Saturday, April 11, 2009

Equilibrium (Personality Talk, part 8)

"We know that three of the four functions of consciousness can become differentiated, i.e., conscious, while the other remains connected with the matrix, the unconscious, and is known as the 'inferior' function. It is the Achilles' heel of even the most heroic consciousness…." Carl Jung, 1959

Time for another personality post! I've been reading more about inferior functions and how stress is expressed in each type. So I thought I'd share!

If you need a refresher, read the Basics of Type Theory first. If you already know your type, you can determine your hierarchy of functions there.

Balance has a unique meaning in type theory. At first glance, you may think that a balanced personality is one that has developed equal competence in all functions. This would result in no clear preferences. Essentially, you would be typeless. But that's not how the human brain develops and functions.

Balance means we develop our inferior function (the 4th function) sufficiently to keep our dominant function from becoming overbearing, over-expressed, and running amok. It's healthy to develop the inferior function to achieve this balance. But no matter how balanced we are, or how skilled we are at using that inferior function, it can also cause trouble, because it remains our least comfortable, least controlled function.

What kind of trouble? Know how you can act out of character when under stress, feeling tired, or ill? When you have a day when you don't recognize yourself? In type theory it's called "being in the grip." And in type terms, it is the eruption of your inferior function. When we are in the grip of our inferior function we experience tunnel vision (become too focused or narrow-minded), lose our sense of humor, and make "all-or-none" statements.

Each inferior function has different triggers or stressors that lead to a grip experience, behaviors that characterize the grip experience, and ways to return to equilibrium. Because of their make up, INFJs and INTJs can be especially stressed when they are forced to focus on details, to face unexpected events, or to be more extraverted. Their inferior function, extraverted sensing (Se), unconsciously comes forward. Their "grip experience" causes them to focus obsessively on external data, to overindulge in sensual pleasure, or to take an adversarial attitude toward the external world. To return to equilibrium, they may need time alone to recharge, to lighten their normal schedule, or to be free from others giving advice or suggestions.

So, as an INFJ (and I can attest to the truth of this) I can get stressed when plans change at the last minute, causing me to pick a fight with Jason, which resolves only after I've had some alone time. :) Or, after spending all day shopping with my extraverted mother-in-law, I just need to sit and eat chocolate, and put off the laundry and vacuuming until the next day (yeah-- that sounds right!)

If you want to know your inferior function, triggers, form of the grip experience, and how to get back to equilibrium, tell me your type in the comments. Let's see how accurate this theory is!

I also want to wish all those who celebrate it, HAPPY EASTER!

Hope your holiday is hopping! (Follow the little ones, they know where the best eggs are!)

(back to part 7)


Charles Gramlich said...

It's an interesting way of describing what happens when we're tired or frustrated. It definitely leads to less control over varied animalistic impulses.

Sarah Hina said...

Who are those cuties on the teeter-totter? And in the adorable Easter dress and hat?? :D

As you know, my inferior Te can create havoc for me in times of stress. Becoming aware of my triggers has been invaluable to me. If only everyone could really hold onto this information, and learn about their loved ones' triggers too, the world would be a much more harmonious place (ah, sweet INFP heart is all aglow ;)).

Seriously, though. Thank you for bringing this info to your readers' attention, Aine. I hope the comment section for this post will be as enlightening for others as our discussions have been for me!! You are a wonderful teacher, counselor, and (most of all!) friend. :)

Aniket Thakkar said...

You keep scaring me Aine. Its like my life blown open without me saying anything.

I was "In the grip" today... making "all-or-none" statements the whole day.

And finally I a drive alone cleared my head a bit.

Lately, blogging has helped a lot to get things out to people who truly understand what you try to say, and even what you don't say.

And I too hate it when things don't go according to the plan. It just makes me the most hated person around... I become a grumpy, pathetic, nasty creature, I hate so much. Its like water falling on a gremlin!

And I hate unnecessary socializing too. I hate smiling at people who bore you to death.

Seems like the grumpiness has not worn off completely... so I'll just say I love your personality posts... and you always leave me craving for more.

Karen said...

Hi, Aine. Thanks for this new information. I'm ISFJ. How about it? What happens when I'm in the grip?

By the way, the girls are gorgeous! I love the hat and dress. AND the sunshine! Yay!

Happy Easter.

Jennifer said...

I love the pictures, Aine! So squeeze-y. :)

I am trying to figure out how this plays out in the situation I am in for the next couple of weeks...her presence makes me feel constantly watched--is that enough to force my inferior function forward? Is that why I have dark chocolate in my closet, the laundry room, my handbag and the car?? ;)

And the word veri is savor. Swear.

Aine said...

Charles~ I sometimes find myself amazed that I can think about how I think. It's a wonder we have any control over animalistic impulses.

Sarah~ Yes, those are our girls on the seesaw. And the little one is our oldest when she was about 18 months old. She made me a very happy mommy when she tolerated the hat for those pictures. :)

Harmony is what it's all about, right?! They can say all they want about our rose-colored glasses... :P

Thank you, my friend! :)

Aniket~ It's the theory, not me. ;) I'm so glad that learning this stuff is helpful. And now you, too, can amaze others with your insight into personalities! :D

Karen~ Alright! Let's see how this fits you. Extraverted thinking (Te) is the inferior function for ISFPs (and INFPs).

Triggers for your grip experience are: negativity or excessive criticism, fear of impending loss and separation, and violation of your values. When you are in the grip of Te you tend to become critical or judgemental of incompetence, become aggressively critical (making exaggerated or categorical judgements), and take precipitous action (often creating problems or difficult situations where there initially wasn't one.) And to return to equilibrium: the grip experience needs to pass or expire on its own; or, you need to have your feelings validated; or, others need to avoid trying to reason with you.

Does it fit?

J Ha! Savor, indeed! I think this definitely explains your need for sensory indulgence. I have my stash of dark chocolate right in front of me, next to the computer screen! :)

Yes, if you feel stressed enough by the situation that you find yourself acting out of character, then you are in the grip of your inferior function (according to the theory).

Karen said...

Aine - I think you've pegged me in that these are probably my triggers, and also my reactions, although I seldom voice the criticisms or take action. Generally, I hold it all inside, nursing my wounds. I do not suffer fools gladly, a trait of which I'm not particularly proud. I am also wounded by real or perceived criticism quite easily. You are right that it passes on its own, and the good thing is that I cannot hold onto it even if I try.

Chris Eldin said...

ADORABLE girls!!!!

I love this post. And I also love being the same type as you--I get the benefit of your examples as you write!
I find this to be so true for me. My biggest trigger is not having a schedule, or plans changing suddenly. I'm going to come back to read this again, it's been very helpful!

Unknown said...

No kidding, I took pictures of a little girl at a wedding a few years ago who was wearing that dress AND that hat.

So does that mean that when my inferior te strikes in stress that I say exactly what I think and it isn't very nice?

No wonder when I'm stressed I require alone time, I simply don't want to hurt anyone with what I say. It just doesn't go along with my need to be harmonious, ya know? Sarah knows...don't you Sarah? :-p

Aine said...

Karen~ The theory got it right, then? I'm having such fun with this. I have yet to find someone who doesn't fit the theory.

Chris~ Thanks! There's several of us INFJs hanging around blogville.... :) I find this theory especially helpful when trying to understand others' behaviors!

Catvibe~ Wow! It was such an adorable dress. Hard to pass that one on when the girls outgrew it... :( Interestingly, I "made" that hat. I added the ribbon to match the dress.

Yes, you could say that. :D You brought up an interesting point. When the inferior function comes forward, we not only behave "out of character", but we display behaviors that are in precise opposition to our dominant process. Such as INFPs becoming overly critical rather than promoting their highest value of harmony. And INFJs focusing obsessively on details instead of having global visions of possibilities.

Unknown said...

That is really interesting! I'm glad I know that now.

You'll be happy to know that James and I are attending an all day seminar on this stuff at UNCA in a couple of weeks. Since he's an adjunct professor there, I get in FREE! :-) Yay!

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Oh - how informative. I am grateful to you for doing the "legwork" - or brainwork, I should say. Tell me what I experience in the grip. I am an ISFP, as near as I can calculate...

I just love the pictures! So very sweet. xo

Aine said...

Oh, Cat!!! I'm jealous! Sounds like a fantastic day! :)

Do share anything that seems new or different from our understanding of the theory, please?!

Kaye~ Certainly! :) I just realized that I made a mistake in my response to Karen, above. She's an ISFJ, but I gave her the grip info for an INFP. So, you can read my response to Karen above, and I'll give the proper information for the ISFJ here.

Karen!!~ Ooops! I gave you the wrong response. Says a lot for the theory if the ISFP info fit for you, doesn't it? :P

So, let's see... ISFJ:

Your inferior function is Ne (extraverted intuiting).

Triggers for a grip experience are: issues of reality (dealing with people who deny facts and actualities, such as an "everything will be fine" statement in the midst of a crisis); anything unknown (a completely new experience stresses an ISFJ); and, "overdoing" their own type, such as doing others' assigned duties or working long and hard and feeling unappreciated.

When in the grip of Ne, you lose control over facts and details (have difficulty attending to relevant facts and arriving at rational conclusions); become impulsive (which is the opposite of the normally responsible, respectful, unassuming ISFJs); or, start catastrophizing (the Ne focus on exciting future possibilities gets taken to the extreme of fearing disastrous outcomes.) To return to equilibrium, you need: to hit bottom; be taken seriously by others; or, receive help with overwhelming details.

Does that sound more like you ISFJs (and ISTJs)? I see my father clearly (he's ISTJ). Wow!

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Aine - yeah, that's me alright! Those are definitely my triggers!
In the grip of Te I do take precipitous action (I am sorry to say) - I need to work on that. It does have to expire on its own - do not try reasoning with me. And I MUST have my feelings validated!!!!!! Everything fits, Aine!

Fantastic Forrest said...


I came over to you from the Whittering On blogroll.

Some very interesting thoughts here. It's very late, though, so my brain is not fully engaged; best if I don't try to say anything and sound stupid.

But I have to know - how did you create the pointilism effect on the teeter totter pic? I'd love to do that! Please share the technique!

Ed Meers said...

This is all frighteningly accurate. The more we learn about our minds, the more fascinating it becomes. Alternatively, it is also terrifying as "mind control" through advertising, ideological brainwashing, etc. becomes both more prevelent and powerful. A bit of a Pandora's box, but such is the double edged sword of knowledge.

I live in my own head way too much. The result has been an intense way of living, riddled with frustration and enlightenment. What a journey! Life IS beautiful and incredible!

Aine said...

Kaye~ Yay! What's great is that we can clearly communicate these needs to our friends and families so we can all understand and support each other better!

Fantastic Forrest~ Welcome!! I've been such a fan of Janey for some time. :) I'm glad to meet her other readers/friends!

The photo "technique" (I'm LOLing because I'm so inept with computers and technology in general) is simple. Since my husband is so into photography, we have Abode Photoshop Elements 6.0-- it has a bunch of tools for artistic effects. I think I used the "watercolor" effect for that photo. (Just a click and the program changed my photo like magic!)

Minister~ Time and again I am amazed by the accuracy of this theory. Our thinking seems so complex, but it's really just a matter of two functions: taking in data, and making a decision on which to act (or not). The continuum of ways we do those two functions is what creates the "types".

I choose the optomistic view that having this knowledge will increase our chances of harmony (but I know too well how that double-edged sword swings...) :P

And the bottom line is that (I believe) as a species, we need to have these differences in thinking to survive. We are all specialists, in a way. The sixteen types each have a skill or gift to offer. And exclusion of any one type of thinking may cause us to make bad decisions as a group, reducing our survivability.

Thanks for visiting, my friend. I like the way you think!!

RachelW said...

I've been doing quite a bit the the MBTI at work lately,and as I'm still (always) learning what it all means, I found this thought-provoking. It does help to explain why we behave so differently under stress. Maybe it's an even better excuse than PMS? Ha Ha!

Thanks for the visit and comment on my blog!

Margaret said...

Hi Aine

I took the "Personality Type Theory" test.


I see I've lots of reading to do on this subject. Looking forward to doing that. Just have to find the time to read it all!

Thanks for giving us the chance to find out more about ourselves.

Deepa Gopal said...


I am a blogger friend of Aniket's. I've commented in your blog before too. When he told me about the Test...I was eager to try it..

I took all three tests
HumanMetric said - ESFP
Skeletus Said - ENFP
Similar Minds said - ENFJ

And I feel, when I read the desc of the three, there are certain characteristics of all three... And I have feeling tht the ENFP goes more with me. Now what am I??? Can you me understand tht better?

It was Great going thru it...

Aine said...

RachelW~ I'd love to know more about how (for what purpose) you are using the MBTI at work! I'm hoping to introduce it to a Board of Directors that I recently served on, for team building.

And, LOL, I think PMS causes these grip moments!

Margaret~ You're welcome! I just love expanding my understanding of how others think, as well as myself!

Deepazartz~ Welcome, again! It's so nice to see you! I stopped by your blog earlier. Your art is beautiful!

The online, free tests are not as accurate as taking the MBTI, as you've discovered. The way to nail down your true type is by learning what each of the four functions of the type code mean (the E, N, F, and P), and delving into your self to figure out your natural thinking preferences. If you'd like, I can help you through the process. It appears you are most likely Extraverting and Feeling, but unsure about S/N and J/P. For S/N-- do you feel more comfortable paying attention to the here and now and concrete facts about what is around you, or do you tend to pay attention to what could be, or patterns and meanings of the world around you? It's important to figure out where you fall on that dichotomy, because there is a bigger difference between ESFP and the other two (ENFP or ENFJ). The types with SP are part of the artisan temperament, whereas the NF types are of the idealist temperament. Once you nail down your type, I can give you more info about the strengths and primary processes of your thinking preferences.

Since you think the ENFP felt closest, here's a bit about that type. The primary process is extraverted iNtuiting, which is the process of interpreting situations and relationships and finding meanings, interconnections, and possibilities. ENFPs are aware of nuances and what is not said. They enjoy brainstorming and often experience "just knowing" something. They tend to be good at imitating or mirroring others, and they enjoy inspiring others.

Let me know if you want to explore your type further!

Deepa Gopal said...

PLs chk your mail Aine...have sent one. Hope you don't get bored to death:)