Personality Theories 2

This is the second part of the Personality Theories that I am discussing on My Zen Path. I am discussing Carl Jung and his theories in this part, for I think his contribution to understanding the personality is quite important.

Carl Jung

Carl Jung (Via Wikimedia Commons - Public domain)
Carl Jung (Via Wikimedia Commons – Public domain)

Carl Jung (1875-1961) was an early followers of Freud because of their shared interest in the unconscious. In fact, Freud initially referred to him lovingly as his adopted son. As the story goes, when they first met in Vienna in 1907, Freud cancelled all his appointments and they talked for 13 hours straight. They had close association for the first few years but later Jung moved away from Freud’s theories and  proposed his own.

Carl Jung studied medicine and he joined the Burghoeltzli Mental Hospital in Zürich, Switzerland under Eugene Bleuler, an expert on (and the one who named) schizophrenia. Jung travelled widely in Africa, America and India after world war I and this exposure to diverse cultures and in-depth knowledge of mythology, religion, and philosophy had influence on his theories such as collective subconscious.

Jung’s theory divides the psyche into three parts: The first part is ego that Jung identifies with the conscious mind. The second part is the personal unconscious, which includes anything which is not presently conscious, but can be. The personal unconscious is like most people’s understanding of the unconscious in that it includes both memories that are easily brought to mind and those that have been suppressed for some reason. It does not include instincts as Freud had suggested.

The third part is the collective (or trans-personal) unconscious. This is his most original and controversial contribution to personality theory. This could be referred to as our psychic inheritance. It is the reservoir of our experiences as a species, a kind of knowledge we are all born with. It comprises of latent memories from our ancestral and evolutionary past. Yet we can never be directly conscious of it. It influences all of our experiences and behaviours, most especially the emotional ones, but we only know about it indirectly, by looking at those influences.


Jung considered individuation, a psychological process of integrating the opposites including the conscious with the unconscious while still maintaining their relative autonomy, necessary for a person to become whole. Besides achieving physical and mental health, people who have advanced towards individuation tend to be harmonious, mature and responsible. They embody humane values such as freedom and justice and have a good understanding about the workings of human nature and the universe. In other words,

“Individuation means becoming a single, homogeneous being, and, in so far as ‘individuality’ embraces our innermost, last, and incomparable uniqueness, it also implies becoming one’s own self. We could therefore translate individuation as… ‘self-realization.’”

~ Carl Jung

You can see that Jung’s idea of self-realization is quite close to Maslow’s self-actualization.


This is yet another Jungian idea. The contents of the collective unconscious are called archetypes. An archetype is an unlearned tendency to experience things in a certain way. The archetype has no form of its own, but it acts as an organizing principle on the things we see or do.

This can be explained with one archetype that Jung elaborated: mother archetype.  All of our ancestors had mothers. We would never have survived without our connection with a nurturing-one (usually mother) during our times as helpless infants. We come into this world ready to want mother, to seek her, to recognize her, to deal with her. So the mother archetype is our built-in ability to recognize a certain relationship, that of ‘mothering’. Jung says that this is rather abstract, and we are likely to project the archetype out into the world and onto a particular person, usually our own mothers.

There are other archetypes that Jung described, such as – Mana, The Shadow, Father, Hero etc . There are other Jungian concepts such as The persona (our public image), Anima (female aspect) and Animus (male aspect), Synchronicity (events not linked as cause & effect, yet related meaningfully) and so on. It would be impossible to discuss them even briefly here, so I would stick to the ones I find relevant from the perspective of understanding personality. If you’re curious, you can pick up any good book on personality theories to learn more about Jung’s other ideas.

Introversion and Extroversion

In my opinion, this is one of the most significant contributions from Carl Jung. He was one of the first few people to define introversion and extroversion in a psychological context. Jungian introversion and extroversion are quite different from the modern idea of introversion and extroversion. Modern theories often stay true to behaviourist means of describing such a trait (sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness etc.), whereas Jungian introversion and extroversion idea is expressed as a perspective: introverts interpret the world subjectively, whereas extroverts interpret the world objectively.

Jung developed this personality typology that has become so popular that some people don’t even know his other work.  This classic dimension of introversion-extroversion (also extraversion) is represented in almost all personality assessments and it is an important aspect of personality. Introverts are people who prefer their internal world of thoughts, feelings, fantasies, dreams, and so on, while extroverts prefer the external world of things and people and activities.

Introversion and extroversion are often confused with ideas like shyness and sociability, partially because introverts tend to be shy and extroverts tend to be sociable. But Jung intended for them to refer more to whether the one (or his/her ego) is more often faced toward the persona and outer reality (extrovert), or toward the collective unconscious and its archetypes (introvert). In that sense, the introvert is somewhat more mature than the extrovert. Most cultures, however, value the extroverts much more.

Recently I had a conversation with a psychology teacher with masters degree in psychology, but I was quite shocked to see how much she misunderstood introversion-extroversion. This has been researched, debated extensively by personality psychologist (as you’d recall from Dr Brian Little’s talk) and I am hoping to write one article discussing introversion-extroversion in details with reference to older psychology theories as well as more contemporary studies in this field.


This is yet another important contribution by Carl Jung to the personality theories.  He identified four basic functions, that are our preferred ways of dealing with the world, inner as well as outer. These are the ways we are comfortable with and good at. Jung suggested four basic ways, or functions: Thinking, Feeling, Sensing, and Intuiting. These functions are paired in opposite, as in: Thinking-Feeling and Intuiting-Sensing as illustrated in the diagram below. These functions are also known as the Jungian compass of ego-functions. Let’s look at them briefly.

Carl Jung: 4 Functions
Carl Jung: 4 Functions
  1. Thinking –  Thinking essentially is analyzing and evaluating information or ideas rationally, logically. Jung called this a rational function, meaning that it involves decision-making or judging, rather than simple intake of information.
  2. Feeling – Similar to thinking, feeling is a matter of evaluating information, however by weighing one’s overall, emotional response. Jung calls it rational, obviously not in the usual sense of the word.
  3. Sensing –  Sensing is getting the information by means of sensory organs. A sensing person is good at looking and listening and generally getting to know the world. A sensing person tends to prefer the facts & data more. Jung called this one of the irrational functions, meaning that it involved perception rather than judging of information.
  4. Intuiting –  Intuiting is a kind of perception that works outside of the usual conscious processes. It is irrational or perceptual, like sensing, but comes from the complex integration of large amounts of information, rather than simple seeing or hearing. An intuitive person tends to prefer interconnections and interrelations of facts, events and can conceive their patterns. Jung said it was like seeing around corners.

Mother and daughter duo, Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers found Jung’s types and functions quite useful in understanding personalities and they went on to develop one of the most popular tests called Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) which is used extensively these days for career guidance, organizational development and talent management. MBTI not only proves useful for the career, but it is also immensely useful in getting deep insights about yourself. I had written an article about MBTI earlier on My Zen Path.

MBTI included an additional dimension Judging-Perceiving to Jung’s functions.  Myers and Briggs included this one in order to help determine which of a person’s functions is dominant. I will cover this in more details when I write about the personality assessments.

Influences & Criticism

I think Carl Jung’s work is quite important and relevant even today – especially his insights about introversion-extroversion and other ego-functions. It is also significantly indicated by the popularity of MBTI and its contemporary relevance. Moreover, Jung’s exploration and experiences included knowledge, myths from various cultures and he didn’t shy away from spiritualism or mysticism. Carl Jung has influenced many people from diverse walks of  life through his work. Some of these names include Joseph Campbell (The Hero’s Journey based on Jung’s hero archetype) and George Lucas (Star Wars, using several Jungian archetypes).

Psychologists Hans Eysenck studied Jung’s introversion-extroversion and found biological basis for introversion-extroversion suggesting the link between Cerebral Cortex & ARAS that is more aroused in introverts. Another psychologist Raymond Cattell has built upon Jung’s work and proposed one of the most scientifically sound 16PF Trait Theory.

I am often amused to see the deep insights about human mind in his writings, and there are plenty of them. Besides the one used on the featured image, here are some of his other quotes –

“There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own Soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.”

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light of meaning in the darkness of mere being.”

~ Carl Jung

Jung has also been criticized severely by scientists, including many psychologists. In fact, Freud’s biographer Ernest Jones says that Jung “descended into a pseudo-philosophy out of which he never emerged”.  I think this is a rather harsh statement, but one also needs to remember that Jung indeed wrote about many ideas beyond his scientific work on psychology. He postulated an unconscious, where things are not easily available to the empirical eye. Moreover, he also postulated a collective unconscious that never has been and never will be conscious. He even talked about the mystical interconnectedness of synchronicity.

Amidst all these differing opinions, I believe that Jung’s contribution is more like a foundation for many of the personality theories that were built on his theory in the later years.  His deep insights about human mind, psyche are invaluable. Moreover, whether it is MBTI, NEO-PI or 16PF, they all significantly draw from Jung’s work on personality and hence, I thought it was important to discuss some of his relevant theories here in details.

If you are really keen, you can watch these two informative videos on YouTube discussing Carl Jung’s theories: Carl Jung – The Psyche, Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious and Carl Jung – Individuation, the Persona, the Shadow, and the Self. There is also an excellent documentary that includes some of his own talks: The World Within – C.G. Jung in His Own Words.  And of course, there are books written by Carl Jung himself that you can refer to. I hope all this would be useful for someone with serious interest in personality theories.


  1. Theories Of Personality by Schultz and Schultz
  2. Personality Theories by Dr. C. George Boeree – Useful e-book for important personality theories
  3. Carl Jung from Wikipedia
  4. Carl Jung from Simply Psychology

About the featured image:

The featured image for this article is a free wallpaper from QuoteFancy and it features one of my favourite quotes by Carl Jung that goes so well with the soul of My Zen Path: The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are. David Marcu has captured this beautiful photo and I am using this free wallpaper here with gratitude.

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