From Jungian Psychology Unplugged: My Life as an Elephant, by Daryl Sharp, M.A., a Jungian analyst and publisher and general editor of Inner City Books.
Among other topics in this book, Sharp writes about the Myers-Briggs Temperament Inventory types. Temperament or personality is what drives a person to think, feel, and act as they do in a somewhat predictable manner. Theoretically, each person’s temperament or character is comprised of various personality functions. In the Myers-Briggs Temperament Inventory (MBTI) system, the Sense (S) function tell us that something exists; the Thinking (T) function tells us what it is; the Feeling (F) function tells us what it’s worth; and the Introverted (I) function tells us what can be done with it. Introversion is energy directed inwardly, to the inner world, while Extraversion (E) is energy directed outwardly, to the outer world. Finally, the Perceiver (P) function speaks to possibilities and the journey, whereas the Judging (J) function speaks to finality, the destination. There are, then, 16 possible personality types. For those who are unfamiliar with temperament types, you can take a short, free version of the MBTI temperament test here.
Sharp explains that personality types are arrived at through the one-sided development of the various personality functions. Theoretically, Jung proposed that the whole or healthy human being ought to be more-or-less balanced on the traits (or, rather than being an ENFP, a person might be an XXXX, achieving about 50% on each function). People ought to be balanced in their personalities, with each function able to step up and do its part as it is needed.
Unfortunately, many people (if not most) have unbalanced personalities; they may use the Introversion (I) function when it is most inappropriate, for instance by feeling frozen in social settings because their Introverted (I) function overshadows their ability to be Extraverted (E). As well, in a crisis or when a person is under stress, the neglected aspects of the personality come to the forefront and it becomes obvious where a person’s weaknesses are. In such a case, Sharp writes, “Only a period of self-reflection and analysis of fantasies can restore the balance and make further development possible” (p. 19).
“. . . the process of assimilating the inferior function, raising it into consciousness, is invariably accompanied by a lowering of the superior or primary function” (p. 19). For example, the Thinker (T) suddenly can’t write an essay; the Senser (S) loses her keys and misses appointments; the Introvert (I) becomes fascinated with sound, color, texture, and things; the Feeler (F) burrows into books, forgetting his social life. Cleary, one has to find the middle way.
“. . . strong emotional reactions of any kind. . . are a sure sign that the inferior function, along with one or more complexes, has been activated” (p. 20). Supposing a person working on self-development starts her path as a strong intuitive (N). She makes decisions based on her “gut instinct,” and one often overhears her saying things like, “I had a feeling that might happen,” or “that just doesn’t hit me the right way.” These are intuitive statements; but our pilgrim is unbalanced, and if she hopes to become whole and balanced, her Sensing (S) function will have to step up to the plate. As she undergoes analysis, or begins to study her dreams, or uses a combination of a myriad of tools available to the modern pilgrim to delve into her unconscious, suddenly she finds that her inferior Sensing (S) functions begin to “pump iron,” as it were. She’ll take compensatory actions, such as becoming fixated with things and objects, what she can see, taste, feel.
Our pilgrim will find that she can be trained through experiences with objects; whereas buying clothing was a mundane and even distasteful act before, she may find herself playing with new fashion statements. When combined with the intuitive (N) function, which sees possibilities (what could be), the Sensing function (S) senses realities, our pilgrim can enjoy the possibilities of things as possessing symbolism that relates to her very Self.
Sharp explains how the individual may under-develop an inborn temperament function, writing, “Family circumstances may force one at an early age to take on an attitude that is not natural, thus violating the person’s innate disposition. . . Whenever such a falsification of type takes place, . . . the individual becomes neurotic later and can be cured only by developing the attitude consonant with his nature” (p. 22).
Unfortunately, at first, when the inferior function is activated, it presents itself in a socially inferior way. “When the undeveloped attitude is constellated, we are prey to all kinds of disruptive emotions–we are ‘complexed'” (p. 23).
We sometimes allow others to “carry out our inferior attitude or function,” allowing “one part of our personality to be cared for symbiotically by another” person (p. 24). This leads to being bored and boring; to losing our zest for life.
When trying to figure out what type of personality a person has, look at what he habitually does. What is his greatest cross? From what does he suffer most? When does he make a fool of himself? What is there about him that makes family and friends complain the most? Answers will lead to the inferior function and attitude. For example, if you have a friend who’s a follower, always looking to you for motivation, energy, and inspiration, your friend probably has an inferior Extraversion (E) function; his go-getter stuff has got up and went.
Another clue to which parts of oneself haven’t been assimilated is to look at one’s dreams: whatever functions aren’t available to the conscious mind will appear in dreams. For example, a Thinking (T) type will dream of primitive feeling types, illustrating the unassimilated side of himself.
For an excellent book on temperament types, check out Please Understand Me, by David Kiersey. This is one of my favorite temperament type books. It can be life-changing for a person who is just beginning to understand him/herself.