On CognitiveType.Com – the leading theorist, known as ‘Auburn,’ typed me as SeFi based on facial signals. I have studied Socionics, MBTI, and Jung – and after synthesizing the theories, I agree that at base, I fit SeFi (also known as SEE in Socionics, ESFP in MBTI, SeF in Jung).
The problem is, I struggle with many descriptions of this type – it is often depicted in a shallow, dehumanizing way. There may be reasons for this. Perhaps it is rare for Se leads to take interest in typology. Perhaps many are not inclined to sit at a computer studying abstract theory and delineating fine distinctions, and find the interactive life more compelling. To speak for myself, I never joined forums or learned theories until I was 32, and I only did because chronic illness destroyed my music career, along with any hope of sustaining a job. I refocused my attention on writing fiction, which lead to my interest in archetypes. So here I am, a student of typology who may be able to tackle the widespread misconceptions around Se. My current critique is focused on Auburn’s description – and the general sentiment around his forum – because I find their approach most valuable in the field of Jungian functions in its current state.
Myth #1: Se is Addicted to External Stimulation, Sensory Thrills and Pleasure, but Lacks any Internal World
Auburn’s descriptions link Pe to open-endedness, boredom, addiction and stimulation-seeking. As a result, people in his community have postulated that Se seeks stimulation and pleasure – but these quests are extraneous to any function. Everyone seeks stimulation, which is why ‘deprivation chamber’ is an age old torture device. As for pleasure – how you define ‘pleasure’ could be a topic of its own. “What is Pleasure?” “What do you find Pleasurable?” This requires exploration before shoving the idea of ‘pleasure’ into one function. Personally, I find my inner world much more enticing than anything external. I cannot imagine what it’s like to be ‘bored’ and, although I surround myself with beauty, I don’t seek sensory experience for its own sake.
As an Enneagram 4, my most ‘childish’ and ‘selfish’ need is to explore and express my inner world – and be admired for it. If you strip me down to nothing but base instinct, I’m still not an ‘escapist’ or ‘pleasure seeker’ but rather, someone that needs to transform my suffering into something beautiful that is uniquely mine, and thus be loved, seen and desired – despite my flaws, brokenness and shame. Therefore, I am not drawn to waste time indulging my senses with extraneous experiences that distract me from this process. The carnal world is an inspiration, a mirror, a stage – a means to explore and express my innermost essence (and, by extension, discover what essence is). I see feelings reflected in the weather, ideas reflected in colors, archetypes in the elements, humanity in animals… “as above, so below.” The most compelling indulgence, for me, is the quest to unveil my heart on such a deep level that its pulse reflects the rhythm of the world – and capture that experience in artistic form.
When presence is most intense, the timeless and eternal reveal themselves. This is why I describe my experience of the world as “So carnal, it’s spiritual.” But presence is not about ‘seeking stimulation and pleasure,’ nor does it have to be about experiencing something outside myself. In fact, seeking stimulation would impair ‘presence,’ because it implies a refusal to immerse myself in the ever-evolving now.
It also impedes ‘presence’ to actively run away from something inside. Some people are more invested in their internal world than others – and Fi certainly more invested in ‘personal identity’ than Ti – but running away from the internal would mean not being ‘present’ with the situation as it is. In order to attain focus, presence and flow – which Auburn linked to Se in his description – the mind, body and senses need to move with the current of the external and internal world.
Presence is about existing at full voltage. Being saturated with my project, the relationship, the conversation, the performance, the mood, the inner turmoil, the narrative unraveling from inside me, the music as it penetrates my being, the ideas someone else is communicating, the flavors of a story as I voraciously devour it, the onslaught of emotion, the throes of my will, the rhythm of accomplishment, the flame of creation, the dance of seduction, the thrust of combat, the anger, the passion, the desire, the catharsis, the ‘flow.’ I choose my destiny and pursue it willfully, then immerse myself in the process as it unfolds – and the cosmos reveals itself, just as it is.
Many Se leads would not share my priorities and interests – but all will experience flow, vitality and presence – since these principles underlie Se. You cannot be present while simultaneously obsessing about possible stimulation elsewhere. The reason Se seems more physical is not because Se leads are all hedonists – but because they are more tuned in to the singular trajectory of events at hand.
Ne is aware of alternate realities and possibilities, but there is no parallel for Se. The difference is not that Se leads seek ‘sensory stimulation’ but, rather, that they are engulfed in whatever dynamic experience they are currently focusing on – be it a conversation, a feeling, a sport, or a philosophical meandering. It is evident in Auburn’s chats that groups of Se-valuers tend to flow with one topic, moving from A to B to C to D, whereas Ne conversations are divergent, moving from A to F to Z and back to C. This is why Ne-Si picks up ‘synchronicities’ and ‘parallel realities,’ while Se-Ni is holistic and encapsulates ‘as above, so below.’
Myth #2: Se is an Open-Ended “Empty Vessel” who follows Addictions and Whims with no Direction or Willpower
Any type might have a grand sense of purpose, and any type might not – but each type has a specific way of getting their needs met. Pe leads are hunter-gatherers and willful pursuers who pick up patterns in the world and turn trends in their favor. Pe leads may or may not be motivated, visionary, or outgoing, but regardless, Pe takes in the world at lightning speed and interacts with it without hesitation.
I live in a near constant ‘flow’ state because I allow my emotions, ideas, and experiences to saturate me fully, and to flow through me in a dynamic current as things evolve. I direct this flow toward the things I want in the grand scheme – and due to my general awareness and presence, I know where to go in the real world in order to bring my dreams to life – in big and small ways. This is emphasized in Jung’s Se ‘realism’ and Socionics Se ‘volitional force’ – but Auburn leaves ‘realism’ out of the description and is hesitant to ascribe Se any willpower.
It appears to me that Auburn is attempting to draw a parallel between Se and Ne, where both are empty vessels seeking stimulation, wide open to new experiences – but neither is willful. Although he would agree that any type can be willful as a ‘whole person’ with a full set of functions, he ascribes willfulness to functions that are extraneous to Pe, and makes Ne and Se – as independent entities – both equal in their aimlessness. Yet the database shows that Se leads – no matter how fantastical their mind – are quite able to ‘get what they want’ in reality. In the case of intuitive leads, additional functions are necessary to help them conquer the ‘real-world’ – but for a Se lead to have realistic aspirations and impose their will upon concrete objects, all they need is Se.
It is difficult to justify Auburn’s ‘trickster’ archetype for Se, not to mention ‘seductive sensualist’ and ‘rebellious delinquent’ – without incorporating realism and will. Not all Se leads will have a grand sense of purpose – but all will know how to get what they want from the world in the moment.
The flow of achievement can be spiritual for me: I align myself with nature, feel its power in my hands – and channel that vital force to actualize my will. Auburn theorizes that I have developed Ji and Je – but this fails to explain the automatic interactive relationship with the environment, moment to moment, which fuels my cathartic creation process.
On a larger scale, I have always possessed a strong sense of purpose, and I believe this phenomenon is extraneous to type. This is consistent with his database: I’ve had a clear sense of purpose all my life while my husband, a TiSe, has not; Jordan Peterson, a brilliant Je lead, found his purpose later in life; Trent Reznor, SeTi with no J development, possessed vision and purpose from a young age; Kurt Cobain, SeTi, fought harrowing medical conditions to chase his vision; etc. Auburn may argue that these visionary people don’t comprise ‘the average Se lead’ – but a solid principle should not have outliers. Any reasonably functional Se lead in the database possesses vitality, focus, presence, volition, force, flow – which means it is a good baseline for Se – while the rest is incidental.
Myth #3: Some people are Open-Ended and Random, just like Children, and there’s Nothing Wrong with it
Auburn ascribes ‘willful purpose,’ ‘overcoming’ and ‘heroism’ to Je, ‘meaning’ and ‘values’ to Ji, and ‘shamanism’ and ‘narrative’ to Pi – while linking Pe to a childish need to explore random stimulus, a risk of ‘falling prey’ to addiction, and a default state of ‘boredom.’ His mythologies link Pe to ‘tricksters’ and ‘puers,’ full of naive wonder (Ne) and pan-like delinquency (Se). I love the archetypes, and agree with youthfulness (Pe) being placed in opposition to senex energy (Pi). The problem is, there’s no acknowledgement of purpose, preference, specificity or independent will.
Auburn emphasizes that Pe is random, open-ended and directionless – including the geniuses, sports stars, composers and scientists. When I asked about Einstein – a Ne lead with no other function development – Auburn said his discoveries were ‘random luck.’ I pointed out that when Se leads do amazing sport stunts, it requires practice – but Auburn insisted they can ‘just do that.’ The description proposes that Se leads are wired to figure out the components of physical motion just by watching, and then mimic it. Funny, I was so horrible at this that my mother had to explain to me in words how to tie my shoes, whereas my brother just figured it out – and I left every dance class crying because I could not copy the motions for the life of me. Parsing out components is Ti, not Se.
I was known as a child prodigy in music, but lo and behold, I started practicing for hours each day at age four. Who knew that Pe leads could willfully set their mind to something and achieve it through dedication? Who knew they might interact with the environment in a way that might be deliberate?
If we are to run with the archetype of ‘youthful explorer,’ let us not forget: the most adventurous of children are willful, know what they want and find a way to get it. This hunter-gather mentality is a staple of the adventurer’s mind, and there is tremendous will embedded in its fabric.
Myth #4: The Descriptions are Fair and Equal, Based on Data
Let’s face reality: associating Pe with empty-headedness is dehumanizing, and equating it to addiction and directionlessness is pathologizing. Auburn’s community has offered many excuses, including: “These descriptions encapsulate the average person, and you’re not average.” Well gee, thanks – but if these descriptions are about average people, why is Fe focused on heroism, and why are Ni leads equated to shamans? The message is: “At your best, your type can excel at edginess and stunts – whereas the baseline of normalcy for Ni types is to be a shaman.” Lovely!
During a round of argument about the Se description, Auburn asked me: if a high percentage of Se leads are drug addicts, is it wrong to put that in the description? It’s not wrong – but make sure the description also has room for the Se leads who excel to great heights, like Trent Reznor, Kurt Cobain, Hemmingway and Foucault. And for cripe’s sake, give credit where it’s due and include a paragraph on realism and holeism.
Bad trends show up (drug addiction, boredom) – good trends show up (brilliant music composers) – but Auburn is responsible for which ones he decides to include, and right now, it’s quite one-sided. Some descriptions are human and balanced, like his Fi description, which is a masterpiece. Others are dehumanizing either because they are glorifying (Ni, Fe) or infantalizing and pathologizing (Se and, to a lesser degree, Ne).
Considering his Ni description has room for shamans, the Se description should also demonstrate what Se lead geniuses look like – paying tribute to great athletes as well as the trend of Se leads who are groundbreaking composers. At the very least, the description could provide an avenue to demonstrate how purpose manifests in a reasonably capable, intelligent adult.
It may be fair to say the average modern human is addicted to external stimulation and that the media culture has trained us to expect instant gratification – but it is not correct to link this sin to any function, when outliers appear among all types, and exceptions appear within the types to which he ascribes directionless gluttony. I cannot presume to know what Auburn thinks or feels but, as a reader, I sense he needed to use some type as a dumping ground and blame it for society’s downfall.