Proactivity & Reactivity (Theory)

This following differentiation pertains more to the direction of energy flow within the psyche and less to a psychic function. I will be describing two terms in this section: proactive and reactive. These correspond directly with C.G. Jung’s objective and subjective attitudes, also known as introversion and extroversion. Rightly so, Jung distinguished this axis from the others as a causal mechanism akin to the heart’s systolic and diastolic relationship. The proactive process is one ever leaving the subject, while the reactive process is ever returning to the subject.

As mentioned previously the human psyche maintains continuity via a feedback system, and this motion must be maintained through a direction of energy flow; the psychological processes cycle within either a proactive or reactive direction. This dual process is by no means unique to our psyche as it imitates the same causality that exists in countless natural systems from electric currents to biological sex.

Were there no proactive/reactive divide, there would be nothing initiating an interaction or dialogue between the two opposing aspects of the psyche: they would remain static. As a causal necessity of a feedback cycle, one must feed into the other, which in turn responds and that response is absorbed again by the first process – and this cycle continues ad infinitum.
It is due to the presence of this innately cyclical quality that I would add an amendment, or perhaps clarification, to Jung’s definition of the introversion-extroversion duality and hence why I prefer to use the terms proactive and reactive.

As I hope will be seen in the whole of this book, a fundamental property of cognitive elements is oscillation. The necessity for one to feed into the other was not explicitly highlighted by Jung, who viewed the two terms as more contrasted and capable of retaining their own nature at the suppression of the other.

But the contrary is true, as they are much more dependent on each other than this and not just for a healthy operation. In any sort of processing, even within cases of strong suppression, both aspects of the cycle can very well be seen operating and transpiring continually within every passing second.

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