Emotions seem to be one of those things that I don’t seem to grok very easily. While Math comes easily, visual representations and projections are simple, and I’ve done a lot of work to master verbal and linguistic aspects of my life, dealing with the broad range of experience that revolves around emotions has always been somewhat of a challenge for me.
Indeed, at one point in my teenage years, I wondered if I even really had all that many emotions or the capacity for them (except anger), but then I discovered Girlfriends, which put that all to rest.
Still, as I’ve grown older, the different nuances and complexities that are involved with emotions have become more clear to me. When I was younger, I would typically have tried to avoid most emotionally-based interactions overall (with various exceptions made for important parts of the intimate relationships that I got involved in) with the simple justification that emotions were irrational and that was so obviously BAD that avoiding or reducing their role in one’s life was an obvious and worthwhile goal.
While it is definitely true that I try to reduce the most overtly irrational aspects of reality from much of my work in the world, I have come to remove the vast amount of my thinking about emotions out of that category. I’ve belatedly realized that my own bias against emotional experiences–due mostly to my generally hard time getting a handle on them–is not justification for disdaining them–in fact, it is a major vice that I need to discard if I’m going to become a more competent individual in this world.
In any case, because emotions are such a huge topic and it is hard to figure out where to start dealing with them, I’m just going to pick a place and you (those few who will ever read this) can just deal with it.
The place that I am picking is how emotions relate to the Myers-Briggs system (MBTI). Now, apparently, others have thought about how emotions tie into the MBTI system, and have even set up pages about it, but I find the talk there rather shallow and actually factually incorrect.
In the link I just cited, the INTJ talks about Thinking being “objective” and detached–whereas feelings are subjective. However, this is not true even within Jung’s system–the basis for MBTI–wherein Jung distinguishes between introverted Thinking–and all introverted things are highly characterized by subjective aspects–and extraverted thinking while also making the same distinction between extraverted(objective based) and introverted(subjective based) feeling.
Now, it is true in the particular INTJ personality type that the Thinking function is extraverted (=objective orientation) and the weaker feeling function is introverted (=subjective orientation), but that is definitely not true for all types–in fact half of all types have introverted thinking–just like half have extraverted feeling.
Now, if you go look at actual percentages of people (in the US) according to MBTI estimates, then it does appear that the Te (extra thinking) is more common as a dominant or auxiliary function than Ti (intro thinking) is. by a 30% to 17% margin. Thus, it is not surprising that one might tend to think of thinking as being something objective and detached.
However, the same percentages of the population also show that extraverted feeling (Fe) is more dominant than introverted feeling (as a dominant or auxiliary function) in the general population, albeit by a smaller 28 to 25% margin.
So.. now that I’ve confused you (remember I said this was going to be a process), let me get down to some specifics and focus specifically on the what might confusingly be called the “Feeling” functions. In the MBTI system–there are two general kinds of functions: judging and perceving functions. The perceiving functions are called “sensing”(S) and “intuiting”(N) and each of these can either be introverted(internal and subjectively oriented) or extraverted (external and objectively oriented). Now for the judging functions, there are “feeling”(F) and “thinking,”(T) each of which can be extraverted or introverted.
The sixteen different personality types are set up in the system by having a different rank ordering of 4 of these 8 total functions (Ti,Te, Fi, Fe, Si, Se, Ni, Ne). Thus, an INTJ has a dominant Ni, an auxiliary Te, a tertiary Fi, and a shadow Se. This rank ordering determines the strength, familiarity and preference for these functions , but also often the relative experience with or ease of access to these functions (although time and growing maturity can mediate this access…). The different combinations of these functions can be found on this page by clicking on any one of the 16 different types..
In any case–it is important here to flesh out exactly what this “feeling” function is all about and to discuss a bit about how it works and how it might relate to one’s emotions.
Specifically, if I remember my Jung (and some MBTI stuff), this “feeling” function engages in the processing/judging experience in our lives by applying certain criterion and asking certain kinds of questions. Most generally, the feeling function–especially if it is dominant or auxiliary–asks the question of “is this RIGHT?”/”does this correspond to the values that I view to be important?” In contrast, the “thinking” functions tend to ask questions like “does this make sense?”/”is it internally consistent?”/”is it logical?”/”does it correspond to prior experience?” etc..
Thus, the difference between feeling and thinking in the MBTI system is very much along the lines of what kinds of questions do you first ask–do you wonder first about how you feel about this experience, or are you wondering what to think about it.. (I know this description will seem biased–and it is–and I’m open for any suggestions on how to improve it…)
Having gotten that out of the way–what is the difference between Fe and Fi? Here, I would try to describe it as so:
Extraverted Feeling (Fe) tends to get its “values”==evaluative criteria–from an external and most likely societal source. The people with this function (esp. in dom. or aux. roles) tend to see these values as clearly given and objectively true for everyone, as they are coming from the broader society. They try to live up to these externally given values and they often could be said to understand the idea of “shame” well.
Introverted Feeling (Fi) tends to get its “values”==evaluative criteria–from a more internal and subjectively generated source. Perhaps they choose these values from those around them, but what is important is not living up to someone else’s ideas or values (which can be perceived as imposed), but living up to one’s own understanding of what these values are. In contrast to Fe’s shame, Fi’s have a really good grasp on guilt.
Now.. as I’ve mentioned above, I’m an INTJ and thus I supposedly have the function Fi in the tertiary role. This means that I’m generally not so directly in touch with this function. I mainly prefer to hang around intuiting underlying meanings and patterns (Ni) and using my extraverted thinking to test and verify these perceptions. However, if I spend enough time on a subject, then I tend to to then wonder about how I feel about this subject–are there aspects of it that generate a conflict with my own internally-chosen-as-important set of values?
One of the reasons I like MBTI is that this kind of description fits me very well. I almost never encounter a situation or experience where I ask this question of values initially… and here’s where the rub comes…
I almost wrote initially “where I have an emotional response to it…” and here is where I’m wondering how close one can conect “emotions” to this kind of “feeling” function. In the situation I’ve just described, it seems to make sense to do so, but there are many ways in which it doesn’t. For example, despite the fact that I generally don’t have a quick “emotional” or “values-based-evaluative” response to stuff, my actual emotions run very, very deep underneath the surface and when something does generate an emotional or values-based response–it is often a rather strong one, which doesn’t necessarily seem to fit in a system that puts this function as one of the distinctly “lesser” ones.
What also doesn’t seem to fit, in my view, is that there are other types of people–such as ENFJ’s, who have Fe as their dominant function, but who definitely seem to have a very strong capacity and drive for making values-based judgments as the MBTI system sets out, but who also have been some of the least empathic and at many times, most emotionally brutal people I have ever experienced. Some of them have also been extremely “emotionless” in so many instances that would not seem to fit the idea of a dominant “feeling” function equating easily to “emotions.”
Anyway–this is where I wanted to get to tonight–with the raising of the issue of Fe vs Fi. Next time I take up this strand of posts, I want to get into more specific examples of the kind of differences I’ve noticed in people with Fi or Fe “functions” and to hopefully get to the point where I can raise some of the questions and observations that generated this whole line of inquiry.
Enough for tonight though.. I’t sover 1500 words, which is more than enough for today..