Myers, S: The Lost Human Science in Psychological Types


Steve Myers


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Psychological Types (Jung 1921) was one of the foundational books of analytical psychology (Bair 2003, p. 283) and is the only work of Jung’s to contain a systematic and comprehensive set of definitions. Yet, a decade after publication, Jung’s interest gradually shifted away from typology to alchemy because of the widespread misunderstanding of the book (Myers 2019). Jung found that alchemy expressed his message in a better way, one that was not open to such a gross misunderstanding as sticking labels on people. Readers overlooked the central message in CW6 which was a further development of the theory begun in Symbols of Transformation (Jung 1911-1912/1952). Readers tended to focus on the example of personality and, as a result, they missed the process of transformation that Jung applied to political, religious, and other forms of opposites.

The overlooked message of Psychological Types has some important implications for human science, which is based on the principle of understanding. Jung claims that we can never fully understand a political, religious, or personality other, we can only interpret that other through the lens of our own political, religious, or personal standpoint. However, the attempt to understand can be transformational when it is approached in a certain way. Jung’s solution remains relevant today, for example in the increasing polarisation of political discourse. Each side of the Brexit (UK) or Trump (US) debate not only fails to understand the other, but sees the reality of the other side as ill-informed, dishonest, or dangerous. This clash of realities can only be overcome through recognising the ontological relativity within Jung’s philosophy of esse in anima, seeking to carry the opposites within ourselves, and allowing the encounter with the other’s presented reality to transform our mutual understanding.

This presentation will review the lost message of Psychological Types and summarise the key passages and sources that Jung used to express it. The presentation will then examine the implications of Jung’s claim – of the impossibility of understanding – for the research and application of human science. In particular, it will consider what the goals of understanding are, and the implications this has for a contemporary culture that tends to celebrate or oppose difference rather than seek transformation. The conclusions will focus on the role of the transcendent function in intra-personal, inter-personal, and collective relationships.

Presenter Bio:

Steve Myers, Ph.D., is a Visiting Fellow at the Department of Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, University of Essex, UK. He has an M.A. in Jungian and post-Jungian Studies, and a Ph.D. in Psychoanalytic Studies. He is the author of Myers-Briggs Typology vs Jungian Individuation: Overcoming One-Sidedness in Self and Society.

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

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