Shadow Boxing #1: The Opposing Role (Ne)

Friday, February 24, 2017 0 Comments A+ a-

Morning, guys. What a busy couple of weeks! Between house hunting, answering Cafe e-mails, and writing an incredibly emotional guest post for a book-blogger friend, my energy and focus were completely tied up.

But it's all good now. Writing the guest post actually helped me work through some of last year's unprocessed grief. I tend to bury pain instead of facing it, and every so often, it catches up with me. Better to deal with it than let it fester into a monster-sized weapon that I unleash against all of humanity on a bad hair day.

Sadly, I can relate to this.

Which leads me into our new Shadow Boxing series. I'm actually psyched to be working on this. You'll find a lot of posts out here about the INFJ dark side (including a series I did in 2015), but I've never really stopped to examine each of our shadow functions in detail. It might prove to be useful. After all, the best way to fight darkness is by shining a light on it, right?

So grab your flashlights (or torches, if you're the adventurous type) and let's get to it.

To begin, we'll need a guide. A quick-reference visual that helps us compare our primary functions to the shadowy ones. And I found just the thing:

You're probably aware that we use all eight functions. The four on the left make up our functional stack and dominate the way we handle everyday life. The four on the right are less obvious; they operate in the shadows (pun intended) and don't demand a lot of attention. Unless, of course, we're stressed, or inexperienced, or don't know our MBTI type. Or stressed.

Anyway, we're going to look at these one at a time, and then as a whole. Starting with the top. Gloves up, folks, and prepare to face:

Shadow #1: Extraverted Intuition

Any good boxer will tell you that it helps to know your opponent. Know his moves, his techniques, the way he thinks. That way, you can anticipate what he's going to throw at you.

And Extraverted Intuition (Ne) has some pretty good moves. He thinks outwardly, getting all kinds of information from the world around him. He's open-minded and sees multiple outcomes. His conclusions are divergent and full of possibility. He is all about what could be.

We're not like that. Our intuition is strongly introverted, and though we do process a fair amount of external data (from our extraverted Feeling and Sensing functions), we like to narrow all that stuff down. Our conclusions are convergent, filtered through deep reflection and insight, and we stick to them like glue.

What does this look like in the boxing ring? Well, you have one guy who excels at multiple attacks that come from everywhere, and another who hunkers down, waits for the right moment, and drives all his weight into one big knockout punch.


Since my hubby is an ESFJ, I have a bit of sparring experience with Ne. He has a very outward approach to life, while I'm usually inside my head. So let's say we're riding around in the car. We're having a conversation, I'm putting all my thought into it, and he's focused on the road. Then right in the middle of my insightful, deeply-thought-out sentence, his hand shoots toward the windshield--look, honey, a red-tailed hawk!--and cuts me off.

This used to drive me nuts. Seriously, a hawk? Was he even listening to a word I said? So I'd shut down and get quiet. I mean, if he wasn't listening, why spend the energy sharing my thoughts? It took a couple of heated conversations for him to realize that I don't like being interrupted, and me to realize that he's focused on gathering data from multiple sources. He still does it once in a while (mostly with red-tailed hawks and muscle cars), but it doesn't bother me as much, because I understand why. 

Another sparring area for us is planning. I tend to see what's coming, narrow it down, and desire one plan to deal with it. He sees what might be coming, panics, and wants a plan for every possible outcome. To settle this, we sit down with a whiteboard and tackle it visually. Yeah, kind of old school, I know. But writing down his concerns gets them out of his head. That's super important for relieving his panic. Then we draw one path that will get us through all the issues. Contingency plans are listed along the side. I focus on the one path, he focuses on the contingencies.

Of course, this sounds nice and reasonable as I type it up. It's not always like that. I'm leaving out the heated conversations and emotional outbursts. I mean, we're both Feeling types. Sometimes it really does seem like he's throwing out multiple attacks while I'm holding out for that big knockout punch. But we're pretty good at finding middle ground. Lots of hugs, afterward, helps too.

Did I mention we're Feeling types?

Okay, so we've covered how The Opposing Role might play out in a relationship. But what about internally for the INFJ? What happens when our own Ne jumps out of the shadows and into the ring?

Unless you're an experienced INFJ, this is going to be problematic. We're good at viewing one issue at a time from multiple perspectives. Viewing multiple issues from one perspective simultaneously is a whole different ballgame. We're going to be overwhelmed. We're already being fed a constant stream of emotional/sensory data from our Fe and Se; we're meant to use that to see what's coming, reflect on it, analyze it, categorize it, then resolve and hold tightly to it.

We're not built to do that with every probability at once.

But when someone with extraverted intuition attacks my thoroughly-analyzed-and-resolved conclusions, I can feel my own Ne stepping up and putting on his gloves. You want a fight? Fine, I'll mimic your method of attack and use it to defend myself. Problem is, I'm not good at it. I'm only good at the knockout punch. So my multiple attacks are weak and ineffective. I blow up, give it everything I've got, and walk away battered and bruised.

Not the best scenario. Hmm. The most obvious is not to engage your extraverted intuition. It doesn't make sense to use a weapon you can't control. With Ne being a subconscious function, though, it's hard to tell when you've crossed that line. I'm getting better at gauging when my Ne is on the rise. He's most aggressive when I'm feeling attacked or overwhelmed. During those times, I fall back on my supports to stay calm. Things like a hot bath, long walk, good book or movie, and chocolate.

Lots and lots of chocolate. 😊

Overall, I think our Ne shadow function is most helpful in dealing with small, stress-free decisions that require more openness and flexible thinking. Most of us are pretty rigid, and that's okay. It's how we're built. An INFJ who's worked on developing and improving this function, however, is sure to be more adept at using it when the need arises.

Feel free to share any thoughts and experiences!


Image Credit: Bad Hair Day, Shadow Guide, Hugs, Sweet Heart