Like the other Perceiving functions, Ni draws our attention to immediate sensory phenomena. However, Ni is more cerebral than the other three. It prompts an interest in perception itself--the process of recognizing and interpreting what we take in.
Whatever types we happen to be, we use all four means of Perception in one way or another. For example, if we were spending a day at the beach:
- Se would prompt us to go with our sense impressions as they occurred: to lie in the sun, play in the surf, listen to the gulls piping overhead.
Si would move us to stabilize our sense impressions by integrating them with facts we knew to be consistent. We might bring our favorite book, a snorkel and flippers, a bag of snacks, extra towels because someone will probably forget one, and a watch to make sure we beat the traffic home.
- Ne would move us to unify our sense impressions with their larger context, thereby creating new options for meaning and response. For example, as we lie on our blanket in the sun, perhaps we hear music in the distance. Someone passing by mentions a great restaurant in town. Suddenly we're thinking: Hey, there must be an amusement park nearby. If it's on the way to town, we can check out the rides before we look for the restaurant that passerby was talking about. In fact, maybe the guy knows about other places we should consider. Where did he go?
- Ni would prompt us to liberate our sense impressions from their larger context, thereby creating new options for perception itself. For example, we might find ourselves wondering why people feel so strongly about getting a good tan. We remember reading somewhere that before the Industrial Revolution, being tan marked one as a manual laborer, because it suggested work out of doors. After the Industrial Revolution, it was pale skin that suggested manual labor, because it indicated work in a poorly lit factory. Such correlations aren't relevant today, but a good tan is still considered attractive. Why is that? We consider raising the question as a topic of conversation, but we're pretty sure our friends will think we're observing a situation instead of enjoying it.
Because we usually associate Intuition with "feelings" and hunches, the conceptual nature of Ni may be difficult to appreciate. Like its Extraverted counterpart, Ni is a Perceiving function, but it's also a left-brain function. The left brain won't focus on many things at once. It depends on words and signs to make outward experience predictable and orderly.
This is most clear in the areas governed by Te and Fe, the left-brain Judgment functions. ETJs and EFJs, whose Judgment skills are dominant, wield language like a knife, separating meaningful sense impressions from all the nameless experiential stuff that surrounds it. Such types may be hard pressed to grant the reality of impressions that can't be explained or talked about.
The left-brain Perceiving functions are different. Si and Ni make us aware of all our sensory impressions, notwithstanding prevailing categories of knowledge. In consequence, ISJs and INJs tend to have interests and priorities that strike others as unpredictable or esoteric.
On the other hand, as left-brain types, ISJs and INJs also need conceptual control over their outer world. For this reason, both types have a strong investment in the structure of public information. ISJs are concerned with making the structure secure, whereas INJs are interested in changing or improving it.
For example, at a recent board meeting, an ISTJ accountant told the group that he enjoyed recording the organization's income and expenditures, but he didn't want to be involved with the money itself--counting it, bringing it to the bank, and so forth. This is a classic Si approach. Material reality is just so much raw experience. It has to be controlled with a stable mental framework.
Ni moves us in the opposite direction. It tells us that changing our frame of mind can change the world. For example, a recent article advises the parents of a fussy or demanding baby not to describe the infant as difficult but to recognize that such children have vivid, strong, and rich personalities. This is how Ni works. The material facts remain the same, but we organize them in a new conceptual pattern that changes their meaning and gives us new options for behavior.
Ni versus Ne
Because Ne types also see life in terms of new perspectives, it's important to recognize the difference between ENPs and INJs. Motivated by functions that implicate opposite sides of the brain, these types are mirror images of each other.
Ne types are right-brain types who deal with their sense impressions by unifying them into larger outward patterns. An ENP physician, for example, may realize, with sudden insight, that several unexplained symptoms are actually part of a single disease. As an Extraverted type, the physician has no doubt that the disease syndrome really exists. The pattern was always there, waiting for someone to discover it. What's important now is telling others about the discovery--getting people to see that the new model offers more options than the old.
Ni types don't think this way. For INJs, patterns aren't "out there" in the world, waiting to be discovered. They're part of us--the way we make sense of the riot of information and energy impinging on our systems. A disease syndrome is a useful construct, but that's all it is--an aggregate of observations attached to a label, telling us what to see and how to deal with it.
Given their real-life consequences, mental constructs don't strike INJs as imaginary or irrelevant. They're merely arbitrary, derived from a particular view of life. For this reason, they can trap us into holding that view--say, that physicians are in the business of cure rather than prevention--without being aware of its effects.
Ni in Practice
Most types rely on Ni to contend with ambiguities of meaning and perception--that is, to see that a situation can be acknowledged in more than one way. We may use it, for example, to acknowledge the possibility of both scientific and religious positions on life after death, or to deal with incompatible experiences of self and solidarity at work, at home, and among friends.
It may seem peculiar, therefore, to depend on this function for one's primary understanding of reality. If INJs are seeing things from many (sometimes conflicting) perspectives, on what basis would they ever take action?
It should be emphasized that INJs are very much like ENPs in this respect. Where Ne types see many behavioral options, INJs acknowledge many conceptual standpoints. They experience no need to declare one inherently better than another. Indeed, these types have the disconcerting habit of solving a problem by shifting their perspective and defining the situation some other way.
One might recall the movie Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, in which Admiral Kirk reveals that he was the only cadet ever to beat a program designed to test people's responses to a no-win battle scenario. It turns out that he managed to do this by reprogramming the simulator to give him the advantage. On the horns of an apparent dilemma, this is the sort of thing INJs tend to do.
For example, years ago, when I was copy editor on a women's magazine, a disagreement arose among the editorial staff over an article about a film director. The piece included an anecdote about the director's early years as a seldom-employed performer, when she was working part-time at a fast-food counter.
Because the "look" for female stars at that time was pallid and doe-eyed, the olive-skinned director went to her day job in a thick layer of white pancake makeup, just in case someone called her in for an audition. She had no idea how people actually saw her until one day she overheard one of the cooks say to another, "Here come that chick with the green face!"
The argument among the editors was over the punch line. Some of the staff thought that printing the sentence in what was then called Black English was prejudicial. They wanted to change the word come to comes. The other staff members thought that adding the s was itself prejudicial--and lost the flavor of the original remark.
The editor in chief happened to be an INFJ, and she was determined to pull the question outside the framework of "correct politics." She advised us to add the s--because most of our readers would be unfamiliar with that particular use of the tense and would assume we were sloppy proofreaders.
This is a fairly typical example of Ni when it's supported by the diplomatic tendencies of Fe. INTJs do the same thing, but their focus of attention is impersonal, dictated by the logical interests of Te. For example, I remember a conversation with an INTJ researcher after the famous Bobby-in-the-shower scene had appeared on the program Dallas.
Bobby had been killed and buried on the show the year before, because the actor who played him wanted to leave the show. When he rejoined the cast, the writers solved the problem by explaining, within the context of the plot, that the entire previous season had occurred in his wife's dream. As the new season opened, Bobby's wife awoke from that dream to find her husband in the shower, very much alive, unaware of the events that had "happened" during the past year.
The researcher and I were discussing the difficulties created by this plot device, given the fact that Bobby's death and funeral had been worked into the story line of the Dallas spin-off, Knots Landing. Were the events on that show also part of Pam's dream?
The researcher's answer was typically INTJ. He said he'd decided that Bobby had died and been buried in a parallel time line. Although his wife remembered the alternate life as a dream, none of the other characters need be aware of it at all. I can't think of another type who would invoke a speculative aspect of quantum theory to impose causal logic on a soap opera narrative!
INJs often take jobs that draw on their ability to bring conceptual descriptions more closely into line with unrecognized aspects of a situation. However, they need enough Judgment to distinguish between frame shifts that bring new information into relief and frame shifts that merely avoid a problem.
The INJ Types
Some twenty-five years ago, there was a riddle, making the rounds that went something like this: "The surgeon's brother went out to sea; but the man who went to sea had no brother. So who was the surgeon?" At that time, the answer was a surprise an produced a laugh: The surgeon, of course, was the man's sister. Today, the answer may be so obvious that the joke seems pointless and insulting.
The issue here is the framework of beliefs and expectations that we maintain. Some are dictated by society; others are a matter of subjective experience--our gender, our name, our history, our vocation, our background. Knowledge is facilitated, limited, and directed by boundary conditions.
INJs have an unusual awareness of how such conditions determine our conceptual vocabulary, and their Ni leads them to discern aspects of reality that aren't being acknowledged. Thus, many INJs choose professions that allow them to work with questions of language and terminology--as editors and proofreaders, for example, but also as mathematicians, psychologists, theologians, poets, and programmers. Any field that involves conceptual signs and categories is likely to interest these types.
The difficulty, of course, is that an INJ's Ni often takes the type beyond the reach of an existing vocabulary. Consider again the joke about the surgeon's brother. It used to work because the word surgeon was synonymous with male doctor. The idea that a surgeon might be someone's sister was beyond the reach of most people's expectations.
INJs are often frustrated by the limits of the language they're using to test the freight of their Ni--whether their means of expression involves the written word, mathematics, musical or scientific notation, metapsychology, or art. As they shift vantage points, they're obliged to invent new terms, reinterpret old ones, or use words like post-modern to avail themselves of the categories their Ni is pointing beyond.
One can see in Jung's body of work, for example, his long struggle to invent terms for what he Intuited about archaic levels of the human mind. Even when he had settled on words like archetype and collective unconscious, he spent the better part of his life attempting to work out their conceptual limits.
Because INJs can't develop their primary skills without analyzing the way things are generally described and understood, these types are likely to experience themselves as different from others. Constituting only two percent of the population, young INJs can feel isolated, unable to fit in even when they want to. Before their skills are well-developed, it's difficult for these types to justify the questions that occur to them.
After all, Introverted Intuitions are not really ideas. They're like trains at the edge of articulate knowledge. You can't claim them or advocate them. You put on a hat, grab hold of a boxcar door, and see where they go. Until these types acquire enough information to map out the path they're taking, all they can do is insist on their need to take it.
INFJs, in particular, who need others' encouragement and approval to establish a positive self-image, struggle with feelings of alienation, and they often develop an ironic sense of humor that protects them from self-revelation and assures them of positive relationships. INTJs do this too, but they're not as reluctant to ask questions and summarily reject the answers. One might consider, for example, the humor of comedians like Dennis Miller and George Carlin.
In either case, INJs have no choice but to cup Ni's small flame against the hard wind of others' beliefs and opinions. If they lean too comfortably against the lamppost of someone else's knowledge, they never realize how illuminating that inner flame can be. They have to tolerate "not knowing" long enough to understand how an existing vocabulary works and to use it well enough to point beyond its limits.
Once INJs learn how to do this, they have to learn how to stop doing it. Such types are never satisfied with what they know, and it takes a real effort for them to set limits and make use of the knowledge they already have. In fact, an INJ who feels well-informed is likely to have so much information that imposing order on it and sharing it with others is almost impossible. INJs are so different in this respect from their Extraverted counterparts that it's worth noting their opposing behaviors.
ENPs are most visible in the first flush of discovery, when they're excited and optimistic. They aggressively seek feedback from the people around them, and they welcome others' involvement in formulating their Intuitions and carrying out their plans.
INJs are least accessible in the discovery process. Like the prince in the story of "Cinderella," they're solitary, sometimes obsessive, fitting Ni to expressible terms like the glass slipper to potential brides. Until they've managed a good enough fit between their inner reality and an outward vocabulary, INJs may not even know what they're after, and they won't involve others in formulating their plans.
The goals these types posit are also inversely related. ENPs, as right-brain types, understand objects in terms of their larger context. They picture an integrated "whole" in which diverse people or diverse views are perfectly integrated--a global village, unified theory, a consolidation of disciplines, a mind-body-spirit connection.
The left-brain INJs understand context as a mental phenomenon, something that people bring to the outer world from within. Thus, they don't see "wholeness" as an integrated endpoint. Wholeness, for INJs, is the chaotic beginning--raw sensory input without meaning.
Charles Williams, in a novel called The Great Trumps, describes what he calls "the everlasting dance"--the reality that lies behind reality, and his image characterizes very well the INJ's perceptual experience of life:
One might also suggest that the Internet is a pretty decent reflection of the way INJs think. Information is constantly proliferating in all different directions. One click of the mouse and your entire perspective shifts. You give away one idea and in return you get access to more data than you'll ever be able to look at.
Where ENPs will take action as soon as they have the gist of a situation, the more information INJs acquire about a subject, the more it strikes them there is to know before action is possible. As Spock maintained throughout the Star Trek series: Truth is not Oneness. It's infinite diversity in infinite variations. Indeed, most INJs use their secondary function, Te or Fe somewhat defensively to dismiss the influence of perspectives that stop short of what they've already considered.
For example, an INTJ theology professor at the seminary I attended, who enjoys theoretical discussions and has no problem entertaining multiple paradigms, had the reputation of being dogmatic and impossible to satisfy because he consistently directed his Te to pointing out the logical limitations of any idea a student ventured. He wanted his students to take an Intuitive leap--to move beyond the boundaries he was setting up, but his comments struck them as negative and critical.
INFJs are less likely than INTJs to diminish the views of others by subjecting them to logical analysis, but they're quite capable of surrounding themselves with people whose Judgment skills are undeveloped, which gives them the opportunity to conduct their relationships by advising others on the wisdom of their life choices.
INJs and Physical Reality
Like Si types, INJs may collect objects or experiences that give form to their inner life. ISJs, however, give form to a consistent self-experience, and they often preserve cherished objects against changing tastes and times. One might recall, from this thread: Introverted Sensation, the ISJ who was fascinated by cylinder phonographs, learned to repair them, and found, almost despite himself, that his expression of self had turned into his social identity and life's work.
INJs, by contrast, often collect things that represent their sense of emergent meaning, even if they can't explain why the objects matter to them. For example, an INTJ minister of my acquaintance collects carvings of the Green Man. The instinctual nature of this pagan image resonates with him but has no relationship to his present life structure. The INJ's self-experience nearly always involves the unknown, a state of being that's not yet embodied.
Accordingly, where ISJs maintain and enjoy their hobbies all their lives, INJs tend to lose interest when the fluid nature of unrealized meaning takes expressible shape and has meaning for others. One of my cousins, an INFJ, spent years following the career of an unknown character actor, mesmerized by what she saw in him but unable to explain the interest to anyone else. When he ultimately got a part in a popular TV show and won an Emmy, she felt vindicated but found that he no longer held the same fascination for her.
Although Se is the INJ's inferior function, it should not be supposed that INJs are entirely in their heads or never leave their journals and computer terminals. They're bona fide Perceivers, and their senses may be very keen. INJs follow sports, enjoy outdoor activities, take up Tai Chi, drive fast cars, cook gourmet meals, make art--all sorts of things that involve a sensory engagement with life.
Their Se skills are undeveloped in the sense that INJs have a hard time seeing themselves objectively. Physicality, for these types, is quite nearly another conceptual viewpoint, a way of looking at life. The aforementioned seminary professor used to work part-time on a moving van in order, as he put it, to "make room for a little body consciousness."
INJs tend to enjoy fantasies and myths in which the hero has evolved a perfect combination of visceral and cerebral skills, but in practice, the two usually run on parallel tracks. Indeed, INJs who lack Extraverted Judgment are likely to neglect their practical and material needs, regarding visits to the dentist or eye doctor as time wasters, letting everyday chores pile up, or assuming that bills, retirement plans, and health insurance will take care of themselves.
Predictably, our Se-oriented pop culture is merciless in its INJ stereotypes. While INFJs are portrayed as neurotic psychics, INTJs are depicted as nerds, absent-minded professors, and eccentric detectives with bad wardrobes and inadequate sex lives. This is how Fox "Spooky" Mulder on The X-Files was initially portrayed--as a classic INTJ obsessive, oblivious to work atmosphere, career status, and the need for relationship--everything except his private quest for truth.
As the series has moved from cult status to broad popularity, Mulder's character has been subtly redrawn. He's less like an INJ who sees conceptual possibilities excluded from the FBI's standard categories of knowledge and more like an ISP influenced by tertiary Ni, certain that the government is conspiring to hide the presence of aliens from an unsuspecting public.
On the other hand, the decision to pair Mulder not with an ESP action hero (which is the usual gambit in a science fiction series), but with an ENTJ pathologist (Agent Dana Scully) is inspired. Scully's by-the-book Judgment is consistently subverted by Mulder's appeal to her secondary function. Consider this bit of dialogue between them:
Mulder: Scully, are you coming on to me?
Extraverted Judgers almost always stereotype INJs this way: as peculiarly and obsessively driven, with a tenuous hold on morality. And like Mulder, INJs are liable to sidestep the observation by shifting perspectives and depriving it of meaning.
As a right-brain Perceiving function, Ne has a lot in common with Se. Both push us to adapt, to relate ourselves to sensory data in our immediate environment. Se, however, draws our attention to objects, and we adapt immediately to their surface features. Ne draws our attention to context and we adapt to sensory events in terms of it.
Although it's usually said that Ne gives us "the big picture," this image doesn't quite capture the cognitive process involved. If an editor-in-chief wants a "big picture" story, she's asking for an overview--a grand scheme, like capitalism or the evangelical movement, that will make sense of many different facts and events. If a CEO talks about "the big picture," he probably means the company's being downsized and people's jobs are less important than the system at large.
So it's important to understand that Ne doesn't really work this way. The all-at-once right brain can't distinguish between the whole and the part. For example, when we recognize a piece of music, we're not distinguishing the tune from the individual notes that make it up. We've grasped the sensory data as a pattern of changing relationships.
We do the same thing visually when we recognize a face. We've unified the features as an integrated pattern. People who lose this ability have no problem seeing each component of a face, but they can't appreciate them as a structural arrangement.
Ne relies on this right-brain capacity for pattern recognition, and most of us use it to get the gist of a situation very quickly. For example, at its simplest level, Ne will tell us that panther in the jungle is dangerous but a panther in the zoo is not. Unifying the panther with its context gives us the "whole picture" before we've even had time to conceptualize it.
To be sure, Se also outpaces our conceptual faculties. With Se, however, we're responding to the object itself. All that matters is past experience and whether it applies here and now. Or, as Ogden Nash once sagely advised, "When summoned by a panther, don't anther."
With Ne, we're focused on the future. Once we've grasped a whole pattern, we can envision options that don't yet exist. Indeed, one of the drawbacks of Ne is that it conjures up a future before we know very much about the present. For example, giving enough elements to suggest a star or square, we have a hard time not filling in the blanks and seeing the complete image. In the same way, a strong similarity between a familiar pattern and our immediate impressions of a person or event can lead us to make unwarranted generalizations.
Perhaps, for instance, someone's body language reminds us of someone we didn't like in the past. As a right-brain function, Ne won't hand us an explicit memory of that earlier experience. it simply rummages through patters we've encountered before, like an old jukebox selecting a 45 and plunking it down on our imaginal turntable.
Suddenly we're registering all the physical responses associated with that pattern. Our throat constricts and our eyes narrow, and we "just know" this person is going to be a problem. One or two analogous sense impressions have conjured up a whole set of anticipated options.
We usually call these experiences "gut feelings," and they may tell us something important about the possibilities in our present situation. But Ne can be dead wrong and still feel like knowledge.
The Right Stuff
The hit-or-miss quality of Ne is a lingering byproduct of its advantage to us as a species. If our ancestors had stopped to examine all the details before they recognized a stick in their path as a snake, they wouldn't have lived long enough to bequeath their Intuitive abilities to us. Evolution tends to favor the primates who find themselves half a mile away before they know they've Intuited danger--even if they're sometimes mistaken.
Of course, our objectives today are somewhat less dire than escape from hungry competitors on the open Savannah Most of us follow in the proud tradition of Name That Tune contestants, who raced each week to identify song titles from one or two familiar notes of music. That is, we're inclined to use Ne as a mental shortcut--to get the gist of a situation by focusing on as few details as possible.
For example, we may sort mail by looking at the return address of an envelope. We've assimilated enough information about credit card offers, unpaid bills, and astrologers who can't wait to send us our special lottery numbers that we can infer the substance of an entire communication from one or two lines of text. We do the same thing when we realize from the first few scenes of a movie that we've rented the same video before.
Because most of us use Ne in this casual way--to leap from a few immediate cues to a quick impression of the whole--we may not realize how finely discriminating a skill it really is. We tend to apply the word intuitive as though it meant "suited by nature for a particular purpose in life."
For example, we speak of intuitive athletes, dancers, or film directors, and we mean that they're operating on the basis of untaught ability. We say that actors have intuitive chemistry with each other, meaning they "just know" what to do, without having to work at it. We speak of intuitive computer programs, which allegedly conform to our natural instincts. And we use the word somewhat disparagingly in the phrase "women's intuition," when an unsupported "feeling" has proven mysteriously correct.
Most of the people to whom we apply the word intuitive in this casual way aren't Intuitives--at least not typologically. They're usually Se and Introverted P types, whose right-brain abilities the left brain can't explain to itself.
The Real Thing
Whenever the word intuitive is applied to a genuine ENP, it's almost invariably followed by the word promoter or communicator. Such types strike us as "suited by nature" to sell themselves and their ideas. Charismatic, persuasive, and magnetic, ENPs are able to integrate diverse views in a larger pattern of meaning and to convince others that there are new and better ways of seeing reality.
The late Steve Jobs, the visionary who turned a hacker's gadget into the Apple Computer industry, appears to have been an excellent example of the type. So does Deepak Chopra, M.D., author of many books on the integrated relationship of mind, body, and cosmos.
In one of his ads, Dr. Chopra says: "The longer I practice medicine, the more I believe that the mind can change the very patterns that design the body. It can wipe mistakes off the blueprint, so to speak." No one but an ENP would make a statement that sweepingly optimistic about unrealized mental possibilities.
Apart from politicians, our most visible ENPs are probably those best-selling authors on the late-night informercial circuit who are advocating new paradigms for understanding relationships. ENPs are possessed of great drive and vision, and they have an influence on society disproportionate to their 10 percent representation in the population.
Are Women Really More Intuitive?
Like the association of intuition with nature skills, the attribution of intuition with women has little to do with Ne as it really exists. Historically deprived of a conceptual education, women have been presumed to be more instinctive than men, more liable to act on the basis of reflex, impulse, and emotions.
Although popular self-help books maintain quite flatly that men are "programmed by nature" to be "focused and logical," whereas women are "relational and take in the whole picture," two generations of type statistics reflect no such dichotomy. All functions are distributed more or less equally between the sexes.
Moreover, despite our assumptions, most of the apparent Ne types in the social or political landscape are male. Former President Bill Clinton, for example, is almost certainly an ENFP. His ability to communicate persuasively is undeniable, even by his staunchest critics, and his penchant for generating new options at the point of decision has irritated almost everyone. No one ever suggests, however, that Clinton's behaviors are prompted by feminine psyche.
Yet our associations persist, encouraged by increasing evidence that women have greater access to the right brain. The idea seems to be that female brains are "wired" differently from male brains, giving women more awareness of right-brain experiences and a greater incentive to conceptualize and talk about them.
From a typological perspective, however, the explanation doesn't account for the evidence. Right-brain skills aren't predominantly "feminine" in character. In fact, many of the tendencies governed by the right hemisphere--mechanical dexterity, an interest in graphic representation, the ability to judge spatial relationships--are traditionally associated with masculinity.
Finally, most of the traits that popular literature attributes to the female psyche aren't Ne so much as humane: compassion for others, empathy, the ability to "read" body language. If women appear to have a monopoly on these fundamental human properties, the issue is hardly one of natural programming but of resolute socialization. The point, in any case, is that functional preference doesn't support our insistent gender mythology.
The ENP Types
Ne is so rapid and flexible an instrument that ENPs can operate almost like scanners, moving their attention widely over the environment, getting a gist of anything that happens to interest them. Such types are usually informed generalists, have a broad range of pursuits, basic knowledge about many things, and the ability to hold their own in a conversation about any of them.
Like Se types, ENPs are response-ready. Unless they can see new options, the possibility of change, or room for improvement, they're restless and bored. Indeed, because these types see life in terms of changing contextual relationships, they don't have much investment in the stability of material conditions--or take seriously the investment of others in those conditions. An unexpected juxtaposition of ideas, people, or images can reveal a larger pattern of meaning that changes all their priorities.
When their imagination is engaged, ENPs appear, for all the world, to be falling in love. They're not just interested in what they're doing. They're pulled in, like stars caught helplessly in a gravitational field, unable to think or talk about anything else. Whatever may have been felt or thought about yesterday is over, forgotten, without meaning. Their energies are devoted to anticipated prospects.
An ENFP analyst of my acquaintance, for example, became fascinated by chaos theory in nature. With great clarity he saw how psychological evolution could be understood as the same process in a different arena. The possibilities excited him and suggested any number of avenues to pursue.
Like most ENPs, the analyst was not motivated to work out his theory on paper or to research its practical applications. As far as he was concerned, the intuition was valid. What he needed was feedback from others to flesh it out and prove its viability.
To that end, he set up a conference series, inviting well-known chaos theorists to compare notes with interested psychiatrists and parapsychologists; offered a graduate course on psychology as a physical science; co-authored journal articles on relevant projects undertaken by his students; and promoted the subject at seminars all over the world. Within six months, he had established himself as a clearinghouse for an integrated field of ideas.
Like Se types, ENPs can make things happen very quickly. Se types, however, are concrete pragmatists. They actualize people's expectations and in the process become their focal point. One might consider, for example, the evangelist in the film The Apostle. Within a week of walking into a small town, he acquires a church building, assembles a congregation, and becomes role model to people who barely know him.
By contrast, the ENFP analyst appealed to people's imagination, becoming a focal point for others' inventiveness and curiosity.
Like ESPs, ENPs enjoy "being on," and they're good at anticipating an audience. But they don't create an image that others envy and want to emulate, as Se types do. Ne types are screens for people's unarticulated hopes and aspirations. They recognize how circumstances may be changed to bring unexpressed potential into play.
The all-consuming enthusiasm of ENPs in the initial stages of discovery is infectious and charismatic. ENPs are not subtle about their ideas. In the throes of white-hot certitude, the type is an idealist, an advocate, the herald of a better way, the promoter of new enterprise--in Jung's terms, the "natural champion of all minorities with a future."
Thus, where ESPs become the measure of a culture's external expectations, ENPs embody a culture's dreams and designs. Such types are inventors, evangelists, reformers, and kingmakers; if nothing else, they are intrepid motivators, able to persuade others to invest themselves in their plans and visions.
The flame of an Ne type's enthusiasm blazes only so long, however. Potential exists, after all, only when it's unrealized. ENPs lose interest in a situation once its import becomes evident to others. This is why ENPs usually take jobs that offer a wide variety of situations, a turnover of clients, or the opportunity to devise creative solutions to a succession of problems--journalism, psychology, politics, education, public relations, the ministry, emergency medicine.
Of course, Se types also move on when their interest wanes, but their motives are mercilessly clear. The excitement is gone, and the experience is over. Ne types are more difficult to predict. They may lose interest before anything of consequence has even happened. A small part of the vision, once realized, suggests the whole thing, and the Ne type feels no need to consider the matter further.
Perhaps one of the most interesting, and certainly one of the darkest, treatments of this aspect of Ne occurs in The Devils, Dostoyevsky's novel about the forces of change in nineteenth-century Russia. In his notes for that book, Dostoyevsky describes his chief character, Nicholas Stavrogin as a "man with an idea," which does not absorb him intellectually but merges with his own nature, so that he embodies it, and "having fused with his nature, it demands to be instantly put into action."
Like a demon love, Stavrogin courses through the lives of others, becoming the focus of their unmet dreams, raising their hopes, and unwittingly laying the groundwork for revolution. But as soon as his effect becomes apparent, his interest disappears and hie abruptly moves on, casting about for something new.
"Don't repeat my old ideas to me," he tells Shatov, unable to contain his impatience with the man's investment in him as a revolutionary messiah. And Shatov, having seen his highest aspirations reflected in Stavrogin, has no way to contend with his mentor's abrupt change of mind:
Ne types are consistently surprised by the passionate responses they inspire in other people. Even the ENFPs, who identify strongly with people's feelings, don't react well to another's request for an investment deeper than they care to make. Their first instinct is to keep on moving before someone pins them down.
Thus, ENPs tend to live their lives in one of two ways: They become archetypal Seekers--curious, restless, living for adventure and passion, championing causes and underdogs, accumulating experiences in all manner of jobs and relationships. Or they become archetypal Companions, becoming close to people in whom they see potential, fueling inchoate dreams and ambitions.
Such types are so flexible and so quick to grasp the essence of a situation that they can do just about anything they set their minds to. But they may not stick with a situation long enough to realize the fruits of their labors. They depend on their supporters to take care of the follow-through and detail work, and those supporters wind up reaping the harvest.
Building a lifetime of temporary altars in the wilderness can, of course, be an honorable choice. ENPs are catalysts, and they can derive great satisfaction from quickening others' potential. However, ENPs need to develop enough Introverted Judgment to make that choice consciously. Without self-reflection, ENPs don't make use of their varied experiences. They "coast" on their Ne, and life seems to have no lasting meaning for them.
Sometimes these extreme types settle into a situation that feels "right" to them, one secure enough to direct and motivate them, but flexible enough to keep them from feeling bored. For example, they may enjoy being creative mavericks in an otherwise structured job situation. But at home and in relationships, where structure must be self-generated, their lack of Judgment becomes apparent, and they can be impulsive, impatient, disorganized, and unpredictable.
In many cases, such types choose a Judging partner, who can supply them with stable reference points and a basic routine. However, this largely unconscious strategy of attraction gives them no contact with their own limits and values. Although ENPs will rely on the boundaries provided by others' Ti or Fi, they also resent external limits as controlling and alient to their interests.
ENPs need to turn their Judgment inward to take personal limitations--of time, energy, resources, ability, even desire--into account. ENPs who resist this course assume that the people around them will anticipate what they need, read their moods, or fulfill the wishes they themselves don't know how to express. Given this egocentric assumption, they commit themselves to far more than they can or wish to deliver when the time comes.
ENPs don't recognize that they've overextending themselves. Without sufficient Judgment, they believe their intentions are as good as realized. It's just a matter of adding water, connecting the dots, filling in the blanks. They may not even start a project until the deadline has already passed. In consequence, ENPs are both surprised and frustrated by the problems that arise when their best intentions collide with material reality. They feel a sense of injustice, as though life were being unfair to them.
Indeed, these types can be badly hurt when people call them on promises they're not able to keep. After all, their heart was in the right place. It's circumstances that have changed. Extreme ENPs may even deny behaviors that have met with others' disapproval. An admission of wrongdoing would suggest that they intended to do wrong, and they didn't. The behaviors felt right to them at the time.
People who rely too heavily on their Ne are usually caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Unwilling to acknowledge their own limitations, they're forced to depend on the limits of others. Eventually, life confronts them with problems Ne types can't handle, and their psyche pressures them to grow. They feel the unexpected pull of their inferior function, Si.
Like Te, Ti is a Judging function that prompts us to reason logically and impersonally. However, as a right-brain function, Ti operates differently than its left-brain counterpart.
The difference may be easiest to see by considering a game or a sport. Take baseball, for example. We know the rules of the game by way of Te. Like all general standards, the rules exist apart from the real-life experience. They specify the impersonal structural relationships that constitute a game's meaning.
Once we recognize these relationships, we have an objective basis for Judging what happens in a game. No matter who a player is, whether we like him or not, or what we believe about his intentions, if he doesn't touch base on his way around the diamond, we can logically conclude he's out.
But let's say it's the top of the ninth, the score is tied, and we're actually rounding second base. The Judgments we're making--whether to stay at second or to try for a home run--also require impersonal logic. But knowing how baseball games are supposed to be played won't do us much good. What we want is subjective logic--a way to coordinate our behaviors logically with immediate sensory data: the position of the ball, the skill of the batter coming up, the distance we can probably slide, the actions of the other players.
This is the province of Ti. When we use it, we're not structuring experience before it actually exists. We're engaged by conditions here and now, and we're adjusting to them in light of their impact on our goal.
As a right-brain function, Ti is not conceptual and linear. It's body based and wholistic. It operates by way of visual, tactile, or spatial cues, inclining us to reason experientially rather than analytically. There are countless situations in which subjective Judgment is preferable to--and more effective than--the objective sort.
For example, if we're in a supermarket, trying to fit all our groceries into one bag, Te is too exacting. We'd have to buy a ruler, measure the boxes, cartons, and coffee cans, and relate the numbers to the volume of our container. What we want here is Ti--a way to eyeball the groceries and work out the spatial arrangements as we're packing.
Similarly, if we're connecting a splitter to a cable converter, a TV set, and two VCRs, Te is too complicated. We don't want instructions that divide the task into linear steps, such as "Connect TV Output A to Splitter Input A, and Splitter Output B to Input A on VCR-1." We want a diagram of the completed project, so Ti will kick in and "just do it."
The left brain, with its one-thing-at-a-time approach to life, requires exact predictability before it takes action. This is a clear advantage in situations we don't know much about. As long as we have a set of instructions or understand the principle involved, we don't need firsthand experience in order to proceed. However, when an enterprise involves random data, or there are many variables to consider, left-brain logic has no recourse.
The right brain, with its all-at-once approach to life, doesn't require exact predictability before it takes action. Its decisions are based on probabilities, and it leaves room for the random and the unexpected. But right-brain logic does require hands-on experience. We have to recognize, in the midst of action, which variables are best taken into account and which are irrelevant to our goal.
Thus, Ti always involves perceptual skills, and using it may not feel like "being reasonable." In fact, when Ti is combined with Se, as it is for ISTPs (and ESTPs), it feels a lot like instinct.
Athletes, for example, talk about being "in the zone"--a state in which the mind allegedly "gets out of the way," so the body can take over. What's actually going on is the left brain yielding its prerogatives to the right. Once left-brain logic gets out of our way, we have no expectations, so our Judgments are immediate and perceptual, and they seem reflexive.
As mentioned in section on Extraverted Intuition, those types who favor right-brain functions are frequently described as "intuitive." The word has become a kind of catchall term for cognitive processes the one-thing-at-a-time left brain doesn't know much about. Although prevailing gender mythology ordinarily associates intuition with women, it's interesting to note that the "intuitive" mechanical skills Ti promotes are invariably associate with men, or at least with behaviors men believe they're supposed to exhibit--such as having a "feel" for tools and equipment (being naturally "handy") or good spatial judgment (never needing to ask for directions).
When Ti is combined with Ne, as it is for the INTPs (and ENTPs), it's cognitive nature is more apparent, NTPs have a strong interest in patterns and their structural relationship to an immediate context, that fuels careers in architecture and production editing. But the logic of NTPs is equally equipped on direct experience as body-based skills. INTP music producers, for example, can "hear" in their minds how different combinations of effects will contribute to the sound and energy of an instrumental pattern, and their Judgments translate directly into hand movements on a console.
Because Ti feels instinctive, the types who use it best may be least likely to recognize it as rational. Most of them are ESTPs (about 13 percent of the population) and ISTPs (about 6 percent), who associate its right-brain character with physical dexterity and the ability to improvise. So it's easy to get the impression that ESTPs and ISTPs are pretty much alike--action-oriented sorts who inhabit a completely different world from the more intellectual INTPs.
The outward resemblance of "SP" types in general has led David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates, in their famous type book Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types to question whether ISTPs and Ti types at all:
ISTPs and ESTPs share common strengths, of course, so behavioral similarities are inevitable. But the idea that INTPs are bona fide Thinkers because they're interested in systemic logic, whereas ISTPs are motivated purely by a hunger for action, represents a misunderstanding of Ti in general.
If I Had a Hammer...
As indicated earlier, Ti is not just a matter of responding to immediate perceptual stimuli. It's a decision-making process. When we're Thinking in an Introverted way, we're coordinating our behaviors with the variables in a situation related to our intended effect. This is a matter of logic, limitation, and goal orientation--all the things we associate with a rational approach to life.
Ti is hard to see when it's oriented by Se because it can't be isolated from the perceptual context in which it's occurring. It operates tacitly--in the background of awareness, as we're focusing directly on something else.
The classic illustration of "tacit" information is the act of hammering a nail into a board. Our attention is on the nail and what we're doing to it. But we're also responding to all sorts of perceptual data relevant to our goal. As the nail's angle changes, we're making adjustments, appraising the distance between our present state and the completed task. We're moving our palm and fingers to change the impact of the hammer, its spatial relationship to the board, and so forth.
These perceptions aren't peripheral. They're crucial to our intended effect. And they aren't reflexive. They're unspecified. As we're selecting and responding to them, we're not defining them and telling ourselves about them in a left-brain way.
This is what constitutes our right-brain process of Judgment--the unspecified perceptions that are important to us, here and now, in light of our intentions. We can't specify them because we're not focusing on them directly. They're informing our actions, keeping them logically related to our goal.
Indeed, if we turn our attention to any one of them, the fluid, experiential nature of our logic disappears. For example, if we focus on the sensations of the hammer in our hand, our hammering goes awry. We've lost sight of what we're doing.
This is why STPs appear to be (and believe themselves to be) using their reflexes when they're actually using their reason. Their Judgments aren't known to them in a focused, verbal, left-brain way. They're being translated directly into physical adjustments.
Once it's clear how Introverted Judgment works, it's logical character is apparent in all the types who use it--as are the differences in their Judging motivations.
ESTPs and ENTPs: ESTPs and ENTPs are dominant Extraverted Perceivers. For these types, reality is immediate and perceptual engagement. They use Ti to assess or exploit a situation's potential for action or excitement.
- ESTPs are risk takers, quick to see opportunity and advantage.
- ENTPs are animated by systemic possibility--the variables in a situation that can exert change on the whole.
Until life pushes them to slow down, ETPs won't use Judgments to limit their intake of sensory information. They'll use it to compete wherever they happen to be.
ISTPs and INTPs: ISTPs and INTPs are dominant Ti types. Reality for these types is not the stimulation of the external world but the tacit information that guides their direct experience--the perceptual logic of a situation. Where ETPs need action for its own sake, enjoying the thrill of challenge, ITPs need to be engaged in a way that brings their logic into play.
To be sure, ITPs enjoy competition as much as the ETPs. But they're not generally drawn to situations merely by the likelihood of risk and sensory excitement. They need to be part of a process--the dialogue between a situation's structural potential and its material realization.
One can see this more clearly in the INTPs, because Ne pushes them to explore the idea of structural potential in its own right. This is why such types seem more conventionally rational than the ISTPs. Such types will talk about the relationship between form and context, and they'll wrestle with its implications by way of architecture, design, systems analysis, or the physical sciences.
Although ISTPs appreciate this relationship in more direct physical terms, its fundamental nature remains a mental one. Consider the description given by Robert Pirsig, in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, of the dialogue between the idea of a motorcycle and the steel that gives it shape:
This viewpoint may be recognized as typically Introverted. Unlike the Extraverted TPs, who take the material world for granted, Ti types understand reality only in terms of their ability to "converse" with it, to take it part in its "becoming."
This way of seeing the world is not unlike the sort described by alchemists or magicians, who say that the realm of "patterns" exists on a different plane from the materials they inform. To practice magic, one must be in harmony with this other realm, where shape is still fluid and can be manipulated before it gets tangled up with matter and congeals into an object.
ITPs wouldn't describe their approach this way, but they understand very well what it means to be in harmony with the parts of a situation that are still in flux. When they're involved in something that interests them, they don't distinguish their thoughts from the tacit level of information they're relying on. They're part of the process, changing its nature by changing themselves.
This is one reason ITPs are so challenging for their left-brain counterparts, the Te types. ETJs make a firm split between observer and observed. They set objective goals and will sacrifice their own needs to bring them about. ITPs will do the inverse. They'll sacrifice objective considerations for the sake of a project or experience that "feels right" to them. The resulting behavior looks impulsive and may even be destructive. But the ITP's decision-making process is simply not objective.
ITPs are, of course, capable of formulating a plan and taking steps to reach a goal, but this is not their primary response to reality. They don't fully recognize their outward needs, or their responsibility to others, unless they cultivate their secondary function (Se or Ne) well enough to value experience for more than its subjective appeal. Until they manage this, they can be naive and careless about the Extraverted choices they make--particularly in the area of relationship.
Like all P types, ITPs know less about where they're headed than they do about where they don't want to be. Unlike Extraverted P types, however, they will not fake a show of interest long enough to locate the nearest door. ITPs simply won't do what strikes them as not worth doing, and they feel little need to consider the interests of others in the matter.
For example, an INTP architect I know was thoroughly nonplussed when his family expected him to show up at the hospital to see his ailing father. The idea of hanging around, saying comforting things to people, struck him as impractical. It was very clear to him that his value to the situation was to call the doctors involved and to find out what tests they'd scheduled and how they were likely to affect his father.
Although this behavior can be interpreted as defensive, touching as it does on inferior Fe, it's very much integrated with an impersonal Ti approach. Unless the man had direct involvement in the unfolding process and could exert some effect on its logical outcome, he didn't know how to relate to it.
When ITPs do feel related to a situation, they are unfailingly generous and almost without boundaries. Thus, these types can seem entirely different people in different contexts. They may be intensely private at work or at home--in the inimitable words of Ann Landers, "like a clam with a broken hinge"--but open, engaged, spontaneous, funny, and giving when they're with people whose sense of priorities is like their own.
This in itself suggest how dependent such types are on their immediate environment for their understanding of reality, and how important it is for ITPs to get enough experience outside the contexts in which they feel comfortable and at home.
The ITP Types
All Ti types are guided by the perceptual logic of a situation, but INTPs and ISTPs can easily appear, at first glance, to have little in common. Their similarity is not in their surface behaviors. They share a common need to make contact with the structural potential of a situation, and to have an effect on its material possibilities.
INTPs, whose Ne prompts an interest in pattern itself, are fascinated by the internal architecture of systems, the fluid relationship between form and context that determines a living process. This interest can manifest itself in art, architecture, design, or musical composition, but it also moves INTPs into fields like physics, economics, and mathematics.
It should be emphasized that these types are not like Te types, who break objects down into parts and see how they fit together. INTPs are interested in the active relationship of a pattern to its immediate environment, and they try to get at its essential nature by making models. In many ways, the unfolding dance of variables between a design and its surrounding conditions is more important to them than the practicality of the objects they create.
A striking example of the type is the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, whose leaky rooves are the stuff of legend, along with this disregard for the clients who objected to them. For him, the important thing was the idea a building could express. He thought of architecture as a medium that brought together the will of a specific culture and the underlying structure of nature.
Although ISTPs tend to be artisans rather than architects--athletes, surgeons, guitarists, leather workers, technical wizards, mechanics, and so forth--they experience the same kind of symbiotic relationship between their intentions and the underlying structure of a situation. For example, ISTP musicians speak about the creative merger of audience and band in a free-form joint effort.
The difference between INTPs and ISTPs in this regard is simply one of Ne versus Se. ISTPs are entirely present oriented, tied perceptually to their context. INTPs are motivated by Ne to recognize systemic possibilities. They're excited by the changes a particular environment can make in the way people think or live their lives.
This approach is not quite at home in an intellectual climate that insists on the split between observer and observed. In the Renaissance, churches were deliberately constructed with the idea that their design and structure could align a worshiper's psyche with a deeper pattern of reality. The same principle lies behind the art in traditional Islamic institutions, whose lines and dimensions are meant to bring one into harmony with the perfect design of the cosmos.
The experiential nature of their logic gives most ITPs a problem in a traditional Extraverted Judgment system of education. The type's intelligence can be experiential to the extent that he or she finds abstract reasoning tedious and difficult to understand. Even Albert Einstein, and clear-cut ITP, was reportedly an average student who struck no one as a budding genius.
ISTPs are more vulnerable than INTPs to misunderstandings along these lines because they depend on firsthand experience for what they know, and they won't relate to situations in which their body-based logic can't be utilized. Such types may excel in shop, music, and gym, where hands-on activities bring Ti into play, but they're regarded as underachievers in their academic classes. An unusual number of rock bands seem to be made up of such types, who dropped out of school for lack of discipline but happily spend eight hours a day perfecting guitar chords.
Indeed, because rock music requires the sort of physical interaction that marries art and technology, young ISTPs are often deeply invested in it. Bruce Springsteen talks about realizing one day that his guitar could speak for him--express all the things he couldn't otherwise put into words.
Most ISTPs think of tools this way, whether instrument, brush, or weapon--as extensions of themselves, part of their bodies, capable of expressing their passions and potential. There is often an erotic component to the relationship, either implicit or explicit, as befits a sensory understanding of reality in general.
Ti in Pop Culture
Although the Extraverted Judging nature of our cultural institutions can work to an ITP's disadvantage, it's interesting to see how popular images of Thinking in general have shifted over the last few generations to accommodate our increasing Perceptual outlook. The film Men in Black offers a particularly good example of Ti writ large.
Designed as a parody of alien conspiracy theories, Men in Black is about a secret federal agency that tracks the coming and going of extraterrestrials and protects the public from potentially malicious alien influence. The principles of the story are K, a senior government agent, and J, a new recruit, a former New York street cop with unusual athletic skills and a penchant for bending the rules.
The ISP nature of the movie is apparent in the fact that these latter qualities are precisely the ones the agency is looking for. J is tested along with a group of academics and military officers who are ultimately disqualified because they have a conventional approach to authority and wait for instructions before taking action.
The senior agent is an appealing variation on Sgt. Joe ("Just the facts, ma'am") Friday of the old Dragnet series--terse, laconic, and war weary--but it's the differences that are telling. Friday was conceived as a Te user, and his application of the law was guided by a very sure sense of right and wrong. Many of Dragnet's stories point up the ETJ's difficulty in maintaining an uninterrupted personal life in the fact of pressing impersonal priorities at work.
K is conceived as a Ti user. His job requires that he surrender all claims to external identity, including relationships with others--a clear-cut reflection of the Introverted Judging idea that a moral commitment must claim the whole person, not just his or her public behaviors. Moreover, the rules K follows are not societal generalizations. They're derived from years of direct experience: his real-life knowledge of what works and what doesn't with varied alien species.
Indeed, the education of the agents' successor consists entirely of apprenticeship--trial by fire. The recruit's survival depends on his learning to improvise within the parameters of situational logic. When he attempts to ignore his supervisor's greater wisdom, mistaking it for rule-oriented inflexibility, he apprentice puts both himself and others in immediate danger.
The popularity of this movie says a great deal about how many Se types understand reality. It also tells us why so many ISTPs are bored and contemptuous of traditional standards of education and law but have superior abilities as coaches and military strategists. They excel in situations that allow them to formulate tactical parameters based on real people and real circumstances.
INTPs are less likely than ISTPs to drop out of school and seek camaraderie in sub- or countercultural arenas. They have more interest in the art of rhetorical persuasion, which gives them an incentive to write and to publish. Their process of thought, however, is wholistic and imaginal, and they can run into difficulties attempting to express their ideas in academic circles.
Albert Einstein's understanding of his work, for example, is typical of a Ti user's, particularly his idea that the driving force behind scientific research is "the cosmic religious experience." This is the sort of wholistic image that will push a scientist to seek a unified theory behind nature's infinite diversity, but it can't be fit into the Te user's general categories of observation.
Another interesting example, in this regard, is the head of the Nation of Islam, minister Louis Farrakhan. Many of Farrakhan's speeches suggest a classic INTP perspective, in that he believes the structure of American culture deforms and degrades the self-understanding of its Black constituents. Moreover, his manner of defending his ideas is not analytical but analogical, designed to unify his audience in terms of shared contextual experience.
The Moral Perspective of Introverted Judgment
Whatever may be said about Farrakhan's views or politics, his process of thought tells us something about Ti's prophetic power. At the societal level, this function will bear the burden of moral imperatives a culture has not acknowledged, keeping the outward face of law in touch with the immediate experience of real people.
In fact, Ti is frequently used this way by all types. A good example may be the pressure brought to bear on the medical examiner by the families of those victims lost in the crash of TWA flight 800 in 1996. The coroner had been doing autopsies methodically, attempting to find evidence of a bomb or missile, thereby delaying the identification of bodies. The families appealed to the authorities on subjective moral grounds, point out that the coroner's objective standards of investigation were not taking into account their immediate situation.
In response, the coroner adjusted his methods, much as one would respond to tacit information. The families' priorities didn't become the focal point of his attention; they helped to guide his actions, bringing the generality of the Extraverted system into balance with the issues of a real situation.
This balancing act is a normal and legitimate part of any organized community, and it's important to recognize the value of Ti in this respect. It's also important to recognize the specific needs of those who use Ti for their dominant approach to morality. Unless such types recognize the connection of Extraverted Judging generalities to their own direct experience, they will depend on parochial considerations for moral direction.
One can see from recent legal cases how easily a Perceiving society will suspect that Extraverted Judging standards are merely the fruit of someone else's perceptual experience. The idea is all but accepted that a fair verdict is possible only when a jury is made up of people of the same racial or ethnic makeup as the defendant. This perspective has also issued in the increasing practice of "jury nullification," whereby jury members attempt to rectify perceived inequities in the law by taking the defendant's direct experience into account.
Unlike the Perceiving functions, which encourage us to process sensory impressions as they occur, the Judgment functions are rational in operation. They prompt us to organize our sense impressions--by focusing on the ones that happen regularly enough to recognize and predict.
Although rational thought is usually discussed as a left-brain phenomenon, Judgment operates in both hemispheres, just as Perception does. Left-brain reasoning is more apparent because it depends on language--concepts and signs that tell us what things are and how they relate to each other. Right-brain reasoning is experiential and immediate, inherent in the situations in which it's operating.
Te, the subject of this article, is a left-brain Judgment function. Like all left-brain functions, it gives us a conceptual, one-thing-at-a-time approach to life. It prompts us to notice sense impressions that are stable or occur regularly, so we can define them and focus on them as distinct objects and events.
Even the left-brain Perceiving functions, Si and Ni, work this way. They encourage an awareness of sense impressions as they happen, but we acquire them as facts and ideas, one at a time, in light of what matters to us. The difference between these latter functions and Extraverted Judgment is that Si and Ni are not rational.
In the inner Perceptual world, we need not organize acquired facts or determine their relationship to each other. It's in the outer world that the left brain requires predictability. Confronted with multiple objects in a sensory context, the left brain has to decide where to place its focus. To that end, it deploys Te or Fe.
These functions enable us to make our knowledge systematic, so we have a basis for concentrating our attention. Te is one way of creating this basis--an impersonal way. It prompts us to notice the qualities that objects have in common, and to use those shared aspects as a standard of sequential order. Whenever we Think, we're relying on such standards--to organize multiple objects and to establish logical relationships between them.
The process is as familiar as finding a name in a telephone directory. If we couldn't assume the logical relationship of each letter to others in the alphabet, we'd spend half our lives looking up a phone number. It's the same with celebrating a birthday. We're recognizing the logical position of a date in a calendar sequence of days and months.
Like all Extraverted functions, Te harmonizes us with general ideas about reality, so most of the standards of order we employ are collectively determined. Indeed, when collective Te standards are operating successfully, we take them pretty much for granted. We "know," for example, that letters run from A to Z, that numbers progress by tens, that a year has 365.24 days, that a day has twenty-four hours, that presidents have more power than vice presidents, that a high grade point average is better than a low one, and so forth.
It's natural to associate the capacity for reason with the conceptual systems we've learned to rely on. But this association can get in our way. Te is a universal skill, and it need not lead to the systems of order we define as rational.
Of Logic and Letterman
Given the requisite neurological equipment, all humans are inclined to organize sensory experience by impersonal standards of order. The ability develops early, long before acquired concepts hammer it into a specific social shape. As soon as a child is coordinated enough to be the direct cause of a maddening effect--say, the clang of a spoon dropped from a high chair a few thousand times in a row--Te is beginning to develop. The relationship between act and result is so utterly predictable that it suggests a fixed sequence of events--the idea that the same thing will occur with other kinds of objects.
This, properly speaking, is an exercise in logic--this discernment of a standard, or principle, that can be pried apart from its context and applied to a new set of objects. Long before we credit children with any capacity for scientific thought, they're determining the validity of the "dropped spoon" principle by setting up experiments--with a new vase in the parlor, for example, or an exceedingly tolerant cat. A great deal of our formative experience is devoted to cognitive exercises of this sort, by which we learn to distinguish logical predictability from so-called magical thinking.
The delight that accompanies successful experiments is not unlike the audience reaction to classic stunts on the David Letterman show, such as running over beer cans with a steamroller or pushing watermelons off the top of high buildings just to see what happens. Silly as they are, these routines are a nice illustration of the Te process.
When we Think in an Extraverted way, we're recognizing that certain principles of order are "always true." Letterman's routines are funny because they're gleefully subversive, but also because their outcome is never in doubt. The only thing in question is how satisfying a mess an object is going to make when tossed out a window.
This tells us something else about Te. Ultimately, the objects that illustrate our general principles are less important than the principles themselves. Even for a child, the spoon and the floor eventually lose their power to entertain. What's important is their relationship--the expectation we retain.
The entire house can blow away--utensils, high chair, kitchen, and all--but the relationship between the spoon and the floor endures, like a ghost in the mind. As we move from one context to another, a throng of such ghosts come with us, and we assess their possibilities for tangible embodiment.
One envisions the harried Letterman staff, week in and week out, locating ever novel material hosts for the same invisible idea--a bucket of chowder, a rotten pumpkin, a can of green paint. And one can see from the audience reaction how Te ultimately portends a community. The people who watch the show regularly enough are united by the common vocabulary of the routine. They laugh because they know what to expect, and their expectations are confirmed definitively and viscerally.
Our societal Te vocabulary is more subtle, of course, but it works a lot like this. The principles "we hold to be self-evident" aren't really. They're ghosts, too. They're self-evident only so long as we translate them into material form and recognize their effects. Te, in this respect, is not just a matter of acquiring a system and following the rules. It's an act of imagination. Left-brain imagination.
Right-brain imagination soars beyond the world as we know it. It issues in patterns untried by the fires of linear application. But left-brain imagination is always a compound of mind and matter. It has a kissing-cousin relationship to magic. It begins with an invisible intention and ends with material results.
When we Think, we're either extracting a logical relationship from its material context, turning it into a portable ghost, or we're translating our familiar ghosts into form in some new context. Either way, the process directly influences the structures we build, the aspects of reality that claim our attention, and the standards we count on for meaning and community.
The Collective Aspect of Thinking
Given the natural human ability to derive principles from predictable outward relationships, it should be clear that every culture uses Te to establish structural expectations in its members. It doesn't matter whether a culture is literate, subscribes to the medical model, or keeps track of its finances. All humans make sense of their sensory experiences by relating them to principles they can count on.
Perhaps the quintessential illustration of the process is a prisoner, deprived of all other forms of identity and rational control, who scratches a crude calendar into the wall and charts the alternation of light and dark. Like the God of Genesis, he splits the inexorable tide of natural events into a sequence of predictable units, creating time and linear direction. Such things give us a way to manage what happens to us, to make plans, to establish routines, to know who we are with respect to our circumstances.
Even if a culture's ideas about the predictable are limited to the rising and setting of the sun, the phases of the moon, seasonal change, and distinctions of gender, the principles derived from these regularities ultimately shape a philosophy and portends an organized community. As far back as archaeology can reach, sexual icons, representing regular biological experience, have been used as an ideogrammatic vocabulary to celebrate the foundation of order in the cosmos.
The "truth" of Te, in this respect, is not its scientific accuracy but its rational utility. It doesn't matter that other cultures have conceptualized time, space, and seasonal progression differently than we do. Te can underlie theocratic stability as easily as it does technocratic change. The bottom line is that our Te principles are reliable enough to use as consensual benchmarks, thereby freeing us from the dictates of immediate experience.
Freedom's Just Another Word...
It may seem peculiar to describe principles as freeing one from immediate experience. From an Extraverted Perceiver's standpoint, freedom means the unfettered ability to respond to immediate experience--the absence of structure and expectation. For Judging types, however, it's the absence of rational structure that traps us, forcing us to respond to things as they happen, to forfeit plans and goals, to depend on the bounty of fate.
This view is well illustrated by the comment of an INTJ seminary student, who was irritated by a classroom discussion about the Pharisees. An ancient religious sect concerned with observing the law, the Pharisees are presented in the New Testament as foils for the Christian message--as self-righteous generalists, more interested in people's surface behaviors than their interior life. Most of the students were expanding on the classic interpretation, but the INTJ saw things differently.
The Pharisees, he said, were forerunners of today's micromanagers. They were interested in structural integrity. They were trying to shape a discipline certain enough to protect them from the clamor of the "ten thousand things." Without that kind of discipline, it's not even possible to develop an interior life.
Although the student's point reflects an Introverted Perceiver's understanding of Te, it says a great deal about the kind of approach the function promotes. For TJs, freedom isn't the opposite of management. Freedom is management so adept that external reality all but takes care of itself.
Shifting Cultural Perspectives
The ability to adhere to a general principle of order, particularly when immediate experience inclines us to do otherwise, has traditionally been understood as evidence of character and self-discipline. In fact, Te types consider most forms of principled behavior as signs of integrity and respect for others--arriving on time, keeping one's promises, following through, playing by the rules, fitting into one's roles, representing the chain of command. Thus, when an ETJ's dominant identity reflects the structural expectations a society takes for granted, we regard these types as arbiters of moral obligation. We seek their advice, their counsel, their mentorship, their guidance.
As I've pointed out in other articles, however, society has become increasingly oriented toward Perception, so that our ideas about Extraverted Judgment have changed over the last few generations. For one thing, we've become more aware of the biases enshrined in our impersonal principles.
Although standards of order are derived from observed qualities and behaviors, and hence are objective, they're also relative. For example, we can organize a rock collection in any number of ways--by size, by color, by age, by type, by name. Any of these qualities will determine an objectively logical system. But each will result in a different sequence of order, which may be said to "favor" a different kind of rock. Choosing one over another will always involve subjective considerations--our sense of what matters.
ETJs can lose sight of this. As Extraverts, they accept the principles of order that exists, and their concern is to apply them. An Se society, however, will be acutely aware of limited options. The idea arises that the principles in force must coincide with the subjective self-interest of the people who rely on them.
For this reason, the marriage of a Te type's dominant identity and traditional roles and institutions has come to look less like character and more like an attempt to maintain an accustomed power base. In one fell swoop, the ETJ can reduce an infinity of perceptual options to two: the way I do it or the wrong way.
One envisions media paradigms, two generations past, who reflect the strong association Te once had with benign, institutionalized (male) authority: the Walter Cronkite-type new anchor; the straight-arrow cops who wanted just "the facts, ma'am"; all those Eisenhower-era patriarchs who knew best, whether they presided over a suburban family or a cattle drive on the old frontier. Within a generation, they've evolved into the comically reasonable Dad on The Brady Bunch, lost without his watch and his shoe trees.
The movie remake of Mission: Impossible has no qualms about turning Jim Phelps, the highly principled task force leader from the late sixties' TV series, into nothing more than a self-serving double agent. Even Dana Scully, the responsible ENTJ pathologist on The X-Files, is cast as an overly rational skeptic, clinging to her FBI handbook and the scientific paradigms that tell her what should and shouldn't be done.The word Scully has passed directly into the pop lexicon as a verb that means to offer a conventionally logical explanation for an event that requires an open mind.
How Te Really Works
In point of fact, dominant Te types are so accustomed to putting aside their immediate interests for the sake of their principles that they lose sight of their own needs and priorities. They screen out so much direct information that their logic becomes theoretical. They lose touch with real life.
A real estate agent, for example, told me about an ESTJ sales representative who had accepted a two-year assignment at the local branch of his parent company. He was buying a house for the two-year period, and he had two mortgage options. One was variable, guaranteed at 7 percent for three years; the other fixed, guaranteed at 9 percent for thirty.
The agent naturally encouraged his client to take the variable mortgage. The 7-percent rate was guaranteed for three years, and the man was staying for only two. But the ESTJ insisted on taking the fixed rate--because it was the more responsible choice! He didn't want to take any chances. Rather than respond to a clear immediate advantage to himself, he held to his principles.
The ETJ's behavior can look self-oriented because these types will ignore others' immediate interests as well as their own. They don't trust exceptions to the general rule. Mitigating circumstances strike them as excuses, and they try not to take them into account.
The Star Trek franchise offers many episodes that deal with this aspect of Extraverted Judgment, because its Starfleet officers are, at bottom, military personnel, committed to a specific code of directives. Captain Kathryn Janeway, for example, in Star Trek: Voyager, is an unusually sympathetic portrait of an ETJ in conflict. The fact that this Star Trek series is the least popular of any is no surprise.
Janeway is in command of a lost ship, light-years away from home, helmed by a combination of Starfleet officers and renegade freedom fighters. Her task, in many of the episodes, is to recognize the value of the rebels' experience, as opposed to their credentials and training, which is not easy for her. She is also trying to enforce Federation rules among crew members who don't share Starfleet's assumptions about protocol.
As this series has unfolded, two things are worth noting. First, the Federation rules have, in fact, given the officers and the freedom fighters a common standard of order, despite their very different experiences and loyalties. Second, Janeway has come to recognize that her situation has no precedents. Federation directives could never have anticipated some of the crises she'd had to resolve.
Thus, she's learned, very gradually, to take immediate events into account and to deal with them as they present themselves. Her first inclination remains, however, to maintain her principles--not because they support her position or keep people under control, but because they tell the crew what to expect from one another when nothing else is certain.
An even better illustration, because of its reverse morality, is Quark, the avaricious Ferengi barkeep in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The Ferengi are a business-oriented society whose transactions are guided by The Rules of Acquisition, a compendium of principles that require a good citizen to put profit about all else.
In one episode, believing he's about to die, Quark offers his body parts to the highest bidder. As it turns out, his health is fine. But now he has a problem. To break a contract ensures the loss of all his assets, tantamount to loss of identity.
Quark is confounded by the quandary. To fulfill the contract, he has to die. But to break the rules strikes him as thoroughly immoral. His integrity is at stake. Although The Rules of Acquisition support all manner of bribery, cheating, and dishonesty for the sake of self-interested profit, the idea of violating the rules themselves, even in the interest of self-preservation, gives Quark real pause.
And this is precisely the point. It doesn't matter how a culture or an organization conceptualizes its principles of order. Keeping faith with them always strikes a Te type as a matter of responsibility, honor, and knowledge of the "right" values. This is why ETJs need their secondary function, Si or Ni--to recognize when immediate experience takes precedence over authorized procedures.
The ETJ Types
ETJs represent about 18 percent of Americans. Toss in the Introverted TJs, who use Te as a secondary function, and the number rises to one-quarter of the population. All but 6 percent of these TJs and STJs, which is one reason we tend to associate Te with an investment in what already exists.
All ETJs have a strong sense of responsibility. They are not fuzzy about the principles they hold. They can articulate them, and they regard them as a basis for the kind of life they actually live. Knowledge, they might say, with Isaac Bashevis Singer, is a small island in a sea of nonknowledge. The integrity of that island strikes such types as a matter of personal obligation.
One might recall the "living books" in Farenheit 451--people who "became" the classics the government had burned by memorizing them and reciting them to others. As their memory failed, they trained others to take their place. ETJs are something like these "living books." They try to live up to the roles they play in society. They are faithful to the categories of knowledge they've received, and they're proud of their ability to fit themselves into a larger system and succeed on the terms specified. Such types have a great deal of momentum and direction in this respect.
ESTJs, prompted by Si, enjoy contributing to an existing organization, particularly when their ability to meet specified goals is recognized as superior. Such types depend on reason and analysis to deal with life, and they are careful about getting the facts they need in their area of expertise. In general, they support a "measure twice, cut once" philosophy of life.
ENTJs, by virtual of Ni, are more likely to see around the corners of an existing structure. They are usually motivated to streamline goals or tactics, and they may be gifted in their ability to solve problems that require imagination. They are something like INTJs in this respect, but their sense of possibility doesn't take them as far afield of structural priorities. ENTJs want to create a better mousetrap; they don't question whether mice should, in fact, be caught.
Both ESTJs and ENTJs require the confirmation of hard evidence before they'll deal with a situation. To paraphrase Aristotle (perhaps the quintessential Te type), if you can't measure something, you can't predict it's behavior, and hence it isn't real. This, admittedly, is a very loose paraphrase, but it's close enough. Aristotle's belief is echoed in the words of every ETJ physician who finds no measurable basis for a patient's chronic pain.
The bottom line is that reason can't be used to analyze the unknown. Unless one can determine the sequence in which one thing follows another or the functional contribution of a part to a whole, a situation is not a logical one and, to the Te type's mind, probably doesn't exist.
ETJs reason quite literally in a step-by-step manner. Asked to explain one aspect of a problem, they will begin at the beginning and explain the entire linear process. Such types tend to plan and set goals even when they're doing something "for fun." And they are just as interested in "retrodiction" as they are in prediction. That is, they will analyze their actions after the fact, attempting to prepare for similar situations in the future.
Like it's Extraverted counterpart, Si is a Perceiving function, and its focus is on data received through the senses. However, the two forms of Sensation differ considerably in their effects. When we use Si, we don't adjust to our surface perceptions. We package them and take them with us--in the form of facts, numbers, signs, and memories.
Ask five people who saw the same movie to describe what it was about, and it's clear that each person is impressed by certain aspects of reality and not others. We don't remember--or even notice--everything we see, hear, taste, touch, and smell during the course of our lives. Only some things strike us as important, useful, familiar, or exciting enough to convert into mental content--that is, into facts that we retain over time.
Si guides this selection, and it prompts us to reconcile our new impressions with the ones we've already stored. In this respect, the function is a mirror image of its Extraverted equivalent.
- When we use Se, our behaviors keep pace with our immediate sense impressions. We "lose ourselves" in whatever is happening, become part of it.
- When we use Si, we stabilize our immediate sense impressions by integrating them with the ones we remember and care about. We "find ourselves" in whatever is happening, because our perceptions are anchored by what we already know.
The two functions of Sensation are not directly opposed. Both encourage us to understand our immediate sense impressions by way of past experience. But the different locations they activate in the brain see to it that they produce inverse results.
Se, as a right-brain function, bypasses the left brain's penchant for explaining things to itself. Our past experience helps us to respond quickly to an immediate situation. Si relies on the left brain's linguistic powers. What we know from past experience helps us to keep a situation consistent.
Si gives us the will to accumulate information--names, dates, numbers, statistics, references, guidelines, and so forth--related to the things that matter to us. And this is an important qualification. Such facts are highly selective, an attribute perhaps easiest to see in our stereotypes about gender. Everyone knows a man who can talk for hours about the wisdom of substitutions in the 1986 World Series but has to think hard to remember a friend's birthday. Or a woman who can name fifty different shades of eye shadow but can't tell one make of car from another.
The point is not to indulge in sexist generalizations but to emphasize that the facts we acquire by way of Si are more than information. They're part of our self-experience. They define the specific nature of our passions and interests. They become our basis for taking in new data.
When Si is our dominant function, selective acquisition is our primary arbiter of meaning. It's the prism through which we see reality. From an Si user's viewpoint, immediate conditions have no stable meaning. They're just an influx of data impinging on the senses. And our response to these impressions depends on our mood, our state of mind, our desires, our feelings. It's our commitments and priorities, the facts we hold inalienable, that give our circumstances enduring significance.
Knowing what matters, what's worth keeping or building again, gives us a sense of continuity and security. It gives us direction in the midst of a crisis, or helps us to weather a loss of faith that immediate feelings would not equip us to handle. All things flow away like water; the ground of our self-experience remains.
The ISJ Types
Although we all use Si to reconcile new impressions with enduring beliefs and commitments, ISTJs and ISFJs depend on this function for their primary approach to life. ESTJs and ESFJs, who use Si in a secondary way, resemble ISJs in their reliance on concrete facts and standards of reason, but these types don't have the same view of reality.
ISJs have a strong, abiding, personal investment in the information that strikes them as important, and their behaviors reflect what they care about, both professionally and personally. Such types rarely acquire knowledge for its own sake. What they know is useful to them and directly related to what they like to do.
ISJs pursue their interests so intensively that they sometimes develop expertise of an esoteric sort, but they scarcely know this is happening to them. One day they simply find that they know more than most other people about an obscure area of experience.
An ISJ of my acquaintance, for example, devoted all his spare time to collecting turn-of-the-century cylinder phonographs. He haunted the museums, pored over catalogs and manuals, tracked down other collectors, and taught himself to repair the broken machines he acquired. Over the years, he accumulated so much information, skill, and contacts that his fascination became his life's work. Today a life-size image of Thomas Edison peers out at passersby from the front window of his restored nineteenth-century home/repair shop.
This tendency to acquire facts, objects, and a social role along the lines of one's inner priorities is typical of the ISJ, and it inverts the patter more common to the Se type. ESPs adapt themselves so well to others' expectations that their behaviors and style can reflect the quintessence of popular taste and aspiration. ISJs adapt the external situation so well to their own interests and motives that even a conventional job, hobby, or alliance can become a uniquely tailored expression of who they are.
Among all Introverts, ISJs are the most likely to join clubs and organizations devoted to their specific field or fascination, and they may have a strong investments in the way the organization is run. If they have a particular hobby or avocation, they will go to some trouble to gather and share information in that domain--tracking down specialized bookstores, writing to fellow enthusiasts, publishing newsletters, taking classes, going to flea markets, attending collector's conventions. The information that matters to them is nearly always part of their self-definition and social identity.
It should be recognized, however, that ISJs pursue their interests in a way that scarcely suggests the passion and curiosity that actually motivate them. ISJs organize and apply their information with their secondary function, Te or Fe. No matter how exciting they are about a job or subject, they tackle it methodically, and somewhat myopically. They're attention is consumed by what they're doing, and they're concerned with every detail. They may be unable to finish a project until a particular detail strikes them as perfectly realized.
Questions of Judgment
Because ISJs are so exacting, conscientious, and deliberate in their outward behaviors, some typologists describe them as a more conservative species of ESJ. This is not a wholly inaccurate way to understand the type, but it focuses too much on surface traits. ISJs and ESJs are both left-brain types, and they share common strengths, so a certain resemblance is inevitable:
- Both count on established facts and concrete results.
- Both consider it a point of honor to discharge their responsibilities, to be on time, and to keep their word.
- Both are reassured by a defined place in a larger group--whether this is realized in a job, family, community, or social organization.
Some typologists have been persuaded by these outward similarities that ISJs and ESJs should be lumped together as "SJ" types, defined as conservative, rule-oriented, and intent on maintaining the status quo. But ISJs and ESJs don't really use their Judgment in the same way, and it's worth noting some of the differences between them.
ESJs: ESJs rely directly on their Extraverted Judging skills. They have a rational approach to life, and they're good at managing outward structural relationships: time, sequence, standards, procedures, causality. Such types use Si to support and identify with the social institutions in which their rational skills are valued. Accordingly, ESJs regard their professional and social roles as an important part of themselves, and they may ignore, or relegate to leisure time, activities that conflict with their responsibilities to these roles.
ISJs: ISJs, by contrast, rely on their Si skills. They have an experiential approach to life, and their primary sense of responsibility is to their inner priorities--to the facts and knowledge they've acquired about things that matter to them. They use Extraverted Judgment to manage their outward relationships rationally, in terms of what they regard as important. Such types don't require a specific job or role in order to do this. When they're relating to others, they have a hard time not doing it.
ISFJs, for example, who relate to others with Fe, are constantly alert to the practical needs of the people around them. As soon as they see a place for themselves, they offer help and get things organized--among friends, family members, colleagues, even strangers on an airplane.
ISTJs, who relate with Te, are alert to people's need for logical management and principled counsel. No matter how busy they are with job and family, they'll volunteer their services to boards and organizations, administer a friend's financial affairs, or advise someone in trouble.
Preserving Order amid Change
It may be clear from the foregoing descriptions that ISJs don't understand the "status quo" in the same way that ESJs do, much less have the same ideas about its maintenance. Technically speaking, the status quo isn't maintained by anyone. It's a moving tide with which one swims, adjusting as it shifts and eddies.
This is what ESJs do. They swim with prevailing social standards, adjusting their pace and rhythm as necessary to deal with change. They can make such adjustments because they don't try to maintain a particular set of rules or laws.
What ESJs maintain, and maintain unconditionally, is their rational assumptions about reality. As far as these types are concerned, Judging standards reflect universal presumptions about reason and order. If circumstances change, Judging standards can change too, without violating the general principles of reason and morality.
ISJs are not like this. They don't believe for a minute that the universe is inherently rational. For these types, the outer world is a jumble of ever-changing perceptual experiences, dictating ever changing behavioral responses. What ISJs maintain, and maintain unconditionally, is their priorities, which stabilize perceptual reality and give it consistent meaning.
Judging standards are the means by which ISJs link their outward situation to meaningful priorities within. From this perspective, values and rules are not a tide with which one swims. They're specific forms of behavior, and enacting them is the only way to keep faith with the priorities they make manifest.
There's an old Jewish story about a man who gave money to a beggar every day on his way to work. One day he didn't, and the beggar called after him to ask why.
"I had a bad week," the man said. "I'm sorry."
And the beggar answered: "So? You had a bad week, and I should suffer?"
ESJs are likely to understand the beggar as an ingrate. After all, the man's contribution was voluntary. He wasn't obligated to give that money every day. His present actions are a reasonable response to changed circumstances. They don't cancel out his essential morality.
ISJs would immediately understand the beggar's position. Regardless of circumstantial change, you meed your obligations. The very proof of one's priorities is maintaining them when no one expects it of you or you don't want to.
ISJs make it their business to know how things are supposed to work in an Extraverted arena they care about, and they're concerned that others take these operating standards seriously as well. Their thoroughness in this regard propels many of these types into positions of authority, where their enforcement of regulations may be exacting.
It should be emphasized, however, that far from supporting the status quo, ISJs have very firm ideas about "how things should be," and they use rules and regulations to bring outer reality into line with them. Such types are most inflexible when they're not enough in touch with prevailing rational assumptions.
Think again about ESJs, whose faith in objective principles allows them to take changing circumstances into account. ISJs who insist on the letter of the law are not being guided by objective rational assumptions. They're using their Judgment to make a changing situation stable, to anchor it to uncompromising inner priorities.
Extreme ISJs, it may be noted, are not necessarily "conservative" in the political sense of the word. Such types can be diehard liberals, working hard for causes that no longer hold society's interest.
The point is that an ISJ's "conservative" behaviors have little to do with supporting the status quo as such. Without sufficient Extraversion, ISJs are relying on subjective criteria for decision making, so they feel personally responsible for keeping things under control. They don't trust anyone but themselves to do the job the way it needs to be done.
Subjects and Objects
When I say that ISJs are relying on subjective criteria, I don't mean they're guided by selfish impulses. On the contrary. ISJs are usually so busy managing other peoples' practical needs that they can easily ignore their own health and well-being. By subjective I mean that a person's ideas about what matters are unique to himself or herself.
Think again about five people coming out of a movie theater. The film they saw unquestionably exists. It's objective data. But those five people are likely to care about and remember very different things about it.
How something interests us, what aspect of it we find important, and what it means to use in the long run is often consistent for us. But being consistent isn't the same as being rational. Unless we have some objective standard to measure our priorities against, we simply don't know how subjective they are.
Like all Introverts, ISJs find it hard to train the Extraverted character of their secondary function on themselves rather than on others. They become so proficient at stabilizing things for the people around them that they can get trapped by their dominant function. They tie what they do in the world to their inner priorities and lose sight of objective reasons to do anything else.
It's easier to see this tendency in ISTJs, because they clearly identify with particular standards or principles and become offended when people question their importance or refuse to honor them. ISFJs usually identify with the needs of a person, so their attempt to manage a situation may not look like management. It may look like the need to please or serve or rescue.
The point is that ISJs are likely to use their Extraversion only to assess the ways in which others' situations can be stabilized, so they end up feeling guilty about having objective needs of their own. They need perspective on their priorities--to recognize that their desires and fears and immediate responses to life are also arbiters of meaning and should have an effect on their decisions.
This is the logic behind the famous Ann Landers question to women wrestling with a commitment to a bad marriage: "Am I better off with him or without him?" Objective reason will counsel us to break a promise if the toll on our health or other relationships becomes too high. ISJs sometimes need an objective outsider to help them accept the wisdom of that counsel. Holding to one's course may be a mark of integrity in one situation, but irrational and self-destructive in another.
Or, as Ann Landers puts it (quoting Joe E. Lewis in The Prairie Rambler): "Show me a man who has both feet on the ground, and I will show you a man who can't put his pants on."
The ISJs Inner World
Like ESPs, ISJs are at the mercy of their immediate perceptions, but they don't usually realize this. Nor do the people around them. Se types respond to their sense impressions all at once, and their receptivity is obvious. When they "burn out," people don't need to ask why. ISJs are so cautious about their investment of time and energy that people are surprised when they reach a breaking point.
It should be noted, therefore that ISJs really are Sensation types--left-brain Sensation types. The left brain can't handle multiple perceptions--except by dispatching Extraverted Judgment to put them in sequential order. So ISJs are constantly absorbing new impressions, but they're sorting them one at a time, putting them into the various "meaning" boxes they've set up in their internal storage system.
When such types are faced with a decision, they literally examine every fact at hand, granting each its own integrity, examining it from every angle, trying to figure out which box it belongs in, or whether some other box will be have to be set up and labeled. ISJs do this with all the facts involved before they're willing to draw any conclusions.
The best comparison I can think of is those tribal elders who won't sanction outward change in the community until they've located a precedent in the founding stories that embody their tradition. Until they can figure out where to store the information and what it's likely to affect, they have no basis for accepting or rejecting a proposal.
Most ISJs go over books, documents, and contracts word by word, and perhaps several times, before they're satisfied they know what's being said. Pushed to a premature decision, they will continue to think of exceptions and qualifications that hadn't occurred to them earlier.
Once they've decided change is warranted, however, ISJs are impossible to dissuade. If their decision is an unpopular one, they'll stand by it, come hell or high water. The relevant facts have become part of who they are, and they will insist that their outward situation be adjusted to reflect them. Even if they have little time, they will not delegate this implementation process to others. They want hands-on control over it.
Si on Its Own Terms: The outward behaviors of these types have contributed to their general reputation as careful, strong, faithful, persevering, and honorable--but perhaps a little dull. Even ISJs will describe themselves this way! But in truth, the inner world of an ISJ is often delightfully unconventional, even whimsical, and the type's private interests can be decidedly offbeat.
This is where ISJs definitively part company with the ESJs. Extraverted Judgers are inevitably well-adjusted to prevailing standards and assumptions, but they don't usually see themselves that way. Because they maintain a flexible relationship to those standards, they describe themselves as independent, even different from others. ISJs, by contrast, may have a thoroughly individual way of looking at life, but they rarely believe that their way of seeing things is unusual. They may feel alone, unable to make decision, misunderstood, or unappreciated, but it almost never occurs to them that their views are idiosyncratic, much less unique to themselves.
The flavor of their inner world is not immediately apparent in an Extraverted context, but it's almost always visible in their hobbies, their personal letters, and their leisure-time pursuits. Such activities make clear the way these types naturally give form to their internal priorities, apart from managing life for others.
ISJs are quintessential collectors, and they acquire objects the way they acquire facts--one at a time, in a consistent domain of interest. Although these objects may be classic collectibles, like stamps or Hummels or first editions, they're more often specific and esoteric, as though the ISJ were giving outward expression to the Perceiving self within: the pleasures, passions, and humor that would otherwise go undetected.
ISJs attend toy soldier conventions, become experts on musical nutcrackers, fill their basements with arcade games from the 1950s, accumulate medieval maps, collect weapons, Snow White figurines, and artifacts from particular time periods. They show up a memorabilia actions, book fairs, flea markets, and science fiction gatherings.
Their acquisition also takes the form of collecting experiences--or more accurately, variations on a particular experience. This, too, can occur in the classic sense of playing golf every day or boating every weekend. But it more often involves activities of a distinctive, even fanciful nature that, by virtue of ritual repetition, become nearly archetypal.
For example, a good friend, an ISFJ army operations engineer, spends his vacations riding roller coasters all over the world. A colleague, an ISTJ indexer, finds a way to attend every concert within a 500-mile area given by folk artist Richard Thompson. An acquaintance, an ISFJ social worker, reads every new Stephen King novel ten times in a row.
Such activities appear to make a stable bridge between consistent personal impressions and the constantly changing outer world. But unless one knows an ISJ well enough to be aware of the type's private pursuits, the deep, sometimes romantic attachment the type has to certain kinds of objects, information, and experience may be completely invisible. In fact, people who don't know an ISJ apart from a work context may regard the type as serious, predictable, and somewhat detached.
Actually, ISJs are almost helplessly engaged. Given the subjective nature of their perceptual reality, they're always aware of a certain discontinuity between their expectations and others' behavior. Most ISJs find this aspect of life amusing, if frustrating, and they may keep up a running Seinfeld-like commentary in their heads about the absurdities they encounter every day. Not long ago, the ISFJ engineer was complaining about how hard it is to find a decent classical section in popular music stores--he keeps finding Frankie Valli's Greatest Hits filed under Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
ISJs tend to believe that others don't "get" their sense of humor, but this isn't necessarily true. When ISJs feel comfortable, they make all sorts of observations about perceived discontinuities, some of which are dead serious. But they aren't the kinds of observations that everyone would make. So it's not always clear what kind of reaction the type is looking for.
For example, ISJs may react with discomfort when someone's behavior is inconsistent with a stated or apparent obligation. Their feelings, however, may focus on something that other people regard as a mere technicality. They can be acutely embarrassed by social or economic misrepresentation--such as wearing the wrong clothes or displaying possessions beyond one's means.
Pop media is merciless in its depiction of such reactions. One thinks about Niles Frasier, of the TV program Frasier, who becomes apoplectic at the idea of anyone's wearing white shoes after Labor Day. ISJs in real life usually try to behave in a way that reflects precisely the role, station, obligations, and rights they perceive as their own. They may even present themselves neutrally, preferring to err on the side of underestimating their position.
Because Se encourages physical engagement with the outer world, it's often described as sensory awareness--our knowledge that material things exist. But this function is a good deal more than a means of acquiring perceptual information. As a right-brain function, Se comes into play when events are changing so rapidly that linear analysis is impossible. We respond immediately, on the basis of visual and tactile information, guided by what we've done before.
For example, we may learn to tango by following a chart of steps, but once we actually know how to dance, we aren't thinking about rules or instructions. We're directly engaged by our surface preceptions--the rhythm of the music, the movements of a partner. We're changing as our situation does.
Robert Pirsig, in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, describes Se experience this way, with regard to a mechanic working on a motor:
This is what happens whenever we're using Se. It happens when we're kneading bread and the pressure of our hands changes with the texture of the dough. It happens when we're moving a ball downcourt for a chance at the hoop. It happens when we're driving, alert to a whole field of sights and sounds. It happens when we're playing in a band. It happens when we're knitting a sweater. Every time our actions are changing immediately and directly in concert with our surface perceptions, we're drawing on Se.
It should be clear from these activities that the only way to cultivate Se is by hands-on involvement--by strengthening the link between sensory perception and neural response. Our bodies have to get into the act. For types who use this function as their primary approach to life, true knowledge is always concrete, a product of firsthand experience.
Such knowledge can't be acquired by reading instructions, taking a course, or considering the ramifications of our actions. We have to plunge in and do something often enough to get a "feel" for what it requires--whether it's sautéing garlic, shooting darts, competing in a race, serving a volleyball, making love, plunking a banjo, or doing a comedy routine at an improv club. In some aspects of life, direct experience is all that counts. We take action, see what happens, and make adjustments when we do it again.
Se types are not just active physically. They're active socially. They're deeply influenced by what's going on around them, and they want to take part in it. They have a "feel" for atmosphere, style, and image. They know what people are interested in and like being recognized as paradigmatic of the trend.
The ESP Types
Although we all use Se for at least some of our activities, the ESTPs and ESFPs depend on it for identity and relationship with others. The ISTP and ISFP types, for whom Se is secondary, display some of the same personality traits, but they understand reality differently.
ESPs understand life by way of their surface perceptions, and they prefer situations that change quickly enough to hold their attention. Their senses may be so acute that they seem to be anticipating things before they actually happen.
Such types need hands-on experience to feel in contact with life. They may get bored or uneasy when a situation requires assessment without perceptual information to guide the process. Accordingly, they usually gravitate to professions, hobbies, and recreational pursuits that ensure some form of immediate sensory feedback.
An ESP firefighter puts it this way: "It's strange, but one of the things I love about my job is the sensation of heat on my skin, even if it hurts. Long before I even see the fire, I feel it; I know it's there. I know what I'm dealing with." Interestingly, this man also works part-time as a performer, and he says he feels the same way about that job: "I feel the 'heat' from the audience just like I feel the fire, and I love responding to it and knowing how they're going to respond in return."
Most ESPs understand the pleasures of that kind of interaction. In their social lives as well as their jobs, they're "in it to win it." They gauge their performance, always, by its immediate effect. Many Se users are drawn to politics, show business, and sales for this reason. They are often witty, entertaining communicators who quickly read and connect with an audience. They make excellent police officers, athletes, negotiators, diplomats, impresarios, restaurant managers, sales agents, real estate brokers, advertisers, publishers, stock traders, and public relations strategists.
Like the firefighter just quoted, ESPs often speak of that peculiar thrill of knowing their game, knowing when luck or timing or the cards or an audience is "with them." An ESP goes with this feeling, tries to stay with it--like a surfer coming in on a perfect wave. To paraphrase Pirsig, the nature of the situation determines the type's thoughts and motions, which simultaneously change the nature of the situation. The average ESP assesses what's going on, plays to it, and takes pleasure in the escalating sense of mastery.
For highly Extraverted types, this happens as naturally as a leaf turning its face to the sun. You can always tell from the ESPs in the crowd exactly what society currently regards as admirable, stylish, fascinating, outrageous, or exciting. These types will have so adapted themselves to generalized assumptions that they physically embody them.
Many ESPs seem to be striving for this--for the highest pitch of concrete actualization. They become the experiential standard by which others' image and attitude are measured. In fact, many attractive and engaging people are led to use Se as a dominant function precisely because their style and impact are their fundamental strengths.
Some ESPs have a kind of movie-star quality--a self-assurance, a charisma, an appetite for life--that others enjoy and find infectious. Magnetic, clever, full of energy and enthusiasm, they make a room come alive, thrive on attention, and are attentive in return. Billy Crystal satirizes this way of approaching reality with his character Fernando, who invariably greets people by observing, "It's better to look good than to feel good--and darling, you look marvelous!"
The ESP's need for sensory input is so strong that the type may find it difficult to recognize relationship apart from physical proximity and direct response. It was probably an ESP who first said, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder--of someone else." ESPs base their relationships on parallel sensory experience rather than on common ideas: doing things together, being in the same circumstances.
If they aren't getting enough feedback, they'll push for it, teasing people or goading them into some form of physical display--if only a disconcerted laugh. Unless they can see the raised eyebrow, hear the quick intake of breath, or feel the touch of someone's hand on their arm, they lose touch with the situation and don't know how to proceed. Even those ESPs who enjoy writing and publishing are always aware of their potential audience. They need responsive interaction, the sense that their words have connected and are having an effect.
More than any other type, ESPs believe that life is right now--explosive, impulsive, kinesthetic: a matter of doing, having, using things as they were meant to be used. In a social situation, they're diately alert to the import of sensory data.
It should be noted, however, that a response-ready approach to life has its drawbacks. ESPs are stimulated by whatever comes to their attention, but they lose interest quickly. They have little patience with information unrelated to their skills and interests. If a problem involves elements they don't understand or don't want to think about, they're likely to avoid it or let someone else take care of it.
Perceiving all relevant data to come from the surface of the external world, ESPs are not disposed to tolerate anxiety or feelings of inadequacy. They'll find a new situation and change themselves by adapting to it. Jon Krakauer, author of Into Thin Air (about the 1996 Mount Everest expedition that killed eight people) captures something of this viewpoint when he suggests that people who risk physical danger do so because they're looking for "something like a state of grace."
The climbers who lost their lives were hoping, he says, "for some kind of transformation... Climbing something that big and difficult and mythic and huge is just so impossible. And if you do it, you assume in your heart that it has to change everything."
ESPs are continually propelled, in this respect, beyond the reckoned limits of past accomplishment. They'll reinvent themselves to meet a challenge and become in the process the very embodiment of social aspiration. But an Se form of mind also keeps ESPs in a constant state of physical expectancy. Unless ESPs develop their secondary function, Ti or Fi, they can't defend themselves against overstimulation except by withdrawing emotionally.
Like the other Judging functions, Fi prompts us to reason and to give meaning to our experiences. This function is somewhat less accessible, however, than the other three. Although it encourages us to evaluate a situation, like Fe, its right-brain character ties us to experience as it's happening. Thus, we may not recognize Fi as a form of Judgment. We tend to regard the viewpoint it encourages as "intuitive" or empathic.
Whatever types we happen to be, we use all four means of Judgment in one way or another. For example, if we were assembling a bookcase:
- Te would prompt us to reason with causal logic: to make sure we understand the instruction manual and the predictable consequences of following the steps.
- Ti would prompt us to reason with situational logic: to deal with immediate variables as they happen. Perhaps the holes in the second shelf don't line up with the holes in the groove it's supposed to occupy. Our step-by-step instructions don't cover this possibility, so we have to consider our options and their probable effects on the whole project.
- Fe would encourage us to Judge the finished bookcase in terms of general social expectations. For example, we might page through books and magazines about interior design, trying to determine whether this particular bookcase would look "right" in the living room.
- Fi would prompt us to make the bookcase our own--that is, to give it a place among the things that matter to us. Maybe we'll use it for the books we love best. Maybe we'll put our collection of miniatures on the top shelf. We'll try something, change it, try something else, until the elements come into harmony for us and we're happy with the arrangement.
Although Ti and Fi both prompt us to reason perceptually, as a situation is happening, they preside over different areas of Judgment. Ti is dispassionate and impersonal, prompting an interest in systemic logic: the probable consequences of immediate choice. For example, if we drill new holes into our shelf groove, will we have to compensate at other points in the process?
ITPs, for whom Ti is primary, are usually creative technicians of one sort or another who reason literally in terms of patterns and emerging variables. Paul Simon, for example, talks about the constant evolution of a song as he exploits its structural potential, incorporating a snatch of Bach here, a gospel chord change there, each decision affecting the whole, creating new consequences and possibilities.
Fi focuses our attention differently. It encourages a personal relationship to an evolving pattern, a will to gauge the situation by an experiential ideal. For example, if we use Fi to make a good spaghetti sauce, we won't follow recipes or measure ingredients. We'll sample the sauce as we're making it, gauging its taste, smell, and texture by their ideal outcome and adjusting for circumstantial variables so the emerging patters stays on track.
Although this process might be called aesthetic judgment, it doesn't operate on the basis of artistic principles. Its basis is living, breathing, firsthand experience. If we've never encountered a decent spaghetti sauce, we wouldn't use Fi. We'd turn to objective Judgment: acquire a recipe (Te) or ask a friend for advice (Fe). We might even use Ti and experiment. To invoke Fi, however, we have to know the difference between a good outcome and a bad one--know with our senses, in our bones.
The Moral Dimension of Fi
As noted, using Fi doesn't make us "feel" reasonable. We may not even feel like we're acting on "knowledge." We feel receptive, creative, guided by perceptions we can't explain. We tend to make this distinction, however--between a rational approach to life and a creative one--because we associate reason so firmly with the left-brain functions, particularly the generalized standards and logical control encouraged by its direct opposite, Te.
The situation is complicated by the fact that only 6 percent of Americans use Fi as their primary approach to life. This means that a great many types associate this function largely with its bottom-rung potential for impressionism and sentimentality. The stereotype is particularly common when aesthetic Judgment takes on a moral dimension.
Moral choices prompted by Fi are not derived from legal principles or the social obligations that accrue to our roles in the world. They're derived from the subjective experience of being human, our will to deal with a situation in terms of human ideals. Decisions made on this basis are frequently misunderstood as a product of emotion or a deliberate rejection of structural authority.
For example, in an episode of the syndicated series La Femme Nikita about a hit woman in training, the heroine is led by Fi to ignore statistical risk and rescue the kidnapped child of a fellow recruit. Afterward, her immediate superior counsels, "You're a good operative, Nikita. Don't let your humanity get in the way."
This is precisely what Fi does: it bypasses structural considerations and puts human value first. Such discrimination is unquestionably illogical, but it's in no way irrational. Indeed, to place human value above statistical risk isn't possible without the ability to reason.
One might even suggest that it's the rational character of Introverted Judgment that separates us from the species who share most of our DNA. Our closest primate relatives can be observed to use Extraverted Judging skills. They recognize a hierarchy of relationships, react to social cues, sacrifice their options for a wounded mate or infant. They can be taught to perform calculations, to manipulate signs, to abstract general concepts. But they can't be taught to defy statistical odds purely for the sake of human value.
In fact, no one learns to make such decisions by way of formal instruction. As stated, Fi is trained by subjective life experience. IFPs, who depend on this function as their primary means of reasoning, need enough objective experience to recognize the moral potential of their Judgment. Without it, they don't appreciate the difference between purely circumstantial values and values that link them with the larger human enterprise.
Some of our values, after all, are shaped by a specific context, and they're irrelevant when circumstances change. Others are quintessentially human and, as such, unconditional. Unconditional values can't be erased from the human psyche, no matter what kind of social system is in place. To express them is to see through the divisions external distinctions reinforce.
One might consider, in this regard, the famous incident in 1880, when Texas Rangers rounded up a group of Apaches in New Mexico and began lynching three an hour until someone revealed the hiding place of their chief. A U.S. Cavalry troop rode in and not only objected to the tactics but arrested the Rangers for murder. These troopers were the "buffalo soldiers," former slaves who had been recruited for duty on the Western frontier. Hard experience had taught these men a good deal about institutionalized inhumanity.
Indeed, they anguished over the conflict between proving themselves competent soldiers and colluding with their former masters in the kind of discrimination and they had known firsthand. This conflict has nothing to do with sentimentality. It measures the basis of collective identity against the criterion of unconditional human value.
As suggested, Fi is not a substitute for Extraverted Judgment. It won't solve the analytic problems that logic and causal reasoning are designed to address, and it won't establish a basis for predictable social interactions. But, conversely, it addressed aspects of human reality that Extraverted reasoning cannot.
Without a Song
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine offers an interesting portrait of a people who operate without Fi--a species called the Vorta--and it's instructive to consider the way these humanoids understand life. The Vorta were genetically engineered by a race known as the Founders, who have no permanent form. Their purpose is to manage the Founders' objective affairs (politics, business, military strategy) among the "solid" species on satellite planets.
In their malevolent wisdom, the Founders left Introverted Judgment out of the Vorta's genetic code, and although an occasional administrator regrets this inability to appreciate art or to carry a tune, the Vorta believe such capacities irrelevant to their basic commission. What the Vorta don't recognize is their consequent lack of wholistic perspective--at all levels of application.
For one thing, they can't appreciate military strategy, which requires Ti. They understand battle plans only in terms of the limited goals they're meant to achieve and the time it "should" take to reach them. More significantly, these creatures have no conscience. They don't recognize the possibility of questioning what the Founders have ordered them to do, and they're not capable of empathizing with the people their actions affect.
As stated, aesthetic judgment has a moral valence that goes beyond matters of art and music. It gives us the capacity to see a situation whole, apart from the assumptions we've absorbed from a particular community--and to determine, from the broader perspective, the integrity of our actions. Fe, with its emphasis on prevailing social behaviors, can't provide this wholistic aspect of decision making.
Indeed, the Vorta are perfectly capable of demonstrating social affinity with others. They smile when required, say the right things--but no one ever believes them. One might consider a recent cartoon character who describes social correctness as the ability to smile and lie, as in "Nice to see ya! Have you lost weight? How's the family?" Without some capacity for Fi, our relational behaviors are purely strategic; they have no subjective content.
It should not be supposed, in this regard, that Fi is opposed to Fe. Both involve the "right" ordering of our relationships and loyalties. Their different effects in the brain, however, see to it that they produce inverse results.
Fe relies on the outward, left-brain criteria of custom and law to mark off decisions that go beyond our immediate experience to affect the larger community. For example, in section on Extraverted Feeling, I mentioned rape and child abuse, which are not matters of individual choice, because they poison the society that tolerates them.
Fi relies on the inward, right-brain criteria of experience and empathy to mark off decisions that go beyond our roles in society to affect us as human beings. Law and custom, after all, are the lowest common denominator of a defined community. We associate character and humane behavior with the moral imperatives shaped by inner values.
One might consider the following story from Chicken Soup for the Soul: 101 Stories to Open the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit:
The meaning and force of this story depend entirely on whether the listener has an inner point of reference, one trained by personal experience. Who the people are, what city they're in, what faith they practice, their racial and social makeup--none of it matters. The story bypasses all that to focus on the quintessentially human.
IFPs, who use Fi for their dominant approach to life, are drawn, more than any other type, to medical and religious occupations, and particularly to organizations like the Peace Corps, Doctors without Borders, and Habitat for Humanity, which allow them to take humane action transcending conventional Extraverted conceptual and social boundaries. But Fi can also precipitate feelings of self-doubt, because the type's ideals generate expectations that are larger than an Extraverted life can accommodate.
IFPs may, for example, have the sense that they don't fit in, and they can be lonely underneath their "live and let live" exterior. They feel called to do something meaningful and good, something that will bring their values into the fabric of the community, and if they have no way to do this, they don't know how to define themselves. They may believe they're "making do" until their purpose becomes clear to them and their "real life" begins.
How Fi Works
Fi works in the background of awareness, very much like Ti. It moves us to adjust rationally to a situation while it's happening. The process is a bit like using a camera whose lens has been ground by our personal experience of good and bad situations. We're looking through this lens at he outer world, but we're also making adjustments for unexpected variables, for circumstances as they exist here and now.
It's easier to see the nature of this process when IFPs make art--that is, when they "take a picture" with their typological camera and bring a bit of their vision into the objective world. Elvis Presley, for example, illustrates a classic ISFP perspective, in which outward expression is determined by one's concrete interests and experience.
By the time he was eighteen, Presley had absorbed as many forms of music as existed around him--blues, gospel, hillbilly, pop--but he drew no formal distinctions between them, had no Extraverted Judgments about the "slots" American society had determined for them. All he saw was what was "good" and what wasn't. The consistency of his Judgment unified those influences into a sound that changed the direction of popular music--and forced people to recognize some of the racial and social barriers in the music business.
It should be emphasized, in this respect, that ISFPs who use their subjective experience to focus on what is unconditional in human nature don't necessarily make art that coincides with social prescriptions for "good" behavior. They're more likely to do as Elvis did--touch on some vital human principle that society has attempted to isolate as a class or racial problem.
INFPs demonstrate exactly the same kind of Judgment, but their Extraverted arena is more likely to involve patters of meaning. For example, director Errol Morris uses film to explore the mystery of human endeavor--why we persist in doing things that may well disappear when we do.
In Fast, Cheap & Out of Control, he finds overlapping themes in four disparate pursuits, interviewing a lion tamer, a topiary gardener, a robotic scientist, and an expert in mole rats. None of these fields has an apparent external relationship with the others, but each man is obsessed with what he does, and Morris weaves his subjects' remarks in a way that ultimately manufactures a whole narrative. Both interviews and visuals begin to blend into each other, revealing patterns, themes, and relationships that turn the film into a poetic elegy to the entire human project.
IFPs don't need to be artists in the conventional sense of the word, but they do need some way to integrate their outer and inner realms. An INFP psychologist of my acquaintance addresses this problem by hosting a regular gathering of people who have influenced, at various points in her life, her ideas about spiritual growth and practice.
The ages, professions, and religious persuasions of these people are broadly diverse but not important to her. She convenes the group because the members have nourished her inner life and helped to give it verbal expression. In turn, the group is guided by her subjective values to interact in terms of their common human quest.
How Fi Operates in Different Types
Once it's clear how Fi operates, its character is apparent in all types who use it--as are the differences in its outward expression.
EFPs, as dominant Extraverted Perceivers, take outer reality for granted--as it happens to them. They like people, enjoy the unpredictable nature of direct experience, and have a tendency to live in the present. Accordingly, most EFPs take jobs that involve a rapidly changing environment and interaction with others, and they use Fi to find common human ground with the people they're meeting.
When Fi is minimally developed, EFPs use it only to support their Extraverted motives, and they rely too much on outer experience for their self-image. Such types are good at identifying with others, but they seem unpredictable, because their basis for relationship is shaped by whatever people they happen to be dealing with. They're hurt and puzzled, however, when others question their inconsistency, because they're trying so hard to connect with others in an empathetic way.
The better EFPs develop Fi, the more they recognize their power to support unconditional human values in those aspects of life that society has overlooked. ESFPs tend to do this concretely, by acquainting themselves with the facts and reaching out to people who need them. The late Princess Diana, for example, took her Se world for granted but used her advantages in that realm--her wealth, fame, and charisma--to attract the world's attention to the poor, the sick, and the displaced.
ENFPs are more likely to focus on patterns of understanding, attempting to change people's ideas about prevailing social or psychological structures, or to show people, by prophetic example, the creative benefits of a new approach.
Oriented by Fi itself, IFPs don't reinvent themselves with each experience they have. They depend on Extraverted Perception to control their outward experience--to ensure its connection with their values. The difference is immediately clear if we compare Princess Diana, who lent her Se celebrity to popular causes, and Mother Teresa, who limited her Se world to an arena of direct service.
When Extraverted Perception is minimally developed, IFPs use it only to support their Introverted motives and don't get much experience outside the situations that engage their Judgment. They need enough Se or Ne to recognize the difference between subjective preference and unconditional human values. Otherwise, they're inclined to use their lens like a magnifying glass, emphasizing the importance of their own experience at the expense of everything else. Or they'll depend on others for objective structure and social relationship, "going along" with required Extraverted activities without being fully engaged by them.
Even an artist as successful as Elvis Presley ultimately used his wealth and social status to conform his environment to exactly what he thought worth his time and effort, and his total absorption in that world became legendary. For all his savvy as a self-schooled musicologist, he reneged on any task that required a Te perspective, and so depended on others to make his objective decisions: he established no organized way of paying his session men, allowed his manager to determine his professional direction, and set no limits on his own appetites.
The more IFPs develop their Extraverted Perceiving skills, the less they discriminate among their experiences, and the more they accord value to direct knowledge of many areas of life. Such types acquire the ability to take life as it comes, their values like rocks beneath the surface of moving water, giving them a certain path.
For example, the popular Sister Wendy Beckett, of Sister Wendy's Story of Painting, was led by her values to construct a cloistered life for herself, and she spent much of her time absorbing information on art. It was her ability to locate the common human aspects of art that brought her to public attention, and she took the opportunity to teach on film. Although her consequent celebrity may seem paradoxical given her primary vocation, IFPs who develop their Perceiving skills pay little attention to outward distinctions.
The IFP Types
As stated, IFPs constitute about 6 percent of the population--nearly all of them ISFPs, who rely on their Se skills for information about reality. INFPs, who make up scarcely 1 percent of us, rely more on their ability to find meaning and potential in what they see.
This difference is amplified by popular culture, in that some 40 percent of Americans deal with external reality by way of Se. Thus, ISFPs have more opportunity than INFPs to develop their secondary function and to relate to others on that basis. Most are drawn to hands-on professions that allow them to meet the sensory and physical needs of others--medicine and social work, for example, or cooking, or making music. They're also likely to be artists--painters, potters, jewelers, instrument makers, and so forth.
INFPs, on the other hand, have more flexibility than ISFPs, because they're not as dependent on physical action to express their values. They're more inclined to seek meaning and depth in their work, in areas like psychology, spiritual development, editing, and special education. INFPs resemble ENFJs in this respect, who go into many of the same professions.
It should be emphasized, however, that ENFJs are Fe types, who act as social advocates. They help people to realize their potential in a way that society will ultimately accept. INFPs are advocates of the inner world, the values that connect us to other living beings in a fundamental way. They go where they feel needed, helping to nurture these values or to support people who have fallen through the cracks of a prevailing social system.
Although ISFPs don't have the same interest in psychological and social theory, they have the same drive to connect their outward experience to fundamental human ideals. They, too, go where they're needed--healing the sick, tending to the lost, taking care of animals in nature. But these types are also attracted to Se activities that make them feel in harmony with a whole environment: playing a sport or an instrument, spending time in the woods, letting go of attachments and just "being."
Indeed, most IFPs have some investment in an activity that will express their fundamental sense of harmony with life. If their career can't satisfy them in this way, they'll create a "space" for themselves in their off-work hours, where they can make contact with that still point inside. Such activities are not necessarily "artistic," but they usually involve some medium in which the type can grasp the structural patterns of the inner world--listening to music, painting a mural, tending a garden, practicing a discipline, attending worship.
For example, a young ISFP of my acquaintance collected comic books and spent his leisure time drawing larger-than-life heroes and villains. Having lost his father in childhood, he identified very strongly with fictional characters like Batman--Introverted heroes for whom tragedy had galvanized special powers and the ability to fight for the common good. He had a particular affection for film star Brandon Lee, charismatic son of the late martial arts expert Bruce Lee.
As suggested earlier, the Se nature of popular entertainment tends to be consistent with an Introverted manner of Judgment, and ISFPs are able to use it for rational perspective. It gave this particular young man a way to construct meaning from an otherwise random childhood event: to see a universe in which all events, however pointless and irrational they may seem at the time, have a larger archetypal purpose.
When Brandon Lee also died, in a freak accident, the young man felt a sense of grief he could scarcely explain. the integrated universe he had glimpsed by way of Lee's image seemed lost, along with the connection he felt to others who appreciated Lee's work. He finally came to terms with the situation by creating a ritual of his own. He set up an altar in his room and every year, in the month of Lee's death, places fresh flowers at the altar and says special prayers.
One of Jung's enduring ideas is that the unconditional aspects of human reality are normally mediated by cultural images and rituals, which tie prevailing social assumptions to larger human truths. When collective images no longer make this connection for people, individuals are forced to appropriate those larger truths for themselves. IFPs, in some respects, are living illustrations of how this psychological process works.
They recognize by way of their own experience an unconditional value that links them with humanity as a whole, and they're moved, accordingly, to sacralize the event that revealed it to them. The will to make art or perform is an extension of this motive, in that it universalizes the IFP's experience, making it a window on larger meaning.
IFPs thus have a wide range of self-presentations. Some are drawn to a life pared to the human essentials, and they seem Zen-like or otherworldly; others are determined to help others, apart from conventional assumptions about status and power. Some make art that weds the individual situation with its universal import; yet others put themselves on the line, breaking the law for a higher moral purpose, and willing to pay the price.
In all these cases, IFPs are holding with ideals that are larger, and more stable, than a universe of chance and possibility can contain, and the effort to do so gives them an almost karmic sense of good and bad. To be attached, to care about objects sets in motion the archetypal drama of opposites. One cannot seek the good without contending eventually with the other side.
Like ITPs, Fi types can be challenging for left-brain Judgers. Types oriented by Fe, for example, believe that having values is to do the right thing in the right circumstances, even when subjective desire encourages them to do otherwise.
IFPs have the inverse idea. Value, for these types, is a fateful claim from within that aligns one's behaviors with a larger purpose, notwithstanding perceived circumstances or social obligation. This is what makes the IFP's behaviors seem irrational to an outside observer. They can't be causally deduced from the objective situation.
Indeed, this is why matters of spiritual motivation are almost invariably couched in Fi terms. One might consider the following quote used by Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker movement:
Fi in Pop Culture
The increasingly Se nature of popular culture has ensured a corresponding increase in the popular association of spiritual awareness with the development of Fi. One can see this association in the extraordinary number of books devoted to creating sacred "space," workshop altars, and personal rituals that resonate with our "authentic self."
One can see it as well in our media pantheon of SFP icons. From Luke Skywalker to Buffy the vampire slayer, these heroes are usually quiet, reluctant sorts, their values ripening under force of dysfunctional social paradigms, pressing them into action against the chaotic forces of darkness.
This is clearly Fi writ large, and as I've implied, such images have genuine typological valence. They reflect the hunger of a Se society for values more enduring than the pleasures of surface experience. Moreover, as the story of the "buffalo soldiers" makes clear, to bear the brunt of a society's inhumanity can train a viewpoint that has evolutionary potential for human consciousness.
There are a number of problems, however, with the iconization of Fi imagery. One is the fact that however easily it lends itself to expressions of spiritual awareness and political prophecy, Fi is not tantamount to spirituality. Although it offers a profound way of witnessing to the sacred, each function provides its own means of spiritual witness and vocation.
More significantly, the human values that Fi brings to awareness are just that--Introverted. They don't offer a basis for an objective social system. If anything, they offer a basis for disattachment from social conditioning. This is what gives them the power to change hearts. The only kind of world in which Fi could possibly obtain as a primary source of social Judgment is a chaotic, unpredictable one in which the systems designed to protect the community have no power to do so.
This is precisely the sort of world that syndicated saviors like Hercules, Xena, Sinbad, Conan, and Buffy inhabit week after week--a world in which spiteful gods and demons prevail, and our only hope is to recognize our fundamental connection to "the force," "the roar," or the "eternal energy" that permeates all living things. The undeniably engaging Hercules can scarcely make time for a pleasant dinner with Mom before the cosmos goes awry and he's obliged to return to his singular destiny.
Well beyond the comic book fictions of TV and film, the award-winning play Angels in America depicts exactly the same kind of apocalyptic world. The merciless reality of AIDS has knocked down familiar social boundaries and political agendas, and the dying recognize themselves called to the Great Work: that of uniting people around common human values in an otherwise horrific life experience.
The insistent theme that runs through these FP myths is the hopeful idea that if everyone developed Fi, external boundaries wouldn't matter anymore. We'd realize that all people are unique, have their own gifts, and are valuable as fellow humans. And it may be noted, in this respect, that people whose subjective experience has led them to champion this kind of vision almost always get high INFP scores on type tests.
The hard reality, however, is that Fi acquires prophetic power only by virtue of its relationship to a framework of common expectations. It indisputably calls a society to account, but it doesn't suggest a substitute paradigm for social relationships.
The Water of Life: An interesting anecdote speaks to this last point. Mother Teresa was reportedly giving a speech on a hot summer's day. Her voice was becoming hoarse, so a man in the audience went out of the crowded auditorium into a nearby kitchen and poured her a glass of water. When he walked up the long aisle to the podium and gave it to her, Mother Teresa scarcely looked at it. She handed it off to one of the people seated on the dais.
So the man went back into the kitchen and poured another glass. The same thing happened--not once, but again and again, until everyone on the dais had a glass of water, along with several members of the audience. The man was in a quandary. He envisioned himself spending the rest of the afternoon trying to serve all the people in the auditorium.
This story gives us a perfect capsulated image of Mother Teresa's IFP strengths: her disregard for issues of status or privilege; her single-minded selection of variables related to her values; and her ability, in that single-mindedness, to offer her audience an objective lesson. With utter clarity, the people who watched the little drama could appreciate the immensity of the task Mother Teresa had set herself in the world.
But the story also illustrates, with equal clarity, how Fi will invert collective standards of Judgment, elevating subjective values over Extraverted social expectations. If Mother Teresa's behavior was deliberate, an attempt to show her audience what reality looks like when unconditional human value supplants conventional assumptions about status and power, it was also shrewd, because her ability to make this point was dependent on those social assumptions.
A society that trains its members to rely only on Introverted Judgment for their choices doesn't turn out members who are more charitable and caring; it turns out self-oriented people who judge every social situation in terms of their own experience. For example, a recent ad for a workshop on alternative holiday celebrations reads:
The viewpoint is empathic and well meant. People who are grieving when others are celebrating may need help to see beyond commercial imagery to the deeper Christmas message of renewal in a time of darkness. But the ad also suggests the frame of mind that develops when Introverted Judgment becomes our primary source of moral perspective. Collective rituals lose their objective character: they no longer shape our relationships with others; they seem, merely, to exhort us to false conformity.
The characters in Angels are contending with the fallout from this subjective standpoint. Drawn together by a common Introverted quest in a world decimated by disease and failed social institutions, they have no idea how to conduct or sustain more permanent relationships with each other.
Louis, the ENFP visionary, talks endlessly about the moral problems of a society whose laws condemn his sexual identity, but he can't bring himself to stand by his terrified, dying partner. Nothing in his own experience compels him to go beyond what he knows how to handle, and nothing in the social compact obliges his fidelity. The author clearly intends this paradox, but the premises he's set up don't allow a resolution.
I mentioned earlier the psychological deficit in the fictional Vorta people, members of the Star Trek universe. Without Fi values, their Fe behaviors have no connection to real human experience. They're just performances. But the converse is also true. Without Extraverted structure, Introverted values lock an Se culture into an eternal present where nothing matters but one's own experience, and social systems are always perceived as inadequate because they don't address the injustices of life itself.
As was discussed earlier, the left brain prefers to focus on one thing at a time. Its global limit seems to be about seven pieces of information. For this reason, left-brain functions always encourage us to define boundaries. When we use them, we're deciding that some perceptions are more important than others and restricting our attention accordingly.
The left-brain Judging functions, Te and Fe, prompt us to do this rationally--by defining familiar perceptions and organizing them in a systematic way. As Extraverted functions, they also adapt us to consensual reality--that is, to the standards of reason that characterize a given society, which determine its conventions and expectations.
As was discussed in section on Extraverted Thinking, Te supports an impersonal standard of reasoning, based on general principles. Essentially, principles tell us how things are supposed to happen. Under specified conditions, a principle says, things always proceed in the same sequence: first this, followed by this, then this.
Once we know the principle that governs a system, we can focus our attention selectively. For example, if we're looking for "Zerbe" in the phone book, we can disregard the names from A to Y. The principle of alphabetical order tells us how Z is logically related to the other letters, so we don't have to consider data irrelevant to our goal. Even principles of behavior work this way. They tell us how to proceed and what should claim our attention, despite the influence of other kinds of perceptual information.
But general principles are not the only way to manage direct experience.
Say we're making a list of the people we call every week, so their numbers are handy whenever we pick up the phone. Although it's possible to organize these names impersonally--by alphabet, for example, or frequency of contact--most of us don't do this. Most of us list the people we know in order of their relationship to us: family members first, then friends, then coworkers, and so on.
This, roughly speaking, is the domain of Fe. When we use this function, we aren't organizing data sequentially and logically, by way of principles. We're organizing data by relatedness to ourselves. The categories of relationship we maintain in the external world--and the way we maintain them--reflect our values.
But Isn't Feeling Opposed to Reason?
Because Feeling involves personal relationship, it's easy to assume that using it is a matter of emotional preference. But like all left-brain functions, Fe is conceptual and analytic. It encourages us to make rational choices, to measure our options for relationship against an external standard of behaviors.
What distinguishes this function from Te is the fact that relatedness involves human beings, not impersonal abstractions. Thus, the systems that Feeling determines aren't logically accessible. For example, if we know the alphabet, we can always anticipate the logical order of names in a phone directory. Not so with a list of calling partners. Its specific order depends on the human being who taped it to the refrigerator. But the absence of logical predictability doesn't make a system unpredictable or based on individual preference.
"Family," "friend," and "coworker" aren't states of emotion. They're categories of human alliance, organized by degree of relatedness. What we're doing, when we use these categories, is accommodating our specific experiences of people to the conceptual shapes the terms offer. This is a rational process, not a sentimental one.
Even if we're trying to decide whether a person is more of a friend than a co-worker, we aren't making this decision by consulting the depths of the heart. We're measuring our external experience of the relationship against the behavioral standards we associate with the category of "friendship." These standards constitute one aspect of our societal value system. They set up conventions that tell us how relationships are "supposed" to be conducted, and what responsibilities they entail.
For example, if the clerk in the supermarket tells us that his cellar was flooded in the last big rain, we have no reason to believe he expects more than our sympathy. If our best friend is bailing out her living room, however, the nature of the relationship will determine a different standard of response--like showing up at her door with a mop and a pail.
To be sure, our categories of relationship result in a myriad of assumptions about appropriate behaviors, and our emotions ultimately operate in concert with them. But the fact remains that we use these categories for rational purposes: to set our priorities, to make decisions, to understand our obligations to others, and to anticipate others' behaviors toward us.
Subjective and irrational approaches to life have their own merit, as type studies make clear, but they don't result in expectations, conventions, or external systems of order. An irrational approach to a list of phone numbers--say, tossing the names in a hat and writing them down as they came to hand--would create a random pattern, without meaning to anyone. And a purely subjective approach might incline us to organize our list differently every time we had a pleasant or unpleasant conversation with someone.
But Aren't Feeling Types Motivated by What They Feel?
Of course. Everyone is. The point, however, is that our functions are mental processes. They operate separately from our emotional system. When we use a function often enough, we're emotionally invested in the choices it encourages, but this is true of all functions, and it's not the same thing as acting directly on what we feel.
As far as type theory is concerned, all Extraverted functions are objective, because they focus our attention on the outer realm of observable phenomena. Fe is no exception. It focuses our attention on people's outward behaviors and prompts us to interpret them in a standardized way.
Given this outward focus, Fe is likely to prompt the disregard of immediate emotional preference. Consider, for example, the Fe type who dislikes his father's new wife but is obliged by her category of relationship to include her in all the family get-togethers. What the man actually "feels" doesn't matter. There is no way to leave out his stepmother and also meet the conventional standards of familial behavior.
All those TV movies in which the cost-conscious hospital administrator accuses the research director of emotional blackmail because she says a cut in funds will hurt innocent children are trafficking in stereotypes. The research director's argument is a rational one, based on value. She's saying that society's behavior toward children is regulated by standards that conflict with the administrator's focus on logical efficiency.
Ultimately, an exclusive reliance on Fe leads to anything but a reliance on emotion. Extreme Fe types ignore their immediate impressions and focus only on people's social obligations.
OK, but Values Still Seem Subjective
The word objective simply means "having material existence." We're disposed to hear this, however, as though it meant "existentially indifferent." Thus, general principles seem objective to us because they have nothing to do with our behaviors as people; they're abstractions--like the letters of the alphabet, or the concepts of unity and duality. Values, on the other hand, are personal and human. When they change, our behaviors change.
The term family values, for example, isn't an impersonal truth that can be abstracted from reality; it's a behavioral ideal, dependent on what we know about the relationships actually involved. In ancient Mesopotamian societies, where responsibility for a woman's children resided in her brother, people's family values would have been different from our own--particularly their standards for "paternal" and "avuncular" behaviors.
Cultural specificity, however, is not proof that people's values are just a matter of what they happen to believe. Our knowledge of alphabetical order won't do us a bit of good in a Moscow phone booth, where the equivalent letters run A, B, V, G, D..., but this hasn't convinced us that the alphabet is "just" a parochial belief system.
It's the personal specificity of our values that gives us a problem--in fact that they refer to standards of human relationship. When we try to conceptualize them, we end up universalizing our own experience, or, like Huck Finn, reducing them to "civilizin' tendencies": manners, decorum, being "nice," waiting our turn, apologizing, saying thank you for gifts. In point of fact, Fe does preside over "civilizin' tendencies," but their evidence is systemic, not individual.
The Collective Power of the Function
In myths, Fe is associated with Hestia, goddess of the hearth. After Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to humankind, Hestia taught people how to maintain it--both at the center of the community and at the center of each home. When someone left a household to found his own, he took a bit of the home fire with him to start a hearth in his new dwelling.
This sort of custom isn't a matter of emotion, impulse, or doing what we learned in kindergarten. It's a secular ritual--a visible sign that marks a participant's membership in the community at large. Such rituals can touch us, but they aren't occasions of sentiment. They're a vocabulary, part of our Fe lexicon. They submit to collective form an experience ordinarily confined to individual history, allowing us to express the kinds of relationships important to us as a people.
It may be easier to see how this vocabulary works by considering an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Captain Picard has met with a Tamarian ship in the system El-Adrel, but communication with these potential allies has proved impossible. Tamarian words translate as names and places, but they don't seem to mean anything.
Picard is about to give up, but Dalthon, the Tamarian captain, takes a different tack. "Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra," he says, and shows Picard two knives. The men are then transported to a hostile planet, where a predatory creature obliges them to join forces. Handing Picard one of the knives, Dalthon says again: "Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra."
Meanwhile, the crew, shocked by this turn of events, is trying to beam Picard back to the ship. For a brief moment they succeed, and Dalthon, at the creature's mercy, is mortally wounded. In his grief and horror, Picard begins to understand.
The names and places in the people's language operate as metaphors, their meaning derived from a common stock of myths and historical events. Darmok and Jalad are characters in a Tamarian myth: strangers who learned to understand each other by facing a common enemy at Tenagra. Picard's relationship with Dalthon now has meaning in those terms.
Armed with his knowledge, Picard pays tribute to the dying man by telling him a story from Babylonian mythology--the tale of Gilgamesh and the comrade who stood by him: "He who was my companion through adventure and hardship is gone forever."
The customs that constitute our Fe vocabulary are very much like the language of the Tamarians--inherited forms that shape the relationships we establish and maintain. Their meaning is not straightforward but cumulative, becoming apparent as we use them and recognize their effects.
Among the bones and ashes of our long-dead forebears, anthropologists routinely look for artifacts of such Fe vocabularies: rites of transition and commitment; ceremonies of planting and harvest; customs of birth, family, caretaking, and burial. These conventions testify to a society's values. They tell us about the relationships that mattered enough to organize--relationships between men and women; between children and parents; between the community and its helpless, its old, its dying; between the community and the land; between the community and the divine.
Without question, social values have a strong moral component, enjoining the "right" ordering of our alliances and loyalties. Our increasing emphasis on direct experience has encouraged us to question traditional moral expectations, to note their effect on individual freedoms. But this is to miss the point of collective responsibility. Social values mark those areas of decision making that go beyond one person's immediate experience to affect the community as a whole.
Picard, for example, recognized in Dalthon's actions the moral sensibilities of the society that formed him. In the same way, an act of rape or child abuse is not one person's violation of another but a collective responsibility, because the society that tolerates such behaviors ensures that all its vulnerable members live in fear.
Apart from questions of moral rectitude, our behaviors toward others have implications, whether we intend them or not. When we have clear-cut standards, we know what to expect and what's expected of us in return. In the absence of collective expectations, we're constantly negotiating these behaviors, attempting to correct people's misreading of our motives. This is particularly evident when the responsibilities accruing to one social role conflict with those of another.
A recently retired minister went to the hospital to visit a sick friend who was also a member of his former congregation. As it turned out, two other of his former parishioners were in the hospital at the same time, and they were aggrieved and insulted that the minister had not visited them as well. As far as the minister was concerned, he was visiting his friend as a friend, not as a former pastor. He didn't even know the other people were in the hospital. But as far as those church members were concerned, the man's ministerial role was primary, and he should have checked the hospital register.
Embarrassed about the oversight, the minister called the two members to apologize. The next day, his pastoral successor got in touch with him, infuriated by his attempt to reinvolve himself with hospital visitation, which, of course, was no longer his official responsibility.
What "should" have happened in this situation? Which priorities obtain? If we can't rely on social consensus to resolve questions of everyday behavior, our only recourse is our own experience, and ultimately, subjective preference.
The dilemma of choosing rightly from a multitude of individual preferences is generally referred to as a postmodernist one, but typologically speaking, what we've got here is the natural outcome of a Perceptually oriented approach to life. If we can't depend on a stable social framework (Fe) to make our decisions, our only recourse is to rely on our direct experience of good and bad behaviors (Fi). This shift has given us more subjective freedom, but it also forfeits cultural consensus, an objective sense of community.
It's worth discussing, in this respect, the dilemma that drives the plot of Fiddler on the Roof, a play that says a great deal about values and the stability of a community. The principals in this play, Tevye and Golde, preside over a Jewish family in nineteenth-century Russia whose Judging traditions have prevailed for generations. They have five marriageable daughters, and custom dictates the use of a matchmaker to find them husbands. But each daughter, in turn, falls in love outside the prevailing system.
The play is interesting from a typological standpoint because it doesn't draw the usual head/heart distinction between Thinking and Feeling positions. Tevye and Golde are both Extraverted Judgers. Both have a stake in the organized community.
When the matchmaker selects a husband for their eldest, Tzeitel, Tevye reacts impersonally, in the manner of a Te type. He knows that his daughter will never find the man attractive--he's the village butcher, a coarse widower twice her age. But these issues strike Tevye as circumstantial. The butcher is clearly the logical choice: he's financially comfortable, has a strong work ethic, can support children. These principles help to maintain the external structure of the family as Tevye understands it.
The match also satisfies Golde's Fe values. She, too, recognizes that Tzeitel doesn't love the man. But love, for Golde, is largely irrelevant to a stable marriage. Indeed, when Tevye asks her if she "loves" him after twenty-five years of wife- and motherhood, she scarcely knows what to make of the question. Relationship, on the other hand, is a manageable entity. The butcher was faithful to his first wife; he's a good friend and neighbor. He can be trusted to make a marriage work.
Tzeitel, for her part, has fallen in love with the village tailor. She didn't plan for this to happen, but now that it has, she wants the freedom to choose her own husband. Her conflict is a familiar one, because it's ours: a Perceiving versus Judging approach to life. Tzeitel understands freedom as the absence of social coercion, but it may be suggested that she's captive to the effects of her subjective experience.
It's instructive, therefore, that Tzeitel does not try to solve her problem by confiding in her mother and enlisting her support. If Fe really presided over issues of individual preference, she'd expect Golde to empathize, perhaps advise her to "follow her heart." But Tzeitel has no such illusions. She goes to Tevye, the Te type, and asks him to deal with Golde.
Why? Because Tevye's reasoning is impersonal, and Tzeitel can count on its objective flexibility. In the abstract realm of general principles, any number of routes can take us to the same goal. If Tzeitel can make a case for the tailor's youth and compatibility as variables comparable to the butcher's wealth and status, Tevye may see the logic of her choice.
Like all Te types, Tevye works out the question by weighing the pros and cons. "On the one hand," Tevye muses, "being rich couldn't hurt. On the other hand, the butcher is older than I am; they have no common interests. Besides, Tzeitel is committed to the tailor, so she'll make the sacrifices poverty requires."
Fe is equally objective, but it doesn't have the same flexibility, because values are not abstract variables, like the principles of wealth or youth. Values are tied to the specific behaviors that maintain them, which link us to a place, a time, a family, a society.
Just as Thinkers who neglect issues of value may find that one variable seems as likely as another, Feeling types who ignore logic tend to make decisions in all-or-nothing terms. As far as Golde is concerned, either Tzeitel marries the butcher or the world as she knows it falls apart. There are no "other hands."
What's at stake, of course, is the community--its history, its continuity through time. To circumvent the matchmaker is not an issue of personal taste; it degrades all marriages in the village, suggests that a family can be predicated on the random attractions of children. The logical argument that persuaded Tevye--that there are other ways of ensuring familial stability--is not a hypothesis that Golde will entertain.
Indeed, Tevye knows that the only way to change Golde's mind is to bypass her dominant Fe viewpoint and make contact with her subjective Perceiving side. He tries to do this by persuading Golde that the "right" way of doing things will exact too high a price under the present circumstances.
To this end, Tevye fabricates a dream. He tells his wife that Grandmother came from beyond the grave to celebrate Tzeitel's impending marriage--to the tailor. The ruse nearly fails. She must have heard wrong, Golde says. She meant the butcher. So Tevye embellishes the story with a visitation from the butcher's late wife, who threatens vengeance on Tzeitel if the arranged wedding should ever take place.
This is information that Golde can hear. Grandmother's access to the supernatural grapevine is one thing, but the butcher's wife was volatile enough as a flesh-and-blood neighbor. To tempt her malice as a jealous ghost is too high a price for Golde to contemplate. The community may not care what happens to Tzeitel, but she does, and that's all there is to it.
Fiddler on the Roof is particularly interesting because it's presented as a cautionary tale. With each daughter's marriage, Tevye further breaches his accustomed principles, until his logic bumps squarely into a priority he considers inviolable. His third daughter marries outside the faith, and he severs the relationship.
Significantly, this is where Golde is willing to compromise. How moral is the dissolution of a family, even for the sake of religious principle? But it no longer matters. The winds of change that have been blowing through the household are part of a much larger social upheaval that is beyond their power to control. The entire village is razed, and the people are forced to begin anew, somewhere else.
Values in a Perceiving Society
Most of us can identify with the terms of conflict in Fiddler on the Roof, because the struggle to reconcile individual potential with others' expectations is quintessentially human. If we had to choose, however, most of us would come down on the side of individual freedom. Although we empathize with the parents' discomfort, we understand very well Tzeitel's yearning to be the architect of her own destiny.
This is why the play works so well as a commentary on our own society. Typologically speaking, Tzeitel recognized the claims of subjectivity, which cracked open the frozen pact she'd made with community standards. Like a spring thaw, that recognition liberated the free-flowing potential beneath the surface of organized relationships in the village.
We support her position because the cards are pretty well stacked in her favor. "Falling in love" with the socially inappropriate person has set stories in motion for as long as people have been capable of telling them. Few of us would advise the heroine of this one to sacrifice her rich interior life on the altar of an inherited social compact.
It should be recognized, however, that Tzeitel's dilemma is emblematic. As human beings, we're always caught between individual aspiration and the interests of society at large. The point of developing our secondary function is to take on the burden of this conflict--to recognize competing claims for our loves and loyalties. Tzeitel's response to this universal dilemma was a defensive one, and it forced her to choose between self and other. Understandably, she tried to make that choice without price.
I am not, in this respect, suggesting that Tzeitel should have married the butcher and conformed her life to others' expectations. Like the heroines of most such stories, she's locked into a social structure that won't support female independence, and her realistic options are few. I'm suggesting that taking on the burden of her secondary function would have moved her beyond the terms of her apparent either-or situation.
For example, if Tzeitel had spoken to her parents honestly before the match was made, she might have persuaded them to take her feelings into account, or at least apprised them of the price she was willing to pay to honor her own experience. In the process, she might also have generated positive social change. When her sisters' turns came up, her parents might have handled things differently; or they might have talked to others in the community about the drawbacks of the matchmaking system as it existed.
Tzeitel's attempt to escape her portion in the larger community led her to determine that her problem was merely external--a systemic obstacle to her individual satisfaction and well-being. This moved her to use her tertiary function to devise a solution: that is, to use Extraverted Perception. It is here that the play is instructive with respect to our own society and our consistent elimination of perceived obstacles to individual aspiration and desire.
The more a society determines its priorities on the basis of Extraverted Perception, the more individual experience becomes primary and less faith its members have in law and custom to set limits applicable to everyone. Under such circumstances, Fi, which is subjectively determined, comes to seem like a more honest approach to moral decision making. One can see this shift happening simply by looking at our media heroes--people impelled by an elemental sense of good and evil to make choices beyond the constraints of community expectations.
The prophetic nature of such choices is real and positive. However, as a primary societal approach to Judgment, Fi is dangerous because its power is not collective. A society that substitutes it for the Extraverted sort gradually trains its members to believe that all values are a matter of individual experience. We find ourselves thinking, "Well, I believe this is wrong, but that's just me. I can't tell you what to do. You have to take responsibility for your own behaviors."
This is one reason we've resorted to legislating our standards of relationship. In the absence of an objective sense of values, we have no other means of ensuring our rights and responsibilities to each other. One can see how this happens simply by looking at the gangs that flourish where family systems have broken down. Although members regard normative socialization as alien to their needs and background, the peer communities they've established are unified by highly rigid codes of external conduct, ensuring relationships more predictable than those of a Victorian social club--formal rites of passage and precisely determined hierarchies, along with exaggerated ideas about postures of social respect and disrespect.
The EFJ Types
Like Te types, EFJs make up about 18 percent of the population. If we include the Introverted FJs (who use Fe as a secondary function), about a quarter of the population takes an Fe approach to outer reality. Almost all these FJs are ESFJs (13 percent) and ISFJs (6 percent), people and service oriented, with strong values that link them to their families and to the communities they support.
ENFJs (5 percent) and INFJs (1 percent) share these characteristics, but they're galvanized more by people's potential. Such types usually express their values in counseling, teaching, the ministry, or writing. All EFJs identify with the roles they play in society, and they enjoy careers in which they can give others the benefit of their experience and knowledge.
As Judging types, EFJs have a good deal in common with ETJs. They want things settled and organized, and they want an external guide they can rely on. Pragmatic, disciplined, and inclined to take on too many responsibilities, they want others to keep their promises, to follow through, and to show up on time.
Unlike ETJs, however, EFJ's primary focus of attention is people. These types are not only energized by their relationships; they need peoples' opinions and reactions in order to make objective decisions. Accordingly, EFJs spend a fair amount of time in conversation--exchanging observations, getting feedback, offering advice, volleying plans and ideas, telling and hearing stories about things of mutual interest and concern.
Thinking types sometimes dismiss this kind of interaction as "small talk," but an ETJ's impersonal priorities dictate a view of social conversation as a "break" from what someone is actually "doing." For Fe types, talking is doing. It's a purpose, something that people plan for, make time for, engage in.
EFJs have a hard time understanding how people can get together without exchanging information about their lives. Unless they know real facts about people--where they grew up, where they live now, what they do for a living, what their family's like--they don't have enough data to relate to them.
It should be noted that EFJs are not social butterflies in this regard. They're no more tolerant than Thinking types of "idle chit-chat" that simply passes time or keeps them from meeting their obligations. Fe types are too conscientious to use time frivolously, and they invariably have a full dance card of responsibilities to others.
If they're not serving on committees, they're meeting colleagues for lunch; visiting relatives; driving the kids to Scouts; making meals for a sick friend; attending graduations, school plays, and concerts; getting people together for celebrations, picnics, dinners, and so forth. EFJs are constantly reaching for their calendar or date book.
It is this broad range of social interactions that separates EFJs from IFJs, although some of their behaviors look similar. As discussed in section on Introverted Sensation, IFJs experience themselves as helpers or nurturers, and they're guided by the immediate needs of the people around them. They tend to resist social leadership, particularly the onus of making decisions for a group, but will take a great deal of authority in a service position.
EFJs, by contrast, experience themselves as coordinators who can anticipate and handle the needs that arise in the normal interplay of established relationships with others. This is what makes EFJs so good at careers in sales, teaching, and group motivation. They have no doubt that their way of organizing a situation will benefit all concerned, and they're good at making decisions and delegating tasks as required.
Indeed, such types have a hard time not coordinating the situations in which they find themselves. At a party, they're likely to make sure that everyone feels at home and included, and they may get involved in preparations or cleanup if no one tries to stop them. They keep lists of names and birthdays; show interest in other people's welfare, homes, and families; make others feel important and valued. They celebrate with those who are happy, cry with those who are not; remember the ages and hobbies of everyone's children; and stay current with news about people's joys, sorrows, and problems.
These behaviors strike us as warm, related, and caring--and they are. Fe types laugh and cry easily, are "there" for people in trouble, referee arguments, and soothe egos, are nurturing, concerned, attentive. It should be emphasized, however, that their behaviors are also part of our social lexicon--a vocabulary that signals the concern and attention we read into it.
Fluency in this language is the type's strength, and it gives EFJs the ability to engage people's trust and cooperation--to teach, to inspire, to lead, to reach out. However, their reliance on social cues to interpret reality in general inclines them, almost inevitably, to merge sign and substance. The absence of an expected social gesture can hurt and offend them, as though a relationship had to be expressed in the appropriate way in order to be genuinely experienced.
Many of the letters that appear in the advice columns are seeking clarification of such issues. For example, a woman wrote to Ann Landers asking if she were right to feel demeaned and cheated when her fiancé bought her a piece of land in Texas rather than the diamond engagement ring she was expecting. Ann Landers, a veritable bellwether of traditional social values, agreed with the writer, maintaining that a ritual declaration of intent is simply not interchangeable with an ordinary property investment.
Tellingly, the resulting mail ran against her. Our ideas about what's important are no longer well matched by Fe gestures. But the entire issues is a good illustration of the way EFJs themselves understand reality.
How Fe Develops
As discussed in section on Extraverted Thinking, a preference for Fe appears to coincide with a tendency to register physical signs of pleasure and displeasure in a visible, predictable way. Because these signs are apparent to others, they become forms of communication, and people respond to them.
We all rely on such responses, of course, to organize our social experiences and to gauge the nature of others' expectations. For example, almost all children, when negotiating the unfamiliar, look to a parent or peer for the smile or frown that signals encouragement or caution. Over time, we associate certain kinds of responses with validation, approval, and warm relationships. One can see this happening even in the preschool system, when children experiment with exaggeration and denial, attempting to gauge, elicit, and avoid the reactions of the people around them.
EFJs, however, are motivated to use their interaction with others as a primary basis for decision making. They're highly alert to signs of pleasure and displeasure in others, so they generally consider the effect their behaviors will have on other people around them.
The Objective Nature of Fe
Because EFJs learn to use their dominant function by anticipating the effects of their decisions on others, they may not be comfortable with internal states that can't be harmonized with the values of the group to which they belong. Asked how they actually "feel" about something, EFJs react uneasily, as though the question were designed to elicit a negative response and create disharmony.
For example, I overheard a conversation during the coffee hour at church one Sunday in which someone asked an ESFJ whether she really believed in life after death. The ESFJ was embarrassed and defensive. She said it was no one's business what she believed; her faith should be apparent by the fact that she came to church every week and served on the board of trustees.
As stated earlier, this distinction--between public behavior and subjective experience--has come, in our Perceptually oriented society, to seem like evidence of calculation, tantamount to cultivating the right image. But EFJs aren't thinking about their image in the way that P types imagine. They're concerned about the meaning their behaviors have for others. They feel guilty about expressing needs and impressions that would cast doubt on their values and commitments.
The ESFJ just described, for example, didn't hear the question about eternal life as an invitation to discuss theology. She heart it as a criticism, a suggestion that her relationship to the church wasn't good enough. As far as she was concerned, that relationship was evidenced by her outward behaviors. She had no intentions of questioning it or causing a problem.
Indeed, EFJs will deny negative thoughts or opinions for the sake of social harmony, particularly if the category of relationship warrants the strategy. Such denial strikes them as the better part of valor.
Te types, with their penchant for impersonal accuracy, regard the whole business of tailoring the truth to the category of relationship as dishonest--and more than a little irrational. But, of course, TJs spend most of their lives trying to separate their judgment from degrees of relationship. For EFJs, right and wrong behaviors can't be determined until the category of relationship is established. To behave otherwise strikes them as dishonest and irrational.
Of Ritual and Romance
The nature of an EFJ's values is nowhere more apparent than in the gestures and signs EFJs describe as "romantic." Because the word implies a situation that enthralls or enchants, it's often applied to right-brain Perceptual experiences--events in which we're caught up in the moment, without reservation or expectation. For example, we talk about the "romance" of sailing, exploring, falling in love at first sight.
These experiences, however, are transient by their nature. A recent cartoon depicts a small mouse, dead drunk, slumped over an empty bottle. The bartender explains: "He says life just hasn't been the same since he spent those few, glorious hours as one of Cinderella's horses."
As left-brain types, EFJs appreciate the all-consuming nature of immediate engagement, but they're more likely to apply the word romantic to behaviors that sustain the experience in time, deliberately kindle or renew it, or testify to its ongoing power. We use the word in this way, for example, when we talk about romantic devotion to a cause.
Traditional literary romances concern themselves primarily with behaviors of the latter sort, and such stories tell us a great deal about the way EFJs understand questions of relationship and conflicts of obligation. The typical Medieval romance, for example, includes a plot about star-crossed lovers--usually a knight in love with a married noblewoman.
We're meant to recognize in this doomed relationship the possibility of perfect communion; however, the pair's behaviors are ultimately dictated not by that compelling promise but by their responsibility to commitments already made. The noblewoman struggles to feign indifference, while the knight sets off on a Crusade, wearing her scarf like a banner.
Such decisions not only show strength of character--the ability to sacrifice immediate advantage for the sake of one's values. They also keep the promise of the forfeited relationship intact. And it is here that one sees the primary significance of romantic signs and gestures. They testify to the ideal nature of a relationship, which exists despite the inevitable claims of finitude, imperfection, and competing obligations.
EFJs are masters of ritual declarations, whether they're cultivating a friend, reassuring a partner, or making children feel special and important. They buy small gifts that echo important conversations, display mementos of happy occasions, create family traditions, and make time for events that symbolize commitment to the ideal, even if everyday interactions tend to fall short of it.
Although the yearning for symbols of this sort is sometimes stereotyped as feminine, a great many of our romantic media images involve Perceptually oriented males caught off guard by their own capacity for romantic idealism. One might consider, in this respect, the war-weary protagonist in the film Casablanca, undone by a song, or the "Sorry, honey, gotta ramble" photographer in The Bridges of Madison County, who finds himself gathering flowers and dancing by candlelight.
Like Casablanca's Rick and Ilsa, the protagonists of Bridges are clear descendants of our medieval twosome: the knight-of-the-road with a poet's heart, passions contained by the prerogatives of chivalry, and the woman imprisoned by marital convention, whose soul mate shows up one promise too late. Both recognize, almost despite themselves, the power of ritual intimacies to idealize the relationship and acknowledge its promise; and both (albeit in late-twentieth-century fashion) sacrifice its potential to the cause of fidelity and honor.
Although most types employ ritual declarations when they're obliged to do so by standardized social occasions--such as Mother's Day, Father's Day, Valentine's Day, and the like--for EFJs, displays of ongoing interest and devotion are a primary means of communication. Their absence almost inevitably persuades them that the other person doesn't care enough about the relationship, doesn't feel its effects.
Thinking types, in particular, who append the word romantic primarily to the word illusion, can easily strike EFJs as oblivious to romance in general. And in truth, Thinkers don't pay much attention to states of relationship that otherwise elude their cognitive grasp.
The character Seven of Nine, in Star Trek: Voyager, nicely illustrates the extreme reaches of a Thinker's general attitude. Seven of Nine is a human female, raised from childhood by the Borg, a cybernetically enhanced race with a hivelike structure of collective logic. Now separated from the collective mind, Seven of Nine is trying to work with Voyager's crew but has no idea what human relationships are all about.
When one of the helmsmen flirts with her, asking if she'd like to see a simulated moonrise on the holodeck, she's puzzled. "Why?" she asks. "Because it's beautiful," the helmsmen says. "Beauty is irrelevant," she snaps. "Unless," she says thoughtfully, "you mean to change the nature of our alliance with ritual deception..."
This is not far from what Te types actually believe--that romance is basically strategic deception, pleasurable perhaps, but utterly goal oriented. Thus, Te types have a hard time understanding why the characters in literary romances are so annoyingly impractical.
In a Te type's medieval narrative, a knight who had withdrawn from a relationship for the sake of honor would scarcely advertise his ongoing interest in it. And if he were willing to sacrifice his principles and pursue the woman, by God, he'd execute a plan--hire an attorney, acquire a title, seek grounds to annul her loveless marriage. Such campaigns, for TJs, evidence devotion no less enduring but of more efficient outcome than the display of a lady's scarf amid the wreckage of Byzantine kingdoms.
Thus, it should be emphasized that ritual signs have meaning for EFJs because they don't represent a logical problem-solving approach to relationship. Their purpose is frankly sacramental, requiring an investment in faith: a belief in the existence of infinite possibility in a finite and imperfect world.