In Jung’s last work on the theory of psychological types, published posthumously, he introduced the topic by writing:
“A sane and normal society is one in which people habitually disagree” (Jung 1964, p. 46).
Jung didn’t say (here) why individual disagreements are important to society, but the reasons are evident from many of his writings from 1914 onwards, when he started formulating his theories about “the process of becoming” (Jung 1914, p. 183).
Constructive disagreement is a vital part of Jung’s process of individual and cultural development and it reduces conflict in societal or international relations. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it is a natural corollary of Jung’s theories of individuation and collective compensation. I’ll start by explaining these aspects of Jung’s theories, and then conclude with some practical guidelines on what it means to disagree constructively.
This video is an academic, masters-level presentation that I was invited to make at a university conference. The full paper has been published in the Journal for Behavioural Sciences. On the page below, I provide a non-academic overview and discuss one of its practical implications.
Jung’s theories are sometimes criticised for being based on his experiences with mentally ill people. Whilst that is true to some extent, only 1/3rd of his Collected Works are concerned with mental illness. He was able to spend much of his life studying ‘normal’ applications of psychology, which interested him, because he was financially independent (having married a very rich woman). And one of the books that Jung published, Psychological Types, became the basis for the most popular personality questionnaire in use today – the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®.
Myers Briggs theory is very popular. Millions of people every year discover their personality type, using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® or one of a wide range of alternative questionnaires. Often the argument goes that, if you can discover your preferences, you can play to your strengths and develop your individuality.
However, the creator of the theory (C.G. Jung) argued that knowing or using your preferences can lead you in one of two directions – one being cultured, the other barbaric. His view receives support from a perhaps surprising source – the Buddha.
Myers Briggs theory is based on four psychological functions – Sensing, iNtuition, Thinking, and Feeling. They are used to perceive facts or possibilities, and make decisions using objective logic or subjective values. (The other letters of the Myers Briggs code – E, I, J and P – describe how those functions are used.)
Isabel Briggs Myers derived her theory from Psychological Types by C.G. Jung (Briggs Myers 1980, p. xvii). However, Jung’s book describes five psychological functions. The fifth, which he called the “transcendent function” (Jung 1921, p. 480), was the most important (Jung 1935). He also produced a paper on the transcendent function five years before publishing Psychological Types (Jung 1916/1957).