So far in this book, we have spoken only of the Myers-Briggs personality type preferences (Introvert, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging). Preferences help us to understand what our personality type is and give us a general understanding of who we are and how we operate. But they only give us half of the story. We also have to look at Functions.
According to Carl Jung, four of the eight preferences, Sensing, Intuition, Thinking, and Feeling, can be introverted or extraverted. When they are introverted they are something that we feel but don’t necessarily show to the world. They happen on the inside. When they are extroverted they are something that we show to the world. They happen on the outside.
The 8 Functions
Though there are eight functions total, you only have four of them in your personality. Those four make up your functional stack, which we’ll get into later. For now, let’s take a look at what the functions mean.
Extraverted Thinking (Te) - looks to make any operation or procedure more logical and standardized. They look for the most efficient and rational way to do things and apply it to everything.
Introverted Thinking (Ti) - looks to make their own personal decisions logical and standardized. They are more focused on the individual rather than the whole experience.
Extraverted Feeling (Fe) - looks at all of the feelings of those around them. They want to have peace and harmony among everyone.
Introverted Feeling (Fi) - looks at their own feelings and focus on their own values and inner harmony.
Extraverted Intuition (Ne) - looks for new ideas and possibilities to explore outside of themselves. Extraverted Intuition types love learning new and deep ideas to keep them thinking about what could be.
Introverted Intuition (Ni) - explores ideas and possibilities that come from inside.
Extraverted Sensing (Se) - looks for exciting experiences outside of themselves, things that appeal to the senses (taste, sounds, sights, experiences).
Introverted Sensing (Si) - relies on their own past experience that they know is tried and true. They don’t like new experiences, but would rather go with what they know works.
Defining characteristic/main strength
Sidekick to the dominant function.
Not very noticeable
Not only do we have to look at what functions we have, but we also have to look at what order they are in. They are organized by how strong they are or how conscious they are. The strongest one is the dominant function. It is followed by auxiliary, tertiary, and inferior.
The dominant function is the defining characteristic of your personality type. It’s what makes you tick at your core and what you use the most. When you are doing something that uses this function fully, you will feel like your most authentic self. This activity will energize you and make you feel the most alive. The auxiliary function can be just as strong as the dominant one if it is developed enough. It usually works hand in hand with the dominant function as an assistant or sidekick.
The tertiary and inferior functions are much less developed and noticeable, however, they still make up an important part of our personality.
INFJ Dominant Function: Introverted Intuition (Ni)
INFJ Auxiliary Function: Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
INFJ Tertiary Function: Introverted Thinking (Ti)
INFJ Inferior Function: Extraverted Sensing (Se)
Our personality develops based on our functional stack. The first thing we notice when we are young is our Introverted Intuition (Ni), that ability to just know things. We also notice our Extraverted Feeling (Fe). This leads us to know how others feel and be concerned about what they think and the general harmony of those around us. Our Introverted Intuition (Ni) and Extraverted Feeling (Fe) work well together. We are able to see things that most people don’t and read underlying motives pretty easily.
When we are young we are quick to express the things we feel and see. This can lead to people accusing us of being judgmental or seeing things too narrowly, especially because we are so sure of what we know and so quick to come to those decisions. We have a tendency to take these accusations straight to heart and begin to question our intuition and feeling functions.
A young INFJ will not understand that not everyone thinks the way that we do or understands things the way that we do. It usually takes time and a lot of criticism and heartbreak before we start to see that we shouldn’t be so open with our knowledge and opinions.
As we grow up we start to notice our Extraverted Sensing (Se) more. This inferior function fights with the dominant function at the worst time in our lives, right around the time we are going to high school and college. Nearly all INFJs struggle so much to find their purpose in life, which is usually associated with their career and/or life partner. They want to find the right thing and make sure they don’t mess it up. Unfortunately, our Extraverted Sensing (Se) causes us to make some questionable choices when it comes to our career and our relationships, just at the time when we are making these big decisions.
Eventually, we also start to notice our Introverted Thinking (Ti) function as well. We use this function to stop the fighting between our Introverted Intuition (Ni) and our Extraverted Sensing (Se). It helps us to find balance and make better judgments.
A lot of INFJs only develop their personalities to this point. They are satisfied with what they know and have no desire to move forward or understand more.
Some INFJs, however, are constantly searching to know more about themselves and how they operate. They learn continuously until they can no longer. With learning comes awareness and the ability to improve the less noticed functions, to bring them to light and know how to use them to our advantage. This type of personal growth will lead us to that purpose we long for and that feeling of being whole.
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The dominant function for INFJs is Introverted Intuition (Ni). As we discussed in chapter 3, Intuition in the ability to know things. Because this is mostly a subconscious process and because the majority of people, in general, don’t experience intuition, it’s often seen as something magical or spiritual. INFJs are thought of as prophets or fortune-tellers.
The process of Introverted Intuition is not magic at all, however, it does seem that way. Introverted Intuition is made up of a simple process. INFJs use our Inferior function, Extraverted Sensing, to observe what is going on around us in great detail. We notice everything. Through this observation, we collect all kinds of information and organize it in our minds. We are constantly looking for patterns and connections to make it all make sense. We then take these patterns and apply them to future scenarios to “predict the future.”
Most people who have intuition experience this process on a subconscious level. It really isn’t noticeable. They know that they just know things, but they don’t know how they know. An underdeveloped or young INFJ will feel the same way.
However, as we get older and become more aware of the process we start to see what is going on in real-time. We notice that we are noticing things and making connections between them. It’s not always at the front of our minds, so we do still experience the phenomenon of just knowing something, but we also understand how it works and trust the process more.
The auxiliary function for INFJs is Extraverted Feeling (Fe). This function helps us to relate to others. Since the function is extroverted, meaning it’s directed outwards, we are more concerned with the thoughts and feelings of others than we are with our own thoughts and feelings.
This function makes us great peacemakers and negotiators. Working with our Introverted Intuition and Extraverted Sensing, we are able to notice the feelings of others and determine how best to understand, relate to and help them. Many people feel that INFJs can understand them better then they can understand themselves.
It’s a lot more difficult for INFJs to notice and understand their own feelings. Because our feeling function is extroverted we have a hard time processing our own emotions. When we are going through something difficult we will usually turn to a trusted friend or loved one for support.
This function helps INFJs to express our feelings as well. Because we have such a hard time processing feelings internally we need an outlet to be able to process them. A lot of times we don’t understand our feelings and our intuitions until we have written them down or spoken them out loud. In these times we turn to our closest friends for help and support. It’s important to note that the best form of help that we need is someone to just be patient and listen to us talk. We like to get things out in the open and voice our theories and observations. We don’t always need help sorting things out, just a listening ear. It’s important to our mental health and well being to have this outlet.
INFJs have a tendency to be dark and negative in our thought patterns. Our darkness comes from years and years of being misunderstood and overlooked. It’s easy for us to see ourselves as the victim and be pessimistic about the future. We are more likely to voice these feelings around our closest friends while keeping a more pleasant tone with those we don’t know as well.
The dominant and auxiliary functions are often at odds with each other for INFJs. Our Introverted Intuition wants us to stay true to our values and our internal harmony while our Extraverted Feeling is only concerned with pleasing others. When one of our friends asks us to do something that violates our values we will often do it in order to make our friend happy and keep the peace, all the while beating ourselves up inside for betraying our values.
It’s important for INFJs to listen to our intuition and do what feels right to us, rather than betray our values for someone else. Our intuition is what guides us through our lofe and when we ignore it we feel lost and confused. People in our lives will come and go, but we have to live with ourselves forever.
The third function for INFJs, also called the Tertiary function, is Introverted Thinking (Ti). This function brings some reasoning to our minds. It helps us navigate our intuitions and feelings from a logical perspective. INFJs are often said to use both the thinking and feeling sides of their brains. This is true, especially for more developed INFJs who use their Introverted Thinking to keep their other functions in check.
The downside of Introverted Thinking is that it can cause us to doubt our intuitions and our feelings. It causes us to look for a logical reason for these feelings or solid proof before we can trust them. As we grow and learn more about our personality we start to recognize this pattern and find a way for all of the functions to work together, rather than against each other.
The last INFJ function is the Inferior function, Extraverted Sensing (Se). The inferior function is the least used and is often unconscious or even repressed. It takes work and development in order to use it effectively.
Extraverted Sensing is the ability to be present, to notice the things around you and pay attention to the details. INFJs have great difficulty being in the present. We live for our Introverted Intuition and thoroughly enjoy being in that space. At times we don’t even notice what is going on around us. We are so deep in thought and processing that sometimes it takes a while before we notice the environment around us. This can be a dangerous game for us since we are highly sensitive as well. When we aren’t paying attention to what’s happening around us we can become overstimulated without even noticing.
Anything that has to do with sensing can be overwhelming for us. We tend to stay away from new things, places, foods, smells, because they can overwhelm us very easily. However, it’s important for us to tap into this function from time to time to really enjoy the things around us and take a break from what’s going on inside our heads.
The following is an excerpt from my book: The INFJ User Guide. Get the full book here.
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