Physiology of Type and Falsification of Type
By Arlene R. Taylor PhD, and I. Katherine Benziger, PhD
Human beings are perhaps healthiest, happiest, and most successful when they can use and be rewarded for using their own innate giftedness, or what Jung and Benziger call their natural lead function. Indeed, it can be said that when a person develops and uses his/her natural lead function in an environment which both supports and rewards that function, the experience is similar to if not identical with the experience of flow, identified by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.
For whatever reason, when this does not occur the brain is forced to spend large amounts of time functioning from areas requiring significantly greater expenditures of energy. In other words, the brain is forced to Falsify Type. The result is that the brain and brain-body system experience stress, chronic anxiety and exhaustion. Indeed, Falsifying Type is so costly that over time it can lead to the development of a syndrome identified by Taylor as PASS or Prolonged Adaptive Stress Syndrome. Significantly, one element of PASS is the experience, seemingly without cause, of chronic depression.
Dr. Carl Gustav Jung originally coined the term Falsification of Type to describe an individual whose most developed and/or used skills were outside one’s area of greatest natural preference. In his writing, Jung stated that he believed the problem to be a serious one with both practical and psychological ramifications. Indeed, Jung saw Falsification of Type as “a violation of their natural disposition,” explaining that:
As a rule whenever such Falsification of Type takes place as a result of external influence, the individual becomes neurotic later, and a cure can successfully be sought only in the development of the attitude (e.g., function) which corresponds with the individual’s natural way.
In the last analysis, it may well be that physiological causes (inaccessible to our knowledge in 1926) play a part in this. That this may be the case seems not improbable, in view of one’s experience that the reversal of type often proves exceedingly harmful to the physiological well-being of the organism, often leading to an acute state of exhaustion.”
Dr. Benziger, who established and studied the physiological foundations for Type and Falsification of Type over the past two decades, expanded on Jung’s observations regarding the results or costs of Falsifying Type. Benziger, using her Benziger Thinking Styles Assessment (BTSA) to gather and study data of individuals who had been or were Falsifying Type. In her summary report on the topic, Falsification of Type: Its Jungian and Physiological Foundations and Mental, Emotional and Physiological Costs, published in 1995, she stated that:
- the short-term results of falsification tend to be increased irritability, headaches, and difficulty in mastering new tasks.
- the long-term results of falsification include exhaustion, depression, lack of joy, a homeostatic imbalance involving oxygen, the premature aging of the brain, and a vulnerability to illness.
Benziger’s observations and thinking are supported by the research of Dr. Richard Haier of San Diego. Using PET scan studies, Haier demonstrated that the brain needs to work much harder when not using the person’s natural lead function (which he establishes as an area of exceptional natural efficiency).
Haier estimated that the brain may need to work as much as 100 times harder when an individual is developing and / or using skills outside one’s area of natural efficiency.
Such a demand on the brain requires huge amounts of energy and oxygen. This not only pushes the brain to “burn hotter”, as it were, but could also over time throw off the person’s innate homeostatic balance in the area of oxygen usage and distribution. Normally the brain uses approximately 20% of the oxygen taken in through the lungs. This leaves about 80% for the rest of the body where it is utilized in the process of metabolism and in providing energy at the cellular level and overall. As more and more oxygen is demanded by the brain that is falsifying type, less and less is available to keep the rest of the body up to speed. A variety of symptoms can result (e.g., fatigue, digestive problems, listlessness). Indeed, over time, the oxygen imbalance can contribute to the person’s body shifting from anabolic to catabolic functioning.
Taylor, over an eleven-year period during which she worked with clients reporting symptoms of depression and apparent PTSD, observed that specific symptoms seemed to be present in individuals who were Falsifying Type—living in a state of prolonged adapting as evidenced through the BTSA profile. In addition, her observations led her to theorize that in some cases, individuals who were being diagnosed with PTSD or depression, might not be suffering from PTSD or depression per se (not as the underlying contributing factor), but rather from Falsifying Type. Taylor’s findings suggest that Falsifying Type may be best understood as a separate, discrete, and treatable syndrome, although it can contribute to the exacerbation of a variety of other illnesses. For some individuals, it can also be life threatening. Subsequently, to facilitate sharing her findings with others, Taylor assigned the label PASS (Prolonged Adaptive Stress Syndrome) to identify the predictable collection of symptoms which seem to appear when an individual has been Falsifying Type.
Eight commonly observed symptoms may be present in varying degrees in individuals who have been Falsifying Type. This collection of symptoms can include:
1. FATIGUE. Prolonged adapting can require the brain to work up to 100 times harder, which can result in up to 100 times greater energy expenditure. This can be observed as:
- a growing fatigue that is not alleviated by sleep
- an increased need for sleep but an interference with the quality of sleep obtainable
- decreased dreaming
- further sleep deprivation
- a tendency to crave specific foods and/or ingest high fat/high sugar snacks in an effort to get “quick energy.” The result can be a weight gain with all the stressors that being overweight can generate
- a tendency to self-medicate in an attempt to try to alter brain chemistry—neurotransmitter ratios—and make oneself feel better. This is often accomplished through some type of addictive behavior (e.g., caffeine, nicotine, alcohol)
2. HYPER-VIGILANCE. Prolonged adapting can create a state of hyper-vigilance as the brain goes on protective alertness. This is a safety mechanism and can show up in a variety of different ways:
- the brain can be temporarily pushed toward introversion. As indicated by data gathered using the BTSA, this is evidenced as a decrease in the individual’s natural extraversion level. It requires tremendous energy to maintain this state of protective alertness (in other words to keep the lens of the brain open wider) which can contribute to fatigue
- there can be a temporarily increased sensitivity to environmental stimuli (e.g., light, sound, odors) that can impact relationships both personal and professional
- there may be an observed change in the type of activities the individual gravitates toward. Previously enjoyed activities may be discarded in favor of less gregarious situations. Sometimes the individual appears to be isolating the self from others, (perhaps in an effort to decrease the amount of stimulation that the brain must process)
3. IMMUNE SYSTEM ALTERATION. Falsifying Type can be thought of as the individual living a lie at some level. Lying can suppress immune system function (e.g., can temporarily shrink the Thymus gland) which can negatively impact one’s health. Symptoms that can be seen include:
- slowed rate of healing (e.g., following a cut or abrasion)
- an exacerbation of autoimmune disease symptoms
- an increased susceptibility to illness (e.g., colds, flu)
- an increased risk of developing cancer
4. MEMORY IMPAIRMENT. Cortisol, released under stress, can interfere with memory functions. Examples from Robert Sapolsky’s book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, include:
- Decreased ability to lay down a memory, to store data in long term memory, or access/recall the memory at a later date. This can involve a decreased utilization of blood sugar by the Hippocampus which, in turn, can create an energy shortage
- Diminished neurotransmitter function. Metaphorically, the “phone lines are down.” This can reduce effective neuron communication. The mind becomes muddled and there is often a concomitant reduced ability to concentrate
- Increased production of free radicals that can actually kill brain cells from within
5. ALTERED BRAIN CHEMISTRY. Prolonged adapting can interfere with hypothalamus and pituitary function which, in turn, can interfere with hormonal balance. This may be observed as:
- decreased growth hormone
- decreased insulin secretion
- decreased reproduction functions
- an increase in the production of glucocorticoids (that can prematurely age the Hippocampus)
- a possible alteration in the permeability of the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB)
6. DIMINISHED FRONTAL LOBE FUNCTIONS. Prolonged adapting (viewed as a significant stressor) can interfere with functions typically associated with the frontal lobes of the cerebrum. Symptoms can include:
- a decrease in artistic/creative endeavors (e.g., writer’s block)
- a reduced ability to brainstorm options
- a reduced ability to selection the “best option” in a critical situation
- interference with the ability to make logical/rational decisions
- increased injuries due to distraction and/or making mistakes
- slowed speed of thinking or clarity of thinking
7. DISCOURAGEMENT AND/OR DEPRESSION. Prolonged adapting can lead to the repeated triggering of the conserve/withdraw reaction form to stress. This can be especially true for high introverts although it can be observed in extraverts who, as years go by, continue to perceive a mismatch between who they are as individuals and societal expectations and/or repeated episodes of failure. This can lead to discouragement, especially as fatigue increases, and can contribute to the development of depression or to the exacerbation of existing depression. Estimates suggest that upwards of 20 million individuals in the USA are depressed, 15% of whom are suicidal. Prolonged adapting appears to be a key factor in at least some of these cases.
8. SELF-ESTEEM PROBLEMS. Any or all of the other symptoms can be contributed to a perceived diminished overall success in life. In turn, this can whack one’s self esteem. Problems in this area can appear as “low self-esteem” or “inflated self-esteem” or flip back and forth between them. Examples include:
- Low self-esteem problems resulting in an individual taking on “victim” characteristics and/or trying to be all things to all people
- Inflated self-esteem problems resulting in an individual taking on “offender” characteristics and/or becoming defensive quickly as a result of years of invalidation
- A circular spectrum as the individual swings from one extreme to another. This can sometimes be seen when the individual is invalidated professionally but validated personally with a small group of friends. The resulting dichotomy can be puzzling, unnerving, and even disconcerting as the individual strives (unsuccessfully) to be viewed as successful in both arenas.
It has been said that stressors generally interact with the brain in a two-part equation. Sometimes referred to as the 20:80 Rule, this suggests that:
20% of the effect to the mind and body is due to the stressor itself
80% of the effect to the mind and body is due to one’s perception of the stressor
As the philosopher Epictetus was quoted as saying: It’s not so much what happens to us as what we think about what happens to us that makes the difference.
The 20:80 Rule, therefore, can be not only appropriate but also very helpful in a variety of situations. This can be particular true when the stressors are environmental and situational–outside of ourselves. This could include stressors such as: another’s individual’s attitude towards us, our having been fired from a job, being unable to develop a romantic relationship with a desired individual or a relationship that is clearly in difficulty. In such situations the 20:80 Rule can be of great assistance in pointing us to the value of “reframing” our perception of the stressor.
When a stressor is inside ourselves, however, and involves a mismatch between who we are innately and expectations of society, culture, school, church, and family, the ramifications may be quite different. In these cases, we so often become involved in Falsifying Type as we strive to obtain rewards or avoid punishment (e.g., shaming, invalidation of the self). Benziger believes that when considering Falsification of Type, neuroscience and experience suggest that the 20:80 Rule may need to be adjusted substantially. The Stressor (Falsifying Type) may contribute as much as 60% of the effect on the mind and body while our perception (Interpretation or Framing of the Stressor) may contribute only about 40% of the effect. The implications are profound. This would play Falsifying Type as a major and potentially life-threatening stressor!
Education, understanding, empathy, emotional support, and reframing of one’s individual experience are powerful psychological tools. Long term, however, they are basically powerless when the individual spends hours and hours each day in activities that require the brain to work up to 100 times harder, when life actually contributes to an imbalance of the brain and body, when body systems are thrown into distress by falsifying type.
Individuals who exhibit symptoms of PASS need to be evaluated for possible underlying physiological illness and (in the case of PTSD) for a history of previous trauma. They also need to be evaluated for the presence of Falsifying Type. If found to be present, they need to be assisted in identifying their own innate giftedness and helped with strategies that can reduce the adapting. The ideal, of course, is for the individual to stop Falsifying Type as soon as possible. In our culture, however, this can be easier said than immediately accomplished. In the meanwhile, understanding prolonged adapting as a significant stressor can help individuals deal with it more efficaciously.
Selected Bibliography on Falsification of Type and PASS
For those wishing to read more in-depth and technical sources, the following bibliography is recommended.
Benziger, Katherine. The Physiological and Psycho-Physiological Bases for Jungian Concepts: An Annotated Bibliography, KBA 1996.
Benziger, Katherine. Falsification of Type: Its Jungian and Physiological Foundations & Mental, Emotional and Physiological Costs, KBA 1995.
Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience: Steps Towards Enhancing the Quality of Life. Harper & Row Publishers. 1990.
Hafen, Brent Q. Mind/Body Health: The Effects of Attitudes, Emotions and Relationships. Simon & Schuster / Allyn & Bacon 1996.
Jung, Carl Gustav. The Psychology of Type. London 1926.
Justice, Blair, Ph.D. Who Gets Sick: How Beliefs, Moods and Thoughts Affect Your Health. Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc. Los Angeles, 1987.
Haier, Richard. Cortical Glucose Metabolic Rate Correlates of Abstract Reasoning and Intelligence, Studied with Positron Emission, by Haier et al. unpublished paper from January 1988.
Haier, Richard. The Study of Personality With Positron Emission Tomography in Personality Dimensions & Arousal, ed. by Jan Stvelan & Hans J. Eyesenck. Plenum Publishing Company, 1987.
Logan, Robert K. The Alphabet Effect: The Impact of the Phonetic Alphabet on the Development of Western Civilization. William Morrow and Company, Inc. New York, 1986.
Sapolsky, Robert M. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: A Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping. W. H. Freeman and Company, New York 1994.
Schlain, Leonard. The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image. Viking. New York 1998.
 Jung, Psychological Types, page 415.
 Ibid. page 415-416.