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Pierce’s Revised Portrait of an INTJ

By Michael Pierce

  1. Highly composed, courteous, and genuinely nice.
  2. There is a sense that there are always very weighty matters on their mind despite their calm and unassuming fa├žade. It appears sometimes as though their thoughts are distracting them from society.
  3. They are distinctly ill at ease around crowds, and seem to fumble a little bit with holding things together or presenting themselves in a public setting.
  4. Not always, but often have a distinct literary or artistic bent — a need to express things that are extremely difficult to express, rather like the ISFP.
  5. You can see deep feelings, passions, loves, and gentle kindnesses for others underneath a variably thick or thin shell, which seems to fuel their Te drive, like a fire in a powerful train engine.
  6. This passion is very often focused on allowing individuals to express themselves, to follow their natural bent or extraordinary vision, and not to be drowned in a sea of mediocre, unambitious, indistinguishable plods.
  7. Yet, despite their impatience with the homogenous mob, they also have a great desire to connect with individuals, and these two feelings often conflict.
  8. Overall, the image composited here is of a traveling alchemist: mysterious, pondering on heavy subjects and strange sciences — still, gentle and good natured, yet of an altogether different country, and not comfortable with the crowds of unfamiliar, alien townsfolk and their customs. But they are determined to finish their researches and provide the town with unprecedented progress.

Dominant Ni

In Psychological Types, Jung contrasts Si and Ni in a way that, until recently, seemed mostly obscure. However, after some reflection, I’ve found this description sheds a great deal of light on the barest bones of the introverted intuitive process, that is, what is going on at the most fundamental level (at least as Jung understood it). I will spend a fair amount of time describing Ni alone, as it is imperative to understanding the INTJ as a whole. I will now paraphrase Jung as follows:

‘Whereas introverted sensation is focuses on the impression, sensation or innervation phenomena itself, and does not speculate beyond that actual data, intuition always goes beyond the data, and focuses on or seeks to discover the nature of what caused the innervation or impression. For example, imagine that an Ni and Si type are reading quietly in a library, when someone leaps out from behind a bookshelf and makes a loud noise, startling both types and creating a psychic disturbance, and impression or innervation. The Si type is arrested by the peculiar character of this experience for them, perceiving all of its qualities, its intensity, the way it feels in their body, what it triggers in the mind, the reflexive shivers that run through them and what that reminds them of, and so on — but they never inquire into the nature of the thing that produced this disturbance; that just isn’t as important to them as what was caused in the first place. The Ni type, however, focuses entirely on the cause of the innervation, its impetus. They immediately look behind the scenes of the actual experience, and usually formulate their conclusions about this impetus into images and visions that make it easier to understand. Thus, the Ni type, as they constantly look into the cause or meaning behind every experience, and perceive their findings as distinct and vivid images or representations in the mind’s eye, can come off as a prophet perceiving a vision.’

I will clarify some points here: I do not interpret the ‘impetus’ to be merely the person who startled them. Any human would know that. Rather, the impetus or cause which the Ni type seeks after is abstract and detached from reality — one way to put it, I think, is to say that the Ni type leaps straight to the implications of their experience. ‘That startled me,’ they say to themselves, ‘interesting; why was it that I was startled? What about that startled me? What does it mean to be startled, anyway? Why do human beings get startled at all?’ and then they’ll begin relating it to other impetuses they’ve experienced (or believe they’ve experienced): ‘this reminds me of something I was reading in Jung about Si and Ni. Huh, I wonder if this event of being startled would serve as a good example of that? Is Ni on a fundamental level about exploring and toying with and figuring out the supposed causes, or meaning-content, or impetuses of things?’

One could summarize it this way: that Ni focuses on the implications of its subjective experiences, at the expense of the actual experience itself. Thus, they naturally contemplate where things come from and where things are going in the future, and what the essential nature of a thing is in time. Hence, the common assertion in contemporary descriptions that Ni is deeply associated with time: it is because Ni lends itself to conjecturing about the future implications of things, by trying to get at their essential nature all the time. This essential nature is perceived by the Ni type, and represented in their mind by images or even pseudo-sensations which are difficult to express in language.

The writing style of Friedrich Nietzsche is a great example of this, especially in his highly symbolic work Thus Spoke Zarathustra. One of the best examples within that work is his infamous injunction that “God is dead.” This is not meant to say that God was a live but then He literally died, but to express the essential nature of Nietzsche’s subjective experience — his experience of the fading of religious faith in the modern world. For Nietzsche, it is as though God died: the presence that the idea of God and religion once had has greatly diminished. The diminishment of religion is the impetus which Nietzsche perceived to be behind his concrete experience, and he experienced this impetus as the death of a God.

This description of Ni is a huge part of the INTJ personality, particularly the idea that it is a perceiving function, not a judgement function. In my original INTJ video, I stressed how the INTJ is not logical in the typical sense of the word. The above description of Ni helps explain why that is: because the INTJ, while certainly rational and reasonable and all of that, is not building theoretical systems like the INTP or even constructing sets of scientific laws like the ENTJ, but is first and foremost observing the essential nature of things and conjecturing about their future. They are not logical, in the sense that most of their insights are irrational images and ideas, not fine-tuned law structures. This explains their more artistic or literary bent, because art provides a way for them to express these internal images and better understand them that way.

As I’ve described before, the accumulation of such images, prompted by so many objective sensations splashing into their subject.

Published in Michael Pierce