Out of Our Depth: Editors’ Corner
Type and Reconciliation Across Life Span and Lifetimes
, July 3, 2019
Insight from Jungian type started early in the shared life that I have with my one and only child, Julia. In 1987 my then-wife Gwyn and I lived in a modestly sized Edwardian house in Toronto’s West End. We had economized by having my psychotherapy practice on the second floor of our home. A waiting room was improvised from a lounge by installing clear beveled-glass panelled double-doors between that room and the hall and stairway. At the end of the day, pull-down pink blinds on the room-side of the panes converted the waiting room back into our lounge. A psychotherapy group was my last session of the day, from 5:30 to 6:45. At that time my upstairs consulting room opened, and group members cascaded resoundingly down the wooden staircase with me in the middle to escort folks out the front door in good, organized extraverted thinking (Te) fashion, albeit the courteous British form. I was still in professional mode when my diapered daughter Julia pulled back the blinds and waved madly, yelling through the lower window pane, “Daddy! Daddy!” Well, my introverted feeling (Fi) soul-function was terribly exposed. Embarrassed? An understatement. Did I blush? Probably! My angel flew at me without warning. Two worlds collapsed into each other. However, worse was yet to come. Fatherhood would continue to erode my carefully constructed professional and personal boundaries. Fortunately, John Beebe came to the Jung Institute in Toronto the following spring in 1988 and pioneered his archetypal theory of Jungian type development, and so I have since been able to grind a lens for understanding my shadow life and those who tweak it.
Eleven years on, Julia was twelve years of age, living with me in Waterloo, Ontario, the city that spawned the Blackberry, the world’s second global smart-phone. I had moved to Waterloo to start a second career of teaching and research in personality and religion at Wilfrid Laurier University. Home from our respective schools one afternoon, Julia and I found ourselves in an argument between the hallway and dining room. Our dominant functions were colliding. As an ENFJ, Julia’s dominant heroic extraverted feeling (Fe) clashed demonically with my heroic ENTJ extraverted thinking—human value in mortal combat with logical consistency. Fortunately, we had in common introverted intuition with its inner re-visioning as our nurturing, good-parent, auxiliary function. But at stake was a boundary issue, hardly surprising between a single parent and a burgeoning adolescent daughter, with age and gender adding to this fiery mix of type difference.
The details of our struggle are lost to me, a casualty of my declining episodic memory. The flavor, however, of what I felt to be at stake back then is as fresh as ever in its raw intensity, albeit rounded now, a testament to the forgiving mitigation afforded by in-depth understanding of Jungian typology. My experience was that Julia was not only angry at my specific different point of view. With her preference for extraverted feeling, she was also angry at being in anger instead of harmony, and she directed this double-barrelled anger personally at me. I with my superior thinking function thought, “At least I try to be objective.” In contrast, I felt she chose to throw at me verbally anything that I had ever done wrong. I further smugly comforted myself with the reassurance: “I am staying on topic and bringing evidence that is relevant to the point at issue.” I hated the intensity of the interaction; my body was in visceral uproar, as in gaudy, clashing paint-streaks, à la abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock, spilt all over the beautifully muted parquet floor of my soulful introverted feeling! Later, I reflected that my tone, which had been out of awareness at time of utterance, was the element to which she was reacting as a feeling type. Moreover, it slowly dawned on me that my insistence on staying on topic showed up in her experience as my controlling her. I resolved “not to go there again.” Such was my first conscious application of Beebe’s sobering formulation of the monster-in-play when our eighth function, operating in the same world as our dominant function-attitude, breathes fire at the other’s dominant function. Resorting again to auxiliary introverted intuition (Ni) that that we had in common, I tried to step back and see if we could revision the frame of our difference and stay with a shared vision that might mitigate what we might structure differently in our usually all-too-real outside world.
Julia soon progressed to her teenage years. Curfew times became an issue. Intuition lives in the future, and so to ward off an actual aggravating incident, I tried to be proactive and formulate a framework—probably an intuitive-thinking (NT) way of doing things. Accordingly, one November Saturday morning over breakfast, I requested input from Julia regarding what she thought was a reasonable time by which to be home. She came up with what to me seemed an unreasonably late hour. I proposed another hour that she thought overly restrictive. We went back and forth negotiating, an irritating process for which as an ENTJ I do not usually plan time. I prefer to formulate and propose; I take it for granted that individuals will tell me if they don’t like my idea, egocentrically assuming that everyone is secretly really an NTJ and will speak up if things do not fit his or her vision. However, such was the importance of the issue and of my relationship to my daughter that I actually planned time for this otherwise cantankerous process called “negotiating,” which sadly may be the signature activity of extraverted feeling. Planning, of course, is the quintessential activity of extraverted thinking (Beebe, 2017), and so, true to my dominant function-attitude this Saturday morning, I was finding it relatively easy to be patient with this to and fro. We eventually reached a compromise which, while less than ideal, was “good enough.”
The following Wednesday night as I walked out of the ballroom of the Holiday Inn in downtown Toronto, our achievement across the kitchen table took on an unanticipated significance, a startling new dimension. Belief in the possibility of past lives seemed more plausible. There are two backstories.
Back story number one: I was in the Holiday Inn to attend a workshop by the Florida psychiatrist Brian Weiss, author of Many Lives, Many Masters, in the hope of recalling a past-life experience. I had arrived skeptical, anticipating a smooth but hard sell of the concept. Given such expectations, I was accordingly impressed by the presenter’s modesty and caution. However, I had been disappointed that despite the light hypnotic state he summoned, nothing of note manifested to my consciousness. At the conclusion of this segment of the evening, I thought I would cut my losses, leave early, and get a head start on the ninety-minute journey home on the dreaded Highway 401 back to Waterloo. Yet I was puzzled by a certain joy in my heart!
Backstory number two:I was undergoing a series of treatments in cranial-sacral massage, whereby deep massage to the scalp redistributes energy. I was resting at the end of one of my later sessions in the series and in a sleepy recovery phase that resembled the reverie-filled hypnagogic and hypnapompic states that frame our nightly sleep. In this reverie, I saw myself in a tattered military uniform.
I knew I had been mortally wounded fighting in an infantry regiment of the British Army in a battle during the Peninsular War (1807-1814) fought in Spain between Great Britain and the new Republic of France. However, the emotional pain in my chest hurt more than the bayonet wound there, for I was sad that I would die before I had become a father. At that time on the massage table, I did not understand why this vision came to me, but now, emerging from the Holiday Inn, all became clear!
My lightness of mood two centuries later in Ontario, Canada, could be attributed to my daughter’s successful curfew-hour negotiation with me the previous Saturday. As I left the Toronto hotel ballroom I knew I could die now, secure in the knowledge that she would be OK, able to manage, negotiate, and cope with what life threw at her.
Seventeen years later, Julia, now thirty-two years old, is living in Lusaka, Zambia, in central southern Africa, where she works for the European Union monitoring development programs in public health and education, and recently learned that she has been selected for the talent pool of the UN’s World Food Program.
Back in those parenting years, I was grateful—and remain so now—that my nurturing introverted intuition so readily connects the dots, re-visions, and warms freshly to my ENFJ daughter’s own introverted intuition, when our natural way of doing things to manage our outside world can so readily undermine the other’s way of coping. This shared function speeds repair after rupture so that the demon becomes the daimon and my angel flies again.
Beebe, J. (2017). Energies and patterns in psychological type: The reservoir of consciousness. New York, NY: Routledge.
Klee, P. (1929). The place of the twins. Retrieved from wikiart.org
Primachenko, M. (1965). Seagulls in the boat. Retrieved from wikiart.org
Wols. (1941). La pagode. Retrieved from wikiart.org