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Exploring Function Coupling Interactions


Exploring Function Coupling Interactions

Robert McAlpine and Stephen Weed, July 6, 2017

Hejavara MandalaIsaac Newton stated in 1676: “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Jungian analysts John Giannini* and John Beebe built on the works of Carl Jung and Isabel Myers to give us two rich models for applying personality type theory. Giannini’s model is set forth in his book Compass of the Soul (2004), and Beebe’s model is included in his book Energies and Patterns in Psychological Type (2017). Having studied and worked with both Giannini’s and Beebe’s concepts for several years, we have become aware that these models, while powerful individually, offer tremendous synergy if we could combine them into one system. Can we build, for example, a new perspective on the ways the eight function-attitudes interact and combine in perceiving-judging pairs that better informs our everyday experiences and offers new insight into the flexibility and adaptability of personality type theory and its application? To do so would require us to stand on the shoulders of giants who have already stood on the shoulders of giants who went before them.

Giannini’s Model

Giannini’s work focused on the function pairs (Sensing-Feeling, Sensing-Thinking, Intuitive-Feeling, Intuitive-Thinking) as described by Jung and defined by Myers, pairing one perceiving function with one judging function that are together balanced, “in every respect different” (Jung, 1921/1971, para. 669), and exerting “co-determining influence” (para. 666) on our behavior. Giannini explained in Compass of the Soul (2004):

[The] coupling’s two functions are always distinct from one another in their structural and dynamic functions, and we need to be conscious of their specificity. The distinctive traits of each individual type will persist in the couplings, even though the couplings play out archetypal wholes. Also, one of the functions in each coupling, as dominant, is in charge and the other, the auxiliary, acts as an assistant. Finally, in this minidrama, one function will have an extraverted role and the other an introverted role. (p. 169)

Figure 1Giannini also examined how our overall life journeys require us to move through these function couplings sequentially as we mature, beginning in infancy with SF, followed by ST, then NF and NT (see Figure 1). According to this life journey model, we learn to use each of the four function couplings early in life; then from young adulthood onward, we tend to flexibly engage the function coupling that is most useful and comfortable for us in the environments and situations in which we find ourselves. Giannini further posited that our own specific typology influences the particular developmental path we travel in using the couplings as adults. This flexible engagement phase of the journey does not necessarily align with one’s life journey sequence, but rather seats us first in our preferred coupling and cycles us around the compass as we work through the challenges of everyday life.

Giannini’s model differs importantly from Myers’ in that it does not restrict us to just one predominant function pair associated with one’s preferred perceiving and judging processes throughout our lifetime. His model provides a greater degree of flexibility in the developmental expression of type-related behaviors as well as enhanced adaptive power for engaging and responding to our various environments. For Giannini, we move through the function couplings early in life and learn to rely on each of the four pairs as needed in adulthood as we move toward wholeness.

Beebe’s Model

Eight Function ModelBeebe’s work focuses on the characteristics and type dynamics of Jung’s original eight functions (Se, Si, Ne, Ni, Te, Ti, Fe, Fi) and has expanded Myers’ hierarchy of four functions to include all eight of these function-attitudes. Importantly, Beebe (2007) posits two kinds of dynamic relationships within his functional model, generally among like-same perceiving or judging functions that reflect the “spine” of the personality type (dominant-inferior) and its “arms” (auxiliary-tertiary). Thus, a particular psychological type can be characterized as having a perceiving spine relationship (for ISTJ, a Sensing-Intuitive, Si-Ne pairing) and a judging “arms” relationship (for ISTJ, a Thinking-Feeling, Te-Fi pairing). Developmentally, Beebe posits that one moves flexibly through Jung’s eight functions-in-attitude as life demands their engagement and that each would carry certain emotional, archetypal energy depending upon its location in one’s psyche.

Research Methods

After much discussion and with tremendous uncertainty as to how to proceed, we decided to create a focus group to test the synergy that might result from not only looking at our awareness of using the more-commonly recognized function-attitude pairings, but also of our less-commonly recognized pairings (see Table 1). We wondered if the more-commonly recognized couplings are more easily and consciously expressed and whether or not the less-commonly recognized couplings are expressed with any conscious awareness whatsoever.

Table 1

The results from the first focus group in Columbus, Ohio, in 2015 indicated that the overwhelming majority of type-aware participants recognized using their dominant-auxiliary, dominant-tertiary, auxiliary-inferior, and tertiary-inferior couplings, but when asked to couple any of their ego-syntonic functions with their ego-dystonic, or shadow, functions, they were not able to readily recognize using the coupling (McAlpine & Weed, 2016).

In that 2015 workshop, we identified each function-attitude coupling in a theoretical context and gave the participants the time to discuss their awareness of using the coupling. The following year in 2016, we asked a second type-aware group to respond to descriptions of how the function-attitude pairs might work together, without identifying the function-attitudes by name or their relative position within the participant’s psyche according to the Beebe eight function-attitude eight archetype model.

The results from the second focus group supported our hypothesis that function-attitude couplings seem to resonate more clearly with participants when the questions focus on the simple descriptions of the two functions and how they might work together. Almost all participants were able to recall experiences of using all of the function-attitude couplings. Many participants were able to recognize couplings that spanned the conscious/unconscious, ego-syntonic/ego-dystonic line, and a number of interesting characteristics of these couplings were consistent across reports from both the 2015 and 2016 groups.

One example of a coupling experience that crossed the conscious/unconscious, ego-syntonic/ego-dystonic line was submitted by a friend who identifies as ESTJ, who found herself having to change a commitment she had made to meet with a group at a certain time. She notified them she would connect with them later in the day, but as the day progressed her plans were again altered by rain forcing her to be later than she had planned. Upon realizing her plans could not be carried out, she felt compelled to immediately inform the group that she would be an hour later than planned, then had to update them on her progress, even though she had never conveyed to them an exact time she would be meeting with them. We saw this experience as an example of ESTJ using her Se-Te (6,1) coupling in that her dominant Te’s need to adhere to a schedule drove her need to update on a momentary basis (Se).

Earlier this year, we decided to shift our research method to a set of brief online surveys in order to increase our sample and data set to include all sixteen types and to provide greater diversity in age, gender, and heritage. The eight separate online surveys spanned several months and attracted almost 100 respondents per survey, drawn from a sample of type-interested individuals with active email addresses. While these surveys allow us to make some initial findings, additional surveys are needed to increase the type and age diversity for a more complete analysis.


We wanted to determine whether there is evidence to support Giannini’s idea that each of us may flexibly use all four of the function pairs that Myers identified in our development through adulthood. Also, we wanted to record whether we each are able to consciously use, recognize, and regulate each of the four function pairs in all four function-attitude couplings. For example, when looking at the SF couplings, is there evidence that the coupling is not just expressed in the more-commonly recognized couplings of Si-Fe or Se-Fi, but also in the less-commonly recognized couplings of Si-Fi and Se-Fe? And further, would stories of how these couplings are used provide insight into the archetypal energies that might be present or evoked when the coupling is engaged?

Importantly, we want to also observe, test, and describe our ability to consciously express and regulate the behaviors of the dominant-auxiliary coupling (or primary coupling) and the dominant-tertiary coupling (or secondary coupling) as well as other, more fleeting perceiving-judging couplings such as the auxiliary-inferior and tertiary-inferior couplings (or subordinate couplings), which may prove to be more robust than previously considered. In addition, as early results seem to indicate, these studies may provide support for Beebe’s concept that the function-attitudes are located by position or as a placeholder within his dynamic typological system (not necessarily ordered in a hierarchical structure) and that these positions are associated with certain archetypal energies.

Merging the Models

ISTJOne of the major questions we had to solve was how to combine or overlay the two models in a reasonably coherent and predictive way in order to obtain a new synergy between the two systems. We knew from earlier work with colleague Linda Pennuto in a Type Resources webinar series entitled “Chatting with John Giannini” (2013-2014) that we could employ Giannini’s model of a compass as a framework for visualizing all sixteen of the new function-attitude couplings by breaking out each of Giannini’s function couplings into its four constituent pairings employing the eight function-attitudes. (See Figures 3 & 4.) We can test this model by predicting that ISTJs, for example, might resonate more with the primary coupling of Si-Te and the secondary coupling of Si-Fi than with any of the other ST and SF combinations listed in each of those quadrants. This diagram also neatly details that the two subordinate couplings of the auxiliary-inferior Ne-Te and tertiary-inferior Ne-Fi (the other ego-syntonic perception-judgment couplings) might be more easily expressed and consciously regulated than any of the other NT or NF combinations listed in each of those quadrants.

INFJFurther, developmentally for the ISTJ, Figure 3 shows a movement from the primary, or dominant-auxiliary, coupling of Si-Te to the secondary, or dominant-tertiary, coupling of Si-Fi to the subordinate couplings of Ne-Te and Ne-Fi as shown in bold. Likewise, Figure 4 shows the compass configuration of couplings for the INFJ personality type. As evidenced by these two compasses, only one of the four possible couplings (shown in bold) is preferred using Beebe’s type dynamics model, and the arrows indicate the preference order we would expect based on Giannini’s framework of primary and secondary couplings.

The Story So Far

Our initial analysis of the data is supporting our hypothesis that most people have an awareness of frequent use of both the primary and the secondary function-attitude couplings of the new merged Giannini-Beebe model. This suggests that we are frequently pairing perceiving and judging functions in the same attitude (the secondary coupling)—a combination not normally mentioned in the functional pairs or function-couplings literature. The initial analysis is also indicating that we may have use of all of the function-attitude couplings to some extent, regardless of where the function-attitudes reside in our type dynamics framework. Finally, the archetypal energies associated with many of the positions can be easily spotted in the examples provided by many of the survey participants.

The influence of the trickster archetypal energy from the function-attitude in the seventh position can be seen in the following two examples: (1) An INFP reported that she finds being the host at parties to be extremely exhausting as she is constantly on watch to see if someone appears to need something, and rushing in to fulfill that need, whether or not they actually need anything. She has often found that her Se-Fe (7,5) coupling tends to misread her guests’ body language in the immediate moment, creating situations where she perceives needs where none actually exist. (2) An INTJ reported that in situations where he’s consciously paying attention to others’ non-verbal cues, he tends to respond almost compulsively to “fix” others’ problems, whether or not his help is needed. He finds that, as with the INFP example above, his Se-Fe (4-7) coupling tends to misread appropriate social information and drive him to “fix” others as a way of helping in the immediate situation.

Looking Ahead

This work is just the first step, and further analysis of the both the focus group reports and online survey data is currently underway. However, we are extremely excited about the possibilities of providing research that supports the flexible use of all of the sixteen function-attitude couplings by all sixteen personality types. We look forward to sharing these results in greater detail and definition at the upcoming Biennial Conference of the Association for Psychological Type International in Salt Lake City in July 2017.

Both authors wish to thank the workshop participants and survey respondents who have contributed to this research over the past three years, and without whom this work would not be possible.


Beebe, J. (2007). Type and archetype. Typeface, (40)2, 8-12, (40)3, 22-27. Retrieved from

Beebe, J. (2017). Energies and patterns of psychological type: The reservoir of consciousness. London and New York: Routledge.

Giannini, J. (2004). Compass of the soul: Archetypal guides to a fuller life. Gainesville, FL: Center for Applications of Type, Inc.

Giannini, J., McAlpine, R., & Valentine, G. (2013-2014). Chatting with John Giannini [Webinar]. In Type Resources Webinar Series.

Jung, C.G. (1921/1971). Psychological types. In: R.F.C. Hull (Trans.). The collected works of C.G. Jung (Vol. 6). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

McAlpine, R., & Weed, S. T. (2016). Breathing life into the function pairs. Association for Psychological Type International Bulletin, (40)5. Retrieved from

Myers, I., & Myers, P. (1980). Gifts differing: Understanding personality type. Palo Alto, CA: Davies-Black.

Newton, I. (1676). Letter to Robert Hooke. Retrieved from


Header image: “Hevajra Mandala” 17th century. Courtesy: Rubin Museum of Art.

Figure 1. John Giannini’s life journey model. Copyright © 2004 John Giannini

Figure 2. John Beebe’s model of function-attitude dynamics. Copyright © 1988 John Beebe

Table 1. The Function-Attitude Couplings

Figure 3. Integrated-model developmental sequence for ISTJ. Giannini’s predicted sequence of exploration of the function couplings (arrow) with Beebe’s predictions of the most likely function-attitude couplings emphasized (bold)

Figure 4. Integrated-model developmental sequence for INFJ. Giannini’s predicted sequence of exploration of the function couplings (arrow) with Beebe’s predictions of the most likely function-attitude couplings emphasized (bold)

In Memoriam

Giannini, JohnJungian analyst John Giannini, whose model of type development inspired this article, died on June 16, 2017, at age 95. Giannini led an amazingly eclectic life. He was a Navy veteran of WWII, joined a Dominican monastery in Oakland, CA, and eventually became an analyst associated with the C. G. Jung Institute of Chicago—where he became a diehard Cubs fan. A lifelong learner, he pursued Master’s degrees from St. Alberts College and the University of Chicago Divinity School, and an MBA from Stanford University, and in 1980 received his diploma in analytical psychology. Giannini’s first analyst was Victor White, a noted theologian, friend of Jung, and fellow monastic.

Giannini was impassioned on the subject of evil and patriarchal traditions, and he believed Jung wrote his controversial “Answer to Job” as a cry against the patriarchal domination of western Christian culture. His Compass of the Soul, 2004, brought together many of his interests including the maternal principle, business culture, type development, function couplings, the cultural type of America, and the way economist W. Edwards Deming engineered the postwar “Japan miracle” by putting Jungian concepts into practice in the workforce. Giannini’s concept of the function couplings is an extension of Jung’s observation that no function ever works alone, and led Giannini to insights about the way the psyche achieves balance and navigates the individuation journey. John Giannini leaves a profound legacy that goes well beyond his intellectual insights, of warm-hearted patience, humility, and acceptance among his many friends and acquaintances in the type and analytical communities.

—The Editors, Personality Type in Depth


Robert McAlpine

Robert McAlpine

Bob McAlpine, M.A., while president of Type Resources, spent almost two decades sponsoring and developing workshops by John Beebe to introduce Beebe's eight function eight archetype model. More recently, with John Giannini, he has facilitated a year-long series of webinars on dream work and on Giannini's concept of function couplings. Co-author of Introduction to Type and the Eight Jungian Functions, McAlpine previously created Total Quality Management programs and type trainings for hundreds of officers in the U.S. Army's Organizational Leadership program.

Stephen Weed

Stephen Weed

Stephen T. Weed, MS, is co-founder with Susan R. Scherer of Relational Care Associates, LLC, in Columbus, Ohio. Stephen facilitates personality type workshops consisting of 18 weeks of introductory, intermediate, and advanced level courses, including topics such as: Jungian Functions and Personality Type, Jungian Archetypes, Emotional Intelligence, and Keirsey's Temperaments. A certified MBTI® Master Practitioner, he has been consulting using the Myers-Briggs instrument since 1996. Stephen is a board member of the C. G. Jung Association of Central Ohio, North Central Mental Health Services, and the Susan Scherer Charitable Foundation.

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