Closer look at Introvert Intuition

(File Last Modified Tues, Oct 29, 2002.)

Four ways of perception

Whatever types we happen to be, we use all four means of perception in one way or another. For example, if we were spending a day at the beach:

Extraverted Sensation would prompt us to go with our sense impressions as they occurred: to lie in the sun, play in the surf, listen to the gulls piping overhead.

Introverted Sensation would move us to stabilize our sense impressions by integrating them with facts we knew to be consistent. We might bring our favorite book, snorkel and flippers, a bag of snacks, extra towels because someone will probably forget one, and a watch to make sure we beat the traffic home.

Extraverted Intuition would move us to unify our sense impressions with their larger context, thereby creating new options for meaning and response. For example, ad we lie on our blanket in the sun, perhaps we hear music in the distance. Someone passing by mentions a great restaurant in town. Suddenly we're thinking: Hey, there must be an amusement park nearby. If it's on our way to town, we can check out the rides before we look for the restaurant that passerby was talking about. In fact, maybe the guy knows about other places we should consider, where did he go?

Introverted Intuition would prompt us to liberate our sense impressions from their larger context, thereby creating new options for perception itself. For example, we might find ourselves wondering why people feel so strongly about getting a good tan. We remember reading somewhere that before Industrial Revolution, being tan marked one as a manual laborer, because it suggested work out of doors. After the Industrial Revolution, it was pale skin that suggested manual labor, because it indicated work in a poorly lit factory. Such correlations aren't relevant today, but a good tan is still considered attractive. Why is that? We consider raising the question as a topic of conversation, but we're pretty sure our friends will think we're observing a situation instead of enjoying it.

How does introvert intuition work

Both Extravert and Introvert intuition see life in terms of new perspectives. However, Extravert intuition is a right brain function, while its introvert counterpart is a left brain function. The left brain won't focus on many things at once. It depends on words and signs to make outward experience predicable and orderly.

Introverted intuition is used by most types to contend with ambiguities of meaning and perception--that is, to see that a situation can be interpreted in more than one way. Where Extraverted Intuitives see many behavioral options, Introverted Intuitives acknowledge many conceptual standpoints.

These types have the disconcerting habit of solving a problem by shifting their perspective and defining the situation some other way. For example, a recent article advises the parents of a fussy or demanding baby not to describe the infants as difficult but to recognize that such children have vivid, strong, and rich personalities. This is how Introverted Intuition works. The material facts remain the same, but we organize them in a new conceptual pattern that changes their meaning and give us new options for behavior.

INJs often take jobs that draw on their ability to bring conceptual descriptions more closely into line with unrecognized aspects of a situation (i.e., using their insights to interpret the situation in another way). However, they are liable to sidestep the observation by shifting perspective and depriving it of meaning. They need enough judgment to distinguish between frame shifts that bring new information into relief and frame shifts that merely avoid a problem.

Introvert Intuition in practice

INJs are never satisfied what they know, and it takes real effort for them to set limits and make use of the knowledge they already have. The more info INJs acquire about a subject, the more it strikes them there is to know before action is possible.

The INJ's self-experience nearly always involves the unknown, a state of being that's not yet embodied. Accordingly, INJs tend to lose interest when the fluid nature of unrealized meaning takes expressible shape and has meaning for others.

Although Extraverted Sensation is the INJ's inferior function, it should not be supposed that INJs are entirely in their heads or never leave their journals and computers. They're good perceivers, and their senses may be very keen. INJs follow sports, enjoy outdoor activities, drive fast cars, cook gourmet meals, make art--all sorts of things that involve a sensory engagement in life. Their Extraverted Sensate skills are undeveloped in the sense that INJs have a hard time seeing themselves objectively. INJs tend to enjoy fantasies and myths in which the hero has evolved a perfect combination of visceral and cerebral skills, but in practice, the two usually run on parallel tracks.

Introverted Intuition in a Sensate Culture

INJs throughout history have been prophets, poets, and heretics. But in sensate culture, whose focus is on immediate surface stimulation, the INJ's process of self-discovery inevitable coincides with some of society's blind spots.

Like all types, INJs feel the pressure of their inferior function when they become too dependent on their dominant function, and are truck in one way of adapting to life. Their usual way of doing things isn't working, and they feel unhappy, unable to do what they've always done. It's natural to believe that the problem is one of circumstances. INJs, however, have an additional incentive to blame their situation. The unconscious Sensate impulses they're experiencing share common ground with prevailing views outside them. So it's not difficult for them to conclude that their problems are the result of people's inability to see past surface boundaries.

Like all introverts, INJs respond to a threatened self-experience defensively, by using their second function to get the outer world under control. They may feel a strong need to express themselves creatively. But without sufficient Judgment, they don't know how to structure their ideas. Such types may not even know what they want to say. So they spend time acquiring more information about the writing process itself--perhaps by reading other people's books. Instead of applying their Judgment to their inner world and limiting their options, they apply it to the outer world and keep their Intuitive approach intact. The more INJs try to protect their inner world, the more they lose the Intuitive perspective they're trying to maintain. They lose their capacity to shift perspectives. They have the sense that truth is impossible to express in a way that captures its full significance. Their vision becomes a psychological castle and they stand in the highest parapet, warning people that they aren't worthy to come in.

When they are defending themselves, they are aware of themselves as different from others. They want people to see them as special, but they often feel insecure and unappreciated. They unconscious Sensate impulses fill them with a yearning for credit and recognition, but they may be increasingly critical of their opportunities to make a contribution or so dissatisfied with their efforts that they don't share them with others.

When INJs develop Extraverted Judgment, they begin to see life differently. They recognize their need to be understood, to make a genuine connection with others, to be a contributing part of something outside themselves. This recognition short circuits the INJ's focus on conceptual boundaries. Such types try to reach people to formulate their ideas in light of what others believe and think and cherish. In the process, they find a way to bring their insights into the larger community. It's not easy to make the effort. For INFJs, it feels like being inauthentic and hypocritical.

The irony is that INJs figure out who they are by way of extraverted judgment. It's the attempt to give their insights outward form that ultimately shapes their social identity. Unless INJs find a way to honor their Intuitions in the public area, they won't recognize themselves in the feedback they get from others. Even if they've been highly successful in their outward pursuits or spent many happy hours in solitary pastimes, they're likely to feel unfulfilled. Once INJs are relating to people (rather than counselling them or analyzing their frame of mind), they recognize how different perspectives can be bridged by common ideals.

Traits for INFJs

INFJs needs other's encouragement and approval to establish a positive self-image.

Because INFJs use extraverted feeling to relate to others, they may seem more outgoing than they really are. INFJs are quite capable of surrounding themselves with people whose judgment skills are undeveloped, which give them the opportunity to conduct their relationships by advising others on the wisdom of their life choices. However, their primary relationship is to their inner world and they are receptive to others only up to a point. Indeed, these types often find that their sympathy and perceptive listening have been mistaken for an overturn of friendship, which they didn't intend. The truth is that Introverted Intuition inclines them to keep a part of themselves in reserve--to locate their true identity outside the expectations and definitions of others.

Their personal approach and ability to find common ground with others combines with their intuitive need for innovation and alterative view. They frequently find themselves in positions of authority. They may not seek for leadership, but they are often elected by others to serve on boards and committees.

INFJs have a penchant for abstraction and symbolic representation. If they are interested, they excel in the fields of science, mathematics, and medicine. However, they are not generally motivated by sheer intellectual challenge. INFJs require a sense of meaning in the work they do. They are genuine romantic. They can't help but intuit the individual emotions and vision that lies outside the standard canons of generalized knowledge. Thus, INFJs are exquisitely sensitive to nuance and suggestions. They are not interested in the precision of language but in its rich possibilities for metaphor and multiple layers of meaning. They much prefer a glance, a sign, a hint, a story, or a shared symbol to a clear-cut description. They often have a gift for verbal imagery or poetic expression and they are sometimes capable of raising to consciousness something that others can only dimly sense.

Because INFJs are so alert to the unsaid, they may find it difficult to sort out their own emotions from the moods and feelings they discern in others. Such types can be overwhelmed by the task of finding their personal truth. Because they have strong need for approval, they can feel literally split between their feeling and intuitive motivation.

Some INFJs work to develop extraverted thinking function, attempting to bring order to their intuitions. But they usually end up using judgment defensively--to assert their right to feel exactly what they are feeling as they're feeling it. Such type are quite articulate in their resistance to other's analysis of them, but they're also wounded by criticism and may hesitate to reveal themselves again.

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Closer look at Introvert Intuition


One way or another