Today is my birthday, and during this day I usually reflect on how much I’ve grown and how much more growing I have to do. As I contemplate my own development, I can’t help but to look at how our personality affects our maturation. So today, in the spirit of self-reflection, I’d like to look at four things that happen to our personality as we age.
#1 Our Dominant Function Forms by Age 7
Carl Jung, the famed Swiss psychologist who is the forefather to what later became Myers-Briggs personality theory, stated that by age 7 our dominant cognitive function crystalizes. In personality theory, the cognitive functions are the eight building blocks of our personality type. Each of us use all eight functions, but are more comfortable with some and less comfortable with others. The order in which you use the functions determines your personality type, and your dominant function is the one that you feel most comfortable using. Below is a chart that outlines the first four functions for each personality type.
Using myself as a case study, I’m ENFP and my dominant function is Extraverted Intution (Ne). Extraverted Intuition involves processing the external world to imagine possibilities. My imagination and creativity was evident early on in life, and I had already won a few creative writing contests by age 7. I had also taken up song writing by this age as well. My dominant function was definitely at work early in my life, and if you look back at your childhood you’ll find that your dominant function probably played just as a significant role in yours!
#2 Our Auxiliary Function Forms in Our Late Teens – 20’s
Our auxiliary function is our second most comfortable function, and according to Carl Jung develops by our late teens to mid 20’s. Our auxiliary function supports our dominant function, and is supposed to make us more balanced. However, for many people a battle ensues between these two functions.
The problem is that our dominant function can sometimes be so strong that our auxiliary function becomes its slave. Let’s use a male ISFP as an example of this issue. Our male ISFP’s dominant function is Introverted Feeling, and his auxiliary function is Extroverted Sensing. Introverted Feeling (Fi) is the function that involves personal values and beliefs. Extroverted Sensing (Se) involves using the five senses to experience the physical world in the present moment. An ISFP who’s Fi is too dominant runs the risk of using Se to rubber stamp their internal beliefs, as opposed to using it to discover new things about the external world. What does this look like in real life?
Let’s say our male ISFP believes he is God’s gift to women. He may use Se (exploring the physical world) to reaffirm his Fi belief (that he’s God’s gift to women) by sleeping with a bunch of women. He will then use any positive experience that he has with these women as confirmation that he is indeed God’s gift to them (his Fi value). Any information that he gets that is contrary to his Fi values (i.e. a woman telling him that he’s a bad lover or that he’s a terrible person) will be ignored.
In most cases, the war between our dominant and auxiliary function pans itself out, and we become more well-rounded adults as a result.
#3 We Develop Our Tertiary Function in Our Late 20s-30s
Our tertiary function ranks third in order of comfort on our cognitive function list. According to Jung, this function usually develops in our 30’s. Our 20’s is usually the period where the dominant vs. auxiliary function war happens, but by the time our 30’s arrive we’re ready to start developing the tertiary function. I’ll use myself as an example again. As an ENFP, my tertiary function is Extraverted Thinking (Te). Te involves using logic to organize and control the external environment. Te is the function that many entrepreneurs use to develop businesses (especially ENTJ, ESTJ, and INTJ types), and I coincidentally got bit by the entrepreneurial bug in my late 20’s/early 30’s.
#4 The Preferences in Our Personality Type Become Less Pronounced
As we age and become more balanced, the preferences within our personality type (Extroversion vs. Introversion, Intuition vs. Sensing, Thinking vs. Feeling, and Judging vs. Perceiving) become less pronounced. We become more comfortable with our opposite preferences, and better able to access them with comfort. This explains why an Extrovert who partied a lot in her 20’s, learns to appreciate a quiet night at home in her 30’s. Or why a person with an extreme Thinking preference in their 30’s, becomes more warm hearted and gentle in his 50’s.
How has your personality changed as you aged? Feel free to share your experiences below.