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The Tandem Principle

If you've been paying attention, you know that all of us CAN and DO use all eight of the cognitive processes Jung named.  In fact, my CD allows you to experience all eight of these processes in one sitting!  

Hopefully you don't believe things like "'Thinkers' don't feel," and "'Feelers' don't think" -- in truth, the very idea of "thinkers" and "feelers" is idiotic.

Now let me further demonstrate how this notion of separate, discrete categories of behavior doesn't bear out in real life.

One of the reasons the type model is messy is because of its many moving parts -- and it's complicated to identify what's operating at any given moment.  (Here I've been striving to provide clarity about each of the different processes, and now I risk everything going to mud.  Yikes!)

Tandem processing is the result of something Dr. Linda Berens observed in her decades of working with type.  She noticed that whenever one of the processes showed up, it was usually supported by a second process working in the background.  She likened it to a bicycle, where the front wheel leads the way, but the back wheel is never far behind, and does its fair share of work.

Based on these real-life observations, she created what is called the "Tandem Principle."  

We now believe that cognitive processes seldom function on their own, but usually within the context of a personality PATTERN.  And that the corresponding tandem process is always lurking in the background.

Here's a graphical representation of the tandem processes:

These are the combinations we typically see.  In the Beebe "windmill" model, these are always the "spine" or the "arms" of the windmill.

Notice how each axis is dedicated to either perceiving or judging.  Each axis has an introverted tip and an extraverted tip.  It seems we humans are in the habit of shuttling back and forth along these various axes.  Our favored processes are the arrow points we tend to "linger" on, but it's not difficult to shuttle to the other side of the axis and "dip into" the corresponding process to support what our favorites are up to.  It's a way we maintain balance.

I don't know about you, but if I spend too much time in any one process, I start to feel dizzy.  It's just too much, even when it's my favorite!

In the case of my INFJ pattern, I notice that whenever I use extraverted Sensing, it's almost an instant "trigger" for my introverted iNtuiting to show up.  Conversely, whenever I go to town with my introverted iNtuiting, it isn't long before my extraverted Sensing shows up and demands to convert my fantasies into realities.  

I constantly shuttle back and forth along the axis.  Yes, Ni is and always will be my favorite, but I constantly "dip into" extraverted Sensing to propel me to greater and greater heights of Ni.  Let's suppose I... ummmm... fantasize about getting married at Stonehenge.  What an outrageous idea, hunh?!  Then extraverted Sensing shows up.  Can it be done?  So I check it out.  YES IT CAN!  So what would that look like?  It could look like a medieval handfasting.  Is that legal?  NO IT'S NOT.  So how do I overcome that obstacle?  I imagine I could get married in a legal ceremony first, on the same day!  Yes!  Where would I do that?  I find a registry office that permits this unusual sequence!  How will we get there?  I imagine a nice bus carrying all of our guests, perhaps operating out of London.  Perfect!  Hey, maybe we should spend a week in London first, touring around!  YES, what a good idea!  Are there any inexpensive hotels that make that feasible?  Yes there are!

And so on and so forth, shuttling back and forth between fantasy and reality until -- you guessed it! -- we were married at Stonehenge on May 1st, 2002.  So that's an example of one tandem process hard at work, with Ni leading the dance.

This dynamic process reminds me of:

"If you have built castles in the air, your work is not lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them!"  ~Henry David Thoreau

My ISFP CEO friend does it the other way around.  He sees what's working, and quickly "dips" into Ni to grab an idea of what to do next or get a rough image of what success will look like.  Then he takes action again.  He leads with Se, and dwells on that side of the tandem more than the Ni side where I hang out.

How about Fe / Ti?  Well, for me it shows up around relationships.  Let's say something goes awry with a relationship.  Extraverted Feeling is feeling bruised.  So I shuttle over to introverted Thinking to ANALYZE what happened.  I come up with some possible frameworks, and then I shuttle back over to extraverted Feeling to see how they land, to try to work with the problem and improve the relationship.  Thus I shuttle back and forth between Ti & Fe, with Fe leading the charge of course.  (If I can't work out the problem and the relationship is terminated, I may fall into the grip of Ti analysis paralysis and even lapse into depression.)

Linda Berens (INTP) hangs out in Ti, but she wants other people to need her gifts, so she dips into Fe a lot in order to inform when, where, and how to best use her Ti talents to support others.

I can't tell you as much about the remaining polarities, because they're not my favorites.  

What I notice in my INTJ husband is how he shuttles between Fi and Te all the time.  Fi tells him what's important and how to prioritize, and Te goes to work implementing the plan.  He hangs out on the Te side of the axis, but he readily dips into Fi.  His process reminds me of Stephen Covey's warning that you donít want to climb the ladder of success only to find it is leaning against the wrong wall.  Fi reassures him that his Te effort is on behalf of the right wall.

My INFP friend's Fi recognizes what's important and is always evolving his personal identity, but he dips into Te debates frequently.  He will go out of his way to "rearrange somebody's thinking" if he thinks it's important to do so.  He hangs out in Fi, but dips into Te with relative frequency.

The Ne / Si axis is fascinating, because I've noticed people who check with the past about the likelihood of a new possibility working.  Is there any predictability to a pattern?  I've also noticed they use their bodies as "barometers" to process whether or not to impose a new idea.  It's as if they look for what has worked in the past before they create the future.  Here's a quote by Gandhi that seems to reflect that:

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall -- think of it, ALWAYS." ~Mahatma Gandhi

I won't struggle to describe Si leading Ne.  The only place I'm sure I've observed this is when my ISTJ sister makes quilts by leading with Si in choosing traditional folk patterns, but having a great time pairing up outrageous new fabric combinations that have never been tried with her Ne.

I'll add more to this page as new insights and improved language occur to me, but I've been promising this page for ages and my Se finally got fed up.

I must note that whenever someone tells me their tertiary is different from the standard eight-level model John Beebe proposed, it's this theory that makes me feel they're talking out their nose.  Te just doesn't shuttle readily with Fe (for example) -- and it doesn't make sense!  So this is yet one more way I get at what somebody's true preferences likely are.

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