Each personality type is equipped with a dominant function which constitutes its signature strength. While we don’t know the degree to which the dominant’s abilities are innate versus cultivated, what we do know is it’s the most potent tool in our typological toolbox. That said, life demands that we develop and integrate more of our type’s functions. As nice as it is to have a star player on our psychological team, it’s difficult to succeed without the aid of a strong supporting cast (just ask Lebron James).
Every cognitive function has a both an E-I element and a J-P element. For example, INFJ and INTJ types use Introverted Intuition (Ni) as their dominant function, which is considered an introverted perceiving function (all N and S functions are functions of perception). We must also pay attention to what Ni lacks, namely, extraversion and judging. Ni’s optimal complement would thus take the form of an extraverted judging function, either Extraverted Feeling (Fe) or Extraverted Thinking (Te). Where might we find one of these functions? Let’s take a peek at the INFJ’s functional stack for guidance:
From this we learn that Ni’s best complement (Fe) is found in the auxiliary position of the functional stack. Not only is this true for INFJs, but for all types. Whenever the auxiliary joins forces with the dominant, they form a balanced and powerful dyad.
It would be a mistake, however, for us to focus merely on the practical utility of enlisting the auxiliary function. Equally important is its role in satisfying the psychospiritual demands of the psyche, including its desire for growth and establishing an identity and life purpose.
With respect to identity and purpose, we at Personality Junkie® have observed that individuals find it particularly important to not only incorporate qualities associated with the dominant function, but also the auxiliary and inferior functions, into their self-understanding. Moreover, because employing the dominant can feel easy and natural to the point of seeming mundane, the auxiliary or inferior function are often granted ample attention. There can be a profound sense of magic and mystery associated with these functions, at least in part because their E-I attitude is opposite that of the dominant (e.g., INFJ: the extraverted nature of Fe and Se contrasts with Ni’s introversion). By contrast, the tertiary function, which takes the same E-I attitude as the dominant, seems to carry less initial allure. In short, the auxiliary and inferior functions inspire introverts to incorporate certain extraverted qualities into their identity and life purpose, while compelling extraverts to strive toward introverted ideals.
Having examined the utility and psychological appeal of the auxiliary and inferior functions, we must now consider which of these functions might serve as the better focal point when formulating one’s identity and life purpose. One problem with the inferior function, which I discuss in my book, The 16 Personality Types, is it’s the least conscious, least mature, and least accessible of a type’s four functions. If we think of the dominant as the most mature or “adult” function, we might conceive of the inferior as the “toddler” or, at best, the “child” function. And while its childlike (or childish) nature does little to detract from its allure, it should give us pause as we work to hone our identity, purpose, and career direction.
The Auxiliary Function: A Source of Growth, Identity & Purpose
A great advantage of the auxiliary function is it’s conscious enough to be accessible and readily employed, but novel enough to be interesting and inspiring. Contrast this with the dominant function, which can feel a bit lackluster, and the inferior, which may seem beyond developmental reach or overly at odds with the dominant function.
The auxiliary also offers a satisfying blend of self-discovery and self-development. On the one hand, it constitutes a type’s natural strength (although not to the extent of the dominant) that is capable of being “discovered.” On the other hand, there is much about the auxiliary that exists as potential and thus requires an investment of time and energy for its actualization. Fortunately, the process of actualizing the auxiliary function is typically quite rewarding, which is why many individuals select careers believed to afford ample opportunity for its use and development.
If we are correct in identifying the auxiliary as a key player in our growth and self-conception, then it may prove fruitful to compare types who employ the same auxiliary function. In doing so, we might discover new options and insights for our type’s development that might otherwise be missed. In the following table, you will find groupings of the types possessing the same auxiliary function.
Of course, we can never overlook the dominant function when making these sorts of comparisons, as it can obviously produce marked differences between the above types. However, it is also true that we might learn something valuable by observing the ways in which another type employs our type’s auxiliary function.
For example, an INTP might study the lives of INFP artists or writers to gain insight into the workings and creations of their auxiliary Ne. It’s interesting to observe how both INTPs and INFPs commonly herald the importance of creativity / imagination (Ne) in their lives and work. Even the scientifically-minded Einstein (INTP) famously proclaimed that “imagination is more important than knowledge.” Why might a dominant thinker (Ti) like Einstein place such a strong emphasis on the imagination? Because the auxiliary function serves as a welcomed refuge from, as well as a suitable complement to, the dominant; it’s also a reliable source of growth, inspiration, and purpose.
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