Jung on the J & P Attitudes and the Jungian Center’s Recurring Dilemma

I call the two preceding types [T & F] rational or judging types because they are characterized by the supremacy of the reasoning and judging functions. It is a general distinguishing mark of both types that their life is, to a great extent, subordinated to rational judgment. …  

                                                                                                Jung (1921)[1]


… the functions which are not rational, not logical, and not discriminating of evaluating, [are]… sensation and intuition. These two are by their very nature opposed to the rational functions. When we think, it is in order to judge or reach a conclusion, and when we feel it is in order to attach a proper value to something. Sensation and intuition, on the other hand, are perceptive functions—they make us aware of what is happening, but do not interpret or evaluate it. They do not proceed selectively, according to principles, but are simply receptive to what happens. But “what happens” is essentially irrational…. Irrationality is a vice where thinking and feeling are called for, rationality is a vice where sensation and intuition should be trusted.

                                                                                                Jung (1921)[2]


Although the intuitive type has little inclination to make a moral problem of perception, since a strengthening of the judging function is required for this, only a slight differentiation of judgment is sufficient to shift intuitive perception from the purely aesthetic into the moral sphere…. The pure intuitive who represses his judgment, or whose judgment is held in thrall by his perceptive faculties, never faces this question [of what his/her task is] squarely, since his only problem is the “know-how” of perception. He finds the moral problem unintelligible or even absurd,… his moral effects become one-sided; he makes himself and his life symbolic—adapted, it is true, to the inner and eternal meaning of events, but unadapted to present-day reality….

                                                                                                Jung (1921)[3]


The two types just described [Introverted Intuition and Introverted Sensation] are… mostly underestimated, or at least misunderstood. To the extent that they do not understand themselves—because they very largely lack judgment—they are also powerless to understand why they are so constantly underestimated by the public… From an extraverted and rationalistic standpoint, these types are indeed the most useless of men… 

                                                                                                Jung (1921)[4]


Psychological Types [was] published in German in 1921. This was an early time in his [Jung’s] theorizing, a time in which he did not even give a definition of an archetype in his “Definitions” chapter. He was viewing the types as mainly cognitive patterns in consciousness, though he also acknowledged that they existed first in the unconscious as innate a priori patterns. However, because he left this part of his work unfinished, he never systematically developed the types as archetypes,…   

                                                                                                John Giannini (2004)[5]


            There is a fundamental opposition between the two attitudes. In order to come to a conclusion, people use the judging attitude and have to shut off perception for the time being. All the evidence is in, and anything more is irrelevant and immaterial. The time has come to arrive at a verdict. Conversely, in the perceptive attitude people shut off judgment. Not all the evidence is in; new developments will occur. It is much too soon to do anything irrevocable.

                                                                                                Isabel Briggs Myers (1980)[6]



            As its name implies, the Jungian Center for the Spiritual Sciences is rooted in the philosophy and psychology of C.G. Jung, and we draw on Jung’s wisdom in running the Center. This includes employing Jung’s system of personality types,[7] and this blog essay provides an illustration of how we do this when we confront a recurring dilemma. In this essay we will first discuss Jung’s type theory, then we will focus on the two attitudes—Judging and Perceiving—that are part of this theory, and finally, we will relate these attitudes to a perennial problem we have in operating the Jungian Center.


Jung on Type


            Jung developed his theory of different personalities out of his “need to define the ways in which my outlook different from Freud’s and Adler’s.”[8] This was early in his career as a psychiatrist, and came at a time of great inner turmoil, when Jung had split from Freud and was depressed, anxious and working through a mid-life crisis.[9]

            Jung recognized that he and Freud had basically opposite orientations to life: Freud was extraverted—his energy ran outward, to external objects and people—while Jung was introverted—his energy was focused inwardly, on his inner life and visions.[10] These two—Extraversion and Introversion—became the initial components of Jung’s type theory and they relate to an individual’s innate preference for handling psychic energy.[11] In people who are Extraverts psychic energy tends to flow out to the external world, showing up as interest in outer reality. Being innate, this preference can appear early in life; even babies six months old will demonstrate their Extraversion in their interest in other people, their engagement with toys and activities in their environment. Extraverts tend to be sociable, outgoing and concerned to be “with it,” in terms of current events, cultural fads and fashions and the latest “new, new thing.”[12] By contrast, Introverts are more attuned to the inner life. Their psychic energy tends to flow inward, and they enjoy solitude and privacy. When presented with the opportunity to attend a party, Extraverts will be enthusiastic, while Introverts will be less so. If both types go to the party, the Extravert will come home energized from all the contacts with others, while the Introvert will come home tired from having to relate to all the people. The young Introvert will be content to play alone, perhaps with imaginary friends (especially if he or she is an Intuitive).[13]

            Which brings us to the second component of Jung’s type theory: the 4 “functions.” These are features of the personality which are either “rational”—Jung’s term for our capacity for Thinking and Feeling[14]—“rational,” in that they can be explained, or “irrational”—Intuition and Sensation—“irrational,” in that they cannot be explained through the use of reason.

            The rational functions, Thinking and Feeling, refer to how we make decisions. Thinking types prefer logic and reason and stress objectivity, while Feeling types prefer to use their feelings and values, with more of a subjective or personal focus.[15] The irrational functions, Intuition and Sensation, relate to how we gain awareness or information about the world. Sensates use their senses, while Intuitives use something that circumvents the senses, their intuition.[16]

            As I noted above, Intuitive types tend to be imaginative and they often know things without knowing how they know (hence the “irrational” nature of this type). While this can be very efficient, it can bring a young person to grief, since our school systems are run by Sensate types, who know what they know through the use of their senses, in step-by-step linear learning processes. The intuitive child, called upon by the teacher to go to the board and show how he got the answer to the math problem, has no idea how he got it. The teacher then charges him with copying the answer from a friend! How many times, in Jungian Center classes, have I related this example and have had students nod in recognition!

            A final component of type theory is “attitude.” Jung associated the rational functions with judging, and the irrational with perceiving. In his Psychological Types Jung makes passing references[17] to judging and perceiving but he never goes into detail about this element of his theory. As the opening quote from John Giannini notes, Jung did not finish his work with typology, nor was he systematic about developing the types.[18] That systematizing work got picked up and carried further—especially in relation to the Judging/Perceiving difference—by a mother-daughter team in the 1950’s, when Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers created the “Myers-Briggs Type Instrument.”[19] We will rely on their elaboration of Jung’s idea of attitude in what follows.


The J & P Attitudes


            By “attitude” Briggs and Myers refer to differing methods of dealing with the world. Judging types tend to use judgment in responding to life,[20] while Perceivers tend to focus on taking in more and more information. J types tend to prefer closure when facing decision-making; they like to get things settled and agreed upon. Perceivers, by contrast, like to keep their options open and they tend to resist closure. As noted in the opening quote, when confronted with the need to make a decision, Js will go for it, shut off perception and make a choice. Ps resist, recognizing that “not all the evidence is in; new developments will occur.”[21] They try to hold off choosing, or, in the immortal words of that great American philosopher, Yogi Berra, “they get to the fork in the road, and they take it.”[22] People who have an especially strong preference for Perception will then stand there looking for the knife and spoon as well.

            As Jung noted, Judging types tend to like order;[23] they are organized and work well with timelines, deadlines and schedules. They show up on time and fit well into American society, with its strong Judging preference for decisive leaders and efficient organization. As I noted in the earlier blog essay “What is America’s Shadow?”[24] the vast majority of Americans are Js.

            Perceptives are less likely to order their lives. Myers says that Ps “just live”[25] their lives. They tend not to be very organized and when I was once asked how Ps appear, I replied “Late.” They often arrive late to activities and may find it hard to work within timetables or schedules. Strong Ps would not make good train conductors.

            The key to successful living, Myers notes, is knowing your type and being able to access the other attitude “when it is really needed.”[26] Which brings us to the recurring dilemma of the Jungian Center.            


Our Recurring Dilemma


            The majority of Americans type as ESTJs, i.e. as Extraverts, Sensates, Thinking, Judgers.[27] Our culture puts a premium on being outgoing and sociable, practical and grounded, in touch with the senses, logical, rational and objective, organized and decisive. We like our leaders to be able to make decisions fast and firmly. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama—Presidents who prefer Perception—got criticized for their inability to be decisive; their style was much more deliberate and perceptive than the American electorate appreciates.

            Jung was a strong Introvert, in a culture (Switzerland) that was and is strongly Introverted.[28] Given our Jungian orientation, the Jungian Center attracts people like Jung, i.e. Introverts, people interested in the inner life. More than just introversion, we attract people who are INFPs[29]—the “odd man out” in our ESTJ culture. It is not unusual for students at the Center, and our distance-learning students as well, to speak of the Center as a “haven” or “home,” since INFPs—so often misunderstood by most people in our culture–have commonly grown up lacking family, teachers and peers who recognize type or appreciate what type differences mean. To find a place and a group of people who not only recognize but share one’s type preferences can be a very positive, life-affirming experience!

            In terms of the Jungian Center, having lots of INFP participants has meant that we have had to be quite flexible about class start times, as Ps tend to find it hard to come to events on time. We have also had to expect late registrations for classes, with some strong Perceptives even forgetting altogether when the first class meeting was!

            Normally we can accommodate the disorganized style of strong Perceptives. We refrain from beginning class sessions punctually; we schedule make-up sessions for those who forgot when the course was to begin. We try to cut our Perceptive faculty members slack when they lack syllabi or fail to submit course advertisements within the time deadlines of the local media. But there is one area that presents us with a conundrum in dealing with the strong Perceptives in our community: the course or event that would bring a teacher or presenter from a long distance.

            We are often approached by people that either find us via our Web site or hear about us through word of mouth with an interest in offering a course or workshop at the Center. With our location in rural Vermont, where there is a limited array of learning opportunities, we jump at these chances to expand our curriculum. But I have found this situation often presents frustration. Why?

            In so many of these cases I have communicated with the prospective teacher, gotten his or her course description, paid for ads in the local media, talked up the course in Psychology Club and our monthly newsletters, only to find students unable to choose. As I noted above, Perceptive types get to the fork in the road and take it: they find it hard to choose, to foreclose options. In several instances I have gone so far as to call students who expressed interest in the course, asking for a decision—Aye or nay?—only to get equivocation.

            The result? Repeatedly I have had to get back to the prospective instructor, apologetically, and cancel: We cannot in good conscience bring someone hundreds or thousands of miles, for only 1 or 2 students! This has led me to wonder sometimes if the Perceptives among our community understand the impact of their reluctance to foreclose options. Not only do they foreclose the learning opportunity for themselves, they do so for all the other students who wanted to take the course.

            Jung noted how strong Perceptives (especially Intuitive Perceptives whose Judging is deep in the unconscious)[30] can fail to recognize the moral implications of their type. With a lack of adaptation to present-day reality, as Jung put it,[31] strong INTPs and INFPs often find it hard to deal with the world around them, and the idea that other people might be frustrated or harmed by their indecisiveness would likely astonish them. As Jung said, NPs can  “…find the moral problem unintelligible or even absurd,…”.[32]

            At this point, in the interests of full disclosure, I should note that I type a very strong J. Since establishing the Jungian Center in 2005 I have had to develop patience in dealing with Perceptives, and usually I can manage to adapt and work with my perceptive students and fellow faculty. But it is here that I find myself lapsing into judgment: We would have so much richer a curriculum, and be able to offer our students many more learning opportunities, if the Perceptives in our community recognized their moral obligation to decide if they are going to take the special class or not.

            At the moment, we are facing a situation similar to the previous instances where I have had to cancel a long-distance instructor’s class, but this time there are far more people—and their lives and schedules—involved. We are hoping to run a conference, “Preparing for the Great Attunement,” on November 9-11, 2012.[33] If the enrollment process runs true to form, many Perceptives will think they can register for it on November 5th or 7th, even the 8th. But this is not so: The venue is off-site, at a motel that must have 30 days’ prior notice if the conference will run or not. Therefore, if, by October 9th, we don’t have sufficient registrants to make the event viable, I will have to cancel it. Sixteen instructors will have to be informed—all of whom are busy people, all of whom carved out time in their schedules for this weekend. Dozens of Center volunteers will have, in essence, expended many hours of unpaid labor, for naught. I most sincerely hope that the Perceptives in our Jungian community appreciate the moral issue here, and recognize the significance of our October 9th deadline.

            If you are contemplating registering for our upcoming conference, please do it NOW! We don’t want to have to cancel it.




Black, Stephen (1977), “The Stephen Black Interviews,” Jung Speaking, eds. William McGuire & R.F.C. Hull. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Giannini, John (2004), Compass of the Soul. Gainesville FL: Center for the Applications of Psychological Type.

Jung, C.G. (1971), “Psychological Types,” Collected Works, 6. Princeton: Princeton University Press

________ (1965), Memories, Dreams, Reflections. New York: Vintage Books.

Keirsey, David (1998), Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence. Del Mar CA: Prometheus Nemesis Books.

________ & Marilyn Bates (1984), Please Understand Me. Del Mar CA: Prometheus Nemesis Books.

Kroeger, Otto & Janet Thuesen (1988). New York: Dell.

Myers, Isabel Briggs (1980), Gifts Differing. Palo Alto CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.

von Franz, Marie-Louise & James Hillman (1971), Jung’s Typology. Dallas TX: Spring Publications







[1] Collected Works 6, ¶601. Hereafter Collected Works will be abbreviated CW.

[2] Ibid., ¶953.

[3] Ibid., ¶662.

[4] Ibid., ¶665.

[5] Giannini (2004), 146.

[6] Myers (1980), 8-9.

[7] CW 6 is the main source for Jung’s own thoughts on type. For more sources illustrating how his ideas have been developed, extended and applied by others, cf. Giannini (2004), Myers (1980), Keirsey & Bates (1984), Keirsey (1998), Kroeger & Thuesen (1988), and von Franz & Hillman (1971). 

[8] Jung (1965), 207.

[9] Giannini (2004), 29.

[10] Black (1977), 256. This is Jung’s own statement about himself, quoted in a meeting with Stephen Black.

[11] CW 6, ¶710.

[12] “The New, New Thing” is the title of a book about Silicon Valley by Michael Lewis (Penguin Books, New York, 2000).

[13] CW 6, ¶769.

[14] Ibid., ¶601.

[15] Ibid., ¶953.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid., ¶s 601,602,661,662 & 953.

[18] Giannini (2004), 146.

[19] The MBTI, as it is often called, is one of the most widely used type assessment instruments. Multiple versions or take-offs on it are available on the Internet, e.g. at www.humanmetrics.com/cgi-win/jtypes2.asp; www.personalitypathways.com/type_inventory.html; www.goddessflight.com/per/; and www.developandgrow.com/…/free-on-line-myers-briggs-personality-… . It should be understood that the original Myers-Briggs Type Instruments has gone through many redactions, becoming more refined with each edition, and can be administered officially only by trained, certified MBTI practitioners. The above Web sites can give you a “feel” for the instrument and information about your type that may, or may not, have the accuracy of the real MBTI.

[20] Note that “J” stands for “Judging,” which is not at all the same as “judgmental.” Those whose preference is for judging are not judgmental (although the pathological form of J-ness can sometimes show up in this way).

[21] Myers (1980), 9.

[22] For this and other equally hilarious quotes by Yogi Berra, go to http://rinkworks.com/said/yogiberra.shtml

[23] CW 6, ¶602.

[24] This essay is archived on this blog site; go to the list on the right, which is alphabetized by title.

[25] Myers (1980), 9.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Keirsey & Bates found 75% of Americans have a preference for Extraversion and Sensation, and 50% for Thinking and 50% for Feeling. Keirsey & Bates (1984), 25.

[28] For more on cultures and their type, see Giannini (2004), 295.

[29] That is, Introverted, Intuitive (N), Feeling, Perceiving types—in every way the type opposite of the American majority; for Jung’s description of this type, see CW 6, ¶s638-643.

[30] Ibid., ¶622.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid.

[33] For a description of this conference, including registration information and the registration form, go back to our home page and click on the tab “Conference.”

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