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Posts Tagged ‘Carl Jung’


In the first chapter of his book, Introverts in the Church, Adam McHugh left introversion (and extroversion) undefined. He aims to rectify that in the second chapter of his book. He approaches it both psychologically and scientifically (yes, you read that right), and then identifies some people in the Scriptures he thinks are introverted.

Before we go any farther it is better to think of both introversion and extroversion as continuums. You can be more or less introverted (extroverted). This means it is not a uniform experience for all who fall into the categories.

He begins with noting that inside of each of us a little Freud and a little Jung battle for our soul. He’s kidding, of course. Freud considered introversion unhealthy pre-occupation with the self on the slippery slide to narcissism (let’s ignore the fact that extroverts can be narcissistic). This means it is just plain bad. So, people who are introverted can feel shame about, as though there is something wrong with them.

Carl Jung, on the other hand, thought both introversion and extroversion were normal and healthy. Sadly he sees this as part of his collective consciousness theory. I think he defines it well even if he gets the source of it wrong. He was, generally speaking, far more optimistic about humanity and less sex-obsessed than Freud. One primary way of thinking about introversion is that one gains power from the self (rather being alone), while extroverts gain power from others (rather being with others).

The nature vs. nurture debate emerges as well. Freud saw these traits as the result of nurture. Jung saw them as hardwired into us, the result of nature. Either way, you can blame your parents (okay, just kidding).

“Introverts are targets for a variety of misguided arrows: we are shy, reserved, aloof, reclusive, melancholic, self-absorbed, passive, timid, social rejects, misanthropes, and the list goes on.”

McHugh notes that they are not so much categories as two separate forces within each of us. We all have a capacity for looking in, and one for looking out. We have them in differing measures. He sees them as a preference, just like handedness. I’m left-handed. I write, eat, throw etc. with my left hand. When I started to play guitar I was advised to play left handed, that way my dominant hand would made the chords. Still didn’t feel right. One of my sons is a lefty, but he throws righty. We thought he was going to be ambidextrous, but he does most things lefty. But a few righty. So you have a preference, but it isn’t absolute. The degree of introversion (extroversion) may be influenced by family and culture.

In Jung’s theory, as developed by Myers-Briggs, this duality is part of a constellation of factors that “work together to shape how we act.” The other dualities are sensing-intuition, thinking-feeling, judging (structure)-perceiving (flexibility/spontaneity). So, no two introverts are identical. They may take in the world in different ways, make decisions on different criteria and need different environments to work.

Back to introversion. “Introverts are energized by solitude.” As he notes we are charged from the inside out. It may be completely alone or with a few good friends. But time in crowds are draining. Extroverts need interaction with others to gain energy. Along time drains them. They don’t make good monks.

These, again, aren’t absolute. I gain energy from alone time. But eventually I need to use that energy. Eventually I need to be with people. Each year I’m home alone for about a week while the rest of the family is on vacation. The first few days are great. Then it is not so great. I need social interaction that I’m not getting at home. So I’ll invite people over or go out a few times. Not every night mind you.

Introverts tend to process things internally. Our minds are often incredibly busy places. We need to filter information, and can experience sensory overload. I never liked studying in libraries, and can’t work at a coffee shop. I’m too distracted by all that is going on. Introverts and extroverts have different filtering systems.

I do have times when I have to process thoughts externally. I’ll talk them over with my wife or a friend. I’ll blog them. These help me think they through for when I finally express my ideas in my vocation. Sometimes I’ll just talk to myself or use a white board. Just because we aren’t making noise doesn’t mean our minds aren’t busy places.

It is helpful to understand these things about yourselves in order to avoid “introvert overload” and think there is something wrong with you, or get angry with others. One reason (among many) I don’t do conferences is introvert overload. I find that I am wiped out near the end and just want to be alone. When I go to General Assembly, I try to find time to be alone as well as with my closest friends.

Introverts tend to prefer to depth over breadth. I have a few very close friendships, or at least did. Being a pastor is difficult and I don’t live near my closest friends. If you are friends with an extrovert, you can often misunderstand the relationship and put too much of a burden on them. Many/most of your relational needs may be met in that relationship, but they are seeking to meet those needs in many relationships. This can lead to a sense of betrayal. Introverts can set themselves up for this if they don’t understand the relational dynamic.

Introverts also like to understand a few things deeply. Extroverts seem to prefer to know a little about a lot. Again, not absolute. At times I will drill down on a subject, reading a number of books to understand it better. There are somethings I know little or nothing about. But you’ve all met the guy who knows something about everything. Extrovert.

Jung argued for nature over nurture. It turns out it was (mostly) right. McHugh gets into the science of this that is now available through brain mapping. The one “flaw” is that we already know these subjects are introverts or extroverts. Which came first, the results of the mapping or the introversion. Are our brains the result of years as introverts or did our brain “cause” the introversion? The chicken, or the egg?

But brain mapping does reveal some very important information that indicates this is not simply psycho-babble. There are biochemical differences. First, introvert’s brains are busier places. The scans register more activity. They also register that blood flows differently in those brains. Introverts have more blood flow which moves along longer paths more slowly than in extroverts’ brains. It flows to other parts of the brain, focusing on internal things like “remembering, solving problems and planning”. Extroverts’ brains have more blood flowing to parts that process sensory experiences, in other words processing the world outside.

Chemically they have different balances. Extroverts use more dopamine. This helps them to generally think and act more quickly under pressure. It helps them access short-term memory. Introverts rely more on acetylcholine which makes them feel good when resting and thinking. This may explain why introverts pull up memories more slowly, and often don’t think well on their feet. They often prefer writing to speaking since it gives one time to properly process their thoughts.

I’m not sure why he included a section on echoes of introversion in the Bible. Yeah, Jacob was probably an introvert and Esau an extrovert. It is helpful to know that God made, redeemed and utilizes both introverts and extroverts.

Let’s think about this for a few moments.

Introverts will likely prefer smaller churches so they don’t feel lost in the crowd. There will be a manageable number of relationships.

Introverts will likely prefer churches with quieter worship. When worship feels like a concert, introverts experience sensory overload. I like concerts, but I need more space, quiet, in worship so I can think, pray. This points to the fact that they will worship differently. That’s alright.

Introverted churches will worship differently. They will avoid having sensory overload. There will be times of quiet for reflection. It won’t be busy, busy, busy. That’s a good thing too, for some of us.

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