Where does our source of meaning come from? Victor Frankl, in Man’s Search for Meaning, taught that a person must search to find what was meaningful to them, and in some cases create that meaning, to be sustained.
From Frankl: “Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked.”
Other philosophers, including many of the existentialists, believed that meaning was constructed by a man. That, faced with the uncertainty, suffering, and the arbitrariness of life, a man’s burden was to confront his life by deciding what was meaningful to him.
Camus, dramatic and poetic, captures the spirit of the existential perspective here, “The literal meaning of life is whatever you’re doing that prevents you from killing yourself.”
Others, particularly religious believers, think that meaning and purpose are preordained by a creator, and that it is found in realizing we were created “for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
There is a spectrum of beliefs that is revealed through these different perspectives. Picture a number line from 1-10. At the “1” mark is the belief that one’s source of meaning is solely derived from a pre-existing purpose. The meaning is already there to be had, stitched within the purpose of a creator.
The other extreme, at the “10” mark, posits that meaning is the sole construction of the human mind, only to be found in how we respond to our circumstances, and what we decide is important to us.
Is there a way to unify these perspectives? “Meaning” is a nebulous word, which we will be defining shortly; but speaking intuitively, is there a perspective that unifies the variable understandings of meaning? I posit that, in a very specific sense, there is a deep well of meaning to be extracted through one stream that exists, with nuanced expressions, in our own psyches.
What is “Meaning”?
“Meaning” is a word that belongs to the category of many other words like “love,” “purpose,” and “genius,” whose true meaning has become vague and circumstantial. To dictionary.com, “meaning” simply means “what is intended to be,” or “the end, purpose, or significance of something.”
“Meaning” has a nebulous relationship with “purpose,” which are often used interchangeably. When people are “Looking for purpose,” they are often trying to find a sense of meaning. And when someone is “Searching for meaning,” they are often looking for their purpose.
Purpose is defined as “the reason for which something exists or is done,” or “an intended or desired result.”
The relationship between the journey and destination is the tension revealed between purpose and meaning.
For the Greeks, “Telos” was a word interchangeable with “purpose,” and simply meant “end” — or to what end, aim, etc. Aristotle said that “Purpose is a desire for something in our own power, coupled with an investigation into its means.”
For Aristotle, then, “Purpose” is the broader, more far-reaching concept. And that purpose is composed of 1) the desire to achieve something combined with 2) understanding how to achieve it — or the means.
If “meaning” is the “how,” does that mean the “Meaning of life” translates to the “How of life?”
Is it coincidental that “means” and “meaning” have linguistic similarities? Purpose is the outcome — the end goal — and meaning, and our sense of meaning, is the progress made toward that outcome.
But “meaning” is also what is signified. And to “signify” means to point toward an end — a sign that you’re on the right path. “Meaning,” then, is the collection of guideposts along the route to our destination — our purpose.
Where does meaning come from?
Psychologically, it seems silly to distill all of life’s meaning to a single source, attitude, function, or expression of personality. I am not going to do that. Why? Because “meaning” can be found in every avenue of our psychological growth.
Whether we are focused on developing our Inferior, Critic, Subconscious, or even Superego, meaning can be derived from a multitude of sources. The Four Sides of the Mind can be interpreted as signifiers — or guideposts — for the avenues of meaning available to a human being.
However, there is one aspect of our mind that is equipped to carry a deeper, more sustained sense of meaning than the rest. What is this aspect? It is the Parent.
Why the Parent?
Consider this quote from Frankl: “Thus, Logotherapy sees in responsibleness the very essence of human existence.”
And what is “logotherapy”? It is Frankl’s specific therapeutic technique that literally translates to: “Meaning therapy.” Thus, we can reimagine Frankl’s quote to this: “Thus, meaning sees in responsibility the very essence of human existence.” Meaning, then, is given by responsibility.
Why else does someone like Jordan Peterson, once a relatively obscure professor, rise to global fame on the back of a simple message: Take some responsibility.
From Peterson: “The purpose of life is finding the largest burden that you can bear and bearing it.”
To further Frankl’s concept, Peterson has made a global footprint around the fortification of responsibility: “It’s in responsibility that most people find the meaning that sustains them through life. It’s not in happiness.”
The connection between meaning and the Parent function lies in responsibility. The Parent Function is our psyche’s source of responsibility; and through it, one reaches maturity in the development of one’s Ego.
The Eight Sources of Meaning
Before reading further, it would be a useful exercise to reflect for a moment on these questions: “When do you feel most meaningfully engaged with the world and others? What are you doing when you feel the deepest sense of purpose within your life?”
There are eight functions, each shared by two types, that make up the spectrum of expressions of meaning within humankind. For each type that we analyze, the development of their parent function is dependent on their willingness to accept responsibility. And there a sense of meaning emerges.
- Te Parent: ISTJs + INTJs are seeking to become responsible with managing other people’s thoughts and developing their own beliefs through careful research, reflection, and intellectual experimentation. ISTJs and INTJs find a sense of meaning when they improve others’ thinking and commit to developing their own processes to find the truth within a given topic or discipline.
- Ti Parent: ESTPs + ENTPs find their sense of meaning in finding the truth. Responsible Ti Parents cannot help but rebel against the beliefs that they find intolerable and inaccurate. An ESTPs and ENTPs maturity lies in proportion to their willingness to search, find, and stand for what they believe is true.
- Fe Parent: ISFJs + INFJs find their sense of meaning in understanding the people in their lives and the core values that drive them. Responsible Fe Parents are open, though careful, in gathering and filtering through other people’s values. But, Fe, the most social of the judgment functions, requires the ISFJs and INFJs to engage with others. It is only through social connections that their Fe Parent can absorb the emotions, values, and pain of those around them, and learn how to manage them.
- Fi Parent: ESFPs + ENFPs find their sense of meaning in building up their own personal philosophy and what is good, what is valuable, and what is neither. Responsible Fi Parents search to not only find but embody the highest values that lead to success, but to personal refinement, gratitude, and moral conviction.
- Ne Parent: INTPs + INFPs find their sense of meaning by becoming the watchmen for the people around them — and even society at large. Mature Ne Parents steer others away from unnecessary danger and toward prosperity and fulfillment. Ne Parent protects others’ futures. They also create the mechanisms — technical, intellectual, spiritual, or social — the provides a path for others to thrive.
- Ni Parent: ENTJs + ENFJs find their sense of meaning in realizing their own vision — whether it be social, intellectual, artistic, or technological. Responsible Ni Parents are committed to realizing their vision by becoming the force that no obstacle can stop. The ENTJ and ENFJ — both Structure types — often become leaders whose Ni Parent is sufficient in potency to inspire entire movements to follow them.
- Se Parent: ISFPs + ISTPs find their sense of meaning in managing and manipulating the experience of those around them. Se Parents are often artists, athletes, or teachers, who impart useful and memorable experiences on others. Responsible Se Parents also find meaning in cultivating strength and imparting skills in others. And they can be among the greatest performers of the 16 types.
- Si Parent: ESFJs + ESTJs develop their sense of meaning by increasing their own strength. Responsible Si voluntarily seeks new experiences and commits to developing and maintaining the habits that create and refine their capacity to endure.
What drives the Parent?
Responsibility doesn’t just appear because the Parent exists. The Parent does not exist in a vacuum and it’s awareness of responsibility is not self-generated. Where does it come from, then? The Critic is the engine that refines the responsibility of the Parent.
- Ti Critic puts pressure on the IxTJs, making them feel stupid, incapable, and inaccurate. This pushes them to be careful, precise, and thorough in their research and evaluations. A responsible Te Parent is proof to the Ti Critic that the IxTJ is not stupid. Responsible IxTJs seek out the facts to consider for every decision they make.
- Te Critic puts pressure on the ExTPs to be precise and exact with their own thinking. An extraverted critic is telling the introverted Parent: “If you want it done right, you’ll have to do it yourself.” Te Critic is aware of the stupidity, rashness, and unsoundness in others’ thinking. It puts pressure on Ti Parent to be an example of proficient thinking and to be one who would do anything to preserve the truth.
- Fi Critic puts pressure on the IxFJs by making them feel useless, selfish, and guilty. Fi Critic is demanding proof from the Fe Parent to be compassionate, selfless, and socially sophisticated. Fi Critic also wants IxFJs to understand the nuances of moral values and the nature of pain. Responsible Fe Parents incorporate other’s values, emotions, and well-being into the decisions they make.
- Fe Critic puts pressure on the ExFPs to be the example of goodness, usefulness, and moral reliability. Fe Critic sees how useless others’ values are, and how inconsistent others are at sticking to their convictions. Fe Critic seeks to refine Fi Parent into not only possessing a nuanced moral philosophy, but by being willing to fight to preserve the goodness they have captured.
- Ni Critic puts pressure on the IxNPs by constricting their comfort in making choices for their own future. Ni Critic makes the INxPs uncertain when thinking about their own future. They have to go through painstaking effort before they allow themselves to want something fully. This pressure allows the INxPs to offer carefully considered and calibrated choices to others through their Ne Parent. Further, Ni Critic will only be satisfied once the INxP thinks through many of the ways things could go wrong.
- Ne Critic puts pressure on the ENxJs to be resolute in their visions for the future. Ne Critic sees others being rash with their choices, and not preparing for the future. Ne Critic shapes the Ni Critic into preparing for the future they see for themselves. Ne Critics do NOT want to be blindsided! And if the ENxJ respects the Ne Critic’s warnings, Ni Parent becomes the unstoppable force that no obstacle can overthrow.
- Si Critic puts pressure on the ISxPs, making them cynical of their incoming experience. IxSPs are often uncomfortable by default, and see that other people are incautious and careless with the experiences they give off. This gives the ISxP the opportunity to be aware and precise with the experiences they deliver to others. Arguably no one is more precise with physical experiences than an Se Parent.
- Se Critic puts pressure on the ESxJs to build up their strength, discipline, and body of experience. Se Critic, by default, is critical of others’ strength, skill, and performance. This pressure gives ESxJs the opportunity to build up their OWN habits of strength, discipline, and performance. Se Critic is trying to carve the Si Parent into something presentable and, beyond that, immovable.
The Depths of Meaning
Though the Parent sources our sense of responsibly, we can never isolate any of our Cognitive Functions entirely. The interconnected system of the 4 Sides Dynamics requires us to define pieces of ourselves in reference to the other pieces.
It is the combined wheel of the Parent and the Critic that fuels the core path of responsibility, wisdom, and meaning. But what is the Critic’s direct effect on the Parent? In other words, what is the purpose of the Critic’s influence? Responsibility is a tool that leads the Parent to accomplish its end goal. The end goal of responsibility, however, is capability.
Chase has hammered this point home for years. While the Hero functions may be the most powerful, it is a developed Parent function that can be the most accurate. But accuracy doesn’t capture the whole vision of the Parent. Something closer to discernment, the ability to see how much force to apply, and when, is the true power of the Parent and Critic Orbit.
But the journey of responsibility doesn’t stop at just the Parent or Critic, does it? If you’re familiar with the Four Sides of the Mind, you know that each side of our mind has its own Parent function. Over the course of a life, then, we each have access to four separate streams of meaning.
These four streams are the 1) Parent function within our Ego, the 2) Child function as it develops in our Subconscious, the 3) Critic function in our Shadow or Unconscious, and eventually our 4) Trickster function in our Superego.
The Parent functions of each side of the mind are collectively called “guidance functions.” Understanding the proper use of the guidance functions is vital to cognitive development and accessing the sides of your mind through orderly transitions. To learn more about guidance functions, check out the Cutting Edge from February, 2022.
Despite the Trickster, of all functions, being the most incompetent, incapable, and unaware, the path is there for the Trickster to become the master of masters within the Superego. And that, the ultimate proof of responsibility, can be a model we use for the development of each of our Parent functions. If our Trickster can one day become responsible, then certainly the other three can too.
Meaning and Purpose within the Psyche
You may have noticed that the descriptions of the Parent and Critic functions once again muddied the waters of “Meaning” and “Purpose.” That is because, though they point to slightly different things, both “Meaning” and “Purpose” feed into each other.
The Purpose of the Parent function is to develop responsibility. And the meaning we derive from the Parent is in the process we walk toward that development. In the end, the journey and the destination become part of the same substance. “Meaning” and “Purpose” exist in unison.
Can you give examples of a real life situation for ESFJs? What am I supposed to be enduring? What is a habit of performance? I have noticed that Si parent or just the parent function in general in my life like hardens and I almost stop wanting to use any other sides. I just kind of stay with Si. I’m 29 if that says anything. Also can Si be also be linked to like self defense?
Endurance can come from a variety of things. Responsible Si Parents that I’ve seen tend to take pretty good care of themselves — exercise, diet, etc. But it can extend as far into what the ESxJ perceives is their duty. Si Parents grow stronger when they carry the burden of their duty well and attentively. A lot of firefighters, first responders, soldiers, and governmental workers are Si Parents, whose maturity lies in direct proportion to their reliability.
A “habit of performance” is simply ensuring that your habits are optimized. Ultimately, our ability to perform well comes from putting in the practice of HOW we perform. A “habit of performance” is HOW you approach every task in your life — cooking, cleaning, work, dating, hobbies, free time, etc. Are the majority of your habits pushing you forward or holding you back? If holding back, then the habits should be improved.
Interesting comment about “hardening.” Based on what I can tell, battle-tested Si Parents carry a real stoic element in their personality. That’s what being Si is all about — being the rock that cannot be moved, no matter what storm or circumstance crashes upon your shores.
As far as Si being linked to self defense, I would say yes. Self defense is about protection, and Si users are very aware of how THEY are vulnerable (Se is about closer to how OTHERS are vulnerable). So taking responsibility for that vulnerability, and actively working to strengthen yourself around that vulnerability, is how the Si Parent/ Se Critic Orbit is evident in reality.
Very well written!
All of the articles on this are, but this one especially made too much sense for me to not type a reply. As I was reading through the introduction, I was expecting the answer to lie within the aspiration function, (I’m very likely an INTP and the time I feel most purposeful is when I’m volunteering) but when I kept reading, and eventually came to the part explaining the mechanisms, I realised although I was hoping to become a more cconnected/compassionate person, the mechanism I did it through was by often making sure I wasn’t skipping any possibilities others were missing, be by pointing out the alternative approaches or inconsistencies within their proposed long-term goals/systems. As I kept reading, the critical parent section broke me. It took me 3 years of studying in engineering to really decide that I didn’t want that, until that breaking point it was almost like what I wanted was invisible to me, or irrelevant, because given all the options I could think of, that was the one that satisfied the highest number of people including my close relationships excluding me of course. I now realise it was a very unhealthy way to use Ti/Fe, because by ignoring my own values/what is important to me/what makes me happy for so long, what eventually happened was that my Fi came out to play, resulting in a silent outburst, and in an impulsive decision I reapplied to university enterance exams again. I’m glad it did though, because I wouldn’t have acted otherwise out of the worry that maybe there’s a risk or additional perspective I’m missing, an additional benefit of being in engineering even if it made me unhappy, maybe it was only shprt termed, etc. I digress.
My point is, the article was eerily accurate and thank you for sharing even if your Te critic believes us mortals to be not clever enough to understand 😀
Thanks for sharing. I’m the glad the article helped distinguish between the Inferior and Parent. We certainly do find “meaning” through our Inferior, but it’s a different kind of meaning and, in my experience, less sustainable than the meaning from the Parent/Critic.
I found this quote interesting: “given all the options I could think of, that was the one that satisfied the highest number of people including my close relationships excluding me of course.” I am constantly amazed by INTPs who with their Ne + Fe are consistently focused on other people. They are so utilitarian. It is frustrating how often they accused of being soulless because of Fi Demon. But they think about others before themselves so often.
Though humans are accused of being selfish, I find Crusaders in general needing to learn “responsible selfishness” more than any of the types.
With enough time and experience, INTPs can give themselves permission to pursue what they want within their Ni Critic. Part of that requires them to first be able to HEAR what they want to begin with. Being a little more selfish often increases their ability to be helpful to others as well. I hope that you are finding that to be true for yourself.
I’m not an expert so please take this with a grain of salt. I think what the article refers to is seeking consistent, but also incremental improvement. I likely have Si child insteas of Si parent, so ESFJ is my subconscious side, and when I spend time on refining a real life routine, let’s say drinking water every morning, I feel unexplicably happy for something that’s supposed to be so easy (Ti’s analysis). But I don’t get a very deep sense of “purpose” by refining my habits, to me they’re just a source of a little extra source of happiness but that’s it. Fir ESXJs though, perfecting that routine might be the end goal, because of the pressure Se puts on Si, you may want to become the best version of yourself by through consistency and becoming the best you might be the most important goal for you (and the mechanism you use to become the best you is through consistency and discipline, through systematically getting better)
I hope this is true and it’s helpful. Have a good day.
Very well said.
Thank you for the well put answer as usual. I definitely agree with the health and exercise and watching what we eat. So Is Si just about having burdens then? Like just personal burdens they run into? What’s the gain from that? And they are traditional as well so I’m assuming there is a gender differences as well? I think I heard chase say ESFJs are all about service and no one does it better. So Fe and Si is really just service oriented most of their life? That’s where I’m confused about like identity and our own kind of life because it feels like we are just loyalists. I’m not saying it’s bad but living in America I was always told about like standing out and individuality which seems completely opposite.
So like these performances are they linked to like athleticism and being good at things like sports or games and stuff? I always assumed that was more sps and they were more about performing? Or maybe just competing?
And what I meant about hardening is it’s like I’m no longer interested in logic or and other functions as much anymore and just seem pretty stuck in the ego at this point and haven’t seen any other reason to develop any of the others. To look for an environment where I don’t have to utilize those as much and just find a comfortable environment and be service oriented?
I definiently am aware of my odds of defending myself from many things. I was wondering though how Fe helps with Si in that area? It would seem like and introverted judging function would be better for that as well as Se or Ne. Most fighters I feel I’ve seen again are sps. Also again it seems it’s not as accepted or common for females in this area and is more male oriented. I could be wrong though and have outdated info. Thank you for taking the time if you read this I know I have a lot of questions.
Awesome as always, John.
Thank you, sir. (;
How to Type: Andre from Outkast. (and Big Boi)
Bunch of other rappers on the “Famous People Typed by Chase” list. Why not add 2 more?
Ms. Jackson. Classic
Bombs over Baghdad. BANGER
I’ve been doing more thinking about this article and my own internal framework fitting this content in. So basically the ego is really the side of the mind that you should ultimately be long term if possible as it’s the most sustainable. You should not try and be on any other side of your mind over the ego as it’s impossible to replace the egos position and cognitive attitudes as well as how much energy they can hold. And with that, the parent function will be the one that gives you the most meaning out of it within the ego because it requires some work and more satisfaction because if it? But the other sides of the mind should only and can only be temporary. If you’re focused on those sides it’s only to either get through something temporary. Does all that sound right?
Ideally, the Ego is the foundation that you can build up the other three sides. Wherever you transition, the Cognitive Attitudes will adjust to that side of the mind, but our Ego is our home base, no matter how underdeveloped it is. I believe out of all the functions, the Parent DOES give us the most meaning, as you said. But the Parent function of the other 3 sides of the mind (Critic, Child, Trickster) are all a part of that path. All 4 (those 3 + the Parent) functions can be developed through responsibility, and meaning can be found in all of them.
We have an article coming out this week which will provide some tools to understand this process just a little more. If you read the article when it comes out, keep an eye out for “Guidance Circuit”, I believe it will give you some of the answers you are looking for.
I agree that transitioning to another side of the mind should, ideally, be temporary. But developing it, making a side of the mind a hospitable place to be, that is ideally permanent.
I have watched numerous videos and I understand that the other sides of the mind can have some purpose, but what does development of them mean if they are only temporary and serve under the ego? What I’m getting at is I’m not four types, I’m just one that has 3 other types that come into play from time to time to do something to the ego but shouldn’t relied upon forever? And yes I really look forward to more content especially from you!!
I suppose I feel that we are closer to being 4 types than 1. And the goal of integration is bring those 4 into unison SO THAT our fragmentation transforms to wholeness. Then you might ask: Well, why do we have an Ego in the first place? I’m not sure if that question is different than, “Why is there Spring? Why is there Winter?” In some sense you’re asking a very metaphysical question, “WHY the Ego?”
If you believe in a creator, maybe the journey toward wholeness becomes the fulfillment of a creator’s design. If you don’t believe in a creator, then you could argue biologically that the “Ego” represents are inborn competence (especially Hero + Parent); and if were all born with the same competence, human’s wouldn’t evolve very quickly. And perhaps both of these options can be true.
You all seem to be either despairing or frustrated with the seeming impermanence when using another side of the mind — is that accurate? I feel that there is an INHERENT meaning in stretching yourself future, becoming more. Our Ego does not have a monopoly over our identity, and moving into other parts of the mind (and really developing them) can expand and even redefine our identity to some extent. From that perspective, if you add free will, etc. then human beings have some power in their own shaping. And perhaps that is the meaning of the fragmentation: How will you or I shape ourselves in light of our fragmentation?
The question you’re asking (if I understand it correctly) I’m not sure if I can give you a satisfying answer. I think your question boarders on the metaphysical/spiritual line. But, one small thing I can say is that, for example, the Ego is only the Ego because the Superego is repressed/suppressed, etc. The pushing down of the Superego GIVES the Ego it’s power. If you’ve read any Jung, you see him talk a lot about consciousness not being possible w/o POLARITY.
And the suppressed Superego CREATES polarity. From a Jungian perspective, I think the PURPOSE of the 4 sides of he mind is to reclaim unity WITH CONSCIOUSNESS CONTROL. Jung believed that unity (a lack of polarity) means you are UNCONSCIOUS. But I think he also believed you could regain unity WITH consciousness by moving to wholeness when you START from a fragmented state.
Hope that provides a “little” clarity (: I enjoyed your question.
Wow this was some deep stuff that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and will certainly ponder over the next few days. I like the idea of having more than just my ego as especially for me it almost feels like I’m just meant to live for others. But if there is more to it then I want to know before I lock in my Si on to someone or something in life. I have certainly cognitively transitioned so I know you guys are have that part down right and I’ve experienced the functions changing attitudes. The only thing I’ve been trying to understand is like what you pointed out about is If there is more than just living in the ego. Thanks as always and I am looking forward to that next article. I have one other question though is that if we are with our golden pair then would the shadow and superego be an issue for the relationship? Like you guys have said it’s such an enabling relationship but at the same time it makes sense since the compatibility is already there by nature.
It depends what you mean by “issue” … we have adjusted our perspective toward realizing the Natural Pair (bronze pair) is actually the most enabling. The golden pair is just up and down, and oscillates between enabling and not enabling (at least on paper). Ideally, in the best possible scenario, I think the golden pair can be a relationship where you develop congruent sides of your mind together. Sub, shadow, etc. If people can accept the vulnerability of the golden pair, it can produce some great things.
I mean like if I were too be shadow focused then that would be being an isfp. If I’m with an isfp as an isfp then there would be incompatibility in that situation right?
I see. We’ll your home base is still your Ego. Except for extreme circumstances, development in a different side of your mind doesn’t over-ride your Ego, it just alters how it is expressed. All of us want to be at home in our Ego, and the Golden Pair is one of the relationships that helps us be at home with ourselves. There’s still compatibility with your golden pair regardless of development.
So what does different focused sides of an esfj look like? And how long can you stay in each? Also how can you consciously choose to go to others if a you would have to reread your conscious to do so which would not feel right?