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INTJ, or Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Judger

is a label borrowed from MBTI nomenclature and now applied to the Jungian Cognitive Function set {Ni, Te, Fi, Se}.

What Is Personality Type

What Is Personality Type

Dominant: Introverted iNtuition (Ni)

"I feel like most people skip too many steps. They're locked into frameworks of meaning that I neither identify with nor see as necessary or useful in the process of developing understanding. Of course, the ability to imagine new interpretations and platforms for understanding is the most important thing for me, though it's often difficult to convince others to peel away their own perspectives enough to even notice the sorts of conceptual leaps that strike me on a near-constant basis. I like to solve problems by stepping back and adjusting the building blocks that the whole issue is founded on: if you're not willing to do this, you're inevitably going to miss something that might completely change everything. And where would you be then? When you really understand something thoroughly, the answers will jump out at you so clearly that the problem practically solves itself. If that hasn't happened yet, then you're still missing something or looking at the problem the wrong way."

As Ni dominants, INTJs are neither strictly "idea" people nor strictly "process" people: while ideas and processes both factor heavily into what they do, it's the synthesis between the two that really characterizes their unique brand of insight. Like their Si dominant cousins, Ni dominants are most preoccupied with the way their own cognition personalizes information and condenses it into internalized "maps" of past experience. The difference is that while Si uses more precise and specific sensory data to formulate these maps (and thus builds more absolute completion over time), Ni would rather intuit the skeletal framework of the map based on past experience with other ideas or symbols that are merely conceptually related. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage, in that Ni can often predict what one's personal conceptual imprint for an unfamiliar experience will feel like and thus explore uncharted perceptual territory purely in one's own mind, but is limited in the level of sensory precision it can internalize and must often start over and "re-map" the finer details of familiar experiences using the same form of conceptual pattern-jumping that it used to arrive there in the first place.

In other words, INTJs find themselves able to see "around corners" in terms of conceptual limitations of languages and systems of symbols and their associated meanings. They can often "predict" meanings and interpretations which may not yet exist in the current system of available symbols, but they don't do this by adding more information or complexity. On the contrary: Ni works by simplifying complex problems into their component parts and slowly turning each one over to see how it looks from a different angle. Sometimes, if you look for it long enough and thoroughly enough, there's an angle nobody else has thought to look at or make use of yet.

INTJs may turn up with ideas and suggestions which seem to utterly turn accepted convention on its head--although that is not really their intention; they simply recognize a problem that needs to be solved and then adjust their individual perceptions of it until they see a way around it. Sometimes this results in a very typical and conventional solution; other times it doesn't. As long as it completes the desired task, it doesn't really matter. INTJs never feel like they can really get a sense of the real scope of a problem until they are able to stop making the same unnecessary/misleading assumptions that everyone else makes without even realizing it.

"Back to basics" (or some variation thereof) is a phrase I hear often when requesting the advice of an INTJ, particularly in regards to problems I'm having trouble solving. Perpetually aware of the problem of interpretation, the more an INTJ explores the many facets of a given idea, the more he discovers there is to know about it and the less prepared he feels to react competently without spending the necessary time to break down every newly discovered piece into smaller, more digestible pieces. The more INTJs consciously practice this "break it down into simpler parts" process, the more they find themselves able to instantaneously visualize the all-encompassing solution they're after. Often that solution is far simpler than anyone expects: while everyone else is busy looking for more ways to jam a circular object into a triangular space, the INTJ is trying to conceptualize a triangular object which may not yet exist. The only reason the INTJ "knows" it exists is that the existence of a triangular space implies conceptually that it should be possible--even if it's not on the map most people are using right now.

Auxiliary: Extroverted Thinking (Te)

The problem, however, with relying exclusively on Ni, is that it grants the INTJ all the perceptual depth in the world, but no breadth of applicability by which to connect his ideas to any measurable or useful external context. Enter Te: it's vital for Pi dominants (IxxJ) to develop fluency in an objectively verifiable language by which they can structure, predict, and evaluate the way the world around them behaves (or, at the very least, however it seems to behave according to collective human understanding.) INTJs realize that, ultimately, all "objectivity" in the truest sense is impossible; however, since our perceptions are all we have to go on, we may as well agree on some standards for quantifying and measuring external phenomena so that we at least have some sort of common ground on which to move toward meaningful goals. This is why so many INTJs find work and enjoyment in the sciences: the scientific method provides as objective a measurement of any given phenomenon as can be realistically achieved, and it's widely credited and supported by virtually all of the people most INTJs consider intelligent and worth listening to. It works consistently for everybody in all sorts of different contexts, and the experts all agree it's the most efficient method = Te dream.

When it comes to logical structure, Te firmly believes in agreeing upon a consistent standard of measurement: We need a yardstick that can prove quantitatively and empirically what the experts all agree makes logical sense in terms of categorical organization. For INTJs, depth of analysis is best served through iNtuition in the form of Ni--trying to apply depth to the process of structured organization is a fruitless effort because logic's fundamental purpose is to apply to the widest possible range of different contexts in the same standardized, consistently predictable way. Thus, from a Te standpoint, individualized or subjective "logic" is neither useful nor consistent with the purpose of logic itself.

As the INTJ develops Te further, she finds herself increasingly able to delegate tasks and render her prodigious visions into real projects and processes that generate measurable progress on a realistic timetable. She learns to coordinate the various different disciplines and processes required to accomplish her goals, and she finds herself naturally talented at breaking down larger processes into small enough tasks that the entire project becomes a manageable reality. This vital objective factors into Te's continuing love affair with the concepts of personal independence, responsibility, and accountability. TJs want to show that they are capable of managing resources intelligently and efficiently, and that they can stand on their own two feet and say honestly that they depend only on themselves for sustenance and support. Society is, to Te, a large system of interrelated logical relationships, and the system won't function properly unless each member is ultimately responsible for himself. TJs hate being dependent upon or subservient to others, and they pride themselves on their ability to generate more resources than they consume.

It is of paramount importance to Te to consider the limitations upon available resources and ensure that they are distributed in the most efficient manner possible. INTJs often excel in management positions where they are free to envision optimally efficient working conditions and design, improve, or adjust real-world processes and methodologies accordingly. When they commit themselves to a project--which they will not do unless they either truly consider it worthwhile, or need the money--they will push themselves to fulfill their agreements to the greatest extent possible within the restraints of the resources allocated. They hold themselves to high standards in this regard, for if they do not uphold the collective standards by which Te governs the structural relationships between external world entities (i.e., laws, procedures, rules, measurements, quantitative standards), they are all too aware that they will have no recourse when the parties they work with fail to hold up their own ends of the bargain. If nothing else, INTJs can be counted on to reliably complete the tasks they've agreed to. This is a matter of not only personal pride but also of practical utility--if one establishes a reputation for disregarding the accepted Te methodology among the people he seeks to work with, he may very well find others unwilling to work with him in the future.

Tertiary: Introverted Feeling (Fi)

It's often difficult for other types to understand why INTJs can appear so cold and uncaring, so utterly disinterested in interpersonal matters and disconnected from the needs and feelings of others. Indeed, this poses a substantial problem for INTJs when it comes to one of their characteristic weak points: social interaction. The cause of this can be attributed to some combination of Te ("Engaging in small talk and pampering the feelings of people I dislike is not a productive use of anyone's time, and time is a valuable resource") and Fi ("If I don't actually like or empathize with this person, I don't see any reason I should have to connect emotionally with him when I don't want to.")

Often, the cultural expectations that suggest to INTJs that they should participate in social rituals strike them as unfair and arbitrary impositions upon their personal freedom. They are being offered a courtesy they didn't ask for, and then chastised when they don't return the favor. "If there's no law, no empirically standardized logical relationship requiring that I do this, why should I be judged negatively when I don't?", Te asks.

And unfortunately, this question can't really be answered fully in Te terms. The Te argument for participating in cultural ritual tends to point out that if you pretend to indulge meaningless rituals, you will create more opportunities to get your real goals completed because people will view you more favorably and thus be more willing to cooperate with your wishes. And that's the way many INTJs convince themselves to put up with it.

But in truth, that's only a half-hearted solution that doesn't even begin to hint at the full spectrum of perspectives available to a well-balanced INTJ who has learned to command tertiary Fi. This is a milestone that many INTJs take a long time to learn to place much value on: Fi allows them to judge and evaluate subjectively, according to an individual, personalized standard that won't bend for anyone else's opinions and provides an absolute moral compass connecting them directly to their true sense of value and higher purpose. For many INTJs, the ability to introvert judgment in the form of tertiary Fi provides a much-needed counterbalance to Te's coldly impersonal and objective evaluations. It grants a more refined sense of aesthetic taste and artistic value: Instead of merely measuring by numbers, Fi leads the INTJ to consider the emotional and moral impact that art and aesthetics have on him--he learns to empathize with the soul of the poet, the painter, the writer, the musician. He no longer simply understands conceptually; he identifies.

Fi grants the INTJ a connection to something greater than himself, more powerful than his worldly goals and aspirations, and ultimately more important in principle than the sum of everything he will ever accomplish in his lifetime. It connects him to a deeply personal sense of responsibility to uphold that which is Good and Just, to decide for himself what causes are worthwhile beyond the scope of his own prerogatives and benefits. In short, it allows him to set some definite barriers in terms of right and wrong.

The inability to do this can be a substantial problem for INTJs who ignore or fail to develop Fi. Since Ni can adjust its interpretation to anything that serves the goals Te deems efficient expenditures of resources, a lack of any substantial introverted judgment function can result in the justification of virtually any action or position--dominant Ni is all too aware that as long as you shift vantage points and look at it the right way, any interpretation can be potentially justified. This poses a major problem for the INTJ persona--as a case in point, consider the character Kurtz in the film Apocalypse Now: Obsessed with winning the Vietnam War at all costs (his objectively defined Te goal), Kurtz seeks to utterly eliminate any trace of human compassion from himself, believing that the only effective method for defeating the Vietcong is to beat them at their own game by indulging in unrestrained brutality and eliminating any and all regard for human life in the process.

In short, he tries to Ni the Fi out of his own cognition in order to fulfill Te's agenda. It ultimately doesn't work: after all the horror and bloodshed he inflicts upon the native people surrounding him, he still has a conscience, and he allows Willard to kill him, knowing that his experiment has failed and that he needs to be stopped for the sake of the greater good.

When Te is poorly developed, resulting in a so-called "NiFi loop", the INTJ becomes increasingly threatened by the pressures of conforming to any sort of externalized expectation or methodology whatsoever. By accepting or promoting any such objective information, the NiFi loop INTJ feels he is compromising the purity of Ni's insight by exposing it to potentially misleading bias, and he resents the expectations of others for him to change what he views as his personal moral identity (Fi.) He will withdraw further and further from all forms of interaction, convinced that the only way to develop pure and complete understanding is to block out any and all external sources of information. Deliberately distancing himself ever further from any link to objective reality, all manner of bizarre and irrational impressions are indulged as isolated (and objectively unsubstantiated) Fi value judgments color Ni's increasingly elaborate perceptions of the sinister affronts invariably hiding around every corner. That weird recluse down the street who wears a tin foil hat 24/7 to stop the government from penetrating his brain with secret nefarious mind control signals? Probably an NiFi loop INTJ.

Inferior: Extroverted Sensation (Se)

It's worth noting that introverted perception takes great pains to limit its perceptual intake to certain specific kinds of information with which it is comfortable and familiar, because understanding this concept helps us to see why extroverted perception (which encourages taking in the greatest possible quantity of different varieties of new information) generates such a difficult psychological barrier for the IxxJ types.

In the INTJ's case, inferior Se is forced out primarily during highly stressful moments where taking in massive quantities of new external information and adapting and responding to it in real time becomes necessary. This is where IJs flounder the most: they are most at home when Pi is allowed to select the type of information it wishes to perceive and then focus intently on absorbing it into the internal template for that type of experiential input, which Je will then consult in its decision as to which externally accepted methodology will prove most effective. When all sorts of different kinds of information are thrown in her face at once, however, the INTJ must resort to inferior Se in order to catch them all and have any hope of responding before the opportunity is gone. She must act purely on immediate impulse with no time for reflection or consideration; she is forced to navigate terrain that she not only lacks a map for, but that she doesn't even have any related experiential templates to turn to for guidance. She must improvise.

When this happens to INTJs, the enormous flood of undifferentiated information accompanied by the feeling of total loss of control generated by the inability to reflect or consider the options before responding is extraordinarily threatening. Left with no other option, inferior Se leads the INTJ to resort to his most base animal instincts: fight or flight. Even the normally composed, calm, and reserved INTJ may be prone to occasional bouts of total indiscretion, resulting in extreme indulgence in sensual pleasures or outright rage and even physical violence (or at least overt threats thereof.)

I have also seen, on more than one occasion, an INTJ purchase expensive status symbols (fancy cars, big houses, etc.) for the simple purpose of showing off how much his hard work and perseverance has paid off in an immediately noticeable, material sense. On some level, INTJs are aware that ostentatious possessions are the only language some people will understand--and while they tend to consider this a rather primitive value system, they're glad to oblige by occasionally dropping significant money on really nice possessions. This way, they can simultaneously indulge their unconscious Se desires while telling themselves they're only doing it as a private little in-joke with themselves, where Ni can laugh at how heavily such a trivially shallow display of status and power can impact the perceptions of the silly little everyday people around them.

As Ni dominants, INTJs are naturally averse to a focus on literal surface meaning, because it threatens Ni's insistence on defining one's identity by the ability to see past the obvious and intuit the less obvious interpretation, the hidden meaning beneath the surface. If they ever learn to command Se in a positive way (which is somewhat rare), INTJs will learn to discern situations in which there is no underlying meaning, or at least in which looking for it is neither useful nor productive. For an Ni dominant, shutting off this desire to see "between the lines" and focus purely on the immediate sensory content in from of him is just as threatening as turning off vision, hearing, touch, taste, and smell would be for an Se dominant. He feels lost, confused, and woefully subject to the same lowest-common-denominator surface deception that his entire self-image prides itself on its natural ability to discern and avoid.

Nonetheless, some INTJs do eventually learn to command Se in a useful way. It confers some sense of what's popular and immediately effective on a literal sensory level, which often partners with Te's desire to be judged as competent and effective in leading INTJs to take serious pride in their physical appearances, and to be certain that their clothing, speech, and aesthetic tastes are up to date and in style (and thus do not preclude useful business opportunities they might otherwise have missed.) It provides them with an appreciation for things as they are instead of constantly looking for ways to reinterpret them as something else, and for the simple pleasures in life--good food, art and entertainment, physical intimacy--in a way that may, in time, strike them as more spiritually pure than the constant meta-analysis they're accustomed to. In a very well-balanced INTJ, Se should bolster Fi's sense of aesthetic appeal and artistic value ("How does this piece of art hide a disguised meaning that I can analyze?" will give way to, "How does this piece of art make me immediately feel?"), while allowing occasional controlled indulgence in pure, unadulterated fun, for no reason but its own merits.

And that's something, I think, that would make a lot of INTJs feel a lot better if they could get out of their systems in a healthy and non-destructive manner. The sooner we get that out of the way, the sooner we can get back to work.