By Dr. A.J. Drenth
In his seminal work, Psychological Types (1921), which I highly recommend, Carl Jung introduced the concepts of Introvert-Extravert, Sensation (a.k.a, Sensing)-Intuition, and Thinking-Feeling that would later serve as preferences under the Myers-Briggs. Jung also introduced eight psychological functions—Introverted Intuition (Ni), Extraverted Intuition (Ne), Introverted Sensing (Si), Extraverted Sensing (Se), Introverted Thinking (Ti), Extraverted Thinking (Te), Introverted Feeling (Fi), and Extraverted Feeling (Fe). Notably, Jung did not delineate a Judging-Perceiving category (although he propounded something similar in his descriptions of “rational” and “irrational” types). Nor did Jung employ four-letter acronyms, such as “INFJ,” to describe his eight personality types.
It was not until Isabel Myers and her mother, Katharine Briggs came along, that we see the introduction of the Judging-Perceiving preference, the four-letter type designations, and the expansion to 16 types. Their purpose was to make Jung’s work, which was highly theoretical, more practical and accessible. In this vein, they developed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (1962), or what is more commonly known as the MBTI. The MBTI is a personality questionnaire intended to aid individuals in the identification of their four-letter personality type. Myers and Briggs believed that knowing one’s personality type could have numerous applications, such as assisting individuals in the selection of a suitable career.
Myers and Briggs also worked to advance Jungian theory. Among their most important contributions was clarifying the role and nature of the auxiliary function. Jung had already proposed that each type has an “auxiliary function which is in every respect different from the nature of the primary function.” Myers and Briggs interpreted this to mean that the auxiliary function is opposite the dominant in both direction (i.e., an introverted vs. extraverted function) and nature (i.e., a Judging vs. Perceiving function). This was then expanded by W.H. Grant, Alan Brownsword, and others to delineate the tertiary and inferior functions. Each personality type’s unique cocktail of dominant, auxiliary, tertiary, and inferior functions has been more recently described by my colleague Elaine Schallock as “the functional stack.”
More recent advances in type theory have involved a heightened emphasis and understanding of the less conscious functions, particularly the inferior function. This can be seen in Marie-Louise Von Franz’s exploration of the inferior function in Jung’s Typology (1971), which was then popularized and expanded upon in Naomi Quenk’s 1993 book, Beside Ourselves (later renamed, Was That Really Me?).
With respect to the above, one of our objectives here at Personality Junkie is to continue to refine and develop type theory, including the inferior function and its role in career selection/ satisfaction, relationships and compatibility, personal growth and happiness, etc. Our work, presented in this blog, as well as my e-book, The 16 Personality Types, has entailed extensive explorations of the inferior function, the eight functions, type dynamics, type development, and healthy versus unhealthy psychological functioning.