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A New Jungian Paradigm for the 21st Century

Henry L. Thompson, Ph.D.
(Georgia Association for Psychological Type newsletter, DEC 97)

As I review the type literature and listen to type practitioners, I am concerned that the predominant view in the type community of Jungian typology in general and the MBTI in particular is of a linear and static model. I understand how it could be easy to read Jung's work and come away with a perception that his typology is static. For example, when Jung uses the analogy of the four points of a compass or labels the ends of a cross with the four functions, it creates an image of a static system.

This is further exacerbated by his comments about type development. When he states that the superior function develops first followed by the auxiliary [and tertiary] and inferior functions, it gives one the impression that he is saying that type develops in a predetermined, linear sequence of its own accord over the life span of the individual.

Not everyone in the type community agrees with this mechanical, static model. Angelo Spoto in his book, Jung's Typology: A New Perspective, discusses what he calls aberrant types. In an aberrant type, the functional pair could be Sensing and iNtuiting or Thinking and Feeling, or both members of the functional pair could be of the same attitude, e.g., NeTe.

Mary Loomis and June Singer have also taken a less linear approach to typology that allows for a greater variety of types than the traditional MBTI model. Their approach allows for up to 32 different combinations of the function-attitudes. They developed the Singer-Loomis Inventory of Personality (SLIP) to identify these different "types."

My research for a new book, A Systems Model of Psychological Type, has convinced me, more than ever, that Jung was describing a nonlinear, dynamical system, not a static model of 16 types.

Most scientific historians agree that the three most important scientific contributions of the 20th Century have been the theories of relativity, quantum mechanics and chaos. These three theories continue to explain more and more of the different phenomena in the universe--to include personality. A commonality they all share is a systems framework.

During the past five years, these theories have begun to appear in the behavioral science literature, especially psychology, personality and psychotherapy. Personality, from a systems model, is viewed as a phase-space landscape covered with attractors, bifurcations and chaos. At the beginning of this decade, chaotic behavior was seen as abnormal and, consequently, unhealthy. Viewing personality development through the systems lens reveals that stability within a personality system results in ego defenses and other unhealthy behaviors, whereas chaotic conditions predispose the individual to adaptation and healthy change.

The new Jungian paradigm for the 21st century will incorporate concepts of living systems, chaos, complexity and quantum mechanics. We need to expand our current "type" vocabulary to include such concepts as strange attractors, dissipative structures, iteration, sensitive dependence on initial conditions and wormholes. In the process, our view of Jung's typology will change from a two-dimensional cross to a three-dimensional landscape! (Most of us have had an analogous experience while staring at a dimensional stereogram and all of a sudden a three-dimensional image jumps out at us.)

Those of us who want to stay on the cutting-edge of the study and understanding of personality will have to move our mindsets to a state of disequilibrium in order to evolve to a higher order of understanding. Some will find this to be a very disconcerting experience regardless of their perceiving preference!

(c) 1997 - 2006 Henry L. Thompson, Ph.D.

 

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