I already posted this in the Cognitive Functions forum, but I figured I'd post it here too because this seems to relate to other ESFJs I know (and other F-dom types).
Feeling as a Rational Function
“What I mean by feeling in contrast to thinking is a judgment of value; agreeable or disagreeable, good or bad, and so on. Feeling so defined is not an emotion or affect, which is, as the words convey, an involuntary manifestation. Feeling as I mean it is a judgment without any of the obvious bodily reactions that characterize an emotion. Like thinking, it is a rational function. (p. 219)”
-Carl Jung, Psychological Types
Jung gives a good explanation of the validity of feeling as a cognitive function that I would like to touch upon. And I want to explain why feelers may have a lot of difficulty in explaining the nature of their understanding of things.
Many associate the feeling types with irrationality, which is untrue in terms of the manner of which feeling serves as a judging function (this is without the association of emotions). Feeling as a function is not so much emotional subjectivity (or emotions at all), but the ability to feel the essence of something, and quite objectively, as it is a manner of gathering information, and as Jung states, ”Like thinking, it is a rational function. (p. 219)”
The point of conflict with thinking vs feeling usually resides in emotional justifications, or the lack of ability to provide rational explanations and thereby attempting to translate with emotions. When emotional expression is misused or insufficient, the idea is lost in translation. The state of emotional subjectivity in which blindly passionate support or opposition clouds one’s view of the truth may also be a problem; however, becoming passionate about something is not always an indicator of close-mindedness or frivolous devotion. Some people are used to emotional expression and may simply relay their ideas in this manner.
The greater issue arises when emotions come to serve as a basis for irrational decision (by irrational I don't mean unjustified, but not emotionally detached). To the thinkers (referring to all thinking types, not just NTs specifically), a spectacle of rampant emotions in the face of an argument is absurd, and rightfully so. But the actual function of feeling, although a precursor for emotions, is explained by Jung as a completely rational manner of observing and understanding (as a judging function) the essence or manifestation of an object or idea. This method may often bring the person to an understanding about something that is completely unanimous with a rational understanding derived from a thinking perspective; however it is a different manifestation, rather, intangible and sometimes difficult to explain. It is described differently, and almost felt, but without the subjectivity of the person's feelings. That comes into existence later on, when the person forms opinions and emotional attachments around the many things they know.
In this way, feeling as a method of judgment is no more flawed or unreliable than thinking, but a lack of a strong 'thinking' ability may cause a person much difficulty in translating this understanding in their head to another person, and thus cause confusion and frustration in the face of an argument or debate. How does one justify the validity of their understanding when that understanding manifests itself as an intangible essence, that when compared is very much the same as a solidly rational explanation, but difficult to communicate? This is quite possibly where some tend to substitute emotions when faced with difficulty explaining themselves, and most definitely where some go wrong, as no explanation or translation of thought is often achieved.
Consider this hypothetical situation:
Person A (a thinker) and Person B (a feeler) are having a debate about the type of laptop that would best accommodate the needs of a first-year college student.
Person A: “I would personally prefer a Mac, but I know that a Dell or Toshiba with a Windows operating system would be more useful for a college freshman.”
Person B: “I like Macs better. They’re definitely better. I can do so much more on a Mac than I can on a PC. The software is much better too.”
Person A: “Yes, but almost all professors require Microsoft Office formats for electronically submitted assignments, and school security software and web pages often service Windows computers. I know I would probably have a hard time formatting everything for a Mac, so it would probably be easier having a PC. And it doesn’t matter what you like, or what cool features you have. The point is that you’ll be getting homework done and passing your classes because it didn’t take more effort to format your paper for submission than it did to open Photo Booth and snap 230 pictures of yourself in 30 different filters.”
Person B: “Oh, so I’m going to fail because I have a Mac? I have a 4.0 GPA asshole.”
What Person B probably meant was: “Macs actually have good software compatibility and can run Windows program software, such as Microsoft Office, and support internet systems such as Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. Also, they’re extremely user friendly, which would probably work well for a college student, and they have exceptional security systems, which would help prevent hackers and viruses on the unprotected school Wi-Fi, especially when you have a paper due the next day that you can’t risk losing. Windows computers have a history of diminished reliability in the field of security and anti-virus protection. Macs are also optimal for an art student because of the multitude of art-based software and programs available.”
The problem is that person B knows all of this, but can’t seem to explain it clearly, or even recall it in the moment because of the pressure of urgency to respond to the argument made by person A. All of this usually comes to person B about 20 minutes after the argument has ended and after they have already taken Person A’s remarks personally. This is why there’s nothing wrong with taking a moment to reply, because you might have an easier time saying what you really meant to say.
Person B wants to justify their opinion because they know it’s completely valid, but becomes angry when Person A does not see their point. Well, that is likely to happen if Person B forgets that they didn’t explain their point at all. Person B probably does not feel the need to explain, as the idea is already clearly known to them through much they have already learned or observed and they may not care to explain it all to Person A. Person A might not feel the need to explain themselves past a factual justification, and probably won’t understand the lack of desire to provide such and thus justify your point. Person B can then forget that Person A needs an explanation of facts before they believe it or acknowledge their point.
As a result of the above situation, we are left with one person making an argument and looking for evidence whilst pointing out discrepancies, and another trying to translate their ideas in the same manner, but saying all the wrong things, becoming frustrated, and lashing out emotionally. Person A is most likely confused, baffled and annoyed at the lack of argumentative tact displayed, and by no means sees any credibility in Person B’s argument whatsoever. And person B is now emotionally spent, frustrated with the other’s carnivorous questioning, and annoyed at his/her own inability to translate ideas. This only one of many ways in which a situation can turn sour.
From a personal point of view, this explains how often I have such a strong understanding of many things in an intangible manner, but must find concrete explanations for them through the words of others. It is also why I do not translate my own true thoughts, as the complexity and indistinct nature of these thoughts is very difficult to explain. Unfortunately, it is almost habit for me to resort to black and white logic in attempt to explain my point, but I am learning to encompass ration, reason, and clarity, as each serves a very useful and practical purpose. In order to avoid a bad argument, I have to remind myself not to think of how the person is saying something, but rather, what they are actually saying. I used to be extremely sensitive to how things were said, and arguments would end much in the same way that the above scenario did. It is much more refreshing to actually accomplish something by explaining myself, or by taking the time to explain myself, or even by explaining how I can’t explain myself. At least the other person understands something productive this way.
Also, when in the face of an argument, I have the most difficult time explaining the complexity of my point of view or how I am quite certain of its validity because there are so many points of truth I could provide the other person with as facts, but never know which to begin with. Often, I don’t expect the other person to actually want to know how I came to a conclusion, as I am not expecting them to agree with me; I am simply stating my opinion in the most simplified manner, and probably enjoying conversing with them more than the debating itself. The frustration of being pressured to quickly answer, especially in the face of false assumptions and ad hominem attacks (which distract me from the main point, and ultimately serve no purpose in advancing or assisting the argument or problem at hand) can often cause a pressured response, usually then affected by personal emotions and no longer clear, logical, rational, or even what I really wanted to say in the first place.
Overall, trying to format your ideas into explanations that fit a rational model of discussion causes many problems, and often the idea is lost in translation. Instead, it may be preferable to find a way to translate your ideas not necessarily to fit the rational model of argument, but to complement it and still remain true to your original, genuine train of thought. Although, it makes more sense to explain something in that manner, as it is a formula for concise clarity.
The point is that it should not be a struggle for you to explain yourself all the time; however, it may be inevitable if you simply don’t try. It is probably best to determine a manner of explaining yourself that works for you, and to improve upon it so that others can understand you. You will not be taken seriously if you can’t explain yourself, as I have become quite used to intellectual dismissal from others and have most definitely been considered an illogical, unintelligent, irrational, and invalid debater (and person) in terms of my beliefs/knowledge. I cannot object to those previous opinions, as I only presented myself in the worst of ways, and emotionally as well. However, the misunderstandings resulting from my inability to communicate properly are not something that I wish to decide my credibility as a person. This is why I attempted to explain the validity of feeling as a rational function to separate it from the generalized idea of feeling=emotions.
This only begins to touch the surface of feeling vs thinking, but I hope it provides some clarity in that regard. And please remember that feeling does not translate to irrationality, it is hyper-emotionalism, close-mindedness, hyper-sensitivity, immaturity and ignorance that translates to such. And although it is likely to be derived from emotions and feeling (feeling types), this irrationality can be found in many people (if not most), regardless of type.
(Just the usual disclaimers)
I may have flawed grammar/spelling from 'hyper-typing'
I have not even come close to exploring or including all the facets of this idea, as this is a very complex subject.
Apologies for writing a book and for over-explaining and repeating as usual (still working on it).
Also, note that this is extremely generalized, and different types specifically may deal with these things in different ways (depending on cognitive functions, or other things). Some may even disagree with this explanation.
Hope this helps.