(This is part 2 of a 5-part series. You can go back to part 1 here.)
In this article, we looked at the foundation of the MBTI® system. It's a theory, which means you may disagree with it—which is ok! The goal of this series is to inform you of what having the INFJ type says about you within the MBTI® system.
Let's continue with the cognitive functions! (grins with excitement)
What are the Cognitive Functions?
Our cognitive functions, or mental functions, define two things: how we take in information (perceive) and how we make decisions (judge). The two perceiving functions are intuition and sensing. The two judging functions are thinking and feeling. There are two "attitudes" each of these functions can take. Each can be either introverted, occurring within, or extraverted, occurring outside of us. This brings us 8 possible cognitive functions:
- Introverted Intuition (Ni)
- Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
- Introverted Sensing (Si)
- Extraverted Sensing (Se)
- Introverted Thinking (Ti)
- Extraverted Thinking (Te)
- Introverted Feeling (Fi)
- Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
Every person can use all 8 mental functions, but every person has a "stack" of 4 that they prefer. The order of preference within that stack is dominant, auxiliary, tertiary, and inferior.
The INFJ cognitive function stack is...
- Introverted Intuition (Ni) - Dominant
- Extraverted Feeling (Fe) - Auxiliary
- Introverted Thinking (Ti) - Tertiary
- Extraverted Sensing (Se) - Inferior
Let's start with the best, shall we?
What is Introverted Intuition (Ni)?
As an INFJ, you lead with the information-gathering (perceiving) function of Introverted Intuition (Ni). For INFJs and INTJs, the two types who lead with Ni, it's always on. So, what is it?
It's a hunch that comes out of nowhere.
It's predictive and future-oriented.
It's a flash of insight.
It's the convergence of data that leads to one specific future-related insight.
Carl Jung defined intuition as "a perception by way of the unconscious." (See a video of him explaining intuition here)
As your dominant cognitive function, it's the one we spend the most time with in childhood. Since this process is normal for the INFJ child, they don't recognize (at least at first) that others don't take in information the same way.
What causes an INFJ to disconnect from her Introverted Intuition?
You can disconnect from your intuition if it's ignored. When the INFJ child begins to understand that others don't accept her ideas, she may begin to reject those flashes of insight. That doesn't mean her Ni stops working. It means she may lose her ability to connect to those insights.
An overuse of your Extraverted Feeling (Fe) can create a disconnect from your Ni. We'll talk more about Fe next week, but it's concerned with creating harmony among people. This disconnect can come from "peopling" too much and not allowing time for recovery. Always considering other people's needs and denying your own creates a disconnect with your inner world. Rejecting your insights due to fear of what others will think can train your brain to suppress them.
Stress creates a disconnect, whether it's everyday stress or extreme stress. Everyday stress can cause you to read too much into things and force patterns and connections where they don't exist. This type of disconnect from your intuition creates outrageous and unrealistic visions. Extreme stress forces your inferior function of Extraverted Sensing (Se) to take over to balance things out. We'll get to Se in the coming weeks, but it's all about sensations of the present moment. Being in the grip of Se means your Ni will take a backseat while you overdo sensing activities (eating, drinking, shopping, etc).
How can you fully experience your Introverted Intuition?
My clients often ask me how they can develop their Ni. Because it's always on for you as an INFJ, I tend to shy away from this idea that your Ni needs developing. You've just seen that there are things that can cause you to disconnect from your introverted intuition. So how can you stay connected? Let's look at how you can exercise and fully experience your introverted intuition.
1. Learn. Question. Be curious.
We love learning! This is a great way to feed your intuition. Allow your mind to collect and store new data for future use by reading (especially nonfiction), taking a free or paid course, listening to podcasts, or starting a new hobby. Ask "why" questions of what you're learning (and of yourself) that will take you deeper. Follow a trail of curiosity. As your knowledge and observations increase from your experiences, your potential for insight increases.
Don't give up too easily on the things you're learning, your new interests, or your ideas. This is especially important if you're considering giving up because others don't understand. This doesn't mean you have to pursue a new idea or hobby indefinitely. But persistence can pay off with new understandings and insights over time. Intuitive insights may seem sudden, but they're formed by patterns that are subconsciously observed over time.
3. Be quiet.
You must give yourself time to sit in silence. Time alone is not a luxury, either. It's necessary for us to re-energize and to give space to the advanced pattern-recognition that is our intuition. Spend this time letting your mind wander. Reflect on something you're learning or a recent song or movie. Keep a notebook handy and write down any ideas that come to your mind, even if they make no sense.
And last, but definitely not least...
4. Write or talk about your ideas.
If you like to write, don't think that spending time on it is a luxury. Having kids, a family, a job, or other demands all make it harder to prioritize time to write. As an INFJ, though, the helpfulness of writing (journaling) cannot be understated. Get your thoughts out of your head and then spend time re-reading what you wrote. This is one way for your intuitive insights to emerge.
Sharing your thoughts with a trusted friend is another way to connect to your intuition. In this video, Scott Morgan shares that sometimes we intuitively know we have an insight, but we can't grasp onto it yet. It's too vague and nebulous. In these cases, we might start talking before we have a fully-formed insight, only to have the insight emerge as we speak. I've had this experience as I'm coaching. I'll latch on to something my clients say, and I might pause to give the hunch time to fully form and come to the surface. If it feels right on the edge, I'll start talking and end up saying something I couldn't have planned. Sharing your ideas, out loud, can bring your intuitive insights to light.
You can also talk about your ideas by recording your voice through a voice memo. Then listen back to it and see if any insights emerge as you listen. Same with video. Record yourself speaking and sharing your thoughts and concerns, then watch it back.
With each of these ways to connect to your intuition, be patient with yourself. Don't get frustrated or give up if you don't have an insight every single time. Be consistent. Allow space and time for the big picture to reveal itself.