Mastering Alternate Functions

Tuesday, January 19, 2016 2 Comments A+ a-

Hey, guys! I was delighted to see so many people respond--both here and on the fan page--to the last post about INFJs testing as INFPs. As it turns out, some of you occasionally test as other types, such as ENFJ or INTJ.

Why do we do this? It seems to depend on how much we 'grow' or 'master' the functions outside our normal stack. Reasons probably vary. It could be that in some areas, we land on the cusp and sort of bounce back and forth between two functions, even though one might be the dominant trait we're born with. Maybe it's because we're learning to master a new function for a job. Or maybe it was forced upon us in childhood.

That last one actually happened to me. I grew up around a family who didn't understand my emotional turbulence. They didn't realize it was natural for me to hone in on other people's feelings and react accordingly. To them, I was a sensitive and high-strung child. I don't blame them; the internet was non-existent and MBTI information wasn't readily available, so there was no obvious explanation for my behavior. But I often ended up being disciplined for something outside of my control.

How did this affect me? Well, I learned to ignore my Fe and process my emotions other words, I mastered my Fi at a very young age. I'm not sure how healthy this was, because it taught me to make decisions like an INFP would do, rather than the way I was built to do. INFJs make decisions with their Fe and Ti functions (the judging functions) and are thus a little more removed from the emotional side of decision making. I ended up trying to align many of my decisions with how I felt inside, and it was often hard to reconcile that with my natural Ti thinking process.

When I got older and started a family, I gave birth to a special-needs child. Prone to aggressive outbursts, he depended on me to keep him happy and content. Again, I was forced to tuck away the part of me that responded to others' emotions. I "put on a happy face" for him and kept my true feelings inside..for years and years and years. He's in a group home now and doing well, but it's going to take me a while to reactivate my Fe and get it back up to speed.

I know that some of you have undergone similar experiences. When I blogged about being in my head and often misplacing or forgetting things, one reader commented that she didn't have problems with this. Growing up, focusing externally had been made a priority in her household, giving her a well-developed Te. She trained herself to think outwardly. Unlike me, she probably never loses her car in a parking garage.

So when I'm doing research for a blog post or perusing Twitter for interesting facts for the fan page, and I see people claiming to have "switched" personality types, I can see why they'd think this way (or test this way). Personally, I think we're all born a certain type--that it's encoded somehow in our personality--but through time and circumstance, aspects of it can be changed.

Have you mastered one of your alternate functions? Were you ever something other than an INFJ? Be sure and tell us about it!

Have a great day,

Image Credit: Gene Wilder Creepy Stare, Heart vs Brain, Dude Where's My Car?


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January 25, 2016 at 6:27 AM delete

One of the things I see most often in personality testing is people answering in terms of what they're good at as opposed to what they actually prefer. MBTI is all about your core preferences, not your skillsets--and those generally don't change. It's like being right handed or left handed--you can become very skilled at writing with your non-dominant hand, to the point where it's almost indistiguishable from your dominant one, but you will always have a preference. Even ambidexterous people prefer different hands for different things; e.g. left for writing, right for playing guitar.

Answering for skills instead of preferences will cause the results to change, and people will believe that the results are accurate, for they will have changed along with the results, as our skillsets do change over time. However, their true MBTI will be what feels most natural to them. Even someone who is very skilled in using an inferior or shadow function will still have a small resistance towards using it when given the option to use a more dominant function, and that resistance is what determines what function a person is naturally inclined to.

Before I learned this, I thought I may have been an INTJ. My working environment at the time was such that I had to shut off my Fe in order to make it through (very corporate cutthroat), and in order to be seen to be contributing in this environment, I had to push to develop Te. Imagine my surprise when admistered the MBTI and told to complete it as what feels most natural and comfortable to me, and not what I'm good at and coming out as INFJ. It was a revelation, though--all of the pieces fell in to place, and I realised that I would never be happy in a work environment of that nature because that stifling feeling would never go away. I'm now working for a company that values Fe traits and in a role that plays to Ti strengths, and I'm honestly the happiest I've ever been.

January 25, 2016 at 6:43 AM delete

Thanks so much for this excellent analysis. It really hit home with me.I am an INFJ who sometimes tests as an INFP.

Reading this helped me understand why that might be so much better.I grew up in a turbulent, dysfunctional home and was constantly getting into trouble for picking up and reacting to the emotional turmoil all around me.My entire childhood was a struggle to control my emotions and it's at times continued throughout my life.

Thanks so much for the valuable insight.