A couple of weeks ago I wrote a book review on Introverts in the Church, by Adam McHugh. It wasn’t a bad book, nor way it especially good. I might have liked to read it when I was 17 and wondering: why is it always such a struggle for me to be involved in these “fun” youth activities? Why aren’t they fun? As it is, I prefer reading accounts of Jungian psychology because he has some of the same truths but doesn’t clip them of their psychological occult weirdness. Of course, that makes them less Christian, and therefore in some ways less true. But it also takes greater account of the complexities of the human psyche, which is somewhat more true. Or at least more accurate to what Jung actually meant, which is important. Even outside of the pagan occult spirit quest stuff, there’s greater complexity in Jung’s account of the introvert/extrovert psychological structure.
If I understand it correctly, it goes something like this (the quick version): there are two kinds of directionality for psychic energy — inward or outward. Each person has a greater or lesser preference for each of these modes — not a preference in the sense of desire, as I prefer strawberry ice cream, but a preference built into the psyche that’s fairly stable through life; what the person’s most natural tendency will be — the preference for focusing psychic energy inward is introversion and the converse is extroversion. Using the non-preferred function is tiring; it’s much more tiring for an introvert to project energy outward than it is for him to direct it inward, so his resting state is introspective. The converse is true of the extrovert. In situations that call on the non-preferred function introverts become easily tired and extroverts easily bored.
There are four other functions that can be either introverted or extroverted, which stand in opposed pairs: Sensing/Intuition and Thinking/Feeling. Meyers & Briggs added Perceiving/Judging, though I’m not sure why. The first opposition is how we gather information, and the second is how we process it. I’m not sure about the third, but Fr Meletios Weber describes this as a head/heart opposition, within which we fallen humans tend to live too much in Judging, the head’s way of meeting new information. In that account our natural outlook may change when we start consciously exercising the heart’s ability to perceive without judging.
EDIT: I went and looked that P/J thing up, and it looks like it’s there to see which function is primary and which is auxiliary. P means the way we receive information is primary and the way we process it auxiliary, and J means the converse.
But getting back to Jung, we each have a strong and a weak psychological function at different ends of an opposition, so that if my strongest, most preferred function is Thinking, my weakest, “shadow” function will be Feeling. The same is true of Sensing and Intuition. The strongest function takes on the directionality of our stronger directionality, while the “shadow” function takes on it’s opposition. Therefore if my strongest function is Intuition and I’m of an extroverted temperament, then my use of intuition will be directed outward, and my use of sense will be directed inward. The “shadow” function is called that because it tends to mostly be unconscious and underdeveloped, which sometimes causes psychological problems if one tries to neglect or disown the shadow function entirely. The other pair stands similarly in opposition, but less strongly, and does not tend to create a shadow, but both work as auxiliary functions, somewhat developed but less highly preferred.
This is, as I understand it, useful to the individual person both because acknowledging the shadow can prevent various neuroses and help with the process of individuation, while knowing one’s preferred function can explain differences between how different people approach a situation, and because the person can come up with a way to work with, rather than against, their personal strengths and ways of using energy so as not to become discouraged and burnt out on the one hand, or bored and stagnant on the other. We are also then better equipped to sort out genuine disagreements from differences in temperament.