Pirate of the Jungian Notation

Wednesday, June 06, 2012 0 Comments A+ a-


Hello again - it's Wednesday, and I wasn't sure if I was going to get the opportunity to blog out here or not. I posted out on my other blog, but then got caught up with prepping the house for Caleb's company. Then I was told I needed to go pick one of them up, so I had to make a road trip. In between all that was Caleb's and Johnny's P90X yoga workout that made it impossible to navigate the living room without tripping over their sweaty bodies!

But for the moment, things are peaceful. I'm on the front porch with my laptop and coffee mug, listening to my son and his cronies laughing like crazy inside while they play Mario on the Wii. Johnny took my other son to the park, so I'm taking advantage of the beautiful day to sit and blog about functional notation.

Whoa, that just made me sound like a nerd. (sigh)

Okay, Dr. Drenth took time in his article to list out the INFJ functional stack. What's a functional stack? It's a list of our four mental functions, in order of dominance.  As INFJs, we are aligned as follows:

INFJs’ functional stack is composed of the following functions: 
Dominant: Introverted Intuition (Ni)
Auxiliary: Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
Tertiary: Introverted Thinking (Ti)
Inferior: Extraverted Sensing (Se)

If you've read my Seeing Double post, you'll recall that I briefly described Jungian functional notation:


Before I delve into this, I may need to explain the lowercase letters beside the capital letters. These are related to "Jungian Functional Notation." Our four functions (I, N, F, J) are either introverted or extraverted, and this is indicated by the lowercase letter. For example, Dr. Drenth often refers to "Ni" which stands for "introverted intuition." As INFJs, we break down into the following, in order of dominance: 
Ni (introverted iNtuition) = N
Fe (extraverted Feeling) = F
Ti (introverted Thinking) = I
Se (extraverted Sensing) = J

The Myers Briggs foundation refers to this as "Type Dynamics." According to their website, "the different components of a person's psychological type work in an interrelated way to establish balance and effectiveness." The website goes on to say that there are four primary attitudes/orientations that describe the way we approach life and gather information. They tend to complement each other. The first two are Extraversion and Introversion:

Those who prefer Extraversion, direct energy outwardly and are energized by the outside world.Those who prefer Introversion, direct energy inwardly and are energized by reflecting on their inner world. (www.myersbriggs.org)

The third and fourth are Perceiving and Judging:

People who prefer the Judging attitude are likely to come to conclusions quickly and enjoy the structure provided by reaching closure.People who prefer the Perceiving attitude are likely to take more time to gather information before comfortably coming to closure, enjoy the process, and are more comfortable being open-ended. (www.myersbriggs.org) 

On top of these four attitudes, we have the four mental functions that support them: intuition (I), feeling (F), thinking (T) and sensing (S). Everyone uses all four of these on a daily basis - but not equally. In an INFJ, for example, our intuition dominates the other three. We still use them all, but our intuition is our strongest function.

This can all get really detailed, but rather than regurgitate a bunch of facts, I'd like to try and keep it at a high level.  So here goes:

INFJs are primarily introverts. We "recharge" by being alone and processing our thoughts and feelings inwardly. Our intuition (Ni) and sensing (Se) make us highly perceptive, while our feeling (Fe) and thinking (Ti) tend to provide quick conclusions for reaching closure. Here's a closer look at the way we approach life:


  • Intuition (Ni) - our strongest function - enables us to pay attention to patterns, meanings, connections, and future possibilities
  • Feeling (Fe) - our secondary function - helps us make decisions based on values and consequences
  • Thinking (Ti) - our tertiary function - allows us to base our decisions on principles and logical outcomes
  • Sensing (Se) - our inferior function - helps us pay attention to details and current realities


These four functions tend to work in pairs as well. Intuition and sensing are a perceptive pair, while feeling and thinking are more organized and used for judgment.

Now, some of these happen subconsciously. I'm usually quite aware of my intuition and feelings. They steer the ship, so to speak. Thinking is something I can do quite well and naturally - but I have to remember to make it a priority, or feelings will take over in the decision-making process. Sensing is pretty much on auto-pilot, though oddly enough, it can work overtime to drive my intuition into making a fast judgment.

Like the time my husband and I were at a dark, isolated gas station in a small town and another car filled with loud, drunken men pulled up beside us. My senses automatically kicked in, overwhelmed my intuition, and suddenly I was in a panic, telling my husband we had to leave now. He, being a thinker, looked at me funny and told me to chill. But he did as I asked, and I was greatly relieved as we pulled away. I don't know what would have happened had we stayed - I only know what my gut (fueled by my senses picking up things like dark, isolated, loud, drunk, etc.) was telling me. And I almost always follow my gut, especially when it's that strong. Thinking doesn't even play a part, unless I force it to.

This is a primary example of the inferior function taking over and influencing the dominant one in a potent way, causing the INFJ to act in a way that's opposite to the way they would normally act. According to another one of Dr. Drenth's articles, the dominant and inferior functions are like polar opposites - they can work together beautifully, and they can also oppose each other in a detrimental fashion.

So what does all this psychological mumbo-jumbo mean for the INFJ? Well, we definitely need to be aware of our strengths and weaknesses - and how they drive us. We know we can count on our strong intuition/feeling functions to steer us accurately through life. But we should also work on understanding and developing our thinking/sensing functions so we can avoid some of the deeper waters that might cause us to flounder.

By the way, I like the ship analogy. I can totally see myself as Blackbeard's daughter, a sword hanging from my belt and a bandana tied around my head, my long hair whipping in the salty sea wind as I freely sail the oceans looking for adventure. My intuition and feelings would be my compass, thinking my counselor, and sensing my ever-present silent companion. Argh, me matey!

As a pirate, I would be a mysterious, roaming force of nature. 

How about you? ;-)