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Quarantine anxiety and cognitive functions

I am learning more about Si.

Meaning “introverted Sensing”—I have long been interested in the concept of Jung’s cognitive functions (of which this is one) and how they can be useful for self-development. If you don’t know of them, you have likely heard of Meyers-Briggs personality types. Bear with me if you don’t like Meyers-Briggs: I don’t blame you. It can be very superficial and vapid in most of the manifestations one finds online. That’s because those sites water the best parts of the concept down, probably in order to sell you a subscription to something. It’s not about the behaviors that you do, but about why you do what you do.

The why is the good part.

This is what the idea of cognitive functions sits upon. We all have feelings, we all have logical capacity. Why do we all use those functions so differently, then? This is what the theory wants to explore. This is what I want to explore, too.

So, as I said, I am learning more about Si.

How, by holding still with breathing or just doing the dishes or by feeling my body one inch at a time I enact a stabilizing force.

Ne is like this: spiralling, moving, floating, zipping. All over, back and forth. It’s glorious, engaging, interesting…but it might also have similarities to the 80/20 principle (focus of attention/cognitive function): things are balanced, and then over time they get skewed more and more and more and more until I’m so top heavy that I fall over: the system has progressed naturally into an 80/20 state. I’m all Ne, I’m all about ideas, about headspace, about concepts, about the future or the past or anything-but-right-now, and I am very susceptible to toppling over.

Si seems to have an ability to balance the stack.

It is, I believe, the ballast of my ship. It does not power or steer the ship, act as the containing body of the vessel, or do many other visible functions, but it keeps the ship actually upright and therefore afloat through the small and large disturbances of a journey. It gives the ship a chance to get to the other shore.

Another analogy is like going to the eye doctor. They cycle through several lenses to test one’s vision. Click, click, click—you’re looking through several combinations of glass at a time until zing there’s a combination that is clear as…clarity. The misuse of Si, for me, is an often-missing lens. When I stack my lenses up appropriately, I can get clarity through my stack. I can wander and wonder, I can feel my inspirations (or fears, or whatever), and I can act on my passions. But I have to be grounded in something non-linguistic, stable, clear.

Speaking of that, Si is the grounding rod. All the wild electricity of Ne will build up over time, jolting Te, making me bossy and worried and frantic. And Si takes all that manic energy and channels it into the earth.

Si is very, very earthy.

Here’s how they all feel, my cognitive stack:

Ne is air: it moves and flows so freely, invisibly, wildly, unpredictably; loose and light and contantly changing. Fi is water: immersive, forceful, sometimes lovely, sometimes terrifying, fast to approach but also heavy and slow to recede, so smooth, soft and yet extinguishes all fires and moves earth in time; I understand it much less. Te is fire: it forces, it pushes, it’s commanding and dominant, hot and intense; it burns and destroys things if left untended, or cleanses and purfies when well managed. Si is the ground holding it all in place. It is the rock upon which the temple is built.

So, regarding the question above, why the anxiety attacks? Well, when I ignore Si, my boat tips over and anxiety is what happens when water comes on board, the feelings, the Fi. I’m overwhelmed by Fi, which I have not cultivated carefully, because I have not been letting myself settle or meditate or be in my body enough.

Let the dust settle

When all the dust or chaos from Ne is allowed to settle I can see better what is needed, what is important to me, what must be done or not done. This means I use Si to get still. When I use Si, I give myself time for this to happen. When I do not use it, or when I think that substitutes like alcohol do the job of releasing the tension, I actually add more instability, more waves, to the system.

What I need is clarity and calm and staibility. Release of tension may be a by-product of those things, but that is not the first order of business, not the preliminary need.

All things in due course

I aim to learn more about Si, and about Fi. I have long given priority to Ne—my whole life I have favored this—and in the last half-decade I have learned how to use Te in ways I never thought possible. This is good and bad. I’ve neglecte a careful study of my own emotional landscape in favor of ideas, abstractions and goals, when those emotions are the guideposts for any meaningful work I’ll do in my life. Fi gives me insight into integrity and the right thing to do, and Si helps me stay enough in the moment so that I may actually do that right work.

From Flickr commons.