By Elaine Schallock, INFJ
Readers familiar with Personality Junkie will know that over the course of our analysis on Myers-Briggs we’ve come to adopt a preference for fleshing out type variances by looking primarily at the functions (which specify introverted and extraverted directionality to the basic preferences), rather than the preferences alone. While it’s true that intuition has general characteristics that pertain to both Introverted intuition (Ni) and Extraverted Intuition (Ne), when distinguished by directionality a more specific and accurate understanding of how it manifests can be reached. This post, in particular, aims to flesh out differences in the dominant functions of INJ and ENP types and to shed light on how and why one may masquerade as the other.
As an introverted function, INTJs’ and INFJs’ Intuition operates in an intensive, singular and deep fashion. According to Jung’s description of how introversion and extraversion operate, we can understand Ni as drawing libido (energy) away from an object and toward the subject (or the self). Ne on the other hand, as an extraverted function, operates in an extensive, plural and broad fashion. Ne propels libido toward the object and away from the subject (or self). Where Ni tends to see one singular theoretical cause, Ne tends to see a plurality of theoretical possibilities. Ni is convergent, Ne is divergent.
Ni and Ne are better understood when their paradoxical opposites, Se and Si respectively, are introduced into the mix. According to the typological stack, the dominant (and most conscious of the INJ functions) Ni uses material absorbed subconsciously by the inferior Se function to detect a pattern or theme occurring in the physical environment. Subconscious Se casts a wide metaphorical net into the observable surroundings, picking up on visual, auditory and any other number of “sensing clues” that the INJ ultimately uploads and accesses through Ni consciousness. From a breadth of Se data, the INJ finds a narrow (however deep) interpretation (Ni), picking up on a single, underlying pattern which would explain that cornucopia of Se information.
Whereas Ni borrows from a breadth of sensory information (Se), Ne draws its energy from an intensive store of inner experience, Si. In a way, Si represents a concentration of Se snapshots – it’s the culmination of repeated experiences over the course of time and history – and it recognizes an established “pattern of doing” over the long haul. From this deep and narrow, however subconscious, knowledge of what has been, ENFPs and ENTPs are able to extract and put forth a breadth of possible “what could be’s…” And the possibilities, it seems, are truly endless. Unlike Ni which interprets deeply from great breadth, Ne interprets broadly from great depth.
The ability of Ne types to take a relatively conservative concentration of Si material and fashion a plethora of options is their hallmark. I’m always saying of Ne types that if you gave them a paperclip, an old tin can, and a few yards of string they could probably figure a way to fashion a designer gown, working automobile, a fax machine, and who knows what else…. You never know what they’re going to come up with. What distinguishes Ne from Ni may be summarized as concisely as this: Ni types are known for their insight, Ne types are known for their ingenuity. And it’s that same quality of ingenuity that has been glorified over history as the quintessential “spirit of America” – an oft impractical, starry-eyed sort of entrepreneurial brilliance. Ne types are masters at spotting unmet Si needs and craftily engineering ways to fill the void. If you had to be stranded on a desert island for any period of time you’d most definitely want an ENP in your crew.
Because Ne and Ni both come from the same source, they each retain qualities associated with Intuition generally such as a focus on the ideational, theoretical, and metaphysical. But INFJs and INTJs are not well equipped to put forth (i.e. extravert) possibilities and it may even be said that they are not as “creative” as ENFPs and ENTPs (if we understand creativity to be related to an output of ingenuity and inventiveness rather than insight). They tend not to excel at offering suggestions (plural) or hypotheticals. Ne types, conversely, are not well suited for narrowly reading into or extracting a single motive or insight from experiences. “Insight” from an ENP should be taken with a grain of salt; while they are adept at seeing potentialities in everything, they are somewhat unreliable when it comes to zeroing in on singular causality.
What can happen on occasion is that from the barrage of theoretical possibilities produced by Ne – like a spray of machine gun bullets blindly and casually firing at a small and distant target – sometimes serendipity intervenes and one such bullet actually catches the bulls-eye What’s so flabbergasting about this, particularly to an INJ witnessing such an event, is how surprised (and often unconvinced) the ENP himself is that he’s actually hit the target! The fact is, an Ne dominant can’t be authentically convinced of the veracity of any single theoretical proposition without running the gauntlet of the functional stack down to Si. If an ENP were to “jump the stack” – jack-be-nimbling the auxiliary and tertiary functions to get to Si – the result would be inauthentic conviction typically resulting in restlessness and eventual overthrow once Ne was allowed to reconsider all the evidence.
In truth, the Ne type shouldn’t be consciously focused on “getting at” a singular insight at all. It can actually stunt or inhibit the Ne from full exploration if the ENP is too fixated on the Si endpoint. The effect is that of retrofitting Ne to try and meet a preconceived Si, which, in essence, is the same thing as acting like an ISJ type. Si is actually captaining the insight or vision, with the creativity of Ne cleverly being used to justify it. Interestingly, when an ENP type attempts to do this, thanks to strength and agility of their intuition, the result can look curiously like Ni – presumably the result of a sort of “blending” Si and Ne. This process is what I referred to earlier as “masquerading”: an ENP gives the appearance of having the wisdom or insight reminiscent of Ni.
This same phenomenon, in the reverse, can occur with INTJs and INFJs. When the INJ becomes fixated on achieving an Se outcome, Ni is commissioned by Se to take the creative “how to” role over – imaging the way that this vision could be achieved. This process is suspiciously akin to Ne: proffering a hypothetical rather than distilling meaning from what already exists. Rather than focusing on “what is” (Ni), the INJ becomes enamored with “what if…” (Ne). The giveaway that the INJ is not an ENP is that Ni is narrow in its vision, not open to modification or spontaneity the way extraverted intuition is. Lacking the Ne propensity to see many different ways in which one could achieve the same end result, Ni becomes fixated on one “ultimate” or “ideal” theory. During this process INJ’s can become rigid, inflexible, and overly perfectionistic, essentially getting caught “in the grip” of their desire to make inferior Se manifest.
Both ENP and INJ types are somewhat subject to jealousies pertaining to each other’s dominant functions (which seem to represent an ‘ideal’ marriage of their inferior function with their dominant one). Individuation, the ultimate psychological goal, requires unification and reconciliation of our dominant and inferior functions. In the case of INFJs and INTJs, the goal is to take the inner insight and wisdom of Ni and have that be revealed or manifest in the outside world – to be perceived externally by the world; in other words, to reconcile inner perceiving (Ni) with outer perceiving (Se). INJ types are usually perspicacious enough to know that Se on its own (as witnessed in ESP types, for example) feels relatively hollow and undesirable as it lacks much, if any, element of N consciousness – it’s too one-sided, or imbalanced. Ne, however, appeals to the INJ because of the apparent unification of outward performance and N ingenuity and consciousness. Ne seems to embody the holistic aspect of individuation – the concept of marrying paradoxes Ni and Se – in a way that is far more appealing than simply taking Se on its own.
ENTPs and ENFPs also return the envy/admiration in their relationships with INJ types. In order to achieve individuation, ENP types must reconcile the breadth of their ideation (Ne) with a sense of convergent, inner knowing (Si). Si taken on its own doesn’t necessarily garner full respect from the ENP as it seems not to question or explore on a theoretical (N) level the reasons for holding with tradition or a conservative approach to living. It too feels one-sided and incomplete. But Ni, with its sense of constancy and theoretical complexity, gives the appearance of having unified Si and Ne.