The INFJ and INTJ personalities are among the rarest of all types. They rely on a dominant function—Introverted Intuition (Ni)—which, to other types, can seem deeply enigmatic. As Carl Jung observed in his description of Ni in Psychological Types:
The intensification of intuition often results in an extraordinary aloofness of the individual from tangible reality; he may even be a complete enigma to his immediate circle.
Jung viewed Ni as a function of perception, and thus considered perception the main concern of Ni types (i.e., INJs):
Perception is his main problem, and—in case of the creative artist—the shaping of his perception.
Images are the currency of choice for Ni, the means by which it communicates to INJs. As children, INJs often discover sketching or drawing to be a natural way of exploring and expressing these inner images. Many build on this propensity by developing lifelong interests in the visual arts, architecture, or related fields. Jung was well aware of the visual / imagistic bent of Ni, characterizing Ni dominants as your quintessential “artist” type.
To be sure, INFJ and INTJ types can experience deep meaning by immersing themselves in the world of imagery and percepts. Drawing on Ni, in tandem with its perceiving partner—Extraverted Sensing (Se)—INJs enjoy exploring and refining their aesthetic sensibilities. At some point in their development, however, INJs feel compelled to explore alternative modes of being. This includes extending beyond mere perception and employing their auxiliary and tertiary judging (J) functions.
Developing judgment requires a willingness on the part of INJs to subject their intuitions to the more rational and analytic side of the brain—the left hemisphere—which also happens to be the epicenter of language. This requires designating energy and resources to translating their visual (or otherwise non-verbal) intuitions into words via their auxiliary judging function, either Extraverted Feeling (Fe) or Extraverted Thinking (Te).
Like other introverted types, INJs are in many respects forced to develop their auxiliary function for the sake of interpersonal communication. For some (especially those of higher IQ) this unfolds quite early and naturally, with the INJ exhibiting both verbal and visual (or spatial) precocity. Others may require additional time and development to feel at home with verbal expression.
In addition to aiding INJs’ expressive repertoire, development of the judging functions may reflect a shift from a purely perceptive attitude toward a moral or problem-oriented focus.
No longer is perceptive absorption sufficient for the INJ, who is now concerned with improving the world. This change-agent mindset is reflected in the Enneagram type 1, which many INJs resonate with. While still appreciating elegant art and design, those taking this path may assign aesthetics a lower priority, focusing instead on harnessing Ni insight for the sake of personal, moral, technical, or theoretical development.
Development of the judging functions also contributes to INJs’ capacity for convergent cognition, as their intuitions are funneled and streamlined via their Fe or Te. This convergence, expressed outwardly in the form of a direct and candid communication style, contributes to INJs’ classification as Myers-Briggs judgers (J).
“From the Inside Out”: Understanding the INFJ / INTJ Process
The INFJ/INTJ process is twofold. INJs must first gain insight into—an understanding of—a given problem or phenomenon. Second, they must communicate that understanding in ways that others can understand and utilize. Let’s now take a closer look at how this process unfolds.
Initially, INJs may experience only a vague sense or gut feeling that something is wrong, that a problem exists. They therefore need more information or clarity to understand what is happening. Achieving greater clarity may require the acquisition of additional internal (Ni) or external (Se) data, as well as extra time for Ni to chew on things.
There’s also the challenge of translating Ni’s symbolic imagery and intuitions into words, which can be particularly difficult when dealing with unusual or arcane insights. Put differently, how can INJs make sense of, and translate a holistic non-verbal experience, into words?
Occasionally I encounter a writer whose work seems unusually cryptic or otherworldly, and my first suspicion is that they’re an INJ. This may include writing peppered with perplexing riddles or paradoxes, or with mythopoetic or archaic imagery, as seen, for instance, in some of Nietzsche’s works. Non-INJ readers typically get the sense that they have encountered a very different sort of mind, one whose inner landscape is strikingly different from their own. They may be unsure whether they are reading the work of a crank, a genius, or a psychedelics aficionado. They may also wonder if the writer “has a point,” or even grasps the meaning of his or her own writing.
All of this is to say that translating Ni perceptions into something relatable or sensible is not always easy. As J.H. Van der Hoop observed, “There is peculiar difficulty, where this inner knowledge is concerned, in finding even approximate expression for what is perceived.”
In attempting to convey the content of their intuitions, many INJs (especially INFJs) will turn to metaphor. Since metaphors evoke images through words, they can be seen as a bridge between the visual and the verbal, the right and left sides of the brain. In the words of author and psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist, metaphoric thinking links “language (left hemisphere) to life (right hemisphere).” He goes on to say that the word metaphor literally means “something that carries (pherein) you across (meta-) an implied gap.” Not only is metaphor a great tool for conveying insights to others, but it can also help INJs better understand and interpret their own intuitions.
Finding the right metaphor isn’t always easy, however. Indeed, because of the effort that can be required to interpret and translate their intuitions, some INJs may shy away from expressing them, especially if they get the sense that they’re constantly being misunderstood. If they feel like the bulk of their intuitive understanding is getting lost in translation, they may resort to an introverted safe space where they can function as private observers of Ni. There they can take refuge in the comfort of Ni perception, sans the frustrations of explicating or applying it.
That said, giving up on attempting to communicate their insights or convictions can leave INJs feeling aimless and dissatisfied, as doing so amounts to a rather one-dimensional existence. To feel more whole, INJs, like other introverts, must find ways of “turning what’s inside out.” This requires employing and developing their auxiliary and inferior extraverted functions.
As discussed in my book, The 16 Personality Types, INJs who emphasize the expression of Ni through Se will often do so through arts and design. Their focus is largely aesthetic—aimed at manifesting Ni ideals in physical form (Se). Those with a stronger judging (Te/Fe) bent will translate Ni verbally or analytically, perhaps taking up work as writers, scientists, theorists, or therapists—careers that require ample use of both sides of the brain.
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