By Dr. A.J. Drenth
Collectively comprising little more than 10% of the general population, the IN types (INFJ, INFP, INTJ, & INTP) are rare and unusual birds. If we harken back to humanity’s tribal days, we would likely find only a few INs in a given tribe. At that time, they would have assumed roles such as sage, healer, Shaman or prophet—anything that capitalized on their powers of insight and intuition. Indeed, their rare and unusual gifts would have made INs a precious commodity. Knowing that they played a critical role in their tribe’s well-being would have engendered a deep sense of self-worth in these types.
Fast-forwarding to the present day, INs find themselves in a very different and ultimately more difficult predicament. Instead of being born into a tribe and assuming a meaningful role within that community, INs must now find or create their own tribe, as well as their purpose within it. Unfortunately, many INs discover that the path to doing so is a rough and rocky one; finding themselves and their best-fit niche rarely proves as smooth or easy as they anticipate.
Further complicating this situation is the growing concentration of power and influence among a small subset of individuals. Due to the reach of the internet and other forms of mass media, a single individual can now command the attention of millions. And while this may be a boon for a fortunate few, it can leave many INs feeling as though their own ideas and insights are superfluous or unimportant.
Put simply, the path to a meaningful societal role for IN types is far less straightforward than it once was. Not only are there more perfunctory hoops to jump through, but the sheer number of options and possibilities makes it harder to stay focused on and confident in one’s chosen direction. Even INs who have settled on a career path, for instance, are constantly confronted with enticing alternatives that can engender doubt or discontentment. This forces them to consider whether they should stay the course versus jumping ship and exploring something different.
As introverts, the INFJ, INFP, INTJ, and INTP types are naturally compelled to seek mastery in a specific area. However, they feel it equally important to ensure they are focusing on the RIGHT thing. More than anything, they want to avoid making the wrong choices upfront which could lead to the squandering of many precious years of life. Knowing when and what to fully commit to—this is the key.
Of course, in a world that is changing so rapidly, any amount of sustained commitment or “tunnel vision” comes with a certain amount of risk. If change is the name of the game, those who fail to adapt run the risk of becoming irrelevant or left behind. This can pose a problem for INs who want to deeply invest in something while at the same time remaining responsive to new trends or developments. They may find it difficult to honor their need for inner consistency amid an ever-changing external landscape.
Although keeping tabs on new developments is certainly feasible within a relatively narrow scope of interest, INs are compelled to maintain an accurate sense of reality as a whole, which means exploring and integrating a broad swath of information. To ensure that their worldview and life choices are guided by a proper understanding of the whole, they see it is as their duty to stay informed and to modify their views and actions accordingly. In light of the monsoons of information that bombard us on a daily basis, this is undoubtedly a tall task.
Fortunately, intuition is less concerned with amassing facts and details than it is with seeing and understanding broader patterns. IN types are thus mostly concerned with seeing how new information squares with their general understanding of things. But even then, they can’t help but wonder if they are missing something important—a critical piece of the puzzle—and this may inspire self-doubt and a reluctance to act on their beliefs; they feel torn between their need for accuracy and their desire for purposeful action. How much time should one spend selecting, studying, and preparing to shoot a target before finally pulling the trigger?
INs typically spend far more time engaged in this sort of reflective preparation than other types. It is therefore not unusual for them to worry that life may be passing them by as they spend copious amounts of time introspecting and trying to figure things out. This was exemplified, for example, by the IN philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein who remarked on several occasions that he intended to quit philosophy in order to take up a more “ordinary life.” INs may fear that spending too much time in their own minds (N) will prevent them from experiencing or appreciating the simple pleasures (S) of life that other types seem to enjoy in abundance. In type parlance, they worry that investing too much time in their dominant functions may hinder the development and integration of their inferior functions.