Type Dynamics

Sailboat diagram of dominant and auxiliary functions

Extravert Sailboat and Introvert Sailboat

Type dynamics, or personality in motion, refers to the hierarchy and interaction of the four mental functions (intuiting, sensing, thinking, and feeling) of your Myers-Briggs type. Although disputed in its scientific basis, type dynamics provides a theory of general personality development throughout life. Type dynamics is important because personality type is not just about your four preferences, but also about how you use these preferences together.

The four mental functions and two orientations (introversion and extraversion) to each function together make a total of eight combinations. These functions or mental processes are divided into two categories: perceiving and judging. The second letter of the personality type code represents the preferred means of perceiving, or obtaining information (intuition “N” or sensing “S”) of that personality type. The third letter represents the preferred means of judging, or organizing and evaluating that information (thinking “T” or feeling “F”).

The first letter (E or I) is the orientation of the dominant function. One of the two middle letters in your code will be your dominant function and explain how you prefer to approach situations. The last letter (J or P) was added by Isabel Myers (the rest came from Carl Jung) to specifically help with type dynamics. The J or P indicates which of the middle two letters you extravert—the judging function (T or F) or the perceiving function (S or N).

These functions are written by capitalizing the function letter and using a lowercase or subscript letter with it to denote the orientation (i.e., extraverted feeling would be Fe, introverted intuition would be Ni, etc.).

Functions

Primary Functions

Dominant Function

The dominant function is the mental process that guides the personality, the one that you habitually use more than the others, the one you rely on the most to guide you through life—especially during the first half of life—and the default choice that you use and trust the most. It is your strongest, most developed, and most comfortable to use function; seems automatic and effortless to use; and, increases your energy when you use it.

You use all of your other primary functions (auxiliary, tertiary, and inferior) “in service of” your dominant function; your other functions provide your dominant with alternative perspectives to guide you through the world.

Auxiliary Function

The auxiliary function balances and guides the dominant. You use this function most after the dominant.

Tertiary Function

The tertiary function gives you a way to energize and recharge. It serves as a backup to the auxiliary function and often works in tandem with it. This is often is how you express your creativity, and how you are playful and childlike.

Inferior Function

The inferior function is the least developed of these functions and the one that you have the least conscious awareness of. It is the most problematic and energy draining to use, as it is completely opposite your favored function. It can show up in situations of high stress (sometimes referred to as being “in the grip”). However, it can teach you valuable life lessons, and it is considered by Jungians to be the function that bridges the conscious and the unconscious.

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Along with these four primary functions, there are four other functions that you use, but usually in a less skilled/comfortable way. There are various theories on these other four functions. One theory sees them as “shadow functions” with the same mental function as the corresponding first four, but with the opposite orientation (i.e., dominant Ni’s fifth function would be Ne; auxiliary Fe’s sixth function would be Fi, etc.).

Shadow Functions

The other four cognitive processes operate more on the boundaries of your awareness, like they are in the shadows and only come forward under certain circumstances. You usually experience these processes in a negative way; yet when you are open to them, they can be quite positive. They are the opposite orientations of each corresponding primary role (i.e., Ni shadow = Ne).

Dominant Shadow

This opposing role is often how you get stubborn and argumentative. It provides depth to your leading role process, backing it up and enabling you to be more persistent in pursuit of your goals.

Auxiliary Shadow

The critical parent role is how you find weak spots and can immobilize and demoralize others. It often emerges in stressful situations when something important is at risk.

Tertiary Shadow
The deceiving role fools you into thinking something is important to do or pay attention to. This role is often not trusted and seen as unworthy of attention, because when you use it you may make mistakes in perception or decisionmaking.

Inferior Shadow
The devilish role can be quite negative. When using this role, you may become destructive of yourself or others. Usually, you are unaware of how to use this role and feel like it just erupts and imposes itself rather unconsciously.

Extraversion and Introversion Orientations

For Extraverts (E is the first letter of your code), what you extravert is your dominant function, and therefore the auxiliary function is introverted. For Introverts (I is the first letter of your code), it is the opposite—what you introvert is your dominant function, and what you extravert is your auxiliary. Therefore, Introverts use their strongest functions in their inner world hidden from others, and show the outside world their second-strongest function. And Extraverts are the opposite—since they prefer to deal mainly with the outer world, this is where they show their strongest function.

One way of getting a mental picture of Extraverts having their dominant function on the outside and Introverts having their dominant function on the inside is to imagine a sailboat. It has to have a sail (the extraverted, visible function) to catch the wind and a keel (the introverted, hidden function) to keep it upright and moving in a straight line. For an extraverted boat, the sail is large (dominant) and the keel is small (auxiliary). For an introverted boat, the sail is small (auxiliary) and the keel is large (dominant).

With the extraverted boat, the large sail catches every little breeze and moves the boat along. But, because of the small keel, there is not much below the surface to keep the boat stable and in a straight line. Thus, the boat moves along quickly, changing direction as the winds change. With the introverted boat, the large keel is more responsive to the currents below the water than the winds above and can stay in a straight line longer. But, since the sail is small, the boat does not move as fast.

Determining Your Type Dynamics

To determine your type dynamics, follow these steps (and see the table below):

1. Determine which function is extraverted. This is determined by the last letter. For a J, the judging function (T or F) is extraverted; for a P, the perceiving function (N or S) is extraverted. The other middle function has the opposite orientation from this one.

2. Determine the Dominant function. The first letter tells you which of the middle two functions (N/S or T/F) is dominant. For an Introvert, the introverted function is dominant; for an Extravert, the extraverted function is dominant.

3. Determine the Auxiliary function. The auxiliary is the other middle function and opposite orientation from the dominant.

4. Determine the Tertiary function. The tertiary is the same type of function (N/S or T/F) as the auxiliary, but the opposite orientation.

5. Determine the Inferior function. The inferior function is the polar opposite of the dominant in type of function and orientation.

Type Dynamics Chart of the 16 Types

ISTJ

Dom. – Si
Aux. – Te
Tert. – Fi
Infer. – Ne

ISFJ

Dom. – Si
Aux. – Fe
Tert. – Ti
Infer. – Ne

INFJ

Dom. – Ni
Aux. – Fe
Tert. – Ti
Infer. – Se

INTJ

Dom. – Ni
Aux. – Te
Tert. – Fi
Infer. – Se

ISTP

Dom. – Ti
Aux. – Se
Tert. – Ni
Infer. – Fe

ISFP

Dom. – Fi
Aux. – Se
Tert. – Ni
Infer. – Te

INFP

Dom. – Fi
Aux. – Ne
Tert. – Si
Infer. – Te

INTP

Dom. – Ti
Aux. – Ne
Tert. – Si
Infer. – Fe

ESTP

Dom. – Se
Aux. – Ti
Tert. – Fe
Infer. – Ni

ESFP

Dom. – Se
Aux. – Fi
Tert. – Te
Infer. – Ni

ENFP

Dom. – Ne
Aux. – Fi
Tert. – Te
Infer. – Si

ENTP

Dom. – Ne
Aux. – Ti
Tert. – Fe
Infer. – Si

ESTJ

Dom. – Te
Aux. – Si
Tert. – Ne
Infer. – Fi

ESFJ

Dom. – Fe
Aux. – Si
Tert. – Ne
Infer. – Ti

ENFJ

Dom. – Fe
Aux. – Ni
Tert. – Se
Infer. – Ti

ENTJ

Dom. – Te
Aux. – Ni
Tert. – Se
Infer. – Fi

Type Development

Type development is a theory about when these functions develop. Generally, people develop their dominant function as a small child, then the auxiliary as a teenager, the tertiary function in their late 20s and early 30s, and the inferior function at midlife.

When someone is discouraged from developing his or her naturally preferred dominant and/or auxiliary functions, and is instead pushed to develop another less-preferred function first, this is called type falsification and can negatively impact the person’s ability to trust his or her decisionmaking process or to confuse ways of accessing information in his or her life.

*           *           *           *           *

Thus, type dynamics gives you a means of seeing how your type incorporates all the functions into a working whole—how you use different preferences at different times in your life, and how each function can add a new depth to your personality.

Next, we’ll look at another type system, Socionics, which adds yet another dimension of understanding of yourself—how you use your type in relation to others.

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