By Dr. A.J. Drenth
Many INTPs and INFPs report an overall sense of dissatisfaction with their lives. This can lead them to adopt a pessimistic or cynical outlook, one in which the world appears bleak and sapped of meaning. In this post, I will explore how INPs can use their Extraverted Intuition (Ne) to open up opportunities for greater meaning and satisfaction in their lives.
Many INPs are doubters with a pessimistic bent. They are prone to seeing the glass as half empty rather than half full. While doubt and uncertainty is a normal feature of these types, there is no supportable reason for them to default toward pessimism rather than a cautious optimism. With regard to situations or problems where the evidence is equivocal, there is no need for them to endorse negative predictions over positive ones. In fact, evidence from positive psychology suggests that taking the more optimistic path makes positive outcomes more likely. As co-creators of their reality, INPs have a choice whether to co-create negative or positive experiences in their lives. In my view, INPs’ auxiliary function, Ne, can play an important role in helping them to cultivate more meaningful lives.
Extraverted Intuition has a sort of mystical feel to it, the sense that the future is not entirely predictable and may therefore take a sudden turn for the better. Ne also confers a sense of hope and anticipation, an acknowledgement that opportunities for deeper meaning may be right around the corner. For example, INPs who have recently ended a relationship might use their Ne to remind them that the future is open and an infusion of new meaning may arrive when they least expect it.
Ne can also serve as a safeguard against jumping to negative conclusions or premature dismissal of ideas/theories. Rather than concluding that a problem is irresolvable, Ne can help INPs maintain an attitude of openness and cautious optimism. It can prevent them from prematurely dismissing theories as soon as they encounter an ostensible exception. Unlike INJs, INPs are prone to throwing out theoretical babies with the bath water. This only serves to frustrate INPs in their quest for convergent truth and can lead to a sense of resignation and disenchantment. To avoid these mistakes, INPs can take a lesson from INJs. Instead of prematurely throwing out an entire theory, they may do better to find ways of modifying it or to question the validity of apparent exceptions.
Relatedly, INTPs and INFPs can use their Ne to combat the negative effects of cynicism, nihilism, and absolute relativism. Ne can help INPs avoid extreme or dogmatic forms of thinking. For example, those who feel they can no longer embrace Christian theism might, instead of embracing another extreme (e.g., atheism), choose to remain open to other philosophies (e.g., pantheism, vitalism) that can provide a continued sense of meaning and mystery.
These examples suggest that Ne can be used both abstractedly (e.g., modifying one’s worldview) and practically (remaining open to future opportunities for meaning) to combat unnecessarily extreme, negative, or otherwise unhelpful thinking. INPs tend to be happiest when they are working toward discovering or embracing convergent truth, while also applying their Ne to avoid life-limiting beliefs. Again, I am not suggesting that INPs take a naive approach to truth, but that they use their Ne to maintain an open-ended outlook toward life and its myriad possibilities.