Se - I Am My Car

Friday, June 22, 2012 5 Comments A+ a-

Wow. What a week. I'm always glad when Friday rolls around, but this week I'm extra-glad to see it arrive. Taping, painting, cleaning, organizing, doctor's appointments, chores, working up a resume for a friend. I haven't taken much time to stop and smell the roses, and my soul is need of some rest. Looking forward to tomorrow's coffee run, seeing my cafe buddies and then slipping into my imaginary world in the quiet depths of the library :-)

For now, though - let's take a look at what's known as the INFJ's "inferior" mental function:

Se = extraverted Sensing

Of all four mental functions, this one is our least dominant. Sensing refers to a preference for taking in information through the five senses--noticing reality and what is right there in front of us. Our sensing is extraverted, which means that we deal with it outwardly instead of processing it inwardly. We experience a rich view of our external environment. And for the most part, it's second nature.

I recall one afternoon when I was driving home from work, and I thought I detected a slight difference in the way the car sounded. Why I noticed it, I have no clue. I'm about as far from being mechanically inclined as you can get! When I got home, I mentioned it to my husband. He went out and listened, but couldn't tell a difference. He said it must be in my head. I dismissed it - until the next day, when he called me to come pick him up because the car had stalled while he was out running errands. Turns out the alternator belt (whatever that is) had snapped. Somehow my Se, which must always subconsciously pick up the sounds of the car, had noticed a difference in the sound of the deteriorating belt and knocked on the door of my brain to let me know.

Weird, huh?

It's almost like our Se becomes "one" with our environment, reaching out to explore and observe. Like an invisible secret agent gathering data and reporting back in coded messages only our subconscious can understand. When I drive, I am my car. I'm just not aware of it.

In nosing around the internet, I found an article by author Andrea J. Wegner, who has this to say about her Se:

Writers often get lost in their heads. If they didn’t, they might never get any work done. But for those with a preference for introversion and intuition, it can be difficult to reconnect with the real world. I suspect that writers in general, and IN types in particular, suffer from chronic sensory deprivation. We have to make an effort to interrupt our writing and indulge our senses.
INFJs like me extravert their sensing function. Extraverted sensing experiences the world in all its vibrancy. It sifts through sensory data and identifies what is most relevant and most critical in the current situation. It seizes opportunities as they present themselves. It troubleshoots and seeks a tactical advantage. It wants immediate gratification. 
By contrast, introverted sensing relates the present situation to past experience. It evaluates similarities and differences. It applies proven techniques to the challenges of the current circumstances. It invokes memory to generate comparisons that are both vivid and surprising. It notices when things are out of place. It values tradition. 


While I agree with Andrea that it's easy to get "lost in my head," I don't suffer at all from "chronic sensory deprivation." I love indulging my senses. If anything, I'm hypersensitive to external stimuli. It jumps out at me, whether I like it or not, and I have to make an effort to get away from it. This is why I need the quiet, soothing environment of the library to write. So what makes me different from Andrea?

Well, I know that each INFJ falls differently along the scoreline in terms of their mental functions. So I pulled out my original Myers-Briggs narrative report. Yes, even after 13 years, I still have it. And I checked out my preference scores. As it turns out, my intuition (Ni) score fell into the lower end of the moderate range. And because intuition and sensing are functional opposites, I'm guessing that my Se plays a more vital role than it does in other INFJs.

This is a good reason to take the Myers-Briggs in a professional setting. Not only will the results show that you're an INFJ, but the preference charts indicate just how strong each of your functions are. For example, I'm only "moderate" in introversion and intuition. But I'm "clear" in judging and "very clear" in feeling. These variations make a difference in our INFJ perspective.

I'd be interested in taking the test again. After 13 years, I've probably developed and grown in some of my other functions. I'd still be an INFJ, but my intuition might be stronger now, or my judging may have given way to stronger perceiving. Hmm. Will have to look into this.

Okay, back to sensing. Obviously I'm different in this area. So let me share the likely scenario for a typical INFJ. The quote below comes from

INFJs are twice blessed with clarity of vision, both internal and external. Just as they possess inner vision which is drawn to the forms of the unconscious, they also have external sensing perception which readily takes hold of worldly objects. Sensing, however, is the weakest of the INFJ's arsenal and the most vulnerable. INFJs, like their fellow intuitives, may be so absorbed in intuitive perceiving that they become oblivious to physical reality. The INFJ under stress may fall prey to various forms of immediate gratification. Awareness of extraverted sensing is probably the source of the "SP wannabe" side of INFJs. Many yearn to live spontaneously; it's not uncommon for INFJ actors to take on an SP (often ESTP) role.

Oblivious to physical reality--now that sounds familiar! In a comfortable environment, I can tune out so much that nothing matters but what's happening inside my head. Conversely, however, I can be so overwhelmed by my senses that intuitive perceiving becomes impaired (like when I was in the casino with my husband). In addition, all that sensing can wear me out. I don't know about you, but being exposed to a stimulating environment will drain my energy in a heartbeat, even if I'm not exerting effort.  Introverts use quite a bit of energy to process their environment. The more my Se has to deal with, the more quiet time I'll need later to recuperate.

So, are you spontaneous? I actually have to fight my spontaneous urges, which could be another sign that my Se function is strong. I can hardly walk into a Cracker Barrel without buying something in the store. They have sooooo many products that appeal to my senses. Same with Eddie Bauer, Yankee Candle, and Barnes & Noble. I almost can't resist going in. Enticing aromas, soft materials, textured surfaces - these things are my downfall. I'm extremely tactile. In a furniture store, I inhale deeply and touch everything I see.  My husband thinks it's hilarious, until I'm suddenly begging him to buy me something :-)

Overstimulating places, though, like grocery stores and super centers, drive me nuts. I avoid Wal-Mart like the plague. Five minutes in that place and I'm practically psychotic. The urge to get out now rises up and supersedes all sensory needs. Does this happen to you guys?

However debilitating it can be, though, sensing does provide intuition with a great deal of useful information. They may be opposites, but Se can feed the Ni with some great descriptive details. When I write, I constantly mention how things look, feel, smell, taste, sound. Those things are important to me in reality. They define my perception and therefore dominate my approach. So while my intuition and sensing are pulling at each other - with opposing agendas - they are also working together. The problem here is finding balance. Am still working on that one (sigh).

My advice to INFJs would be to find ways to nurture (and not antagonize) your Se. For me, it's important to reside in an environment that feeds my Se in positive ways. The house I live in has trees in view from all sides, and it's on the quiet outskirts of a small town. Chirping birds and green foliage nourish my soul. Textured paint in soothing colors quiets my senses. Lit candles bring me peace. If I could, I'd buy a house and several acres in the country, near a mountain somewhere, with a babbling brook nearby. An environment like that would support my Se without overwhelming it. And a nurtured Se is more capable of handling the loud, noisy places of the world.

Whew. I feel like I've rambled on quite a bit here without make any great points. Part of that is because my special needs son woke up early (grrrr) and has interrupted me several times. Of all the people in this household, he's the biggest drain on my Ni. His rebellious, selfish tendencies are hard on me. I know he can't help it, but knowing doesn't make life any easier. He's the primary reason I tune out my environment, lol!

Well, I hope that all of you have a great weekend planned. The movie 'Brave' comes out tonight. I'm planning to see it with a friend tomorrow. We both have Scottish DNA and are keenly interested in exploring it. Recently I traced my birth father's paternal line all the way to a Scottish ancestor who migrated here from Scotland over two hundred years ago. Explains my brown hair and green eyes! Someday my friend and I are going to take a trip overseas and check out Scotland and Germany, since those are strong influences in our bloodlines. Ireland, too (I have a little Irish thrown in for good measure). Nothing like a foreign tour to put on your Bucket List :-)

Holy cow, I could write all day - love pouring myself out to you guys - but I'd better wrap it up.

Blessings and peace to all of you,


Write comments
Arisa Scott
June 25, 2012 at 12:48 PM delete

"Overstimulating places, though, like grocery stores and super centers, drive me nuts. I avoid Wal-Mart like the plague. Five minutes in that place and I'm practically psychotic. The urge to get out now rises up and supersedes all sensory needs. Does this happen to you guys?"

My first thought was "no, not really..." Then I realized...I enter all grocery stores with headphones on. I love my headphones. It is reflexive to me to have my headphones on if I'm entering a fast moving environment. I'm either listening to a podcast or getting lost in music. Either way, having "noise" that is of my choosing and my rhythm makes it much easier to deal with.

June 26, 2012 at 9:40 AM delete

Arisa - that makes a lot of sense. I often borrow my son's iPod Touch for walks or dental visits, but I've held off trying it in large grocery stores in the city. Not being able to hear in an 'unsafe' environment makes me feel vulnerable. Don't know why - I even have reservations about taking it on walks, because I don't want someone to sneak up behind me or be unable to hear an approaching car. I know - paranoid, right? But I feel like I have to have all my wits about me when I'm walking around in public. I don't want to hinder my own ability to sense danger. If I'm sitting in the local library or coffee shop, though, earbuds are fine - I've learned to trust those places and can lose myself in music, drowning out the rest of the world.

Am not sure where the vulnerability comes from...other than I feel like I've been preyed on by people my whole life. That's an issue for another post, though!

By the way....loooooove your doodles! They are fantastic, and I'm so glad I found your blog. You have amazing insight :-)

January 5, 2013 at 10:50 PM delete

This one is an interesting one for me. I can completely tune out my environment if I'm working. I have an iPod and when I'm working on art work the earbuds are on but I've lost all sense of what's playing, until that one song I have a particularly strong link to plays. I also think that my Se takes most of the information it processes from visual stimuli. (Hmm, a visual artist processing visually). In fact in the story I wrote, the main character, who's a reflection of much of who I am or would like to develop to be, works on his sculpture and tunes out the world save for what's in front of him. OF course when my Se kicks into overdrive I can't even read with Pandora playing songs. If I reach that point I have to switch to my Classical music or turn music off completely. I think I placate my Se most with music or noise. I usually have music playing or favorite movies playing in the background to keep myself from getting distracted, if that makes any sense.

January 8, 2013 at 11:38 AM delete

Jon...I totally relate to the visual link from music. I can tune it out, but there are some songs that provoke me to certain visual images. When I'm composing a battle scene, I play particular tunes that inspire war-like behavior. Same with romance. It's like a movie playing inside my head--the music and images merge into substance that I scramble to put into words. The whole process, for me, is breathtaking...and immensely satisfying.

And yes, when Se becomes overwhelming it's hard to tune out. I have to sleep with white noise, or else my brain picks up on every little sound in the house. Can't sleep to music, either...the visual images are too strong. That's so funny...when I'm doing things around the house, I put in movies as well. Not to concentrate on, just stuff to keep my Se distracted so it doesn't drive my crazy!!!

Funny how INFJs work...

Kelly Crawley
May 31, 2014 at 7:34 PM delete

Meridian, I don't have words. Possibly because my 4 kids 7 and under are all still up and I can't think. LOL. But this article is amazing and just what I needed to read. I could have written it. From being "one with my car" to overwhelmed by my surroundings to the sensory detail in my writing. I have recently figured out I'm INFJ and the understanding it has brought me into why I often feel I can't. handle. my. kids. has been...liberating. Overwhelming. Fascinating. Freeing. (I guess that is the same as liberating, but it bears repeating.) Thank you for writing this and helping me feel a little more normal.