Hi folks, INFJ here.
Before getting to the meat of this post, I first want to explain why I decided to write it. I first got the idea to write about Ni as an Ni to--hopefully--clear up some of the confusion about the function. While I realize a large part of the PerC user base are indeed INJs, this post is geared towards those who are new to typology and trying to figure out what the heck everything is (and those poor INJs who read descriptions of Ni and leave more confused than they started), and for those who are just interested in the functions. I figure, as an INFJ, I have a special capacity to communicate the machinations of Ni that other types don't (sorry INTJs), and thus am responsible to do so in order to help make things more comprehensible, even if to only a few people. I also want to help dispel some of the cultural mythology surrounding Ni; just because we're rare doesn't make us cooler.
So without further ado, I will attempt to explain my brain. This will be interesting.
First thing's first: my brain never turns off. I can actually count on one hand the amount of times in my life my brain has stopped thinking and just done. It was only once, during an especially hard workout at the gym. Other than that, my brain works from sunrise until my head hits the pillow (and usually for a little bit thereafter as I'm trying to sleep). This isn't necessarily a good thing, but it's not something I've ever really been able to easily control, either. Now, I'm not saying that other functions don't think, but because Ni's realm is subjective observation, it makes sense that it wouldn't ever really stop working; you're in your own head all of the time, whether you want to admit it (*cough* extraverts *cough*) or not. In this same vein, one component of Ni that I have noticed is a heightened awareness of mental processes. I usually have a good idea/guess of what's going on in the lower levels of my consciousness, even if I can't easily articulate it.
In addition to that, something I noticed early in life (maybe around 8 or 9) was that I don't think like most people do. I say "think" loosely, here (Ni definitely does not think in conventional manners, either); my main mode of thought is a state that I liken to the Genesis creation story--a presence hovering over the ocean of the unconscious, watching images, memories, hunches, ideas, anything like that, bubble to the surface of my consciousness. I can feel (not feel in the physical sense) the ideas colliding together underneath, sometimes producing images worth pursuing, sometimes just creating an explosion of color or snippets of songs or half-baked thoughts before those vanish back into the sea. It's hard for me to use more direct language here, partially because the metaphor is of an ocean, but partially because there really isn't good language to describe the way this process works. A particle accelerator might also be a fit description--sending a bunch of ideas together into one collision and seeing what's let over in the explosion.
I do want to note, however, that my more kinetic vocabulary here is somewhat intentional. Ni seems to have this quiet, mystical stereotype surrounding it, slowly converging to a solution. This simply isn't the case. While its users may not look the part, Ni is a highly playful process. It's the exact same process as Ne, but where Ne uses external objects as the source of its, Ni uses internal, mental "objects". In this sense, Ni has the same relationship to thoughts, ideas, memories, all of that stuff, as Ne has to events, people, trees, all that stuff. Basically, Ni behaves in a very similar way to how Ne-doms act: bouncy, off-the-wall, and unpredictable, but that behavior is expressed through the mental understanding of "self", as opposed to a physical body. This side of INJs tends to come out when they're around people they trust with their precious thoughts. I have an INTJ friend who though I had to have been Ne because of how excited I got about my ideas around him. The basic thing he overlooked (among other things--this difference in attitude causes some pretty distinct differences between Ne and Ni) was that I only acted so excitable around him--he's one of my closest friends. I rarely share my thoughts to people, including those who know me well, otherwise. (I tell myself it's because they're not worthy of my thoughts, but it's actually because half of what I say makes no sense when I say it. Finding the language to describe our thoughts is the bane of INFJs. INTJs just don't care about communicating them.)
So, for some more specific functions of Ni. One thing I want to say before I start: people seem to think Ni-types can see the future. That's not true. Ni is future oriented in the sense that it's always trying to figure out what's coming next. However, as opposed to Ne, which is concerned with generating more and more possible futures, Ni is more singular. It moves towards a single observation from the plethora of data that inferior Se pick out. This process happens quite quickly, and may often seem mystical or psychic to those around the INJ, very often it is not mystical or sudden to the INJ. There was a girl in one of my classes who wore Chacos fairly often. (For those of you who don't know what Chacos are, here's an image: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com...87e6e82d85.jpg. They're basically fancy sandals). Anyway, I was doing an exercise with her one day, I noticed her sandals, and I immediately wondered if she had ever been a camp counselor. I asked and she revealed that she had been for a few years. Now, to the observer, this seems like an odd exchange, and perhaps a little creepy; here we were working on Spanish and I suddenly inquire about her personal life. In my mind, however, I remembered my own summer as a camp counselor and that a number of the other counselors had worn Chacos because apparently they're just awesome for camp. So when I saw hers I had to wonder if she had been a counselor (I can't imagine why anyone would wear Chacos otherwise, frankly). Of course, I didn't think about all of this at the time, it just came to me. I could only point to my thought process after the fact, as when she asked why I had been curious in the first place.
Ni's tendency to make out-of-the-blue observations does lend for an interesting effect. I, personally, never feel like my creations are mine, per se. My best ideas usually come to me in that sudden 'ah-ha' moment, or totally unconsciously. When I wrote my class' senior song for graduation, I was working with a friend's poem about mountains. I realized after the fact that I had written the melody in an up-and-down zig-zag fashion, like a ridge of mountains, without realizing. I probably wouldn't have even thought about it if the director hadn't said that both the lyrics and the music were some of the better he'd seen in a while. I thought I'd just written a cheesy little song, but on closer examination there were touches--entire swathes, even--of creativity that I hadn't even realized I'd put in. The same holds true for those moments of future clarity and other areas as well.
Another important thing to note is that an INJ's accuracy in prediction will be heavily influenced by how much he gets out. Because the information Ni needs to work is gathered through Se (and, by extension, Fe/Te), if that is too far repressed or the extraverted judging function isn't used in healthy manner, the INJ's intuitions will be separated from reality, and thus he will frequently be wrong. I've noticed this dynamic between myself and my INFJ sister. Both of us are definitely INFJs, but she gets those future intuitions more often and is right more often, but I would say I'm more intuitive than her in terms of thought and conscious recognition of patterns. The difference is that a) her feeling function is overwhelmingly strong, so she's just more in tune with people and b) she gets out more than I do. Since she is actively engaging her Fe and I tend to let mine fall by the wayside and start tert-looping with Ti, her predictions are more accurate. Mine tend to have less to do with reality because I tend to fall into the Ni-Ti loop more than she does (my Fe and Ti are also quite close in strength, anyway, which doesn't help; Ti scrutinizes much of what I intuit and thus never share my hunches until after the fact, which is no fun). Basically, to all you INJs out there who just want to huddle in their rooms, you're not doing yourself any favors. The only way to have a strong Ni (which I know every last one of you is quite proud of) is to engage the world and give Ni information. I realize that many of the people on this forum are young (myself included), and that our brains will change drastically as we move from adolescence into our early adulthood, it's never too early to start leaning to Extravert. Simply put, if you value your intuition, get out of yourself and engage the real world (and your Fe/Te and Se), otherwise you'll just be the "artist and crank" Jung talks about in his book.
My, this is getting long. I hope you all are still with me. Here's a kitten for a momentary distraction:
Aren't its eyes just precious?
*clears throat* Now that we've got that out of the way, let's move on to another aspect of Ni, one that I find gets overlooked quite often, but is still equally important, and a function that I find is more pronounced in my personality than the mystic, 'flashy' parts.
Both attitudes of intuition deal with perspective in different ways. Ne tends to bounce between objective perspectives, such as the physical angle that one looks at an object, whereas Ni looks at the subjective perspectives of the object--what assumptions a certain frame of mind brings to the table and how switching frames can lend different possible interpretations of the same thing. Ni is like looking at Mars through a wide variety of different telescopes, but from the same external frame of reference. Ne, then, is jumping on a rocket ship and orbiting around Mars, observing through maybe only one or two main telescopes (and that metaphor is accurate in more ways than one). Ni concerns itself with how we look at things to solve problems, and Ne concerns itself with what about those things we look at. Ni’s perspectives are inherent to the mind, whereas Ne’s perspectives are inherent to the objects themselves. To Ni, a phenomenon such as the cognitive functions is not necessarily “real”. It is an idea to help frame certain functions that we observe in neurobiology and cognition, but not something with actual substance and being. Ne-doms are more likely to consider the functions something as actually there in reality. Maybe not entirely as we understand it, but still having some manner of being that resembles what we understand. Math is another good example here: Ni users are more inclined to say that math is merely an abstraction of reality—good for understanding the world, but ultimately something created by humans and consequently it has no being of its own. Ne might say that math is something humans actually observed in the universe, and that it has to exist out in the world in some form. This ultimately illustrates the difference in attitude between the two functions: Ni is introverted and wants to assimilate objective reality to the subject. Thus, it understands systems of thought as mental, products of its own synthesis. Ne is extravert and wants to assimilate the subject to objective reality. Thus, it understands systems of thought as being observed in the real world, having some actual existence in reality. Neither side is technically true, but I want to illustrate the diametrically oppositional nature between Ne and Ni. Both are intuition, but they take it in two very different ways. They’re two sides of the same coin.
I apologize; I tend to get caught up in aspects of theory that I find interested and neglect the more concrete parts of my point. Since this a post about Ni, I will be focusing mostly on its function of perspectives for the next section.
As I said, Ni’s concept of perspective is primarily mental. INJs have an almost instinctive knowledge of mental frames of thought and may often enjoy playing the boundaries of meaning and categories. For instance, I often find myself ponder the limits of certain ideas, meanings, words, systems of thought, etc. It’s easy to mistake this process for Ti, since it is a very conscious process in the INJ and thus doesn’t fit the “mystic” category, but it is still Ni nonetheless. An INFJ might find that puns are not as punishing to their humerus faculties than many people seem to think they are. They enjoy the manipulation of language to include layered meanings and paradoxes. (Of course, their taste in double entendre may be a little more “refined” depending on how much self-respect they have.) I myself also enjoy the concept of contronyms: words that have two meanings that mean the opposite of the other. For example, clip: to attach to, or to cut, as with scissors; dust: to remove dust or to apply dust; or, most recently, literally, which means both literally and figuratively. INJs may find a similar interest in paradox because of Ni’s subjective view of perspective; they enjoy seeing where two frameworks come into conflict, but because Ni grants them a sort of meta-perspective over all mental systems, they will likely not see this as a problem, and can resolve the paradox by switching frames to reconcile the two differences. Ni’s meta-perspective over perspectives actually is the “thing” that makes Ni itself. It floats over frames of thought and merely watches how they interact with data, switch as necessary and taking note of paradoxes between the two, but never troubling themselves too much with said paradoxes, because those problems can be alleviated by simply switching perspectives.
In fact, this behavior of Ni, to observe rather than engage, is perhaps the source of much of the mystic hype surrounding it. INJs are stereotypically quiet, reserved, but acutely perceptive about people and the world. This lends types who are not INJ to view them as sort of removed, or having a higher perspective of the world. But in some sense, they do; it’s just how their brains work. At its most sophisticated, Ni is capable of switching between drastically different frames of thought as fluidly as Ne might circle a table to get all views of it. It uses this meta-perspective to see patterns unfold in many different contexts, synthesizing its observations into singular wholes. This gives them an ability to predict outcomes with great accuracy, but as mentioned before, this ability is limited by the amount of information the INJ allows himself to receive from the outside world. Because Ni views things in terms of the perspectives they represent, they may feel drawn to other patterns of thought and deeper meaning: symbols, archetypes, the mysterious, anything that gives their Ni something to search for. INJs may feel permeated by a sense of longing, or that something is being hidden from them; they are acutely aware of their own point of view’s limitations.
For me, this manifested most strongly about five or six years ago. I remember sitting in a class and then realizing that the government—infrastructure, laws, all of that stuff was not real. Everything that I had previous assumed to be set in stone was simply and agreement made between people based on the writings of a bunch of dead people. Another example was some thinking I did more recently, about a year or two ago. I’ve always held that time can be viewed as half of a ripe grapefruit. Of course, this expression is meaningless, but that was the point. I had decided that humans only perceived time, and thus I could describe it as any bizarre thing I could imagine and commit no logical fallacy. This, however, was merely on manifestation of a greater curiosity of mine: I’ve always wanted to know what the universe looks like. INJs may have experienced thoughts of a similar nature—wanting to transcend our mortal coil and view the world from a higher plane. There, we think to ourselves, we might see things for how they really are, or find a meaning to all of this. In some ways, I think, at least for myself Ni’s greatest desire is to somehow go beyond what is human and see the world from a perspective that our old telescopes can’t offer. Perhaps, in some ways, we want to take a few of our favorite telescopes and take a flight around Mars.
I’d like to think that my desire for greater understanding is more than just my mind wanting to use Ne, but I think both are true in some sense. INJs, and INFJs in particular, will spend most of their lives trying to get a handle of some greater meaning in the world, whether they’re aware of it or not. For the INTJ, they grow their understanding of the world through knowledge of the world—if they know everything, then maybe they’ll be able to see everything as it is. For the INFJ, we try to go beyond the realms of human thought and maybe catch a glimpse of the world through the eyes of the divine.
But I’m getting a little too mystical about all of this stuff. Ni is not necessarily better or more interesting than the other functions. Rather, it’s merely one perspective of the world, and, last time I checked, there are about seven billion of those. Hopefully this article has been interesting, and, more importantly, informative. Thanks for reading!
*I avoided in-text citations because a) this is a forum post, b) a lot of this is my own thinking, influenced by the following, and c) in-text citations are annoying and a pain in the butt to keep up with.
Psychological Types, by Carl Jung
Personality Type: An Owner's Manual, by Lenore Thomson (I would be remiss without saying most of my initial writing about perspective was derived from Thomson. Seriously, read her book. I don't agree with her on all points but it's a great work for those looking to understand typology more deeply).
Michael Pierce on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmD...k8vOcxk_IcnxtQ
John Barnes on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDG...N80SQNLQSiNAVQ
Experience/My own thoughts