Assagioli discusses the four psychological types and their subtypes due to introversion-extroversion, active-passive, subversion-supraversion, degree of maturity and the type of “structure” of the personality.
By Roberto Assagioli, (date unknown), translated from Italian by Gordon Symons. Original Italian title: Addendum Ai Tipi Psicologici. From the Assagioli Archive Florence. [Editors note (KS). This is from an early manuscript, Assagioli later developed his sevenfold typology called The Seven Types and presented them in his book Psychosynthesis Typology]
One of Jung’s most valuable contributions was the discovery and description of the two fundamental psychological types, depending on the direction of the vital interest being outwards or inwards: extroverts and introverts. I will say immediately that more than being types in a precise and static sense, it concerns a prevalence of the direction of the vital interest, and of the consequent evaluations, choices, decisions and actions. This prevalence can be strong (e.g. 90%) or weak (60% versus 40%). I don’t think it is necessary to describe the characters of the extrovert and the introvert, since they are now commonly known.. I will only recall that they also have extreme pathological variations. Extroversion is observed in what I would call an almost pure state in exaltation and delusions, and introversion in melancholy and depression.
This direction of vital interest presents alternations and oscillations, both moderate and normal, as well as extreme or pathological. Extreme alternations occur in cyclothymia and manic-depressive psychosis, with or without balancing intervals. In addition, the alternation can be rapid or slow, with long or frequent cycles.
There is also an interesting alternation according to age. The infant, the newborn baby is totally introverted, completely closed within its organic sensations. The toddler and the young boy become more and more extroverted, turn their interest towards the outside world. The adolescent, on the other hand, is again introverted; the awakening of new energies, feelings and emotions in him causes problems and crises, and draws his interest to himself.Then both the young person and the adult are generally extroverted, taken up with their relationships with others (interpersonal, family and social) and with professional activities, ambitions, etc. In mature age, in old age, we return to introversion, detachment, and disinterest in the outside world, and a tendency towards the inner life, contemplation, detached observation …
From the combinations resulting between the direction of vital interest and the four functions described by him, Jung has classified eight types: the sensory extrovert, the emotional extrovert, the intellectual extrovert and the intuitive extrovert, and the corresponding introverted types. But with these and other classifications of this kind, there is the danger of schematism, of “boxing”, of yielding to the tendency (so convenient for us!) To “label” human beings. Instead, we must refrain from this, which does not do justice to the multifaceted and complex reality. Furthermore, this leads us to consider others as “objects”, and not as “subjects”. Therefore these “labels” to which a more or less conscious attitude of evaluation, or rather of devaluation, is connected, often provoke hostile reactions, even intense ones, which are well justified.
As for those eight “types”, they are based on the four functions recognized by Jung, but, as we have said, there are also others. Furthermore, there may be a different direction at the various levels of the various functions at the same time; for example, a man can be predominantly physically extroverted, emotionally introverted and mentally extroverted again. And so too, can his will be extroverted or introverted.
In addition, another distinction must be made. There are two different “modalities” and attitudes of the direction of vital interest that are very important: active and passive. Jung refers to it, but does not follow through on this point which, in my opinion, is fundamentally important. A passive extrovert, endowed with excessive sensitivity, who undergoes any external influence, dominated by the will of others, is very different from an active extrovert who tends to dominate things and people, and to bend them to his will. And in a certain sense, they are opposite types.
But there is more. There are two other directions of vital interest that must be recognized and taken into due consideration: that is, the direction downwards, which can be called subversion, and the direction upwards, or supraversion. Subversion is the tendency to probe the unconscious in its lower aspects, it is that which is dealt with in “depth psychology” (the “descent into hell”), and could be compared to underwater sport. Thus, in psychoanalysis there is an almost exclusive interest in the lower sides of human nature.
In supraversion, on the other hand, vital interest and psychological investigation are directed towards the higher aspects of the psyche, towards the superconscious and spiritual experiences – and this, in contrast to diving, can be compared to mountaineering. Jung had the great merit of having recognized and demonstrated the existence in humans of that natural upward tendency, of a real need – which he calls instinctively – of spiritual fulfillment, and he highlighted the fact that neglecting or repressing this need can cause serious neuropsychic and even psychosomatic disorders.
Then there is yet another difference, a less evident one: that of the quality, higher or lower, which is different from the direction. There may indeed be a subversion of inferior quality: the dreamer, the passive idealist, the sterile theorist, the utopian are examples of supraversion but in a sterile, negative sense. Instead, there is a higher quality subversion: the scientific investigation of the lower unconscious, its exploration, what could be called geology and psychological archeology.
I can’t talk now about the psychosynthetic tasks associated with the various directions of vital interest. But I must remind you that there are also other psychological types, for example depending on the different level of “structuring” of the personality. There are in fact relatively coherent, well-configured and unitary types; however, there are also plastic types, fluctuating and continuously changing; and still others which are usually contradictory, or “ambivalent”.
All this demonstrates the great complexity of the human psyche, and the fact that one cannot think of framing it or pigeonholing it in any designation or description made from a single point of view. Only the sum of the various points of view, the various “reference frames”, can give an ever less imperfect idea of this being which is the component of the fourth kingdom of nature: the human one.