woman with flowers inside head

artwork by Marcelo Monreal

I recently figured out one of my super powers. Introverted intuition.

I took a personality assessment (for the millionth time) on the Personality Hacker website and came up an INFJ in the Myers Briggs type indicator. I sincerely go back and forth between INFJ and INFP. I know purists will say I have to narrow it down to one, but I can’t. That said, I’ve been feeling more INFJ lately. I actually think I am developing into or back to a ‘J’, but that’s another post. If I am an INFJ, then my dominant mental process is introverted intuition (Ni). Personality Hacker has a nickname for Ni. It’s Perspectives.

Perspectives is the least represented and most misunderstood mental process , which is why I feel like an outsider sometimes. It’s how I take in the world and learn. I will attempt to explain it.

What is introverted intuition? 

First of all, everyone uses this process but those with a strong preference for it go to it more naturally, more comfortably and more often. Introverted intuition is speculative but surprisingly accurate thinking. It’s seeing patterns and meaning behind everything. It’s seeing all perspectives in a situation. It’s constantly asking yourself, “Where have I seen or felt this before?” and “What does this really mean?” It allows those with its preference to predict movement. We can see where things are headed rather quickly. Introverted intuition users are future and concept oriented. We can see why certain things make sense to one person but not to others (the basis of Myers Briggs, yes?). We constantly make associations between things based on patterns and observations we’ve stored in our heads over a lifetime. We comb our minds for insight and new information derived from two separate ideas coming together in an epiphanic explosion.

woman reading a book on porchI often engage introverted intuition while exercising by myself, taking a shower, driving with music on, reading, daydreaming, etc.

Because this process is my dominant and favorite function, it is a gateway to a state of flow; that rich, effortless and creative state I mentioned in, Figuring Out Your Triggers for a Rich Life: How the Flow State Sparks Intrinsic Motivation. If I don’t get enough opportunities to use Ni, I feel low and depleted.

What’s the enemy of intuition?

How to set up my life to get the most benefit out of my super power? According to Personality Hacker, ” The enemy of Perspectives is distraction. Perspectives is a delicate process, and requires as much sensory deprivation as you can afford to give to it.”still mind

Can you see why writing is a good fit for this mental process? Writers thrive on quiet uninterrupted time. Phones ringing and children yelling rip the writer’s attention away just as they are about to make a beautiful connection between the story’s plot and the protagonist’s childhood. It’s time consuming and draining to work to get back to that deep level of concentration.

I literally sit in front of my laptop and wait for ideas to bump into each other and make something of themselves.

When you’re not connecting

Something interesting I’ve learned is that introverted intuition also plays a part in my romantic relationships. My man and I recently went through a time when we weren’t, in my opinion, connecting. We were busy doing practical things like home maintenance and errand running. We spent time with family and friends and worked through stressful situations outside of our relationship. None of this allowed for much sensory deprivation and deep emotional intimacy.

I’ve come to believe my man is an ISTP or an ESTP in Myers Briggs typology, which is different than the INTJ I thought he was when I wrote, Ms. Deeply Feeling Loves Mr. Intensely Logical: How to Make a Thinker Feeler Relationship Work.  Guess what mental process my guy favors? Extroverted sensing (Se), the opposite of introverted intuition (Ni), which means he likes to interact constantly with his environment. Those with extroverted sensing preferences are very “in the moment” and primarily trust and like information that comes directly through their senses. They assess situations quickly and determine the most efficient ways to handle them. They have a tough time seeing other’s perspectives because they aren’t easily interpreted by their senses. They like adrenaline based experiences and physical activity. My man loves to fix things, garden, fly-fish, hike, ride bikes, lift weights, etc. He used to fly Black Hawk helicopters for a living. I find him and those things very attractive. He is all of that and incredibly loving, interesting, easy to talk with and thoughtful too. I adore him and … we’re different.

What happens when an introvert spends too much time engaging with her outer world?

Unfortunately, activities that give extroverted sensors the most energy, dim introverted intuition. It’s practically one or the other for me. I wonder if it’s the same for him in reverse? Hmmm.

Constantly interacting with my outside environment —while fun and exhilarating and good for tempering my overactive mind — leaves me depleted if I don’t get enough down time to go internal and use my intuition.

When my guy and I are together we usually do a mix of activities — everything from errands, to talking on the couch, to sex. I’ve found I’m filled up and energized by alone time with him, especially if we share thoughts and intimacy. I also feel great being with him, family and friends, especially if we engage in new or exciting activities and/or the conversations rise above small talk.

In need of a dog and introvert whisperer

man high fiving dogI’ve found I get particularly drained when my man’s dog is with us. I know I’m going to upset all the dog lovers but this is my truth and I’m struggling with it. The dog is a Border Collie/American Eskimo mix. He’s an amazing watchdog and companion. He’s my man’s true buddy. He’s very smart, vigilant and high-energy. When I want to get into a movie with my man he is there with a squeaky ball wanting to play. When I’m sipping my tea and reading on a Sunday morning, he is there with the squeaky ball wanting to play. When we try to talk at the dinner table or on the couch he often whines or asks for attention. When we kiss he barks, the whole time. His bark is so startling it almost puts me in fight or flight mode.

I can never fully get into that delicious introverted intuition flow-state of intimacy and engagement with my man when the dog is watching and waiting for attention. For me, it’s like having a small child around again. It’s hard for a sensitive woman/mother to ignore a child. My man, who loves to interact with his outer world, does not mind these interruptions at all.

What does quality time look like to you?

While pondering our differences, I ran across the definitions for Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages again. These languages are the ways you prefer to receive love. My top two love languages are Words of Affirmation and Quality Time. My man’s are Physical Touch and Quality Time. I always thought it was a bonus that we both view quality time as important to a relationship. Quality time is spending time in each other’s presence. My vision of quality time involves focused, undivided attention and high quality conversation. My guy’s vision is doing things (including talking) just the two of us or with others. He still felt connected with me because distractions, others and busy-ness don’t phase him, in fact much of the time he is in his element.

I felt disconnected from my man because we hadn’t had my version of quality time in a while. I never knew his definition of quality time until I asked the other day. What we learned was how to speak each other’s language. If we want to get to a place of deep fulfillment together, we are going to have to know how to say “I love you” in our partner’s language.

Connected again

holding handsThe other night we had the perfect evening. My man left his dog at home. We went for a walk on the trails behind my house. We went out for dinner at a Thai restaurant (we both love food, cooking, dining out), where we held hands and talked easily. We returned home and talked on the couch for a while. No interruptions. My mind was so happy. We went to bed and made love. We were both happy.;)

Are you more engaged with your inner world or your outer world? Do you need a lot of quiet time without distractions in order to get filled up? If so, how has that affected your intimate relationships?  What does quality time look like to you? 

*If any of you have tips about how to help me tolerate the dog or how to train the dog to relax at my house,  I’d greatly appreciate your input. For now, my man is only bringing him over when my kids are present. His energy is then diffused among all of us and feels more manageable to me.