When people begin to understand the basics of MBTI, there are a few preconceived notions that we’re going to drop immediately:
Extraverted vs Intraverted
People assume that if they have an E in the front of their type, they are an Extrovert, or the opposite with an I. Although this tends to be true, this is not what the MBTI is talking about, whatsoever.
- Each of these four functions has an Extraverted version and and an Intraverted version.
- The Extraverted and Intraverted versions of a cognitive functions has unique qualities, independent of each other.
- “Extraverted” means what is shown to to the outside world, and “Intraverted” is what happens on the inside.
Ever notice how when dealing with MBTI types, the terminology is “Extraverted,” not “Extroverted?”
This means that those four cognitive functions just became eight unique functions. For example, instead of Intuition (N), there is actually Ne and Ni: Extraverted Intuition and Intraverted Intuition.
“I switch between being an Exxx and an Ixxxx”
No. You don’t.
It is not the person that is an extrovert or introvert, it is that the cognitive functions have an Extraverted and an Intraverted version. However, if your dominant function happens to be an Extraverted one, it does pretty much mean that you will be more of an Extrovert. So, you may have been correct, but by accident!
Breaking it Down
There are 16 Personality Types.
Each “Type” represents a unique predictable pattern of how the eight processes (functions) are used in everyday life.
In most of what we do, we rely on two of the processes, the dominate function and the auxiliary function, as a preferred way of accessing information and a preferred way of organizing and evaluating that information.
In truth, we have access to all eight cognitive processes. The other six are often in the background, playing other kinds of roles.
The Primary Processes
The primary processes are those used in the first four roles.
Each process tends to emerge and develop at different times in our lives. During these times we are drawn to activities that use these processes.
Then, learning the content and the skills that engage these processes is often nearly effortless. We find our interest is drawn to them and our interest is pulled away from things we were drawn to before.
1. The Leading Role (Dominant)
The process that plays the leading role is the one that usually develops early in childhood. We tend to engage in this process first, trusting it to solve our problems and help us be successful.
Being the most trusted and most used, it usually has an adult, mature quality to it. While we are likely to engage in it rather automatically and effortlessly, we have much more conscious control over it.
The energy cost for using it is very low. Much like in the movies, the leading role has a heroic quality as using it can get us out of difficult situations.
2. The Supporting Role (Auxiliary)
The supporting role is how we are helpful to others as well as supportive of ourselves.
Once we have developed some facility with our leading role process, we are more likely to feel comfortable engaging in our supporting role process.
In its most positive form, this can be quite like a nurturing parent. In its more negative aspect, it can be overprotective and stunting and not helpful.
When the leading role process is an extraverted one, the supporting role process is introverted.
When the leading role process is an introverted one, the supporting role process is extraverted and may be quite active and visible as it provides a way of dealing with the outer world.
3. The Relief Role (Tertiary)
The relief role gives us a way to energize and recharge ourselves. It serves as a backup to the supporting role and often works in tandem with it.
When we are younger, we might not engage in the process that plays this role very much, unless our life circumstances require it or make it hard to use the supporting role process.
Usually, in young adulthood we are attracted to activities that draw upon this process.
The relief role often is how we express our creativity. It is how we are playful and childlike. In its most negative expression, this is how we become childish. Then it has an unsettling quality, and we can use this process to distract ourselves and others, getting us off target.
4. The Aspirational Role (Inferior)
The aspirational role usually doesn’t develop until around midlife. We often experience it first in its negative aspect of projecting our “shoulds,” fears, and negativities onto others.
The qualities of these fears reflect the process that plays this role, and we are more likely to look immature when we engage in the process that plays this role. There is often a fairly high energy cost for using it, even when we acquire the skill to do so.
As we learn to trust it and develop it, the aspirational role process provides a bridge to balance in our lives. Often, our sense of purpose, inspiration, and ideals have the qualities of the process that plays this role.
The Shadow Processes
The other four cognitive processes operate more on the boundaries of our awareness. It is as if they are in the shadows and only come forward under certain circumstances.
We usually experience these processes in a negative way, yet when we are open to them, they can be quite positive.:
5. The Opposing Role
The opposing role is often how we get stubborn and argumentative—refusing to “play” and join in whatever is going on at the time.
It might be easy for us to develop skill in the process that plays this role, but we are likely to be more narrow in our application of this skill, and it will likely take more energy to use it extensively.
In its positive aspect, it provides a shadow or depth to our leading role process, backing it up and enabling us to be more persistent in pursuit of our goals.
6. The Critical Parent Role
The critical parent role is how we find weak spots and can immobilize and demoralize others.
We can also feel this way when others use the process that plays this role.
It is often used sporadically and emerges more often under stressful conditions when something important is at risk. When we engage it, we can go on and on.
To access its positive side of discovery, we must learn to appreciate and be open to it. Then it has an almost magical quality and can give a profound sense of wisdom.
7. The Deceiving Role
The deceiving role fools us into thinking something is important to do or pay attention to.
The process that fills this role is often not trusted or seen as worthy of attention, for when we do engage it, we may make mistakes in perception or in decision making. Then we feel double bound—trapped between two bad options.
Yet this role can have a positive side as it provides comic relief. Then we can laugh at ourselves. It can be refreshing and join with the relief role as we recharge ourselves through play.
8. The Devilish Role
The devilish role can be quite negative. Using the process that plays this role, we might become destructive of ourselves or others. Actions (or inactions) taken when we engage in the process that plays this role are often regretted later.
Usually, we are unaware of how to use the process that fills this role and feel like it just erupts and imposes itself rather unconsciously. Yet when we are open to the process that plays the devilish role, it becomes transformative. It gives us the impetus to create something new—to make lemonade out of lemons, rather than lament their sourness.
Decoding an Actual MBTI type – ENTP
I will break down an actual type, how this all fits together. We will use my type, an ENTP, as the example.
ENTP actually means: Ne, Ti, Fe, Si, Ni, Te, Fi, Se
Dominant – Extraverted intuition (Ne)
Ne finds and interprets hidden meanings. This intuitive play weaves together insights and experiences from various sources to find the whole, which can then become a catalyst to action.
Ne allows the ENTP effortlessly to identify complex interrelationships between ideas, people, and things that are often invisible to most other personality types.
The Supporting Role (Auxiliary) – Introverted thinking (Ti)
Ti seeks precision, such as the exact word to express an idea. It notices the minute distinctions that define the essence of things, then analyzes and classifies them. Ti examines all sides of an issue, looking to solve problems while minimizing effort and risk. It uses models to root out logical inconsistency.
In the ENTP, Ti analyzes the constant stream of information that Ne provides. Ti develops structure and reconciles any inconsistencies in the ENTP’s belief system.
However, Ti cannot match the activity of Ne, which leads the ENTP to juggle multiple projects and theoretical enterprises at any given time, in various stages of completion.
The Relief Role (Tertiary) – Extraverted feeling (Fe)
Fe seeks social connections and creates harmonious interactions through polite, considerate, and appropriate behavior. Fe responds to the explicit (and implicit) wants of others, and may even create an internal conflict between the subject’s own needs and the desire to meet the needs of others.
When Fe is well developed, the ENTP can foster goodwill in others, and can be seen as quite charming and loyal. When it is not well developed, the ENTP can be seen as aloof and unconcerned with other people’s feelings.
In most ENTPs, weakness of the tertiary function can be observed in its inconsistency or lack of endurance.
The Aspirational Role (Inferior) – Introverted sensing (Si)
Si collects data in the present moment and compares it with past experiences, a process that sometimes evokes the feelings associated with memory, as if the subject were reliving it. Seeking to protect what is familiar, Si draws upon history to form goals and expectations about what will happen in the future.
Si offsets the ENTP’s natural tendency toward anarchy and non-conformity. It acts as a sort of gravitational pull that keeps the ENTP in orbit around reality.
Without this function, the ENTP can be seen as unpredictable and random, but when it is well developed, the ENTP is seen as orderly and understandable.
The Opposing Role – Introverted intuition (Ni):
Attracted to symbolic actions or devices, Ni synthesizes seeming paradoxes to create the previously unimagined. These realizations come with a certainty that demands action to fulfill a new vision of the future, solutions that may include complex systems or universal truths.
The Critical Parent Role – Extraverted thinking (Te):
Te organizes and schedules ideas and the environment to ensure the efficient, productive pursuit of objectives. Te seeks logical explanations for actions, events, and conclusions, looking for faulty reasoning and lapses in sequence.
The Deceiving Role – Introverted feeling (Fi):
Fi filters information based on interpretations of worth, forming judgments according to criteria that are often intangible. Fi constantly balances an internal set of values such as harmony and authenticity. Attuned to subtle distinctions, Fi innately senses what is true and what is false in a situation.
The Devilish Role – Extraverted sensing (Se):
Extraverted sensing focuses on the experiences and sensations of the immediate, physical world. With an acute awareness of the present surroundings, it brings relevant facts and details to the forefront and may lead to spontaneous actionn.