose by the extravert and by hypothetical feeling.

I will try to describe this difficult problem in more detail on the basis of your letter but cannot guarantee that I will succeed.

You write: “To purify the feeling I need the object,” and you add that for the introvert “the object is only an obstacle to purifying thinking.”

Herein lies a great misunderstanding.

The introvert needs the object for his thinking, because it is precisely via the object that he adapts to outer reality.

I’d like to say that this is exactly where his mistake lies: He thinks objects, instead of feeling them, for these objects are, after all, human beings who quite refuse to be only thought, although the introvert fancies that he is actually loving the object in this way.

The object, however, experiences the fact of being only thought as very unpleasant, as you have rightly stated.

Whereas the extravert needs the object to bring his type to perfection and to cleanse his feeling, the introvert experiences this as a horrible violation and disrespect of his personality, because he absolutely refuses to be, so to speak, the chemical dry cleaner for the feelings of extraverts.

He cannot follow the other’s hypothetical feeling, which feels like a loveless experiment to him.

He feels it in this way because he feels concretistically, while the extravert can feel abstractly beyond the object, just as the introvert can think abstractly
beyond the object, which naturally is felt as equally loveless by the extravert.

So while you resist being merely thought by me, I resist serving you as an object for the cleansing of your feelings.

This contrast is irreconcilable, unless, that is, you stoop to submitting completely to my thinking, or I throw myself at the feet of your feeling.

This is impossible, of course, but it does happen all the time in reality, in marriages, for example, in which one part is pinioned against the wall precisely by the other’s “love,” not to mention those cases in which this happens through open violence.

The tragedy is that it is exactly this love, which is ideal in his eyes, that violates and debases the other.

You think the introvert does not need the object for his thinking, because it would actually represent an obstacle to him, and that therefore he would not love the object.

Exactly the opposite is the case.

He, too, loves the object, but through his thinking; indeed, it is indispensable for his thinking.

This is not so for the extravert.

For him, the object is an obstacle to his thinking, because his thinking disregards the object.

Here I must remind you of my previous letter, namely, of the passage where I speak of the difference between thinking and representation.

The representation of the extravert refers completely to the object and is, therefore, in complete agreement with outer reality, while his thinking is in agreement with his own inner reality.

This is not the case in the introvert.

His representation of things is inadequate, precisely because of the lack of feeling- into [the object].

His thinking is in accordance with outer reality, but not with his own inner reality.

This explains the often- observed fact that the introvert thinks and preaches all sorts of nice things but does not do them himself, in fact, does the contrary; whereas the extravert does all sorts of good and nice things but does not think them, in fact, often the contrary.

This also explains the social behavior of the two types.

The extravert has flourishing social contacts, the introvert does not.

The extravert knows, by feeling himself into others, by what human means people can be won over, whereas the introvert tries to create values in himself with which he tries to impress and force others toward him, or even bring them to his knees.

He does this with the help of the power principle, while the extravert does it with the pleasure- unpleasure mechanism.

Or with [ . . . ] characterizes the introvert.

This formula, like all formulas, is only partly valid, that is, valid only to a certain degree.

The more ideal the attitude of a type is, the more likely his plan will fail.

For if I develop an ideal attitude I will become one- sided.

If I am one- sided, however, I will stretch the pairs of opposites in my nature apart, thus activating the unconscious standpoint that runs directly counter to my own ideal.

The introvert gives away his values in an impersonal way, becomes impoverished in the process, and finally thinks: How come you still do not want to do it?

Namely, to love me?

But the others have simply been put off, or been degraded to slaves, by his showing off all the time, and nobody has noticed that all he really wanted was to win the simple human love of others by this.

That is also why the introvert tends to fall for some highly inferior “love.”

I recently witnessed the opposite case, a famous extraverted teacher who, with truly untold love and devotion, educated her students to master their art.

When the girls had completed their training, however, they were on their way out and wanted to practice their art in their own way.

The teacher broke down in desperation over the black ingratitude of those people who brought all her love to ruins and simply did not want to stay collaborating with her forever.

Despite the purely ideal nature of all her devotion, she had completely forgotten that her tenderly loved objects were also human beings who preferred individual independence to ideal slavery.

Consciously, the teacher was completely devoted to her ideal task and was completely selfless.

Unconsciously, however, the opposite became more and more strained, and this opposite was her unconscious power principle.

Conversely, the introvert strains the pleasure- unpleasure mechanism in his unconscious by the conscious, idealistic desire to create the highest values proper to force others to come to him, thus degrading people to objects of his desire.

Thus, it comes that the extravert, with his idealistic attitude, gathers inferior followers around him who, although they seem to be faithfully and gratefully devoted to him, actually flatter his unconscious power principle in Byzantine ways. Independent persons turn away from him, however—ungratefully, as he says— which naturally makes him feel misunderstood in his most ideal values.

The ideally oriented introverted person is faced with the fact that he scares away from himself precisely the human love and joy that he is really trying to find behind all his desire to impress and to be superior, and that he keeps and chains to himself only those inferior persons who know best how to cater to his desire.

This explains, for instance, the well- known fixation of introverted scholars or other intellectually superior persons to women of an inferior type, to whores and the like.

The fault lies in straining the ideal, typical attitude too much.

Now the solution of this problem is intimately connected with what I call the interpretation on the subjective plane.

The only goal for the ideally oriented introvert is the production of impersonal, imperative values, and for the equally ideally oriented extravert the only goal is the love for the object.

But both these endeavors are of a hypothetical nature.

They do not express man’s true nature but are only hypotheses about how the desired goal might be reached.

While the introvert’s conscious attitude is an impersonal and just attitude of power, his unconscious attitude aims at inferior lust and pleasure; and while the extravert’s conscious attitude is a personal love for human beings, his unconscious attitude aims at unjust, tyrannical power.

The interpretation on the subjective plane is trying to mediate between the two.

Its aim is to help the individual accept his unconscious opposite, and not, as you think, to reinterpret the other as nothing but a symbol, so as to protect him from affective influence.

This would be a prejudice.

The formula on the subjective plane for both types runs rather as follows:

Introversion: I have to realize that my object, apart from its reality, is also a symbol of my pleasure, which I unconsciously try to gratify with its help.

Extraversion: I have to realize that my object, apart from its reality, is also a symbol of my power, the approval of which I try to obtain from it.

This interpretation on the subjective plane will not, in my view, prevent spontaneous reactions but leads only to a higher degree of self- reflection, and thus liberates us from the confusing projections of unconscious wishes, which violate the object and thereby prevent the conscious, ideal striving from being completely successful.

To deal in more detail with a few more points, I would like to draw your attention to the passage in your letter where you refer to my phrase: “Beauty does not reside in the things themselves, but in the feeling we attach to them.”

In general terms, this statement is true.

A short reference to the universal confusion about the notion of beauty suffices to prove the subjectivity of aesthetic judgements.

For instance, it is not only exotic music that sounds abominable to our ears, but there is even music and other pieces of art in our own culture that some people praise as beautiful, while others turn away with aching ears and eyes.

Your feeling of being violated, which the acceptance of this statement brought about in you, is due not to its general correctness but to the fact that you simply accepted it from me.

By this you violated your own thinking.

The same thing will happen to the introvert if he simply accepts the other’s love without having made a personal effort to win it.

Furthermore, I take exception to your partially true statement that “the thinking person tries, through abstraction, to liberate himself from the object, from reality, which represents chaos to him.”

I would say: the introvert also tries, through the hypothesis of abstraction, to reach the object, actually reality, which seems to him chaotic only because of the projection of his unused and therefore undeveloped feeling.

He tries to conquer the object by thinking.

But he wants to reach the object quite as much as the extravert.

The extravert does want to get to the object but actually only to come to himself by going beyond the object.

He has fled from himself, because his unused and, therefore, chaotic world of thoughts has made it unpleasant, even unendurable, for him to stay with himself.

In order to develop their distinctive features both types need to exist separately to a certain extent; and if they realize their own respective unconscious opposite, they will complement each other beautifully.

But, because of the nonacceptance of the unconscious opposite, the typical ideal striving leads to a disastrous violation of the other, and the worst thing is that neither of them notices why he is violating the other.

I believe we are experiencing something of this kind at present, in the conflict between the Roman and the Germanic cultural ideals, which can be felt also in Switzerland.

With best regards,

your Jung ~Carl Jung, Jung-Schmid Correspondence, Pages 55-62.

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