Pinning Down a Non-Hierarchical Definition of the Tertiary Function


First post. Whoooo! Yeah, let’s go! Unh!

Okay, so we all know this little thing here called the tertiary function. We all know which particular tertiary function we have. We know what it feels like, how it works, how we use it, and how we can oh-so-unknowingly grasp at the tertiary function like no other type (except our only other middle-two-function-doppelganger with a cuckolded-dominant-function) can.

And, we can be so tempted by the tertiary function and all that it promises - on the surface, at least. Indeed, it is the function we have that we feel is lacking, but aren’t so utterly powerless in compensating for.

It is evident to both Blake and I that the denotation of “tertiary” is really quite a poor misnomer. It suggests a hierarchical strength of the functions, when in reality things are rarely ever so stratified. I remember first learning about my own auxiliary and tertiary functions, immediately thinking to myself, “this theory must be flawed, for I feel that my tertiary is stronger than my auxiliary!” (But perhaps, this was because I was in a dominant-tertiary loop, ohoho).

But, after stumbling upon Blake’s site, it was heartening to discover someone else who had recognized the same phenomenon and was able to verbalize it when in my case, everything was still swirling around in an incubatory space that is the subconscious of my psyche.

So, with the set ordering of the functions shot down, how might we put a finger on what the tertiary function actually entails? How does it contrast with the auxiliary?

When attempting to grasp the tertiary function, how might we understand it? Does it work in parallel with the auxiliary function? Can it be completely disabled? Or is it continually working in the background, unbeknownst to us?

I suppose the classic analogy would be to a computer. But since I’m not very fond of computerized thinking, how about we formulate another one? To try to convey the sense of what my mind’s eye sees (so cliche, I know), I imagine a comparison between the act of eating and the act of drinking. Both serve to support bodily functions and continued homeostasis. But it would be foolish to say that eating supersedes drinking in strength, or that drinking supersedes eating in importance. These statements imply that both belong to the same spectrum, and as such can be judged by the same metric of strength, or importance.

No. Nein. Nay. Nuh-uh. No sirree. Nope. Negatory.

Wrong mode of thinking.

So, brethren and sistren, we must be able to pin down a definition for the tertiary and auxiliary functions. But not definition in the strictly Ti sense. Because that would get us nowhere. But Ti can stay around and help us here and there, adding a little clarity to the main dish, and perhaps topping it off with a flambé of logical refinement. Asymptotic limits and purely descriptive tautologies of logic, y’all. Perhaps “picture” would be a better word than “definition.” Sure, let’s go with that.

Have at it, humanoids.


Maybe beaks?

Like, birds eat things. But they have different beaks. If they wanted to eat something their beak wasn’t make for, they would have to have a different beak. When a bird is hungry, it doesn’t think about the kind of beak it has, it just goes to eat what it can. Because they eat what their beak is made for, it kind of has that tertiary effortlessness. But at the same time, it would seem inefficient in the sense that the bird’s beak could only eat certain things?

Hm, maybe…


Right now I think of the id as the wild untamed horse, the auxiliary is probably like the showhorse who can do fancy jumps and has good finesse, and the tertiary is the workhouse who isn’t that fancy but gets the job done but can be overworked. I guess the dominant is the rider in a way, which still makes it as bit hierarchical, but I suppose with a description like “dominant” or “ego”, it can’t be helped. lol Do horses have “leaders”? I guess the dom can be the leading horse. Inferior is the trick horse. I guess they can also do fancy jumps or cute tricks but get frazzled easily.

Maybe relating to the body would make sense. Dom is like the conscious brain, id is the nervous system–reactive/reflexive, aux are like the limbs–particularly hands for getting things done?, tertiary is the heart that keeps pumping but does react to help prep the aux and dom to “do something”, and inferior is like the skin and guts which is reactive to the environment but in a less refined way? Haha
Maybe the id and dom shares the bone/skeletal domain. Can you imagine? “My bones are Ni and Fi” kind of being the structure of nothingness/eternity and emotional torrents for INFJ. A bit trippy. INTJ bones being Ni and Ti looks much cleaner.


Nice analogies!

I like the image of beaks :slight_smile:. But I guess the issue still remains that all bird beaks are still beaks. Even though there may be different types, the fact remains that all beaks have a certain shape, size, function, biological composition, hardness, etc. And these qualities can be evaluated based on the same metrics. So, I guess what I’m looking for is a more pronounced distinction between the tertiary function and all the other functions.

I like the body analogy! Especially the distinction between the hands and the heart. Your hands are often your best tool for getting things done. Actually, they might be your only means to getting things done. Without your hands, how are you able to accomplish what it is you set out to accomplish?

With the heart, it’s not like you can say, “Oh yes, the heart is definitely more important than the hands,” or “the hands are definitely more important than the heart.” Both are integral to the process of accomplishing something, but in completely different ways. Without the heart, there is no survival. Without the hands, there are no means to actually accomplishing anything. But it’s not like you can evaluate both on the same scale of measuring importance and say, “The heart has X more of Z, and the hands have Y more of Z.” Therefore, one is more important than the other, yada yada yada. Both have importance that lie in completely different realms, and cannot be evaluated in the same manner (or in something as simple as a designation of strength such as “auxiliary” or “tertiary.”)

I guess what just popped in my head are the various components of stringed instruments such as the violin. Without the bow, there are no means for producing sound. But the violin itself is the resonant box that actually produces the sound. Without the strings and the bridge, there are also no means for producing sound. The strings are what produce the preliminary vibrations that are amplified by the dominant function, the body of the instrument. The bridge is what transfers these preliminary vibrations to the body of the instrument to be amplified. Without any one of these parts, there is no violin. The differing parts cannot be measured by importance; they all serve differing yet integral roles. Perhaps the bow is the auxiliary function, the best tool for expressing the sound you want to express out of your violin. The rest I’m not so sure of.

Keep 'em coming!


Id could be autonomous nervous system?


For me the tertiary is mainly located in the head, not the heart. But of course INFJs have Ti as the tertiary, so that makes sense. I say “mainly”, because sometimes my Ti manifests through my hands - like when I’m comparing the weight of two objects by holding one in each hand. Or when I am fine-tuning the controls on a delicate analytical instrument at work.

As for my Fe auxiliary: this is very much a Solar function for me; both metaphorically (as using Fe in an active, creative sense is when I “shine” at my best) and literally, because it seems to be physically centred in my Solar Plexus.

As for the Fi Id: this seems to be intimately linked to my heart. The strongest, deepest and most honest feeling-states are centred here. Longing, sadness, obsession, loss and heartbreak in the negative; but joy, compassion and unselfish love in the positive. In those rare times when Fi and Fe are fully aligned and cooperating as one, I literally feel a warm sensation arising in my heart and emanating outwards!


What a beautiful metaphor to describe the INFJ’s psyche! What would be an example of a scenario where Fi and Fe are fully aligned and cooperating as one? I want to know if I’ve ever experienced that before, and if so, to be able to conjure up how it feels so that I may better empathize with your description.

But I guess the issue is, would any of this be valid for the 15 other types that aren’t INFJ? I know how romantic these descriptions sound, especially when pairing them to their respective functions in the INFJ’s functional stack. But they don’t quite make sense when ascribing to other types.

What I was trying to go for, is perhaps a metaphor that deals less with the location of the sensations in our bodies as subjectively felt by us (or perhaps only some) INFJs, and instead a metaphor that is completely detached from our own psyches, but is valid in terms of the objective functions of its constituent parts. So, rather than the deep feeling of Fi, romanticized to be emanating from the heart (but probably not in reality), we would consider the heart as a metaphor in its literal function and role to support the body. And, in turn, the entire (non-romanticized, more utilitarian and taken at face-value) body would a metaphor for a human’s psyche in general, not just specifically the INFJ’s psyche.

I guess I’m trying to purge my own qualities from the metaphor I’m trying to construct, such that I might arrive at a universally valid and unbiased model that stands on its own, merely uncovered by an INFJ but not colored or affected by the INFJ that uncovered it. Does that make any sense? (Wow, I suddenly understand why many INFJs (including myself) feel that they are simply handed the insight that has always been there in the first place, feeling like they are undeserving in any way of credit for “synthesizing” a model or explanation or the insight for what has always been evident. Cathartic.)

Right, the thought process is not quite synthesizing (in a Ti iterating type of way), but rather uncovering. Uncovering what has been, and always will be, there. What’s the valid next step? My Ni will not allow me to proceed until the valid next step has been uncovered. But it’s not like I synthesized the next step to be uncovered. The world did. Existence did. The next step itself was already in existence. I merely saw it and added it to my model. I guess I could take credit for even recognizing it as the next step, but mostly that’s automatic. My Ni just recognizes it automaticallly, with no conscious (hah) effort on my part. (Get it? Because Ni represents the unconscious? Ok, I’ll stop). I guess that’s just what it feels like to have Ni as a dominant function. We don’t use Ni, but rather experience it.

This is completely going off on a tangent, but I was just thinking about the possible correlation between perceived exertion/effort and taking credit for things as a function of psyche. For example, I don’t take credit for anything my Ni does, because it just does it without me doing anything. (Hah, do I sound dissociated or what?). But, as we move down the functional stack, I start to feel like I take progressively more credit. For example, with respect to my art, I still feel that the art gives itself over to me in its complete form, and I merely provide a medium for it to be expressed, whether on paper or canvas. But, the effortful process itself is reason enough for me to feel like taking at least some credit for my art. Moving down to Ti, I start to take a ton more credit because it’s more effortful for me. For example, I take full credit for my essay exposing philosopher Frank Jackson’s equivocations, and demonstrating how his viewpoints constitute an insufficient account against physicalism. But, I guess I take credit because it was effortful, and I actually had to synthesize various counterarguments from other philosophers to weave a cohesive argument that coincided with my Ni insight. Then, we move down to Se. And I always take full credit for Se :slight_smile:. For example, I take full credit for the recital I rocked last Wednesday. I also take full credit for…I don’t fucking know, do I even do anything that’s Se? What’s Se? :upside_down:


A bit I don’t have time to explore at the moment but to mention it—When Stewart was mentioning heart and head and Solar plexus, and I feel the same, and then you mentioned wanting a system that fits everyone not just INFJ, the Chakras sprung to mind. I wonder if the feelings of different functions could be attributable to all according to type? I mean like would everyone with Se feel it in the same place etc?
I realize there are but seven, but then I thought could Ne and Ni both be crown?
I will have to chew on this later… I am way busy and need to keep my focus on Se big time this month. Not gonna stop me from browsing on my breaks though.


Hey, TinyYellowTree - you are spot on with your intuition about te Chakras, because I had the same idea while writing my post above.

I was going to mention in the last post that I often experience my Ni function as being focussed at a point roughly centred inside my head (above the eyes and behind the forehead) and it was at that point that I realised this correlates with the so-called Third Eye Chakra. The rest then fell into place after that.

So, here are some hypothetical function/chakra correlations we can discuss:

Ni = Anja (Third Eye)
Fe = Manipura (Solar Plexus)
Fi = Anahata (Heart)

As for Ti, on reflection I mainly experience this as an internal voice. I’ve posted on this before and there was a general consensus among the INFJs who responded (in various forums) that it is very common for INFJs to have a constant internal monologue. When my own Ti gets overinflated, I find I can’t switch the damn thing off, and it begins to manically categorise and analyse everything. It speaks in a somewhat dry, monotone, droning voice, which it uses to constantly “explain” reality for me:

“This is a spoon, that’s a fork, they are both items of cutlery. Cutlery can be made of metal or plastic. Oriental cultures use plastic or wooden chopsticks instead of cutlery…bla, bla, bla…”

Sometimes this can be useful, but it is extremely annoying at 4am when I am desperately trying to get some sleep!

So if Ti is linked to internal speech (at least in INFJs), then maybe:

Ti = Visuddha (Throat Chakra)

As for Se, this would be more body-based. Se is also very visual, but rapidly assimilates the incoming images into the body for a kind of instinctual assessment (pain/pleasure, friend/enemy, beautiful/ugly, sexy/unsexy).

So maybe:

Se = Svadisthana (Sacral Chakra or Tan Tien)


I knew that you were seeing this! And thank you for letting me know I did! As I wrote, I felt you. And it feels fantastic because it is so rare for me to receive such a validation.
Because the fear came. The ‘I should not have spoken’ fear. The ‘shut up and listen’ admonition.
I don’t know very much about Chakras yet, just a little, but when I did look into it, it said my Visuddha was blocked, and I can verify that though my inner dialogue never seems to quit, when I go to try to say something, even nothing much, that my words disappear. Whatever words that is, that are needed most to make sense to anyone. And I am left trying to laugh it off, though it is not at all a rare glitch with me. Funny the irony.
It is very late and I want to say more, but need to sleep. I love you today.


I am such a freak…


No! Do speak up! Do do do:)!!


Thanks Lunar, much appreciated. And a sweet little avatar you got there.


@Kevin.K, how are you and your functions doing in The Old Country? :cherries: :bomb:



Howdy! It’s splendid over here! But I also have a ridiculous amount of work. That can be construed as either ridiculously good, or ridiculously absurd (preferably both). I’m writing an 8-page philosophy paper every week, and I’m loving it! (Hating it) (Loving it). Did I mention that I’m writing an 8-page philosophy paper right now? Did I also mention that it’s 4 am? I don’t even have time for my own radio show! (But I’ll find time for that. I will! Will you now? Yes, yes daddy, yes I will. Now, that’s a good boy. I love you, daddy.)

It’s so great here, and so proper. But sometimes I miss the casualness of the States. I can’t let loose here, for fear that even the homeless will sneer at me in condescension. Then I have a flashback to how fun it was in the States, and realize that those kinds of experiences and England are incommensurable (well, maybe I can’t speak for the entire country, but at least I can speak for the city I’m in). The posh idea of letting loose here is using a comma splice in place of a semicolon on a Wednesday night. Whoo, let’s get craazy!

But other than that, while the propriety was novel at first, I’ve become kind of numbed by it. Everything, anything, anywhere, everywhere, is proper and no other. It’s (literally) monochromatic. I want to let loose. I want colors in my life! Why won’t this city let me let loose?!

And not “let loose” like mingle with a bunch of drunk posh kids after a fucking champagne reception. I wanna let loose like when my friend blasts gansta rap in my car and I flash the fucking high beams at freshmen kind of let loose. That sort of shit won’t fly here. It can’t fly here. It’s like trying to start life on a planet with no water. It just can’t happen. There’s no prospect for it to happen, because the requisite environment isn’t present.

But the upside of the utter propriety is that you meet some people who have been immersed in this their entire life. And as a result they are terrifyingly talented. So terrifying that I am reduced to the most minuscule, microscopic iota of any human being on Earth. And I love that. I want to feel small so I can grow. And this environment has definitely made me grow, because I automatically rise to meet the challenge of whatever environment I’m in. And oh boy, have I met the challenge. Nothing less than the best is expected here. That’s just how it is, and that’s what everyone has agreed upon. It’s an unspoken understanding. You’re here, so you must be the best at whatever you’re doing. In the entire fucking world. No buts :peach:


Good for you that you feel challenged and like the growth. I am impressed. I just know I would feel really intimidated in those circumstances. Even if I chose the best thing I thought I could do.
And the propriety thing, lol! You can come here for some serious impropriety at the moment. Erika is on a rampage.



That is sooo great! I’m really glad you are having fun and working hard. Well, trying to have fun? Nah, it sounds like you’re having a blast!

Haha. You’re funny. Come on?! Really?! Doesn’t England have some crazy underground places??? Maybe that’s the trick, you have to go below the surface to find the “fun”.

So, basically I should stay clear of this place…okay!

That’s awesome, Kevin!!! You are rising to the challenge. It doesn’t seem like it’s beating you. You are strong. Grrr! Go get 'em tiger. Thanks for checkin back in with us here.

I hope you are going to see the art? The museums that house all of the cool shit. The old shit. Like mummies and stuff.


Haha I just might have to take you up on that offer!

I guess I’ll find out during my Easter break coming up very soon!

Thanks for the encouraging words! I’ll get 'em for sure :tiger2:

And most definitely, I’m going to see the Royal Academy next week actually! In a way my current city is itself a work of art as well. Not sure if I’ll see a lot of old shit unless I come across a petrified poop exhibit; I’ll report back if I do!