Understanding Extroverted Intuition…

Since this post is part of a series, read these posts first…

As an INFP, my dominant function is introverted feeling and my auxiliary function is extroverted intuition.  Together these two cognitive functions depict fairly accurately how my mind works.  Introverted feeling is a judging function which acts as an internal compass.  It has allowed me live a life on my own terms by listening to my “inner voice”.  My auxiliary function, is extroverted intuition (Ne) according to the MBTI.  As a perceiving function it describes how we become aware of people, things, events and/or ideas (Myers, 1962).  A person’s perceiving function falls on a continuum between two sssextremes: intuition or sensing (Myers, 1962).  Sensors utilize the senses to take in information in concrete and literal terms.  Intuition, in contrast, is much more difficult to pin down.  Isabel Myers (1962), states it is “[an] indirect perception by way of the unconscious…much too interested in…possibilities…to notice actualities” (p. 51)”.  This reflects fairly accurately my own personal experiences.  My mind is naturally drawn to big-picture, far-reaching possibilities.  I seek awareness of systems of meaning underlying the veneer of appearances.  Regarding extroverted intuition, Jung states the following:

“He has a keen nose for things in the bud pregnant with future promise. He can never exist in stable, long-established conditions of generally acknowledged though limited value: because his eye is constantly ranging for new possibilities, stable conditions have an air of impending suffocation. He seizes hold of new objects and new ways with eager intensity, sometimes with extraordinary enthusiasm, only to abandon them cold- bloodedly, without regard” (Jung, 2014, p. 27-28).

definitive qualities of Ne…

What follows is my best attempt at describing extroverted intuition.  Keep in mind, as an INFP, my experience of this function, is as an auxiliary support for introverted feeling.  In other words, while introverted feeling (Fi) accurately describes my inner world, extroverted intuition (Ne) describes how I make sense of the world around me. As I’ve matured, personal growth has entailed learning to utilize this function independent of the needs of introverted feeling.  This has allowed me to see the world for what it is not simply what I feel it “should be”.

Boundless curiosity

imageMy favorite questions as a child were “Why?” And “How come?”  Rather than taking the experiences of daily life as they appeared I wanted to understand why they were that way. This desire for explanation goads me forward as I try to make sense of why things are as they are. My boundless curiosity produces a sweeping awareness of history not bound by the present.  I look to the past to understand why today is as it is.  I look forward to develop an understanding of what’s beyond the horizon.  Easily bored by the details of daily life, my mind is elsewhere.  Driven by introverted feeling, all things pertaining to humanity’s existence capture my imagination.  Asking me to focus on what’s in front of me and take the facts as they appear feels like prison.  I become constrained by a narrowed focus that prevents me from examining the possibility around me.

Big picture orientation.

imageI like fitting the pieces of life into a puzzle that provides a greater understanding of things. My mind is naturally drawn toward the endless task of seeking patterns woven throughout life, as a hidden paradigm.  In the area of communication, this means digging deeper.  Rather than taking things as the seem, I notice hidden meaning & unspoken motives.  As it pertains to society, others’ play by the rules, I ask who made them, and why it applies to me.

In this manner, I see the bigger picture and play with it as a toddler with a new toy.  In order to make sense of life from all facets, I flutter between multiple perspectives in a game of “what-if”.  The one rule of this game: a momentary suspension of disbelief that requires one to hold a perspective without prejudgment.  This illuminates a hidden truth that was previously unknown.  With this expanded awareness I’m suddenly goaded further to move ruthlessly toward other vantage points in a never-ending quest for understanding.

“The Healer/Empathist” – understanding others

imageI like Kiersey’s label for INFP’s as healers, it fits us well.  As an INFP, extroverted intuition focuses upon what best captures the interests of my empathist mindset.  Guided by Fi, I start first with an natural empathetic drive which is not ignorable.  My mind gravitates toward the grain of truth in a person’s point-of-view and tries to acknowledge the feelings which result from them.  When guided by Fi, Ne seeks to develop a bigger picture to aid in the journey.

I’m an emotive sponge. My walls are thinner than most others.  The inner world of those I encounter echo in my mind.  In my family of origin, I have to play chameleon for this reason.  I see where they are coming from.  I alter my communication to meet their needs. As a person speaking a foreign language, I translate my thoughts into something they can grasp.  The goal is getting myself heard by speaking in a way others understand.  The process is exhausting….and often a one way street.

Harmony & social justice for the underdog…

imageAs an INFP. I naturally empathize with the underdogs of the world.  Driven by a desire for harmony and cooperation in my environment, I fight for inclusion & equality.  I hate arguing and avoid it like the plague.  With introverted feeling taking the reigns, I’m hyper-aware of the social injustices of the world.  As an INFP I have an strong internal drive for independence and individuality.  I desire to live life on my own terms, remain authentic and gain acceptance for who I am.  I have a strong distaste for blind conformity and close-mindedness.

Shortcomings of Ne…

I love the metaphor of a food log since it describes so succinctly insights of the MBTI.   It provides a convenient assessment of our innate cognitive preferences.  For example, I hate cucumbers and watermelon.  I love sushi.  Nothing you can do will change these preferences, they’re kinda written in stone…Mind you, I’m not saying this gives us free reign to be as we are and forego effortful self improvement.  Instead, I believe that while we should accept these preferences as innate drives, we can also engage in self-responsibility. In light of this, what follows are a few shortcomings of this cognitive function, in my experience…

Difficulty with pragmatism

As an INFP, my imagination is my favorite plaything.  I can get lost within it.  Thats largely due to the fact that extroverted intuition is bored with the pragmatics if daily life.  Taking things as they appear without digging deeper feels like running into traffic blindfolded.  I have difficulty remembering details.  I’m an absent-minded professor who’s too lost in her thoughts to bother with the present moment.  Consequently, I suck at planning and have difficulty solving problems by working thru facts.  I lived my youth as a reformed fuck-up: making rash decisions with no basis in logic to their often ubsurdist conclusions….

Bored with everyday details

My mother is an ESTJ.  She was telling me a strange story one day of her long bus trips to school while a college student living at home.  How did she spend her time?  She would take a mental snapshot of the passing scenery and see how much she could remember.  Her other favorite was the alphabet word game using road signs.  Honestly, I’m sure there was a point to this story, but I don’t remember it.  I only recall this snippet because it seemed so odd to me.  My mind literally runs in opposition to hers.  I’m usually too preoccupied with my thoughts to even notice such details.  I can never remember where I last left my keys.  I have to keep a bullet journal to keep myself organized…. And still I manage to miss a few details here and there.

Lost in a world of imagination

When you take the world as it is, based on surface appearance, you’re missing so much.   There’s a deeper truth to be found by simply asking “why”.  More importantly, I firmly believe the solution to many problems in life can be solved by looking at things differently.  Oftentimes we are so intertwined within the problem, we can’t see a solution – until we step back and look at the bigger picture.

Big on ideas without the follow-thru

Yup.  This is a big shortcoming of Ne.  This very blog is a superb example.  I’ve wanted to create a blog for over five years.  I have a big plastic bin in my hallway closet filled with ideas.  Creating this blog is a big step in a new direction.  I’m setting aside plans and pulling the trigger.  Nobody may ever read this, but that’s really “not the point”.

How do you “unsee”???

In defense of my shortcomings, as an INFP, I simply ask this question: how do you “unsee” something?   If you notice something that is plain & clear, but nobody else is paying attention, should you ignore it?  Does that mean it doesn’t exist?  Is reality a majority rules concept? What if you try to point out what you see, but nobody listens? Are they ignoring you in favor of blissful ignorance over bitter truth?  What do you do?

Your options are limited.  You could ignore your own first-hand experience, and blindly appease others.  This would yield approval from others but result in hypocrisy and inauthenticity.  The other alternative is to play that role as the kid in that fable “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. Daring to live your own Truth may not yield approval. However this isn’t a reflection that you are wrong.  They may just not understand where you’re coming from…. And maybe in the end this doesn’t matter….


Myers, I. B. (1962). The myers-briggs type indicator: Manual. Consulting Psychologists Press.
Jung, C.G..(2014) Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 6 : Psychological Types. Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press.

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