By Jesse Gerroir
Within the field of Jungian typology, Feeling and emotion are often thought to be same thing. While the best literature is careful not to confuse the two, I find that a lot of beginners, and even those more read, tend to be confused about what exactly is meant by Feeling within the field of Jungian typology.
Most notably, people often mix up the nature of the Feeling function with the general meaning of feeling and emotion in everyday language. However, while the two are related to some extent, the relationship between them is by no means straightforward, and in this article I will try to give a greater understanding of the difference between the two.
The foremost misconception about Feeling is that Feeling is somehow irrational. Indeed, when Jung wrote Psychological Types he broke with a tradition stretching back at least 250 years that tended to regard feelings as irrational impulses stemming from the heart (and this tradition is still very much alive today). For better or worse, Jung went against the grain of this tradition when he set out to craft his typology and insisted that Feeling was a rational function.
As mentioned, the view that feelings are merely irrational impulses is still very much alive today. And because a lot of beginners don’t really study Jungian typology, a lot of people end up believing that F types will act with little reason or thought, being merely bounced about by an array of irrational feelings. This is precisely the cardinal error that one falls into when one mixes Feeling (in the Jungian sense of the word) with feeling (in the everyday sense of the word).
In this article I will explore the relationship between “Jungian Feeling” and “everyday feeling.” I will also attempt to demonstrate how Feeling can be just as rational as Thinking. However, it should be said that Jung was not particularly clear on this point and that there are no generally accepted answers to these questions.
Feeling as a Rational Function
Within the field of Jungian typology, Feeling is a rational function alongside Thinking, indeed it is just as rational as Thinking. Thinking and Feeling, be they extroverted or introverted, are rational functions because they judge and review information and come to a decision on how to make sense of the information.
However, the way Thinking and Feeling make decisions based upon the information is different. Thinking tends to make decisions or render judgment based on the impersonal, factual, and logical aspects of the information. Feeling tends to make decisions and render judgment based upon the personal, agreeable, and ideal aspects of the information, as well as the needs of the people who are involved in the situation.
Both functions are rational in the sense that they prioritize the information picked up by the Sensation and Intuitive functions and they structure that information into a judgment. While today we are very much accustomed to breaking things down into arguments and counterarguments, a substantial part of our cognition as human beings is nevertheless susceptible to appeals that come via our sympathies, or that come from someone who cuts an agreeable figure in our eyes. An appeal that engages our emotional side allows us not merely to identify the speaker’s point of view and weigh it according to his arguments, but to identify with the speaker’s point of view and to become him for a minute or two.
In this state we will feel what the other party feels. Once we are sympathetic to the other party, we are no longer dealing with the abstractions of logic where we might as well break one egg as we may break another. The internal world of the other party is now palpable and present. The values, beliefs, and understandings of the other, once we have felt them as our own, will allow us to judge and review that information, just like we could with Thinking. But by judging it with Feeling, we will evaluate the message differently than if we had merely seen his situation in terms of arguments and counterarguments. And by judging it with Feeling we will be prompted to make a different decision than we would if we had reviewed the same information with Thinking.
In this way, Jung follows in the footsteps of Aristotle. To Aristotle, both Thinking and Feeling appeals have reasoning behind them, but one type of appeal will often have a greater effect on an individual than the other. Jung essentially followed Aristotle in his exploration of the difference between Thinking and Feeling. Jung also arrived at the conclusion that both sides have valid underpinnings to their conclusions, just different considerations, and that people are naturally disposed to consider one side to carry more weight than the other.
Jungian Feeling vs. Everyday Feeling
The example I just gave about judging with Feeling was about Jungian Feeling. And while the everyday use of the word “feeling” may have some similarities with that, there are also some significant differences.
For example, in the everyday parlance we tend to understand feeling in the same way that we would understand emotion. The phrases “she is being really emotional”, “he is having an emotional outburst”, and “she has emotional problems,” are commonly thought of as having to do with feelings, but they need not have anything to do with Feeling as defined in the Jungian sense.
With everyday feeling, we often talk about being overcome with base, instinctual, and primitive reactions. Whereas Feeling in a Jungian sense is more concerned with a higher level refined judgment.
The challenge is therefore to figure out where the notion of everyday feeling fits into Jungian typology if it can’t squarely be grouped under Feeling. In truth, while “everyday feeling” does have some overlaps with Jungian Feeling, the two are distinct, and Jungian typology doesn’t say much about the nature of everyday feeling.
This pertains to the fact that Jungian typology does not set out to describe the whole personality. The cognitive functions and their directions don’t accurately describe everyday feeling. That was always Freud’s spiel and not Jung’s. But there is another personality system which delves more into feeling as it is understood in an everyday sense, and that is the Big Five system, which we will hear more about shortly.