Resurrecting the Feeling Function
C. G. Jung (1921) observed that the four functions of psychological type are “sufficient to express and represent the various modes of conscious orientation” (p. 518), and he described normal development of the psyche in terms of the differentiation of each of those four functions as it individuates to become “distinct from the general, collective psychology” (p. 448). But the importance of Feeling consciousness seems to have been marginalized by the modern western world. James Hillman (1971) addressed this issue, saying that the Feeling function is largely unconscious in our society having “lain like a buried continent in the collective psyche” (p. 115). Arguably, my own psychic development as a dominant introverted feeling type has been hindered by our culture’s preference for Thinking, and I believe that this is the case for many people whose natural preference is for Feeling judgment. In fact, for many of us, the Feeling function is so universally under-valued that it remains a less conscious function, despite being in the primary position in our innate typology. Taking this idea one step further, it seems to me that if more people could develop their Feeling function, it would be possible to bring more of that under-valued Feeling consciousness to how we all relate to each other and to our natural environment.
Jung (1921) defined each function specifically: Feeling is a valuation process driven by the ego (p. 425); Thinking “arranges the contents of ideation” (p. 482), implying that it orders our thoughts; Intuition “is the function that mediates perceptions in an unconscious way” (p. 453), meaning often we cannot explain where the thought came from; and Sensation “mediates the perception of a physical stimulus” (p. 461) by the body’s sense organs, whether caused by internal or external stimuli.
Although the order of functions was not a major focus of Jung (1921), he did contend that the first function, or primary function, has “absolute sovereignty” (p. 405). Further, the secondary function is “auxiliary or complementary” (p. 405) so, despite being important, does not have importance in its own right; it only acts to support the primary. Introverted feeling, for example, will pair with either extraverted sensing or intuiting, and extraverted feeling with either introverted sensing or intuiting. As Beebe (2005) pointed out, Jung’s writing had little mention of the third function since he thought the third and fourth function would remain unconscious in most people’s psyches. Jung highlighted this point, saying that the inferior or fourth function “lags behind in the process of differentiation” (p. 450). We now have a four-function model developed by Jung and further developed by Myers (1980) and others before being extended to the archetypal model developed by Beebe (2005). Jung commented that although “the four functions are somewhat like the four points of the compass; they are just as arbitrary and just as indispensable,” (p. 541), and he emphasized that he “would not for anything dispense with this compass on my psychological voyages of discovery” (p. 541). It follows then that if the Feeling function has been driven underground by society, our individuation compass will be offset.
When I arrived to study at Pacifica Graduate Institute, I had spent years operating from my inferior function. I had been working with an analyst for several years and often challenged him on his assessment of my type as being introverted feeling. I felt he only saw one side of me, not seeing or valuing my extraverted nature, perhaps due to the nature of our psychological conversations. Now, having typed myself as an INFP, I can see that my type was distorted growing up, with the introverted feeling function (Fi) suppressed and, instead, emphasis placed on my inferior function, extraverted thinking (Te), as well as my auxiliary extraverted intuition (Ne) and tertiary introverted sensation (Si). Only in recent years has my dominant introverted feeling function become more conscious. However, reflecting on my personal development, I recognize several junctures where the functions were skewed through environmental pressures and where subsequently they began to realign into their innate positions. For example, I believe that because feelings were not valued in my family or society, I hid these aspects of myself, forcing them into my unconscious. Beebe (2004) would have described this as my “spine” of consciousness being distorted, the spine being the axis between the superior and inferior functions (p. 92); my Fi and Te spine was misaligned.
Marie-Louise von Franz (1971) said that “being forced to be an intellectual as a feeling type—feeling ‘thwarted or despised’” (p. 12)—is not uncommon. She contended that in such cases the auxiliary functions become over-developed as a means to compensate for the need to use the inferior function. Thus I developed my Te and Si to try to adapt to my incubating thinking environment at home and at school. This is why I disagreed with my analyst for many years and thought of myself perhaps as more extraverted. I am very comfortable socially, enjoying gathering information in the typically extraverted intuitive way—“in clusters, nothing stand[ing] by itself, discrete, and unconnected” (Haas & Hunziker, 2006, p. 54). I join dots, seeing the interconnection between groups of people and things, envisioning how “situations, objects, and information can be used” (p. 54). For example, I have started many large entrepreneurial projects that involved seeing the big picture, as well as bringing together a network of people and ideas. I now teach craniosacral therapy and often after having prepared a lesson will abandon my teaching plan, instead responding to the group process and student dynamics, speaking from my heart. This is a typical Ne behavior.
In his essay on the Feeling function, James Hillman (1971) called it “that psychological process in us that evaluates” (p. 103). The validation that his essay offers me highlights how while growing up, I used my feelings to evaluate and how I was continually required by school and family to justify my evaluations through Thinking. From my perspective, modern western society has a bias towards Thinking, particularly in its education system. As I have become more conscious of my Feeling function in recent years, I wonder in what way do I feel. My preference is to animate my whole world, evaluating through Feeling everything around me, whether animal, book, friend or foe. Although I sometimes struggle to put how I feel into words, as I am able to differentiate and become more conscious of those feelings, I can more easily attribute words to them. For example, sometimes I feel the object, whether animal or book or person, as a sound with a particular vibration, or it might have a special imaginary odor, or I might see it in textured colors with a particular density and speed. This is my way of connecting “the subject to the object (by imparting value) and the object to the subject (by receiving it within the subjective value system)” (Hillman, 1971, p. 112), weaving in my previous experience. My Feeling is definitely not a matter of determining whether simply I like or dislike something, as Hillman suggested an undifferentiated Feeling function might do (p. 113). For example, different roses and flowers in my garden will have very many qualities, including smells, colors, vibration, density, sharpness, gentleness, textures, tone, and harmony. I feel a hundred different aspects of a rose and may compare it to another rose or another flower in order to evaluate its suitability for a certain spot in the garden. No wonder it takes me a while to make the decision. Hillman also validated this longer decision making, suggesting that feeling “requires more time, more time than is needed for perception” (p. 112). This process is not something I was going to risk disclosing while at school or while working in the corporate world.
Perhaps what I am describing here is a Feeling wound that started with my family. Paradoxically, my parents both appear to be dominant Feeling types, my mother displaying ENFJ characteristics, therefore extraverted feeling dominant, and my father assessing as an INFP like me. However, their upbringing did not value Feeling. They grew up in Northern Ireland in Protestant families in which the Puritanical heritage valued Thinking and Sensing more highly than Feeling and Intuiting. Arguably, Protestant Northern Irish are known for their tidy houses and gardens; stereotypically they value order above expressive art and are practical, reserved, and pragmatic. These qualities suggest that as a culture, they might express the ISTJ type, meaning introverted sensing and extraverted thinking are valued. Historically, the doctors and accountants of Northern Ireland have come primarily from this Protestant sub-culture. If this logic holds, then my parents would have been strongly encouraged to develop their Thinking functions in order to have better opportunities in the more socially-enabling professions. They would have been discouraged from expressing artistic qualities of Feeling and of Intuiting, these being seen as lesser qualities. These societal pressures seem to have been reinforced towards me and my siblings. My siblings assess as thinking types, INTJ and ENTJ, so were not so adversely affected, but it seems the expression of my innate type was distorted. Von Franz (1971) said that people can revert to original type through analysis “like fish that can now return happily to the water” (p. 12), and I believe this happened to me through various therapeutic practices. Through psychotherapy, craniosacral therapy, and Jungian analysis, I believe I have returned to the water.
My father and I have an easy relationship, both having superior introverted feeling. Despite any distortions in our type expression, the innate characteristics have connected. We bond over the garden, nature in general, and our evaluation of situations. I witness the sometimes-clumsy interactions due to my family’s different types and often need to remind myself of von Franz’s (1971) sentiment that although Thinking types are often seen as not having any feeling, “this is absolutely not true. It is not that they have no feeling, but that they cannot express it at the appropriate moment. They have the feeling somehow and somewhere, but not just when they ought to produce it” (p. 21). Perhaps if everyone were able to be more conscious of each other’s Feeling function position, then many of the miscommunications I see would not happen.
The Feeling function can be expressed through an either introverted (Fi) or extraverted (Fe) attitude, and they are quite different. Introverted feeling tends to focus on one’s own values whereas extraverted feeling focuses on the feelings of others. My Feeling is expressed through an introverted attitude while my mother’s is through an extraverted attitude. While we have a close loving relationship, our dominant function difference does not always lead to harmonious communication. Jung, von Franz, and Beebe have each observed that individuals having preferences for the same function but in opposite attitudes can experience conflict and disharmony since the shadow functions are difficult to see in oneself. So despite my mother being a Feeling type, she may not have recognized my introverted feeling, nor I her extraverted feeling.
The ego-dystonic functions tend to operate under the archetypes of what Beebe termed the Opposing Personality (5th), Witch/ Senex (6th), Trickster (7th), and the Demonic personality (8th). These are ego-dystonic in that they are not in harmony with the ego’s conscious, usual way of being. By looking at these archetypal forces underlying the psychological types, it is possible to gain better understanding into how we relate to our own psyche—the tensions between our conscious and unconscious minds—as well as how we relate to the world and its people around us. In Beebe’s model, Fe falls in my Opposing Personality position, and my mother’s Fi sits in her Opposing Personality position. While my mother might have been concerned with gathering people together for group harmony, we sometimes missed that our values did not fit with each other’s needs. It can be easy to feel judged when our preferred functions are misread. Jung (1921) compared the Fi type to the mimosa plant that withdraws at the slightest external touch. And so I withdrew easily from other’s judging, not wanting to share my private value system that is typically not up for discussion, a common Fi response (Haas & Hunziker, 2006, p. 106). Von Franz (1971) explained that for Feeling types, often “the real thought is not yet up to the level at which it can be expressed” (p. 22). This so accurately describes my interior world that I commonly find myself in tears with frustration at not being able to express my inner feelings. On many occasions, my poor mother has been on the receiving end of the “unadaptedness and primitiveness” of my inferior Te through “its touchiness and tyranny” (p. 18). But von Franz’s comment reassures me that I am not alone in this behavior.
I spent years working in business and finance using my extraverted thinking and introverted sensing functions, keeping the Fi suppressed. It was not until aged 34 that I moved out of this corporate Sensing and Thinking field to become a craniosacral therapist. Craniosacral therapy is a therapeutic practice in which the practitioner attunes the rhythms of the body to the rhythms of the natural world. My observation tells me that the practice involves Feeling, Intuiting, and Sensing, with little Thinking. We feel “other peoples’ pain” (Haas & Hunziker, 2006, p. 70), we “have sensitivity to others’ inner calmness” (p. 106), and we are “closely attuned to the physical condition and energy of their bodies” (p. 43). While a largely introverted practice, craniosacral therapy does require some extraverted functions, such as Fe in order to empathize with the client or Ne to gather lots of information to assess the big picture. My immersion in this field, I believe, served to right my Fi—Te axis, in that my introverted feeling was able to once more take its rightful place as my superior function. I also brought consciousness to my Ni that is positioned as the negative mother in Beebe’s model, as well as my Fe, thus resolving some of the communication challenges with my actual mother.
Both Jung (1921) and Beebe (2004) believed that all eight functions should be used and that the structure, rather than being a rigid one, should be fluid, allowing different functions to express depending on the circumstances. Having developed some of my previously unconscious functions, I chose to take the challenge of studying for a doctoral degree—a task that would surely stress my Thinking functions. Having my introverted thinking (Ti) in Beebe’s Demonic position, it seemed like quite a challenge. Interestingly, as I embarked on the challenge, my physical health fell apart, with one of the symptoms being hair loss or alopecia. Jolande Jacobi (1971), referring to the whale-dragon myth, made the point that the Hero, here my Fi, had to make a sacrifice of losing his hair, as a symbolic gesture, in order to be transformed: “He not only goes through suffering but loses his hair, symbol of the power of thought, and comes forth changed, matured” (p. 177). In other words, there can be no rebirth, and thus no new emergence, without something dying and being left behind (p. 178). My understanding of my hair loss as I studied to become a better scholar was that it served the purpose of reminding me to do so using my Feeling function, not over-relying on my Thinking function again. It is only through restoring the Feeling function to its rightful place that I will impart my deepest wisdom.
Now that I have brought my own psychological type dynamic into better balance and so can better relate to myself, my challenge then is to bring Feeling consciousness to my relating to others around me, including to friends and family, but also to those I teach. I teach people to become craniosacral therapy practitioners through a two-year training program as well as by running my own workshops. Both essentially teach participants to feel the world around them, including the natural world. While it is important not to restrict my students through definitive type categorization, I think it is useful to understand their psychological types as described by Jung and Beebe. Indeed, if I were to teach in a way that is overly concrete, then I would be literalizing what it is I am trying to teach and moving away from the archetypal affect. However, it is important to support my students to differentiate how they perceive and evaluate the world, allowing them to work it out for themselves. Unlike in my own type-distorting experience, I try to invite my students to explore how it is they experience the world and only offer some simple framing as feedback. No doubt there are particular types that gravitate to the cranial field, but it is important that their learning exploration is fluid, regardless of their type.
Further, if I were to push them to use an inferior or shadow function such as Opposing or Demonic personality, it might result in destabilizing the personality, potentially towards depression, mania, paranoia, or schizophrenia, as described by Sandner and Beebe (1995, p. 328). They warned that all therapists “working with the unconscious should be ever alert to the dangers of activating the demonic layer of the personality with injudicious interventions” (p. 330). Using the lens of my students’ psychological types as I embark on the teaching process will likely result in a more harmonious journey for all of us. Understanding all eight functions when in a therapeutic relationship is vital since a light can be shone onto the archetypal affect exhibited by the patient through an appreciation of his or her psychological type.
Examining this through the psychological types lens of Beebe’s archetypal model, I am potentially teaching people to become conscious of their shadow and inferior functions. I work with others to develop their Feeling functions through teaching them to feel the world around them. One program I run works specifically to teach people to relate to the earth and natural world. I ask my clients to notice how a plant makes them feel, where it feels most comfortable to sit in relation to another person, or in a garden. I invite my clients to ask themselves: How do you feel? How does the plant feel? How does the other person feel? I ask them not to enquire of the name of the person or tree, rather to just feel. I ask them to pay attention to the functions of Intuiting and Sensing. I describe how, for example, I feel the rose or another person in a therapeutic setting. I might sense in my body how that person is feeling, I might notice particular colors and densities in that person, or I might hear an imaginary sound or vibration. This also applies to a flower or tree or animal or even to the rock or chair that I might be sitting on. So I invite exploration of functions.
What I am proposing is that if we can feel one another and the world around us, we are more likely to be considerate in our treatment of such, since we will feel any pain inflicted. I contend if we could feel how it is for a forest to be clear-cut, then we would consider its environmental impact; if we could feel how it is for the ocean to have all its fish killed, we would question our fish consumption; and if we could feel how it is for an oil field to be mined, then we would make better decisions about fuel usage. Our society is focused on economic and corporate Thinking. Since the collective Feeling consciousness is diminished, I have focused the direction of my work towards teaching people to feel the world. Hillman’s validation gives me strength to continue my work and Jung’s psychological type model provides me with more insight into how different types will respond to my teaching.
Feeling needs to become more conscious in our culture in order to balance the collective, in the same way that my own personal set of functions needed to be rebalanced to allow me to better relate to the world around me. I have become accepting of my way of being in the world, learning that Feeling is not only acceptable but also valuable. The falling apart of my body and hair made me take particular notice, and I wonder if the current apparent falling apart of society will similarly affect a shift in the collective Feeling consciousness.
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Martin Johnson Heade, “Apple Blossoms,” (1878).
Jane and friend. Courtesy: Jane Shaw.
Jane Shaw. Courtesy: Jane Shaw.
From Jane’s garden. Courtesy: Jane Shaw.