An INTJ’s Perspective: Jungian Cognitive Functions (Part 1)
* This is my personal blog and the views expressed here are purely subjective. I hope to write on this topic in several parts to shed lights on how I am “strategically” using Jungian concepts in my personal development with an unique creative approach. My personal findings, opinion and insights might help others who are in the same journey with me. It is gonna be long. So brace yourself.*
In my opinion, any kind of type or categorization theory is not made to forcefully condition ourselves to behave according to our types but to identify our strengths to overcome our weaknesses.
This part will address my personal experience of being an INTJ and the confusion of being labeled as other type besides INTJ. I see many people having the same issue. So I hope this will erase some confusion for many. In later parts I will discuss my own personal development techniques.
I had always tested as an INTJ. Even before I was introduced with MBTI personality types I always knew in my head that I am different and I do not quite blend in the crowd even when I am trying very hard. And I feel less authentic and more artificial when I try to be like someone else. Being different as an INTJ means more than just being introverted and seemingly detached.
The first time I was introduced with Jungian Cognitive Functions and MBTI in a psychology class during my engineering undergrad. I am very much into engineering but since I love art, history, theater and psychology- I took these classes to fulfill my general education requirements. And I had a lot of fun learning about human psychology and behavior. I took the official typology test as well as many other personality type tests and I tested as an INTJ all the time. I did not put much thought about it during that time except for the fact that I found the result more insightful about myself. There are other types of personality tests but I find Jungian types more useful because of the use of cognitive functions.
More recently my brother who is an ENFP, brought this topic to my attention. He described in his own opinionated way that, while zodiac signs are complete bullshit and they mostly serve to some vague confirmation biases about one’s self, MBTI types go a bit into depth on how each person “might” function on a regular basis.
The reason why I didn’t invest too much time into MBTI results during my psychology class, because (forget about zodiac signs) I am a skeptic even about type theories. I use different theories as an initial tool, when I am done digging deeper with my analysis, I go ahead and build my own opinion and theory about things (whether positive or negative). Then I try to use the good part strategically in my personal life. It is almost like I am using the best resources, equipment or tools available (even though I am not completely satisfied with it) to solve a current problem and later I can use my experience to make something on my own-kind of like how I usually do my professional job. And I don’t know if it is a coincidence that I am an INTJ-A type Capricorn female although I denounce both astrological and psychological concepts to a certain extent. The usual stereotypes found common for Capricorn and INTJ are- strategic, hardworking, ambitious and insightful. Or may be I consciously chose myself to be that way predominately.
Bottom line is, end of the day none of them help you predict a person’s intention but they might at least give you a hope to classify people into different categories to learn about their behavioral patterns. Yes, hope is a big word. But a lot of things affect our actions and behavior such as current good or bad situations, physical and mental health, life circumstances, past experiences, influences of close people, environment, personal and traditional values etc.
So recently I started taking a second look at type theories but now I am going in depth primarily on Jungian major 8 type of cognitive functions based on which MBTI types and questionnaires are made. Each personality type has 4 major cognitive functions according to that theory. I read it somewhere that our cognitive functions do not fully develop up until our mid-30’s. So when we are young and have not gathered enough life experiences (or perhaps have been through life changing experiences), it is fairly possible that we are in reality one type but test as another type. So my take on that is to study the cognitive functions of all types to identify our natural preferences and then we should very honestly take the test even if we do not like the answers.
It is my opinion that, unless we consciously choose to stick with one type, it is possible to develop our other unused cognitive functions. What I mean by that, is we all have all 8 cognitive functions: 4 of which, by the typology theory we use predominantly and we also use our shadow functions in time of stress and excitement. That means we act like our opposite personalities in rare occasions. But with careful self-development approach, I think, we can in fact develop our “unused” cognitive functions. However, the best practice is to stick with one type to avoid inconsistency and to embrace ourselves as one type and then work on our weaker functions to strengthen our talent functions.
For example, sometimes I find myself behaving like an ENTP when I am very excitedly exploring ideas and discussing an interesting topic. And it turns out that ENTP is my opposite personality type i,e ENTP’s 4 cognitive functions are my shadow functions-which also tells me that I am, in fact, correctly typed as an INTJ who occasionally uses shadow functions. Sometimes I am perceived as an ENTJ when I am super active- which is known as my sister type (or mirror type). And sometimes I feel like I should be more like an INFJ and out of the many tests I had taken I once tried very hard to be more of a feeler than a thinker just to see what happens if we are not honest in out test taking process. It turned out that I barely made it as an INFJ with a 49% T and 51% F ratio on the T-F spectrum! And because I have some INTP colleagues and I admire their attention to detail (and just like they admire my big picture thinking process), I sometimes think being an INTP wouldn’t be bad either. Many INTPs want to become INTJs because INTJs are typically perceived more as an insightful go-getter while INTPs are analytical intellectual people.
When an INTJ and ENTP have conversation both sound pretty similar. Both are very direct, very confident, very opinionated, have crude sense of humor and can be perceived as intimidating by many. The difference is that, INTJ’s brain work mostly like a switch. They do not always open their mouth unless they are testing their ideas in the public without giving out their big motivation and goals or they are debating because they are confident in their conclusion about a topic which came from their personal research and insights. It is very much possible for an INTJ to stay quiet and all of a sudden almost lighting up at a topic of interest and genuinely sharing their insights which sounds very strong and opinionated to some listeners. They usually talk (if and when they do talk) in terms of high level perspective. My mom after all these years of observing me, came up with a very intelligent conclusion on her own and she does not know anything about MBTI and Jungian theories. She said about me, that if I”casually” bring a topic over and over again then that means I am genuinely working hard behind it but if I come up with a very strong opinion, chances are I am done with the process-so that opinion is not just a mere opinion but the conclusion of my findings.
So while an ENTP might just debates and discusses ideas for the sole purpose of exploration and learning from the conversation, an INTJ however, does this-either with a mission in head or just to share their critical insights. INTJs are also very secretive and they like to hide their original ideas from people. INTJs do not like to debate and often deem their opinion as right which might seem purely subjective to other NT or even NF types at first. But majority of their overarching statements with deep analysis come true. Because INTJs are so much future oriented that sometimes they just do not have the right words or means to express themselves. So while ENTP can still be perceived as a bit warmer (because of their Fe function), INTJ can come of as “know-it-all” arrogant. But both party is mostly trying to be as direct as possible without the intention of being rude.
Since Te is my growth functions, when I am getting things done I can be perceived as very commanding which is like an ENTJ. But before implementing my ideas into reality I take some time in contemplation an draw my inspiration from my Ni function. Because majority of the population is more sensory than intuitive and prefer extroversion over introversion- they don’t understand the mindset of a contemplating detached person. The very stereotypical label for that kind of a person is “moody”. But for a person like me- day dreaming and contemplation is an important part of my process. An INTJ who is doing a lot of sensory type work for a long period of time without any adequate break can feel him/herself being drained. Now-a-days I spend some time in contemplating, writing, meditating etc at my home everyday but try to be super-active at work to stay focused. That’s why without my “primary” presence of Ni I can seem as a Te dominant which is an ENTJ.
As a young INTJ (especially as a female) I have had my rough edges and I had been judged and labeled wrong my entire life. Because of some recent past life circumstances I went through some period of deep realization. I recently answered a question on Quora about how I changed the way I judge people now-a-days and that is usually by “good intention and sincere effort.” It is a very big realization for an INTJ because most of us, specially when we are young, cannot stand stupidity and inefficiency. So because of this spiritual transition I felt like I should have been more of an INFJ than and INTJ. But that is still my Fi function (known as authenticity) which I had mistaken as Fe (harmony). Also the usual stereotype about an INTJ is very strategic and systematic (they are rightfully known as “masterminds”) which gives an impression that they cannot like art, music, literature or even religion, philosophy etc which is a complete misconception. Some artist INTJ (because of this stereotype) associate themselves more with an INFJ (also known as Idealists) simply because they are artists or musician. Wrong! It is their authenticity (Fi) function which is responsible for their strong sense of moral values or beauty and their other strong(Ni/Te) and weaker(Se) functions help them in the process to become successful.
Anything which has some level of system and pattern- not only INTJ can master them, they can grow out of them and revamp the whole system in a more efficient and innovative way-be it music, art, engineering, sciences, writing etc etc. They have what I call a “structured creativity” and they are relentless in the use “some” of these talent in the outside world. I said “some” because not all ideas INTJs come up with are initially well-developed and are worth implementing. And also because INTJs are supremely competitive and critical about themselves. They are constantly refining their ideas and crafts inside. Some become so prone to perfection that they never come out of their shell and show the world the glimpse of their rich inner world. They think they are not ready yet since for them being ready means absolute perfection. INTJs who had decided to reach for excellence rather than perfection are thus more successful in life.
Lastly I want to talk about the difference among INTJ and INTP. How to tell them apart when both look pretty similar. The answer is the difference of dominant cognitive functions. In a general terms, how each of the type take action, what are each types’ strength and weaknesses-are usually the indicators of their type. An INTJs big dream is usually oriented towards the outer world. They want to use their gathered knowledge an perspective to solve a problem or create a product or service that impacts the world or (in an immediate realm) an organization, society or a country etc. I am pointing INTJs Te function. But INTPs gather knowledge and expertise mostly for their own personal growth. An INTP immediately points out specific flaws (Ti function) of an argument or problem and they are very good at troubleshooting, while the INTJ probably won’t even notice the detail at first (unless they are so experienced in the field that they have developed to use both Te/Ti functions) and will immediately try to solve the problem from a top down systematic hierarchy keeping the overall end goal in mind.
Because of this product and project oriented approach INTJs are deemed as assets in an organization although they are not personally liked by many people and often bosses are intimidated by them. While INTPs exude a bit more warmth because of their inferior Fe functions and usually are able to thrive in an environment which are less structured and their independent pursuit of knowledge can be useful.
Anyway, I hope from my own personal experience I have given you some insights on how I differentiate myself from different personality types which are similar to mine in some ways. On later parts I will discuss how I am using my analysis to help myself develop as a person.
There are many resources online for these topics. The images I have shared are from these sites:
I am sharing some of my favorite YouTube Channels:
If you are more into following a formula for personal development, check out
Personality Hacker’s YouTube channel: Personality Hacker
But if you like to gain more perspective about each type then check out Michael Pierce’s (who is probably an INFJ) channel: Michael Pierce
Read Next Part: Science or Pseudoscience: Jungian Cognitive Functions (Part 2)
Most Important Post for INTJs:
A career guide for all types: