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In this episode, Joel and Antonia talk about the binary nature of your inferior (3-year-old) cognitive function.

In this podcast you’ll find:

  • Each function in the 3-Yr-Old (inferior) position has a black and white, binary type of thinking or viewpoint.
  • The lower the function in the car model (stack), the less territory it takes in.
  • What does it look like when a function is in the 3-Yr-Old position?
    • Co-dependency
    • Limiting or overreaching beliefs
    • Oversimplification
  • How can this come up in relationships?
  • We are all responsible for integrating our own 3-Yr-Old function.
  • How does each function appear binary in the 3-Yr Old position?
  • Memory – Si (ENxPs):
    • Black and white with procedures, real memories or nostalgic items.
    • Does this have to be exactly the same as the past or should I completely reinvent it?
    • Real-life examples from Joel and Antonia.
  • Exploration – Ne (ISxJs):
    • All the possibilities versus no possibilities – it’s set.
    • Either nothing in my life changes or everything changes!
  • Polarities: a quick reminder – you can learn more about them in our previous podcast here
  • Perspectives – Ni (ESxPs):
    • Zero thinking about the future/implications versus obsession.
    • It either takes its own perspective – or grabs somebody else’s.
    • TV show example (Hoarders)
  • Sensation – Se (INxJs):
    • Jumping out an airplane versus using the body as just a carrier for the mind.
    • Presence versus “not present” – overwhelmed by sensory experience.
    • Immediate action or no action at all.
    • Example: the INFJ “door slam”.
  • Perceiving functions as a 3-Yr-Old (summary):
    • No “should” statements attached – focused on timelines and perception of reality only.
    • A limited viewpoint of how big or small something is.
  • Judging functions as a 3-Yr-Old (summary):
    • Decision making – how the world should be set up.
    • Extraverted judging functions – assertive about the outside world.
    • Introverted judging functions – more about self-judgement.
  • Authenticity – Fi (ExTJs):
    • Crude oversimplification of emotions.
    • Binary experience of feelings.
    • Making inner terrain and emotions really simple.
    • Intent – doesn’t see nuance.
  • Effectiveness – Te (IxFPs):
    • Being very productive versus doing nothing.
    • Obsessive (fear of letting go and causing chaos).
    • Systems – being over-elaborate versus destroying systems.
    • Oversimplification – “the system should solve everything”.
  • Back to ExTJs – how they can flip a switch to control emotions.
  • The dominant function – nuance and expression, knowing the rules; when to follow/break them.
  • The inferior function – “Why don’t I know the rules!?” – how this affects our experiences and control of it.
  • Harmony – Fe (IxTPs):
    • Overdoing it to make/maintain a connection versus divorcing from society/connection.
    • Deference to others versus demanding behavior.
    • Example: Antonia’s flatmate.
  • Accuracy – Ti (ExFJs):
    • On/off switch – “truth” versus not “truth”.
    • Need to articulate their truth versus never calling anybody out.
    • Thinking of themselves and/or others as “smart” or “not smart”.
  • How can you use this information as access points for growth?
  • Benefits of self-awareness with your 3-Yr-Old function.

In this episode Joel and Antonia talk about the binary nature of your inferior (3-year-old) cognitive function. #myersbriggs

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  • Job
    • Job
    • February 16, 2022 at 2:01 pm


    I (ENTP pref) really resonate with my 3 year old being single-mindedly focussed on standardization.
    In my jobs as an engineer I have always been striving to find the patterns (Ne), standardize the workflow (Si) and optimizing it in such a way I made my own job redundant.
    the only problem I sometimes still have is that halfway during implementation I want to redo the whole discovery of a possibly even better solution (reinventing the wheel… again….). Luckily there are quite a few Te users in engineering and project management keeping me on track and they often let me focus on the next subject because I just lose focus towards the end of implementation.

  • Julia
    • Julia
    • January 18, 2021 at 7:41 pm

    Excellent podcast and great way to look at the three year old. I can definitely see this in my inferior harmony function. I would be interested in ways to build and learn to use harmony. I notice in this podcast and others you all at times tend to be pretty harsh on ISTPs and other that use harmony poorly (or at least that is how it sounds to my 3 year old…intellectually I know you don’t mean it that way nor do I think it is appropriate to society to be using it in the ways you cite as examples). The issue I have is that in addition to creating connections being a skill it is also a need (and as you stated in another podcast something I feel compelled to use even if poorly) and I get that connections should be approached from the perspective of them being a gift to others not something to generate unintentionally uncomfortable situations to receive, I am very much stuck in the loop of feeling like since it is something I suck at it is something I don’t deserve until I figure out how to get better at. So how do I do that?

  • Tine
    • Tine
    • July 5, 2020 at 8:56 am

    ‘@Christ Hughes As I was listening to them talking about that I immediately thought "well yeah, that’s the wrong word for INTJ’s". Sounds scary…

    More general, I have noticed the binary thing with me and my brother, both INTJ, when it comes to sounds and how we experience them.

    My brother is very sensitive to noise and gets irritated or even infuriated about it. For example, when my other brother’s children come of to play at grandma’s house, there will inevitable come a point where my INTJ brother angrily shouts at them to stop shouting (oh the irony).

    I on the other hand can just sit there, reading or writing or whatever I’m doing, completely oblivious to the fact that there is any noise at all. I just block it out somehow. They could be smashing each other’s heads in and I would not notice, until they actually come running and pulling at my skirt.

  • Sanne
    • Sanne
    • May 22, 2020 at 12:32 pm

    Hi, thank you so much for this interesting episode. It’s really funny, because I see these binary behaviours a lot with my friends, but in myself not as much (maybe because it was in my blind spot). Now that I thought about it, it actually makes a lot of sense.

    I’m an INFP so Te is my 3-year-old inferior function, and I do resonate with either the “productivity or no productivity” idea. Another thing that might be related, and what I have been struggling with: I sometimes make lists of things I want to get done so I don’t get overwhelmed and give up being productive. This way I can tick off the boxes (literally of in my head). However, there are days I’m just accepting that I am not going to be very productive, so I would compromise and do one or two thing to make me feel at least somewhat productive. This makes me feel a lot better about myself, because I did something useful that day. On the other hand when I am feeling very productive I sometimes do not get everything done anyway and I used to get very frustrated about that, but I learned that it’s okay. So maybe I have created this system that works for me, I hope :)

    Also for something completely different, at the end of the episode you talked about the Fe vs Ti polarity that EXFJ’s might be confused with IXTP’s somehow. I recently met an ENFJ (who is confused if he is ENFJ or INTP) and he really has to say his truth and is always talking about facts and things that he knows very well. At first I thought that was very INTP, but due to this episode I see that that could actually be binary behaviour. He would say his truth and nothing can come between it. However, I don’t know him that well, but I will keep this in mind.

  • Izzy
    • Izzy
    • May 16, 2020 at 7:58 pm

    Hello :)

    I have spend a while trying to get good idea about how this shows up in my inferior function. I think one of the reasons its difficult for me to get a read on, is because it’s shown up for me in different ways over the years (usually in an unhealthy way). Because I have had quite a difficult relationship with my Se, I have had a tendancy to play things really safe for extended periods of time and then lose control. For example, in my mid 20’s the only thing I ate for about a year was porridge as I knew it would give me a slow release of energy and not overwhelm my mind and nervous system. I now have a very varied diet (dairy/meat and vegetables etc) but I had to slowly build up new foods or I would freak out a bit as sometimes I would add a new food that I would enjoy so that much I feared I would lose control of myself (which sometimes I did). I became more comfortable knowing that if I did lose control that it didn’t mean that it was always going to be that way, that i’d get used to it and it would naturally balance out and I am now much more spontaneous with my diet. I’m sure different iterations of this process show up in many areas of my life (hopefully not as extreme) but I have much more trust in myself that I’ve got it covered.

    I would actually love to do a sky dive, I think the only reason I haven’t done it yet is all the planning that goes into it. It’s on my bucket list though!

    I hope you are both holding up in quarantine as well as possible.
    Best Wishes

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