Shadow Boxing #3: The Trickster (Te)

Thursday, March 30, 2017 0 Comments A+ a-

Howdy-ho, friends! It's overcast and rainy here today--perfect weather for snuggling into comfy chairs and sipping hot beverages--so come on in and make yourselves at home. Me, I'm halfway through a mug of Irish Breakfast tea. I'm not Irish, and breakfast was hours ago, but it's pretty yummy. Anything to ward off this damp chill...brr!

And speaking of warding things off, it's time for a little sparring with our third shadow function. Ready to climb back into the ring? I hope so, because this guy's going to be a challenge. He's not exactly what he seems. In typology circles, he's known as the Trickster.

What is a trickster? He's a jester. A fool. A comedian and a magician. Basically he's that slippery, charismatic guy you see in movies. You know, the one who waltzes casually through the film, feathers unruffled, cracking jokes as he manipulates everyone into doing whatever he wants. He can be a real troublemaker, and the weird thing is, he's so brilliantly entertaining about it that you don't know you're being tricked until it's too late.

My favorite film example of this archetype is Captain Jack Sparrow. Yeah, I know...he's sleazy, self-absorbed, and totally overdoes the rum thing. But he's also a masterful deceiver. That guy can talk himself out of trouble and others into trouble in practically the same breath. He always does what's best for himself, and no matter how bad things get, he somehow manages to escape.

When it comes to MBTI, every type has a "trickster" function. It's a shadow role that acts up whenever your tertiary function feels threatened. Even if the person approaching you has good intentions, you immediately see them as a bully or control freak. Your shadow tricks you into thinking you need to defend yourself, and one wrong word from them will send your ego screaming into overdrive.

Weird, right? I agree. But we need to face this. Gloves up, guys, we're about to battle:

Shadow #3: Extraverted Thinking

Hmm. Thinking. It doesn't seem very threatening, does it? It's just, well...thinking. But there are different kinds of thinking. The INFJ kind is introverted, which drives us to know the "why" behind external systems. We want to know why something works the way it does, and we use the answers to form an internal framework of how that system should look. Of course, we constantly change that picture (through experience and analyzation), but it's still the image we use to understand that particular system. It's an awesome skill that enables us to troubleshoot problems and make things more efficient.

Then along comes someone with Extraverted Thinking. He's not interested in knowing why something works the way it does; he wants to know "how" it works and "how" he can use it to establish more control in his environment. Rather than building a mental picture of the system, he wants to follow all the logical steps to utilize that system. He won't waste time troubleshooting or trying to improve a step. He's decisive and wants action. Logical, sequential action.

What does this look like in the ring? In a word...strange. You have one guy who has a good grasp of how to fight and will throw all his punches in the right order, while the other stands there like a frightened child, trying to figure out why he's fighting in the first place.

Yikes. Talk about mismatched!

Okay, let's put this into perspective. Suppose you own a catering business. You have a client who wants to hold a super-special luncheon for his employees, and the two of you are walking through a conference room (where the lunch will take place). You're asking questions, and as the client provides answers, you silently analyze the room. Shape, size, accessibility. You intuitively troubleshoot. You know what will work, and what won't. So you form a mental picture of your food prep and set-up area. It's a great deal that will bring in a lot of money, and you're pleased.

Then suddenly, without warning, your client explains how you should set everything up. He has this fantastic idea, you see, and he starts dictating each step--bring food in this door, put it on that table, in that corner, use these decorations. He's way excited about his idea, and he makes it clear that he won't accept any other arrangement. You do it his way, or the deal's off.

Instantly, you go from pleased to upset. This guy is a complete jerk! Not only is he jeopardizing your income, but he's acting like you don't know how to do your job. You're an expert. You shed blood, sweat, and tears to build your business. You have an excellent reputation and years of experience. And he thinks he can control you?!?! NO FREAKING WAY!

Okay, so maybe you're not this mad. Maybe you're a calm, cool, collected INFJ. But at some point, someone is going to come at you with the intent to control or delegate. They're going to fixate on their need for external order and completely overlook your intellect, skill, and experience. They want it their way. Period. You're going to feel threatened, and your trickster function will rear its ugly head. No matter how harmless the other person is, your Te will trick you into thinking he's a big ole' Sumo wrestler, ready to hurl himself at you and smoosh you into a pile of INFJ goo.

How exactly might we react to this perceived mountain of Sumo? Well, according to a cool article I found on, the Te Trickster can cause both INFJs and ISFJs to:

  • feel 'double-bound' by external logical order, and make mistakes trying to implement it themselves
  • see people organizing the environment logically as “bad children”:
  • feel confused by externally set technical order and make mistakes with it, and projects this onto others.
  • become critical, and put down others for disorderliness, illogic, or inefficiency.
  • become competitive about organizing things and using an efficient systematic approach.
  • lash out if others criticize their logic with emotional arguments, and make subjective arguments.
  • criticizes others for spending unnecessary time establishing order, planning.
  • misguide themselves and others in the process of organizing for efficiency.

Wow, what a list. I think it's safe to say that our Te shadow function isn't good for us, and fighting fire with fire will only burn us in the end.

First and foremost, it would be helpful to keep in mind that this is a Trickster role. An internal Jack Sparrow, if you will. He likes mischief. He's bent on deceiving us. He wants us to make mountains out of molehills. If we're going to ward him off, we need to see him coming.

If we do? Well, this is probably a good time to bring up the potential for taming our egos. The ego is a stubborn little devil, built on a lifetime of false assumptions, and will do whatever it takes to keep that false identity in place. When threatened, it will always fight back. But we can definitely take steps to squash it, Sumo-style. Check out my Ego Trip series for tips on INFJ ego-squashing.

Three shadows down, one to go. Stay tuned for our fourth contender...The Demon.

Image Credit: Trickster, Madness or Brilliance, Mismatched Sumo, Blade GRR