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CG Jung Described Introvert <-> Extrovert Reversal in 1953

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[If you are an introvert struggling with getting your message across…

You’re going to love the story of two boys in the castle.

In his ‘Two Essays on Analytical Psychology', CG Jung uses it to show the reversal of these traits.

He gave us the term ‘introvert’ in the first place, he is THE source.


If you prefer watching a video, here it is.]


Are you an introvert or extrovert?

I’ve always considered these traits to be somewhat static. Not the same way as the colour of the eyes, shoe size, or height of course, but not quite flexible either.

You might know that Jung coined the term ‘introvert.’

But did you know that he considered both traits to be fairly dynamic?

Their opposites can be triggered by stimuli.

(I know it sounds woo-woo.)

I recently came across a story in his ‘Two Essays on Analytical Psychology’, where he describes how one introvert switches to an extrovert and vice versa.

Now, most of my clients are teachers and centre managers striving to make their services sustainable. Over the years, I’ve seen many of those sustainability introverts struggling with getting their message across.


Because they’re often excellent DOERS, but not-so-good LEADERS and advocates.

Typically, they’re

  • knowledgeable about their sustainability area (e.g. composting)

  • doing their thing: gardening, wormfarming, recycling, etc. in their room / garden

  • hanging washing on a clothesline

  • writing about sust. initiatives in a newsletter

  • coming early before others to set up, e.g. loose parts

  • staying late, e.g. to water the plants

  • getting to the bottom of things, not comfortable on the surface. Example: they care about reducing energy usage every day (turning off lights, A/C, hanging washing..). But showcasing that, e.g. taking photos during Earth Hour is secondary.

I understand these ^^ challenges.

Because when I was responsible for sustainability at a large ECEC organization, and introverted myself…

I often struggled with being the frontrunner. I thought ‘doing it’ is enough (it isn’t).

What I didn’t realize back then was this:

I was using the ‘doing’ as a coping mechanism, a crutch for the lack of leading.

So if your innate introvert holds you back, read the below story and then find your jumping-off point to get your message across in your school, centre, or home.

Here we go...

Two boys, one introvert and one extrovert walk together in a forest; suddenly they find an old castle.

The introverted boy sees the castle, wondering what it's like inside, but at the same time happy to keep his distance as though the castle were threatening.

He says to his extroverted friend: “I wonder what it's like inside”

The extroverted boy, true to his nature says: “Let's go right in”, not thinking about what it's like inside.

But the introverted boy withdraws a little, saying: “Oh, there might be police, guard dogs, and visitors - perhaps we're not allowed in; I really don't want to go in.”

The extroverted boy says: “Oh don't worry, they’ll let us in all right, we'll be fine”, imagining adventures, brave knights, and friendly aristocrats inside the castle.

The extroverted boy opens the door and they get in.

But inside, there isn't much except for some old manuscripts.

Naturally, the introverted boy is drawn to these old books, flicking through them, reading here and there.

Suddenly, as if transformed, the introvert gets excited

He approaches the old caretaker, probing him about the story of the castle.

But the old caretaker isn't very helpful – he just mumbles; so the introverted boy is looking for the castle manager, (where is everyone?), wanting to find out about the history, who lived there, who built it, everything.

Now, his shyness is gone, he’s no longer just thinking about the castle; he’s now engaging the caretaker and looking for the castle manager. He’s “triggered”, on a mission.

But the extroverted boy hates the castle

He looks around and the only thing he can see is some old books.

The books remind him of a library which reminds him of a university and that reminds him of excruciating exams.

The whole place to him looks like a boring museum.

The introvert asks his friend: “Isn't it wonderful that we found this treasure?”

But the extrovert looks at him long-faced: “I hate it here - it bores me to death.”

What happened?

They were both walking happily outside.

The introvert is subject-orientated, looking inside, and primarily concerned with his inner world. He saw the object (the castle) but that was secondary.

He was imagining what it's like inside the castle but was worried there might be dogs and guards. His inner world was rich enough – he didn’t feel like “pulling the trigger”, going in.

The extrovert is primarily focused on and concerned with objects - the stuff that's outside, the outer world, and as soon as he heard the introvert saying, “I wonder what it's like inside,” he immediately said “Let’s go in.”

The extrovert got them inside.

But once they were in, the introvert became extroverted and the extrovert became introverted.

How come?

The introvert, true to his nature, was drawn to those old books, he was drawn to this object (old books) and that object triggered his “hidden” extrovert. Jung calls it unconscious.

As soon as he was “triggered”, he was then on a mission, engaging the caretaker, looking for the castle manager, trying to find people who could tell him the story of the castle. He was on a mission, behaving like an extrovert.

The extroverted boy, on the contrary, wasn’t interested in the object (the castle) anymore, he was even resisting, now subject-inward looking, focusing on his thoughts, such as - this looks like an old museum, like a library, there is no adventure, there are no friendly aristocrats and knights, I hate it here, I want to get out of here.

The point is …

If you’re an introverted sustainability teacher or center manager (or anyone else) …

Find your trigger object.

It could be a worm farm, a garden, a compost bin, a newsletter, a notice board, an old book even, a talisman, whatever.

Bring it with you to work, have it in your car, or in your bag. If you can't bring it, take a photo of it on your phone and look at it and use this as your “jumping off” point to get you engaged with others, LEADING.

It doesn’t have to be just one object forever; you can switch them around.

By knowing your “trigger” – the object that brings about your extrovert, your impact will be much bigger.

Credit for this story goes to CG Jung’s ‘Two Essays on Analytical Psychology’.


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