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INFJ, or Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judger

is a label borrowed from MBTI nomenclature and now applied to the Jungian Cognitive Function set {Ni, Fe, Ti, Se}.

What Is Personality Type

What Is Personality Type

Dominant: Introverted iNtuition (Ni)

"I just like putting all of life's little dreams in perspective. The real world is inside my head. Imagination is the doorway to the world--if you can imagine it, then it exists. The difficulty lies in compromising that world enough to get along with the other one. I mean, if you think about it, I have no proof that you or anybody else really exists. Is anything really 'true' in the most ultimate sense? Or is whatever we think of as 'truth' just another frame of reference, with no more objective value than anything else? I try not to take any one definition of reality too seriously, because then I lose the ability to give equal consideration to others."

As introverted perception (Pi) dominants, INFJs are constantly busy with the private inner world of subjective association of signs and symbols with personalized meaning. Both Pi functions (Ni and Si) are concerned with generating internalized impressions of past experience--in this way they are quite similar. But while Si depends on specific and concrete sensory data to build its personal conceptual map of meaning, Ni instead depends on more vague and loosely defined skeletons of the intangible and abstract relationships between ideas. It can't build a map as thorough and complete as that of an Si type who has directly experienced all of the information in a given area, but it can use the conceptual outlines of its own experiences to "fill in the blanks" and predict how related experiences that it hasn't actually had will feel in terms of the personal impression they create.

Often, the way a particular piece of information strikes them is simply too dependent upon the assumptions inherent in Ni's worldview to make its significance meaningful to anyone else. Putting it into words ruins the point because words are yet another limited medium which carries too many inherent assumptions to fully carve out an effective vocabulary for the conceptual impressions in which Ni specializes.

As an introverted perception function, dominant Ni is not making any kind of value judgments. It's only taking in impressions--as many different possible interpretations of the significance of any given idea or event as possible. That may sound similar to Ne on the surface, but it's not--Ne is picking up a lot of different events and ideas at once and looking for common threads between them; Ni is picking one idea or event at a time and examining ("from a clean slate", as Yukawa says) every angle of every component of that one thing in order to find any as-of-yet untried interpretations that might cause us to view the whole issue in an entirely new light.

While Ne explodes into a million new places from one starting point, Ni is much more comfortable "imploding" into an overarching interpretation that combines many different disparate elements into one more cohesive whole. Often this results in the keen ability to pare down many different apparently disparate options into the best and most effective option for the singular vision that the INFJ's judgment functions have decided is the best use of time. This ability often leads others to see INFJs as possessing some sort of mystical, almost supernatural foresight; of course, there is nothing supernatural about--Ni simply notes the general ideas implied by conceptual impressions, and from there it's not a difficult jump to imagine how they might be deconstructed or rearranged for different purposes. Ni dominants are often surprised and a little perplexed that others don't naturally see the unstated meaning that characterizes their entire self-experience.

Ni dislikes forcing rationalized structure onto its conceptual impressions because that structure is bound to operate under a certain set of assumptions which may prematurely (and without even realizing it) eliminate the very kind of information Ni is interested in: using past experiences with related conceptual frameworks to eliminate the barriers on its holistic understanding of symbols and the meaning they signify.

Often, INFJs feel that others operate under too many unstated assumptions of meaning to even follow the esoteric trains of internal imagination in which they live. All too commonly this results in feelings of isolation: the INFJ sees himself as too unorthodox in his very assumptions about the nature of reality to fit into the frameworks by which most of the people surrounding him define themselves.

Auxiliary: Extroverted Feeling (Fe)

"A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people." --Mohandas Gandhi

"How then, may an INFJ find a way to relate his vision meaningfully to the people around him and achieve the social acceptance and communal understanding that he desires? The answer lies in auxiliary Fe.

Fe encourages us to derive our moral and ethical ideals from the groups of other people that we consider important, or at the very least, to define morality in a way that can be widely understood and applied by large groups of individuals. The goal is relatively simple and utilitarian: To define our relationships to each other according to the common moral guidelines upon which we agree to base our lives together, for the common good of everyone involved.

"I can sympathize with where you're coming from--allow me to emphasize some sort of cultural bond or familial connection that relates us in an objectively observable way and suggests that we have some degree of responsibility toward each other. Only through committed responsibility to these objective relationships can we form the social hierarchy by which we will decide--together through collective experience--what constitutes moral and ethical behavior within the communal bonds of our lives together. Morality is simply too important to be decided by any individual without any input from the consensus of the people he trusts, loves and respects."

Fe is, in a certain sense, inherently tribal. While it does promote something of an "us vs. them" mentality by grouping those who feel the same way "we" do as opposed to those who do not, Fe types do not view this as an exercise in the exclusion or repression of differing views. They simply regard morality as an ideal that is too important to be trusted to the whims of single individuals: they recognize that in order for society to exist productively as a collective unit, certain interpersonal and social standards of conduct and ethics must be agreed upon and upheld in order to maximize the utility of moral values by designing them to appeal to as broad a base of different people as possible.

In a more practical sense, Fe provides the INFJ not only with a vocabulary for defining and structuring her familial, social, and cultural obligations to others, but also with a clear cut sense of direction and a tangible goal at which to direct her grand visions. INFJs with strong Fe often make tremendously charismatic speakers--they are in touch with the needs and collective sentiments of their communities, and they understand the assumptive frameworks of competing value systems in enough depth to express the collective ethical voice of "their people" in terms that even their enemies will find palatable--or at least difficult to argue with.

Without strong Fe, the INFJ may find herself increasingly isolated and feel bitter and resentful toward the external world for its inability to understand or appreciate her talents. She will, most likely, also be painfully aware of her own shortcomings and faults, including her inability to communicate her ideas effectively to others in any way that will facilitate the mutual understanding and approval that she requires. She may even feel directionless and purposeless, full of immense visions for worthwhile goals but utterly unable to convince anyone of their merit.

Tertiary: Introverted Thinking (Ti)

The downside of Fe, of course, is that it depends exclusively on the judgments of others in its ongoing effort to be judged as a morally sound example of the best values its communities (friends, family, coworkers, any groups to which the INFJ feels emotionally connected and responsible for) hold dearly. One may wonder, then, where the INFJ's sense of personal principles originates, if Ni simply perceives as many conceptual possibilities as it can, while Fe derives its evaluative principles from the moral fabric of its external surroundings.

Enter tertiary Ti: When all else fails and no meaningful conclusion can be reached via the Ni-Fe approach, the INFJ will turn inward again and listen to whatever his conscience tells him is inherently consistent, fair, and reasonable. The value in Ti's approach here is that it provides a sense of definite and complete closure to an INFJ in the middle of a conflict over which set of external moral values should be granted highest priority. Return to the basic axioms of what we do know for sure: "I think, therefore I am." When externally derived moral values have become too convoluted or too compromised to be trusted with a personal decision, Ti steps in to provide a personalized logical framework which can be universally applied regardless of context.

It gives us something we can know for sure because it seems inherently correct and consistent in and of itself, and that can be quite a relief in times of internal strife. When an INFJ gets overloaded with too many possible interpretations of a problem, and can't find any useful objective guidance, he turns to Ti to decide what's ultimately reasonable and important to him. From this he can derive personal convictions and find a way to make private value judgments without feeling he is neglecting the vital opinions of his community or locking himself into a limited interpretation.

Ti can have a negative impact when it's poorly developed or when it blocks out Fe to an unhealthy degree--the NiTi loop INFJ is brutally anti-social and absolutely clueless as to how to relate to the rest of humanity. One INFJ friend describes Ni as, "a very deep hole that it's very easy to get lost in and never come back."

NiTi loop can have even worse implications: If Fe is weak or underdeveloped enough, the INFJ may display so few outward signs of emotion that he is seen as uncaring, unsympathetic, selfish, and pretentious. Ti suggests a framework of logic for dealing with a problem, but there's no source of objective data to stop Ni from noting all the inherent assumptions in Ti's approach and short circuiting the INFJ's confidence in his entire cognitive process.

In the end, Ti serves a useful and much-needed assistant to Fe in the judgment process, but it will not function on its own as an adequate substitute for objective, externalized Feeling judgment.

Inferior: Extroverted Sensation (Se)

For the INFJ, inferior Se has a slow building process over time, like a candle gradually burning down into a stick of dynamite. The first example I always think of in reference to inferior Se is Black Flag singer Henry Rollins (obvious INFJ), and the stories of him beating the living snot out of kids who spit on him on stage, back stage after the shows.

Another example might be Radiohead singer Thom Yorke, with his amusing explanation for how he deals with the guilt and pressure of fame: "I masturbate a lot. That's how I deal with it."

One INFJ friend describes inferior Se thusly: "Man, when I was a kid, I always hated and resented jocks for their superficial outlook...but some part of me still thought, 'But oh man, aren't they SO COOL?'" That same friend, I have noticed, has learned the hard way to remove himself forcibly from conflicts before he gets truly upset--because he knows how brutally aggressive and insensitive he can become if he is pushed to the breaking point.

Se represents the raw, animalistic, aggressive, spontaneous hunger for the reality of pure, literal sensory input which Ni dominants take so much care to lock away and hide from others as much as they can. As a tertiary function for ENJs, Se has a much more helpful use, because it's under their control enough that they can use it to show others they care about appearances and trends (for Te- or Fe-oriented business goals), and, if necessary, to subtly imply threats of brute force if the adversary cannot muster up the discipline to respect the ENJ's polite requests for obedience.

But as an inferior function, few INJs learn to command Se to a degree that it becomes a substantial part of their regular healthy cognition. Its literal focus on precisely what is immediately obvious presents a direct threat to Ni's all-encompassing desire to see "beneath the surface" of the information presented to it. Se places value on precisely the kind of guttural, immediate impact that many INJs spend their entire lives working hard to eliminate in themselves, insistent that such shallow focus is beneath the sophistication of their constant work to see all the less obvious, hidden interpretations where Ni feels at home. But Se is still there...lurking under the surface, waiting to boil over. You don't want to be around an INFJ when it does.

Ideally, inferior Se should eventually help the INFJ to stop looking for deeper meaning in places where it's neither intended nor useful, to appreciate the more immediate value in that which is tangible and real to others (even though she herself may see it as trivially insubstantial), and to maintain a degree of spontaneity in terms of ability to pay attention to and imitate what others around her see as current and worthy of attention. Ultimately, Ni can learn to interpret Se's unconscious signals as "just another perspective" and assign them the same level of scrutinized value as any other possible frame of reference. Harnessing Se for positive use requires tremendous personal balance and will power, lest it get out of hand and consume the INFJ in an uncontrollable fit of hedonism or rage.

Eventually, Se should support Ni by adding real physical data and in-the-moment "gut feelings" to the intuitive conceptual "hunches" on which Ni operates. It's vital for the INFJ to recognize that the face value of this immediate sensory information can actually bolster the power of his intuitions--if only he is able to interpret it in context, rather than allow it to consume his entire experience and block out the under-the-radar, between-the-lines information to which he feels a more natural connection.

Sometimes this is the only way the INFJ can get anyone to pay enough attention to what he's saying to make any real noticeable impact or difference in the world--and that's something most INFJs struggle their whole lives to feel like they are doing.