By A.J. Drenth
As described in my latest book, My True Type, it is often best to view IPs (e.g., INFPs, INTPs) as dominant Judgers and IJs (e.g., INFJs, INTJs) as dominant Perceivers because of the nature of their dominant function (i.e., IPs’ dominant function, Ti or Fi, is a Judging function and IJs’ Si or Ni is a Perceiving function). We will use this same line of reasoning in this post.
Myers-Briggs Judging is commonly associated with things like focus, persistence, productivity, work orientation, and intentionality. First and foremost, Judgers are concerned with imposing order on themselves (Ti, Fi) or the world (Te, Fe). Being “in the grip of the inferior function” often resembles what we might think of as extreme Judging behavior. It is characterized by things like perfectionism, obsessiveness, and compulsiveness. The phrase “in the grip” describes something we have difficulty escaping. It involves a narrowing of focus and diminished behavioral flexibility.
Grip behavior tends to peak in early adulthood. In childhood, our dominant function has not developed to the point of creating a strong dominant-inferior function polarity. It is not until we are working to “find” or define ourselves (which I have labeled Phase II of type development) that we encounter the all-out war between the dominant and inferior function and the spiking of grip behavior. It is surely no coincidence that this is also the time we start taking religion more seriously, as notions of God and the devil serve as apt symbols of warring psychological opposites.
The commonness of grip behaviors in early adulthood can also cloud our ability to readily discern our personality type. During this time, types with a dominant Perceiving function (IJs and EPs) who were generally carefree in childhood may become more obsessive toward inferior function-related interests and mistype themselves as EJs. Or, EJs may find that their dominant-inferior struggles have rendered them less productive or less consistent, leading them to question their status as Judgers.
In light of the above, it is important that we distinguish normal and healthy Judging behavior from that associated with grip behavior. In many cases, outsiders can readily see the difference. When we are in the grip, others can see that we are not usual selves as we become closed off, negligent, impatient, cranky, or otherwise difficult to be around.
Grip behavior also entails significant changes in our internal state, such as a heightened sense of tension and anxiety. While mild anxiety can be helpful for motivating action, grip behavior often involves higher levels of anxiety. Those caught in the grip of perfectionism or workaholism, for instance, may feel that the object of their focus is all that matters. They become hell-bent on controlling for a specific outcome, which foments worry and anxiety. This can involve a strong concern with time (e.g., obsession with efficiency), quality (e.g., perfectionism), quantity (e.g., productivity), or effect (e.g., extrinsic rewards). In many cases, the desired outcome somehow ties into the inferior function, which we instinctively sense as vital to our quest for psychological wholeness.
Instead of trying to obsessively control the outcomes of life (i.e., trying to directly control the inferior function), we must learn to operate in a more balanced fashion in order to achieve lasting peace and wholeness. This involves working to integrate the inferior function through the dominant function, as well as learning when and how to release control over outcomes. When we obsess over or try to micromanage a specific outcome, we render ourselves inflexible and incapable of responding to the ever-changing currents of life. This is where Eastern philosophies such as Buddhism and Taoism can be instructive. While the Western approach is characteristically goal-oriented, Eastern philosophy emphasizes the internal attitude we bring to life, recognizing that the means by which we approach our lives and work is equally, if not more important, than the ends. Without careful attention to the means, to the way we go about our lives, we will remain forever trapped in psychological bipolarism, incapable of achieving enduring peace and wholeness.