With this letter, Pedro Guilherme das Neves Mendes reviews the important concept of type falsification. A psychologist and coach originally from Portugal, he now lives in Switzerland (see side panel). I am very pleased to welcome Pedro as a contributor to these letters. As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions. jgj
Falsification of Type
One of the most important discussions in psychology is about "nature versus nurture" or the "innate versus the context". Which plays the more important role in our psychological development and characteristics?
For Jung, individuals are not born as a tabula rasa, meaning that we have certain innate dispositions and preferences. External events play a very important, but not decisive role.
"Ultimately, it must be the individual disposition which decides whether the child will belong to this or that type despite the constancy of external conditions." (CW6, par. 560)
"Individual disposition" for Jung means not only biologically determined but also psychically imprinted-an idea he thoroughly explores in depth psychology through his theory of archetypes.
Psychological type dispositions (gifts) can be understood as an expression of particular archetypal patterns that are potentiated or repressed by the external conditions of family, social or career contexts, and community.
What happens when these external conditions repress the expression of natural gifts? Sometimes we have to sacrifice "who we are" to "what we believe we were supposed be." Responding to our parents, family or teachers expectations can repress our natural gifts and develop others that are more useful or more positively reinforced.
If, for example, social interaction and pragmatism are more highly valued in a family, an introverted thoughtful child might have to repress her natural gifts, developing a more extraverted and sociable persona. We would call that repression, and the accompanying adaptive persona, a "falsification of type."
"Under abnormal conditions, i.e., when the mother's own attitude is extreme . . . violating the individual disposition, [the children] might have opted for another type if no abnormal external influences had intervened" (ibid.)
What are the consequences of a falsification of type? According to Jung, the compromise can be dangerous: "As a rule, whenever such a falsification of type takes place . . . the individual becomes neurotic later, and can be cured only by developing the attitude consonant with his nature" (ibid)
Jung's position is consistent with his concept of individuation--the personal journey of self-awareness and self-development where we are naturally and irresistibly called to discover who we really are. We may often need to detach from external demands to act or perform in a certain way--the collective consciousness--to live the life we were born to live.
The first step in the "individuation adventure" is to find our gifts, and then to live according to them. If our natural gifts have been repressed, we must ultimately return to the first step to rediscover them.