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Describe and Evaluate Carl Jung’s Theory Concerning Personality Types Essay

Personality can be described as the individual’s characteristic patterns of thought emotion and behaviour together with psychological mechanisms-hidden or not behind those patterns. The influence of both genetics and heredity factors alongside upbringing, culture and experience are recognised as influencing an individual’s personality. Within the counselling arena the client’s unique personality will influence their movement and path to finding solutions to issues and problems they bring.

This essay will be evaluating Carl Jung’s type theory of personality which suggested that there were distinct personality types into which each individual could be placed. This essay will also discuss how useful the application of his personality type theory is within the counselling setting when determining the client’s goals. Behind Carl Jung’s personality types theory are his concepts of the structure and dynamics of the human psyche. He proposed in a similar vein to his contemporary Sigmund Freud, that the human psyche comprised of different interrelating systems.

The first system is that of the ‘ego’ which principally the conscious mind is. Close by to the ego is the ‘personal unconscious’, which includes anything which is not presently conscious, but can be. The personal unconscious holds all the individuals unique experiences and memories which can be brought into the conscious when needed. Lying behind the ‘personal unconscious’ is the ‘collective unconcious’ which contains ‘archetypes’ which are forms or symbols that are manifested by everyone across all sociieties and cultures.

The collective unconcious according to Jung is something that all humans were born with and yet are never conscious of. Jung was not the first theorists to propose that individuals personality can be categorised by their ‘type’. Indeed he was inspired somewhat by the ancient Greek physician Galen. Galen developed the first type theory of temperament which was linked to earlier concepts and it proposed that balance of bodily fluids in the individual influenced their different behaviours and made an individual into either a phlegmatic, choleric, sanguine or melancholic ‘type’.

The first categorisation Jung made of the personality type was that of the persons ‘attitude’. An attitude, according to Jung is an individual’s predisposition as to how the psychic energy was directed by the person in response to their world. He proposed that there were two opposing attitudes, extroversion and introversion. These two attitudes worked both as opposing and yet complimentary forces. The introverted person is more aware of their inner world and their psychic energy is more focused in that direction. The introverted attitude is more drawn towards internal rather than external appraisal..

In contrast an extrovert person has a more outward moving psychic energy and they are drawn more to an objective approach which lies in their surrounding environment. Jung felt that a person was born with either predominance towards extroversion or introversion and that their type was not changeable over the course of their life. However, he argued that both attitudes of extraversion and introversion are present in every person and therefore when labelling someone as an extrovert he was referring to the more dominant developed attitude.

Jung suggested that whilst the persons attitude type determined the direction of their psychic energy, there were also four further fundamental ways for the person to perceive and interpret reality which he termed ‘functions’. Jung divided people into either functioning as ‘Thinking’, ‘Feeling’, Sensation, and ‘Intuitive’ types. These four types were divided into two diametrically opposite pair, therefore thinking is the opposite of feeling and sensation is the opposite of intuition.

Accordingly if a persons mode was from a thinking function then they would view the world analytically using their ‘head’ more whilst a person who had a more developed feeling function would have a more empathic ‘heart driven view of the world. Both ‘thinkers ‘and ‘feelers’ shared the fact that they had a rational perspective of the world as they both require the act of reason. In contrast the functions of ‘sensation’ and ‘intuition’ are both irrational as they do involve reason but instead result from either internal or external stimuli affecting the person.

If a person who has a developed ‘sensation’ function they will predominantly perceive the world through their sense organs, whilst someone who is more intuitive inclined will react to the world from a more immediate inner response, for example they rely on their ‘hunches’ or ‘gut reaction’ to an experience. Jung’ theory proposed that when the’ attitude’ and the ‘function’ type of an individual was combined they could be defined into one of a possible eight more refined types.

The extraverted sensing type, the introverted sensing type, the extroverted feeling type, the introverted feeling type, the extroverted intuitive type, the introverted intuitive type, the extroverted thinking type and finally the introverted thinking type. According to Jung any personality and behaviour could be fitted into one of these eight types. For example someone who is an extrovert feeling type will enjoy being around people and take pleasure from such things as music or the arts.

In contrast an introverted thinker will be more focused on analysing the world from a reasoned approach and will prefer to rely upon their inner self to progress through life. One criticism of Jung’s theory of personality types is that it compartmentalised personality and tended to put a person in an either/or a particular type rather than being able to be positioned along a point between two opposing types such as ‘thinking’ and ‘feeling’. Hans Eysenck applied a different approach to the understanding of personality types.

Having given a long list of adjectives to many thousands of people he applied a specialised statistical procedure known as factor analysis to his collected data, which resulted in the Eysenck’s Personality Questionnaire( EPQ) The resulting scores from a persons completed questionnaire enabled Eysenck to place an individual anywhere along a trait dimension. Similar to Jung, Eysenck’s first trait dimension was that of extroversion – introversion on which a high score indicated extroversion and a low score introversion.

Applying the same formula Eysenck then went on and identified two other significant dimensions, the first being that of neuroticism versus emotional stability. Individuals scoring high on the neuroticism dimension tended to be of a nervous disposition whilst low scorers presented emotional stability. The second dimension he identified was that of psychoticism. High psychotic scorers may not necessarily show signs of psychoticiscm but they had agreater potential to devlop mental disorders than those with lower scores.

When comparing Jung’s and Eysenck’s personality type theories it can be argued that Eysenck’s theory was not only more sensitive to the range of individuals personality but also his use of statistical analysis enabled him to apply his theory in a practical and more valid way in everyday life which Jung’s theory had not achieved. However, Jung never fully developed his Type theory as in later years he became disenchanted with it.

Indeed he was never motivated to use his theory in a practical way as a measurement as his central belief was that people are essentially dynamic and cannot really be reduced to categories. Jung believed that when a person suffers a mental disorder, their psyche, is trying to resolve and work through an issue or inner conflict between the conscious and unconscious. He believed that the nature and the symptoms of the mental disorder disclosed much about the inner suffering. He also felt that the mental disorder had a purpose and was a reflection that the psyche was trying to heal itself through the illness presented.

He felt that the cause of mental illness and disorders were rooted in traumatic events or social and family experiences which impacted on the individuals complex inner elements causing disintegration and also repression of the persons natural drives. He believed that though the persons behaviour and understanding of the world was led by their more developed and conscious functions, the inferior functions were still required to counteract and provide balance to the dominant ones within the conscious too.

However, when the developed functions became too dominant an imbalance occurred with the inferior functions becoming submerged, but these submerged functions could still impact on the person in the form of strange moods, symptoms and mental disturbances such as neurosis. It was not until the 1940’s that Jung’s theory was developed into a more practical model which could be applied to identify personality types . It was the work and dedication of two women, Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myer who were motivated in their wish create a tool to help guide individuals towards careers which suited their personality.

The result of their work was the psychological instrument called the Myers Brigg Indicators ( MBTI’s). This test incorporated Jung’s pairs of opposing types that of introversion- extroversion, thinking –feeling and sensing -intuitive and additionally a fourth dimension that of judgment –perceiving which was introduced as an interpretation of Jung’s rational –irrational type. A self- reporting questionnaire once completed generates a score which determines where on each of the four scales the individuals preferred position is held.

Therefore there are sixteen possible variants of the four scales for each individual. For example an individual whose answers resulted in an ESTP type personality would have extroversion, sensing and thinking as their dominating preference or type. Whilst someone who was found to have an INTJ preference type would be a more of an intuitive introvert who loved logical thinking. This type assessment tool is applied in many fields now such as professional development, team building and executive coaching and counselling and it is now one of the most popular type indicators being used today.

Within counselling the MBTI is used to encourage the client to become more self-aware and to enable them to explore more deeply where they are in the world and it is very much a collaborative exercise between the client and the therapist. However it could be argued that it has little use in actually helping determine the therapeutic goals with the client. That is to say, therapeutic goals in counselling are varied and diverse and are totally unique to each and every client’s presenting issues. Therapeutic goals and the path to achieving them are also influenced by the theoretical framework in which the therapist is working.

For instance in simple terms, psychodynamic therapists will see the goal as uncovering the unconscious, behavioural therapists would focus more on resolving an emotional disturbance through the use of cognitive behavioural therapy , whilst the goal of the person centred therapist will be to increase self-esteem and develop greater openness to experience for the client. A Jungian therapeutic goal would focus on rebalancing the conscious and the unconscious aspects of the personality leading to greater integrity of the psyche.

When determining the therapeutic goal with the client it might be argued that the clients personality directly influences the issue or problem they wish to seek help with. That is to say, their own unique personality has to a degree shaped how they go about perceiving the world and the experiences they have had in it. For example, someone who appears to be quite introverted may find some experiences in their world much harder to cope with than someone who is more extroverted.

However, to take a comparative stance between how two individuals might perceive and experience the world is somewhat futile as within the counselling relationship the therapist is focused on acknowledging the experiences and perceptions unique to that client. One therapeutic goal which is universal across all approaches is getting the client to a point at which they can focus on themselves in the future. At this point, the application of Jung’s type theory might facilitate in the therapeutic process giving the client insight into the way they perceive their world.

By using the MBTI the client has the opportunity to explore and acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses and identify there types or preferences of behaviour in their personality. Such inner awareness could be said to propel them forwards in a more positive direction as knowing about their own preferred styles and strengths enables them to decide how and when to adapt, so as to match their behavioural style and communications and also to see more clearly their own true potential.

In Jungian terms the use of the MBTI would be to enable the client move towards the goal of life which he termed ‘individuation’ which is the process of coming to know, giving expression to and harmonizing various components of the psyche and fundamentally realising ones uniqueness. In conclusion, Carl Jung’s Type theory has contributed significantly to the understanding of personality by identifying and explaining certain universal patterns of preferences which differ between individuals depending on the inherent direction of their psychic energy whether focusing outward or inward and upon their particular view of reality.

The degree to which Jung’s type theory can be applied to determining therapeutic goals in counselling is debatable as personality does not in itself reveal the goals it reveals more the path down which the goals are achieved though achieving greater inner conscious awareness and acceptance of ones own personality can only benefit personal growth. .

REFERENCES Radford J, Govier E. ( 1987) A Textbook of Psychology. Sheldon Press Engler B, ( 1985). Personality Theories, An introduction. Houghton Mifflin Company. Frankland A, Sanders P. (2009) Next Steps in Counselling. PCCS Book Sharp D. (1987 ) Personality Types: Jung’s Model of Typology. Routledge Jung CG. (1976 ) Psychological Types. Routledge.


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