Introvert and extravert

Today I picked up Jung’s Psychology of Types and resumed reading where I had left off two years ago. Every time I read this book I am struck anew by how insightful and beautifully written it is. It is a lovely experience just to read through its pages.

As I read about the extraverted and introverted attitudes, I was blown away. Whether it is that two years has given me more to think about, or that this part of the book was especially clear, Jung seemed to be laying the fundamentals of my own behavior right before me eyes. There is so much that makes sense now, I may not be able to write for a few days as I process this new information.

A brief summary: The extraverted attitude is characterized by a devaluing of the self in favor of external objects. Such a person looks outward to find value. As a result, their unconscious is decidely introverted. Thus their daily life is all about the things and people in the world, but their fantasy life is about themselves. If highly extraverted, the unconscious begins to act in a compensatory fashion, seeking to recover the deserved attention which has been taken away from self. This might result in an inordinate love of praise, for example, to the point that it feels electric and powerfully fulfilling. The person might become addicted to what others say about them – precisely because they ignore their own self so much. In the extreme degree, the unconscious ceases to be compensatory and becomes subversive, destructive. In this case, like a tantrum, the unconscious seeks to sabotage the extravert’s ability to focus outwardly, forcing them to come to terms with their neglected needs, desires and self-worth.

The introverted attitude is marked by a devaluing of objects in favor of the self. They look inward to find value. Accordingly, their unconscious is strongly extraverted. This means that while the introvert constantly dwells in his own internal world – and prefers ideas and abstractions, as models of the outside world, to interacting with it directly – the unconscious is fascinated by things outside, as if potent mysteries were to be found somewhere outside the confines of self. If highly introverted, the type of compensation one might see is the promotion of any person or thing to level of wish fulfillment – as if that “other” could restore what the introvert had always been lacking. This might cause an inordinate love of someone or something, a deep fascination that feels as though heaven-sent. The individual might become addicted to whatever this external activity would be, serving as it does to force introvert out of himself and to release the energy he has kept inside. In the extreme degree, this becomes destructive, undermining the introvert’s ability to withdraw into himself, and compelling him to regard the world outside.

Damaging behavior only results in the extreme cases. And very few people can, or should, attempt to equalize the two modes of interaction. For whatever reason – and Jung states that selection of one mode over the other appears to be random – individuals have a preferred way of managing their “psychic economy”, and how energy is divided between the self and others. One will always have a preference of one mode over the other, though it is not uncommon for facets of the personality to function oppositely. (Society, by the way, favors the extravert, and common readings of religion can strengthen this view to the point of mania; thus the introvert often finds himself seeking acceptance from the world, and validation for his mode of being).

When extremities do arise, the compensatory and sabotaging functions are always crude, in direct proportion to the degree of extremity. Hence, a highly introverted person will have unnaturally powerful responses to some objects, and likely will focus on them exclusively, pouring out all his unleashed energy upon it. The extreme extravert would also pursue a restoration of self-value in ways that are abnormal and excessive, turning someone normally obsessed with helping others into a secret ego-maniac, for example.

What this means to me, since I am a strongly introverted type, is that the obsessions I sometimes have with people and things are not to be solved by attempting ever more to master my emotions. This natural reaction of an introvert to the feeling of “losing himself” is exactly the wrong response, according to Jung. By so trying, I exacerbate the situation that gave rise to my fascinations, causing them to grow even stronger, or simply to transfer to another object. The way to restore balance, between my valuation of self and others, is not to overcome this obsessive energy, but to do the very thing I fear most: to give away more of myself to more things, by pursuing value outside of myself and raising the status of objects in my thinking. In this way, the pent up energy which is now mostly unconscious can find expression, and the need to so intently focus on one or a few objects may diminish and become more normal.

This applies equally to the extravert. If one is constantly fraught by emphases on self, the answer is not to try harder to devalue the self and spend more energy on others, but to do exactly the thing most feared: to withdraw some of one’s energy from the world and begin paying more attention to the needs of self. In this way, the frustrated potential of the unconscious is given an outlet, and the valuation of self and others becomes more even and natural.

This has been very profound to me, because, as you can read in several of my past entries, I have been disparaging of the role of duty (which concerns one’s relationship to the world) in favor of desire (relating, of course, to the self). In my search for a true foundation of being, I have been attacking this very foundation, by worsening the rift that initially prompted my need to find an answer! How paradoxical!

I must think of duty and desire over again, no longer in contrastive terms, pitting one against the other, but as equal parts necessary to seeking the Beloved. If I can find these values, both in my self and its contents and in the world and its contents, there should be no further need to overvalue or seek compensation for things ignored.

Quote from science fiction

I like this quote, both because it comprehends feelings I have had so well, and because the author writes as though a brother of my soul. It is from The Broken God, by David Zindell. The scene is the hero, Danlo, first catching sight of a women he sees and falls in love with.

Losharu shona!” Danlo whispered to himself. “Losharu halla!

He stared at her, much too openly, and his eyes burned because he could not blink them, and his heart pounded with the thrill of shooting adrenaline. For much too long he remained frozen there, like an animal of the forest watching another. He forgot that he was holding a plate of kurmash in his hand. He let the plate tilt, and little yellow-brown kernels rolled off, fell, and bounced against the marble floor. His hunger – the empty, contracting hunger in his belly for food – was suddenly gone. The loveliness of this young courtesan struck like a lightning bolt to his core and burned him inside. He loved, all in a moment, everything about her: the graceful way she moved her hands when she talked; her easy, natural smile; and, above all, her pure animal vitality. She was tall and voluptuous, and smoothly muscled like an ice dancer. Her face was unique and memorable, though he was dimly aware that no single feature seemed to go very well with any other. Her lips were a shade too red, too full, too sensuous against the creaminess of her skin. She had a long, imperious nose set between high cheekbones, and thick blond hair, and japanesque eyes, intelligent and lively, as dark and liquid as coffee. Her entire face stood out prominently, almost prognathously, an atavism that hinted of something deeply primitive in her. Danlo found this primitive quality instantly compelling. A part of him wondered if he would later see her in a different light, but now other parts were burning with a need far beyond wonder. His chest was hot and tight, and his eyes were afire with the sight of her, and his hands ached to touch her splendid face.

Halla is the woman who shines like the sun, he thought.

She looked at him then. She turned her head and looked past all the bright, chattering people standing between them. She looked straight at him, boldly and openly. Their eyes met and locked together, and there was a shock of instant recognition, as if they had known each other for a billion years. Danlo felt himself falling into her eyes, and the world about him narrowed, intensified, and stopped altogether. He knew he had never seen her before, yet his eyes burned with this electric and ancient connection. His lips burned, and his fingers, and his blood; everything about him was afire with a sudden knowingness that swept his breath away and astonished him.