Nov 11, 2008

Interplay between Leading and Suggestive Function in Self-Realizing Individuals

I have written elsewhere that the suggestive function can become a source of compensatory activities to temporarily take the strain off the leading function. The explanation I gave is that the areas of the brain being used for a certain kind of activity associated with the leading function begin to use up their energy resources after a period of time (generally several hours), producing tiredness, apathy, or irritability. I hypothesized that a shift in focus (not just dabbling, but a real, full-fledged shift) to the suggestive function essentially turned off the neurons that had been active and activated those that were least connected to the worn-out neurons. This would create optimal conditions for the brain to recuperate and beef up its reserves in the depleted areas.

Presumably, over time this exercise would enhance the "firepower" of the leading function, much like weight training strengthens the muscles. In addition, it would support the suggestive function and in effect "lubricate" the brain, meaning that the brain would have less difficulty switching from state to state. The practical result of a "well lubricated" brain is less rigidity in behavior. In contrast, persisting in the use of one's leading function beyond the point of usefulness results in exhaustion and a total lack of will. I think the analogy with muscles and basically all physiological systems is apt. A powerful, but not overdone exercise of any system strengthens it; overworking any system, however, produces negative side-effects and illness. So it is with the brain.

What I have found is that self-realizing individuals -- people who have learned to focus the use of their strong functions (especially the leading function) to produce societally useful results -- almost inevitably have habits that engage their suggestive functions and provide much needed rest from their primary activities. Their main focus is so dominant that these compensatory activities are probably born of necessity. Often there is an element of the 6th function involved in the activities as well. Here are some examples:

1. Albert Einstein (ILE): He would go on rambles through the forest on a near-daily basis, as well as sail his small boat on nearby lakes. These activities exposed him to nature, sun, wind, and natural sounds and sensations, and provided relaxing physical movement. They eased his mind and give him time to reflect upon big issues without the intense focus he would display when working on a specific problem.

Einstein's music hobby also seemed to be a compensatory activity related to both introverted sensing and extraverted ethics. He often played violin with other people, giving him the chance to interact with others on an emotional, rather than mental level. He practiced the violin on a near-daily basis to give his mind a rest. The focus of this playing was not to achieve mastery, but to provide a much-needed diversion.

2. Immanuel Kant (LII): Kant was also well-known for taking walks. However, in contrast to Einstein, his walks -- begun at precisely the same time every day -- took him through the town where he lived (present-day Kaliningrad). People would greet him, and he would feel part of the community in which he lived. As an LII, the compensation Kant needed most was to experience interaction with living people and society, and not so much with nature and the physical world.

3. Winston Churchill (SLE): Churchill is well-known for being an avid and talented painter. Painting, like many other activities, can mean different things for different people, and can activate different functions depending on the painting style and approach. For him, painting was a route to tranquility and inner peace -- a state quite the opposite of the hustle and bustle and confrontation of public politics.

4. Jimmy Carter (EII): Carter is well-known for taking part in public service work such as building homes for Habitat for Humanity. As an EII who professionally uses his introverted ethics to maintain relationships with world leaders and encourage them to talk to each other and do nice things, the most effective kind of compensatory activity is doing productive physical work. Note the introverted sensing focus as well, inherent to the idea of building places for people to live.

I'm sure there a host of other examples, and I will add them as I come across them. Four examples isn't exactly a large enough number to build an entire theory. In addition, there is a certain amount of guesswork involved, as we often don't know for sure what the personal meaning of the activities is, however, extrapolation from personal experience and the experience of people you know, as well as anecdotes from the biographies of these people can give clues.

Not just relaxation, but important food for thought

In my experience, using the leading function in a focused and productive way to do something that is meaningful to you produces a satisfying "flow experience." Then, taking a break for an enjoyable suggestive function pastime provides an sense of wholeness. Inevitably, the compensatory activity provides food for thought that then works its way back into your primary work.

We can surmise that Einstein's long walks and sailing gave him opportunities to reflect upon the nature of the physical world and experience unexpected insight as a direct result of observing physical phenomena. Kant's daily walks around town gave him the chance to observe human society and interaction and reflect upon the nature of human society and culture. Churchill's painting provided him with ... something. Carter's physical volunteer work gives him chances to reflect upon the nature of cooperation, altruism, and other ideal values.

Distinguishing between compensatory and primary activities

Primary activities are:
- complex and evolving
- entail leadership, responsibility, and initiative
- require focus and energy
- directly associated with the person's most evident personality traits

Compensatory activities are:
- simple and relatively unchanging
- entail no leadership or responsibility; passive and receptive rather than initiating
- require little focus or energy expenditure
- impossible to guess based on superficial acquaintance with the person

In essence, primary activities are what you do to the world. Compensatory activities involve putting yourself in a situation where something will be done to you. To be a compensatory activity, it must be relaxing and non-achievement-oriented. I believe that as soon as one's achievement motivation is engaged, the leading function gets involved and begins calculating the best way to achieve that goal.

A hypothesis

(unrelated to the main subject of the post)

This suggests an intriguing hypothesis that I've entertained now for some time: the leading function is "located" completely or chiefly in the left hemisphere, and the suggestive function in the right. I would go beyond that to suggest that the mental functions (1 through 4) are all in the left hemisphere, while the vital functions (5-8) are in the right. "Right brain" creativity, then, is about having increased access to the vital functions. To some extent this can be trained. Some degree of right hemisphere work is necessary and healthy, but "highly creative" people who have "unlocked" their right hemisphere tend also to be more emotionally unstable. "Too much brain lubrication," you might say...

The mental functions are verbal, involve more conscious cognition, planning, "scheming," public discourse, etc. The vital functions are largely nonverbal and "learn through doing." Doesn't that sound like left versus right hemisphere?

ADDED 12/16/2008:
I've done some reading on the hemispheres and have realized that I clearly don't know enough about the subject to make such broad statements. Furthermore, the pop-psychology understanding of the brain hemispheres is exaggerated or simply incorrect.

Some real-life examples of compensatory activities

SEI: attending public lectures on scientific topics
SLI: attending foreign language evening classes, "for fun"; attending public lectures by people who've traveled to exotic countries; reading Bertrand Russell (IEE) for fun
ILI: jogging daily
IEI: petty crime and "getting into trouble" (sorry, can't think of a more positive example right now)
IEE: nature walks; backpacking
ILE: attending group picnics and campouts
EII: yardwork and fixing things around the house
LII: attending dinner parties where he is a passive participant and is taken good care of
ESE: reading philosophy for fun


Anonymous said...

this is excellent; quite a practical application of socionics theory.

Anonymous said...

"IEE: nature walks; backpacking"

funny that you mention this, I recently wrote on my own blog:

"...A good example of what I consider to be proper behavior for an IEE, is Rick deLong, who at times goes on hiking trips to balance himself out...." ;-)

John said...

"Churchill's painting provided him with ... something."

lol, why do I like having things just for the heck of it?!? :(

good article though. I've started reading books written by my dual and for some reason I feel unstoppable after a long session of doing so....


Anonymous said...

IEI: petty crime and getting into trouble? wow. whadda hobby!!

Sarra (Eliphalet) said...

"IEI: petty crime and getting into trouble"

Is this like picking fights with family just for the hell of it, or when bored?

Lol, yeah I need a hobby. :P

Brian said...

Any insight on what types with a Fi suggestive function would enjoy as a compensatory activity?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps sort of volunteering/humanitarian activity would fit the bill.. have you seen any examples of this?

Rick said...

I have seen Te types such as LSE seem really fulfilled by church activities where they get to be with people who are nice to them for no reason. Perhaps that seems mundane...:)

Anonymous said...

Thanks. It makes a lot of sense.

Keep writing,


Ryene Astraelis said...

"ESE: reading philosophy for fun"

I don't know whether this would qualify, but one of my ESE mother's hobbies is trying to prove a mathematical theory (she's a Math major and partway to a Math PhD. And she does have some interesting books. :D I know Steven Hawkings is in there somewhere.

Anonymous said...

Rick, would be nice if you could share your ideas for the other types too. Tx!

thehotelambush said...

Great post. I (LII) also love taking walks around the city. There is a certain Fe energy anywhere there is a lot of people or activity.

>Kant's daily walks around town gave him the chance to observe human society and interaction and reflect upon the nature of human society and culture.

Maybe. For me, this would defeat the purpose of the walk though, which is to basically turn your brain off.

I also know an SEE who plays subdued and introspective music by himself to relax after a long day working. I thought this was Si but it makes sense that it would actually be Ni.