By Ryan Smith
Much has been written on the matter of Jung’s type, and while the INFJ assessment seems to be gaining traction, many professional typologists still believe Jung was INTJ. Simultaneously, Jung’s own self-assessment (as an ITP type with inferior Feeling) does not appear to have many supporters left.
Whatever type Jung was, however, it seems to me that: (1) A thorough discussion of Jung’s type and review of the evidence is lacking and (2) Jung’s personality presents us with a lot of “noise” from those aspects of his personality that do not pertain to type. (Indeed, as Jung himself said, the question of his personality was a tricky one to resolve.)
In this series of articles, I will attempt to discuss the matter of Jung’s type, handling not just the question of his type, but also these other areas of his personality, as well as the question of how Jung saw himself. Before we begin, however, it serves us well to note that we were not the first to identify Jung as INFJ. As far as we can tell, that honor belongs to Keirsey and son.
How Jung Saw Himself
The question of Jung’s self-assessment is an intriguing one. As is now familiar to most, Jung publicly identified his type as Introverted Thinking with Sensation (Ti-S-N-Fe) on one occasion and Introverted Thinking with Intuition (Ti-N-S-Fe) on another. Less well-known are a number of loose asides and partial self-identifications given by Jung elsewhere. Adding to our troubles, there is a somewhat strident myth in the Jungian community that Jung has somewhere identified himself as an Introverted Intuitive with Thinking (Ni-T-F-Se) type. But as we shall see, that interpretation owes more to wishful thinking than to anything Jung himself said.
Having reviewed a great deal of material, some of it unpublished, I have never found anything to suggest that Jung ever identified as anything but a Ti-dominant type. At the same time, however, it is nevertheless obvious that Jung – as with so much else in his life – was at pains to install opaque qualifiers and “secret outs” in his recorded statements about his own type. Since Jung was so cagey and disobliging, it is not enough to read this or that and then attempt to interpret it in isolation when seeking to understand how Jung saw himself. One must trace the broad contours of his thinking on the matter in order to understand both what he was saying and what he was attempting to hide.
We start at the beginning.
1915: EFs and ITs
Prior to coming up with the present-day scheme of typology as a system of four functions (F, T, S, N) and two orientations (E, I), Jung had collaborated with his colleague Hans Schmid-Guisan on a typology consisting of only two types: The Extroverted Feeler (EF) and Introverted Thinker (IT). As the two freely admit in The Question of Psychological Types, they based their rough typological schemes on their own psychologies: Schmid-Guisan was to be the EF and Jung the IT. These “original types” were created out of an opposition, formed between just two parties in an intimate microcosmos where it was not possible to see the full view. Of Schmid-Guisan’s type, John Beebe has said (and we agree) that he was an ENFP (Ne-Fi-Te-Si) type. However, like Jung, Schmid-Guisan’s personality seemed to possess more than its normal share of quirks, stemming from elements of the psyche “outside of type.” While certainly no intellectual bystander to Jung in their correspondence, the picture of Schmid-Guisan that emerges from those letters is that of a jovial, intensely caring and enthusiastic personality who lovingly put people at the center of his world. In the tightened duality of just these two personalities, it would therefore be easy for the more brooding and self-centered Jung to conclude that since he was “colder” than Schmid-Guisan, he must therefore have been his opposite.
Even before the existence of the Intuitive type, then, Jung had formed an impression of himself as a Thinking type. Since the EF/IT system suggested an oppositional scheme between the two types, it is also likely that Jung had not only formed an image of himself as a Thinking dominant type, but also as a type with inferior Feeling. Of course it is still possible that upon discovering the existence of the Intuitive type, Jung took a step back and re-evaluated his previous self-assessment from scratch. But while we cannot be sure, the evidence suggests that he probably did not do so. For example, as I have pointed out in my review of The Question of Psychological Types, much of the terminology that made sense in the EF/IT system of Jung and Schmid-Guisan is carried over into Psychological Types itself with little to no modification. The material pertaining to the old schema of two types (EF/IT) was imported into the new system where it tends to make less sense. It seems to me that just as Jung did not expend much critical thought on how the old material would fit into the new system, so he probably did not take care to seriously consider the possibility of he himself being anything but an IT (Ti-dominant) type – at least not until 1925.
What Happened in 1925?
In 1925, Jung gave his famous Seminar on Analytical Psychology, the contents of which were supposedly “secret knowledge.” In Jung’s own lifetime, to be allowed to read the minutes from that seminar required many hours of “Jungian analysis” as well as Jung’s personal permission.
In this seminar, Jung describes a series of complicated personal transformations, involving dreams, mythological considerations, and personal fantasies (so-called “active imaginings”), which Jung apparently regarded as real (since they were ostensibly messages and lessons sent to him through the Collective Unconscious). Into this highly personal and opaque mix, of which Jung himself says that he is not telling the participants of the seminar everything, Jung throws in some typological terms, which are for the most part applied very loosely. He does say, however, that (in his own opinion) he used to be an ISTP (Ti-S-N-Fe) type until some psychic transformation happened. Jung then continues this murky narrative for quite some time, until he reveals a chart saying that Intuition is now “superior.” This statement has been taken by theorists such as Beebe, Giannini, and others to mean that Jung now identified as an Ni type with auxiliary thinking. In my opinion, however, there are several problems with such an interpretation; for example, speaking of the chart Jung himself says that “it is very much better to leave the figures as they are, namely as events, experiences” (and in the very next lecture, he speaks of himself as an Introverted Thinking-dominant type with inferior Feeling again). Therefore, it is in my opinion dangerous to rely on the extraordinarily personal and murky Seminar of 1925 as the sole source of Jung’s self-assessment. I have my own opinion of what the 1925 lecture might mean too, of course, but my interpretation will make more sense if viewed alongside Jung’s other statements about his type. We set it aside for Part 2.
If Jung Had Known That He Had Misidentified Himself, Would He Have Said so in Interviews?
Let us say, for the sake of argument, that theorists like Beebe and Giannini are right and that Jung actually did change his self-assessment in 1925. If he had done so, would he have publicly admitted that he had had a change of heart? Or would he – for some reason or other – have continued to claim that he was a Ti type (even if that was not his true view)? Such questions are usually very hard to settle, but there may be a way for us to settle it by proxy, namely by examining the case of how Jung spoke of Alfred Adler.
In Psychological Types, Jung had said of Adler and Freud that:
“Freud would like to ensure the undisturbed flow of instinct towards its object; Adler would like to break the baleful spell of the object in order to save the ego from suffocating in its own defensive armour. Freud’s view is essentially extraverted, Adler’s introverted. The extraverted theory holds good for the extraverted type, the introverted theory for the introverted type.”
Now of course, one can argue that Jung is here only talking about their views and not their types, but most people (including Jungians themselves) took this statement (and others like it) to mean that Freud was an E type and Adler an I type.
Psychological Types was published in 1921, but in a private latter, dated 1941, Jung returns to the matter of Freud’s and Adler’s types:
“I discriminate between the ordinary ego-consciousness of the man and his creative personality. Very often there is a striking difference. Personally a creative man can be an introvert, but in his work he is an extravert, and vice versa. … Adler, whom I met as a young man, being of my age, gave me the impression of a neurotic introvert, in which case there is always the doubt as to the definite type. … Freud as well as Adler underwent a change in their personal type. …
… Adler, I suppose, was never a real introvert, therefore as soon as he had a certain success he began to develop an extraverted behavior. But in his creative work he had the outlook of an introvert. The power complex which both of them had showed in Freud’s personal attitude, where it belonged. In Adler’s case it became his theory, where it did not belong. This meant an injury to his creative aspect.”
(Bear in mind that this was a private letter, not meant for public circulation.) Here, even in spite of hedging his bets by “discriminat[ing] between the ordinary ego-consciousness of the man and his creative personality,” Jung admits that he now supposes that “Adler was never a real introvert.” No big problem, since every major theorist in the field of Jungian typology has had to revise and update their assessments, right? Well, perhaps Jung thought otherwise.
In a (public) interview given in 1955, Jung was asked about Freud’s and Adler’s types:
Interviewer: “You’re an introvert. … And Adler?”
Jung: “He is equally introverted.”
So even though Jung had come to the conclusion that Adler was an extrovert, and the interviewer is clearly asking Jung about Adler’s personal type (and not Adler’s “theoretical standpoint”), Jung still says that Adler is an introvert. He remains consistent with his previously printed and public views on the matter, even though his private letters reveal that he thought he had probably been wrong about Adler and that he was most likely “never a real introvert.” So, by extension, if Jung had changed his view of his own type, maybe he would not have said so in public interviews either.
That still leaves the case for Jung self-identifying as INJ rather wobbly, though. In the scholarship on Jungian typology, the majority of theorists have assessed Jung to be an Ni (INJ) type – an assessment that we agree with. However, we must be careful not to let our own wishful thinking exude a retroactive influence over the historical record. It may be tempting to “bend” the evidence to fit one’s preferred conclusion, but in all of the instances of Jung discussing his own type that we are aware of, he never identifies as anything but a Ti (ITP) type. Some type practitioners do not like the idea that Jung could have been wrong with regards to his own type, but as the man himself said “…it is often very difficult to find out whether a person belongs to one type or the other, especially in regard to oneself. In respect of one’s own personality one’s judgment is as a rule extraordinarily clouded.”
Conclusion to Part 1
- Jung had identified himself as an IT type prior to the formation of the present system of types and most likely carried his old self-identification uncritically over into the new system, causing him to identify as a Ti type.
- To our knowledge, at least, Jung has never publicly identified as anything but a Ti (ITP) type. Though he does present a chart in the “secret” Seminar of 1925, saying that Intuition is “superior,” there are several problems with simply taking this statement to mean that he now identified as an Ni (INJ) type (see above).
- On the other hand, the theorists who believe that the Seminar of 1925 constitutes proof that Jung had changed his self-assessment to INJ have the point going for them that, judging by Jung’s public statements on Adler’s type, Jung may not have wanted to admit to the public that he had changed his mind about his own type.
- However, in my opinion (and that of my co-admins) the account given in Seminar of 1925 is still pretty shaky, and need not even mean that Jung identified as INJ. There is another interpretation that makes just as much sense, which we shall see in the next part of this series.
 Jung, quoted in Bair: Jung (Little, Brown and Company 2003) p.640
 Jung: Psychological Types §91
 Jung: Letters vol. 1 (Princeton University Press 1973) p. 301
 Jung: C.G. Jung Speaking (Princeton University Press 1987) p. 257
 Jung: Psychological Types §91