Does Type Get in the Way of Development?

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I have just attended the European Association for Psychological Type conference in Paris. The presentations I attended were stimulating and highlighted a need for a shift in how psychological type is traditionally presented—something I’ve been saying for a long time. About 50 percent of them focused on development, especially ‘vertical’ or transcendent development. One of the most talked about presentations was that of Steve Myers. His topic was “Can Psychological Type Be a Barrier to Individuation?” As I understand it, Individuation involves a growth process. Steve defines it on his website as "Individuation is a process that leads to a more mature, balanced, 'rounded' person."

Since writing the material on his website, he has further articulated what is involved in this growth process. Currently, Steve differentiates between Myers Briggs Theory and Psychological Type Theory as Jung meant it to be. He frequently quoted Jung’s writing on this topic so I want to share some of these with you.

[C]lassification is nothing but a childish parlour game…  My typology is… not in any sense to stick labels on people at first sight… [A]ny typological terminology superficially picked up… serves no other purpose than a totally useless desire to stick on labels.  C.G. Jung, Psychological Types, pp. xiv-xv 

The transcendent function… comes… from experiencing the conflict of opposites.  You can find a detailed exposition of this problem in my Psychological Types. C.G. Jung, 1939, Letters 1, p. 269 

Individuation is closely connected with the transcendent function, since this function creates individual lines of development, which could never be reached by keeping to the path prescribed by collective norms. C.G. Jung, Psychological Types, p. 449

The persona is always identical with a typical attitude dominated by a single psychological function, for example, by thinking, feeling or intuition.  This one-sidedness necessarily results in the relative repression of the other functions…  In consequence, the persona is an obstacle to the individual's development… C.G. Jung, Two Essays on Analytical Psychology, pp. 288-289

My understanding of Steve’s message is that when we focus the use of type on identification of one side of the dichotomies used in the MBTI® instrument we limit development. We become identified with those preferences and do not focus on holding the tension of the opposite side, which is what encourages development.

I have long said that the ‘functions’ of Sensing, iNuiting, Thinking, and Feeling are not types, but are instead processes. A process is an activity that we can engage in and use. It is not the driver of who we are, but the means to help us be who we are. An important aspect of who we are is the pattern of our personality that has been there from the beginning. I often say, ‘Patterns rule processes.’ We use the processes in service of the pattern, but more on that later.

As to Extraversion and Introversion, Steve provides another quote from Jung.

These contrary attitudes are in themselves no more than correlative mechanisms: a diastolic going out and seizing of the object and a systolic concentration and detachment of energy from the object seized. Every human being possesses both mechanisms as an expression of his natural life-rhythm…  A rhythmical alternation of both forms of psychic activity would perhaps correspond to the normal course of life. C.G. Jung, Psychological Types, p. 5

If you want to read more from Steve Myers, I suggest you go to his website, where he will start blogging soon. He is finishing his doctorate so has been focused on his research and hasn’t published what he shared at the conference yet. I always learn a lot from Steve.

So if an approach to type that uses the letters in the type code as if they are types thwarts growth, is there an approach to type that promotes it? Of course I think there is so stay tuned for the next post on the patterned nature of personality. Or sign up for the upcoming
In the meantime, please add your thoughts.


  1. Linda


    I am so pleased to have so much engagement in this discussion. My apologies for not responding sooner. Jet lag was much harder for me this time, then I was really behind! So here are a few comments to augment this discussion.

    Mark, I am glad you are continuing your work with development and archetypes. For our readers, I'd like to clarify that I don't believe it is CAPT's intention to over simplify. For one thing, the current MBTI® Certification programs are standardized to teach the basics no matter which provider is delivering them. CAPT is only one of these. Even when the programs weren't standarized and I had a license to deliver them, we still had to follow the basics. These basics came out of an early stage of development of the theory as well as an early stage of development of people's minds.

    I think the 'labeling' and growth inhibiting practices are, in part, an untindended consequence of following what the customer wants. When the customers are at an earlier stage of development,  they naturally tend to think in terms of polar opposites and are even fused with their 'preferences' for processing information. And they want something simple. For those of us who know that simple is a dangerous thing, we have to find the simplicity on the other side of the complexity. That is why I think starting with patterns helps. And that is one reason the four Temperaments or the four Interaction Styles make an excellent entree into type for the beginner. And even that is fraught with the same dangers of over simplification. To that end,it is my sincere wish that those of us who see the richness find ways to convey the information in useable ways that keep the doors open for growth.

    As a former provider of MBTI® Certification programs, I can say that it is difficult to convey the richness of type theory by starting with the dichotomies that were used to create the instrument. At this point in time there is so much in the public consciousness that is based on these, that even trying to entice people to learn the depth involved is challenging.

    I thank all of you for contributing your insights and support of this project. I'll post again on patterns very soon.

  2. Jack Landrum


    As always Dr. Berens, your insights and application of personality type is invaluable.  I see similar classification problems with people attempting to apply MBTI tools with Psychological Type theory.  This is indicative when people claiming to dominate with Ti or Ni are adamant they have no use of Fe or Se respectively.  The obvious problem is looking at Psychological Type theory in a forced choice manner.  As an ISTP type, I do use Fe.  I think Dr. Jung could have been more adamant that any Ti, (or Ni, Ne, etc.) dominant type will use their respective inferior functions, instead of being ambivalent by saying it is rare.  

  3. Sondra VanSant


    Linda, always very intriguing to follow your developmental ideas on type development. Thank you for your updates and ongoing work. From my own clinical as well as personal experience, discovering personal symbols is a significant key to developing our less conscious mental functions. Like my understanding of Jung, I believe clues to this discovery abound projections, dreams, imagination, and creative expression. Creating space and time to "live" with our symbols, including use of active imagination, makes room in our lives for those rare moments of transcendent function experiences. Some people liken these numinous moments to "divine grace" as our consciousness grows toward wholeness. With this increased consciousness, we can place this growth in the context of type development if we wish. This is part of what we work with in my CAPT training Using Psychological Type in Counseling and Psychotherapy. Very helpful also is the Step III of the MBTI that measures how effectively a person is using all 8 of Jung's functions as indicated by an individual's current behaviors and attitudes. Type development is fostered by confirming and/or addressing these behaviors. I do believe type development as part of the individuation process can be fostered with both conscious and unconscious tools. As Myers is reported to have said–life is one big laboratory!

  4. Michael Rositer


    With reference to extraversion and Introversion respect I like the cardiac metaphor and agree with Jung 'every human being possesses both mechanisms as an expression of his natural life-rhythm… A rhythmical alternation of both forms of psychic activity would perhaps correspond to the normal course of life'. This can suggest though some equality about the expression of the attitudes which I would challenge. Of course we manifest both aspects but we have a centre of gravity. As a 'classic' INTP my centre of gravity and energy generator is clearly in the inner world of ideas but one an idea has emerged that I think is of merit, I shift with ease and delight to the outside world of people and things to share my insight. Once that has been accomplished I return to home base.

  5. Mark Grandstaff


    Linda…Just finished presenting a seminar on Jung's typology as a Medium for Individuation.  My reading of Jung suggests something closer to Beebe's thinking on the topic (along with a few others) that the various conscious functions can be gateways to the more unconscious ones.  As these unconscious functions emerge and used in tandem with the more conscious ones the transcendent emerges.  Hence,  the process of individuation.   I have never felt comfortable with the way many users of type divorce Jung from the whole equation and use type as a labeling device.   It seems an avenue for "hobbyists"  to talk about something they learned in a CAPT publication or seminar.   (Spoken like a  true INTP)…. Mark

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