Supportive Excitement For When Too Much Excitement Is Just Too Much

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My friend was telling me about how he was doing a diet with his sister. More importantly, how he was suppressing his excitement about the new diet’s effectiveness so that his sister would be more excited about it. This is the first time he has consciously done this and it is born of past diet attempts when he was very excited and his sister was not. He was wondering why that was the case? Why did he have to dampen his excitement to avoid killing other people’s excitement and motivation to do things?

In the past, I had tried to speak with my friend about this very same subject, though not very well because I had not figured it out myself. Telling him how his excitement affected me didn’t really help him to understand because he is not wired that way (he is a thinker type). So I was very glad when he broached the subject because it meant that he is ready to learn. As they say, when the student is ready, the master will teach?

stewie_excited_animatedI explain that he tends to get extremely excited about things. He admits that he has cultivated the ability to pump himself up to atmospheric heights, to motivate himself to achieve. I reply that it is a great skill to have; but unfortunately, some (if not most) people don’t have that ability and their excitement (and motivation) usually builds slowly. And that his way can kill their way. Some people build their excitement like a small campfire and he, in turn, is the forest fire sweeping down on them. They are not going to keep nursing their fire, they are going to abandon it and get the heck out of there.

To further clarify, I reminded him about how we spoke about a first date I had a couple of months ago. I told my friend that the date went well, that I felt attracted to her, and was excited to go on more dates to get to know her better. My friend commented how wonderful that is and as he spoke more about it, he got visibly more excited in voice tone (faster and louder) and more expansive in body language (waving his hands about). My friend talked about how my date was a great match for me, pulling in details (that I had told him) such as how her teaching job gave her the summer off so she could travel and how I loved to travel. And when I married her and had kids, we could travel as a family in the summer because the kids would also get summer off from school. And since Valentine’s Day was coming up, my friend told me that I should plan a weekend trip as a test run to see how well we would travel together. Within a few minutes, my friend was at least 10 times more excited and pumped up about my date than I was. Suddenly, I wasn’t as excited about my date anymore. In fact, I was not feeling much of anything about the subject beyond a growing annoyance at your friend. I wasn’t sure why I was getting irritated; I only knew that I was. Why did that happening?

As far as I can determine, the loss of excitement is caused by the large dissonance between my excitement and my friend’s excitement. His extreme exuberance made me want to protect my small kernel of hope by going numb. I ended up feeling, well, not very excited at all. Because do you know who was really, really excited? My friend was. Maybe he should date the woman, I thought. This feeling and thought dampened my excitement down to zero.

I think this comparison happens for most everything (though I’m training myself not do it). Say that you are great at tennis; you enjoy it and love playing it. Then you meet a new friend who is 10 times better than you. Suddenly, you’re not feeling so good about tennis and don’t think you are great at it; actually, you think you’re a horrible tennis player. You feel bad. Even though you are better than most people, the comparison makes you feel that you are worse.

My friend says that he doesn’t react that way to the dissonance. That he wants to meet very excited people because he wants to become even more excited. I think there is truth to that. When someone is a little more excited than you, you can become more excited by association. However, when someone is 10-100 times more excited than you, it can serve as a dampener. Because he constantly pumps himself up so much, I doubt that my friend has encountered anyone who is 10 times more excited than him about anything that he wants to be excited about.

stewie_barfing_animatedMy friend is a brainstormer and problem solver. As I’m sure most women know, men generally will interrupt with solutions when all you may want is a friendly sympathetic ear. (This is why when a friend tells me about something troubling; I try to ask first, do you want suggestions to fix the problem?) I believe this focus on fixing is the cause of my annoyance above. His excitement is causing him to plan out my future. He means well. Unfortunately, the end state is that he is “telling” me what my future will be and what I should do to realize that future. His excitement makes him very forceful in tone, like he is commanding me. Nobody likes to be told what to do. I know he means well so my rational mind attempts to suppress the irritation while my subconscious is reacting very badly.

To help my friend, I coined the term “supportive excitement”. I told him that I believed that supportive excitement is what he should have as a goal and what he is aiming for with his sister. (D’oh! Here I am, telling him what to do.) He quickly objected, “But that’s what I do. I pump up other people’s excitement.” I replied, the emphasis is on supportive, support comes before your excitement. He asked me what that meant.

It means don’t be more excited than the other person. Be just a bit less excited and at worse, a little more excited. You want your excitement to reinforce theirs, not overwhelm. This is not a battle of attrition; you are on the same side. You want to give that person the gift of motivating himself. In turn, by trying to increase your mutual, supportive excitement, he will increase his own excitement and motivation.

And it means not dreaming or brainstorming more than they would. If they are dreaming up one or two good outcomes in the near future (like a second or third date), while you are coming up with 50 good outcomes spanning from the near future to the distant future (when they are married with kids), you have effectively overwhelmed any small hopeful dreams they may have. Again, the emphasis is on “supportive”. You want to re-enforce what small dreams they have, not overwhelm and kill off all their hopeful buddings. Rather than coming up with a vision of their life (can you see how assuming and offensive that is?) and throwing out your ideas on what they should do, you should ask them to expand on their small dreams. Give them the gift of cultivating their own hopes and dreams.

I think supportive excitement is what my friend is attempting to do with his sister concerning their new diet. I hope that I at least helped him to understand what he is trying to do so that he can be more effective at it. I can see that if he drops into his normal, volcanic, pumped-up excitement mode, it may just kill whatever motivation his sister has. And that would not be good for either of them, because in the end, he also needs her to maintain his own excitement and motivation.

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Judging vs Perceiving Dominant Types

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In a previous post, MBTI: Not Misleading, Just Misunderstood, I mentioned judging and perceiving dominant functions. I was talking to a friend and believe that I have stumbled upon a good way to differentiate between the two. Consider judging and perceiving in terms of communication.

smurf-devilvsangelJudging dominant types are almost always judging what they hear and what they say, but their judgments are works in progress. Such types will give clues, verbal and nonverbal, as to the degree of certainty in what they are saying. They would say something like “In most cases, I think that this is true.” And the progression over time is that the judgments will grow from less certain to very sure. Eventually, they will say, “This is true.” Some things are not judged, some start with no previous judgments, and others have strong judgment immediately (the result of similar decisions in the past). As judgers examine and re-examine, they re-judge until they reach a point where they are strongly certain.

Conversely, perceiving dominant types do not immediately judge unless they have made similar decisions in the past. Without prior judgments, they wait until the very end to decide. Unfortunately, they (especially dominant perceivers with thinking secondary) usually do not give any clue (verbal or nonverbal) as to the level of certainty of their statements, mainly because they have not decided anything as of yet. They would say, “This is false”, and say it with no, little, some, or total certainty; a listener can’t be sure which. Perceivers wish to explore all the possibilities first before deciding on one. What they state may not be certain at all because no judgment may be attached.

The two different styles result in conflict when they communicate with each other. Judging dominants are continuously judging and communicating their level of certainty. Early on or midway through the discussion, they may say “I believe this is so but I may be wrong”. Perceiving dominants instead will state “This is so” without indicating any level of certainty.

Each type believes they are communicating with their own type. Unfortunately, this is may not be the case. A judging dominant would believe that a perceiving dominant is very certain (because there is no verbal qualifier to the statement made) and attempt to figure out why the perceiver believes his statement to be true. A judger would then ask questions and come up with exception cases. The perceiver, who is “just throwing it out there”, is wondering why the judger is questioning him about what he said and attempting to close off possibilities prematurely. The perceiver first responds by trying to answer the judger’s questions, quickly gets annoyed when the questions persist, and start throwing out other statements or possibilities in reply to the exception cases. The judger gets vexed because he views the perceiver as not willing to explain why, making tangential statements that may conflict with each other, and changing judgments randomly. The end result is a communication breakdown and irritation with each other.

The above situation is made worse if any of the two types do not possess high emotional maturity and strong self-esteem. A perceiving dominant would feel under attack by the judging dominant. The perceiver would wonder why the judger is questioning him. A judging dominant would feel that the perceiver is not being serious, being disrespectful and making fun of him. Negative emotions are mixed into the irritation cycle and can build up to eruptions in anger with each other.

Perhaps a better understanding can be arrived at when we consider how each type brainstorms. When brainstorming, judging dominants will make continual judgments that they refine using exception cases. Judgers will examine the feasibility of a possibility before moving on the next one; judgers explore depth first. Perceiving dominants wish to explore all the possibilites before determining any possiblities’ feasibility; perceivers explore breadth first. Seeking refinement, judgers will look for exceptions to what is suggested by a perceiver. The perceiver may feel that is too premature to close off the possibility by questioning. Because statements made by perceivers are viewed as very certain, judgers may feel that it is too premature to make such judgments so soon. Brainstorming becomes an unpleasant experience for both types.

To make my point, I have painted the two types in their extremes. Both types make judgments. For judging dominants, the judgment is spread over the whole process. For perceiving dominants, the judgment is compressed to the end. Unfortunately, a non-judgmental statement said by a perceiving dominant sounds like a definitive statement to a judging dominant. A definitive statement said by a judging dominant sounds like a non-definitive statement to a perceiving dominant. These misunderstandings lead to a communication cycle which will frustrate both types.

The cycle can only be broken if at least one of the types do not assume that they are talking to their own type and make the effort to determine the type they are speaking to. Judging dominant types should not ascribe certainty of judgment to statements made without qualifiers by perceiving dominant types. Absent any expression of degree of certainty, the judger should ask directly whether what was stated is a definitive judgment. Perceiving dominant types should ask if there is any certainty to another’s statement, instead of assuming none, and if possible, provide verbal indicators as to the certainty of their own statements.

When you find yourself getting irritated in a discussion, stop and ask yourself whether your conversation partner is of a different type. Adjust accordingly and with patience, you will communicate and feel better and so will the other person.

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MBTI: Not Misleading, Just Misunderstood

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In my previous post, I indicated that the MBTI personality types were misleading and that Carl Jung’s cognitive functions were the solution. After reading “Gifts Differing” by Isabel Briggs Myers, who created the MBTI instrument with her mother Katherine Cook Briggs, I realized that I had misunderstood. The cognitive functions theory that I learned is based upon Dr. Carl Jung’s book, “Psychological Types”, but includes enhancements and clarifications from Mrs. Myers and Mrs. Briggs. The MBTI instrument is the result of making Carl Jung’s cognitive functions theory relevant to and easy to understand by the average person. Isabel Briggs Myers and Katherine Cook Briggs built upon Carl Jung’s cognitive functions theory with two major contributions.

Crouching Extravert, Hidden Introvert

042GirlPetDragonFirst, for the average person, the dominant and auxiliary (secondary) cognitive functions must work together to balance each other out. Dr. Carl Jung concentrated on unbalanced personalities (especially introverts) where the dominant function was supreme and was not in balance with the auxiliary. He did not explore balanced types and only mentioned the auxiliary function in a few references without great detail. Myers and Briggs fleshed out the role of the auxiliary function.

To be balanced, if the dominant function is a judging function (Thinking or Feeling), then the auxiliary must be a perceiving function (Sensing or iNtuition) and vice versa. If the dominant function is extraverted, then the auxiliary must be introverted and vice versa. In effect, the auxiliary function is opposite to and balances the dominant function between judging and perceiving and between extroversion and introversion.

Second, the most visible personality trait seen by the outside world is the first extraverted function, which is used to interact with the exterior world. For extraverts, this is the dominant function. For introverts, this is the auxiliary function (because the dominant is introverted). Thus, introverts have a dominant function which is hidden, and people interact mainly with the introvert’s auxiliary function. This leads to confusion because someone who is viewed as perceiving by others may be an introverted judging dominant type. Likewise, someone who appears very judging to others may be an introverted perceiving dominant type.

When thinking of balanced types, each type has an inward-facing and an outward facing function, which could be any of the four perceiving and judging functions. For example, an INFP has an inward-facing introverted dominant Feeling function and an outward-facing extraverted auxiliary iNtuiton function. An ESTJ has an outward-facing extraverted dominant Thinking function and an inward-facing introverted auxiliary Sensing function. When one interacts with the INFP, one sees visible indications of the outward-facing iNtuition function (auxiliary) in how the INFP gets along with everyone. When one interacts with the ESTJ, one sees visible indications of the outward-facing Thinking function (dominant) in how the ESTJ takes time to think and talk through decisions.

Note: One can see how the MBTI instrument and cognitive functions are tied together by how the MBTI can be mapped to the cognitive functions. As we explored in the previous post, the cognitive functions theory does not treat the first E/I (Extroversion/Introversion) and last J/P (Judging/Perceiving) MBTI preferences as standalone functions. Instead, the E/I preference indicates the attitude (E/I orientation) of the dominant function and thus, the attitudes of the remaining functions. The J/P preference indicates the extraverted perceiving or judging function used to deal with the external world. For dominant extraverts (E), this is the dominant function. For dominant introverts (I), this is the auxiliary function.

When identifying personality types, the goal is to determine the dominant function. Unfortunately, this is difficult when dealing with introverts. The most visible function is outward-facing and can be dominant (for extraverted dominant types) or auxiliary (for introverted dominant types). For example, an ISTP has a visible external-facing Sensing function which is the ISTP’s auxiliary function. But for an ESTP which also has a visible external-facing Sensing function, it is the ESTP’s dominant function. To determine which is which, one must either spend a lot of time with the person or much faster, one could just ask the person questions to learn what their dominant function is. This is why the MBTI creators describe the instrument as a self-reporting tool.

What Type Am I Again?

Update: I may sound certain that I am an ENFP below, but I am not 100% sure. I am continually swinging between INFP and ENFP. When I wrote this post, I believed I was more on the ENFP side. In this update, I believe I am more INFP. Unfortunately, ambivalence may come with the MBTI territory.

Even as a self-reporting tool, it may be difficult for a person to accurately MBTI type himself. Case in point, I’ve recently realized that I am an ENFP, not an INFP. As I understood more about MBTI and cognitive functions, I’ve refined my type. (DaveSuperPowers has a video on this ENFP vs INFP confusion.) If we compare the cognitive functions for ENFP and INFP (see below), we see that the functions and attitudes are the same, but the order is different. For both types, I would use the same extraverted iNtuition function to interact with the external world, whether I was an extrovert or an introvert. Someone observing me would have a difficult time deciding which E/I type I was. Because ENFP is the most introverted of the extraverts, I had a hard time myself figuring out which side of the E/I divide I belonged to. When I’m alone, after a while, I want to be with people. When I’m with people, after a while, I want to be alone.


I think the view of the E/I preference as being how one gets energy is confusing. The theory is that an extravert would be energized by being with and interacting with people and an introvert would be energized by being alone. I don’t experience this at all. Instead, I believe that energy expenditure is a better indicator. Introverts are drained of their energy faster than normal when forced to interact with people (to extravert). An extreme introvert would reach energy exhaustion quickly. Likewise, extraverts are drained of their energy faster than normal when forced to be alone (to be introspective). In both cases, I believe that the introverts and extraverts are forced to use their auxiliary functions, which use up more energy than using their dominant functions would. Even as an extravert, when I’m with people who are boring and who don’t want to engage (in conversation or activity) with me, I do expend more energy to compensate and thus become exhausted faster.

Having said the above, there are scenarios where I feel that I’m not expending energy or even that I am gaining energy, but they are independent of the E/I preference. Zero energy expenditure can seem to occur when I am deeply concentrating on a task (I am in the flow) and hours pass without me getting tired. And I seem to gain energy when I am participating in an activity or interacting with people that I am very passionate about. I gain energy whether I’m doing an interesting solitary activity (Introversion) or partying with a bunch of closed friends (Extraversion).

The trick to identifying my type is what most books recommend to do, which is to recall how I was like when I was younger, preferably in high school and college. I believe that high school helps to solidify our dominant preferences which we then exhibit clearly in college. After college, when we join the workforce, we are forced to strengthen our auxiliary and lesser functions (even our shadow functions) to cope with work demands, coworkers, and bosses. As an ENFP, I have to thank my work experience for my strong ability to focus on the details (shadow Sensing function) and to bring projects to completion (shadow Judging function). With life experience and age, all our cognitive functions mature and we become very balanced. If I take an MBTI test and answer the questions based upon who I am now, the test would not provide a strong match to any particular MBTI type. I have to force myself to answer based upon who I was when I was young.

The second trick is to read self descriptions from other people by MBTI type to see which ones I most identify with. For this to work, the source of the self descriptions must be accurate. The source that I recommend is the book titled “The 16 Personality Types: Descriptions for Self-Discovery” by Linda V Berens. After reading the self descriptions for INFP and ENFP, I was surprised to find that I currently identified very strongly with ENFP and very weakly with INFP. To double-check, I recalled how I was in high school (where I was active in many clubs, often as an officer) and college (where I organized parties and dinners for other students and alumni). In the end, ENFP with its dominant extraverted iNtuition function seemed a more fitting match for me.

I feel that after a long journey, I have finally identified my MBTI type. However, at the same time, I realized that my MBTI type may no longer strongly identify the current me. My INTJ friend tells me that I am a disturbance to his system of identifying MBTI types because I behave in contradictory ways. I took that as a compliment and think that he truly enjoys trying to upgrade his system to account for my behavior. Dr. Carl Jung and Mrs. Isabel Briggs Myers briefly mentioned that eventually, with age and maturity, an individual may transcend their type. I don’t know what that would be like, but as an ENFP, I find it very intriguing. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Check out my continuing post on this topic, Judging vs Perceiving Dominant Types.

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Jungian Cognitive Functions: The Solution to Misleading MBTI Personality Codes

Personality 7 Comments

I took the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test years ago. It indicated that my personality type code was INTJ. I took the test again and got a different result, INTP. I read the portrait descriptions of both personality types (and other similar ones, ENTJ and ENTP). I was able to identify parts of myself in all four personality types, but none of them exactly fit me. Being human, it was very easy for me to read myself into each portrait, especially when they talked about the “positive” traits and behaviors. Frustrated, I decided that INTJ was good enough (I was a software engineer and that seemed to be the best match) and thought no more of it.

SpockAsciiArtFor several years, I thought I was an INTJ until I took a class about Tony Allessandra’s Personality Styles. At the end of the class, I was talking to the instructor and mentioned that I thought I was a Thinker. She replied that I was a Socializer (Feeling type). She said that she could easily tell from my face and body language what I was feeling. (I was always the joker in class.) That just blew me away; I thought I was a Thinker, but I’m actually a Feeler. With feedback from friends (very necessary to accurately determine your personality type), I finally identified myself as an INFP. Or at least, I’m more confident that I am an INFP than an INTJ; the portrait description for INFP seemed to match better.

I decided to revisit the MBTI and try to understand the theory so that I can understand myself better. Though I grew comfortable with what the MBTI type codes for N (Intuiting), S (Sensing), T (Thinking) and F (Feeling) meant, I could never quite “get” what I (Introverted), E (Extraverted), J (Judging), and P (Perceiving) meant. I always had vagueness in my understanding of what the meanings (in terms of behavior and traits) for these MBTI type codes were. There were certain parts of my personality which directly conflicted with some MBTI definitions for the type codes.

For example, I’m an INFP and I like to be on my own for periods of time, which explains why I am an “I” (Introvert). But sometimes, I want to be with people. When I’m out with my friends, I get energized from interacting with them. In fact, if you ask my friends, they will tell you that I’m an “E” (Extrovert) and the life of the party. Likewise, even though I’m a “P” (Perceiver) and like to have many open options, when I take on a task at home or work, I concentrate all my energy on completing the task, which is a very “J” (Judging) behavior. And, while I’m an emotional “F” (Feeling) at home, I am a coldly logical “T” (Thinking) at work. It seemed that I had a split personality.

Recently, I saw some videos about Carl Jung’s cognitive functions (thanks DaveSuperPowers!), which MBTI is based upon. When researching MBTI, I had seen mentions of the cognitive functions but had never explored them. Once I started looking into Carl Jung’s psychological types theory, I knew that I had to learn it. I could see that it was much more subtle than MBTI and suggested answers to the questions I had about my split personality.

The MBTI attempted to simplify Carl Jung’s psychological types theory. So there is a lot of overlap between the cognitive functions and MBTI in terms of definitions and type codes (which relate to function types N, S, T, J and each function’s I/E orientation). Unfortunately, the MBTI simplification only captured a part of Carl Jung’s theory and introduced standalone personality type codes I/E and J/P which can be misleading. I realized a deeper understanding of personality types can only be achieved by studying Carl Jung’s cognitive functions.

The Jungian cognitive functions consist of the N/S and T/F dichotomous (divided into two parts) functions, their strength of expression, and their I/E orientations (aka attitudes). N (Intuiting) and S (Sensing) are perceiving functions, used to collect data. T (Thinking) and F (Feeling) are judging functions, used to organize data and make decisions. The perceiving functions and judging functions are in dynamic balance, caused by different strengths of expression (Dominant, Auxiliary, Tertiary, and Inferior rankings) and orientation (Introverting or Extraverting) for each function. This dynamic balance provides a subtle, nuanced understanding of each personality type.

Note: While the Jungian cognitive functions N/S and T/F have direct matches with the MBTI type codes, there are no cognitive functions that match the J/P MBTI type codes. Similar, there are no cognitive functions that match the I/E MBTI type codes. In Carl Jung’s theory, the Introversion and Extraversion are orientation attributes applied to each cognitive function. The best correlation I can come up with is that the MBTI I/E and J/P type codes together can be used to determine the dominant and auxiliary functions (cognitive functions with the most powerful and second most powerful expressions in the personality) and their orientation.

To get a better understanding of the Jungian cognitive functions, let’s look at the four Jungian cognitive functions that match my INFP personality type:

My dominant (first) function is Introverted Feeling (Fi) meaning that my feelings are focused inward towards thoughts and ideas. I make decisions/judgments using an internal code of moral conduct, what feels right and avoids hurting others. Because I am focused inward, I am not emotionally expressive to people so they may think I’m reserved or a bit cold. A dominant Extroverted Feeling (Fe) type would be focused outward towards people and things, and would make decisions that preserve the social groups (family, community, etc) and cultural norms. A Fe type would be emotionally expressive, warm to people, and be more accepting of the general consensus. The above Fi and Fe types are descriptions of the extremes; we humans are on a gradient between the two and I am more towards the introverted feeling extreme.

My auxiliary (second) function is Extraverted Intuiting (Ne) meaning that my intuition is focused on getting subtle clues from my external world, with a focus on understanding people, patterns, relationships, and possibilities. An Introverted Intuiting (Ni) type would focus his intuition internally to build an abstract system of concepts and patterns. My Ne auxiliary function explains why when I’m with friends, I can be the life of the party; I’m expressing my auxiliary function more than my dominant. The Ne function helps me to get an idea of how people are feeling, and to match and improve their moods.

My tertiary (third) function is Introverted Sensing (Si) meaning that I perceive the present world in relation to my past experiences and reactions. I prefer to keep a concise internal view of the world and thus, I tend to be neat and a minimalist (I don’t care for owning things beyond the minimum). An Extraverted Sensing (Se) type would enjoy the physical world with all five senses. Se types love cool things and creature comforts. In extreme, a Se type could become a hoarder.

My inferior (fourth) function is Extraverted Thinking (Te) meaning that I prefer to think out loud. I can work on incomplete ideas by talking to someone (or by writing). An Introverted Thinking (Ti) type prefers to create an internal model where everything fits together perfectly. An extreme Ti type may ask you to pause talking while he internally processes an idea you have just introduced.

If you look carefully at the four cognitive functions, you can see that the fourth and third functions mirror the first and second functions, in that order. The mirror involves a switch to the other dichotomous function (N to S and T to F, and vice versa) and a change in orientation (introverted to extraverted, and vice versa) from first to fourth and second to third. In addition, the first and second functions must have opposite orientations (which results in the second and third, and the third and fourth, having opposite orientations). This is a useful shortcut because if you know a person’s dominant and auxiliary types and the orientation of either, the third and fourth functions (and all remaining orientations) can be determined using the constraints above.

Note: To map from MBTI personality type codes to Jungian cognitive functions, you can use the following rules: (a) the MBTI I/E indicates the orientation of the dominant cognitive function, (b) if MBTI “E” type, the J/P determines which is the dominant function, and (c) if MBTI “I” type, the J/P determines which is the auxiliary function. So for an ESTJ type, because it is an “E” type with “J”, the dominant function must be a judging function which is “T” and thus, the auxiliary is the remaining “S”. The resulting cognitive functions are Te, Si, Ne, Fi. And for an INFP type, because it is an “I” type with “P”, the auxiliary function must be a perceiving function which is “N” and thus, the dominant is the remaining “F”. So, the cognitive functions are Fi, Ne, Si, Te.

The inferior (fourth) function is special. Being the weakest, it is almost totally suppressed by the dominant. Most of the time, the dominant and auxiliary functions will be expressed (with the auxiliary playing a supporting role to the dominant), the tertiary function minimally expressed, and the inferior function barely expressed at all. Except, sometimes (usually under stress), the inferior becomes strong enough to suppressed the dominant function! When this happens, the mirror is flipped in that the inferior function becomes the dominant and the tertiary function becomes the auxiliary; the inferior and tertiary become expressed (with the tertiary playing a supporting role to the inferior) and the dominant and auxiliary almost totally suppressed. This is the sudden personality change! This explains why at work, my Extraverted Thinking (Te) function becomes dominant and I become an almost emotionless (suppressed Fi and Ne), talking egghead (expressed Te) who is a stickler for rules, processes, and details (expressed Si). I basically become the opposite of an INFP which is an ESTJ.

The order of the functions explained why I like to complete tasks as soon as I can. My dominant Fi is a judging function and creates the task by asking what should I do? Once I pick a task, my auxiliary Ne (with my tertiary Si), which is a perceiving function, explores options on how to best accomplish that task. My inferior function Te, which is a judging function, opposes the auxiliary Ne and tries to bring the task to closure/completion. Tasks are left incomplete if the Te is unable to bring the Ne to heel. Which is why when I start on a task, I try to complete it as fast as I can (without breaks), because the longer I let it go on, the more time is given to the Ne to become stronger than the Te.

According to the link above, the way an INFP approaches a task can be represented as a diamond with the dominant Fi at the top point, the auxiliary Ne representing the fat middle, and the inferior Te at the bottom point. In contrast, an INTJ’s approach would represent an hourglass with the dominant Ni at the top fat base (perceiving: what are all the possible things to do?), the auxiliary Te at the narrow middle (judging: pick something and do it), and the inferior Se at the bottom fat base (perceiving: Is the result good enough?). While the INFP may stop in the middle of a task without coming to completion, the INTJ may take forever to perfect the solution.

Besides MBTI, other researchers, like John Beebe and Linda Berens, have introduced four additional cognitive functions, called “shadow functions”, to Carl Jung’s original four cognitive functions. These shadow functions have the same order as the cognitive functions but with opposite orientations. For INFP (Fi, Ne, Si, Te), the shadow functions are Fe, Ni, Se, Ti (ENFJ). While the cognitive functions are expressed by preference, the shadow functions can become expressed when we are under stress. In some situations, we may purposefully try to express a shadow function and while doable, we will find that it is tiring (versus energizing when expressing a preferred cognitive function). This may explain why non-Fe and non-Ne types can get tired when dealing with people.

I feel that I am just digging at the first layer of Carl Jung’s psychological types theory. I expect to make more realizations, some of which might invalidate what I wrote above. So take everything with a large grain of salt.

Check out my followup post on this topic, MBTI: Not Misleading, Just Misunderstood.