The Ambivert Personality Revealed
Carl G. Jung was a Swiss, 20th century psychiatrist and psychotherapist, but is better known for his founding of analytical psychology. His psychological process of individuation integrated the a series of binary opposites into a singular personality type. The four binaries are extroversion vs. introversion, intuitive vs. sensing, thinking vs. feeling, and judging vs. perceiving. The famous Myers-Briggs test offers questions to help identify yourself among these four binaries. As binaries, they categorize general trends of your behavior to identify oneself. These pairings, when put together, offer insightful, general descriptions of personalities.
Typically, the extrovert/introvert binary categorization is the most discernible trait in the Jungian paradigm. Many people will identify themselves and even others according to this binary. However, when you really think about it, is very difficult to categorize yourself in one camp or the other without turning your back on one important side of yourself.
In popular culture and language, extrovert has come to mean ‘an outgoing person,’ while an introvert is reserved and shy. However, this isn’t exactly how it works. The Jungian definition of an extroverted attitude is ‘a standpoint characterized by an outward flowing of personal energy —an interest in events, in people and things, a relationship with them, and a dependence on them.” An introvert on the other hand, is “characterized by an inward flowing of personal energy—a withdrawal concentrating on subjective factors.”
By these definitions, it is very possible to find a genuinely warm and conversational introvert, who, despite their personable skills, still needs time alone to replenish their personal energy. And, on the opposite side, some extroverts with underdeveloped personal skills can be lonely because of their inability to garner energy from social interactions. Typically though, extroverted and introverted person play to their strengths, creating the archetypical symbols of “extrovert” and “introvert.”
To polarize matters even more, extroverted-leaning individuals and introverted-leaning individuals often misinterpret the characteristics of the other. There are internet comics and memes instructing the other type how to deal with their own type. These ridiculous cartoons always seem to construe the other as the lesser category, and make a caricature out of the other’s characteristics. According to these people, extroverts are always shouting, and introverts are always pouting in a room by themselves.
These misinterpretations can be true in real life as well. Extroverts are often guilty of perceiving introverts as “egotistical, dull, and self-centered.” Introverts misinterpret extroverts as “superficial and insincere.” A lot of contemporary cultural commentary on introverts and extroverts plays up the types, and reinforces the misinterpretations the two types have for each other. The truth is, any identification as wholly one way or the other is only illusory, and therefore becomes a means to marginalize the other side. Furthermore, there is no ambivert test to categorize yourself as a distinct third group. So how do we define ambivert, if not by its own unique category all to itself?
Definition of Ambivert
The creation of the term ‘ambivert’ is really a misunderstanding of Jungian personalities. The extrovert is not a type of person, but an attitude a person has. Extrovert and introvert are not set in stone characteristics, but attitudes that people have, that, like all attitudes, are subject to people they’re with, the scenarios they encounter and their current surroundings. It’s true, some people are very extroverted, or very introverted, and rarely experience their counterparts relationship to the external. As Carl G. Jung said, “There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.” Instead, people exist somewhere on the spectrum between fully extroverted and fully introverted. People who chart themselves in the direct middle of the spectrum often identify as ‘ambiverts.’ The ambivert definition is a near perfect balance of introverted and extroverted attitudes.
Identifying as an ambivert personality can be a very confusing reflections on your nature. Because of the categorization-like nature of the Jungian traits, an ambivert may feel conflicted, and at odds with two inner natures. Ambiverts will often question their actions and wonder they are outgoing at times, and shy at others. Because of this, an ambivert may feel out of touch with his or her self.
Because of the divisive nature of extroverts and introverts in the cultural atmosphere, ambiverts may feel they do not fit in. However, according to Carl G. Jung, ‘ambivert’ is the most common type along the spectrum. In his Psychological Types, Jung wrote, “There is, finally, a third group [besides extroverts and introverts]…the most numerous and includes the less differentiated normal man…He constitutes the extensive middle group.” This most-common “third group,” we now call ‘ambivert.’
Perhaps people don’t recognize the ambivert nature of most of humanity because of our constant need to put front a coherent personality in social interactions. In reality, most all of us feel the conflicting urges of extroverted and introverted natures. Once we realize the binary of ‘introvert/extrovert’ exists in all of us, we will feel more at home with our only apparent conflicts.
The way to counteract suffering from the ambivert’s inner conflict, is to understand that your personality cannot be neatly packaged into either introvert, extrovert, or even ambivert. Human psychology and personality is much more complex than any general group of three boxes for everyone to fall in. Instead, as an ambivert personality, you can analyze yourself based on each specific scenario you find yourself in.
Start by differentiating the times you feel extroverted from the times you feel introverted. You’ll start to notice different factors that arise. Perhaps you feel more at ease as an extrovert with a certain group of people, and more introverted around another group. Maybe, there are certain external events that cause you to alternate from one mode of being to the other mode. You could even feel extroverted during the day and introverted at night, and vice versa.
Once you understand what factors induce the different feelings, you can start using it to your advantage. For example, if you feel you are turning toward a more introverted side of yourself, make your external environment match your internal needs by finding time alone and reading a book, or listening to music by yourself. Allow yourself to self-reflect and live in your subjective experience. Don’t feel guilt for not being more extroverted. Everyone needs time alone to center themselves.
On the other hand, if you’re all by yourself and you feel emotionally drained, you probably need to get out of the house and see someone to raise your spirits. Don’t allow an introverted trend get in the way of an extroverted need. Take the social initiative and invite someone to hang out. By recognizing the factors, and responding to them, you can thrive in both your introverted and extroverted modes.
Very adept ambiverts will understand their needs before they feel them by understanding their personality trends. They will purposefully put away time to be alone after big social events, or schedule a get-together after a time of personal reflection.
Especially ambiverted people can be social chameleons of sorts. They can use this to their advantage and go back and forth quickly between their extroverted and introverted natures in order to fully engage with someone in either attitude. The self- analyzed ambivert meaning well can be a highly sociable and thoughtful person, able to intentionally adapt to the best attitude to truly interact with someone else.
As an ambivert, you don’t have to feel stuck in the middle between the extroverts and the introverts of the world. Instead, recognize that everyone is in some essence ambiverted, and will need time to be by themselves, and time to be outgoing with others. Be wary of the duel nature of extrovert and introvert in yourself and in others, in order to be a truly successful ambivert.