The inferior function represents the ultimate goal or attractor point for each personality type’s personal growth and development. It is what motivates and draws us forward, compelling us to live more authentically and to move toward greater truth and wholeness. Because it contains the keys to a new mode of existence, one that is largely distinct from that of the dominant function, it is often described and experienced as “magical.”
For instance, a dominant Thinker, such as an INTP, who suddenly experiences deep feelings (F) of love may report feeling intoxicated and enraptured, as if he’s been transported to a new and beautiful world. By contrast, a dominant Feeler, such as an INFP, who regularly deals in the currency of emotions, may experience magic or bliss in moments of logical clarity (T).
The inferior function not only holds the potential for a renewed sense of life and vitality, but also for evil and destruction. This becomes especially likely when its needs and desires are repressed or ignored, prompting it to act like an attention-starved child. When ignored or neglected, the inferior becomes frustrated, angry, and rebellious. If indulged, it may crave and expect even more attention. As any parent can testify, dealing with such antics is no small challenge.
The inferior function opposes the dominant and in many ways has its own agenda. It can be helpful to think of the dominant and inferior as representing opposite ends of a rubber band. As the dominant moves toward greater consciousness and is pulled tighter, the inferior shows a commensurate increase in tension as it is pushed/stretched away from consciousness. As this dominant-inferior tension increases, the two functions can seem increasingly at odds with each other. Both functions strongly desire to have their needs met, but since their objectives seem oppositional, it can feel like an either-or situation. It feels as though we can satisfy either the dominant or the inferior, but not both at once.
This strong pull from the inferior function is what causes us to act in ways that are grossly inconsistent with our personality type, deviating from who we know ourselves to be. While it is possible for the inferior to be satisfied and engaged in a healthy fashion, this is often not the case. More typically, the inferior is indulged and gratified in ways that resemble the use of a drug. In such instances, we abandon the values and objectives our top functions in order to give the inferior the high it is seeking.
A common example of an inferior-related “high” is the experience of infatuation. As I’ve discussed elsewhere, the reason “opposites attract” is because both individuals have something the other wants, even if the relationship eventually proves incompatible.
The inferior can also play a role in obsessive, compulsive, or addictive behaviors. When “in the grip” of our inferior function, we feel locked into a certain mood, attitude, or behavior, one that we cannot easily escape. We can become narrow-minded, irrational, impetuous, self-indulgent, and tend to lose our sense of humor. In many ways, religious notions such as sin and the devil seem closely related to “grip experiences” with the inferior function. (This Personality Junkie post is continued on the next page.)
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