The Five Levels of Understanding™

Importance of the Five Levels of Understanding™

“Classification does not explain the individual psyche. Nevertheless, an understanding of psychological types opens the way to a better understanding of human psychology in general.”C.G. Jung, Psychological Types

One of the goals of this website (our mission) is to introduce those who know their four-letter type to the rich levels of further understanding Jungian psychology in general, and how MBTI® type is a doorway to that understanding. The Five Levels of Understanding™ was created by Katharine Myers, to share her experience of type as a beckoning path of ever deepening knowledge of human behavior and life itself. This is the depth that MBTI® type brings.

Katharine was introduced to the MBTI® and psychological type in the 11th grade; she was in Peter Myers’ classroom and a member of one of the first and youngest groups introduced to type. At this young age, Katharine found out from Isabel Myers that it was ok to be something called an “Introvert.” This simple knowledge gave Katharine the “a-ha” experience that so many others have found, and with that, permission to go forward in the world as herself – to extravert in her own introverted way. What she did not know thenwas that this kernel of understanding would provide the doorway to her lifelong development and the journey toward wholeness called individuation.

Katharine created The 5 Levels of Understanding™ to provide others who are interested with the pathway to self-development that she discovered; all from her understanding of MBTI® type. MBTI® type is a doorway into greater depth; it provides a map on the pathway toward conscious development and coming to understand yourself within the larger context of Jung’s theory.

It is a major task to move toward a deeper understanding and use of Jungian theory – but it is a task that has rich rewards and is well worth the effort, both for practitioners and others who are interested in taking their study further. Although The Five Levels of Understanding™ constitutes a logical progression for understanding Jung’s complete theory; individuation is not a linear process.

Some Basic Jungian Assumptions

Jung believed that within each person lies that unique Self that one is meant to be. Here are some of his basic assumptions:

  1. Human development is a lifelong process of striving toward completeness, which Jung termed individuation.
  2. There is an innate drive within each individual towards such growth.
  3. Development occurs through an interaction between innate and environmental factors see Level Three.
  4. Growth and development occur most effectively in a supportive environment.
  5. Each individual is uniquely equipped to fulfill his or her potential. The psyche is self-balancing capable of growing to its fullest potential and of healing itself.
  6. Individuals have the potential for redirecting psychological energy for more effective use.
  7. The growth process requires increasing self-awareness, or consciousness.
  8. To the degree individuals become conscious, they are able to influence who they are and what they do. They have choice rather than being controlled by the unconscious, which is a life force of its own.
  9. The structure of the psyche is an energy system and growth takes place through a mechanism of balance and the tension between the opposites.

The 5 Levels of Understanding™ Triangle

The 5 Levels of Understanding™ is depicted in the form of the triangle to represent the foundation of understanding at the bottom, with increasing depth through movement up the triangle. The 5 Levels triangle also represents how many people delve into each level; the majority of people residing at the bottom with a simple understanding of their four letters. Very few people who take the MBTI® assessment and learn about their type move through the doorway to Jungian individuation. We hope that this information will help those who are interested move through the depth that type has to offer.

Level One: Verifying and Understanding Your Basic Four-Letter MBTI® Type

Benefits: The ‘aha’s’ of affirmation of who you are and insight into those who are different from you.

The first level of understanding in our lifelong journey of individuation is to become conscious of who we are in relationship to our self and others, through the lens of the MBTI® instrument and our four-letter type code. This involves:

  • Taking the indicator, receiving a thorough feedback session with a certified practitioner, and verifying one’s “Best-Fit Type
  • Experiencing the differences among types; that people have different “lenses” through which they view the world and come to different conclusions”.
  • Learning to accept and value the differences and the gifts of each type

The insights and “a-ha’s” people experience when they learn about their type is what has made the MBTI® indicator so popular. After learning about their type, people are often heard saying things like: “Yes, this is me, and it’s OK to be me” or “Oh, I know why I have trouble getting along with my sister” or “It saved my marriage” or “It helped me to work more productively with my team.” These insights can be life-changing.

The majority of people who take the MBTI® instrument do not move much farther beyond this level of interpretation, and that is OK. For many, this level of understanding is enough; but others, when given clues that there is more, become intrigued and go further along the path of understanding.

Click for References:
  • Kroeger, O., & Thuesen, J. M. (1988). Type Talk. New York, NY: Dell.
  • Lawrence, Gordon D. (2000). People Types and Tiger Stripes (4th ed.). Gainesville, FL: CAPT
  • Myers, I. B. (1998). Introduction to Type. (6th ed.). Mountain View, CA: CPP, Inc.
  • Myers, I. B. (1995). Gifts Differing. Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black Publ.
  • Pearman, R. R., & Albritton, S. C. (1997). I’m Not Crazy, I’m Just Not You. Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black Publ.

Level Two: Type Dynamics — Understanding the Dynamic Nature of Your Four-Letter MBTI® Type

“Using psychological type as the basis for understanding development and consciously directing our growth, bridges type theory with the Jungian psyche and the process of individuation.” Katharine D. Myers

Benefits: Affirming your particular gifts and understanding how and when to use those gifts to operate more consciously in the world. Knowing that you have choices to use the mental processes that are appropriate for the situation. Gaining an awareness of, and appreciation for, individual differences at a deeper level.

Moving beyond the four- letter type code to the next level of understanding – to Level Two on the 5 levels triangle – involves gaining an understanding of Type Dynamics, or how the Eight Function-Attitudes interact within your particular type code to develop the personality that is you.

Knowing what our favorite functions are – what mental functions we access more easily and use best (our dominant and our auxiliary), and how our inferior function can be problematic, helps us to gain a better understanding of why we behave as we do when we are feeling our best, and when we are “not ourselves.” The more familiar we become with how we think – how our mental functions operate within us, the less we are apt to feel “stuck” in situations that are challenging or perplexing. We become more able, and have more tools, to adapt to challenges and we learn to forgive ourselves and others when we are “not ourselves.”

Click for References:
  • Haas, L., & Hunziker, M. (2006). Building Blocks of Personality Type: A Guide to Using the Eight-Process Model of Personality Type. Huntingdon Beach, CA: Unite Business Press.
  • Kirby, L. K.., & Myers, K. D. (1994). Introduction to Type Dynamics and Development. Palo Alto, CA: CPP, Inc.
  • Quenk, N. L. (2000). In the Grip, Understanding Type, Stress, and the Inferior Function (2nd ed.). Palo Alto, CA: CPP, Inc.
  • Quenk, N. L. (2002). Was That Really Me? How Everyday Stress Brings Out our Personality. Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black Publications.
  • Sharp, D. (1987). Personality Types, Jung’s Model of Typology. Toronto, Canada: Inner City Books.
  • Thompson, H. L. (1996). Jung’s Function-Attitudes explained. Watkinsville, GA: Wormhole Publishing.
  • Thomson, L. (1998). Personality Type, An Owner’s Manual: A Practical Guide to Understanding Yourself and Others through Typology. Boston, MA: Shambala Publications.

Level Three: Type Development — Growing and Developing in Your Type

(See the PDF, Using Psychological Type as a Model for Conscious Growth for more information.)

Benefits: Acquiring a map or compass, or a “how-to” model for your growth and development. Understanding your type development path for learning new skills and behaviors and shedding old habits that may no longer be serving your best interests. An increased sense of balance and flexibility and new found sources of energy and personal satisfaction.

Level Three, the next level up on the 5 Levels triangle, is looking at and following the path for your growth and development through the lens of Type Development. Myers coined the phrase “16 paths to excellence” to indicate that there are 16 different type codes that have their own development map or path, through the type hierarchy.

Theoretically,  Jung and Myers believed that the primary task of type development in the first half of life is to develop a strong dominant and auxiliary function and a strong ego, which gives us a degree of consistency, predictability and effectiveness for dealing with our life circumstances. In the second half of life, we turn our attention to those mental functions which have previously resided in the unconscious; we incorporate those parts of self that were previously neglected and unrealized.

However, Myers believed that good type development can be achieved at any age, by anyone who cares to understand his or her own type; type development does not necessarily take place in a linear fashion, but is influenced by the environment and life’s circumstances as well.

Insight into how you have developed particular mental functions and related skills, and how they relate to your type, are all a part of Level Three understanding.

Click for References:
  • Corlett, E. & Millner, N. B. (1993). Navigating Midlife, Using Typology As a Guide. Palo Alto,CA:  CPP, Inc.
  • Hartzler, G. & Hartzler, M. (2005). Functions of Type, Activities to Develop the Eight Jungian Functions. Huntingdon Beach, CA: Telos Publications.
  • Myers, K. and Kirby, L. (1995). Introduction to Type Dynamics and Development, Exploring the Next Level of Type. Palo Alto, CA:  CPP, Inc.
  • Millner, N. B. (1998.) Creative Aging, Discovering the Unexpected Joys of Later Life through Personality Type. Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black Publ.
  • Millner, N. B. (2004). Applied Jungian psychology: Navigating the Seasons of Later Life, Self-Exploration Guidebook for MBTI® Users. Greenville, SC: Keys Printing.

Level Four: Understanding Yourself in Terms of Jung’s Psyche Model

(See PDf Nancy Millner’s article on individuation for more information.)

Benefits: A knowing that you are more than your four-letter type code and your ego; an ability to make choices that are more conscious rather than being driven by unconscious ones. Gaining an understanding of where Myers four-letter type and Jung’s theory of psychological types resides within the larger model of the psyche.

Moving to Level Four in the triangle is an introduction to Jung’s model of the “psyche.” The psyche can be thought of as all of our conscious and unconscious psychological energy. We can loosely think of the psyche as the non–physical aspects of ourselves. The psyche is composed of many theoretical constructs that are important to understand at this level.

Jungian Psyche Model

The psyche is that mysterious part of us that is there to help us become more whole and balanced. The model of the psyche provides a bigger picture of who we are, and how we can search for and come to know who we are beyond our ego and our persona – and where our true Self lies within the individual and collective conscious and unconscious. The psyche is what helps us to maintain balance between the opposite forces in our life, propelling us forward to reach our untapped potential.

At this level of understanding, we begin to see how our type code fits into the bigger picture of Jungian psychology as a whole – how it enhances and how it limits our growth and development, and of what parts of ourselves we need to differentiate, or of what to become more conscious . We can begin to recognize the dynamic nature of psychic energy and begin to track how it has worked through the different stages of our lives; we can make different, more conscious choices as life moves forward.

Level Five: Grasping Jung’s Model of Individuation

Benefits: The ever increasing realization of who you truly are through the journey toward Self and your own psychological reality.

Level Five is about gaining insight into Jung’s theory of our lifelong journey toward our true Self or our soul. Level Five is at the top of the triangle, because it is the hardest of the levels to reach, and very few people who have been introduced to their type embark on the difficult but rewarding journey toward individuation.

Jung believed that we have an innate urge to grow along our type-guided path; to go beyond ego to become the totality of all that we are. We can either ignore our innate urge toward growth, or help this development through our conscious awareness of the process. Individuation is about the lifelong journey from unconscious to conscious unity. The process requires the difficult work of becoming ever more familiar with our own personal psychology and looking deeply our unconscious world through analysis of our dreams, images, complexes, archetypes and our shadow to help us incorporate these aspects of ourselves into our conscious knowing of who we are.

Jung believed that individuation is a lifelong process and that as humans, we never reach a fully individuated state; however, we can expand our knowing of Self through the process of having the content of our unconscious minds slowly reveal itself to us. For MBTI practitioners and interested users alike, the Indicator and knowing your typology can serve as the first step of becoming more self-aware and can serve as a compass on the journey of wholeness.

Murry Stein, a renowned Jungian analyst, talks about the path toward indivudation as including psychotherapy, dream work and active imagination. Listen to what Stein says about individuation in this video:

Click for References:
  • Harris, A. S. (1996.) Living with Paradox, an Introduction to Jungian Psychology. Albany, NY: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.
  • Jung, C. G. (1974). Psychological Types (Bollingen Series, Vol. 6 of Collected Works). Princeton, NY: Princeton University Press.
  • Jung, C.G. (1990). The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious (Bollingen Series, Vol. 9, Part I of Collected Works). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Millner, N. B. (2004). Applied Jungian Psychology: Navigating the Seasons of Later Life, Self-Exploration Guidebook for MBTI® Users. Greenville, SC: Keys Printing.
  • Neumann, E. (1969). Depth Psychology and a New Ethic. Boston, MA: Shambala Publications, Inc.
  • Sharp, D (1995). Who Am I Really? Personality, Soul and Individuation. Toronto, Canada: Inner City Books.
  • Sharp, D. (1991). C. G. Jung Lexicon, A Primer of Terms & Concepts. Toronto Canada: Inner City Books.
  • Sharp, D (1998). Jungian Psychology Unplugged: My Life As an Elephant. Toronto Canada: Inner City Books.
  • Spoto, A. (1995). Jung’s Typology in Perspective. Wilmette, IL: Chiron Publications.
  • Stein, M. (2006). The Principle of Individuation; Toward the Development of Human Consciousness. Wilmette, IL: Chiron Publications.
  • Von Franz, M. & Hillman, J. (1971). Jung’s Typology. Dallas, TX: Spring Publications.