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The Quick and Easy Path

June 17, 2009

The ideas of “Introversion” and “Extraversion” are commonplace today, often being shorthand for “shy” and “gregarious” personalities respectively. The Extravert is generally regarded as being talkative and engaging, while the Introvert is seen as being quiet and often lost in thought.

Carl Jung, however, saw things somewhat differently. To him, Introversion and Extraversion were about more than just how talkative someone is — these are attitudes that determine where the focus lies for certain psychological functions (i.e. Thinking, Feeling, Sensation and Intuition). When one such function consciously dominates the psyche of an individual, its attitude — either Introversion or Extraversion — appears predominant in that person. The Introvert is thus someone whose dominant psychological function is Introverted, while the Extravert is someone whose dominant psychological function is Extraverted.

But what are these attitudes?

The Extraverted attitude places the greatest emphasis upon external conditions. Taking care not to offend others, for example, is Extraversion at work: here you are adjusting your words and actions so as not to negatively affect the feelings of those around you — you are considering external conditions and acting accordingly.

The Introverted attitude, in contrast, emphasises internal factors. Holding to higher ideals is an example of Introversion: what’s important, in this case, is standing firm on principles that are important to you, even if that means offending others in the process.

There is, however, a darker side to all of this. Without balance, neither Introversion nor Extraversion is healthy: Extraversion without Introversion is shallow; Introversion without Extraversion is selfish.

When lacking the tempering influence of Extraversion, the internal factors become the only frame of reference for the Introvert. “What do I want out of this? How does this benefit me?”

This is the crux of the difference between Anakin and Luke. Whereas Luke is able to successfully integrate Extraversion into his largely Introverted attitude over the course of episodes 4-6, Anakin slips further and further into Introversion in episodes 1-3 until his psyche falls totally out of balance at the conclusion of the prequel trilogy.

Anakin makes things "awkward" on Naboo

Anakin makes things "awkward" on Naboo

A large part of this is Anakin’s obsession with his own feelings. He doesn’t so much care about others as he cares about how his feelings for them might affect him. Consider the fireside chat in Attack of the Clones: where is the concern for Padme in all of this? His concerns are for his feelings, not hers. Not surprisingly, when he sees evidence of Padme’s supposed disloyalty in Revenge of the Sith, he turns on her, choking her in a fit of rage. Anakin’s love is conditional, predicated solely on what benefit he can get from the relationship. This is twisted, immature, unbalanced Introversion at its worst.

Luke, admittedly, has a similar temperament at first. He, too, is short-tempered when things don’t move quick enough or in the direction he wants. The difference is that he learns to draw upon his Extraverted side, connecting with the other with an attitude of respect, not contempt. Eventually the saga comes full circle and he uses Extraversion to reach-out to his father, thereby freeing the fallen Anakin from the grip of the Dark Side of the Force.

The point of Star Wars is not that Extraversion is superior to Introversion (or vice versa) but that we each need balance in our own lives. Yoda warned of the “quick and easy path” — that is a life without growth, without balance. That was Anakin’s choice, but it needn’t be yours.

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2 comments

  1. Introversion has much less to do with your preoccupation with yourself, but rather the fact that you get energy from yourself, and not from external factors.

    Extroverted people, for example, get their energy from talking to others. It isn’t a strain for them, unlike introverted people. This strain, of course, varies in its intensity and mayn’t even be noticeable to some introverts.

    I wouldn’t connect Anakin’s selfishness to introversion, or Luke’s respect to extroversion, basically.


  2. Basil, you seem fairly clued-in, so I’ll be more explicit in what I was alluding to above.

    Both Anakin and Luke are Introverted Thinking (Ti) types. To use John Beebe’s terminology, the Dark Side of the Force is the “Daemonic Personality”, which in this case is Fi — Anakin displays a kind of juvenile Fi in his downward spiral. Ti backed by Fi is unbalanced and unstable.

    Luke, on the other hand, integrates the “Good Parent” Obi-Wan’s Extraverted Intuition (Ne) in ANH, the “Puer Aeternus” Yoda’s Introverted Sensation (Si) in ESB and finally the “Anima” Leia’s Extraverted Feeling (Fe) in ROTJ. It’s ultimately Luke and Vader choosing Fe over Fi in service of Ti during ROTJ’s climax that turns things around.

    Star Wars is ultimately an INTP mythology, in other words. It lays out clearly the sequence of integrative steps for an INTP in the OT and the dangers of avoiding the challenge of personal growth in the PT. But it also makes general points about a lack of psychic balance as well.



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