Following on from a previous video on Type Development, this vid is to address the common question of how to develop one’s inferior functions and unconscious.
Someone asked recently, ‘How do I be a better INTJ?’ and another, ‘Any ideas on how to develop my S and F in order to become a more … agreeable person?’. Other YouTubes and even LinkedIn members have questions along the same line - how do we develop our other functions?
So this video is about why and how we might develop our lesser-preferred tertiary and quaternary or “inferior” functions.
Let’s recall, we have four Jungian functions in our conscious mind, that are classically referred to as dominant, auxiliary, tertiary and inferior. In Jung’s model we have a dominant function supported by an auxiliary function then our tertiary and inferior functions, the latter so named because it is often the least developed. These functions operate as function pairs or couplets; the dominant couplet being our dominant function and its auxiliary, and the inferior couplet being the Inferior and the tertiary.
We know that in Psyche-Type development, it is normal and healthy for each individual to have a different amount of energy invested in each with varying degrees of development.
The dominant is the ‘dominant’ because under normal circumstances, it’s our most preferred way of being and is therefore usually most developed since it is presented for development first. Ordinarily (given a nurturing and supportive childhood), we then proceed to develop the auxiliary, the tertiary and inferior over time.
Often our dominant function is graphically over-represented as being many times greater or more important than the others; this is a misrepresentation, leading to a misconception, perhaps really only accurate in adolescence when the Dominant couplet is all we care about. We can see why ego reigns supreme at this age. As we mature, our reliance on any particular function is less intense except when we are stressed or “in the Grip” then we bounce uncontrollably between dominants and inferiors.
So, the first point I want to emphasise, is that it is normal and healthy for your inferior function to be less-developed than your dominant. However, we do use all four functions. Being able to call upon all of the functions of our personality can be of great benefit to us and our interpersonal relationships.
Jung saw the psychological goal of life as what he called ‘individuation’: the integration of the Psyche’s opposing forces and a unification of the whole personality. Most often, individuation evolves in mid to late life, when an individual has had the opportunity to develop their functions, after having experienced a broad spectrum of challenges and learning, no longer feels driven to win, to be right, to prove themselves or to prosecute their values. In other words, they are no longer constrained by their Psyche-Type or ego-values.
This opportunity is available to anyone who invests in knowledge and practice.
Although still a very active and capable man, John at 70, no longer has the perfectionist fervour he had as a young INTJ, but is now so relaxed and comfortable with life so much so that he is more like an ISFP much of the time, enjoying the many pleasures life has to offer like communing with nature or taking 6 weeks off work to enjoy a holiday.
As a management consultant John knows type theory well; his Psyche-Type hasn’t changed throughout his lifelong recollections; he has always seen and reacted to his world the same. When I engage him in conversation about his professional life, he still offers the kind of broad, conceptual overview characteristic of Ni, the difference is, he doesn’t need to use his Ni all the time, often simply noting ‘what is’ without extrapolating into “what this means and why”.
In this period of life he is often happy to simply enjoy whatever new experience life offers up next – without wanting to direct, understand, exploit or control it in any way.
It’s no accident that in old age, an INTJ like John can resemble an ISFP.
Of interest, many ISFPs in old age resemble INTJs, by installing their insight from life lessons into personal interactions, thus sharing their real-world wisdom.
In both cases, the individual has become so comfortable with their inferiors, that they are able to call upon all facets of their personality at will.
What I observe about such individuals, regardless of Type, is that they have an ease and self-acceptance about them.
In his youth John was a bright and highly driven management consultant, who would readily put noses out of joint with his blunt, direct INTJ-manner.
Nowadays, I don’t know a single person who doesn’t feel comfortable in John’s presence. I’ve also seen him do decidedly un-INTJ things, like engage in chit-chat at the coffee shop. Whilst he doesn’t ever start the conversation, he no longer has the immature INTJ interplay … ‘urgh… this is so awkward. Why do I even have to engage in this mindless discussion? Why does this lady need to tell me about her dog and honestly, what do I care about her son’s wedding?’
For John, that kind of stuff is no longer an effort, and rather than becoming clumsy or embarrassed as I still often do in similar situations, he is happy to connect with others and does so graciously.
Before returning to the question of how we develop our inferior functions and become more comfortable with life, ourselves and others, it’s worth briefly discussing what happens in stress. You see, we all have access our four conscious functions and the different awareness’s that they facilitate, but common amongst descriptions of ‘individuation’ is the idea of being able to call upon each function appropriately, independently and with a level of conscious control.
This requires a special skill that usual presents with age, but can be learned.
As young people we tend to have a lot less control, particularly of our tertiary and inferior functions. We are less adept at handling them, knowing what they feel like, when and how to use them.
The tertiary or child function is often described as something of an Achilles heel. The child function is the opposite of the auxiliary function, so it can have a destabilising affect when under-developed. For me as an INTJ with Fi as my tertiary function, stuff that has a high emotional content can be really debilitating. My NiTe is great at solving problems, but when someone wants to cry on my shoulder about all the misery in their life, the burden on my Fi can leave me feeling drained, crippled and even fatalistic. As soon as I get like this, I’m no longer accessing my gift: I can no longer use my NiTe to help find a solution, because I’m weighed down with emotional baggage which can explode unpredictably.
Just as the tertiary function can be fragile, the inferior function can be volatile. Being in stress is often described as being ‘in the grip’.
Naomi Quenk, author of “In the Grip” has written about how, when in stress, our personality seems to contort; we can find ourselves doing or saying things that afterwards we feel ashamed or embarrassed about. You may be able to think of moments in your life when you exploded or did something really out of character, because you were stressed, only to find yourself thinking afterwards, ‘Wow, who was that? What came over me?’
When we ‘see red’, the inferior function first stresses presenting the worst of our inferior function until it ruptures, causing a ‘bursting forth’ of uncontrolled, unconscious material, ready for projection onto the nearest victim.
So for example, INFPs when stressed will often explode into ultra-caustic extraverted thinking based on whatever precedent comes to mind, usually precipitated by something cutting across their deep Fi values.
The lessor form of Inferior stress is manipulation. By way of example an ESTJ whose logical thinking function is hobbled can suddenly pull out their FiNe to restore their position by manipulating others’ emotions. In all cases, a stressed Inferior leads to an unsophisticated defense.
Regardless of Type, when the inferior explodes, we aren’t using it in a controlled or skilful manner. It tends to be the very worst of the function, wielded like a weapon to defend the child that is feeling threatened and vulnerable because our ego function has been devalued.
So how then, do we develop our tertiary and inferior so that we can make skilful use of them? Some suggest that doing activities that engage these functions helps, but more than anything, the critical part is just being able to relax and not remain doggedly attached to our ego values.
Let me give a personal example. For me as an INTJ, my NiTe constantly wants to understand, analyse and find meaning behind information and events. But often when I most NEED to understand, it is precisely that hyperbolised NEED that prevents me from doing so! That is, when all my energy is focussed on, ‘what does this mean?’ and ‘how do I understand this in the bigger picture?’, I can be so driven to find meaning, that I actually miss the bloody obvious and often, miss the opportunity to just enjoy life and learn from the moment!
All work, no play results in psychological fatigue, inflexible thinking and stodgy reactions.
When we are attached to our dominant function, when we rely too heavily upon it, all of us can be rigid and uncompromising about our own perspective. And in doing so, we lose the use of our lesser functions and the balance, support and energy that comes from being able to use the whole of our personality.
Again, consider John in his maturity; he just doesn’t seem to get defensive with anybody, most unlike his younger, less-developed self. He is never so bogged down in NiTe that he becomes inflexible or can’t see another’s viewpoint. In fact, he is so detached, that he has become a great listener, and when irritations or disagreements arise, he seems to be able to remain open and receptive while also being able to state his views calmly and respectfully.
The lesson I share with you is that if you want to develop your inferiors, it’s great if you can find activities and situations in which you can practice them, without stress or fear of making a mistake.
As one of our ESFP viewers has noted, a relationship with someone whose dominants are our inferiors and vice versa, can provide exactly the kind of loving and supportive environment that can facilitate such growth. But the key is really just being able to remain relaxed and fluid; detached from ego if you will.
The easiest way to avoid being a victim of your inferiors is to know what they look like, to understand how your Psyche works. Too many people have a little knowledge, enough to label bits but not enough to know what to do with them.