Know Thyself

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 0 Comments A+ a-

Hey, guys! Sitting here with my coffee while my son watches Suite Life of Zack and Cody and eats a plate of meatballs. I've watched Suite Life for so many years that I have several scenes memorized. My son does, too. Occasionally he'll re-enact his favorites for complete strangers while we're out in public. He can be quite entertaining when he wants to be :-)

So yesterday I happened to be reading some INFJ articles and kept seeing references to the Ni/Ti loop. I recall posting about it back in June when doing research on our Ti function. But I wanted to further define it, so I started digging.

As you already know, the INFJ has four functions that work together:

Dominant Ni
Secondary Fe
Tertiary Ti
Inferior Se

Notice that our dominant is introverted and our secondary is extroverted. This is true for any introverted MBTI type. Extraverted MBTI types always have an extraverted dominant and an introverted secondary (cool how that works, eh?). The charts below are from Personality Pathways. See the patterns of extra/intro that make up our functions?
Extraverted Types
Hierarchy or Order of Preference
E = Extraverted Energy Orientation
I = Introverted Energy Orientation
Introverted Types
Hierarchy or Order of Preference
E = Extraverted Energy Orientation
I = Introverted Energy Orientation

According to an article I found, there's a reason types don't have BOTH top functions introverted (or extraverted). Why? The result is an unbalanced psyche. The primary job of the secondary function is to balance out the dominant.

Here's a link to the article:  Dominant/Tertiary Loops and Common Personality Disorders

The article suggests that whenever the secondary function is suppressed, underdeveloped or not given value, the individual can display characteristics of documented personality disorders. Specifically for the INFJ, a well-developed Fe is required to balance out our introverted intuition and thinking. Suppressing the Fe or ignoring its value can, according to the article, put us in a state resembling Schizoid Personality Disorder. Same for the ISTP, whose Ti/Ni loop is the reverse of ours:

ISTP/INFJ: Ti/Ni or Ni/Ti--Schizoid Personality Disorder. These types are socially incompetent for lack of trying, because they see little to no value in significant interaction with others. They live in their own abstract worlds, constantly second-guessing themselves as Ti poses a framework for a problem and Ni shoots it down as too definitionally precise. Without any real external input, these two functions will dream up all sorts of elaborate systems and implications for them, only to repeat their own self-defeating behavior, never bothering to emphasize putting any of its intense ideas into practice. Frequent disregard for rules, laws and other forms of behavioral standards is common, as no function provides any significant sense of external influence. If Se/Fe were doing its job, the user would recognize the value of connecting with others and of paying attention to their needs, preferences, habits and appearances.

I found this fascinating. I remember coming across a description of Schizoid Personality Disorder once and laughing uneasily--because it came close to describing my personality when I'm under a great deal of stress. I tend to retreat into myself when things aren't going well, and my Fe/Se aren't able to work properly to balance out the internal thinking and introspection.

Now I do think an Ni/Ti loop can be a good thing. I enjoy tuning out the extraverted stuff and concentrating solely on my internal functions. I was in a huge loop on Saturday and ended up with 13 pages. But I chatted for an hour with friends at the coffee shop before diving in. And I listen to music while I'm writing. I need an Fe inspiration of some sort to keep things in perspective. It doesn't have to be chatting - it can be hearing just the right song or sermon, reading a great article, watching a TV show. I need something when I come out of the loop as well, which is usually conversation with my family. Without Fe/Se input, my Ni/Ti loops would probably cause to me to appear somewhat autistic.

The phrase "frequent disregard for rules, laws and other forms of behavioral standards" above actually describes me most of the time. This is where my value system kicks in and has to temper my behavior. If not for my Fe feeding my bedrock core, you'd pretty much find me on a Harley, dressed all in leather and packing a firearm while running from the law with my muscular, tattooed boy toy :-)

Now, here's a question. If the INFJ can slip into a Dominant/Tertiary loop, could we also potentially slip into a Secondary/Inferior loop as well? The article doesn't cover this, as the Fe/Se loop seems to be the danger for extraverted types. But if we did end up in one, we'd exhibit something akin to Histrionic Personality Disorder (exaggerated/aggressive sexual behavior and physical impulsiveness). I could see this happening to a certain degree in the throes of an ESTP shadow. My inner Phoenix is a powerful combination of both an Ni/Ti and Fe/Se loop. She is, unfortunately, the worst of both worlds. An ally and yet an enemy. Recognizing who she is and what provokes her has taken me many years (and many bad experiences) to figure out. I keep her caged, but I never forget she's there.

So, I guess it all boils down to awareness and balance. The INFJ, like any superhero, is capable of great things. And we're capable of terrible things as well. It behooves us to be aware of what makes us tick, what our needs are and how to handle what this world throws at us. We all know what happened when Spidey surrendered to the extraterrestrial black goo and allowed himself to walk on the wild side for awhile.

But I know we can overcome. Deep down, we know what's good and true. We are the Protectors. When push comes to shove, we rise up and do the right thing.

Know thyself, my fellow INFJs. Keep your balance and have an awesome day!