Embracing Si and Fi
An ENTP’s Journey
Julia Grant, October 4, 2017
A decade ago, I reported as INTJ through an MBTI® assessment tool in the workplace. The INTJ descriptions seemed in accord with what I knew about myself at the time, and also corresponded to the particular work I was doing. However, while recently studying psychological types at Pacifica Graduate Institute, I determined through a deeper understanding of types that ENTP is my correct type. While I could readily identify characteristics of my personality that aligned with the intuition and thinking functions, it was only through exploring the potential positions of feeling and sensation that I achieved the realization that INTJ did not fit, and ENTP did. I had difficulty relating to the introverted feeling (Fi) and introverted sensation (Si) functions, other than knowing they were uncomfortable for me. In fact, I struggled through much of the class to understand the difference between them. I discovered that this discomfort and confusion were clues that I needed to unlock mysteries of my personality that I had long wondered about, and felt the need to understand better.
Image as Psyche
G. Jung (1967/2014) famously said: “image is psyche” (¶ 75). James Hillman (1975) emphasized the importance of the image when he wrote: “Every notion in our minds, each perception of the world and sensation in ourselves must go through a psychic organization in order to ‘happen’ at all” (p. xvii). Consciousness depends on the processing of images (pp. 22-23).
To understand how images are processed, Jung defined four psychic functions. The two rational functions, thinking and feeling, are assessing or judging functions. The two irrational functions, intuition and sensation, are perceptive functions (as cited in Wheelwright, 1982, p. 64). In addition to the four functions, Jung (1921/1971) empirically saw in his patients two different attitudes that varied according to the way they related to external objects (such as people or events). He wrote:
The extravert is distinguished by his craving for the object, by his empathy and identification with the object, his voluntary dependence on the object. He is influenced by the object in the same degree as he strives to assimilate it. The introvert is distinguished by his self-assertion vis-à-vis the object. He struggles against any dependence on the object, he repels all its influences and even fears it. So much the more is he dependent on the idea, which shields him from external reality and gives him the feeling of inner freedom. (¶ 535)
When the orientation to an object determines action, the attitude is extraverted. When this attitude is “habitual,” this is an extraverted type (¶ 563). For an extravert, the most differentiated function is employed in an extraverted manner (¶ 574). While an extravert uses the object as a point of reference, the introvert uses the “archetypal idea” (Beebe, 2006, p. 134) as context and point of comparison.
For each function, the attitude of the unconscious related to that function is the opposite of the conscious attitude related to that function (Jung, 1921/1971, ¶ 570). John Beebe (2004) connected Jung’s idea that “consciousness already resides in some form in the unconscious” to an understanding of psychological types and the “teamwork” between the conscious and unconscious functions in each person’s psyche (pp. 88-89). All people use all functions, but the specific differentiation and consciousness of the functions differ. In all cases, the functions will have a conscious attitude and a compensating unconscious attitude that interact together as a team. If a function is unrecognized by consciousness, the unconscious strengthens and creates impulses that serve to “block” the conscious attitude (Jung, 1921/1971, ¶ 574), thus correcting an imbalance in the function team.
Beebe (2005) reminded us that Jung believed the conscious personality of most people included a pair of functions, one rational and one irrational (p. 39). Through examining his dreams and how they related to his functions, Beebe identified archetypal complexes that he believed were carrying the eight variations of function-attitudes which are mapped out to eight positions in the typological schema. He also referred to the archetypal complexes as “subpersonalities,” or as an “interacting cast of characters” (p. 42). He conceptualized the conscious functions along a “spine” running vertically from the superior, first position, to the inferior, fourth position, and “arms” running horizontally from the auxiliary, second position to the tertiary third position (Beebe, 2004, p. 103). He defined four ego-syntonic (in harmony with the ego) archetypes for the four conscious functions, including: position one superior function as heroine or hero, position two auxiliary function as mother or father, position three tertiary function as puella or puer, and the fourth inferior function as animus or anima. Although the inferior function in position four is unconscious, it is considered ego syntonic because it bridges consciousness with unconsciousness (Beebe, 2005, p. 40). Additionally, he defined four ego-dystonic (dissonant with the ego) archetypes of the shadow: position five as opposing personality, position six as witch or senex, position seven as trickster, and position eight as demonic (p. 42).
Discerning My Type
Marie-Louise von Franz (1971) wrote that the best way to discover your type is to examine what you “habitually do most” (p. 20). I habitually connect the dots on data perceived from experiences and find opportunities to create something new. In every professional position I have held I have exceeded the requirements to create new processes, models, organization structures and the like. One early example of this is my first financial position at a major hospital in Chicago, where I was the budget analyst for the Division of Nursing. My supervisor expected me to create the budget and submit it to the hospital’s budget office. While creating the budget, I realized that there were two areas in which I could better integrate the process and strengthen the credibility and responsiveness of the financial plan. One way I did this was to establish a training program for nurse unit leaders to learn how to understand and manage their budgets. The training program had the benefit of enhancing the conversations with the nursing leaders and enabling them to advocate for their units’ financial needs more confidently. As we engaged in dialogue, I realized that the financial management would be improved by creating a flexible budget that was responsive to changes in the environment. I incorporated into the budget things like acuity (the criticality of the illness) of the patient population, research protocols on the floor, the ratio of registered nurses to nursing aids, and other factors. Supporting this work was the organized, methodical, and systematic way that I approached teaching, learning, and building mental and financial models. Without the ability to do this, it would have been difficult to communicate with both the unit leaders and the hospital administration.
Haas and Hunziker (2014) noted that extraverted intuitives (Ne) want to “generate real-world possibilities” (p. 53). They also wrote that introverted thinkers (Ti) focus on “internal principles and truths” by originating “systems” and “frameworks” (p. 83). Given my hospital example and many similar experiences, I determined that the extraverted intuition and introverted thinking functions are my most differentiated functions which narrowed my type to either INTP or ENTP. To decide between the two, I looked at the third and fourth position functions. For INTP, the inferior function is extraverted feeling. I am attuned to what other people are feeling and tend to shape myself to them. I developed this function while working, and demonstrated it routinely in the final years of my career in higher education administration. Extraverted feeling did not seem like an inferior function for me. For the ENTP type, extraverted feeling (Fe) is in the third position, which accords with my experience of myself. Finally, introverted sensing (Si) as the inferior function of ENTP is a precise fit, for reasons I will discuss below.
Si as an Inferior Function
The inferior function is important in the psychological type model. According to Beebe (2006), von Franz “clarified the relation of the inferior function to Jung’s transcendent function, pointing out that if the inferior function is made conscious, then the relation to the unconscious changes and the personality is unified” (p. 141). The archetypal function model defines the animus and anima as the archetype related to the fourth function. “It is through the undifferentiated, incorrigible inferior function that they (animus and anima) do their best work” (Beebe, 2005, p. 40). An animus or anima figure—another person whose superior function is one’s own inferior function—often appears in one’s life. (Beebe, 2004, p. 102). Because of the tendency of the unconscious to gain strength when not acknowledged by consciousness, the power of the inferior function, which has no corollary in full consciousness, is especially strong and can create a state of possession (Sandner & Beebe, 1995, p. 327), pushing the ego to look for its “image again and again, in ever-new guises” (Shumate, 2011). Robust responses signal activation of the inferior function (Sharp, 1987, pp. 24-25); dramatic experiences occur or exciting people appear, but in an unadapted manner (von Franz, 1971, p. 15).
Sensation can be experienced either directly from the object (extraverted) or as a subjective sensation which is stimulated by the object (introverted). In extraverted sensation, the subjective experience is constrained in consciousness, but in introverted sensation subjectivity is key (Jung, 1921/1971, ¶ 605). If intuition is to function well, sensation must be inhibited because the sense perceptions could undermine the intuitive perceptions (¶ 611). Introverted sensing uses a distinct and specific “internal database of memories” to contextualize current experiences (Haas & Hunziker, 2014, p. 43). Primordial images provide the “reality of the subjective factor” and “constitute a psychic mirror-world” (Jung, 1921/1971, ¶ 649). Objects that elicit sensations are highly valued and consciously recognized regardless of their accord with rational judgments (¶ 605). Jung made the point that while introverted sensation does not directly remove value from the object, the subjective response replaces the reality of the object, so the effect is a devaluation of the object (¶ 650). Introverted sensing as a function is concerned with “finding order, organizing experience, and monitoring the comfort of the body on the inside” (Beebe, 2004, p. 96). It records a subjective meaning and attaches it to the object, replacing the object’s “inherent physical properties” (Sharp, 1987, p. 81), leading to sense impressions that are animated, individual and unforeseeable (Myers & Myers, 1980/1995, p. 103).
When operating in an exaggerated manner, superior extraverted intuition leads to symptoms with inferior introverted sensation, (Jung, 1921/1971, ¶ 572), in part because the extraverted type readily adjusts to the environment at the expense of her own subjective needs (¶ 564). I conducted my life in an unbalanced fashion for much of my career. The most dramatic manifestation of the impact on my physical health was in 2002 when I was working in a demanding position as the director of a $3 billion budget. My career focus became so intense that I encountered serious debilitation with osteoarthritis in my neck, resulting from routinely carrying my laptop and loads of files, as well as working many hours on my computer. I was in such severe pain that I was wearing a neck brace and taking Vicodin four times a day. One distinctly painful day I went to Urgent Visit at Health Services. Since it was an unscheduled, urgent appointment, I knew I could be there for a while, so I took my laptop along with a stack of files and walked three blocks down the street to the Health Services building. When the doctor saw me, he shook his head in wonder at how I could be so insensitive to my pain that I would do the very thing that exacerbated it, carrying heavy materials, just to ensure I wouldn’t lose a minute of productivity. My disregard for my health also led me into psychotherapy, where it took the therapist six sessions to convince me that I needed to start getting massages, and another six months for me to realize I needed to start adjusting my work habits.
When the inferior function is activated, one can become quite juvenile and defensive (von Franz, 1971, p. 12). I have a vivid memory from that same time that I now understand in the context of introverted sensation as my inferior function. My husband and I had become accustomed to dining at a particular restaurant on Friday evenings. I looked forward to unwinding there after a hectic week. One night as we were pulling out of the driveway he suggested we try a different restaurant. My internal reaction was explosive. I felt dramatically threatened and shouted that we could not do that. Even as I had the experience, I realized that my reaction was extremely inappropriate for the situation, but I could not course correct. It felt like my life depended on going to our normal restaurant. My need for the inner security offered by the predictability possessed me.
Introverted sensation “is focused on recalling lived experience” (Shumate, 2011). Those with undeveloped introverted sensation may struggle to recall experiences from the past, using tools to help remember and present an air of competence, or “pretend to remember with hopes that memory will return” (McAlpine, Shumate, Evers, & Hughey, 2009). For those with introverted sensation in the fourth position the lack of memory can feel more visceral. I have always struggled with remembering details of experiences. I put together a DVD for my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, and when I first started looking at the pictures, I was fearful that I wouldn’t remember what my mother looked like in years past. I had visions of getting it wrong, and embarrassing myself at the anniversary celebration. Additionally, I worried that there was something deeply disturbed in me that had repressed such basic memories of my family. I also have hazy recollections of childhood experiences and don’t remember some people who wrote in my high school yearbooks, including someone named Bill who signed it “love you, Bill.” As I write this I am preparing to attend my 40th high school reunion. One of my fears is that I will not remember people who were good friends (such as Bill), and experiences that were significant at the time. It is not only a long term lack of memory. I can attend a play on Friday night, and not be able to recall it on Sunday until someone provides a piece of information, which then helps me to remember more. I have a hard time recalling the names and plots of movies I see. When this happens, it causes anxiety, limiting my willingness to effectively engage in social interactions. I now realize that the subjective experiences don’t get marked and cataloged within me. I have given them no internal meaning, they are not located anywhere on a psychic map, so they are difficult to recollect later. I cannot re-collect them because I never collected them.
People with introverted sensation in the fourth position “may develop creative pursuits in detailed areas (e.g. history, nature, finance, research, etc.)” (McAlpine et al., 2009). I created a complex chart of accounts for the accounting systems at a large research institution and a series of detailed financial models with which to manage the university budget. These are just two examples of my ability to create complex solutions, something with which I experienced significant satisfaction.
Undeveloped introverted sensation may show up as resistance to “tedious tasks”. In the inferior position, resistance may be heightened to anxiety regarding these types of tasks (McAlpine et al., 2009). My most stressful days are those in which I have a list of details to which I need to attend. I can manage large workloads with many moving parts, but when I have more than a few details to take care of, I feel completely overwhelmed. Individuals with itroverted sensation as the inferior function may also “experience boredom, or feel pity for those who use this function professionally” (McAlpine et al., 2009). One of the people who reported to me in my last position managed an office that ensured that the university was in compliance with various requirements. I dreaded meeting with her every week because by nature the things she needed to discuss were details of regulations, accounting, and procedures to be followed. I found myself unable to prevent yawning in her presence. I was embarrassed, and she was undoubtedly offended. Although it was important content, I found it impossible to stay engaged with the material she was discussing. Undeveloped introverted sensation may become agitated by criticism of past actions, or try to blame others for prior mistakes. Introverted sensation as the inferior function “may catastrophize when confronted with even slightly negative data” (McAlpine et al., 2009). The tendency to catastrophize is something on which I work with my therapist regularly. He calls it my “inner fundamentalist” (a play off my negative reaction to fundamentalism). He also calls it a lack of self-constancy, or all-or-nothing thinking. I can sprint from feeling fabulous and powerful to feeling completely worthless. At these times there is no in between, and no capacity to be more than one thing at the same time. I feel utterly convinced that I am a failure—that I am indeed “inferior.” At such times, my psychic energy is hijacked into a solitary purpose; cataloging all the ways in which I am wrong, with no recognition of positive characteristics or accomplishments.
Finally, a characteristic of extraverted intuition compensating inferior introverted sensing is “exaggerated attention to the body, personal hygiene, fitness fads, health foods, etc.” (von Franz, 1971, p. 39). I have been a regular exerciser since 1987, missing only a handful of weeks since that time. I have an entire shelf of diet books and have put my family through many iterations of meal plans. In fact, my son teases me, saying that he grew up on sticks and leaves. But I fall into sugar binges when I am upset about something. The problem is that I often don’t know I’m disturbed until I catch myself binging. A year ago, I had a dream about an overweight woman who was very unhealthy. She was in a commercial laundry with my then husband. The dream felt significant, so I began engaging with her in active imagination. Her name is Matilda, and she told me that she suffers physically every time I binge on sugar or have too much wine and that she needs me to be more mindful of my choices and conscious of my body. We have engaged multiple times, and she is steadily getting healthier as I improve my awareness of my internal state and make more conscious decisions about what I allow into my body.
Von Franz (1971) wrote that “the inferior function brings a renewal of life if one allows it to come up in its own realm” (p. 39). With the benefit of hindsight, I can see now that my compulsive draw toward my former husband was in part because of his introverted sensing superior function. I allowed him to carry my function for many years, and in fact was often annoyed at his focus on details even while I was benefitting from his efforts on our behalf. When one projects the inferior function onto another person, it can lead to a distancing of the subject from the object (Spoto, 1995). Distancing of myself from him is what happened in my marriage, and one of the reasons the marriage failed. I am now working with a psychotherapist who may have highly differentiated introverted sensing. However, with him, I am working to access my introverted sensing function and learning how to notice and recognize my inner reality. Both my former husband and my psychotherapist are animus figures for me. My psychotherapist is helping me to bridge consciousness with the unconscious in this area.
Eventually, the superior function loses some of its appeal or becomes commonplace, and the inferior function shows up in the main function (von Franz, 1971, p. 20). My study of depth psychology satisfies both my extraverted intuition and my introverted thinking. Additionally, it is leading to more sensational awareness as I am now pursuing somatics. The interesting thing is that despite my interest in the body over the years, and the fact that somatics perfectly complements my work in therapy, I needed to overcome significant resistance before I engaged a somatics consultant. This resistance is consistent with Shumate’s (2011) assertion that even while the inferior function bridges conscious and unconscious, it can still bring with it resistance.
Beginning to Distinguish Feeling and Sensation
Hillman (1971) helpfully distinguished feeling from sensation, noting that one can experience both for the same event, such as a sensation of pleasure and a feeling of gratitude for a fine meal (p. 103). The feeling function is about evaluating things: “thoughts, sense-objects and psychic contents of any kind. It is not restricted to feelings” (p. 105). Feeling is not necessarily logical, but it is rational. Borrowing from Pascal, he noted: “The developed feeling function is the reason of the heart which the reason of the mind does not quite understand” (p. 110). The function is not limited to liking or disliking but is a process of evaluation (p. 112). One can have inferior feelings, while also using the feeling function in a superior manner (p. 126). The feelings are the content, and the function is the process. Hillman distinguishes the two by referring to positive and negative content, and superior and inferior processes (p. 127). We need to establish loyalty to our feelings to integrate them as part of our ego. The “ego gives its personal stamp to the feelings while the feelings alter the ego’s conventional stand” (p. 128). We establish loyalty to our feelings through their expression, so if they are repressed, the feeling function is inhibited (p. 140).
Introverted feeling relates to the archetypal bearing of experience, often “measuring it against an ideal” (Beebe, 1992, p. 136). To do this, one must have an underlying framework of feeling memory, a “set of values” to which experiences can be related (Hillman, 1971, p. 109). Without this, there is no basis for comparison of the experience; there are no personal values. The feeling function requires engagement with one’s authentic feelings, and not just loyalty to what one would ideally feel (p. 159). Sometimes the feeling truth “clashes” with the thinking truth (p. 163).
When Feeling is Blocked by Thinking
Feeling as an assessing function (Wheelwright, 1982, p. 72) can be disturbed by thinking (Jung, 1921/1971, ¶ 598). My introverted thinking has been very disruptive to my introverted feeling function. I can vividly remember training myself as a child to ignore my feelings and reason out how I should react. In my childhood mind, my feelings did not serve me well, so I needed to suppress them.
The feeling function has its roots with the archetypal mother (Hillman, 1971, p. 141). Fueled by alcohol, my actual mother was often emotionally volatile in the evenings and had limited tolerance for negative emotions from me. Her outbursts frightened me, and my own feelings terrified me even more. Hillman wrote that the mother-complex “is the permanent trap of one’s reactions and values from earliest infancy, the box and walls in every situation whichever way one turns” (p. 138). He noted that to avoid troublesome reactions, we cut ourselves off from our feelings (p. 139). When I started working with my current psychotherapist six years ago, I had not cried in more than ten years. It would take five years of semi-weekly sessions before the tears would flow with him, and it can still be a challenge for me. In addition to learning to express my feelings, I am also learning how to identify and name them. I didn’t have labels for them because I had not consciously experienced them. The range of inexpressible feelings that I could not honor was unavailable to the feeling function.
Beebe (2004), who also has ENTP preferences, wrote about privileging other peoples’ feelings over his own, and then over-reacting when his empathy was not appreciated, and the process he underwent to honor his values through the introverted feeling function (pp. 108-109). Like Beebe, I have focused on my extraverted feeling function, and, like Beebe, I have reacted badly when my efforts have not been appreciated, often in the workplace. I cultivated my extraverted feeling function in a leadership position that had little authority, but much responsibility. This required me to utilize influence to accomplish goals. I often spent weeks or months trying to influence academic leaders to agree to an administrative change that would support business objectives, and if they failed to support the change I felt betrayed. In the last year, I have been more explicitly developing introverted feeling. Recently, I realized that I needed to honor my feelings about an uncomfortable communication a family member had sent to me. The appropriate action would be to talk with him about it and ask him to stop the behavior. It took me five days to discern my feelings about it, and a session with my psychotherapist to convince me to favor my own feelings over those of the family member and to assert for what I needed from him. Using my introverted feeling function to evaluate the situation and decide on a course of action is still an emerging skill.
I recognize the introverted feeling trickster regarding my values related to political philosophy. The introverted feeling function is a “decision making process” focused “on the subjective, internal world of absolute personal value systems and assesses all things” relative to those values (Haas & Hunziker, 2014, p. 103). Introverted feeling in the 7th “may trick oneself into believing one’s values are not as important as they actually are” (McAlpine et al., 2009). Political philosophy has been important to me since I became an adult, but I realize that I haven’t adequately discerned and honored my values. I determined my positions by thinking instead of feeling, and my immature introverted feeling led me to react emotionally when someone disagreed with me. I was not able to sustain a conversation about issues because my feelings were too intense. I have been working on discerning my values through my feeling function and I am startled to realize that they are leading to different positions than I have held in the past. I am experiencing more ease in maintaining discourse about issues because my positions are becoming more harmonious with my values. Using my feeling function to assess my position on questions of political philosophy and policy should lead to a more grounded sense of who I am and what I believe.
When introverted feeling is in the trickster position, “[one] can feel manipulated by others’ expressions of values” (McAlpine et al., 2009). I have friends who are particularly attuned to their values and frequently express them. I am aware that I feel tense during these discussions like I am somehow being boxed in by their exclamations. I often feel like they are trying to convince me or manipulate me into agreeing with them, and this feels uncomfortable, causing me to want to conclude the conversation.
Getting a ‘Feeling’ for Si and Fi
Von Franz (1971) told us that we could not go straight from the superior function to the inferior function but instead, must engage the auxiliary or the tertiary functions to lead the way (pp. 22-23). I am using my auxiliary introverted thinking function to create a model for how my inferior introverted sensation function is related to my trickster introverted feeling function. Beebe asserted that one must go through the trickster seventh function to reach the inferior fourth function (Shumate, 2011). In the last few months, I have become aware of a situational tightening in my abdominal region, which subjectively feels like a wall. This wall is created by feelings that indicate disharmony between experiences (introverted sensing) and inner values (introverted feeling). Most specifically, I have noticed the sensation when I have avoided speaking up for my needs, or acknowledging my feelings to myself. Thus, introverted feeling is pointing the way to my inferior introverted sensing. Currently, the sequence can take days.
My hope is that the whole operation will become more fluid and spontaneous so that I may one day be able to observe the sensation and respond from my feeling function as something arises in the moment. I am also using my thinking function to learn about somatics, which should help me to recognize sensations in a more clear and refined manner. As von Franz (1971) wrote:
You can never rule [the inferior function] or educate it and make it act as you would like, but if you are very clever and are willing to give in a lot, then you may be able to arrange so that it does not throw you. It will throw you sometimes, but not at the wrong moment. (p. 25)
I will strive to avoid being thrown at the wrong moment.
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