Introverted Thinking: Bah, Humbug!

While emailing a friend about the feeling function, I ran across some of Jung’s words about introverted thinkers in Volume 6 of his Collected Works, titled Psychological Types. Being an introverted thinker myself, I experienced some grim satisfaction in reading what I’m sure Jung didn’t intend to be funny, but which had me smiling wryly and wondering whether I should hang myself today or wait until after Christmas.

Here’s the passage:

[The introverted thinking type] tends to vanish behind a cloud of misunderstanding, which gets all the thicker the more he attempts to assume, by way of compensation and with the help of his inferior functions, an air of urbanity which contrasts glaringly with his real nature. Although he will shrink from no danger in building up his world of ideas, and never shrinks from thinking a thought because it might prove to be dangerous, subversive, heretical, or wounding to other people’s feelings, he is none the less beset by the greatest anxiety if he ever has to make it an objective reality. That goes against the grain. [. . .]

In the pursuit of his ideas he is generally stubborn, headstrong, and quite unamenable to influence. His suggestibility to personal influences is in strange contrast to this. He has only to be convinced of a person’s seeming innocuousness to lay himself open to the most undesirable elements. They seize hold of him from the unconscious. He lets himself be brutalized and exploited in the most ignominious way if only he can be left in peace to pursue his ideas. He simply does not see when he is being plundered behind his back and wronged in practice, for to him the relation to people and things is secondary and the objective evaluation of his product is something he remains unconscious of. Because he thinks out his problems to the limit, he complicates them and constantly gets entangled in his own scruples and misgivings. [. . .]

In his personal relations he is taciturn or else throws himself on people who cannot understand him, and for him this is one more proof of the abysmal stupidity of man. [. . .]

Lovely description, isn’t it? It gets better, but I won’t bore the reader. What interests me about this bit is that only a half hour before reading this passage, I updated my Facebook status to say that I am “wearying myself with principles.” Before that, I had a bout of focused sadness that began last night as I wrapped Christmas presents and has persisted until today. It is all too true that I am suggestible to personal influence, so much so that I have naively believed a few incredible things that have completely changed the course of my life and that of my family, and not in reality for the better. That my husband is also an intuitive thinker only exacerbates the problem, for we believe in principles, possibilities and, yes, magic. It’s not until we are “being plundered behind” our backs “and wronged in practice” that we realize with a shock how stupid we really are about the world as it is, and people as they are. I’m left “brutalized and exploited,” and then weep over my own depletion.

The good news is that only 16% of the population are intuitive thinkers (NT’s). That’s not enough to ruin the world if all 16% never transcend their basic personalities, but it is enough for a support group.

12 responses

  1. This is quite interesting … I haven’t read the IF yet, but what intrigued me is how little this applied to me, though on Myers-Briggs evaluations I test as a completely unbalanced INTJ … no shades of gray. This made me curious as to what it is in my nature that simultaneously makes me almost offensively pragmatic, which saves me from acting on principle to the exclusion of … well, reality, I guess.

  2. Eve,

    Quick question regarding psychological types:

    Is type innate at birth or is it grown into as one develops and is influenced by the environment; a different take on the old nature/nurture? Also, is it possible for one’s type to change, say due to trauma or extenuating circumstances- guess I’m implying unconscious adaptation/defense rather just waking up one day and saying, “I’m tired of being a whatever”?

    Good stuff, thanks.

    • Librarian, type is thought to be innate, and there is plenty of empirical evidence for that. However, since nobody exists in a pure vacuum, the environment also plays its part. I know, for instance, a man who has consistently tested as an INFP. He was raised by two strong Thinking Judgers, however. Their insistence that he get his life in order, learn to meet deadlines, and stop losing things resulted in a neurotic but oddly balanced individual who learned skills that coddled Feeling Perceivers probably would not learn until adulthood.

      To the second question I’ll reply “yes and no.” Yes, because we are theoretically meant to change and grow, manifesting the opposites rather than repressing them, becoming more balanced in personality and ultimately, as I said to Elaine, transcending type altogether. In that case we might be as Paul was, becoming “all things to all men.” As we go along our paths toward self-realization, it is nearly inevitable that we must swing from pole to pole in personality and in many other ways, and even watch ourselves doing so in a terrible Night Sea Journey, before finally coming into our selves. So, type will change as we go from one end of the spectrum to another.

      I would say that we will do this consciously sometimes, and also unconsciously; do it as an adaptive method as we grow, and also do it defensively as we encounter our shadowy opposite and seek to annihilate it. And, finally, we may in fact wake up one day and say “I’m tired of being a whatever” and try to become someone or something different.

  3. Yes, please post on the other types. I think I was ENFP or something like that. Though I think I was borderline E and I. If you have a link to Jung’s description of the other types, that would be interesting.

    • Scott, here is a starter article, with some links to sites that give more robust descriptions of the different types. I will be posting some of Jung’s ideas about NF’s though.

  4. Aha. I see myself here, but from another part of the quote:

    Because he thinks out his problems to the limit, he complicates them and constantly gets entangled in his own scruples and misgivings. [. . .]

    I see that this is what I have been doing: Thinking things way out to the limit and then trying to judge that the problem is out there in them or in here in me and ending up frustrated and confused by my “scruples and misgivings.” When the true answer is probably “both.” I am perfectly capable of holding two opposing truths in my mind–the problem comes when I try to hold them at the same time!

    I had just learned that I have Introverted Thinking, so thanks for the encouraging post. 😀

    • Elaine, an interesting sidenote to what you wrote about holding opposing truths is that in analytical psychology, a major aspect of individuation is the ability to hold opposites in perfect tension through what Jung believed was a fifth function, the Transcendent function. That is, in addition to Introversion/Extraversion, iNtuition/Sensing, Thinking/Feeling, and Perceiving/Judging, the fifth function would be the Transcendent, which would unite by going over, above, beyond, etc.

      The ideal, of course, is to finally end up as an XXXX in personality, theoretically speaking–to transcend personality by becoming perfectly balanced, holding internally the balance between extraversion and introversion, for instance–using each aspect as it is needed.

  5. Wow, I’m just nodding my head here. And I’m feeling like I’m part of a pretty sad lot.

    Where is that support group?

    And please continue on, I’m not even slightly bored.

  6. I have the N but not the T and it still resonated with me…given it’s all on a spectrum I suppose that makes sense.

    and you wouldn’t have bored me had you continued with the quote…I was getting into it.

    please don’t hang yourself… :-p

    • Oh, you should read the NF description, Monica. It’s even worse, in some ways. It too made me laugh perversely, for I have actually tested as an INXJ for years now and so have the best and worst of both the T and the F function.

      I should have added at the end of this blog “Thank God that we can transcend temperament type!” Otherwise I’d be shopping for rope at Lowe’s. ;o)

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