Holiday Self-Help: Maintaining Your Emotional Equilibrium
How knowing your psychological type can help keep you in balance this season.
Posted Nov 28, 2013
Of course, from the extraverted perspective, sleep and dreaming seems a total and utter waste of time. Why spend eight hours each day sleeping, wonders the extravert, when you could be doing chores, seeing people, making money, traveling, accomplishing goals, etc.? Given the choice, most extraverts probably would never sleep if that were humanly possible! But from the introverted view, sleep is a welcome and requisite retreat from the outer world. Sleep is a specified time for just being rather than doing. For yin rather than yang. While there are no scientific studies on this subject of which I'm aware, I would venture to speculate that introverted types both prefer and need more sleep than extraverted types. (For any psychology graduate students or sleep researchers reading this, my hypothesis might make for an interesting thesis or dissertation.)
Another potential and typically unconscious resistance to sleep and attending to the dreams that visit us during sleep is twofold: fear of the unconscious or the unknown, and fear of death. When we are fearful of the unconscious and what it might contain, sleep will be avoided as much as possible. Sleep is like entering a different, foreign land fraught with danger and discovery. Not everyone wants such unpredictable nightly adventures. Sleep also resembles death. Each night, we die to the outer world, and each morning we are miraculously reborn. It requires a voluntary relinquishing of control, a willing letting go of outer reality, and a complete surrender to unconsciousness. Individuals with excessive death anxiety, for example, dread sleep for this very reason. Like the famous "Energizer Bunny," they just try to keep going and going until sleep can no longer be avoided. (This tendency to frenetically flee from sleep can be clearly seen in the phenomenon of mania or hypomania, after which the biploar patient "crashes and burns.") But their unconscious death anxiety constantly pursues them like some harassing demon, sometimes appearing during sleep in the form of frightening nightmares. What we run from during daylight always haunts us in the shadowy darkness of night.
Moreover, lack of sleep can cause a transitory mental state known by the French term abaissement du niveau mental: a significant reduction of consciousness, in which ego defenses are weakened, rendering us more susceptible to the unconscious and the influence of our personal complexes or neuroses. Sleep deprivation induces this state, sometimes causing or exacerbating symptoms such as anxiety, depression, mania, paranoia, irritability, anger or rage. Psychotic episodes can also be triggered by sleep-deprivation, particularly in those already prone to experiencing them. Hence the importance as regards mental health, even for hardcore extraverts, of getting enough of the compensatory, restorative, healing introversion sleep provides--especially during times of intense stress. While each person differs in the amount of sleep needed for replenishment, eight hours being about average, it is crucial to get sufficient amounts and adequate quality of sleep, and to do so on a regular, consistent schedule. Sleep heals the body, clears the mind, and restores the soul. Recent studies indicate that getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep nightly leads to losing excess pounds. In psychotherapy patients suffering from insomnia or hypersomnia--sometimes secondary symptoms of anxiety and depression-- regulating sleep pharmacologically or otherwise can be a crucial aspect of treatment.
Introverted types, on the other hand, would be much more likely to attribute meaning and importance to their dreams, since dreams comprise part of their interior reality. Whether dreams always do have meaning, as both Freud and Jung believed, is debatable: I find it just as possible that dreams, though usually psychologically and symbolically significant, sometimes may not be. Or at least not discernibly so. In any case, Jung's premise in his classic book Psychological Types is that we tend to see and interpret the world and our experiences, both outward and inward, including dreams, through the special lens of our own particular psychological typology. How introverted types view both the inner and outer worlds is distinctly different than the extraverted viewpoint. This also applies, as Jung suggested, to various psychological theories and therapies themselves, which approach patients, explain symptoms, determine therapeutic goals, and define mental health or illness on the basis of their creator's own personal typology.