Overview of Type Seven
It is no great difficulty to see why the life of diverse hedonism is unsatisfactory even on its own terms. Boredom, its ultimate enemy, is unavoidable...A life devoted to the collection of enjoyable or 'interesting' experiences is an empty life. It is not a life of spirit, but one in which spirit disappears in the multitude of diversions....When we think of it, we all know that those who are in a position to sample life's sweet diversions are no better off in any fundamental way than those who are not. We know that those who have thrown themselves into lives of self-indulgence are often racked with emptiness, loneliness, self-hatred, nostalgia, and yet are unwilling to change. Knowing all this, however, we would be reluctant ourselves to pass up the opportunity for such a life. Why is this so? Because we convince ourselves that we would be judicious in our use of pleasure. We would practice restraint....The life of superficial diversions has great attraction, as does the pastry table for the child. In the latter case it is, we know, because the child is not serious about his eating habits. So it is, also, with us....To throw oneself into indulgence is to say, 'All I am is a potential for pleasure. The more pleasure that exists, the greater I am.' No one can believe this in earnest, of course, and this is why such a life must rest upon self-deception. (John Douglas Mullen, Kierkegaard's Philosophy, New York: New American Library, 1981, p. 100-1.)
Some of those blessed with the sweetest pleasures of life are in fact not "racked with emptiness, loneliness, [and] self-hatred." Some are truly happy and know how blessed they are. Then there are those who seem to be quite happy—at least, they think they are—but they are merely amused and distracted, grabbing after the pleasures of life rather than experiencing happiness on its deeper levels. Finally, there are those who, despite having everything, are bitter and disappointed. For some reason, the possession of wealth and all the good things of life has not been enough for them. Why the differences among these three kinds of people?
All the personality types are faced with the issue of how to "use" the world to its best advantage, although the Seven is the type which most exemplifies this universal problem. How to enjoy pleasure without living for pleasure? How to possess the good things of life without being insensitive to the needs of others? How to live in the world without getting lost in it? For better or worse, the Seven lives out these questions.
In the Thinking Center
Sevens are one of the three personality types in the Thinking Center. The nature of their potential problem begins with one of their strongest assets—their agile minds. Type Seven’s thinking is quick and mercurial, they are curious, easily stimulated, and eager for new ideas and experiences. However, to the degree that they are anxious about themselves or their lives, is the degree to which their minds race out of control, leading them into a widening circle of unfocused behaviors. There is a powerful link in Sevens between their thinking and their doing. If they entertain an idea about an activity which is interesting and enjoyable to them, as soon as possible, they want to do it. Ultimately, their minds are speeding along about two steps ahead of them, and they are moving fairly quickly! They tend to spin out of control trying to realize all of their ideas, in a search for satisfying experiences and happiness.
Sevens are readily excited by the environment: they respond to stimuli strongly, throwing themselves into the world of experience with enormous vitality. It is worth noting that, unlike Fives, Sevens’ thoughts are primarily focused on this world and on the things they want to do in it. Thinking about their possibilities and future activities makes them feel good, and wards off potentially painful emotions and anxiety. Sevens react to everything with such immediacy—so much so that whatever they do rapidly leads to more exciting ideas and consequently, more doing.
Experience is their guide to life. Sevens are at home among the tastes, colors, sounds, and textures of the material world. Their identities and self-esteem depend on their obtaining a steady stream of stimulating ideas and impressions. Their personality traits, their defense mechanisms, and their motivations all reflect the fact that to Sevens everything desirable exists outside of themselves in the world of things and experiences. Sevens therefore have very little interest in what they cannot immediately sense. Generally speaking, they are neither profoundly introspective nor especially person-oriented. Instead, they are experience-oriented—extroverted, practical, and urbane. They feel that the world exists for their enjoyment, and that it is up to them to get what they want for themselves.
When they are healthy, their experiences are a source of immense satisfaction to them, and they learn to do many things well because the focus of their attention is on producing something in the environment. However, the focus of average Sevens shifts away from productivity to the possession and consumption of more goods and experiences. They stay busy to keep their level of stimulation high. However, hyperactivity makes happiness ultimately elude them because they do not appreciate anything they do or have. This is why, if they become unhealthy, Sevens are little more than dissipated escapists, acting impulsively and increasingly out of control.
Sevens correspond to the extroverted sensation type in the Jungian typology.
As sensation is chiefly conditioned by the object, those objects that excite the strongest sensations will be decisive for the individual's psychology. The result is a strong sensuous tie to the object....Objects are valued in so far as they excite sensations, and, so far as lies within the power of sensation, they are fully accepted into consciousness whether they are compatible with rational judgments or not. The sole criterion of their value is the intensity of the sensation produced by their objective qualities....
No other human type can equal the extroverted sensation type in realism. His sense for objective facts is extraordinarily developed. His life is an accumulation of actual experiences of concrete objects....What he experiences serves at most as a guide to fresh sensations....Sensation for him is a concrete expression of life—it is simply real life lived to the full. His whole aim is concrete enjoyment, and his morality is oriented accordingly. (C. G. Jung, Psychological Types, 362-363.)
Jung's description of the extroverted sensation type applies exceptionally well to Sevens. No personality type is more practical or more widely accomplished than they are. Their positive, even joyous, orientation to the world produces a great deal of happiness for themselves and others. But, if their appetites get the better of their ability to control them, average Sevens consume more than they need and more than they can possibly appreciate. They begin to enjoy their experiences less while becoming anxious about obtaining more of everything.
Problems with Anxiety and Insecurity
Like types Five and Six, the other two types of this Center, Sevens have problems with anxiety, and develop a pattern of thinking and behaving as a defense against it. We have seen that Fives are fearful and anxious about their ability to cope with the external environment and so retreat from it. Sevens are almost the exact opposite situation: they are fearful and anxious about their ability to cope with their inner environment—their grief and pain. As a result, they flee outward into the external environment and seek to interact with it sufficiently to avoid dealing with their internal emotional pain.
Sevens attempt to control their level of anxiety by keeping their attention occupied with ideas and possibilities that excite them. They keep their mind full of activities that they can look forward to, positive experiences that they know they will enjoy. Every time anxiety rears its head, Sevens are ready with a new adventure, a new book, a workshop they pan to attend, or an exciting new relationship. As long as they can keep their attention occupied with positive expectations, Sevens can hold their pain and anxiety at bay. They do not want to deal with their anxiety or examine its causes in their lives because doing so draws them inward, making them more anxious. while extroversion pulls them outward, toward the environment, repressing anxiety, at least temporarily. They discover that the distractions which their activities provide repress anxiety whenever it threatens to erupt into consciousness, but that they need to keep searching for exciting activities to keep themselves safe from their inner distress. They therefore throw themselves into more and more experiences to avoid having to face anxiety or any feeling of unhappiness.
The problem is that the more Sevens fill up their minds anticipating the fun they will have in the future, the less they are in touch with whatever experience they are having in the present. Consequently, the experience they are currently having cannot really affect them, cannot really satisfy them. This is like the person who has always wanted to see the pyramids in Egypt, and after much anticipation, finally embarks on a trip to see them. However, on arriving at the pyramids, the person is anticipating an exciting dinner in Cairo that night, or perhaps thinking about showing friends back home their pictures of the trip, and so "misses" seeing the pyramids. The person’s attention is elsewhere, no on the experience that they are having. Naturally, this decreases the enjoyment of the experience, leaving the Seven hungry for more.
As enjoyment decreases, average Sevens feel anxious and insecure, leading them to overdo their activities all the more. But as they become hyperactive, average to unhealthy Sevens not only do not enjoy what they do, they become even more anxious and insecure, and are tempted to dissipate themselves even further. They do not realize that it will become increasingly difficult for them to break out of this vicious circle once they become addicted to staying in motion.
Furthermore, the more anxious Sevens are, and the more pain they are repressing, the more their minds will be "revved up" and the less they will be able to be satisfied by the experiences they are going to great trouble to have. It is as if their minds are walking two or three steps ahead of them. The more anxious they get, the more they distract themselves by anticipating the future, and the less their experiences serve to quell their anxiety. Sevens keep fleeing outward into the world of experience as they try to outrun the fear and hurt inside them. But the more they flee, the bigger the thrills they will need, and the harder they will be to sustain.
The flaw with this is that the more average to unhealthy Sevens do, and the more they are distracting themselves to avoid their pain, the less satisfaction their experiences are able to provide. They do not see that their happiness is precarious and easy to lose, because they neither interiorize their experiences, nor control their appetites. Ultimately, if they invest little of themselves in their experiences, Sevens cannot be satisfied by what they do. To their mounting panic, they discover that nothing makes them happy. They then become enraged and terrified because it seems that life has cruelly deprived them of happiness.
As young children, Sevens were disconnected to the nurturing figure, the person in their early development who mirrored them, cared for them, and provided affection and a sense of personal value. This person is often the mother or a mother-substitute, but not always. In some family systems, the father, or an older sibling provided nurturance to the infant. In any event, Sevens perceived that their was some problem with their nurturing figure. They did not feel bonded with this person, or feel that the person was a safe and consistent source of nurturance. For a wide variety of possible reasons, Sevens felt frustrated by their nurturing figures: they did not feel that they could depend on getting what they needed from them. As a result, Sevens try to compensate for the nurturance they feel they did not receive by getting things for themselves.
It is probable that, in most cases, their nurturing figures did not intend to frustrate them when they were children. Some other childhood deprivation, such as poverty, war, being orphaned, or a long illness, may have shaken their expectation that the good things of life would be given to them. There may have been an absence of the nurturing figure at a critical stage, or some accident that shook the child’s confidence. It may also be that Seven’s naturally need a great deal of contact and stimulation which may be more than the nurturing figure can provide. Thus, for whatever reasons, the fear of deprivation becomes the fundamental motivation for this personality type. The other side of the psychic coin is that Sevens begin to demand that all their desires be satisfied. Possessing whatever they think will make them happy becomes symbolic of having the nurturing and sense of well-being they feel is always just beyond their grasp.
Problems with Appetites and Aggressions
Average Sevens want instant gratification. They place few limits on themselves and do not want to deny themselves anything. If they see something they want, they must have it. If something occurs to them to do, they must do it right away. If something gives them pleasure, they want more of it immediately. Their appetites are strong, and the lengths to which they go to gratify their desires allow us to characterize Sevens as aggressive personalities. However, since they are also insecure, the picture is mixed: they enlist their aggressive impulses to stave off their anxieties and insecurities.
Sevens also typically get into conflicts with people by putting others in the position of having to place limits on them instead of doing it themselves. Whatever self-control average Sevens have must come from outside themselves, either from others who are forced to say no to them, or from reality itself, which may well frustrate their desires. If they are frustrated, Sevens become enraged because it unconsciously raises the memories of their real or imagined childhood deprivations. Those who frustrate average to unhealthy Sevens are not likely to forget the anger they arouse, or the depth of the need Sevens unwittingly display.
When Sevens are healthy, however, they concern themselves with the satisfaction of their genuine needs rather than the gratification of every desire. They are productive, adding to the world instead of merely consuming it. They become accomplished, making the environment yield more of its riches for themselves and for others. They are also unusually happy people because they are able to truly assimilate their experiences, getting in touch with their feelings and with themselves.
But as they deteriorate toward unhealth, Sevens allow their appetites to run amok, and they become greedy, selfish, and insensitive to the needs of others. They care only about their own gratification. The terrible irony is that since unhealthy Sevens interiorize nothing, nothing can satisfy them. They are like drug addicts who need a larger and larger "fix" to maintain their artificial highs. In the end, unhealthy Sevens become so indiscriminate in their search for happiness that they fly totally out of control, both in their actions and their ability to repress their ever-mounting anxiety. Panic overwhelms them because they have nothing solid within to anchor themselves to. The type which affirms life so completely when it is healthy becomes, when it is unhealthy, the type which is most terrified by the very conditions of life itself.