Notes: This excerpt has been taken from Lenore Thomson's wiki. The tertiary function correlates most closely with activating function in socionics (the "hidden agenda").
When introverts run into a situation that their Dominant Function can't handle, they need to adapt by negotiating, going along with the limitations of low-bandwidth social interaction, or otherwise doing something that does not involve total control or understanding of the situation. The Tertiary Function provides justification for maintaining an Introverted approach directly opposite to the worldly expansiveness that the person is ready for.
Tertiary Si: "I can't possibly go along with this, I don't have any reliable concepts or map to anchor myself with: it's all arbitrary and untrustworthy and meaningless. I'd be diving in without any orientation; I'd be tripped up or harmed from any random direction, and my efforts wouldn't be cumulative. I just won't budge. I'll build myself some barricades and wait for the storm to blow over." The Secondary Function would say: "Look around, shake up the pot, see what new arises, and deal with it imaginatively; there must be better alternatives available than being stuck here."
Tertiary Ni: "I can't possibly go along with this, 'cuz it's all a lie. It's all a set-up by the Man. I'd just be serving his interests and not my own. I'm not gonna be suckered by all this self-serving bull. No way, man, I gotta go my own way." The Secondary Function would say: "This thing's bigger than you. Better just go with the flow, do what you can, trust your instincts to deal with what's right here and now."
Tertiary Ti: "I can't possibly go along with this, because it makes no sense. It's filled with internal contradictions. It's crude and not true to the real principles of how this works. It's trying to shove an inappropriately a priori conceptual structure onto the reality. I will have to go by feel, and where it leads I can't know until I get there. I've got to trust this groove regardless of people's arbitrary expectations." The Secondary Function would say: "You've reached the limits of what you can do alone. You can make others feel important by telling them your needs and asking for their help, and yielding some genuine control to them. See who you can find common cause with."
Tertiary Fi: "I can't possibly go along with this, because it would mar my soul. It's not 'me'. I am a good person, and in order to maintain my integrity, I need to steer clear of this. This is the responsibility of those other people: it emerges from their souls, not mine, so it's their problem." The Secondary Function would say: "Do something. Take responsibility even if no one gave it to you, and go after some tangible gain right now, within the limits of the situation and your current understanding. That will improve your position, after which you can re-assess and plot a new course."
For extraverts, the Tertiary Temptation arises when Orienting by socially defined expectations is failing them. To find their way, they need an independent integrity or awareness, which cannot be developed by understanding oneself solely in terms of how people respond to you. The Tertiary Function provides a way of Orienting in an Extraverted way--a way of Orienting directly opposite to the Introverted discovery that the person's current situation is naturally leading to.
Tertiary Se: "I'll physically intimidate him. I'll brandish a little power and he'll get back in line. Beneath all our refinement, people are just animals, and let me tell you, this animal will not be denied. I'll go with my gut instinct here. You can't know everything in advance, you have to trust your gut in each moment. Good thing my gut is trustworthy. A person with lesser character wouldn't be able to trust his luck the way I can." The Secondary Function would say: "What is really dangerous here and what's just a paper tiger? What are some options you haven't considered yet only because the current way appears--falsely--to be necessarily so?"
Tertiary Ne: "Ok, then, I'll bluff. We'll see how he responds to that. I don't know where this is leading, but at least it's leading somewhere new. This takes courage. Most people wouldn't have the courage to reach for the unknown at a time like this, but I can, because I can trust my principles to work in any new situation." The Secondary Function would say: "What are the facts here, really? Set the decision-making criteria aside and look at the facts freely, without without regard to any particular purpose or how the facts appear to others."
Tertiary Te: "Unfair!! I have to stick to my guns, I will not be bullied or cheated. Any number of authorities agree with me. All my friends agree with me. Everyone can see that my response is directly mandated by the situation: anything else would be irresponsible. These facts absolutely settle the matter, and there is no point in looking at it any further." The Secondary Function would say: "Fair or not, reasonable or not, recognized by anyone or not, what would truly accomplish some good here?"
Tertiary Fe: "I'll lay a guilt trip on this guy, tell him all I've done for him and suggest that the next time he's in a tough spot, he might need my help. Well, hmm, ok, I'll be all friendly. I'll smile, tell him I like him, what a great guy he is. Well, hmm, that's not working, either. Ok, I'll make him look bad in the eyes of his friends." The Secondary Function would say: "What is the truth? Not what people would agree is true, not an angle on the truth for making it palatable to someone, but the whole, honest truth?"
Example of Tertiary Temptation in INTP
Due to having Ti as his dominant function, the INTP tends to live introspectively, engaging in introverted activities. At some point in his life, his inferior Fe will cause him to want to bond with others. However, his inferior Fe is too weak to engage in the social games that people play, so it cannot fulfill its own goal. Neither can dominant Ti solve the INTP's social difficulties; in fact, it leads the INTP to turn up his nose at the seemingly idiotic social world. Tertiary Si will affirm this attitude, by convincing the INTP that trying to socialize would surely end in disaster, because he doesn't have any kind of roadmap to navigate the arbitrary social world with. Or maybe his Ti will lead him to take a highly judgmental attitude that people just don't work the way they should.
From the standpoint of the disgruntled INTP, people seem weak, irrational, and emotional, with no stomach for the "truth". He will tell you all the ways in which the current social system is dysfunctional, and how should it be resigned to fit some better underlying principles. In this case, his tertiary Si will tempt him into only associating with people he feels safe with, and who won't challenge his overly introverted attitude. He will think "most people have absolutely no clue, so I need to find the few people who do and stick with them." The INTP's inferior Fe might falsely believe that only associating with like-minded people is the solution to his social difficulties.
In short, his Ti and Si keep him semiotically disoriented and unable to relate to the extraverted social world.
Without Ne, the INTP will believe that he will be totally lost in the social world, because he doesn't understand how it works. Even when he tries to socialize in this mindset, he will feel he never has anything to say. This feeling of helplessness and "analysis paralysis" is due to his semiotic disorientation. When he does say something, he will be careful not to rock the boat (Si), because he feels he doesn't know how to socialize (Ti), and wants to hide this fact from others to avoid incurring a negative reputation (inferior Fe). For instance, he might take on the role of a "nice guy". Ironically, such fear to express his personality might make others believe he is boring and antisocial, and contribute to the negative reputation he developed in the first place! In the end, he will fall back on the areas of life where he feels that he knows what he is doing (Si). These areas will usually be his old introverted activities, so he will be back to square one.
To summarize, Fe goals tend to get the INTP's Ti/Si into a semiotically disoriented muddle that leaves him no method of relating to the task at hand.
Enter: Extraverted Intuition...
Ne offers the INTP another perspective that can help with his social difficulties. It will encourage him to improvise, experiment, and attune himself to the world of possibilities in social interaction. He will be witty, unique, and say whatever nobody else thought of. Through his Ne creativity and experimentation, his Ti will be able to able to figure out the underlying principles behind socializing. During social interaction, the Ne can reign free, and the Ti can analyze everything afterwards when it won't interfere. Thus, the Ti is brought back on board and has a way of constructively relating to the task. When the Ti manifests itself to help an INTP figure out how people tick, it is helping him meet his Fe goals. Fundamentally, Ne frames the social world as a place of exciting new possibilities just waiting to be understood, providing the Ti with a way of semiotically orienting itself to those goals.
Contrast the hyper-introverted attitudes of Ti + Si with the more extraverted attitudes of Ti + Ne. "I need to stay in control of everything to be sure it comes out right" vs. "I'll take my chances in the wider world and deal with whatever comes up":
- Ti + Si (+ inferior Fe): "People's customs about political correctness are so arbitrary, I have no hope of understanding them: every guess about how I should behave is just a shot in the dark... It's best to just play it safe with people, because if I mess up, they will just think I'm a nerd with no social skills."
- Ti + Ne: "Maybe I don't understand customs and etiquette yet. Maybe I will never understand them. I don't need to understand them, because I will respond dynamically to any situation that unfolds before me. The boring smile-and-say-customary-things approach doesn't work for me, but I can try something outrageous that people have never seen before, and see what that opens up. Maybe it will bring me to the attention of people who can appreciate what I've got to offer, maybe it will get me a black eye, maybe something I can't even anticipate. Only one way to find out!"
- Ti + Si: "Most people have no clue how the universe works, so I need to stick with the few who do. I would just get bogged down explaining basic concepts in some moronic set of terms to people who will just misunderstand everything and foul it up anyway. ."
- Ti + Ne: "If I limit my social circle to a few fellow misanthropes, I will never go anywhere in the world. When in public or with a stranger, I can try putting some small idea on the table--just a tiny piece of the whole picture, just enough to excite people's imagination. It'll start something. People will have no choice but to deal with it. They'll want to deal with it because it relates to their existing interests. I'll be fairly sure of that because I'll sniff out what those interests are. People will start having fun with the idea in their own way, going beyond what I can imagine."
Ne, as a way to expand outward into the world rather than as a way to gather fuel for more Ti analysis, leads you to "plant seeds" of potential: to add something new to what's going on that opens up the potential for something not entirely known to happen--but something where there are real stakes. It leads you to choose your seeds to fit the existing social arena, and to collect tangible winnings when a seed bears fruit.
With this analysis in mind, it is easy to see how the tertiary temptation affects INFPs also (this might happen when the Te pressures the INFP to stop dreaming and get some results).
- Fi + Si: "I must proceed cautiously into the unknown, or I will just mess up and feel like crap!"
- Fi + Ne: "I will just improvise until I find a way to connect to this person. If we don't have anything to offer one another, I'll just move on and play with someone else."
- Fi + Si (+ inferior Te): "If I fail, that'll only prove that I'm not practical, I don't know what I'm talking about, and I can't deliver on what I promise."
- Fi + Ne: "If I fail, I'll learn something: it'll give me fuel to be creative and think of something new, that probably only I could think of. There's nothing like a difficulty with real stakes involved to spur my creativity!"