Pearls of Conflict in Culture and Marriage
Elizabeth Leuenberger-Kajs, July 11, 2018
The philosopher Seneca pointed out, “If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person” (Letters from a Stoic, trans. 1969). While it may be possible to change location, it is not possible to escape one’s self. However, it is not impossible to develop and expand one’s personality through the often-painful search for self-knowledge. If absolute consciousness is impossible and if knowing one’s self is infinitely hard, simultaneously striving to surmount type differences within marriage and within type-disparate cultures is a challenge. It is a complex, fluid task for an American introvert married to a Swiss extravert. My husband and I are both typological refugees within our collective cultures as well as within our marital relationship. Jung (1946/1966b) asked, “How many marriages are wrecked for years, and sometimes forever, because he sees his mother in his wife and she her father in her husband, and neither ever recognizes the other’s reality?” (¶ 420). The key here is in the last part of this statement by Jung. Recognizing and accepting another’s reality requires clarity regarding one’s own reality.
I am an INFP type; thus, my superior function is introverted feeling (Fi). My area of comfort is focused inward. This most subjective function selects internal, personal values as the guiding force in striving for inner harmony (Haas & Hunziker, 2006, p. 103). Secondly, my balancing auxiliary is extraverted intuition (Ne) and I generally present as extraverted. Due to the inward turning of Fi, the outer expression of inner stirrings is subdued (Sharp, 1987, p. 75), so my dominant nature often goes unrecognized, leaving an impression of cold indifference, and leading me to feel isolated and misunderstood.My third function, introverted sensation (Si), adds a subjective quality but also contributes to difficulty with outer self-expression (p. 80), while my fourth, least-conscious inferior function, extraverted thinking (Te), an intellectual, data-driven tendency based on objective reality, is greatly incompatible with my dominant Fi.
My husband, on the other hand, has ENTP preferences. Thus, his superior function is extraverted intuition (Ne), an expansive, outward-reaching “explorer” function that drives him to constantly seek new intellectual stimulation from the outer world, giving him an enthralling, magnetic yet noncommittal, unrooted, and at times uncompassionate character. His auxiliary function is introverted thinking (Ti), which gives him a pioneering, problem-solving tendency yet also contributes a flighty, detached, or noncommittal element to his personality. His tertiary extraverted feeling (Fe) lends a charismatic, charming, care-giving style on first impression, which can be misleading given the Ti and Ne tendencies toward detachment. Finally, his inferior anima “doorway” function is introverted sensation (Si), appearing as a great storyteller but with inattention to accuracy of detail and a lack of embodied self-awareness. The placement of this function also explains his intense interest in creative financial pursuits.
Cultural Strangers in Switzerland and America
Not only do individuals follow typological patterns—nations do as well. Just as individuals can be introverted or extraverted, so, observed Jung (1921/1971a), can cultures have an introverted or extraverted character and value certain type functions over others according to the current social climate. In extraverted cultures, the “chief value then lies with the object and man’s relation to it,” thus a collective character, whereas in introverted cultures, it “lies with the subject and his relation to the idea” (¶ 110). Furthermore, a state of perfect balance is never completely reached, either for cultures or individuals. Like individuals, “No culture is ever really complete, for it always swings towards one side or the other” (Jung, 1921/1971a, ¶ 110). Whatever its current typology, the collective impacts the individual and can be “injurious to individual culture. … There is a deep gulf between what a man … is as an individual and what he is as a collective being” (¶ 111).
Both my husband and I experienced this gulf in our collective cultures of origin: I as an introverted feeling (INFP) type in an extraverted thinking (ESTJ) culture, and my husband as an extraverted intuitive (ENTP) type in an introverted sensing (ISTJ) culture. We experienced our cultures of origin as outcasts while finding refuge in the other’s culture of discomfort. If the USA is ESTJ and Switzerland ISTJ, then one might assume their shared functions, extraverted thinking (Te) and introverted sensation (Si), would indicate strong cultural similarities since they only vary by swapped superior and auxiliary positions. However, having divided my life almost equally between the two countries, I have witnessed great differences in character. The USA’s ESTJ culture is driven by what Jungian analyst John Giannini (2004) described as the “ESTJ warrior mentality”: founded on pioneering heroics, it is characterized traditionally as a one-sided, patriarchal, elitist collective that values “tough-minded” individuals over the “tender minded,” (p. 510) and conformity to the power-wielding dominance of its primary extraverted thinking (Te). Those comfortable in such a culture tend to be collective- and object-oriented and are compatible with “aggressive, concrete, logical, and linear thought processes, and compartmentalized, detailed strategies” (p. 510). While this attitude is still evident, a notable shift is underway in the USA as feeling values gain foothold.
Switzerland, by contrast, is a small, fiercely independent country in the middle of Europe. Rather than being driven by warrior-style extraverted action, Switzerland is conservative and its ISTJ culture is internally focused. Despite four official languages and culturally diverse regions, it has avoided assimilation at times of war; consistently resisted joining the “club” by staying out of the European Union; and democratically chosen regulations and market-protectionism for the greater internal good, pulling together and setting aside internal regional/linguistic cultural differences. The introverted sensation (Si) type resists change, adhering rigidly to old, established ways (p.1): Swiss traditions, policies, and social developments are notoriously slow to change. Tradition reigns in areas like gay marriage and adoption rights, and women’s right to vote only finally passed in the last canton in 1991. There exists in Switzerland a general compliance with collective norms for the sake of the greater good, which might at first appear indicative of extraverted feeling (Fe). But on closer insight, Switzerland’s cooperative, orderly collective life is actually driven by extraverted thinking. Its Te auxiliary can show up as a bossy, traditional, regulating patriarch. Swiss individuals traditionally tend to be internally focused, subject-oriented, and set in their ways, less motivated by concern for others than by predictability and structure. There is a collective drive for Te-style efficiency, plans, rules, policies, and order. Chaos, non-conformist attitudes, and free-spirited lifestyles are traditionally frowned upon.
An INFP on the Move
When I first met my Swiss husband during our senior year of college in North Carolina, I was attracted to his outgoing personality and non-American otherness. As an introverted feeling-type growing up in ESTJ America, I always felt different. My inferior function, extraverted thinking, is my most ill-adapted, childish, touchy spot, yet that was the function most valued by the world I lived in. Conversely, the function in which I was most comfortable, Fi, was the repressed, inferior function within the greater culture. Thus, I felt inferior, or at least like an outsider.
My parents were also introverted, so our family lived a rather introverted lifestyle, not typical of the more collective-oriented, extraverted “American way.” Though I was generally well-liked, the world around me always felt foreign, so I turned heavily into my introverted, subjective world. Earliest memories include stubborn refusals to participate in group activities and displays where I felt observed or scrutinized. I took refuge in my stable, introverted, rural family home culture and surroundings, yet even within my large family I often felt suffocated and undervalued, seeking escape, withdrawing to the woods or other secret places. In adolescence, while others joined clubs and teams, I enjoyed hours alone reading or playing the violin; in college, while others joined sororities, I vehemently declared myself a “GDI” (God-Damned Independent).
Dominant introverted feeling types tend to avoid self-revelation and “can appear cold although feeling a passionate idealism,” keeping their “own wants and needs behind a virtual ‘wall’ to ensure protection of fragile values” (Shumate, 2017, p. 21). I am often seen as insensitive and unfeeling, guarded and stoic or strong, and I can be perceived as shy or arrogant. Extraverted feeling in the opposing personality position, according to the Beebe model, results in difficulty engaging in small-talk, and self-doubt when relating to others can lead to self-isolation and alienation (p. 26). I simply tend to keep deeper, sensitive, and intense feelings to myself, and, struggling with awkward attempts at fulfilment of emotional needs in relation to others, instead seek solitude while enduring a general but mild loneliness.
Though my family rarely travelled, my introverted mother was an avid reader who travelled the world in her head, reading every chance she could. Thus, our home was filled with history books, encyclopaedias, National Geographic magazines, and an impressive globe. While I withdrew from the world around me, the expansive tendencies of my auxiliary extraverted intuition (Ne) piqued my interest in the world I saw on the covers of books and magazines: I developed an early fascination for what I might be missing out there. As my strongest extraverted function, Ne, became my way of approaching outer life, I felt that somewhere far away out in the world there just might exist a way to feel more at home.
This compulsion to seek outside grounding in an uprooting, un-grounding manner might be attributed to my least conscious function, introverted thinking (Ti). When it operated daimonically, it challenged my limits, pushing me outside of my comfort zone. Meanwhile, my trickster function, extraverted sensation (Se), is oppositional to my home- and stability-seeking eternal child, Si. I longed to escape the draining Te pressure to conform in America, which neither acknowledged nor valued my strengths.
An ENTP at Home Away From Home
My extraverted husband likewise collided with his home culture, one that opposed his natural attitude. He had spent his earlier formative years growing up in Japan, returning to Switzerland at age 14. His fondest memories include rebellious days as a foreign gaijin boy in 1970’s Tokyo; skipping school; skateboarding on skyscraper rooftops; and tormenting adults with a secret language mix of Japanese, English, and German. Once he even burned down an old house, and he sent his worried parents to the school headmaster frequently. Thus, the sudden constraining, conformist pressures of Swiss life at 14 had felt to him like prison. Japan, a small, deeply traditional, historically closed and nationalistic culture, shares an ISTJ cultural type with Switzerland. One might ask why, then, did my husband experience such a sense of freedom in ISTJ Japan yet feel suffocated in ISTJ Switzerland? Whereas I felt as if I were a foreigner in the extraverted culture of my native USA, he experienced being an actual extraverted foreigner in introverted Japanese culture as freeing. It can be argued that those Japan memories reflect a natural period of untethered youth. However, his status as gaijin (a loosely used Japanese term—often derogative—for “foreigner” or “outsider”) allowed him a freedom and individuality he does not experience as a Swiss national in Switzerland. In Japan, no matter how hard a gaijin tries to conform, he is expected to be different. Thus, in Japan he experienced non-expectation; expectation to not conform was freeing, as opposed to the expectation to conform that he and I both experienced in our own countries. In Japan, his Ne nature was unconstrained and his personality free, a state of being that those with ENTP type preferences cherish. The return to the closed, controlled, introverted culture of Switzerland oppressed this outward-looking, adventuresome Ne personality, so he sought escape by studying abroad in the USA.
Despite what was worrisome behavior for his parents, he insists he was always under control and knew he was headed somewhere big, in tune with his pioneering Ne nature. He needed to break away, and his extraverted intuition found a renewed freedom in the extraverted USA. Studying in the land of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” he came into his own, finally regaining the sense of freedom he had not experienced since his childhood in Japan. After university, one business success and adventure led to another, and his passion for new challenges drove him around the globe for ten years before a hesitant return to Switzerland (yet with an international career allowing frequent escape). Being abroad gives him freedom, because when he is outside Switzerland, he stated, if things go wrong or become stale, “there is always an escape outlet (Switzerland) to fall back on.” His trickster Fi may be at work here because if he stays too long in Switzerland, inspiration fades and he feels stuck, so Switzerland is not really an escape. Perhaps it is a feature of his ENTP type that every departure, change, or move is a closing of a door: no attachments. Only Japan triggers for him a feeling of nazugashii, a Japanese word denoting reminiscent longing, which in his case means nostalgia for days of youthful freedom. Swiss expectations and cultural boundaries constrain his freedom, strangling his world-is-my-oyster mentality.
As a result of his extraverted intuitive traits, he had always felt misunderstood, undervalued, and pressured by expectations to squeeze into an ill-fitting mold by his conservative Swiss ISTJ culture and family style. There is something unmistakable in the character of those for whom Ne dominates (Jung, 1921/1971b, ¶ 613). ENTPs in particular are unorthodox, often standing out as the archetypal puer: rebellious, egocentric, and free-spirited. Shumate (2017) observed that their Te, in the archetypal witch position, may lead them to argue just for provocation and to “make a rule of breaking rules” (p. 20). This earned my husband the reputation of family Luusbueb (Swiss-German slang for a boy who is a troublemaker) and charming but boorish black sheep. As Jung stated, ENTPs are “never to be found in the world of accepted reality-values, but [have] a keen nose for anything new and in the making” (1921/1971b, ¶ 613). Pioneers and adventurers, they always seek the new, and with their Fi trickster, remain noncommittal and emotionally distant, not wanting to be tied down. Jung noted that ENTPs are not driven by the judging functions of feeling or thinking but by an often seemingly unscrupulous “loyalty to [their] own vision,” and thus are often business tycoons and entrepreneurs (¶ 613). They will dive into a new interest with passion and dedication yet lose interest just as quickly. “A day will come when nothing will deter [them] from regarding as a prison the very situation that seemed to promise [them] freedom and deliverance,” (¶ 613). My husband, a self-proclaimed “international bastard” and rootless outsider, tends to seek escape in every instance when life feels oppressive, boring, or stagnant.
If familial circumstances oppose an individual’s innate disposition, he may adapt in a way that violates his natural tendencies, leading to later neurosis and a need to address the natural attitude later in life (Sharp, 1987, p. 27). My husband was raised with patriarchal Si/Te values pressuring conformist adherence to traditional family and professional roles, which drove a need to prove himself as a successful, stable business and family man. This conflicted with his radical, freedom-seeking Ne dominant and Ti auxiliary. As a young man, his creative, independent, ENTP personality sought to escape stifling, introverted conformity by fleeing to extraverted, innovative America. At the same time, in his drive toward fulfilment of the psycho-developmental task of liberation from the parental realm, he set out with a powerful Ne vision to prove familial and cultural judgments wrong, demonstrating that against expectations he could, even with his Luusbueb character, achieve the life goals they valued. Thus, he charged into the Te-oriented roles family and society expected, to “[honor] his fathers and their institutions” (Jung, 1912/1966a, ¶ 90), following in his father’s traditional business and family-oriented footsteps. In me, he saw the perfect complementary anima partner to complete this vision of stability and wholeness. While this package suppressed his frowned-upon unconventional Ne nature, he seized on it with full fervor and the extraverted freedom granted by American society. Here his eternal child function, extraverted feeling (Fe), charming and attuned to caring for others, served him well in making business contacts and earning respect as a manager, as well as in the role of generous and dedicated family man. However, as Giannini (2004) observed, the USA’s ESTJ type can function as “a tyrannical force in both individuals and in society” (p. 510). Thus, circumstantial, environmental pressures (along with my own projections/willingness to hand over Te organizational roles) pushed for development of the Te style valued in the USA and business worlds, where he felt the need to actively toughen himself for success. Living in the USA and earning an MBA from Harvard Business School forced his conscious adaptation to a Te-driven lifestyle. He emulated tough-minded military strategists and business leaders, keeping “soft” feelings and tender value sensibilities under lock and key, to the detriment of his Fi function.
Because his preferred judging function (Ti) was suppressed by his Te culture, he was operating in witch/senex mode much of the time, and Te in the senex position, as Shumate (2017) noted, may lead one to “secretly criticize oneself for not being disciplined enough” (p. 20). Thus, a vicious cycle ensued: he continuously pushed for a more disciplined warrior/hero-Te persona while pushing Fi—already deep in the shadows for his type—further down into the unconscious. As he stated, drawing a square over his heart, “I put all those feelings in a box, locked it, and threw away the key.” A trickster Fi may trick one “into believing one’s values aren’t as important as they actually are” (p. 24), so he continued to deny his feeling world and struggled to keep his Ti need for freedom and Ne need for nonconformity tightly reigned and boxed into a despised Si/Te-style business suit. He even settled back into his dreaded, tightest box of all, Switzerland. Denying deepest values lest he be “too soft,” he suppressed his creative, freedom-loving nature while developing his Te function to the point of neurosis, a trigger for a midlife crisis.
Attraction, Projection, and the Tipping Point
We are drawn not only to those with shared hobbies or values but also to those on whom we can project our inferior attitudes and functions, allowing their personality strengths to compensate those functions for us, and vice-versa. In so doing, like muscles, our personality strengths develop and grow while underused, weaker “muscles” remain underdeveloped and atrophy. As long as this imbalance continues, the degree of polarization expands (Jung, 1921/1971a, ¶¶ 105-106). Couples tend to pair with their typological opposites, unconsciously allowing their spouse/partner to “complete” them, enabling a continued lack of development of their inferior functions (Wheelwright, 1982, p. 56).
When we first met, my husband’s extraverted energy and rebellious, independent Ne nature attracted my Ne auxiliary, which was always eager to explore and escape the alienating world I grew up in, in search of experiences where I might “fit in”—or at least not feel I needed to. My Ne as an archetypal parent latched onto and encouraged his magnetic, heroic, visionary path, which he, in Ne fashion, made clear was his number one priority. My Ne parent ensured that he had a ready supporter as I joined him in a life of adventure and exploration. I set aside graduate school and career plans, making the conscious choice to trade home, family, friends, name/career, and everything familiar for a new identity—new name, lifestyle, cultures/countries, nationality (becoming Swiss), and the muse-like role of supporting spouse. I agreed to put his international career first, declaring my willingness to go anywhere his career took him as long as he gave me reason (respect) and validation. As best friends and partners, we took on the world together in this great endeavor. Our married life began as expatriates in Japan, and the subsequent first seven years saw nine moves to new cities, including four international moves and extensive world travel. Functioning like an efficient and well-greased machine, he managed the driver’s seat while my hero Fi accepted the Fi his trickster happily cast off, leaving neither space for my own judgment values nor my Te animus. He did the extraverted thinking for us both, further suppressing his unconscious introverted feeling. I embraced my role with fervor and dedication, and we functioned for years as a greatly successful team, appearing to be a perfect, successful couple. However, years of forced extraversion placed enormous strain on my introverted nature, expressing in psychic depletion and neurotic, somatic symptoms. Carrying his feeling function, I also neglected my own, inner feeling value judgments, so important to my sense of self, and instead adapted to the demands of the lifestyle I took on. Yet my inferior Te animus also continued to remain neglected as we carried each other’s projected functions effectively for approximately 25 years.
In our case, we neglected our dominant functions. I set aside my own feeling function, pushing it down, giving up values so important to me. In attempting to do what I believed was expected by the outside world, I denied my need for stability, close relationships to family, and the world of nature, adapting to my husband’s detached way of life and tough, armor-coated feeling function. My husband charged forth with an elevated thinking style, neglecting his own feeling-values and development. I found myself increasingly irritated by what I saw as my ENTP husband’s self-absorption in his own agenda and lack of relatedness and emotional connectivity, and he found my efforts to relate through open communication needy, perceiving my attempts to discuss feelings as “attacking.” We both grew bitter, ironically envying the other for just those areas that irritated us in the other: I envied him his relative freedom in his state of unattachment while he envied me my established, stable support network of friends and community. We both gradually began to suffer from our own suppressed and neglected functions, blaming the other in large part for our disappointments, frustrations, and growing disconnect.
Jung (1955-56/1970) pointed out that while disappointment in a loved one births bitterness, it also serves as a stimulant for the differentiation of one’s feeling function: “The disappointing behavior of someone one loves, can supply the impulse either for a more or less brutal outburst of affect or for a modification and adjustment of feeling … . This culminates in wisdom” (¶ 334). Just as an irritant in an oyster causes changes that produce a pearl, such personality differences within a marriage are irritants which demand that the marriage either evolve or come to an end. With forced reflection and rational insight, new understanding for each other as well as for ourselves had to be cultivated.
Midlife: The Sleeping Giant Awakens
According to Jung, the psyche has a teleological drive toward personal growth. We develop and differentiate those conscious functions in the early half of life that best suit our needs for that phase. However, as we reach midlife, our goals and needs begin to shift, and the attitudes and functions which have served us best begin to stagnate, wear out, and break down, inviting a new way of functioning. As Jung (1912/1966a) said, “All the illusions… projected upon the world and upon things gradually come home… jaded and way-worn” (¶ 90). Projections are dropped, as neglected or suppressed, unconscious aspects of a personality stir, seeking balance and development.
The awakening of those functions lying mostly dormant in the unconscious of our personality presents an opportunity for conscious renewal and growth (Jung, 1912/1966a, ¶ 92). This is where the neglected fourth or inferior function cries out for attention, opening a door to the unconscious and providing opportunity for personal development. As von Franz (1971/2013) noted, this anima/animus function “always makes the bridge to the unconscious” (p. 16). Here we begin to develop awareness of the four opposing functions relegated there. It presents a wealth of opportunity, but von Franz also reminded us that the inferior function is, in its inferiority, slow and infantile. Its cries for attention are often met by the ego with resistance, impatience, and heightened childish sensitivity. I recall many frustrating sessions of math tutoring in high school from my Te-dominant father that ended in tears. My husband’s Te-type business-world enthusiasms—organizational planning and financial strategy where his interests grew increasingly over the years—bored me, leaving him feeling undervalued. This not only led to bitterness on his part but did nothing to encourage relatedness, leaving me feeling overdependent and bitterly underrepresented. I slowly awakened (with resistance) to the need to embrace the areas represented by these functions. While it is tempting to avoid this frustrating stage of development completely, it is a key turning point and chance to find new energy. We must be patient, slow down, and turn inward, allowing “the unconscious a chance to come in” (p. 18). As von Franz stated, “The inferior function brings a renewal of life if one allows it to come up in its own realm” (p. 21).
In the early stages of marriage there is often a sense of oneness, a “we”-ness which tends to overwhelm and impede individual “I” development. This results from the reciprocal projecting/carrying of inferior functions. But when an awakening re-balancing shift is experienced, rising archetypal energy and tension builds pressure for the development of neglected functions. Jung (1921/1971a) observed that what was once good for us grows old: “One-sided development must inevitably lead to a reaction, since the suppressed inferior functions cannot be indefinitely excluded from participating in our life and development” (¶ 112). The sleeping giant awakens, much to the detriment of the status quo and to many a well-worn marriage.
Jungian analyst Daryl Sharp (1987) noted, “The fascination with one’s opposite type … seldom lasts indefinitely” (p. 77). Eventually one or both partners grow “weary of carrying the other one’s load” (Wheelwright, 1982, p. 56). In our case, my husband and I reached this point almost simultaneously, and a vicious cycle ensued. His years of intense focus on business, career, and familial responsibilities kept him in his shadow functions: extraverted thinking (Te) his senex function and extraverted sensation (Se) his eighth or demonic function. In neglecting his feeling functions and his own independence- and adventure-oriented values, my husband—the magnetic, restless, Machiavellian business man—found himself in a state of great imbalance. His Ne function, pushed underground by the prevailing Si culture, drove him to increasingly rebel against stable Swiss-style home and family life (and marriage). He neglected his Si-anima body and soul and instead channeled all his creative energy into finance and business. His interest in personal relationships faded, and he gradually withdrew from previous social and sports activities and hobbies. Eventually he found himself lonely and detached yet feeling smothered and struggling as his starved introverted feeling began to rise in compensation to his overgrown extraverted thinking.
Meanwhile, I began to experience a surge of signals from my unconscious of a growing resentment and feeling of oppression at my tendency to allow him dominance over practical matters. Brewing resentment toward my husband’s “management” style of relationship and a longing for deeper intimacy surfaced in my dreams as angry, resentful, pursuing animus figures. I became aware of an almost competitive, take-charge sense of animus drive to assert myself and seize independence, particularly in the Te realm of planning I had previously disregarded. Meanwhile, my husband’s inferior Si would have liked to let me handle logistics and details. In business, he excelled at macro- rather than micro-management, and after years of overemphasizing Te and Si functions at work, he experienced increasing resentment toward carrying those functions at home by handling family and home logistics, and although I felt the growing urge to take on more of this role, his shrugging off this burden felt like pressure on my own responsibility-averse eternal child Si and inferior Te.
Further conflicts fanned the flames as our personalities began to shift. Always a grand storyteller of Ne-driven adventures, as my husband’s Si began to stir, he became increasingly plagued by “imperfect memory” (Shumate, 2017, p. 2), forgetting or changing details of adventures we had experienced together. Meanwhile, my sentimental Si child insisted on accuracy and fullness of details. I resented him omitting my role in our story. As I saw it, he was rewriting our history, overvaluing his role while negating the value of my Fi sensitivities and my contributions to the couple relationship, which he had affirmed in earlier years. His self-absorbed, unrelated ENTP style meant little realization on his part of just how important family life was to him, which left me feeling lonely and starved for recognition, affection, and companionship in our everyday family life. Moreover, his freedom-loving Ne personality increasingly resented what he perceived as my dependence on him. As conflict increased, I put pressure on him to dig into matters from a feeling perspective, driving him into further Ne-style flight.
Jung (1921/1971a) observed, “Suppressed inferior functions cannot be indefinitely excluded … . The time will come when the division in the inner man must be abolished, in order that the undeveloped may be granted an opportunity to live” (¶ 112). Tiring of so much lonely Fi, my psyche woke my inferior Te-animus, which emerged from my dreams into reality, bringing on new drives and interests. I began taking back those projections, relieving some of the burden that constrained my husband’s Ne nature, and after an erratic start, he began the painful and hard work of prying open the locked box of his neglected feeling values. Nevertheless, while it may have provided some relief of tension, I felt a new pressure as the high-flying, demanding, rebellious nature of my own puerile Si together with my Te animus set high goals, standards, and challenges. During a tumultuous period for us both, the timing of these mutual shifts toward a rebalancing of our personalities now demands our realignment both as individuals and as a couple. Critical examination from a typological perspective enables us to depersonalize and embrace conflicts, seeking to re-connect through dissonance and awareness of differences, in a new, open mode of deeper understanding.
Fight or Flight?
The midlife shift after years of forced extraverted living alongside my extraverted husband has led me to develop even more extraversion as my own inferior function, extraverted thinking, was put into motion, even if at the expense of my own authentic feeling values. At the same time, the inward, closed nature and rigidity in Switzerland has increasingly irritated both of our expansive Ne tendencies. Navigating these changes in our individual personalities, my husband and I, in classic Ne-style, have begun feeling the urge to flee. We have felt compelled to free ourselves from the tight constraints of the relationship as well as the location, in search of a new comfort zone for our personalities’ preferred natures. We have begun to look beyond our symbiotic marital relationship in order to develop our individual selves, going our own ways both inwardly and outwardly, forming places for ourselves abroad, creating space and delineating separate worlds of our own. My husband is shaping his professional life in a way that allows him to spend a great deal of time abroad away from family while I have begun studying abroad and traveling alone extensively, as well. In this way, we have gained room and perspective for self-development as well as escape outlets from the chafing of our differing personalities.
Despite societal norms that question this somewhat undefined state of relationship, we have resisted the temptation to simply rush to end the marriage, as well as the urge to flee to a new location, to pack up and simply transplant a troubled relationship. While we entertained the idea of refuge through relocation, we also realized we cannot escape our fundamental differences by simply starting over again somewhere else. Jung (1921/1971a) observed how a culture encourages differentiation of innately preferred functions in a personality (¶ 113), yet this contributes to the neglect of less differentiated functions. While remaining within a societal or marital culture that values one’s preferred functions (or escaping from one that does not) may facilitate immediate comfort and collective success, it also lends itself to one-sided development. At the expense of individuality, the personality remains stunted at the inferior, unconscious level. Thus, irritation is not necessarily a call for flight. To flee into a comfort zone is to choose complacency and status quo. Individuation calls us to fight the dragon head-on. The struggles of relationship—whether with another person or within a culture—are opportunities. We can flee and seek a quick-fix, taking what my husband calls “tequila shot” flights to numb the discomfort until the next situation arises. Or we can remain within the oyster shell and, for the time being, endure the uncomfortable rubbing. Thus, like flint grinding on steel, the chafing of opposing natures may light sparks in the most inferior depths of personality. After all, as Jung (1921/1971a) said,
Beneath the neglected functions there lie hidden far higher individual values which, though of small importance for collective life, are of the greatest value for individual life… that can endow the life of the individual with an intensity and beauty he will vainly seek in his collective function. The differentiated function procures for him the possibility of a collective existence, but not that satisfaction and joie de vivre which the development of individual values alone can give. (¶ 113)
Jung (1933/1996) discussed the common mistake of couples over-emphasizing “togetherness” or identification with the other, a participation mystique which constitutes “a violation of the principle of individuality.” Fortunately, this tendency is opposed by a countermovement whereby “you prevail against the objects of your love and repress them by your very self-evident identity. You handle them as if they were yourself, and naturally there will be resistances” (p. 7). Such resistances constitute “a most useful and important instinct: you have resistances, scenes, and disappointments so that you may become finally conscious of yourself” (p. 7). Thus, while over-identification within relationship—or seeking an “other half” to “complete me”—is detrimental to the ultimate individuation goal of Self or inner wholeness, we find fuel for the fire of self-awareness within the ups and downs of an imperfect I-thou relationship.
Jung did not deny the importance of relationship to the process of individuation. While the eventual dissolution of projections is vital to self-awareness, he emphasized the need for one to remain in continued human relationship, “for without a relationship of some kind he falls into a void” (Jung, 1946/1966b, ¶ 285). Esther Harding reported Jung as saying, “it is impossible to individuate without relatedness” (as cited in Savage Healy, 2017, p. 238). Despite our differences and the temptation to go our separate ways, my husband and I have chosen to remain married—at least for the time being—albeit respecting one another’s individual paths. We are together, separately … and slowly, we change. As two individuals in relationship, we are encouraging and granting one another room and space to grow.
Each individual self is a home, the foundation laid with a certain structural frame and floorplan, but rooms are decorated, refinished, renovated, and repurposed over time. We cannot escape ourselves, but we can renovate, coming more fully into ourselves, wherever we are. As John Beebe (2004) said, “The development of consciousness involves the ability to summon the various functions at appropriate times in appropriate ways” (p. 90). Type functions are the rooms we move in and out of. We do not move throughout the house in the exact same pattern every day. We flow in and out, adjusting furnishings as our life needs require. The more familiar we are with our own rooms and the homes of others, the more successfully we can effectively live in our own house, as well as find our way around the homes of others. Understanding our typological movements makes available more of the tools our personalities possess, that we may develop individuality and find our sense of home and relative freedom, wherever, and with whomever, we are.
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