Understanding + using your INFJ Extraverted Sensing
(This is the 5th, and final part, of a 5-part series on what INFJ says about you. You can go back to part 1 here.)
I'll be honest: I've had some resistance to writing this article on the final piece of our INFJ cognitive function stack. As INFJs, we don't relate to this function as much. It's completely normal to experience resistance to it. I don't want to skip it, though, because this is a piece of you, just like it's a piece of me. As you read through this article, I encourage you to note any resistance you may feel to focusing more about this part of you. Just breathe into it...
To bring you up to speed, this is the last part of this series on what "INFJ" says about you. We first worked through an overview of the cognitive functions and created a foundation for understanding the MBTI® system in Part 1. Then we dug into your Introverted Intuition, Extraverted Feeling, and Introverted Thinking. Today we add the final piece of the puzzle—Extraverted Sensing. Here's a quick review of the order of our cognitive functions:
What is Extraverted Sensing (Se)?
As a perceiving function, Se is responsible for in-the-moment information-gathering from our five senses. Those who use Se in the dominant position (ESTPs and ESFPs) can take in a lot of sensory information at once without being overwhelmed. They're usually highly aware of their surroundings and tend to have quicker reactions to external stimuli than those who prefer intuition. They're skilled at applying their sensory information in the moment. Because of their awareness of their bodies, they may be highly skilled in sports or have the ability to move their body flawlessly through dancing. Exciting and adventurous activities tend to be stimulating for those who use Se in the dominant position. They prefer to focus on what is, rather than what will be.
How does Se show up in your life as an INFJ?
As INFJs, Se is our potential blindspot. Our Achilles Heel. It's the function we may consciously reject and resist, just as I did in writing about it! It's an important part of who you are, though, because it provides a balance to your dominant Ni function. It's the opposite perceiving function and it's oriented to the opposite attitude (extraverted).
Due to our Se's inferior position in our cognitive function stack, we tend to feel disconnected from our bodies. Some articles talk about INFJs as if we always have our heads in the clouds and have no sense of our physical reality. It's true that Ni pulls us away from reality, but I feel these articles mislead people about our true nature. We're not complete klutzes. :-) I have, however, run into my fair share of walls and sofas. I've knocked over many full glasses of water by losing track of my arms. And just last week I punched myself in the face while kickboxing. 😳Thankfully I didn't have a lot of force behind that last one. Yet, I don't consider myself particularly clumsy...
Our inferior Se may mean that we neglect our bodies—what we eat, how much we eat, how much we move, etc. I've heard other INFJs report that they either eat too much or too little. I've also heard stories of hating exercise or extreme exercise. If you find yourself on the extreme end of one of these spectrums, please seek professional help. You're worth it!
Having inferior Se means we tend to startle more easily than those who prefer sensing. If you're also a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), this is intensified. As an INFJ who is also an HSP, I can know that I'm in the same room with someone but then be so startled when they speak or move that I literally jump out of my seat. I've been startled to tears on too many occasions to count.
How can Se help INFJs?
When considering your Se, the idea is not to develop it to the same level of your Ni. There are various theories about whether or not you should even try to develop your inferior function. My take on this is to help you become more aware of its limitations and how to incorporate it into your life in a way that's not stressful.
Sensing activities can help us enjoy the present and connect with our bodies. This is one of the reasons we resist it: it pulls us out of our minds and into the present and our bodies. By integrating a small amount of sensing activities into our lives, we can deepen the connection between our minds and our bodies. We can honor our bodies through these sensing activities, too.
One of the first ways to honor your body is to pay attention to what you eat. I'm not going to get into any specific diets, foods, or eating plans. I'd rather you start to consider what you're eating right now, how much or how little you're eating, and how it makes you feel. Experiment over time to find the right combination. Consider consulting with a doctor, naturopath, nutritionist, or health coach if you need help. The truth is that a properly fueled body will serve your mind, which is where the real magic happens for us.
Plan ways to move your body a little every day. You may find that you get your best ideas during these times. I frequently have to stop my workout to make notes of thoughts and ideas. There's something about activating my body that also activates my mind. I find that slower activities, such as yoga, force me to be present in my body. That's probably why it's one of my least favorite forms of exercise (sorry yoga fans!).
Because I still struggle to stay present while exercising, I also take walks and remind myself to use my senses to observe the world around me. Even though this uses our inferior function, it can be an enjoyable experience in small doses.
Consider incorporating activities like gardening, dancing, or photography—even if it's just for a few minutes per day. These all involve the senses in one or more ways. Small amounts of sensing activities can be really fun and enjoyable for us and might teach us something. After my formal training as a photographer, for example, I noticed my ability to pay attention to details dramatically increased, especially when it comes to still photographs and images in movies.
What's the bottom line when it comes to an INFJ's Se?
➤ Notice where you may resist or suppress Se in your life.
➤ Recognize your limitations when it comes to taking in sensory data and give yourself permission to recover if you experience a sensory overload.
➤ Consider how you may neglect your body and how you can better support your physical body.
➤ Start planning time to connect with your body and the present moment through sensory activities.
➤ Just like your Ti, you may find more peace and enjoyment in Se activities as you age.
➤ You're a wonderful, amazing, and intuitive INFJ. But you have four functions to which you have the most conscious access. If you want to enhance and support your dominant Ni, make room for all the others—Fe, Ti, and Se.
That's a wrap for this series on what "INFJ" says about you. What new discoveries did you make about yourself? Comment below—I'd love to know!
Here are links to all previous articles in this series:
Part 1 - What does "INFJ" say about you?
Part 2 - Understanding and developing your Introverted Intuition (Ni)
Part 3 - Understanding and developing your Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
Part 4 - Understanding and using your Introverted Thinking (Ti)
To read more about how extreme stress impacts our Se, read this.