December 15, 2017

Reflections on the Inferior Function

My inferior function has always wanted its say in peculiar and idiosyncratic ways. I believe this is true for all of us, though the i.f. may manifest its desires in various ways – never the same for all individuals.

My dominant function is introverted intuition…as verified by all of the four analysts with whom I worked through the course of my seventeen year analysis, every type test I have taken (except for one strange little gem that totally got me wrong!), and my almost incessant tendency to misplace my glasses, keys and any other items smaller than a bread box. So the function I am zeroing in on here is extraverted sensation – and sometimes just sensation in general.

My experience of the “peculiar idiosyncratic” manifestation of the inferior function, however, will be most recognizable to all of you based on your own inferior functions. Look at what that is, and muse for a while about your lives through the eyes of the inferior function. It is a wonderful thing to recognize how this part of ourselves that we usually deem the bane of our existence has actually been there all along in a more pleasant way, beckoning us to look at the world through those strangely tinted glasses…and actually offering us a quiet though powerful feeling of wholeness!

As a child I was oddly and sporadically organized. I would spend hours working on rearranging my room, especially after birthdays and Christmas when I had received some new items to add to the mix. My introversion was still intact – these were solitary enterprises. However, they were all about the outer experience, one could even say the “extraverted” expression of my personality. I was making my room into a showcase for others to see. This is about as extraverted as I could allow myself to be as a child. The experience of my inferior function became more daringly “out there in the world” as I matured in adulthood, and particularly once I had begun analytic work!

We were never a wealthy family; we probably fit (sometimes comfortably, sometimes squeezed) into the middle of the middle class during much of my childhood. I mention this because I want to stress the creative work I had to do to get that room organized. I didn’t have beautiful shelves on which to display all of my toys, and I often had to create the display area as well as organizing what was to be displayed. I was using my hands, my ability to observe spacial relationships and dimensions, my understanding of how the outer world actually fit together. I can remember spending hours finding the perfect use for a torn up and reconstituted cardboard box. The feeling of wholeness that I had when immersed in these organizational binges was palpable, although of course I would not have called it by that name. My mother and father often observed this side of my childhood personality, laughing about how absorbed in the activity I would become.

Similarly, when a project or assignment in school would catch my attention in my elementary years (not a consistent experience!), I would become uncharacteristically focused and detail oriented. As a young child, I had no idea how to harness this ability. It came of its own volition, and I was its pawn until it was over. The project consumed me, and when it ended I was proud of my accomplishment. Then, I went back to daydreaming and wandering through the rest of my life in my own inner world until the next time I was gripped by one of these urges.

When we begin to look at ourselves as both conscious and unconscious beings, these kinds of memories take on a powerful meaning. I am aware that, throughout my life, my inferior function has had a desire to be given its own space in my life. It is not just out to get me, but it wants to play its part in my quest for wholeness. What an astounding discovery! I encourage all of you to look at this little corner of your psyches with new eyes, plumb the depths and discover what the inferior function has been trying to say and how it has been trying to become known to you. We are forever discovering new aspects of the mystery that is our own psyches!



  1. When I discovered that my inferior function was sensing, the tensions in my relationship with my ESTJ father made sense. I have discovered that I can manage sensing activities but only when I accept them for their own integrity rather than dislike them as chores. The second requirement is that I must, almost always, SLOW WAY DOWN to do them. Then the same pleasure described here accompanies me while doing them.

  2. nancy ruff says:

    Very fun to read.
    It is like when this function takes over the clock changes.
    I too have the feeling of wholeness when this function catches me and gets my attention.
    It is for me like the wind. It catches me. I cannot catch it.
    the wind is my personal metaphor for this function in my life.
    As I child I was very active physically , but this to was a solitary function for the most part, but being physical was portal to experience my inferior extroved funtion. this has also carried over in my adult life.

  3. I am the same type, and my inferior ES has always manifested as a resistance to ordering my space (except for a few phases of organizing books!), and what feels like a short circuit when I try to remember how to get somewhere. I am right in the fat middle of another spell of trying to make friends with this function, so I was very glad to run across this rumination. Thank you!


  1. […] named Lara Newton for a completely unrelated reason and I fell on this short but beautiful piece: Reflections on the Inferior Function. She is a confirmed introverted intuitive and talks about the positive role the inferior function […]

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