Q&A: Absent Parent and Jungian Type with a PS on Connecting Functions with Archetypes


I’ve been wondering lately about the effect an absent or abusive father figure would have on an IN type’s development? From what I’ve read, the growth of the auxiliary is stunted and the tertiary provides compensatory strength, along with some manifestation of shadow characteristics. The lacking parent makes differentiation difficult, so the tertiary is used earlier and more prominently, but I feel that it is still bound to its puer role and ultimately the parent must be differentiated.

For the IN, we’d have very strong introversion, but how might the rest play out? In the INTP and INFP, diminished Ne is compensated by stronger Si, but how might that Si be operating as compared to a normally developed type? What would one of those types look like? Same with the INFJ and INTJ. An INFJ without developed Fe would be Ni-Ti; how much would that resemble a normal INTJ or INTP?


It is difficult to answer these questions because Jungian typology isn’t really concerned with developmental characteristics, beyond the very crude schemata of “phases” related to functions (and even these tend to change). Also, Jungian typology has no way of differentiating neuroticism (such as negative baggage from childhood). Thus you may have the healthiest INTP in the world and a neurotic wreck of an INTP, and they’d both still be INTP.

There are certainly sources that attempt to make Jungian typology explain a whole lot of things right down to the last detail. In general, Jungian typology works best when the zoom level is set to “medium”, so to speak, and zooming in to speculate about unconscious shadow functions and the like is not always worthwhile.

Also, note that the connection between archetypes and function-slots (puer, parent, etc.) is the work of John Beebe. Some people like it, but it is by no means Jung’s own work, or even remotely validated in studies. Beebe’s work can be used as a possible and optional extension of Jung’s typology, but it is not something that was “present from the beginning,” just waiting to be discovered by some successor. In fact, Beebe’s work has often been criticized by Jungians for being overly arbitrary.

With regards to your questions, a far more suitable tool would be the concept of Lifetraps, as detailed in this book. Absent and abusive parents generate negative psychic baggage, but how the individual child responds is related to more than just Jungian type. Developmental and genetic dispositions play a part in the formation of a reaction to the absent parent (the “Lifetrap”). Which lifetrap you may have is impossible for us to say, since we don’t know you.

In general, though, the scenario you describe is likely to provoke some sort of emotional deprivation, that is, a tendency to think that other people can never give one what one needs, making one prone to fearing / avoiding people and being attracted to cold and bitchy partners who unconsciously confirm the belief that other people can never meet one’s emotional needs. This is a pretty general outcome of abusive/absent parents and can also befall extroverts and/or sensation types. So you see, with regards to these kinds of problems, other tools are far more suited for the job than Jungian typology.

Finally, we have identified one pure Ni-Ti INFJ in all of our studies and experience. She’ll be up sooner or later, along with an explanation. :-)


“[Jung’s] typological writings do deftly skirt the question of the archetypes [but they do so] in all but tangential ways.” – Don McGowan, What Is Wrong With Jung, Prometheus Books 1994 ed., p. 143

In this urge to connect the functions with Jungian archetypes, we are reminded of Philodemus’ On Poems §2. Philodemus comments on the people of ancient Greece who could not read the Illiad and the Odyssey merely as epic poems, but felt that they had to connect the poetry with natural philosophy, so that the same poem was both a text about a lyrical fictional drama on the one hand, yet also a text about the cosmological and anatomical architecture of the cosmos on the other hand. Quite evidently, the text of the Illiad and the Odyssey are not meant to be read as natural philosophy along the lines of, say, Anaximander, and both aspects of the text (both the lyrical aspects and the ones that are perceived as philosophical) become worse because of such an attempt to force a text about one thing to simultaneously deal with another.

Philodemus writes:

There are some people who are quite obviously insane who claim that Homer’s two poems are about the elements of the universe and about the laws and customs of mankind. They make out, for example, that:

  • Agamemnon is the upper air
  • Achilles is the sun
  • Helen is the earth
  • Paris is the lower air
  • Hector is the moon
  • Demeter is the liver
  • Dionysus is the spleen
  • Apollo is bile

Is “Agamemnon is the upper air and Achilles is the sun” really so different from “the dominant function is the hero and the auxiliary function is the parent?” Obviously, we don’t think so.

What this example shows, then, is that people have always had the urge to ride roughshod over manifest differences that exist between two modes of thought when they are in love with the one. That is to say, when people are in love with Homer, they tend to bestow a far greater significance upon Homer than is actually merited by his epics, and when people are in love with Jung’s typology, they tend to want it to explain more than it does. Such an approach may well be undertaken for the noblest of reasons, but as the example with Homer shows, the methodology is not especially ingenious,  but is in fact more like a scholastic parlor game than an innovation in its own right.

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