Understanding the Inferior Function’s Fear
The paralysis and the pain that the Inferior creates forms continual, ongoing obstacles that we must face on a daily basis. This applies even more so for those who understand this psychology. Because, while there is great freedom in learning where your anxiety stems from, having the knowledge of the Inferior creates a subsequent burden of having to face down that knowledge every time our anxiety is activated. Knowledge is a double-edged sword.
Ever since learning Chase’s Four Sides Dynamics, I’ve been obsessed with the Inferior function. Since then, I’ve been trying to figure out the optimal path to dealing with the anxiety of the Inferior Function. The foundations within Chase’s work of what we’ll be discussing are in Seasons 19 & 29 in the Membership area, and seasons 16, 17, 22 on YouTube.
The purpose of this article is to serve as an investigation into the Inferior function, with a focus on finding the source of its fear. What we will find is that, like all aspects of this psychology, no part of it is completely isolated. Thus, to even say this article is an investigation into just the Inferior could be viewed as misleading. The Inferior exists in a complex system that is tied to the Hero through Axis, the Demon through Orbit, and the Nemesis through Reflection. These are the four gateways to the Four Sides of the Mind, and they are connected at the deepest level of analysis. To investigate one requires investigating all.
“Argue for your limitations, and sure enough they’re yours.” — Richard Bach, Illusions
A dangerous tendency that we all face is to cocoon our anxiety with learned helplessness. To associate the painful reality of our Inferior with a victim mindset — “I can’t get rid of this!” — is not only antithetical to growth, but creates a self-fulfilling prophecy of impotence. When we expect our current experience of anxiety to turn into declared fate — “It will always be this way!” — how can we ever seek to grow? Our growth is capped by the expectations we set for ourselves.
But, beneath this danger of learned helplessness lies an even more difficult truth to accept. Just as the Child’s innocence is enabled by the Parent’s responsibility, so too is the reason you experience fear in your Inferior because you experience confidence in your Hero. Rather, it is one of the reasons.
Like all our cognition, the Hero, Inferior, Nemesis, and Demon all exist together in a system of push and pull. To pull more toward one is to push away from another one. To repress the Demon is to elevate the Hero. This is one of the reason’s the Demon gets so upset, because it is often ignored in favor of the Hero, and the Ego is often content with leaning completely on the Hero.
But to experience the confidence of the Hero is to necessarily experience the anxiety of the Inferior, the uncertainty of the Nemesis, and the bitterness of the Demon. We are born out of balance. The Four Sides Dynamis proposes that there is an optimal level of human experience that can be reached through integration.
The bitter pill to swallow is that the more our Inferior hurts, the more blame must be laid at the feet of our Hero, Nemesis, and Demon. Ultimately, we do have a lot of control over the anxiety of the Inferior once we learn how to work with our minds. The brutal burden of this responsibility manifests when we realize that our Inferior’s pain is often a result of our misuse of the other functions.
To solve the puzzle of the Inferior’s fear, we must become like a doctor who examines not only the symptoms of an illness, but presses on to diagnose and treat the underlying disease itself. Thereby we seek true healing, rather than mere temporary relief.
Order and Chaos
The fundamental concept of “Chaotic vs. Orderly Transitions” will serve our investigation into the Inferior. There is an interconnectedness between the functions that is revealed through Cognitive Axis and Cognitive Orbit.
To conquer the fear of the Inferior, there must be orderly access of all the functions involved. But don’t worry, accessing your mind in an orderly way is not as impossible as it may seem. If we access one function — and one side of the mind — in an orderly manner, it becomes easier to access all of our cognition in an orderly way.
But the inverse is also true. Accessing one side of the mind chaotically makes the other parts of our mind susceptible to that same chaos. If the Inferior remains paralyzed in its fear, fear will spread to other sides of the mind and manifest in varied, chaotic ways.
But, as we know, the default state of our cognitive experience, like the default state of the universe, is chaos. Erosion, expediency, and entropy are the characteristic forces we are dealing with. Order is a universal commodity.
The Chaotic Transitions
The figure above illustrates the line of chaotic breakdown in our cognition.
Pride ==> Fear
The Hero tilts toward pride. The Hero is born capable, powerful, and energetic. But its tendency is to regard itself as the only thing required to solve life. To a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, right? And the Hero loves to regard itself as the “single tool” to solve all the problems a person encounters. This attitude creates excessive pride in the Ego and an unwillingness or inability to grow.
We see the Hero’s connection with the Inferior through Cognitive Axis. The Hero, inclined to believe it can do everything itself, faces a stark reality when its source (Extraverted Hero) or expression (Introverted Hero) is inevitably forced through the Inferior.
A Ti Hero, for example, with a masterful proclivity toward processing and solving problems, is met with a painful reality when that truth is to be expressed through Extraverted Feeling Inferior. They wield logic so comfortably and confidently, but expressing those truths can cut deeply, and Fe Inferior is so afraid of how others will feel about the expression of their Ti Hero’s truths. The Hero cannot do it all on its own.
So long as the Hero thinks it can do it all, the Inferior will be stricken with immense fear. Until the Hero learns to let go of its mantle as “the Superhero,” orderly access to the Inferior will be impossible — a concept further explored in Chris Taylor’s debut lecture of Season 33. Pride leads to fear.
Pride ==> Ignorance
The Hero’s pride also travels down to the Nemesis, connected through Orbit, where the Shadow has to respond to the Ego. The Nemesis responds to the Hero with the consequence of the Hero’s pride: ignorance. It is not to say that the Shadow is ignorant, per se, but that the Shadow reveals the ignorance of the Ego, and, specifically, the ignorance of the Hero.
Pride closes oneself off from growth and improvement. “I already know the answers,” is the voice of pride. Our biggest temptation is to enable the Hero with that attitude. The Nemesis — the Hero’s other half — understands the nuances of the Hero’s limitations better than any function.
The pride of the Hero leads to ignorance. And ignorance, like fear, is the immediate consequence of pride. When we walk into a pitch-black room, the first thing we do is freeze. This is the physiological experience of many who experience the unknown. The unknown represents the vast array of space we are ignorant about. And where does fear fester more than in the knowledge of our ignorance? This is why the Nemesis uses its energy to reveal what the Hero is unwilling to see: its own limitations — aka, its own ignorance. Pride leads to ignorance.
Pride + Fear + Ignorance ==> Hatred
When someone is afraid for long enough, they eventually begin to hate the thing they are afraid of, because that fear is a constant reminder of their source of vulnerability. And human beings, perhaps more than anything in the world, hate the knowledge of their vulnerability.
The Nemesis, so aware of the ignorance of the Hero, sources the hate of the Demon. And, as we talked about in a previous article, the Nemesis is the Demon’s advocate. We have long heard the Demon being associated with the word “hate” — a word Chase has carefully chosen for us to understand the nature of the Demon and Superego’s dilemma. The Demon knows it holds the keys to integration because it is the most left out, repressed, and disregarded of all our cognition.
Despite this reality, the Ego seldom listens to it. How frustrating is it when you know the answer that will solve the problem, and no one is willing to listen? This is the perpetual state of mind that the Superego inhabits.
The Inferior is so afraid of expressing itself — or others not wanting it to express itself — that the Demon — which is connected to the Inferior through Orbit — produces hate.
If a Ti Inferior is paralyzed about the possibility of their thinking made fun of or ignored, and if that fear festers, the fear will travel down to the Demon where the ExFJ begins to hate the ears of everyone who will not listen. Te Demon produces hatred for the collective thought of a population that does not regard their thoughts as valuable.
An Se Inferior, likewise, when paralyzed by the inattentiveness of others and their inability to perform comfortably, experiences this connection of fear and hate within their own body. They begin to view their own body as the mechanism that prevents them from performing. Their hatred is directed inward at their Si, often leading to self-destruction. Pride + Fear + Ignorance leads to hate.
The chaotic nature of our psyches tilts toward the following line of breakdown. Pride leads both to fear and to ignorance, and fear and ignorance lead to hate. The pride of the Hero and the hate of the Demon, via the Nemesis, fuel all their energy into the Inferior, who is ill-equipped to deal with the result of such pressure.
This is the main reason the Demon, as the head of the Superego, wants to overtake the Hero and the Ego. It sees the pride and ignorance of the Hero and it feels the fear of the neglected infant. A prideful Hero’s inability to care for the Inferior fuels the Demon’s hate for the Hero all the more. If only the Hero knew how to care for the helpless infant…
The Orderly Transitions
The above figure represents the string of orderly transitions within the mind.
Humility ==> Courage
If pride leads to fear, then the opposite of pride should lead to the opposite of fear. Chase has taught extensively on how humility allows one to access their Subconscious in an orderly fashion, through an aspiring Inferior.
But humility is not given by the Inferior — not exactly, at least. Humility is given by the Hero, who becomes willing to share its strength with the Inferior once the Hero realizes its own strength is not sufficient for every task under the sun. Humility enables the Hero to be willing to switch places with the Inferior, letting the Inferior becomes the “Hero” temporarily in the Subconscious.
When the Hero is humble, it begins to understand its own limitations and serves as a springboard for intense growth and engagement with the Inferior. The Inferior no longer becomes paralyzed by fear but, in the face of fear, accepts its task with courage. Humility leads to courage.
Humility ==> Understanding
When the Hero gives up its pride, it becomes open to other ways of looking at things. It allows itself to be shaped and pulled by the Nemesis so that it becomes more complete. All the Nemesis wants is for the Hero to pay attention to it, and listen to or see what the Nemesis is revealing.
When the Hero is willing to stare at its own lack, it’s not that the Hero is suddenly no longer ignorant; rather, the Hero accepts the fact that it is ignorant. And accepting its ignorance is what eventually leads the Hero to understanding. Growth requires accepting that you need to grow. Humility leads to understanding.
Humility + Courage + Understanding ==> Love
What does the combination of humility, courage, and understanding lead to? What is the orderly-transition equivalent of “hate”? When fear is replaced with courage, through humility, it leads to love. When ignorance is replaced with understanding, through humility, it leads to love. Love is the result of humility, courage, and understanding.
Is the Hero’s Humility Enough?
“You cannot do an orderly transition with a gateway function, by itself.” — CS Joseph, Cutting Edge
In the recent March 2022 Cutting Edge Episode, Chase and Chris Taylor discussed a relevant concept called “The Guidance Functions.” Chris introduced Guidance Functions as being the vital element to orderly transitions.
Guidance Functions are what stabilize the transition from one side of the mind to the other. What are Guidance Functions? They are the Parent function — the second function — of each side of the mind. If your cognition is like water and the gateway functions are doors to the other sides of the mind, then the guidance functions operate those doors. The more you use your Parent function deliberately, the more control you have over the opening and closing of these doors.
Next, consider the Cognitive Attitudes from an archetypal level. The Hero is the head of the family, strong, capable, but overconfident. The Parent is cautious, enduring, and stable. The Child, sharing similar energy to the Hero, is vibrant and precocious, but naive and rash. The Inferior — the “infant” — is, at first, the helpless newborn who relies on its parents (Hero & Parent) to care for its needs. But the Hero, though Axis to the Inferior, is not sufficient to be a sole parent to the Inferior.
The Hero, by itself, does not provide enough stability to remove the fear of the Inferior. That is why children are supposed to have two Parents.
What does this mean? It means that humility is not sufficient for the Inferior to get over its fear. BUT, while humility is only one piece of the puzzle, having humility enables the second piece to emerge fully. What is the second piece? What is the role of the Parent in the Ego — and the role of the second function in each side of the mind? Responsibility.
When we develop our Parent function, our Inferior Function becomes reinforced. The Parent — just like the parent in a family — cares for the infant. Not only does it provide care, it knows how quickly and how far to open the door for the Inferior’s transition.
The Parent helps manage the energy passed to the Inferior to facilitate an orderly transition. The Parent keeps the Inferior from accessing more energy than it can handle at any one point in time.
“Guidance Functions” are just what they sound like — they guide. They guide the Inferior of each side of the mind
Transitions via Guidance Functions
- To access the Ego in an orderly manner, one must use the Gateway of the Hero, plus the Guidance of the Parent. Humility + Responsibility = Orderly Transition into the Ego.
- To access the Subconscious in an orderly manner, one must use the Gateway of the Inferior, plus the Guidance of the Child (which becomes the Hero & Parent in the Subconscious). Courage + Joy = Orderly Transition into the Subconscious.
- To access the Unconscious in an orderly manner, one must use the Gateway of the Nemesis, plus the Guidance of the Critic. Understanding + Wisdom = Orderly Transition in the Unconscious.
- To access the Superego in an orderly manner, one must use the Gateway of the Demon, plus the Guidance of the Trickster (which are the Hero & Parent of the Superego) in an orderly manner. Love + Mastery = Orderly Transition into the Superego.
A Note on the Superego
For most of us, building the capacity for consistent, orderly transitions to the Superego takes a long time — potentially a lifetime. Not only does it first require a firm development of the Subconscious and Unconscious, but Superego development becomes the product of a life well-lived. It requires mastery of the Cognitive Gateways and the Guidance Functions, such that the volatile energy of the Superego can be contained and expressed in an orderly way, consciously.
Second, the Demon is, by definition, one of the hardest functions to develop. But, developing the Trickster into the responsible Parent of the Superego is hardly an easier task. If it were easy to develop and integrate your Superego, everyone would have done it by now. But, the journey to the development of the Superego begins with the development of where we are most comfortable: our home base.
The Ego as “Home Base”
Though the functions and the sides of our mind are connected through Cognitive Axis and Cognitive Orbit, we will always have a preference for our Ego. Our Egos are home base for our minds. If we transition to different parts of the mind a lot throughout the day — or a lot during a period of life — returning to the Ego offers rest and a chance to renew our energy.
In the models presented above, this would mean that the line of chaotic or orderly transitions is going to primarily start in our Ego. The tension we walk between the paths of pride and humility, and irresponsibility and responsibility, are the most consequential paths we choose on a daily basis.
Thus, to transform the fear in our Subconscious, Ignorance in our Unconscious, and eventually hate in our Superego, we can go back into our Ego’s and start with a focus on relinquishing the pride of the Hero. And then commit to humility. Humility starts the process to enable orderly transitions to the other side of the mind.
The Ego is our natural mental point of origin. How we experience the other sides of our mind is going to be substantially influenced by the state of the Ego.
The Curse of Pride
It has been said that at the root of every sin is some version of pride. It should be no surprise, then, that at the root of our cognitive development, where our Ego plays center stage, the relinquishing of pride, through a commitment to humility, is required to combat the tendency toward expedient, chaotic transitions.
Humility, then, is the first key for any stage of cognitive development. And responsibility is not far behind.
Isolating the Journey of the Inferior
“Perfect love casts out fear.” — 1 John 4:18
Though humility has taken center stage in our exploration of this article, solving the fear of the Inferior was what prompted our investigation to begin with. Let’s return to that momentarily.
The Inferior, constantly in battle with its fear, will not experience the absolution of its fear until it experiences love. The above scripture, while not explicitly relating to all Four Sides of the Mind, does relate explicitly to the journey of the Inferior conquering fear.
But, knowing what we know now, we cannot reasonably talk about the Inferior and fear vs. courage without including the rest of the mind. Love, the solution to fear — “Perfect love casts out all fear” — is not possible without humility. Nor is love possible without the admission of ignorance or of the true understanding of the object of love. And love is certainly not possible without courage. What affects one affects the other.
For the Inferior, when the Hero shares its power through humility, the Inferior becomes emboldened. When it accesses courage, the Inferior is no longer stricken by fear, but stands bravely in the midst of the fear. But the Parent, dedicated to responsibility and to protecting the Inferior, is also essential in this process of developing the Inferior’s capacity for courage.
So, for the fear of your Inferior, understand that love is the ultimate transformation of its fear. But humility, powered by responsibility, is what allows you to love — just as love is what allows you to be humble. And understanding, the openness to learn, and the realization of your incomplete knowledge, allow you to see things as they really are. Is love possible without understanding who — in all their naked honesty — you love?
What is more empowering than to see something as it really is, to know that you don’t have to have all the answers, to stand boldly amidst the anxiety of daily life, and choose to love regardless of all that? That, by definition, is what it means to “aspire.”