Welcome to Chuck’s Place, where Chuck Ketchel expresses his thoughts, insights, and experiences! Many of the shamanic and psychological terms used in Chuck’s essays are defined in Tools & Definitions on our Psychotherapy website.
Extraversion, codependency and projection all share a common quality: orientation of self to something outside the self. If I find myself dominated by something outside of me it’s important to find out why. Is it normal? Is it a problem? Or is it the basis of a new discovery about myself?
One of Carl Jung’s most enduring contributions to mainstream psychology was his differentiation of personality types illustrated in the well-known Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test. Jung first identified that all individuals fall into one of two major attitudinal orientations: introversion or extraversion. Introverts consider first their internal viewpoint; extraverts consider first the external situation and how best to fit into it. Each of these attitudes is normal and apparently biologically assigned, each having their unique adaptive value, hence, each contributing to the evolution and survival of the species. For example, the extravert might act quickly and concisely, the introvert more deliberately or hesitantly. Depending on the circumstances one or the other attitude may be the better choice.
Jung pointed to the value of each of these attitudes in nature and stated that although all individuals were born with a dominance of one or the other, either introversion or extraversion, they carried the recessive trait of the non-dominant attitude, which is a necessary part of life. For instance, a dominant introvert must access their extraversion in order to navigate the outside world. Similarly, a dominant extravert must access their introversion to be in touch with their personal needs.
People who by nature are extraverts can be judged to be codependent. This mistaken classification might originate in a negative judgment toward extraversion, as an attitude that negates the needs of the self. But how could the world function if at least half of its population didn’t focus on the true conditions outside the self and act in a way to accommodate them? Extraversion is a normal, vital attitude; part of nature, evolution, survival and fulfillment.
Codependency can be seen as a forced extreme extraversion. The condition of codependency was first identified in the alcoholism field to describe the emotional, cognitive and behavioral impact of living with a dysfunctional person, such as an alcoholic, addict, or violent rageaholic. The codependent is forced, for survival reasons, to orient themselves to the needs, expectations, and demands of the dysfunctional person. Over time, this mode of functioning becomes so deeply entrenched that the codependent may disconnect from their true identity as they morph into a being focused on placating the controlling tyrant. Codependency becomes a dysfunction itself, as this entrenched pattern of behavior may be repeated in future relationships. Overcoming codependency requires detaching from extreme extraversion, i.e., taking into consideration the needs of the self as well as determining one’s true type. The codependent might in fact be an introvert who has lived a life alien to their true nature. If the codependent is truly an extravert the work becomes one of tempering the extraversion with a deeper appreciation of the self.
Another of Jung’s major contributions to psychology was his unique take on the dynamic of projection. Jung realized that the unconscious psyche literally projects parts of itself, unknown to the ego, onto others outside the self, to reflect back to the ego, like a mirror, the true inner self. If the ego can recognize the reflection as a part of itself, it can take conscious ownership of this unknown quality and take up the challenge of integrating it into the personality where it can find life in a way compatible with the rest of the personality. However, if the ego does not recognize its reflection, whether because it finds it too distasteful, disagreeable, frightening, or attractive, it becomes compulsively attached to the bearer of its reflection. The psyche requires this. The rule is: one way or the other we must stay connected to all of the parts of ourselves. Either we struggle with the painful task of recognizing, accepting, and integrating all our parts or we remain compulsively bound to others who reflect and bear our disavowed parts.
This dynamic might also be mistakenly identified as codependency, as the dominant attitude that emerges when one is compulsively bound to another is another form of forced extraversion. Whether we love or hate the person who bears our disowned or unknown part we cannot withdraw our attention and focus from them; we orient our life in relation to them. The true basis for this apparent extraversion, or codependency, is actually a projection that confounds the ability to separate or detach from a person clearly “not right for them.” The dysfunctional other, whom we cannot separate from, is housing a part of ourselves, which, for better or worse, we must reckon with or remain helplessly tied to, as we live out our wholeness in projected form.
Who are you? Remember, extraversion in and of itself is healthy, normal, vital, and dominant in half of the world population. Just as that half needs to nurture its inferior introversion, the other half needs to nurture its inferior extraversion. However, extraversion can be called upon and driven to extremes in circumstances that give rise to codependency, as well as when a part of the self is unknowingly lost in another. Only deep reflection upon inner truth and outer attachments can clarify who you are and what is in control: extraversion, codependency or projection, or perhaps a combination.
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Until we meet again,