[Religious Types 3] Shadow Distinguished

17 04 2012

[Previous Post in the Series]

In order to understand the so-called shadow functions, we need to appreciate how they differ from our tertiary and inferior functions, those we tend to develop later than the functions that define our type. Initially, like the shadow functions, these functions are relegated to the edges of our conscious awareness. Unlike the shadow functions, though, they are rarely experienced as threats. Rather, they are experienced as things which enrich our core functions and challenge us to improve.

[Just to remind readers, I’m working from the sort of typological model detailed here.]

The tertiary and inferior functions develop in a determinate fashion. This determinate order has everything to do with a secondary, qualitative distinction between perceiving (intuition vs. sensation) and judging (feeling vs. thinking). As we use ourt primary function most often, we will encounter its limits earliest. Experienced as a failure in the quality of their function, we look to qualitatively different function for support.

As it must assist the primary function, this new function must operate in the same mode (introvert or extrovert) as the primary function. If the primary function is a perceiving function, we will eventually run up against the need to give greater order to our perceptions and so develop a judging function to assist them. Vice versa, if the primary function is a judging function, we will need to develop a perceiving function in order to broaden the scope of our valuations.

The same principle applies to the inferior function as regard the secondary function. Since we direct less attention toward our secondary function, and because we are more focused on experience arising though our primary mode, we see its limitations less clearly and, when we do note them, are less likely to devote effort toward rectifying them.

That said, as our experience through the mode of our primary and tertiary function become more full, we will usually feel the need to deepen our connection to the inferior mode in order to deepen our experience of our preferred mode. This goes back to a point from the previous point–it is the interrelationship of extroversion and introversion that makes them functional. Our increasing facility with the inferior function deepens our connection to that mode of experience and so enriches our experience of our primary mode as well.

In short, we develop our conscious functions according to a logic of complement and supplement. We seek to preserve our reliance on our established functions while expanding the scope of our understanding and action. To the extent that we are aware of how determined this process is, we tend to experience it as a positive necessity rather than as a negative necessity. I will, borrowing a page from Walter Benjamin, use the term ‘destiny’ to describe this experience of positive necessity, hearkening back to one of the connotations of destiny’s Latin root, to take aim.

By contrast, the shadow functions are the suppressed modes of our conscious functions. Each shadow function results from the differentiation of our conscious self from it. Since the experience of ourselves as agents and individuals occurs on the basis of this differentiation, we often experience them as opposed to our own agency; they becomes the image of indifferentiation, of a loss of control, of a loss of individuality.

Here it is key to remember that this sense of the shadow function’s danger is not quite accurate even though it is difficult for us to feel otherwise. The shadow function is not itself indifferentiation and madness. It is just that which we had to neglect in order to develop a way of navigating our environment.

Prior to the selection and development of a primary function and the regularity it brings to our experience, our experience is more inchoate by virtue of being the result of our functions operating in relative equality. The disappearance of that muddling state is contemporary with the marginalization of the primary function’s shadow and so the two events are viscerally experienced as identical.

As we develop our individuality, we will develop a favored mode for directing all of the four basic cognitive functions, repeating each time the differentiation of one mode of that function into conscious and shadow expressions. As we favor one mode of that function, we find our capacity for doing and experience expand. This repetition only deepens our conflation of the shadow side with a loss of control since the deepening sense of our own agency is accompanied by the deepening marginalization of our shadow functions.

Since we keep these functions at the margins of our attention, when they do enter into conscious attention they often do so forcefully, at the point we can no longer simply ignore them. We often experience this as an intrusion, as a sort of negative necessity, something we wish to avoid but cannot. When speaking of this negative necessity, I will use the term fate, to distinguish it from the positive necessity of destiny, hearkening back to one of its Latin meanings as a judgment and an allotment which must be accepted.

This approach has the added benefit of allowing us to see, with some clarity, the connection between character, destiny, and fate. The potentialities of our type defines our character in the abstract, but the quality of our efforts to realize those potentialities in concrete form through our lives determines the quality of our character.

Whereas destiny appears as an organic process stretched over time, fate inserts itself as a series of sudden and disconnected intrusions. Fate, too, has an integral relationship to the formation of our character. Just as we find good character in the dedication toward fulfilling one’s destiny, we make judgments of character, too, based on how well they bear up beneath what their fate inflicts upon them. We judge them by how well they are able to suffer their fate.

When we examine this process in ourselves, we should be able to notice something else going on, too. The forms of necessity found in fate and destiny intertwine with each other, establishing the dynamic rhythms that become characteristic of our experience. The necessity that we encounter in fate spurs us to develop our conscious functions as a sort of defense, thus motivating us to actualize our otherwise latent capacities of our conscious functions. Inversely, as we develop our capacities, we become more engaged with our world and risk encounters that will push the operations of our shadow functions into consciousness.

In passing, I will note that one of the great virtues of tragedy as a literary form lies in its vivid illustration of this process. I would be curious, for one, to reread the Oedipus plays in light of this, exploring how the subsequent plays explore the fertile territory beyond this rough dialectic of fate and destiny. Another time, perhaps, since that would take me at quite a tangent from the present series.

I will pause here and pick up the next post with an effort to explore the specific functions of the shadow and their relationship to the conscious functions. Then, taking a page from James Hillman’s The Dream and the Underworld, I want to turn the tables and look at the situation from the perspective of the shadow functions. After that, I should be just about ready to make our first return to the topics of the first post in the series regarding Jung and Dick. Yes, I said first return, because I envision the full picture taking at least one more layer of discussion after that. I get ahead of myself, though.

[Next Post in the Series: Shadow Explored, Part I]

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