Temperament

Edit, synopsis: I think that what I learned from the Jungian typologists that I would most insist on is that a introverted person’s strongest extroverted function is not simply their strongest function directed outward, but is distinct, though of course interrelated (apparently the proper term is “gestalt,” for the interactions between the functions). That’s the kind of complexity I’d rather writers not leave out, no matter how inconvenient it might be to include it.

I wrote my last post, on psychological types, because it’s difficult for me to keep track of everything that’s involved, so I had to write it out to see if it all went together. It seems to — I haven’t done any research on this stuff, but the typology seems plausible enough. There’s Jung — I suppose an introverted intuitive, going on his vision quest of his night sea journey, struggling toward individuation. You’ve got introverted and extroverted faculties of the human person.

I get from Mr McHugh that he’s a bit exasperated with explaining to people that being introverted does not mean he dislikes people. It simply means it takes more energy for him to be around them a lot. I get that. But the more I look into typology the more complex it is, so that it’s difficult to account for everything at one time, and I’m tired there as well. For instance, everyone has a dominant and secondary characteristic, and they alternate, receding so that two are conscious, two partly conscious, and four more or less unconscious. So if you’ve got an introverted thinking sort, then they have extroverted intuition as a secondary characteristic, followed by introverted sensation, and extroverted feeling. But they’ll tend to direct those i functions inward and the e functions outward, so that in considering their inner worlds they’re relying on thought with a bit of sensation, and in meeting the outer world they’re relying on intuition with a bit of feeling. I find this plausible enough. Say they’re that, and they’re trying to teach. So in planning and researching they’re using introverted thought — reflecting on how they learn, questioning the meaning of everything, explaining, mapping things out, trying to be as orderly, precise, and introspective as possible. Then they find themselves in a school, surrounded by young people. They shift into extroverted mode. But it’s an extroverted intuitive mode. MBTI says it looks like this:

Extraverted Intuition scans the external world to explore new ideas, new people, and emergent possibilities. The Extraverted Intuitive mind is imaginative, inventive, and innovative – seeing and describing ways things can be reshaped, altered, or improved. It naturally energizes people and engages action towards a vision of what could be . . . of future possibilities.

But they’re not very good at it — it’s not what they’ve been spending all their time and effort cultivating. It’s not what they’re comfortable or familiar with. It’s not quite as conscious as introverted thinking. They leave stuff half done and half said. They feel their way through stuff (that’s their other extroverted function), they become inarticulate or effusive or thinking out loud. Then the class leaves. They wonder what on earth just happened and what they could have done about it. “I wish they could have just read what I’ve written on this. It’s much clearer, more precise.”

I’m willing to invest a little in the plausibility of this account, because it provides for some of the complexities of preference that are a bit puzzling. Let’s say, for instance, I’m of the introverted thinking type (if you’ve read this far, you’ve probably figured that out; otherwise why would I be sitting here all day trying to figure out how all these various types go together, and then evaluate them based on my own experience?). So I sit here at my computer with my books and tea thinking introverted thoughts. and conserving psychic energy. But, according to the theory, my next strongest trait is extroverted intuition. The kind of function I’d be using in making stuff with people, or traveling, or teaching. So when I’m in a group and we’re all making art together, I’m using extroverted intuition to do it. When I’m sitting at home considering making art I’m using introverted thinking. But if I stay there being introverted, I mostly write essays, because I can, and that’s my preference anyway. Which is actually quite helpful, because I have observed it to be true that I make art with people, and I write by myself; especially in the case of the art. It would make all kinds of sense to say that I’m making art with extroverted intuition, because that’s what it’s like, all “what if I?” and “how about?” and “I wonder if it would work to…?” At the very least I have to think about the person I’m making it for — so that writing is intrapersonal; introverted, and art is interpersonal, and so long as I’m absent from a person I can hardly force myself to make anything, howsoever guilty I feel about it (and by theory I’d have an extroverted feeling function as well, but not very strongly). In an entire year in Alaska I only painted little paintings, and only because I was with people — they weren’t even painting, but they were there and that mattered. I’d wander around Syria with extroverted intuition, too…

Oh! Certainly! I like this account much more than anything I read in the church book, because it makes an account of the difference between using introverted and extroverted functions not only in terms of energy levels (it’d be tiring to be an artist, because I’d be using all extroverted functions; it’d be much less so to be an essayist). *ponders*

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2 thoughts on “Temperament

  1. Hi Molly, I enjoyed this post as an introverted thinking-type teacher. I also find myself limited in class by what I can express and wish my imagination could be better put to use in my lecture. And I feel so exhausted by my meager efforts besides: )

    How is AZ? What are you teaching?

    • Thanks for commenting!

      Tucson has its charms — I’m looking out over my Grandmother’s shining swimming pool to a rosebush and bougainvillea in full bloom while the sun shines steadily at about 70 degrees. But I do miss Holy Trinity and Santa Fe friends.

      I’m teaching middle school art at a charter school; it’s pretty hectic!

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