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1. "Living with the Fourth Function" section of Tracking the Illusive Human

2. Type Development file, page 2

3. "The Problem of the Fourth"


The Fourth Function is also called the Inferior Function and it is the complete opposite of the Primary Function. E.g., if your Primary Function is EF, your Fourth Function will be IT. What this means, of course, is that we don't have much familiarity with how this function works and tend not to make much use of it.

As you will note on page 2 of the Type Development handout referenced above, the Fourth function lies deep in the unconscious of a 15 year old, who is working mainly out of the potentiality of the Primary and Auxiliary functions. With the passing of the years, the 3rd function emerges for integration, then after the age of 35 (give or take a year or two before or afterwards), the Fourth Function emerges. There are both problems and blessings associated with this, which we shall now briefly review.

Consider that by the age of 35 or so, the conscious Ego has enjoyed years of working out of the Primary and Auxiliary functions; these modus operundi are second-nature to it. The 3rd function has also emerged and has undoubtedly been integrated to some extent. Through use of these three functions, one knows how to find one's way around in the world, how to relate, make decisions, and so forth. They have helped us find our place in the culture, make a living, and even develop ourselves spiritually.

Because the emergence of the functions is a natural process more or less set to a "timer," as it were, we cannot freeze our development at the level attained through integrating the first, second and third functions. The fourth function cannot be denied! When this fourth cylinder in the engine of consciousness begins to click in, it can sputter, backfire and smoke things up if it doesn't get enough fuel or a good spark.

For many, the emergence of the fourth function is no big-deal, especially if they're open to growth and aren't too attached to their Ego structure (i.e., self-concept). They recognize the newness and changes brought about, but come to welcome the sense of energy and the feeling of wholeness consequent with integrating this new potential.

For those who have overly identified themselves with the operations of the first two or three functions, however, the emergence of the fourth can present quite an ordeal. For one thing, everything begins to feel different inside. It's as though the psyche, in order to nurture this emerging function, begins to divert energy from the operations of the primary and auxiliary to the fourth. This can happen very suddenly, so that, in a matter of days, the Ego can feel like it has become decimated, or entered a period of energetic aridity. To the extent that one's Ego is rigidly structured and identified with the first two functions, one will experience this phenomenon. It's as though the psyche is saying to the Ego (as to a child), "No, you cannot have things your way any more! Time to grow up!"

Another "complication" is that the deeper one goes into the unconscious, the more one encounters what we call the "contra-sexual energies." What this means is that, for men, the unconscious has a more feminine aspect (the Anima), and vice versa for women (the Animus). So in addition to the strangeness of the fourth function, there is an accompanying feeling that one is encountering other strange, unfamiliar aspects of oneself. More on this in our next conference.

What to do about all this?

Well, if you know what your fourth function is, you can give more conscious consent to its realm of concerns and activities. For me--an IN with ES as the fourth function--this means doing something as simple as just sitting outside at times, feeling the breeze, smelling the smells, listening to the sounds. It means being present to the outer world through the senses, and discovering how doing so gives me a sense of being more fully alive. It's as though the fourth functions somehow holds up the other three and "blesses them" through its operations. Hence, one learns to re-create through the fourth.

One final note, and that is that the task of integrating the fourth function goes on for years. By the age of 50 or so, it's possible that we have developed it so that it can come into play in everyday life most naturally and helpfully. The ideal is that we can eventually use all four functions in the way natural to our type and so experience life more fully through them all. This ideal is one we hold before us.


1. What questions or comments do you have from this conference?

2. For those of you older than 35, can you share something of how you have experienced the emergence of the fourth function? Please use this forum thread to do so.

Your sharing on other topics is also welcomed at any time.
Posts: 3942 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 27 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Being an ISFJ, EN is my fourth function. In an earlier discussion, Phil pointed out the different characteristics of the Sensory and Intuitive...intuitive being described with words like imagination and ideas. In some ways I equate the word imagination with creativity. When I am put into a situation where I feel that I have to be creative, I get frustrated. Coming up with ideas and being imaginative is not a positive experience for me. I'd rather leave that to those who get great joy from that kind of activity.

How does one develop imagination...extroverted imagination, at that?!
Posts: 23 | Registered: 01 June 2006Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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