The Father of Analytical Psychology

The Father of Analytical Psychology

Maybe you are like me and find psychological profiling tools endlessly fascinating. I have great respect for their creators, as I have for those seeking to understand people. I’m also with Carl Jung, the father of Analytical Psychology who said this, ‘every individual is an exception to the rule’.

Back in the early decades of the twentieth century, Carl Jung’s work was hugely significant and of course, gave rise to influential work.  Some of this is in the legacy of the likes of Myers-Briggs Personality Type inventory and William Moulton Marston’s DISC profiling.  Of course, there are many more we could mention.  All respect to those committed to these profiling tools.  But back to that quote from the great man, Carl Jung, ‘every individual is an exception to the rule’.

All too often I’ve talked with people who’ve been inclined to define themselves or others by the outcome of a profiling tool.  Yet even the father of Analytical Psychology criticised them being used to define or label.  For example, Carl Jung famously described Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator test as, ‘nothing but a childish parlour game’.

Important as Carl Jung’s caution about personality profiling test may be, I’d like to dig a bit deeper, going to the root of the thinking or rather the belief system behind many familiar profiling tools.

I want to take you back to the fifth century BC and the Sicilian philosopher Empedocles.  He wrote about four ‘roots’ (some like to call them, elements’: earth, wind, water and fire).   A curiosity to twenty-first century readers, Empedocles wrote in verse about and how in his view, it was the way these roots were mixed together or separated that influenced growth and development.  It is the thinking of Empedocles and the way he articulated his beliefs that is truly the roots of these popular profiling tools.

So, the reality it, many of our most popular and relied upon personality profiling tools have origins in beliefs about earth, wind, water and fire at the root of human behaviour.

To go further, Empedocles saw these four roots symbolised in the Greek gods, Zeus, Hera, Nestis and Aidnoeus.

Going even further still, Empedocles saw two forces of love and strife influencing the mix of these roots, earth, wind, water, fire.

Given the influence of Empedocle’s beliefs about the four roots on those who developed our popular personality profiling tools – and they were beliefs rather than anything evidenced – Should we not question them?

Don’t misunderstand me.  I am committed to my own beliefs. I have no problem with people being committed to theirs.  If they want to rely on a personality profiling tool based on the beliefs of a philosopher from the fifth century BC, who am I to argue.

I simply think it is worth reminding ourselves that’s what they really are: an expression of belief.

It is in the light of this that I developed the SPICE Assessment Tool.

I worked with Huddersfield University to build the SPICE Assessment.  It isn’t based on the beliefs of a fifth century BC, dead philosopher.  It’s based on observation of people in our generation and driven by our own insight that ‘context is everything’, the SPICE Assessment provides insights on the decision-making of individuals and teams in their practical, life settings.

Unlike personality profiling tools, the SPICE Assessment tool is designed to promote refection on how someone might favour:

  • Productivity (we call them outputs) or personal behaviour (we call these outcomes)
  • Process improvement or innovation.
  • And how they are likely to make decisions and resolve challenges.

I will write more on this in my next blog.  But for now, you might like to consider whether you want to rely on a profiling tool based on beliefs from the fifth century BC or a tool designed to reflect people in their life setting in the twenty first century.  The choice isn’t binary.  It’s not one or the other.  But don’t you think an assessment tool designed to reflect our life setting, our context might be very useful indeed?

You can find out more about SPICE Assessment tools here;

Written by Michael Croft

March 22, 2021