THE INFERIOR FUNCTION: Opening to the Interior

Sep 29, 2022

A fairytale illustration of a troll-like sea monster illustrates the idea of the inferior function.

There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in. LEONARD COHEN

Jung’s system of typology—our characteristic way of orienting to the world—led to the creation of the widely used Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Jung observed four essential ego functions. Thinking and feeling are rational functions of assigning value and making decisions, and intuition and sensation are non-rational modes of perception and attention. Ordered hierarchically from most to least developed, our inferior function lies closest to the unconscious. It tends to manifest through tasks, people, and situations that throw us off balance: we feel confused, overloaded, and unable to get a grip. The inferior function pushes in through the cracks in ego’s efforts at supremacy and opens us to what is unknown and unlived. For Jung, however, this seeming weak spot in the personality was also “the treasure hard to attain,” for it is also the source of our aliveness, freedom, and fun.

Here’s the dream we analyze:

“I was swimming in the ocean at nighttime. I was surrounded by a school of gigantic, hot-pink jellyfish the size of hot air balloons. They were almost bioluminescent. I looked down and saw a massive sea creature rising from the depths. At first, I thought it was a blue whale. As it got closer, however, I realized it was the size of several blue whales and shaped almost like a man. I was filled with terror and awe and swam away to the shore. On the shore, I was talking urgently with Doctor Who. Suddenly, we were attacked by Daleks (a fictional alien species). As they flew toward us, we ran away toward the ocean. We didn’t go underwater; however, we ran on top of it. As we ran across the sea pursued by the Daleks, the jellyfish and whale man from before rose out of the water, running and flying around us to protect us.”


Lenore Thomson. Personality Type: An Owner’s Manual. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0877739870/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_1EXKNRD8Y9YNCHJH7AND

Marie-Louise von Franz, Lectures on Jung’s Typology. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00G2CBJ0K/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_CWHRP65RJ41W03JKQW8N

Ann Ulanov. The Danger and the Treasure of the Inferior Function, Psychological Perspectives, 52: 9-53, 2009.


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  1. Janet Stumph

    Who is the artist please?

    • Joseph Lee

      I tried to locate the artist and could not find the information. If you discover who they are please let me know.
      ~ Joseph

    • Paul

      John Albert Bauer (4 June 1882 – 20 November 1918) was a Swedish painter and illustrator. His work is concerned with landscape and mythology, but he also composed portraits. He is best known for his illustrations of early editions of Bland tomtar och troll (Among Gnomes and Trolls), an anthology of Swedish folklore and fairy tales.

  2. Beth

    Could you please share the poem you read during this episode?

  3. kimlongacre@sbcglobal.net

    Dr. Who is also a “time traveler,” which can also factor into the dreamer’s experience becoming independent: what do I keep from my childhood and what do I cast off as I move into the future.

  4. Sydney Freedberg

    Fascinating — but your mapping of Daleks onto the “thinking function” is compromised by a fundamental misunderstanding about what they represent to any longtime Doctor Who fan like this dreamer: The Daleks are NOT emotionless or rational. They are transparent analogies for the Nazis, capable of tactical cleverness but ultimately irrational because they motivated by boundless hatred for all other lifeforms. Their robotic voices are shrill, constantly on the verge of hysteria, ranting like mechanical Hitlers about their racial superiority and the imperative to EX-TER-MIN-ATE! all inferior beings (i.e. everybody else) . Daleks don’t like emotion: They lack positive emotion, but they are overflowing with hatred, rage, and fear. “The worst are full of passionate intensity.”

    But wait, there’s more! Later episodes of Doctor Who began to portray the Daleks as not only villainous, but also pitiable, because while they’re robotic, they’re not actually robots: They’re cyborgs. Each Dalek machine is actually a combination of army tank and life support system, and inside it is the operator, a hideous little blob — utterly impotent without its mechanical shell — that is descended from human beings mutated by a nuclear war. If Daleks represent something psychologically (as opposed to politically being Space Nazis), it’s the repression of everything good — the suppression of human kindness, warmth, and connection — until the ego is a shriveled thing that can only survive in an armored shell of hate and violence, channeling its misery and self-hatred into tormenting others.

    Sincerely, a scifi fan who was terrified by the Daleks as a child and who dreamed about them the other night….


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