In this article I will cover one of the rarest Jungian psychological types, giving an inside perspective on how it feels to be this way. I will explain it from the perspective of the Jungian functions, which is the second level of understanding the Meyer-Briggs theory.
INTJ stands for Introverted-Intuitive-Thinking-Judging. In short, 1% of the population. Being an INTJ is a challenging and often painful experience in the present world dominated by other types, and continuous self-explaining and self-translating is essential for survival.
The conclusion of Jung and the ones who studied the psychological types after him is that each person has 4 natural functions and 4 shadow functions. They are ordered in a hierarchy you can find in my previous articles here. The functions are in fact preferences; everyone is theoretically able to use all the 8 functions, in practice however most people use 1-2 natural functions and sometimes shadow functions. Read here about the 8 functions and here about the relationship between functions. It’s important to understand that each of the 8 functions can be regarded as a principle. I admit you need to study a bit more to understand this theory and the present article.
Introverted Intuition is the main function of the INTJ. This is our gift, that thing we can do at any moment of the day or night. This scares everyone, causes awe or envy, generally creating a weird emotion around us. Intuition can’t really be well explained in words; you have to witness it, either as an exterior observer or as an intuitive. You get your ideas out of nowhere. You have a sudden glimpse of inspiration or you have huge cinematographic imaginary scenes where you can see a lot of details – textures, colors, sounds, tastes, touches, etc. – everything happening exclusively inside your mind. You are always into contact with you unconscious mind from where you get the hunches, it’s like the inner unconscious mind is prolonged into your conscious mind as some sort of a sixth sense. It takes you years to notice that others can’t do what you can do, and some many more years to accept the situation. In the meantime you get that painful feeling that pretty much everyone else is a complete idiot, hence the narcissism often described as a common trait for INTJs.
Introverted Intuition doesn’t look at what is in front of it. I never really look at the situation in front of me or the person in front of me with my intuition; I look at my perception about them, I look at what is being created by my unconscious mind as the conclusion of what is in front of me. Introverted Intuition is not direct perception, but an intermediated perception; I don’t directly see the stuff in front of me; I see the result of my inner processing. This is often seen as mind-reading or telepathy by other non-intuitive types. It’s a terribly efficient way of gathering information, as I don’t struggle to sort out everything; this is done inside by my subconscious and I only get the main ideas. On the other hand, errors are disastrous in this process, especially when I have preconceived ideas coming from the other inferior/shadow functions or when I make the mistake to actually look directly at facts. To put it in different worlds, I need to be (introverted-sensing) blind to details so as to be (introverted-intuitively) clairvoyant.
What you’ve just read is a metaphor in a very condensed sentence (blind/clairvoyant). It’s a common trait in all intuitives, both extroverted and introverted ones – we use metaphors. In fact, you can find an intuitive in the crowd by seeking this type of discourse. Seek analogies and you’ll find us. I know, everyone uses analogies, but we do it naturally and without effort. This is seen in the exterior as creativity; we see it as the natural byproduct of the inner mental matrix that is filled with various patterns, and the fact that we operate with notions and principles rather than objects and facts. There is, however, in the above metaphor, a trait that only introverted-intuitives have: the idea is reduced to the essential. The extroverted-intuitives will put it differently, seeing many possibilities and going in a centrifugal richness of metaphors; on the contrary, the introverted-intuitives simplify everything to the core.
For instance, if someone asks what life means for an intuitive, the extrovert will likely say that “life is the sun in the glorious morning, children playing outside, the smile of my friends, the delicate touch of the skin of my lover, the monasteries in Nepal and the Pacific ocean shore, the elves in people’s tales or the freedom of running from home your own prosperous business”. An introvert will say that “life is love fulfilled in all the above aspects” or “the transient experience of being alive” or “a set of lessons and experiences in the 3rd dimension”. It’s a very dry way of seeing things, but in chaotic situations, an introverted intuitive is a blessing, because of this clarity that can put order in any mess.
I said above we have an inner mental matrix of patterns. Others say we see “the big picture”; this sums up well how it really is. Imagine a photo of the entire existence having the size of some hundreds terabytes. You can always zoom in to the finest detail or you can zoom out and see everything as a whole. In this photo there are black, unknown zones (that haven’t been discovered yet), just like in a strategy computer game. But you can always zoom in or out, despite the unknown areas. From here comes that well known saying that “an INTJ can always say what he knows, but also what he doesn’t know”. It’s normal since the existence is like a network and the only thing to do is discover the nodes or the missing areas.
However, so as to complicate things more, this matrix is not a 2D one; it’s a spatial one. I can always fold it, making contact between different points, hence the creativity. It isn’t a 3D phenomenon as well, as I cross the barrier of time in all directions; for an INTJ everything is instantaneous; even if I know that events are arranged one after the other, I can always access them as if they would be all in the present moment. This is rather confusing for others who are not used with this… Here is an article I wrote some time ago, days before coming back again to France. It is written from the perspective of the one I was 3 years ago, but with the information I have in the present. You can’t really tell the time of the writing, as experience is mixed in a continuous present as if 3 years mean absolutely nothing. And yet, the matrix is more complicated, as it is at the interface with the unconscious mind that works with symbols, feelings and irrational principles, not with thoughts. It would be impossible to describe this matrix in words and thoughts, as I tend to feel it, perceive it, rather than think it.
The second function in INTJs is the Extroverted Thinking. It’s an executive function; without it the INTJ is lost in thought. If we want to do something, we do it through this auxiliary function. An extroverted function means it is shown to the exterior, so the others often see it first and label us as excessively rational. This comes from the fact that we’re living a fast-paced life and we don’t have time to analyze, to spend extra time on getting to know the other. But for an attentive eye, Extroverted Thinking as the 2nd function feels different from Extroverted Thinking as the 1st function. A true thinking-extrovert (an ENTJ, for instance) will be brutal, pragmatic, fast. A thinking-introvert (the INTJ) will be plain evil. The first one will “just kill you”, the second one “kills you in style, maximizing damage and enjoying it in a diabolic manner”. Most killers and tyrants were intuitives, INTJs or INFJs in particular, since we are focused and have some sort of serenity that scares everyone. Our problem is acting-out, starting something… anything… that’s why this world still exists… and, equally, that’s why this world is such a mess…
The INTJ is typically in doubt, especially if they have their 3rd function active. We’re often called “the Masterminds”, emphasizing the fact that we like to lurk in the background and build systems and durable structures. The huge perceptive function in the 1st position often prevents us from acting out, because we can usually see reality from several perspectives and it’s hard to identify yourself with one side when you can see the truth in the other sides as well. This puts us in the role of “Devil’s advocate”; I’m sure I can defend a case brilliantly, then change position and go against the same case equally efficiently. This is the source of one of the greatest problems with INTJs: doubt.
Doubt comes from seeing the world from different perspectives but also from the fact that the Introverted Feeling, the 3rd function, constantly undermines the 2nd one, the Extroverted Thinking. Thinkers decide according to correctitude: what is fair and what is not. Feelers decide according to justice: what is good and what is not. Fairness and Justice are not synonyms. For instance, it’s correct to punish a state for not respecting its financial engagements but it’s cynical to punish people for this. Can you see the difference? If you’re on the thinking side, you’re a rational monster; if you’re on the feeling side, you’re a kind anarchist. “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. It takes years of work and self-discovery to finally learn how to make thinking and feeling work together. And this involves the awareness that there are 2 types of feeling – introverted and extroverted – and the mastery of using the right one.
Introverted Feeling is the 3rd natural function of the INTJ. It’s not always active, is capricious, it’s weak, it can fade away in time. This gives to the INTJ that cold attitude if you’re a superficial observer and don’t spend time to look closely. If you look at the symbol I use as profile image – the iris – you can see that it’s blue on the outside and orange in the inside. If you go by a field of irises you’ll say you passed by some blue flowers because you’re not careful enough with your perception. Using the same analogy, when the INTJ is young, the flower isn’t properly opened, so you can see only the blue bud. Later in life, when it opens, it reveals its perfume and the delicate orange color inside.
Introverted Feeling is about values and being in contact with them. I know I must always be in contact with my feelings. The INTJ never feels connected with the humanity, the world, the spiritual realm. That is the shadow function of Extroverted Feeling, typical for INFJs. From here comes that quote of Jung: “I don’t believe. I know”. Jung was an INTJ, so he was using his thinking and avoided being permeated by exterior feelings. No matter how much you struggle, you can’t believe; you know or you don’t know. As for me, I know there is a spiritual realm because I witnessed it in my life several times, but I don’t believe without proofs. If there are proofs, it does exist; if there aren’t any, then no.
The last natural function is Extroverted Sensing. The INTJ rules (or masters) intuition and is ruled (or possessed) by sensing. It’s a defective function, partially unconscious. It’s INTJ’s vulnerability. Extroverted Sensing in INTJs is the taste for adventure, it’s the constant yarning for sex, it’s the orgasmic pleasure of listening to music or seeing wonderful landscapes. It’s less developed compared to other personality types, and lacks in sophistication. If I want to eat good food, it’s nice to go to a luxury restaurant, but eating is what interests me, not how or where or when. In intimacy, INTJ’s interest is not an extravagant display of striptease and lap dancing, or elaborated courtship rituals… quite troglodyte and rugged for most other types who love a prolonged foreplay… Accepting one’s shadow means also accepting the weak points, including a less-developed 4th function that remains relatively weak even when the INTJ gets old. This is the price for the huge intuition on the first position and, according to the rules of the psyche, if we become exaggerated or one-sided in one direction, we become weak in the opposite one.
I wrote this article in July 2015, when I was still in France. I judged it to be too complex and I didn’t want to reveal my psychological type at that time. I hope this description (which is not at all exhaustive) could help my readers who, according to the statistics of the blog, are streaming especially towards my Jungian articles.
The image of the article highlights the 3rd function (Love) which provides the motivation and the driving force for an INTJ, and the 4th function (Sensuality) which gives the much-needed energy. It’s a poppy field… or a source of opium, a drug inducing a state of sleep and trance – the hallmark of the INTJ experience.