Form of the Inferior Functions


Inferior function is an attitude that is pushed out of consciousness as one develops dominant function, however, it still exerts a powerful influence on the person. It leads one to try to fulfill neglected needs, but in ways that clash with the rest of the person’s life, experiences, and self-understanding. It confronts you with strange goals that you don’t know how to attain. It “floods” you with motives and emotions you may not understand because you cannot easily discern this mode of perception. Attempting to view the world through Inferior Function will conflict with your life investments, ego, and identity that you have built with your dominant function. In other words, by using your inferior function, you are stepping outside of the criteria you have previously defined for yourself. In its usual state, the inferior function is suppressed by the dominant function. Inferior function is thus expressed infrequently but typically in a forceful, all-or-nothing manner.

When you perceive through your inferior function, the dominant function is metaphorically speaking “tied up”. The dominant function can work in tandem with the secondary function, or with the tertiary function, but not so easily with the inferior function. If you shift focus to your inferior function when your dominant function is ‘on’ full blast, your dominant function will usually re-take control through the Tertiary Temptation, unless your secondary function intercedes with a new perspective. There are other explanations of why the dominant function and the inferior function clash:

People don’t focus on information coming from their Inferior Function because they know that it isn’t their strong point – they cannot discern information well in this area. It feels strange and unfamiliar. People may feel like they are being childish when trying to express themselves in grip of their inferior function, and no one will take them seriously. They feel like they are not going to make much of an impact.nPeople don’t rely on information coming from their Inferior Function directly because they don’t want to compromise their world view and how they perceive and feel about themselves.

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Inferior Se

INTJs and INFJs appear less likely than other Introverted types to get much pleasure from a lessening of introverted “inhibitions,” although some INTJ males describe becoming more extraverted in a positive, sociable way. An INFJ said he is “surprisingly more extraverted, especially in the company of strangers; more expressive and less contained.” Female Introverted Intuitive types mention increased sociability less frequently, possibly because they, like other women who are Introverts, are encouraged (or required) to develop social skills. However, for the most part, the obsessiveness and discomfort that accompany extraverting their Sensing function is experienced as overwhelmingly distressing for both male and female INTJs and INFJs.

As dominant Introverted Intuition loses its position of primacy, INTJs and INFJs start to lose their characteristic wide-ranging, global perspective. Their field of operation narrows considerably, and their range of acknowledged possibilities becomes limited and idiosyncratic. They may make more factual mistakes and become careless with spelling and grammar. “I am unable to cope with simple decisions and problems,” said an INTJ woman. “I’m frustrated by the physical world—I lose things, drop them, hate them. I don’t know what to wear or what to eat. I’m impatient with people and can’t read or concentrate.” An INTJ said she obsessively looks for the “right” factual piece of information that will solve the problem. “I notice things not put away around the house—things that are broken or things to do.” As their hold on their dominant and auxiliary functions further diminishes, the qualities of inferior Extraverted Sensing manifest in an obsessive focus on external data, overindulgence in sensual pleasures, and an adversarial attitude toward the outer world.

For INTJs, tertiary Feeling may abet the process in that the “facts” (real or invented) on which the INTJ obsesses are often used as “proof” that others discount, devalue, or dislike the INTJ. Similar “facts” may be used by the INFJs tertiary Thinking to prove that the INFJ is inadequate or a failure. The comparison between dominant and inferior Extraverted Sensing is shown in Table 12.

Jung (1976a) incorporates the three qualities of inferior Extraverted Sensing (obsessive focus on external data, overindulgence in sensual pleasures, and an adversarial attitude toward the outer world) in the following comment:

What the introverted intuitive represses most of all is the sensation of the object, and this colours his whole unconscious. It gives rise to a compensatory extraverted sensation function of an archaic character. The unconscious personality can best be described as an extraverted sensation type of a rather low and primitive order. Instinctuality and intemperance are the hallmarks of this sensation, combined with an extraordinary dependence on sense-impressions. This compensates the rarefied air of the intuitive’s conscious attitude. (p. 402)

Obsessive Focus on External Data

Effective dominant Extraverted Sensing types are open to the widest variety of information from the environment— the more the better for them. Fully experiencing the outside world is their greatest pleasure. For an INTJ or INFJ in the grip of inferior Extraverted Sensing, data from the outside world can seem overwhelming. Facts and details in the world demand the attention of the Introverted Intuitive type in the grip, so he or she obsesses about them. This may be experienced by both INTJs and INFJs as a state of intensity and drive. Their attempts to control the details in their environment are often expressed in such activities as feverishly cleaning the house, moving furniture, and organizing records and other materials. They may show an adamant concern about minute details and an unrelenting effort to control everything in their immediate vicinity.

An INFJ described her obsessiveness and withdrawal from her usual interests this way: “I stew about what’s going on. I can’t sit still and am restless. I am mentally fatigued and find myself compulsively putting things in order and trying to control everything around me.” An INTJ said that when he is in this state, he feels like a top spinning faster and faster. If he is working with tools and getting frustrated and angry, he has learned that it is best for him to stop or he will get hurt or break something. An INFJ described “obsessing about details.” He gave as an example:

“When I’m using power tools that can cause injury, I will spend an inordinate amount of energy making sure that I’m not going to inadvertently hurt myself when I turn the thing on. I will triple-check to make sure my fingers are out of the way, etc. Usually I take in the world more globally and have less concern about details until I need them.”

Se-dominant Types

  • Focus on external data
  • Seeking sensual/aesthetic pleasure
  • Delight in the outer world

Se-inferior Types

  • Obsessive focus on external data
  • Overindulgence in sensual pleasure
  • Adversarial attitude toward the outer world

“I’m more likely to have accidents,” said an INTJ. “I’m robotic, forget things, say things backwards; I’m obsessed with a thought and can’t get it out of my mind. I try to control situations and people and engage in strange behavior, like checking on things,” said an INTJ woman. And another INTJ woman said, “I can become obsessed by detail. I’m less able to function and make decisions—sort of paralyzed.” An INFJ said, “I alphabetize my compact discs; or suddenly it’s time to do that thing I thought about doing two months ago. I drop everything and do it; or I fixate on smells and sounds.” “I organize or clean. I feel pressured and can’t think clearly,” reported another INFJ. “I nitpick about things in the environment. I bombard people verbally and obsess out loud.”

An INTJ recalled the following from his childhood and adolescence: “When my studies were not going too well I would start to develop detailed tables of data, or drawings to support technical/science answers. These were frequently in too great detail, taking a lot of time and usually out of all proportion to the task and the length of the answers sought—or even irrelevant to the original questions.”

Often the external input that becomes the object of obsession is something someone said or even failed to say. When the last client on an unusually busy day left without saying her usual “See you next week,” an INTJ therapist became convinced she had made a mistake during the psychotherapy session. She spent many hours going over the content of the session. She felt the only reason the client had not terminated therapy that day was politeness, so as not to hurt the therapist’s feelings.

A common focus, particularly for INTJ and INFJ women, can be an aspect of their physical appearance. They may become convinced that they have prominent skin blemishes, that others are noticing that they don’t dress very well, or that they look fat. In combination with the “overindulgence” manifestation described below, a powerful effect can occur.

Overindulgence in Sensual Pleasures

In effective dominant Extraverted Sensing types, the enjoyment of sensual pleasures is natural, spontaneous, and quite consistent with their focus on the reality of the immediate environment. In Introverted Intuitive types in the grip of inferior Extraverted Sensing, this quality takes the form of sensual excess rather than sensual pleasure. It is interesting that a number of INTJs and INFJs described themselves as becoming “self-centered” and “self-indulgent” when they are in the grip—a descriptor often projected onto well-functioning Extraverted Sensing types by INTJs and INFJs (and by other types as well).

Overdoing gratification of the senses is a commonly mentioned behavior for INTJs and INFJs in the grip of their inferior function. They may overeat or binge. They see themselves as obsessively doing harm to their bodies. A typical “tactic” is to overindulge compulsively and immediately thereafter—if not during the episode—berate themselves for their uncontrolled, shallow, destructive behavior. An INTJ described the experience this way: “There is a clear preliminary state where I am totally apart from the real world. I am not even an observer, and I can completely ignore anything real. It’s a nice fantasy, that’s all—just absorbing. But later I become excessively indulgent, getting totally immersed in physical experiences— eating, exercise, pulp fiction, TV. But I don’t enjoy it. It feels like a dangerous roller coaster, but I’m immobilized and can’t get off.”

An INFJ said, “I have to get away from reality. I do too much of something— one thing. I eat more or stop eating; I shop for useless things.” Another said, “I eat too much, spend too much, watch TV or read excessively to escape. I’m late for everything.” An INTJ said her pattern is to overeat, feel guilty about it, wake up in the night and feel worse, get too little sleep, causing her to feel more vulnerable, and then eat more. Another INTJ feels bad about her overeating but not guilty: “I hate it when people brag about how much they exercise!” she said.

Adversarial Attitude Toward the Outer World

Effective dominant Extraverted Sensing types approach the outer world with eager anticipation of all the wonderful experiences awaiting them. For Introverted Intuitive types in the grip of inferior Extraverted Sensing, the immediate reality of the outer world spells difficulty and danger. They expect obstacles and problems to plague them as they move through a strange and potentially hostile environment. Their hypersensitivity to potentially dangerous surroundings can promote uneasiness about people as well. “I can have negative forebodings and feel that people are against me,” said an INTJ. An INFJ said she “becomes suspicious. Usually I’m tolerant, curious, and compassionate, so ‘out of character’ for me means I’m unaccepting and frustrated with the world.”

An INTJ said, “I start tripping over things and feel out of control in the external world. I feel like I’m under a dark cloud. I get hung up on some false fact and distort it. I get stressed out about time—too many things and not enough time. I attack others with words and then feel guilty.” An INFJ described herself as “shutting down, communicating very little. I misplace things, especially keys and watches. I’m very harsh, critical, not diplomatic. I lose my temper, obsess about details, organize, reorganize, yet nothing gets done.”

Anticipating the worst can often elicit anger and blame in INTJs and INFJs. “I’m moody and gloomy, with sudden deep anger,” said an INTJ. An INFJ also describes experiencing deep anger: “I am emotionally aroused and am terribly critical of others. I accuse people of never helping me. I become dogmatic and blast people with facts. If no one is around to attack, I write a scathing letter to someone.” Another said, “I internally check off all the events that happened leading up to the ‘conflict’ and then I verbalize this list with a sense that the impeccable logic of it will convince others I am right and I will be vindicated.”n

The altered state of any inferior function is typically accompanied by a lessening of social controls and therefore more frequent expressions of anger. However, the character of the anger may be different for different types. For INTJs and INFJs, the “cause” of distress is often one or more “objects” in the environment. The anger directed at either things or people may therefore be more focused, intense, and extreme than with other inferior functions. Introverted Intuitive types may be unable to recognize alternative possibilities so that their perspective becomes extremely narrow. This tunnel vision and externalization of blame can produce ruthless results.

One INTJ said, “I get into verbal raving and am out of control. I regress emotionally and act childish. I feel anxious, exposed, childlike.” Another INTJ said, “If I bump my head on a cupboard, I get mad at the world for putting a cupboard there. Others think I’m cursing at myself— but it’s really at the inconsideration or stupidity of the cupboard being there.” An INFJ observed, “I am angry, unreasonable, totally irrational, closed-minded, and impatient. I feel vulnerable and then become angry at others for it. I can’t communicate with anyone. I am hard, callous, unfeeling, and I have no energy to be bothered with anyone else.”

My notes

This behaviour of mine is why I know my current job is probably the worst thing for me to do. I manifested something like the object obsessing early on in my shift. Plus the other is that I often feel tired, even though physically I’m not – though I sometimes do when I just finished.

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