Let’s talk about introverted intuition!
Well, there are a few reasons I want to do a deep dive into this topic:
- For me personally, introverted intuiting is my favorite way to use my brain. 🙂
- If you are an INFJ or INTJ personality type, introverted intuition is your gift and understanding how it works will help you get the most out of it. The “N” in your personality type means that you prefer intuitive information gathering over sensory information gathering. And more specifically, you prefer introverted intuiting (as opposed to extraverted intuiting).
- If you are struggling to figure out whether you are an INFJ or ISFJ or whether you are an INTJ or ISTJ, understanding what introverted intuition is all about can help you make the call.
So let’s get to it. Everything you ever wanted to know (and more) about introverted intuition!
(Pssst, if you have no clue what I’m talking about or what the four-letter combos above mean, see this post about how to find out your personality type.)
Introverted Intuition: The Ultimate Guide
What Is Introverted Intuition?
According to the Myers-Briggs personality type theory, there are eight potential ways for us to use our brains to process information and make sense of it. These eight ways are called cognitive functions. Each of the 16 personality types prefers using a different mix of cognitive functions. For a full list of cognitive functions, click here.
Introverted intuition is one of the eight cognitive functions. It’s a particular way to use your brain.
Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that it’s a particular way to let your brain work. You see, introverted intuition is kind of like thinking without thinking. Your brain unconsciously processes information and comes up with an insight, idea, vision, or a solution to a problem without any conscious effort on your part. Pretty nifty, right?
Who Uses Introverted Intuition?
Introverted intuition is the favorite or primary cognitive function of INFJ and INTJ personality types. It’s also the second favorite or secondary cognitive function of ENFJs and ENTJs.
How Does Introverted Intuition Work?
In order for introverted intuition to work, it needs something to work with. So people who use introverted intuition gather up a bunch of sensory information and knowledge to feed their minds. INFJs and INTJs tend to be highly sensitive people who notice subtleties that many others miss and this helps keep their intuition well-nourished. 🙂
One weird caveat is that while some of the information gathering might be deliberate and conscious, it can also happen unconsciously. So you might gather loads of sensory information without consciously registering every single detail.
And then – after a bit – you end up with a sudden flash of insight that seems to come out of nowhere. You just KNOW or you just UNDERSTAND without being able to explain how exactly you got there.
It can feel a bit magical and woo-woo. But there’s no magic to it. It’s just your brain putting bits and pieces together without conscious effort.
Introverted Intuition Versus Extraverted Intuition
There are two kinds of intuition: introverted (Ni) and extraverted (Ne). Introverted intuition is used by the NJ personality types, whereas extraverted intuition is used by the NP personality types. Extraverted intuition is the primary function of ENFPs and ENTPs and the secondary function of INFPs and INTPs.
These two kinds of intuition differ in that introverted intuition tends to be more focused and narrow, while extraverted intuition tends to be broader and more scattered.
In practice, this means that Ni users will want to focus on one topic for a longer period of time, while Ne users prefer more variety – jumping from one topic to another.
It also means that Ni users are more likely to come up with a singular well-developed insight (one solution), while Ne users are more likely to generate a range of possibilities (many possible solutions). Because of this, Ne users are often seen as more creative than Ni users.
Introverted Intuition Versus Introverted Sensing
I also want to mention some of the differences between introverted intuition and introverted sensing, because the two get confused a lot.
Introverted sensing is the favorite cognitive function of ISFJs and ISTJs. These sensing personality types prefer to use their five senses to gather information – they trust what they see, hear, feel, taste, and touch. They like focusing on concrete details. They tend to be slow to warm up to the insights and abstract theories produced by intuitive personality types.
Another difference of note is that introverted sensing is very past-oriented, whereas introverted intuition is very future-oriented. ISFJs and ISTJs usually have a good memory for facts and details and they like to use their past experience to guide them. They are also often keen to stick with tried-and-true traditions and routines and crave stability. INFJs and INTJs, on the other hand, use their intuitive insights to paint a vision of a better future and get bored with too much repetition.
Examples of Introverted Intuition
Here are some real-world examples of introverted intuition drawn from my own experience as an INFJ.
Having A Solution To A Problem Come To You Without Trying
More often than not, when I receive a question from a reader, I don’t immediately know how to respond. I’ll set it aside, but within a few hours, the answer will come to me out of nowhere.
Forecasting How Something In The Future Will Turn Out
When my husband suggests an activity, my people pleasing extravert side always wants to agree immediately. But we have learned that if we let my intuition work for a bit, the REAL answer will emerge. After a bit, I will suddenly know exactly how the activity will turn out and whether it’s worth it or not.
Having Sudden Flashes Of Ideas Or Insights
The vast majority of the articles I write just come to me. Not necessarily every individual sentence – although sometimes those do too – but the ideas and the insights I want to present in the article. They show up without any conscious effort on my part.
Being Able To Simultaneously See Multiple Perspectives
Whenever I have an opinion about something, I can also “see” and understand all the other potential points of view about that matter and the potential arguments against my stance. Because of this, I often struggle with self doubt and feel the need to prove my own point of view to myself.
Having Visions Of How A Thing Or An Event Will Appear Once Complete
At the onset of any new project – be it an online course, an article I’m writing, a family trip I’m planning, or an interior design project I’m taking on – I have a vision of how it’s supposed to turn out. This vision is both complete and vague at the same time. It’s like a pretty picture in my mind, but it’s a little blurry without all the details worked out. After having such a vision, I’m stubbornly determined to bring it to reality and very distraught when it doesn’t turn out exactly as I had envisioned. One of my greatest personal growth challenges has been learning to be okay with getting to 90%. When I set 100% perfection as a requirement, I was pretty much paralyzed.
How To Access Introverted Intuition
So how can you access introverted intuition? How can you get your brain to do its thing?
Well, because intuiting is unconscious, you can’t force it. I can’t sit down in front of the computer and, say: “Okay, intuition, I’m ready. Give me an answer and give it to me now!” I’ve tried and it didn’t work. 😀
However, what you can do is create conditions that are conducive to intuiting and that make intuitive insights more likely to occur. Here are five things you can give your brain to support its ability to intuit:
1. Freedom of Mind
The vast majority of my intuitive insights come to me when I’m:
- Walking or running by myself.
- In the shower.
- Doing mindless chores with my headphones on listening to music.
- Laying in bed on a Saturday or Sunday morning.
In that order of frequency.
What all these activities have in common is that they are times when my mind is free. I call it “letting my mind run”.
To get to this state, choose a setting where you don’t need to pay attention to any sensory information outside – where your mind is free to turn in and just focus on itself. And then set your mind free. Don’t try to control your thoughts. Just let your mind focus on whatever it wants to focus on, work things out, and follow whatever trails it chooses. Your role is just to be a silent and neutral observer of your own mind. 🙂
2. Material To Work With
Because intuiting is not magical, your brain can’t pull out intuitive insights out of thin air. Your brain needs material to work with. It needs information and experiences.
And this is one way you can steer your intuitive insights into a particular topic area if you wish. If you wanted to have insights about human relationships, for example, you could read books about relationships and pay particular attention to how you yourself or other people you know act in relationships.
3. Freedom From Stress
Stress is the greatest enemy of intuition.
When you are stressed, your brain and body change the way they function. One of these changes is that your brain becomes hyper-focused on whatever the stressor is at the moment. This is an ancient survival mechanism. Your brain is protecting you from the “threat” by giving it 100% of your attention. This may have worked great for your ancestors, but these days it mostly results in the sort of repetitive rumination and worrying that we know as anxiety.
And when your brain is in this protective mode, it doesn’t have the bandwidth for intuitive problem solving.
Hence, the more you learn to control your stress levels, the more room there is for intuition to work.
4. Out With The Old – In With The New
Another thing your brain can get stuck on is its own intuitive insights. You come up with a great idea and then that’s all you can think about!
If you want to increase the volume of intuitive insights you are able to produce, it’s good to have a system for externalizing the existing insights in order to make room for new stuff.
This simply means doing something concrete with your idea as soon as feasible. Depending on what your idea is about, it could be writing it down, creating an implementation plan, or sharing it with another person.
Finally, you need to be patient with your intuition.
Sure, sometimes you can have an immediate insight, as in when your husband walks in the door and you KNOW something went wrong at work today.
But other times, there’s a time lag. I used to panic when I didn’t immediately know what to do in a given situation. But I’ve learned that if I just stay calm and wait, the answer will almost always come to me. Sometimes it takes a few hours, sometimes overnight, sometimes several days.
But almost always my intuition will tell me how to proceed.
P.S. Wanna Learn More About Yourself?
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