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.).


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.

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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.


Type and Tarot

Three tarot cards: the Hierophant, the Fool, and TemperanceThe tarot is more than just a deck of cards with interesting pictures. Most people think of it as a fortune-telling tool, but it is also a way to see your personality type depicted in images. Specifically, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and Enneagram can been seen to correspond to two of the three sections of a tarot deck.

The tarot is a deck of 78 cards that emerged in the Middle Ages as a card game, then later became known as a fortune-telling device. Nowadays, it is also often seen as a personal development tool to use with visualizations and journaling.

There are three parts to a tarot deck: the Major Arcana, 22 “big-picture” themes representing archetypal energies; the Minor Arcana, 40 “everyday challenges” cards divided into four suits, which differ depending upon the deck (pentacles/diamonds/earth, swords/spades/air, cups/hearts/water, and wands/clubs/fire); and the Court Cards, 16 “people cards” (page, knight, queen, and king) also divided into the four suits. This allows for a broad range of images and situations to explore.

The Court Cards are ideal for depicting Myers-Briggs type: 16 cards and 16 types. And, the Enneagram types, along with the wings, correspond to the Major Arcana cards (archetypal energies = your motivations and values). The Court Cards Correspondences Table gives the relationship between Myers-Briggs type and the cards, along with examples, and the Major Arcana Cards Meanings and Correspondences Table gives detailed information on how Enneagram type relates to the cards.

So, who are you in the tarot?

Temperament Through Time

drawing of four faces showing temperamentsThe history of temperament goes back over 2400 years. Around 450 BCE, four (or sometimes five) elements (water, fire, air, earth, and ether) were used to define temperament. Then, about 50 years later, Greek physician Hippocrates’ system of the four humours became popular—an excess of a substance in the body (black bile, yellow bile, blood, and phlegm) would dictate a person’s personality.

Years later, in 190 ACE, Galen, a Roman physician/philosopher, also recognized four temperaments (sanguine, melancholic, choleric, and phlegmatic), based on the balance of hot/cold and dry/wet in each person. And about a millennium later, in 1025, Persian polymath Avicenna furthered the four temperaments to include a connection to emotions and thoughts. After the medieval period, various psychologists and philosophers (Immanuel Kant, Rudolf Steiner, Alfred Adler, Erich Fromm, etc.) developed their own theories encompassing the four temperaments.

Probably the best-known modern-day system is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), developed in 1958 and based on Isabel Briggs-Myers’ study of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung’s four psychological types. Then, David Keirsey developed his four temperaments theory—first (dionysian/artful, epimethean/dutiful, apollonian/soulful, and promethean/technological) in 1978, then in a newer version (artisan, guardian, idealist, and rational) in 1988, and connected them to the MBTI types.

This brings us up to today, the 21st century. Most people have heard of the MBTI, and many have taken the formal test and/or some version of it online. There are even diets and dating services (Chemistry) using temperament as a foundation now. So, temperament theory may be around for yet another 2400 years.

Career Typing

RIASEC Holland Hexagon DiagramThis week, a summary of some of the major (and minor) career personality assessment tools in use today:

MBTI, Keirsey Temperament Sorter, DISC, FIRO, Strong Interest Inventory, Holland Codes, Multiple Intelligences, and Kingdomality

System Founding Overview
MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) During WWII, by Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother, Katherine Briggs, to help women entering the workforce Based on Swiss Psychologist Carl Jung’s typology; four dichotomies: Extravert vs. Introvert, Sensor vs. Intuitive, Thinker vs. Feeler, and Judger vs. Perceiver relate to energy, learning/taking in information, making decisions, and need for order in life, respectively
Keirsey Temperament Sorter 1956, by personality psychologist David Keirsey Based on ancient temperament theory by Hippocrates and Plato; four temperaments: Idealists, Rationals, Artisans, and Guardians—further divided into two categories each (roles) with two types each (variants)
DISC (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Compliance) By John Geier, based on psychologist William Marston’s 1928 published theories Quadrant behavior model; tests behavior preferences in four areas (the acronym):

  • Dominance—control, power and assertiveness
  • Influence—social situations and communication
  • Steadiness—patience, persistence, and thoughtfulness
  • Compliance—structure and organization
FIRO (Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation) 1958 by American psychologist William Schutz to assess how teams performed in the Navy 9 “types” measure amount of interaction a person desires in/with groups—Expressed and Wanted levels of Inclusion, Control, and Affection/Openness on a 0–9 scale; frequently used with MBTI; reflects learned behavior
Strong Interest Inventory 1927, by psychologist E. K. Strong, Jr., to help people exiting the military find jobs; modern version based on Holland Codes Interest, not personality, assessment;The results include:

  • Level of interest on each of the six Holland Codes.
  • 30 Basic Interest Scales (e.g., art, science, and public speaking)
  • 244 Occupational Scales, which indicate the similarity between the respondent’s interests and those of people working in each of the 122 occupations.
  • 5 Personal Style Scales: learning, working, leadership, risk-taking, and team orientation.
  • 3 Administrative Scales used to identify test errors or unusual profiles.
Holland Codes (RIASEC) By psychologist John Holland Holland’s believed “the choice of a vocation is an expression of personality”; describes both people and work environments.Used by U.S. Dept. of Labor for classifying jobs. All people have some interest in all, but top two or three are used in occupational guidance.

Model: the hexagon. Those areas touching are more closely related.

The six personality and work environment types:

  • Realistic—practical, physical, hands-on, tool-oriented
  • Investigative—analytical, intellectual, scientific, explorative
  • Artistic—creative, original, independent, chaotic
  • Social—cooperative, supporting, helping, healing/nurturing
  • Enterprising—competitive, leading, persuading
  • Conventional—detail-oriented, organizing, clerical
Multiple Intelligences 1983, by American developmental psychologist Howard Gardner Used in education; 8 major intelligences:

  • Verbal/Linguistic
  • Mathematical/Logical
  • Spatial
  • Body/Kinesthetic
  • Musical
  • Interpersonal
  • Intrapersonal
  • Naturalistic
Kingdomality 1990, by vocational psychologist Richard Silvano 12 medieval vocations as career types:

  • Bishop
  • Benevolent Ruler
  • Shepherd
  • Black Knight
  • Scientist
  • Discoverer
  • Merchant
  • Prime Minister
  • Engineer-Builder
  • Dreamer-Minstrel
  • White Knight
  • Doctor

 And a neat Enneagram type career site I just ran across: http://www.enneatype.com/

Personality Type and Life Purpose

question mark with personPersonality type, along with other factors such as our interests and environmental influences/upbringing, can have a major impact on our life purpose. Typing systems provide a way of defining our nature—our strengths, weaknesses, and values. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is used by career counselors and coaches to help students and clients select their ideal career. The Enneagram is used by spiritual seekers as a personal development tool. What can each of these systems tell us about what we should be doing with our lives?

The MBTI focuses on external behavior—how we prefer to act in most situations, which can be seen from our actions. Through activities we perform regularly, we develop a standard skill set for our type. These skills then become strengths to use in our work.

The Enneagram, on the other hand, focuses on internal motivations for actions—the “why” rather than the “what”. These are our inner drivers behind our behavior, our fixations, and what must be present in our lives for our happiness. These values indicate what we must strive for in life.

Together, both the MBTI and Enneagram provide a more complete picture of our nature and nurture and suggest ways, through balancing opposing forces, that we can achieve our potential and life purpose.

Myers-Briggs at the Faire

This week’s post is written as a hypothetical adventure at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, in celebration of opening weekend. The characters represent the 16 Myers-Briggs types.

Maryland Renaissance Festival

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I enter the gates ready for my magical adventure. First stop, the Glass Blower, to admire the detailed artistry of the pieces and pick out a gift for a friend. As it’s afternoon, it’s time for my first beer of the day, so I head to the White Hart Tavern, where a Bard is entertaining the crowd with a highly original and funny story—you never quite know what to expect from Bards. Nearby at the Royal Stage, the Jester is adding his own brand of entertainment to the day by amusing both the adults and kids with his easy, light-hearted hijinks. Next, I pass by the climbing wall where a Mentor, the mother of one of the kids climbing the wall, is providing moral support for the youngster struggling to make it to the top.

Lunchtime! I think I’ll have some fried cheese, and maybe some fried green beans or a fried pickle. Then, after way too much fried food, time to rest and recover a bit with a reading from the insightful and intuitive Tarot Reader on Mary’s Dale Way.

Then, I decide to check out a pirate show at Fortune Stage, and am immediately attracted to the Swashbuckler, with his physical prowess and charm, seducing all the women from the stage.

After the show, I go to check out the moccasin shop and discuss special ordering a new pair of moccasins with the head Craftsmith there, because his skills surpass most other shoemakers due to his attention to detail and years experience with his craft.

Time for a privy stop before the jousting. Oh, good, there is a Maintenance Person, ever mindful of our needs, handing out soap and papertowels. I meet my friends on the top row of seating and prepare for a good match. The Fighters are very dominant, capable, and skilled, and the Judge seems decisive and absolute in his determination of the winners. However, on the last round, one of the fighters unfortunately falls off his horse and is taken to the caring Healer, who both treats the minor wounds and eases his concerns of any serious problem.

Hey, I think that was Henry VIII that just walked by, the Ruler of these lands—an authority figure and anti-establishment leader. I think I’ll follow behind because I heard him say he was going to talk to the reclusive, yet brilliant Academian who I’ve always been curious to meet, but have never seen, and then to the Wizard, who will provide expert counsel to Henry on how to bring about the marriage of his son, Prince Edward, to Mary, Queen of Scots. Along the way, we pass the shop of the always wacky and imaginative Inventor where she is selling her newest creation this year, magickal sundials. Her friendly and engaging Host beckons us into the shop, but we decline, as we’re on a mission right now. But, I must return later to check out the fuzzy mirrors.

Type Key for the Characters:

Glass Blower: ISFP

Bard: ENFP

Jester: ESFP

Mentor: ENFJ

Tarot Reader: INFJ

Swashbuckler: ESTP

Craftsmith: ISTP

Maintenance Person: ISFJ

Fighter: ESTJ

Judge: ISTJ

Healer: INFP

Ruler: ENTJ

Academian: INTP

Wizard: INTJ

Inventor: ENTP

Host: ESFJ


Border Types

MBTI Function Scale for an INFP

MBTI Function Scale for an I/ENFP/J

Do you sometimes test as one type and other times as another quite frequently depending on your mood or situation? Or you just can’t decide which type fits you best? If so, then maybe you’re a “border type”.

In all of my reading and research on personality typing, I haven’t really found much on defining type that is on the border between type factors/functions. I’m mainly talking about Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, where you are defined as being “either an A or a B”, each points being the end of the spectrum. As someone who has officially tested 51% T (see Reference page for definition of letters/functions), I’ve always felt a bit undefinable—somewhat both an F and a T, depending on the circumstances. And I suspect people who are “on the border” between two different factors are hard to classify, are frequently mistyped, and use both functions in their own personal way. For instance:

E/I Border

  • “Social I’s” who love socializing, going to parties and events, and connecting with people—usually easily and comfortably—but have a need for much recharge time alone afterwards.
  • Shy E’s who mask their insecurities with humor (the “class clown”) or who talk nervously about any subject.

S/N Border

  • Detail-oriented N’s who can work through a vision taking it step-by-step to its conclusion.
  • Imaginative S’s who create art through piecing together various smaller elements, which eventually turn into the “big picture”/finalized product.

T/F Border

  • People-focused T’s who can make tough decisions knowing what’s best for the people involved.
  • Logical F’s who can stay calm in a crisis, perhaps even a war zone, while helping people.

J/P Border

  • Unpunctual J’s who are frequently late/miss deadlines because they try to maintain order in all areas of their life and complete tasks before moving to the next.
  • Guarded P’s who have strong boundaries set up for relationships to define what they need.

These are just a few examples of border types. If you’re uncertain of where you fit in, maybe you’re a border type—at lease with one function. And if so, how do you define yourself—as one or the other, or both? Or maybe some assimilation of the two (like the Social I, Guarded P, etc.)?

For me, a T/F border, I make all my decisions initially with my head—what seems most logical. Then, I see how others react and how I feel about the decision (does it “feel right”) and tailor accordingly. This has produced a lot of changed plans and indecisiveness for me over the years due to my heart not agreeing with my head. But it also provided a check on a decision that would have been the wrong one for me in the end. So, there are both positives and negatives to living on the border.

How do you experience your border type?