Wednesday, May 1, 2013

MBTI #7: The Dark Side

This is one part of MBTI that I've found especially useful: how different personality types respond to stress, and how what each one considers stressful varies.

There are different theories about types reacting to stress -- I suspect that's because it's still a highly individual thing and it's difficult to generalize. Personally, I find the idea of an inferior function takeover in times of stress fits reality well. It rings true to what I've experienced as an Se-inferior who suffered from bouts of emotional eating as a teenager.

Inferior function takeover
Below are a series of posts about the theory of being "in the grip of" one's inferior function when under stress. Since this is your weakest function, it's not your "normal" self. People will notice the change in behavior that results. It contributes to a sense of unease, of flailing against your problems (though some types completely shut out their problems as part of their reaction). You feel miserable, tired and trapped.

How this manifests depends on what your inferior function is; there are similarities and overlapping patterns, but each one has its own flavor of negative behaviors. These links also talk about how the primary function works, and how one recovers from wrestling with one's inferior, which are useful too.

Inferior Ti (ESFJ & ENFJ) Inferior Fi (ENTJ & ESTJ)
Inferior Te (ISFP & INFP) Inferior Fe (ISTP & INTP)
Inferior Ni (ESTP & ESFP) Inferior Si (ENTP & ENFP)
Inferior Ne (ISTJ & ISFJ) Inferior Se (INTJ & INFJ)

What caused this?
The things that stress one MBTI type may be no problem at all for another type (see my example below.) So to figure out what can trigger an inferior takeover in your character, some homework may be in order. In general, though, it's caused by situations which overwhelm the dominant functions, or cause you to severely doubt the accuracy of those functions -- traumatic, since those are your strengths -- or situations that prevent you from using your dominant functions effectively.

An example
I had a well-developed character in an extremely stressful situation. He's an ESTP, almost exactly my opposite (I'm an INTJ.) Because he's so different from me, I knew that what he found stressful about the situation would be different from what I found stressful -- and he'd react differently.

From the wonderful thread How you see the 16 types - in GIF form, a stereotype of ESTPs.

So I did some homework on ESTPs and came to the conclusion that what would chafe him would be the physical restrictions and the isolation (things that I would have no problem with) rather than the implicit betrayals and uncertainty (things that would drive me up the wall.) The resulting depression in my ESTP would be the result of his inferior Ni taking over, making him broody and pessimistic.

Now, since Ni is my dominant function I naturally am broody and pessimistic :) so it was not obvious to me why this would be so scary and miserable for him. But it seemed appropriate that he'd lose his usual upbeat, active personality while under such stress, so I unleashed all the dark imaginings of Ni on my ESTP and let him turn self-destructive accordingly. He didn't have the defenses to deal with that kind of darkness because he doesn't have to, normally.

To recover from it, he needed a chance to bring his other functions to bear -- a chance to apply his logical Thinking -- and most importantly to get some physical activity and socializing back into his schedule.

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