Lessons Learned from Stress When we encounter a stressful situation, the last thing on our minds is “how will this experience better me?” or “What is this chaos teaching me about myself?” Indeed, while trying to simply get through and survive, we often lack the resources needed for such reflection. But that doesn’t mean it’s unimportant! According to Jung, our unconscious – as represented by our inferior function – is an invaluable source of information that can enhance our development and enable us to direct our own lives in meaningful ways. From a dynamic understanding of type, we know that when we encounter severe stress, our inferior (and sometimes a nice sprinkling of our tertiary) functions can erupt, causing us to behave in ways that are unfamiliar to us as they reflect a primitive, child-like and poor version of a function that’s been overlooked. (Click here for a previous blog post on stress reactions) Jung argued in actuality, this eruption is indeed the adaptable reason for stress – it happens so that we might be reminded of what we have overlooked in our lives, and re focus our attention on developing those behaviours and mental processes in intentional ways so as to develop ourselves to the fullest. For this reason, while stress may never be pleasant, we know that by consciously developing our lesser utilized functions, the extent of the dramatic reaction to stress can be mitigated over time. The even better news is that ultimately, stress can actually help us on our journey to become individuated or whole; an ability to use all parts of ourselves as appropriate to any situation we face. To take advantage of these ‘lessons learned’ from stress, it often helps to anticipate what these might be as per our type preferences. Ask yourself if you’ve realized these new insights following a stress reaction, and have you applied them to your ongoing personal development? ESTJ and ENTJ (Extraverted Thinking Types) Often times, ESTJs and ENTJs report an understanding that they need to temper an overly-task oriented approach to life. Long periods of being ‘in the grip’ of their inferior (Introverted Feeling) can lead to a re-examination of values and sometimes lead to dramatic changes as they shift their focus from purely work-oriented accomplishments to seeking more gratification from non-work aspects of life such as social connection with friends and family. ISFP and INFP (Introverted Feeling Types) Following an “in the grip” experience, Introverted Feeling types are often able to accept – and even value – their own competitiveness, need for achievement, and desire for control. Furthermore, they gain an understanding of their own competencies, failures and insecurities, preparing them to often temper their excessive idealism with more realistic or practical goals. They may also assert their values in a new way that appropriately includes their own desires over those of other people; this is especially true if a stressful experience leads to the conclusion that others are not always inherently well-intentioned. ISTP and INTP (Introverted Thinking Types) ISTPs and INTPs often report after an in the grip experience that they have become more willing to acknowledge their own vulnerabilities. Grip experiences also make Introverted Thinking types more aware of their own depth of feeling and these individuals may even reveal their feelings to others more frequently as a result. Others report that they may also become more confident in asserting their Introverted Thinking as a valuable approach to life and may become less sensitive and concerned about their social performance – evidence of a developed extraverted feeling function. ESFJ and ENFJ (Extraverted Feeling Types) As a result of an inferior eruption, these types find that they have less intense need for harmony in their lives, and can accept real limitations on their ability to improve the lives of others. They tend to gain greater acceptance and appreciation of their ability to think logically and are more able to evaluate their own logic and face criticism in an increasingly receptive and constructive way. From stress, their typical strong responses to negative situations or a lack of harmony in their environment becomes far less disruptive. ESTP and ESFP (Extraverted Sensing Types) An “in the grip” reminder of an inferior function for these types (Introverted Intuition) enables them to tolerate future possibilities. From this, ESTPs and ESFPs can more readily make difficult decisions in ambiguous situations, accept the reality of them, and avoid looking back. After stressful experiences, these individuals may also gain more appreciation for the more mysterious aspects of life, and are less apt to dismiss the intuitive insights of other people. INTJ and INFJ (Introverted Intuitive Types) Following a severe stress reaction, these types report that they are better able to adapt to changes in their outer world, and may also set less ambitious goals to keep from falling into the grip as readily. For this reason, they may moderate an overly idealistic visionary stance in favour of one that is more realistic and practical; in general, they may also accept the shortcomings of themselves and others more frequently and with more understanding. ISTJ and ISFJ (Introverted Sensing Types) As a result of an inferior eruption, ISTJs and ISFJs begin to recognize and incorporate a broader and more flexible perspective into their lives. They can stand back from absorbing tasks and responsibilities in daily life, and reconsider their ultimate priorities. Often, this new awareness revolves around family, friends and other intimate relationships. Introverted Sensing types also report that they may find decreasing satisfaction in simply “doing their duties to others” all the time, and may take bigger risks to explore new activities that they never would have considered before. ENTP and ENFP (Extraverted Intuitive Types) ENTPs and ENFPs often respond to a stressful episode by paying more attention to details, especially the kind involved in their recent negative experience. For example, they may gain a new respect for their bodies and physical limitations, accompanied by a health or fitness regimen. They also report being better able to maintain a more balanced perspective regarding their overly ambitious expectations of themselves and try to include more quiet time or meditation in their lives. Clearly, while an In the Grip Stress reaction is unpleasant, it is not without an adaptive purpose. By acknowledging the important role stress plays in remind us what we tend to overlook and ignore within our personality, we can embrace the opportunity to better ourselves in profound ways. For more information on Type and Stress, check out “In the Grip“® by Naomi Quenk.