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Extroversion/Introversion (Analytical Psychology)


Extroversion and introversion are, for Carl Gustav Jung, two typical attitudes of the personality. These terms describe and distinguish two directions of energy within consciousness that attract the individual toward, on the one hand, the external world and its objects, and on the other hand, the internal world and its images. This typological distinction is to be understood as a function of the unconscious dynamics particular to each person. It is not intended to group together specific and superficial traits of individuals in a characterological way.

The terms extroversion and introversion were first used in 1913 at the Fourth International Congress of Psychoanalysis in Munich, the occasion of the last meeting between Sigmund Freud and Jung and of their irrevocable rupture. At the time, the terms corresponded to personal concerns: At issue, for Jung, was understanding the conflicts dividing the psychoanalytic movement. This was the thrust of his lecture entitled "The Question of the Psychological Types," which he concluded by opposing Alfred Adler's theory, which he termed introverted, to Freud's theory, supposedly extroverted, in that the one was centered around a subjective wish (for power), while the other was centered around a sexual quest (for the object). But, beyond this contrast, the importance that Jung attached to the typology illustrates one of his main intellectual choices: the relativization of all theories, including his own.

Extroversion and introversion coexisted in each person, according to Jung, but in different modes. In the normal subject, both were available to consciousness and came into play in alternation to meet the dual necessities of internal adaptation (the unconscious) and external adaptation (outer reality). Typewhether extroverted or introvertedwas defined by the relative predominance of one or the other of the two attitudes in the realm of consciousness, the other attitude being partially relegated to the unconscious, where it acted in a compensatory unconscious mode. Finally, in pathological personalities, a single attitude predominated systematically and chronically; the opposing attitude was inaccessible to consciousness, and the compensatory role of the unconscious was manifested only in the form of symptoms.

Extroversion and introversion are in keeping with Jung's conception of, and practical approach to, the unconscious and with Jungian practices. In this perspective, the unconscious is not solely pathogenic, but also has the potential to create balance, in particular though its compensatory role: it can bring into conscious awareness thoughts, tendencies, and impulses that consciousness neglects or rejects. Dreams, symbols, and parapraxesalso in addition to symptomsserve as vectors of these unconscious compensations.

Extroversion and introversion cannot be conceived without four functions that are their modes of expression: thought, feeling, intuition, and sensation. It is important not to confuse a particular feeling, thought, sensation, or intuition with the function that mobilizes it. The former are contents of different values, while the latter is an operating system that makes it possible to utilize the corresponding content. Jung situates these four functions in systems of oppositions. He especially emphasizes the dynamic relation between the privileged function, which partakes of the power of consciousness, and the inferior function, which, by virtue of the fact that it is relegated to the unconscious, is less differentiated, but also contains a strong potential for change. The integration of this inferior function into consciousness is one of the paths to individuation.

Among criticisms of these Jungian views, the most vehement are directed less at the categories of extroversion and introversion than at the functions, their division into rational-irrational pairs, their number, and the nature of their opposition.

Admittedly, the typology of attitudes proposed by Jung and his theory of the functions could be further refined, but, far from having been conceived after the fashion of a personality test, they provide the stimulus for conceptualizing and dealing with the workings of the psyche as a system that is structurally complex, dynamic, and ever-evolving.

Marie-Laure Grivet-Shillito

See also: Jung, Carl Gustav; Midlife crisis; Psychological types (analytical psychology).


Hillman, James. (1971). The Feeling Function, in Lectures on Jung's Typology. Zürich: Spring.

Jung, Carl Gustav. (1921). Psychological Types. Collected Works, 6. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Samuels, Andrew. (1985). Jung and the Post-Jungians. London and Boston: Routledge.

Franz, Marie-Louise von. (1971). The Inferior Function, in Lectures on Jung's Typology. Zürich: Spring.

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