Tertiary function vs. pain
Life is full of pain. Physical, emotional, literal, imagined, excruciating, pleasuring, hidden, in all its possible forms it is present in every single moment of every single part of our world… Evolution is a process that works towards reducing this pain. In a big sense, all the living (and unliving) beings are moving towards the point of perfection, an invisible point that perhaps would never be reached, but a point where pain will be inexistent.
Evolution though is a big word, though the same process that happens to the world as a whole can be also seen on its every minor level. It is there for the simple reason that we have a dimension called ‘time’ that makes everything move along its path. And movement is development, which is, on a larger scale – evolution. In this particular case we will focus on such a minor detail of the universe as a human being and their psyche.
Every single moment every human being is developing in a way to make his/her life easier, thus developing to reduce the bigger or lesser pains they would encounter on their lifepath. It might not seem to be like that at first sight, a lot of this process happens on a subconscious level. Everybody does it in their own way, often it is difficult to understand why one does it not the way you would do it, but it’s just the way it works. To look in terms of MBTI, for example an ISTJ would never understand the way an ENTP decides to develop himself, and the other way round.
So what does the tertiary function have to do with this all?
While the dominant and the auxiliary function are pretty easy to spot and to explain, the tertiary and the fourth functions are often seen as something that is there, but no one actually knows where they come from and what do they actually do. They are a shadow, but what is exactly their function?
After a lot of observation, my hypothesis is that the tertiary function is nothing more or less than a mask, a mask that can be used in different ways for different logical or emotional reasons. The tertiary function works on different levels, which develop alongside each other. But on each level it is a weapon of development, a weapon against psychological pain, and maybe the strongest one.
First of all, there is an instinctual level. Every single person on this earth has encountered the feeling of insecurity or been in a situation where they felt uncomfortable and stressed. This is the moment when the instinctive mask comes up. It is a kind of an unconscious shield to protect us of the pain that we would otherwise encounter from that situation. For example insecurity, you are afraid that the others would do or think something that will make you feel bad. Feeling bad is pain, fear in itself is the worst type of psychological pain one can have. Very simply speaking, if you are afraid that others don’t like you the way you are the best shield would be to act totally different. So you subconsciously put up your tertiary function, you show it in public as if it is your dominant one. Maybe in some cases it would make you feel better while hiding behind this mask. It gives you the sense of false confidence. Though remember one thing: the tertiary function is not the one that is natural to you, like the dominant function, you do not develop it from the moment you make your first steps, this function is underdeveloped and acting on the level of a child, doesn’t matter how well you develop it, it will always stay a couple of steps behind the dominant one. That’s why you hear people saying they act as a ‘retard’ when insecure and can be a genius while ‘being themselves’, thus acting from their natural dominant function.
Taking this hypothesis into account, there is another point that can be deduced out of it: in my opinion the third function is often the one that you see when you first meet a person, the first impression. Meeting a new person everyone would encounter a feeling of discomfort, ‘fear’ for the new, how small and hidden it might be, it is still an instinct. And then your instinctive mask flyes over the face to hide your true self. It can take seconds or months to look past the mask of the first impression, depending on both people involved.
The second level is the one which comes and develops the older you get and the better you develop your tertiary function. This second level is the one where you learn to use your tertiary function on a conscious level. Instead of just hiding behind your mask in the moments of discomfort, you start exploring other ways how this mask can be used. It then might become an ever more powerful weapon that would help you get things you want, again, to diminish a pain. You might try using functions that are not in the list of your type, and you can try to develop them to be your mask, but only the function that belongs on the third place of the list could become the perfect mask that will not shine through.
Though this mask will still remain a mask, the better you develop it, the more you’ll be aware of it, and be aware of yourself faking. This is also what the development of this function is about: to learn to use it more consciously and raise it from the level of being just an instinct.