The Unconscious Nature of the Inferior Function

By Eva Gregersen

In spite of the previous essays offered on this site, as well as the essays of Jung and von Franz, there are still people who argue that the inferior function is just like the other three functions, just less well-developed. However, as we have previously argued, such a conception is Aristotelian, not Jungian. It may make sense to some people in relation to their personal rendition of typology, of course. But it does not square with the psychodynamic framework in which the theory of types was conceived. In other words, the common (but non-psychodynamic) view is to regard the lower functions as less differentiated, but otherwise essentially the same in nature as the dominant function. The logical consequence of this view is that the inferior function can thus be “developed” just like the other three functions. But as we shall see, that is not what Jung and von Franz thought.

With regard to the inferior function, it is our contention (along with Jung and von Franz) that it cannot be developed as an act of conscious volition, owing to the fact that the inferior function resides chiefly in the unconscious.[1] According to the psychodynamic view of the functions, the more a person’s consciousness gravitates towards experiencing the world through the filter of his or her dominant function, the more that person’s consciousness will polarize away from that function’s opposite, thus pushing the inferior function further and further away from consciousness. Simply put, this means that the person cannot resolve to “pull up” his or her inferior function to consciousness in the way that so many internet authors seem to imply. Indeed, as von Franz has said, the repressed function “is a horse that cannot be educated. … You can never rule or educate it and make it act as you would like, but if you are very clever and are willing to give in a lot, then you may be able to arrange so that it does not throw you.”[2] ...

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