As an INFJ, I sometimes find myself at odds with my dominant function; introverted intuition. Often I’d love to sink into its depths and soak in all the pictures and patterns it gives me; other times my predictions are quite frankly, scary. I feel like I must do anything to change the scenery, to focus on the here and now, to get whatever foreboding idea it’s given me out of my mind. Most of the time I love introverted intuition; I fall in love with what could be, and what I’ve seen leading up to a moment in time that I’ve yet to encounter. Anyone with Ni (Introverted Intuition) as their dominant function is going to enjoy using it, but it can also get messy sometimes.
How Introverted Intuition Works
Introverted intuition is a perceiving function that sorts through conscious and unconscious data giving the user a “vision” or symbol that holds great meaning. Some typologists call Ni “perspective-shifting” and an ability to see things from many different angles to find its underlying meaning and essence. Isabel Briggs-Myers said the greatest gifts of Ni are the “flashes of inspiration, the insight into relationships, the imagination, the originality, the access to resources of the unconscious, the ingenuity, and the visions of what could be.”
Carl Jung said that Ni is “directed toward the inner object”. But what is the inner object? Well, what Jung believed was that the inner object meant the areas of the unconscious. He believed that Ni-users don’t just consider raw, outer material, but instead prefer to look at “subjective images of things which, though not to be met within the outside world, constitute the contents of the unconscious, and of the collective unconscious in particular.”
What does this mean though? What is the unconscious or collective unconscious?
According to Jung, the psyche is made up of three separate but interacting systems. These three systems include the ego, the unconscious, and the collective unconscious.
The ego is the conscious mind. Thoughts, memories, and emotions that one is aware of are found in the ego. This is where we get our feelings of identity. In fact, true INJs are somewhat detached from their own identity because they lead with introverted intuition which is largely concerned with unconscious data and not ego-driven data.
The second system of the psyche that Jung defined was the unconscious. The unconscious contains temporarily forgotten personal information, as well as abstract symbols, and memories of which one may not even be aware. When we dream we often access the unconscious. In fact, many Ni-users report having especially vivid and influential dreams.
The collective unconscious contains universal primordial images and ideas. These symbols might include things like the Great Mother, the Wise Old Man, the Shadow, the Tower, Water, the Tree of Life, and many more. Carl Jung believed that the collective unconscious had great influence over people and worked to add meaning and depth to life’s experiences. He found that these archetypal images were prevalent across various cultures and throughout various times in history, and so believed that they had some unconscious power in all civilizations.
There are a lot of articles out there that will define intuition almost like an ability to plan, but really the truth about Ni is that it is not planning so much as seeing or envisioning symbols and images from the unconscious. Introverted intuition sees the background material of what happens in daily life and is more concerned with this background material or hidden meaning than it is with the outer data or reality. Jung said “For intuition, therefore, unconscious images acquire the dignity of things.”
How does Introverted Intuition Play Out in Daily Life?
People with introverted intuition often have gut feelings that are uncannily accurate. They are excellent at spotting trends or patterns to form a prediction of what may be. They often don’t know how they got these predictions or why, but one neuroscience expert named Dario Nardi has an idea of how it all works…
“The Ni types often show a whole-brain, zen-like pattern. This pattern occurs when all regions of the neocortex are in synch and dominated by brain waves that are medium-low frequency and very high-amplitude….What is this zen state like? When presented with a problem, the Ni types seek to harness all neocortex regions in order to “realize” an answer. Imagine a troop of blind men trying to identify a secret object by touch. One man feels a trunk and says, “tree”; another detects four legs and says “table”; a third feels tusks and says “boar”. Like the blind men, each region offers a different perspective, and a zen-like synchronous state allows the person to reconcile various perspectives to arrive at a best-fit answer (an elephant).”
Nardi goes on to say that Ni types easily show a zen state when tasked to envision the future. This is where INTJs and INFJs truly shine. Their minds synthesize a plethora of information obtained via their inferior sensing function. As this information is synthesized and sorted, they will suddenly get an image or a “hunch” about what will happen or something’s underlying meaning. These predictions can be unsettling to others, and even the Ni user themselves.
For me personally, Ni reveals insights and revelations about people that seem to come out of the blue. Like anyone, I’ll mess up sometimes and misread something or someone. However, being Ni dominant means we are always trying to think of the “big picture” and put together a future plan or idea composed of all the bits of sensory information you’re giving us. We support our Ni with either Fe (for INFJs) or Te (for INTJs). These auxiliary functions help us to actually do something with our visions instead of just leaving them there. For the INFJ it motivates us to connect with people or inspire them with our ideas. For the INTJ it can mean creating an innovative system or plan. There’s really no specific way that all INJs use their intuition and auxiliary functions, but generally, the auxiliary function helps us to “bring out” our vision in some tangible way.
The Dark Side of Introverted Intuition
All this picking up clues and connecting dots can reveal startling or upsetting future outcomes. I’ve guessed at things happening; relationships ending in very specific ways for people I know, ambitions and dreams failing, someone being in a dangerous situation or hurt. While all types can occasionally do this, Ni dominant types are often are plagued by this problem the most. The biggest struggle is that when we try to explain our insight it is usually misunderstood because we rely so much on unconscious material and because we don’t always know why or how we got the particular idea we currently have. Nevertheless we are usually quite sure of our vision but it will take time, and the help of our other supporting cognitive functions, to be able to explain in any rational way where the insight came from or why it makes sense.
The Magic of Introverted Intuition
Each personality type has a “superpower” dominant function that makes them shine. For example, I’m astounded by my ESTP husband’s Extraverted Sensing (Se) and Introverted Thinking (Ti) combined. I’ve never known anyone with such fast reflexes, who is so aware of his surroundings, and with such strong tactical abilities. I don’t think us INFJs and INTJs are better than everyone else. We just are better at using Ni than most people, who are better at other things. The magic of Ni comes when someone explains to you an idea they’ve had, and you know it will work because you can see what’s led to this point, and where things will likely go. It’s when you can be enthusiastic about someone’s dream, maybe even your own, because you have that visionary insight into how that dream will become a reality. The magic is when you are not limited to this moment in time or to a moment in the past, but can easily see avenues of possibility into the future that others may not. It’s when your intuition works with your other functions, like thinking, sensing, or feeling to put together puzzle pieces into a master plan or “vision” of what will be and how to get there. It’s being able to see past what’s right in front of you and discover more than what’s on the surface. Yes, sometimes it can be misleading, but other times it feels like it’s a magical door that can unlock your true purpose, your biggest hope or dream, or an understanding of someone that nobody else has ever grasped.
What do you think?
How do you feel about introverted intuition? Have you had any experiences with it that you’d like to share? I’d love to talk to you and find out more in the comments!
Find out more about your personality type in our eBooks, Discovering You: Unlocking the Power of Personality Type, The INFJ – Understanding the Mystic, The INFP – Understanding the Dreamer, and The INTJ – Understanding the Strategist. You can also connect with me via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!
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