Square Peg #1: Stacking Things Up

Tuesday, April 28, 2015 11 Comments A+ a-


Hey! Cafe's open, so come on in. Watch your step among the stacks of books, fast food containers, half-filled coffee mugs, and empty wine glasses. I'm over here (waves from behind a stack). A little frazzled, but very pleased you could join me. :)

Life has been a rush since I last posted. The paperback copies of my book arrived, and the website designer added a cool PayPal button to my site for autographed copies. Been taking orders, signing books, and either shipping them out or delivering them personally. Quite a learning experience. Between that and the Gambit blog tour, I've been busy.

But today has been all about my readers, both on my personal blog and the Cafe. My personal blog was fairly simple...I'm reusing the guest posts that I created for the blog tour. For the first piece on our Square Peg series, though, I did five hours of research and took seven pages of notes. Anyone surprised? No? Lol, didn't think so.

Okay, let's dive in. We're looking at things that set the INFJ apart and might cause us to feel different or out of place. Number one on our list is...

The INFJ Functional Stack

I first saw the term "functional stack" on Personality Junkie, and it basically applies to the way our Jungian preferences are ordered. Every personality type has a unique stack that determines the way they view and respond to the world. Here's ours:

Dominant: Introverted Intuition (Ni)
Auxiliary: Extraverted Feeling (Fe)
Tertiary: Introverted Thinking (Ti)
Inferior: Extraverted Sensing (Se)

I know, it's a bit confusing at first glance. So let's break it down and make it relatable, okay? To help, we'll use "Eight Functions (Typology 201)" by Dr. A.J. Drenth on Personality Junkie.

Introverted Intuition: Otherwise known as Ni, this powerful guy is our dominant function. Ni is the captain of our ship, driving the way we gather information and perceive visuals. We filter a lot of it through imagery--impressions, symbols--and use those to make meaningful connections, often without much conscious effort. Those hunches or gut feelings you get? Yep, that's your Ni, and according to Drenth, he "apprehends ideas, patterns, and perspectives that emerge within." He also has a tendency to disregard the rules.




Extraverted Feeling: Okay, if Ni is our captain, then you can call extraverted feeling, or Fe, our first mate. He's our auxiliary function, and while he's not dominant, he still packs a big punch. You know when you're talking with someone and can "feel" exactly what they're feeling? That's your first mate. A bit emotional for a pirate, sure, but hey--he's in touch with his feelings, and he's got more than enough salty-wench groupies to prove it. Drenth says our Fe "surveys a breadth of human feeling. Its goal is to cultivate interpersonal harmony among people."

Introverted Thinking: "Introverted Thinking (Ti) is concerned with inner rationality and personal effectiveness," writes Drenth. I'm afraid this function doesn't get much attention in the INFJ world. He's a boatswain...someone in charge of keeping the ship in working condition. He does mundane things like dropping anchor, repairing sails, and swabbing the deck. But don't underestimate his role. Without him, we just might sink. And I think he's a very important part of why we feel different, so keep reading.

Extraverted Sensing: They use "inferior" to refer to our Se, and that's not really fair, since he's such a huge contributor to our intuition. Like our Ni captain, he's perceptive and picks up information as we're sailing along--wind direction, position of the stars, the smell of an incoming storm. He's all about sensory and, as Drenth puts it, "seeks extensive outward stimulation—new sights, sounds, tastes, experiences, etc."

Overall, a pretty cool stack, eh? We've got a highly intuitive captain, a swoon-worthy first mate, a reliable boatswain, and a sensitive navigator to help keep us on course. This should be enough to set us apart from the other fifteen functional stacks, right?
INFJ running away from
all the other types

Um, not exactly.

Guys, I did the research. Yes, our stack is really cool, but it's not radical. Every MBTI type has a unique arrangement of functions and can make the same claim as we are...that we're "set apart" by our Jungian preferences.

However, INFJs only make up a small percentage of the population, so I did some research on that, too. The percentage tables I found (from KnowYourType and CAPT) definitely support the theory that intuitives aren't common. It's weird, actually...because according to the tables, there's a pretty even population distribution between extraverts/intraverts (E/I), feelers/thinkers (F/T), and judgers/perceivers (J/P). But when it comes to sensors/intuitives (S/N), there are a lot fewer Ns out there, especially dominant Ns like us.

The problem is...no one seems to have an explanation for it. I can't find anything that determines why so few of us are born with the INFJ stack. It's a little perplexing that a mere 1-3 percent of us have this personality type, yet we don't know why. Is it simply the hand we're dealt? The roll of the personality dice? Maybe. Until a genetic scientist decides to dig into our DNA and find out if there's a marker for INFJs, that part's going to remain a mystery.

But here's something interesting. INFJs and INTJs are the rarest types. And we both have something the other types don't--a sensual navigator feeding an intuitive captain with a steady stream of data. This combination of Ni/Se presents itself in a magical, almost psychic way that lends mystery to the INFJ/INTJ. Drenth writes that "Ni synthesizes Se pieces of information and generates an intuitive impression or interpretation of what is happening, as well as a sense of what might happen next."
And don't you forget it!

So this sets INFJs and INTJs apart from the rest. Let me take it a step further.

Remember the boatswain? He's an introverted thinker. He's quiet, rational, and keeps us afloat. You know how he does that? He builds maps inside his head. Maps of systems and how they work, and he uses those systems to help him understand other systems (see Personality Growth for more on this). He is deeply focused...inwardly focused...and wants to understand how things are connected. This is different from the INTJ, who uses extraverted thinking to apply ideas outwardly.

All of this adds up to something I discovered when I hovered my mouse over this MBTI table. Little summaries popped up. Every introvert in the table is listed as "quietly _______." INTJs are "quietly innovative" and ISFPs are "quietly caring." ISTJs are "quietly systematic," while ISFJs are "quietly warm" and ISTPs are "quietly analytical."

Know what INFJs are? "Quietly intense."

I kept going back to that, because it stuck out. I get the innovative and caring and systematic and warm and analytical labels. But intense? Hmm.

Intense probably means a lot of things to a lot of different people. I don't think we're intense as in crazy. I think we're intense as in...deeply focused. Like the boatswain. Meaning we can immerse ourselves in a system (person, idea, community, project, etc.) and become a part of it, in order to understand it. Then we create visions, interpretations, and connections that enable us to communicate that system to the world in a beautiful and creative way.

Conclusion - 3 out of 5 stars

Sorry this post ran so long. There's more to the functional stack than meets the eye! And my conclusion is that our stack, by itself, doesn't set us apart. It also doesn't explain the low percentage of people born as INFJs. But our functions do work together in a way that creates an intensity other types don't have.



Can this make us feel different or out of place? Sure it can. People often think we're mystical or mysterious or have a predictive nature. They don't understand how our impressions can be more accurate than their facts, or how we can be overwhelmed by feelings we don't own. They're weirded out by our immersive capability. And they definitely don't get our need to build system maps inside our heads.

Since it's sort of yes and sort of no, I'm giving this one 3 out of 5 stars.

What do you guys think?

Image Credit: Gambit, Pirate Code, Running Jack, Enigma, Turbulent

11 comments

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Anonymous
AUTHOR
April 28, 2015 at 11:47 PM delete

Thank you very, very much, for your insight and research, also the pirate ship analogy was very cute. I feel so different because I am, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. That is what I got out of your article. Thank you once more.

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Anonymous
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April 29, 2015 at 3:12 AM delete

Ti also makes us a little bit insecure about details. We can understand complex systems but very often our big picture view is much clearer that the detail. Solving detail issues is done with a lot of energy and focus with Ti (receiving help from the big picture Ni), and when accomplished the feeling of success is nice, but is nothing compared to the feeling of success that occurs from solving big picture issues (like strategy or a game-plan) with Ni. That all-knowing feeling, when one has connected all of the dots, feels unbelievably awesome.

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April 29, 2015 at 8:33 AM delete

I enjoyed reading this! The connection between Ti and being deeply focused and intense explains a lot to me, really helps me understand myself, and I've found that if I can understand myself it doesn't bother me so much when others do not understand me. :)

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nepenthes9997
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April 29, 2015 at 8:57 AM delete

Just a small note: I think you mixed up INTPs and INTJs, especially in the Ni/Se part - it should be the INTJs sharing Ni/Se with INFJs. ;)

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Meridian
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April 29, 2015 at 9:11 AM delete

I totally agree, and this lines up with everything I've read about INFJs being more about the big picture than the details.

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Meridian
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April 29, 2015 at 9:15 AM delete

Glad you enjoyed it! And I love this - "if I can understand myself it doesn't bother me so much when others do not understand me." :)

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Meridian
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April 29, 2015 at 9:20 AM delete

Oh, wow - it was so late when I finished last night that my brain totally mixed those up. I just went back and fixed it. Thank you so much for the help!

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nepenthes9997
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April 29, 2015 at 11:15 AM delete

No worries. Glad to help! ^_^

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jonathanrenck
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May 2, 2015 at 1:39 AM delete

Quietly intense. Yup. That fits. Can't tell you the number of times people off-handedly make comments about something I've studied or otherwise invested myself in, only to regret the torrent of thought that comes pouring from me. The reactions range from glassy-eyed boredom to overwhelmed surprise to lukewarm enthusiasm. Then I have to find a way to wrap the cowl back around me so that I can go back to the quietly part of it.

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Meridian
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May 2, 2015 at 10:24 AM delete

Been there, done that. I feel like there's a constant stream of information running through my head, playing like movie clips. When people talk with me, they don't realize they're talking alongside those clips (many of which I'm very passionate about). They could get an entire monologue without asking for it, lol. I'm trying to curb this tendency, but it's not easy. ;)

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