By Dr. A.J. Drenth
As with all introverts, INFJs’ and INTJs’ first order of business is an internal one. They enjoy tinkering with ideas, perspectives, theories, visions, stories, symbols, and metaphors. Their dominant function, Introverted Intuition (Ni), serves as the veritable foundation for this inner playhouse. In this post, we will explore the inner workings and manifestations of Introverted Intuition in the INFJ and INTJ. Since Ni is a Perceiving function, INJs often report that its workings often feel effortless. When INJs express the need to “think about” something, this means something very different from what it might for other types. Namely, the lion’s share of INJs’ “thinking” or cognitive processing occurs outside of their conscious awareness. Their best thinking is typically done without thinking, at least not consciously. For INJs, “sleeping on” a problem is as sure a route to a solution as any.
Because it does much of its work subconsciously, Ni can seem to have a certain magical quality about it. In fact, it is not unusual for INJs to be viewed as having some degree of psychic or prophetic abilities. Despite its magical appearance, Ni can be understood on a rational basis.
What seems to be occurring is that many INJs have a highly sensitive inferior function, Extraverted Sensation (Se), which gathers copious amounts of sensory information from the outside world, including subtleties that other personality types tend to miss. Their Ni then subconsciously processes this data in order to make sense of it, like assembling pieces of a puzzle. Once finished, Ni generates an impression that seems to come out of “nowhere.” But the fact is that the intuition did not come out of nowhere, but from a synthesis of sensory data gathered from the immediate environment combined with information from the INJ’s own psyche.
Introverted Intuition (Ni), Vision, & Beauty
It is often said that human beings rely more heavily on vision than any of the other senses. This seems especially true of INJs, who often report a strong visual element to their Introverted Intuition. They often think by way of images rather than words. Their intuitions often manifest in the form of symbols, images, dreams, or patterns. This is consistent with Jung’s characterization of the Ni type as a dreamer, artist, or seer. There is a distinct visual character to these notions, which is why vision-related terms—foresight, insight, seer, visionary, etc.—are invariably used in describing INJs.
Considering the visual nature of Ni, it is no surprise that many INJs are highly sensitive to beauty—visual, metaphorical, or otherwise. French philosopher and INTJ Jean Paul Sartre confessed: “I’m only a desire for beauty.” Another INTJ, Frederich Nietzsche, wrote that “life is only valuable as an aesthetic phenomenon.” What seems to be of great irony here is the fact that, at least superficially, INJs seem to be valuing aesthetics in a way similar to their typological opposites, ESFPs / ESTPs. The apparent reason for this is that INJs and ESPs both use Se as one of their four functions. The difference is that ESPs use Se more consciously, while INJs do so more unconsciously.
This explains why INJs, the most otherworldly and abstract types, are often perplexed by their felt need to create beauty and ensconce themselves in beautiful surroundings. This represents a common point of difference between INFJs and INFPs. Namely, INFJs tend to have far more refined, sophisticated, and exquisite tastes than INFPs, for whom sensing is introverted (Si).
A Bird’s Eye View
Of all types, INJs are those most concerned with the “big picture.” This can be understood in terms of their Ni, which is the most abstract and forward-looking of all functions. Ni is comprehensive and holistic. Its visions, answers, and insights manifest as comprehensive wholes. Consequently, INJs often feel more like recipients than they do creators of their ingenious ideas.
In his memoir, On Writing, Stephen King (INTJ) describes his process of writing novels. He is adamant about the fact that he does not consciously plan or piecemeal the plot or direction of his stories. Rather his stories emerge from his unconscious as preexisting wholes, requiring little as far as conscious effort or planning. Other INJ novelists report similar experiences, feeling that once they have established the spigot to their creative unconscious their ideas seem to flow effortlessly and without volition.
Because of the inherent sense of completeness in Ni-spawned insights, INJs often feel they have been granted a sneak preview of the future, or at least a vision of a possible future. This strong sense of foresight can serve as the driving force behind their desire to see their ideals actualized.
Convergence, Certainty & Conviction
While not technically a judging function, Ni often functions in a convergent fashion, providing elegant answers and solutions to complex problems. As discussed above, Ni takes clues gathered by Se and unconsciously pieces them together toward a comprehensive solution. INJs commonly report that the solution arrives through a single flash of insight—an “aha!” moment. This may occur while dreaming or awake, but tends to come suddenly and all at once, like an unexpected gift. INJ philosopher Frederich Nietzsche describes his intuitive process this way:
Something profoundly convulsive…suddenly becomes visible and audible with indescribable definiteness and exactness…There is an ecstasy whose terrific tension is sometimes released by a flood of tears…There is a feeling that one is utterly out of hand…Everything occurs without volition, as if an eruption of freedom, independence, power, and divinity. The spontaneity of the images and similes is most remarkable; one loses all perception of what is imagery and simile; everything offers itself as the most immediate, exact, and simple means of expression.
The powerful means by which Introverted Intuition reveals its insights are associated with a gut sense of conviction and certainty. At a deep intuitive level, INJs experience their intuitions as true and trustworthy. But they cannot stop there. Once they have received an intuition, they must work to flesh it out. They must articulate and illustrate it in order to render it accessible and useful to others. This is where their auxiliary function, either Extraverted Feeling (Fe) or Extraverted Thinking (Te), enters the picture, helping them unpack their vision, sort of like decompressing a computer file. This process can at times be difficult and painstaking, sometimes taking longer than birthing the vision itself. But in order for others to trust and get behind it, INJs must do their best to translate their vision into words, images, or formulas. For INTJs, this might entail proffering a detailed framework of their proposed solution, including its parts and processes. INFJs may opt for a more metaphorical or narrative approach, using analogies, word pictures, or stories to illustrate their insights.
Rectifying Contradictions & Paradoxes
Ni can also be an effective tool for handling paradoxical or contradictory evidence. To the rational mind, two contradictory assertions cannot simultaneously coexist; one of the them must be rendered false. But according to Jung, the unconscious, through it’s innate creativity, is adept at reconciling opposites and transcending paradoxes.
An INFJ friend of mine is a champion of paradoxical or Janusian thinking. In our discussions of philosophy, she has sought to transcend traditional categorizations and dichotomies by claiming that knowledge is at once relative and absolute, subjective and objective, temporal and eternal, etc. Again, to the rational mind, which relishes and even relies on such dichotomies, this can be difficult to swallow. When seen through the lens of Ni, however, ostensible paradoxes may become more readily intelligible and explainable.
To learn more about Ni, be sure to explore our latest book, My True Type: Clarifying Your Personality Type, Preferences & Functions, which takes an in-depth look at each of the 8 functions and preferences: