Psychoanalyzing Tyler Durden
You were looking for a way to change your life. You could not do this on your own. All the ways you wish you could be? That’s me. — Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden is cool. He’s a badass. Without a care in the world, he walks with a swagger, lives for the moment, does what he wants, when he wants, and with who he wants. And, when he speaks, he speaks with conviction and depth. In his own words, Durden describes himself to the Narrator as, “Smart, capable, and most importantly, I’m free in all the ways that you are not.”
The Narrator is not cool. He’s not a badass. He has every care in the world. Suffering at a meaningless job rife with corporate corruption, his chief respite is a consumerist lifestyle that he buries himself in. New rugs, tables, and dinnerware are the sole distractions from his miserable, sold-out life.
From Durden’s perspective, the Narrator is an emasculated shell of a man that is merely a byproduct cut neatly from society’s cloth. The Narrator’s life is slowly ticking away, and he has nothing to show for it. At least, not until his friend, Tyler Durden, shows up.
Laying Our Foundation
Typing Tyler Durden and the Narrator is a unique challenge. For those who haven’t seen Fight Club — first of all, WHAT ARE YOU DOING!? — major spoilers lie past this sentence.
Tyler Durden and the Narrator are the same person. Or, at least parts of the same person. Though typing them presents a unique challenge, it also presents a rare opportunity to see the Four Sides of the Mind on the big screen, with the transitions taking center stage.
Tyler’s emergence into the Narrator’s life comes from the Narrator’s own psyche demanding something more from him. It is similar to the quarter or mid-life crisis that comes when our Subconscious or Unconscious is not well developed. And, as we’ll discuss later when we talk about the Superego, Tyler occasionally possesses the Narrator. This is evidence that he trying to ultimately replace the Narrator. But, in the end, does the Narrator give in? More on that shortly.
So, in order to type Tyler Durden, we have to do it with respect to the narrator. And vice versa.
First, we’ll look at Tyler’s role in the Narrator’s life, and the effect that Tyler has on him. Then, after we’ve laid some ground, we can discuss their types directly. I’ll also address the major stumbling points the public has along the way.
Tyler Durden’s Purpose
One of the key scenes in the film is when Tyler gives the Narrator a chemical burn as he pours lye on the back of his hand. The Narrator tries to escape the pain by going to his “happy place,” effectively avoiding the pain.
Durden yanks him back to reality, saying, “Stay with the pain, don’t shut this out.”
Stay with the pain, don’t shut this out.
This single quote sums up most of Tyler’s purpose with the Narrator. He’s exposing how pathetic the Narrator is. He’s exposing his pathetic, meaningless, weak existence.
His purpose is demonstrated toward the beginning after Tyler and the Narrator grab a drink. Walking out into the dim parking lot, Tyler asks the Narrator to hit him as hard as he can. After some prodding, he does, and Tyler soon returns the favor with a punch of his own.
Crouching down, grabbing his stomach, the Narrator recovers from the punch.
“That really hurts,” he tells Tyler, looking up at him. “Hit me again.”
Hit me again. This is a vital shift that occurs almost immediately after Tyler enters his life. Whatever Tyler Durden is doing, the Narrator senses it’s something very important to his own growth. Something within him thirsts deeply to feel alive again. He wants more.
As Durden’s influence on the Narrator grows, we see a shift in the Narrator’s lifestyle. He goes from needing all of the lavish comforts of modern life to hardly needing a bed to sleep on. He moves from a materialistic environment with a high-class apartment building to living in squalor in a rundown — and, by all accounts — gross house accompanied by a minimalistic life. He gets comfortable with having nothing.
Lastly, Durden draws the Narrator along to a future that challenges the society that Tyler is disgusted by. Durden gives him an opportunity — a purpose. That purpose is to fix the very thing that is a thorn in his side. And, from Tyler Durden’s point of view, if that “fix” requires leveling downtown blocks with homemade explosives, so be it.
Typing the Narrator
After months of horrible insomnia, the Narrator starts attending support groups for people with various, often fatal, diseases. Once he is able to cry, because of the support groups, he is able to sleep. This is our first clue.
“If I didn’t say anything, people always assumed the worst.”
The Narrator’s purpose in attending these events is to elicit the sympathy of others and share in their emotional intensity through his own tears. This indicates Extraverted Feeling (Fe) in the Ego.
If we look at his lifestyle — and style, for that matter — there is a high concern for safety. One of the reasons he is at the job he hates, to begin with, is because it offers him financial security and the ability to surround his life with comforts. This indicates the presence of Introverted Sensing (Si) in the Ego.
But here’s where it gets interesting.
The Narrative’s lifestyle, being consumed by the material possessions — an addiction — selling what integrity he has to work for a corrupt organization, paints a picture of depravity.
Further, the whole gambit of attending various support groups, taking on different identities, is a glaring example of insincerity.
Depravity is a vice shared by the two ENxPs. And insincerity is the characteristic primary vice of the ENTP. The Narrator is an ENTP.
Need more proof? There’s more to come, but here are two more bites to chew on.
- He is informative. His internal monologue describing his emotional reaction from the perspective of different organs in the body is fundamentally indirect.
- He’s pragmatic. The whole strategy of attending the support meetings for the purpose of sleeping is a pragmatic solution to his insomnia. A trait also shared by co-pragmatic lover, Marla Singer.
Tyler Durden’s Personality Type
Now for the main event.
If you Google Tyler Durden’s Personality Type, ENTP, ESTP, and ENFJ are the three most common choices for his personality type. He’s clearly not an ENFJ because in no world is Tyler Durden affiliative. However, those who believe he’s an ENFJ are seeing an aspect of Durden that is there, but in secondary form. More on that in a moment.
Let’s look at the ENTP and ESTP to see if we can’t get to the bottom of Tyler Durden’s psyche.
There’s an argument to be made for Tyler Durden being an ENTP. His pragmatic rebellious side is obvious, and his philosophical awareness of the lies pushed by the society he lives in reminds one very much of our own ENTP (Mr. CS Joseph himself).
Durden’s entrance into the Narrator’s life can be read as the emergence of another part of the Narrator’s psyche to give him a better future — something Ne Heros are beholden to. Durden burns away the Narrator’s misconceptions about what he believes is valuable in life, tearing down the cardboard box of a life he stands on.
There is a strong Ti presence in Durden’s conversations and philosophical outlook. He’s clearly a man that thinks for himself and uses his thinking to provide something better for the people he brings into his life.
We could argue that Durden’s actions were motivated by the sake of strengthening the Narrator directly (a Se approach), as opposed to securing him a better future (a Ne approach). His rebellion against society is a pragmatic response to the hold that society had on him.
Tearing down what is perceived as the arbitrary rules of society could be laid at the feet of the notorious “testing” of the ESTP. If a rule is not strong enough to stand on its own, it should be destroyed — this is an ESTP’s way.
Ne or Se?
From the perspective of the Cognitive Functions, the argument for Tyler Durden’s type comes down to if he is an Extraverted Sensing or Extraverted Intuition Hero. Ne or Se, which is it?
The scene I mentioned a moment ago — when Tyler gives the Narrator a chemical burn — sits on the side of Se.
When in the parking lot, Tyler asks the Narrator, “How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?” This is a Se statement. He is challenging the lack of Si experience that the Narrator has, and offering to remedy that by giving him a new experience. Which, in this case, is a punch.
Lastly, there is a word that is often ignored when analyzing Tyler Durden’s type. And that word is anarchy.
Tyler has no plan after the credit card companies are blown up. Both his life and his “plan” can be summed in a quote he gives in a conversation with the Narrator.
“I say never be complete. I say stop being perfect. I say let’s evolve, let the chips fall where they may.”
Let the chips fall where they may. He’s not very concerned — or aware — of consequences. He’s confident in his ability to take life as it comes, which happens to be his life philosophy.
Unlike Benjamin Franklin’s, the ENTP’s, plan of rebellion — which led to the introduction of an entirely new system of government after a proverbial mutiny of the British government — Tyler Durden’s “plan” is literally the following: blow up some important buildings and see what happens. This is Se wanting to incite a reaction and disregarding the Ne consequences.
The Artisan way — the methodology to obtain an optimal society according to the four SP types — is anarchy and tribalism. Tyler Durden is an anarchist who creates his “wolf pack” to carry out his plan. He uses his tribe to incite anarchy.
He also doesn’t have a backup plan. His plan is chaos. His plan is the overthrow the old stale society so that chaos can give birth to something better. The artisan, anarchist, and utterly “cool” guy, Tyler Durden, is an ESTP.
We mentioned earlier that those who thought Durden was an ENFJ might be on to something. What they were onto is Durden’s Cognitive Focus. An ESTP who is Subconscious (INFJ) Focused, will come off like an Extraverted NFJ from time to time as they move between their extraverted Ego and introverted Subconscious.
It’s the presence of his INFJ subconscious that assists him in the mentor-like role that he takes with the Narrator. It doesn’t actually matter that Tyler and the Narrator are the same person because if they were different people, a Subconscious Focused ESTP would act very similarly to Durden. Tyler Durden comes across exactly like an ESTP who is developed in his INFJ Subconscious would.
But Wait! There’s a Problem!
You’re right, there is a problem. Durden’s quote that we began the article with — You were looking for a way to change your life. You could not do this on your own. All the ways you wish you could be? That’s me. — is the evident manifestation of the Superego’s role in a psyche.
How many times have you heard Chase associate the Superego with the “reset button” — the last resort of the psyche to attempt to fix the stalled growth that has short-circuited the path to integration? Where there’s nowhere left to go, the Superego emerges.
Tyler’s role in the Narrator’s life is an obvious Se on Si relationship.
In Chase’s season 29 lecture on the role of the Se Demon, he says that the Se Demon is telling the Si Inferior that “YOU ARE WEAK!”
Further, as Chase says, the Demon’s message to Si Inferiors is “The more comfort you gather, the weaker you become.” The Narrator’s life was surrounded by comfort, and it made him weak. Tyler Durden represents the Narrator’s Se Demon.
But, as the Narrator becomes stronger, he becomes capable of strengthening others too. One of the most important scenes in the film, when Tyler takes the gas station clerk out in the back and holds him at gunpoint, demonstrates the symbiosis that can be achieved between the Superego and Ego.
Holding the clerk at gunpoint, Tyler finds out that the clerk — Raymond — quit his dreams of becoming a veterinarian because it required too much school.
“Would you rather be dead?” Tyler asks him, pressing the gun to the back of Raymond’s head. Tyler gives him a choice to follow his dreams or die there on the spot. Raymond agrees to return to his studies and pursue his dream.
“If you’re not on your way to becoming a veterinarian in six weeks, you will be dead,” Tyler says.
This whole scene is an example of the Cognitive Battlegrounds, specifically the Battleground of Titans between Ne Hero and Se Demon. Tyler and the Narrator create an intense situation of physical distress, threatening physical punishment (Se) so that Raymond can have a better future (Ne).
The purpose of Tyler Durden’s emergence into the Narrator’s life aligns with the purpose that the Superego serves to the Ego.
But herein lies the problem. If the Narrator is an ENTP, that would mean his Superego has to be an ESFP Superego, right? Or, if Tyler Durden is an ESTP, that means that the Narrator must be an ENFP, right?
Did they screw up the writing? Was the Narrator supposed to be an ENFP? Is Durden supposed to be an ESFP? As it’s cut right now, it doesn’t line up.
So, we are in a pickle. It would be easiest to just say they screwed up the writing, and one of their types is wrong. While that’s possible, there is still one more place we can go.
Midway upon my journey of typing Tyler Durden
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
Having been lost, I sought guidance,
So that the path may be found again.
From whom did I seek guidance?
Here are the key points that Chase made about typing Tyler Durden.
Ask ENTPs what type they would like to be.
If you ask ENTPs what type they would want to be, many of them would say one of the xSTP types. STPs naturally have many of the strengths that balance that weakness of the ENTP. It’s no coincidence that the person the Narrator “dreamed” up is one of the coolest people possible. Tyler Durden fulfills the Narrator’s fantasy of who that ENTP wants to be deep down.
But how is that possible, given that Durden and the Narrator are not even a Superego pair?
Aren’t they though?
Tyler Durden is an ESFP who uses his Te-Child to fabricate the appearance of an ESTP, who the Narrator really wants to be. Durden is also playing the same role that the Joker does.
WHAT!? I know, I thought it was crazy when he said it too. Tyler plays up the part of the ESTP by giving off a façade. The Narrator’s Superego lies to his Ego to shield it, projecting an ESTP from his true ESFP self.
The destruction that Tyler Durden brings to society is also motivated by the arbitrary values that society sits on. Durden wants to bring his own values that he views as necessary and let the rest burn away. This is the Fi Parent of the ESFP Superego — like the Joker’s role — setting fire to perceived meaningless values.
Further, Durden’s plan of chaotic destruction is shared with the Narrator’s desire to offer collective freedom to his society.
This is another example of the Battleground of Titans between Ne Hero and Se Demon. Rigging the charges on the buildings of the credit card companies is an act of physical destruction (Se Demon) in order to provide a greater future for society (Ne Hero).
Blowing up the credit card companies is a sign of the desire for Crusader justice.
From the Narrator’s point of view — the ENTP Ego side — the purpose of blowing up the credit card buildings is motivated by a deep sense of justice to fix a corrupt society. Whether or not that’s the best way of going about it is up for debate. But the motivation is for the sake of justice. This is a primary drive unique to the Crusader quadra. And these extremes are most frequented by the ENTP, whose aspiration is to sacrifice their own safety (Si Inferior) for the collective future (Ne Hero).
And here’s the kicker.
The Narrator’s “suicide” at the end is an example of Cognitive Integration. The Narrator had enough humility to let his Superego (Tyler) expose his own weakness and change to become stronger. The Narrator becomes so strong, in fact, that he no longer needs Tyler, and his apparent “suicide” allowed the two pieces of himself to become one.
In the end, the Superego does NOT replace the Ego. The Narrator does not give in completely to Tyler — just enough for transformation, but not possession. The Narrator ultimately says “No!” to Tyler because he allowed Tyler to develop him.
The Narrator reclaims his own psyche. The final shot looking over the crumbling city, with Marla and the Narrator’s hands joined, externally signifies the internal journey that the Narrator has walked. He is one person again, and better for it.
Wrapping it up
So, is Tyler an ESTP or an ESFP?
In a way, the answer is “yes”.
Taken by himself, as a separate entity, Durden is an ESTP. But, viewed through the prism of the relationship between him and the Narrator, we cannot ignore the fact that they are attached to each other. Durden is an ESFP Superego who is projecting the type of person that the ENTP Narrator really wants to be. In this case, Durden is projecting an ESTP.
Unlike certain sites, like Personality Database — which claim that Durden is an ENTP — a true analysis of someone’s personality types cannot be consistently and accurately achieved through a majority vote.
This is even more so the case for Tyler Durden and Fight Club. A simple survey is not enough to contend with the complexity of the human psyche. And a simple majority vote devalues expertise. And just like with The Mandalorian, Thanos, and now Tyler Durden’s type, they are wrong again. Tyler Durden is an ESTP … / ESFP.