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The Question of Psychological Types

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by Sangharakshita

... of black bile is said to be of the melancholic temperament. Such a person tends to be depressed, unhappy, gloomy and rejected, but also, again, serious, thoughtful and even meditative.

Now we can see at once odd or even bizarre though it may seem in some ways, especially from a medical point of view, we can see at once that psychologically at least there's a great deal of truth in this particular classification. We can see that it does correspond to facts, or at least to some of the facts and we might even with the help of this particular theory, this particular classification, be able to classify not only ourselves but even at least some of our friends.

Now the theory of the four humours is of course no longer accepted as scientific physiology but the nomenclature, the terms used - choleric, phlegmatic, melancholic and so on - these are very much still in general use especially in literary use.

Now in modern times in more recent times there have been and there still are many different theories of psychological types. Most of these are associated with psychology, not to say with psychoanalysis. Some of them are rather suggestive, rather sketchy, not very complete, more of the nature of bright ideas, but others on the other hand are worked out in considerable not to say lavish detail.

Now we've mentioned psychoanalysis so let's begin with Freud. Freud of course is the founding father of psychoanalysis and perhaps the greatest name in the whole field of modern psychology, and Freud as is well known classifies individuals according to the stage of their sexual development and he distinguishes three such stages.

There's what he terms the oral stage, what he terms the anal stage and what he terms the genital stage, and according to Freud in the oral stage it is the mouth of all the organs, all the parts of the body which is the principal source of sensuous pleasure. In the anal stage he says the principal source of sensuous pleasure is the anal region, and in the genital stage it's the genitals or the sexual organs.

Now according to Freud a normal adult, a mature, a psychologically, that is to say sexually mature adult has passed through all these three stages from the oral to the anal and from the anal to the genital. But Freud points out, and here is one of his distinctive contributions again, Freud points out that development, the development of the individual can be arrested at any of the earlier stages. it is possible for the individual to get stuck in the first and the second stages, and one who had remained stuck in the first or oral stage he designates as 'an oral type'. And similarly one who has remained stuck in the second or anal stage designates as 'the anal type' and in this way the three main types of his classification emerge, that is to say the oral, the anal and the genital.

Now it could be objected that these are not true psychological types. Indeed I'm not quite sure if Freud himself specifically referred to them as such. But it is well known that Freud regarded sex as being of great importance in the life, especially the emotional, the psychological life of the individual and he pointed out in a scientific manner, perhaps for the first time in that manner in history, that it is also responsible for a great deal of human happiness and a great deal of human misery. So that we may say the effects of adjustments and maladjustments in this particular sphere extend to almost every other aspect of the total psyche of our whole being.

So therefore according to Freud sexual development proceeds, pare passu, with the development of the total personality. Freud would say for instance that one cannot have say an infantile sexuality and a mature adult personality in the psychological sense. So therefore it may be concluded that one is justified in regarding the oral, anal and genital types not just as types of sexual development or behaviour but as psychological types strictly speaking.

Now a number of Freud's followers have put forward their own theories. Some of Freud's followers seem to have exemplified his own teaching about the Oedipus complex and seem to have turned against their founding father in many ways and rejected some of his theories and put forward theories of their own. So it's so with this theory of psychological types as well. Sometimes the followers of Freud give a rather broader, sometimes a rather narrower context for their particular theories of psychological types.

For instance there is Karen Horney. Karen Horney's classification of psychological types is bound up with her theory of neurosis. Her theory is that neurosis is essentially a conflict, that conflict is an essential feature of neurosis. Her theory also rests upon recognition of the importance of human relationships and she points out that not only during infancy but during the whole of our adult lives, it's possible for us to take up towards other people three distinct attitudes and she describes them in detail. There's what she calls the attitude of moving towards people. Then secondly there's the direction of moving against people, and thirdly the attitude of moving away from people; and the child learns all three of these attitudes very early in his life.

He's got all three at his disposal. He can either move towards people, against them or away from them.

Now Karen Horney points out that it should be possible for us whether as child or whether as adult, it should for us to adopt any one of these attitudes according to circumstances, according to the objective nature of the situation. We should as it were be able freely to decide well I'm going to move towards that person or I'm going to move away or I'm going to move against. It should be possible for a person, whether child or adult to be perfectly flexible as it were and to have all of these different attitudes, all of these different approaches to other people at his free disposal.

But this is not what happens most of the time. We usually find that as we develop, as we grow up, one or another of these three attitudes predominates or prevails. We sort of get into the habit of maybe always moving towards people even when we ought to be moving against them or moving away from them. We can't help moving towards them and even when we ought to be moving against them vigorously perhaps we either move towards them or we move away from them, and when we really ought to be moving away from them we're either moving towards them or we're moving against them. We are as it were under the control of one or another of these particular attitudes which ought to be within our own control.

So one or another of these attitudes, she says, either the attitude of moving towards others or moving against them or moving away from them becomes the standard pattern of all our behaviour. We become rigid, we become fixed. Instead of either moving towards or against or away as circumstances require, we always mechanically react to all situations with the same sort of approach, with the same sort of reaction, with the same sort of response, and in this way she says, the three main types according to her classification, the three main types of personality emerge and develop. And she has names for these three types. The type that moves towards people, the type that moves against, the type that always moves away. She calls them first the 'compliant' personality, the person who invariably moves towards others, the compliant personality. Then the person who invariably regardless of circumstances moves against people she calls the 'aggressive' personality and the person who always moves away she calls the 'detached' personality, and she gives a very interesting description indeed of each of these types. Her descriptions are well worth reading. They're short but very much to the point and extremely well written. We've no time for details about them unfortunately this evening.

Now according to her, just to make clear something we just mentioned a little while ago, according to her neurosis is due to conflict between these attitudes, that is to say there's a conflict in you when you're confronted by a certain person or situation at the same time two contradictory attitudes are activated, and you don't know what to do about it. So this is Karen Horney's theory, her classification of psychological types.

Coming to another follower or former follower of Freud, Wilhelm Reich's theory is connected with his concept of what he calls 'Armouring' or 'Character Armour'. By character armour he means the totality of neurotic character traits inasmuch as these traits make themselves felt as a compact defence mechanism against the therapeutic endeavours of the analyst. This is how he defines character armour, and he mentions and describes three characters or character types all of which he says in varying degrees are neurotic. First of all there's what he calls the 'hysterical' character; then there's what he calls the 'compulsive' character and again the what he calls the 'phallic narcissistic' character, and his accounts of all these characters are very interesting but unfortunately we've no time to go into them in detail this evening.

Perhaps the best known of all the modern theories of psychological types is that of Carl Gustav Jung. Jung distinguishes between two different conscious attitudes towards the world and four different psychic functions.

First of all the two attitudes towards the world. The two attitudes towards the world are those of the extrovert and those of the introvert. Perhaps now we come on to more familiar ground. The extrovert is one who goes out towards the visible world. The introvert is the one who remains within himself. We may say that the extrovert explores or would like to explore the universe without whereas the introvert prefers to explore the universe within.

Now ...

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