So, you learned about type and what a relief: Finally, a defence against all those people who tried to force you into being what you are not; all who suggested you should simply change your natural tendencies. For most of us, learning about type is a revelation in that sense, because we finally feel allowed to be what we were meant to be.
For example, how many introverts were not told to go out and make friends, with the implicit message that not doing so meant you were broken? How many SPs were not told that “if other kids can sit still, then so can you”?
Psychotype allows all of us to claim our natural Self as okay, because it is inherent in the theory that we are all different. Suddenly, there is no more justification for medicating children if they are different than other kids in the class, or for judging their ability to sit still or play outside.
It also explains interpersonal problems, for if I have a communication problem with people, because I don’t naturally say things directly but hint when I need something done, which is a trait most FPs have, this can be misunderstood by those who give and expect direct answers. They don’t get what I want and I expect them to hint and misinterpret their directness. Knowing type helps both of us to be more tolerant.
However, if I know that I am one type and not another and I cannot change that, and if I know that they are one type and cannot change that either, then how do we continue?
I may have an explanation for my communication problems with certain types, and I may have a justification for saying that I do not need to go out and play, but if we want to live together, we need to adapt. So how do we adapt without losing ourselves? Does not that bring us back to having to change for others; the exact thing we thought learning about type relieved us of?
This relates to the current trend in the type community to dismiss the idea that we are a type, or have a function, but instead to say that we prefer some tendencies, and talk about these tendencies in relation to the stack of “function-attitudes”.
However, as Jung described, the personality or psyche is the moving of ‘psychic energy’ between unconscious and conscious, in which the functions are the filters for the different forms of information. The whole typing system is therefore a code, a symbolic description. It is an indicator of what goes on in this forever dynamic and fluid conscious-unconscious interface we call the mind.
Now, I agree that the general tendency in our world to refer to people by their disease, their orientation or ethnicity – he is a diabetic, he is white, he is gay – is not the best way to go about things. Likewise, I agree that to say we “have a function” implies something we acquired, something we chose to have or which we learned. However, “preference” also has different meanings and one implication of the word is that of choice.
Yes, we do prefer a function over another function in the sense that it comes natural to us. Like any physical energy flows more easily or more naturally in one direction, so psychic energy has a preferred direction and the psychological functions are that because they move psychic energy.
I use the analogy of a camera, which can both zoom in (sensory perception) or zoom out (intuitive perception), but not both simultaneously, and each person has their camera set in their preferred position. Thus, by referring to somebody as an N, it is implicit that the S is the other setting that is not engaged, but nonetheless present. Our default functions have become so well-developed that we can totally rely on them, and that is how we recognize our type, by their preference of S or N, T or F over its opposite.
We use four letters to indicate our type, like we use one small e or i for each function’s attitude, which are simply symbols: shorthand for the entire psyche.
But where intuition and ‘sensation’ deal with completely different aspects of perception – they have a different ‘language’, are tuned to a different aspect of ‘reality’ and we cannot possibly do without either of them – this is not the case for the attitudes of the functions. To use their other ‘face’ simply takes more effort, like it takes an introverted person effort to behave extraverted.
Therefore, whether we talk about 4 or 8 functions (or function-attitudes) is semantic, since a dynamic system does not have clear boundaries, but S (whether Se or Si) gets its perceptions from the material realm of existence, so that to refer to a person as being a “sensor” simply means they naturally rely on their sense perceptions. Likewise, Ni and Ne perceive from different aspects of the immaterial realm, and referring to a person as being an N is simply using a word to indicate that this person relies on their intuitions more than on their senses.
Similarly, T and F process information, but each has a different approach to reasoning and we need both: T analyses and eliminates in order to get to exact knowledge about a particular; F generalizes and justifies in terms of the collective whole and its motivations. In that light, I will call somebody a T or an F – although I object to “feeling” and “thinking” as discussed elsewhere – to indicate which function they most likely relying on.
But even if, with regard to the functions, the idea of preference may hold some ground, with regard the attitudes it does not. I am an extravert or an introvert; it is not the case that I prefer those, since the other possibility is not in the background being idle, but is absent. We can force our behaviour to be extraverted or introverted for a while (put on a different persona), but that comes at the cost of our natural Self, and is exhausting. Likewise, for the attitudes of the functions, which I have compared to a door. You can push the door the other way to make the energy flow against its nature, but the moment you let go, it reverts back.
So, your attitude is an expression of your psyche, it is the Self you put in the world; I am an introvert and I am P, because that is my attitude, and my attitude is a result of what goes on inside me, like I am a person (and not a dog) because of how my inner organs are put together.
Psychotype is not a choice, it is not about something we have in addition to ourselves. It is not the case that I (as an entity) possess my functions. My functions are what make me who I am. Without those functions, there would be no I, no Self, no psyche, no personality. Our psychotype (the way our functions filter information within us), has been there from the moment we were born; it has affected every experience we had, everything we learned, everything we noticed, all our feelings, and all our responses and thoughts. We cannot be anything else than what we are because of our type; we’d be a bundle of cells, otherwise.
Sure, not all people of the same type believe, feel or respond exactly the same, because of individual circumstances and experiences, and type is about tendencies, after all, but nevertheless, our type is how we experience and therefore respond.
This is important, because “preference” implies choice and “have” implies possession in addition to, both of which could be used to suggest that the “I”, the “me”, the Self can choose to change, which is exactly what many people who do not know type are trying to force on us. We found type as a relief, because we found we were suddenly allowed to be ourselves; we don’t want to go back to accepting that we are not okay, because they don’t understand us.
And we do not want to fall into the trap of seeing the mind as a by-product of something material. The whole point is to get the mind accepted as equal, the psychotype as equivalent in value to the phenotype and the genotype.
So how do we adapt, accept and tolerate each other for who we really are, without losing ourselves on the way?
The only way I can see is that we accept that we are different people by nature, so that we do not negatively judge each other or try to change each other, but simultaneously use the understanding of our differences to reach out a little.
“Hey, look, I don’t like to play outside, because I’m an introvert, but you go and have fun.”
Or, “I’m sorry, did you get my hint? Maybe I should be clearer.”
A little effort from both sides can bring us closer together without losing our Self in the need to be politically correct.
Thank you for reading.