Last revised

Cracking the

First, the primer --


What defines personality?  Do you know?  If you had to break personality down to analyze its underlying structure, what regulating principles could you identify?  Got any idea?  (It helps if you actually think about that for a moment before you continue reading.)

Carl Jung said personality is based on two things:

how we take in information


how we make decisions

According to Carl, these are the two core elements that create personality.  Not yellow bile and phlegm, or your sexual drive, or whether your mother made you eat spinach.  What he defined was much more universal than that.

He took the first element, "how we take in information," and labeled it with the moniker "Perceiving."   He took the second element, "how we make decisions," and labeled it with the moniker "Judging."  (We can question the wisdom of choosing these particular labels, but they are the names he left us with.)

Professor Jung further decided that we have two primary ways of taking in information, and we prefer one way over the other (although everybody does both!).  He called these ways of perceiving Sensing and Intuiting --

Sensing concerns itself with: Intuition concerns itself with:
  • What is real; concrete

  • Practical

  • Utility

  • Step by step

  • 5 senses (sight, sound, taste, touch, smell) & balance

  • What can be measured & documented

  • Future possibilities; abstract

  • Theoretical

  • Novelty

  • “Sixth Sense”

  • Ideas, patterns, possibilities, hypotheses, inferred meanings

Then Jung looked at the Judging function, and determined that we have two primary ways of making decisions, and we prefer one way over the other (although everybody does both!).  He called these Thinking and Feeling (these labels may have been unfortunate choices -- especially as it's important to note that Feeling as a function is not emotions per se).

Thinking concerns itself with: Feeling concerns itself with:
  • Logic

  • Logical systems

  • Head

  • Objective

  • Critique

  • Principles

  • Reason

  • Impersonal

  • Black and white

  • Personal values

  • Value system

  • Heart

  • Subjective

  • Compliments

  • Harmony

  • Empathy

  • Shades of gray

You'd think that would be good and complex enough to satisfy anybody, right?  But no, Carl Jung had to take it one step further.  Each of these four processes (Sensing, iNtuiting, Thinking, Feeling) can be expressed internally OR externally.  They can happen inside of you or outside of you.

Inner World / Outer World 

The two processes of Perceiving (Sensing, iNtuiting) expand to four, multiplied by whether the operation happens internally or externally.  The internal operations are called introverted, and the external operations are called extraverted.  Altogether, there are 4 different flavors of Perceiving.

Where would modern technology be without abbreviations and acronyms?  So, too, Type has a set of acronyms that must be grasped.

Extraverted functions are indicated by an “e” suffix

  • Sensing in the extraverted form = Se

  • iNtuition in the extraverted form = Ne

Note: the letter “N” stands for “iNtuition” to avoid any confusion with “i” for “introverting.”

Introverted functions are indicated by an “i” suffix

  • Sensing in the introverted form = Si

  • iNtuiting in the introverted form = Ni

Note:  defining whether a function is introverted or extraverted is called "attitude."  Thus, Si is shorthand for Sensing in the "introverted attitude."

Let me show you how this manifests in the model.  First, Sensing breaks into its two attitudes:

followed by iNtuiting in its two attitudes:

Now Judging 

The two processes of Judging (Feeling, Thinking) also expand to four, multiplied by whether the operation happens internally or externally.  Altogether, there are 4 different flavors of Judging.

Extraverted functions are again indicated by that “e” suffix

  • Thinking in the extraverted attitude = Te

  • Feeling in the extraverted attitude = Fe

Introverted functions are again indicated by an “i” suffix

  • Thinking in the introverted attitude = Si

  • Feeling in the introverted attitude = Ni

It's time to show you how this manifests in the model.  First, Thinking breaks into its two attitudes:

followed by Feeling in its two attitudes:

When we put it all together, here's the whole picture with all eight functions displayed --


Now doesn't that just explain everything!?!  When Socrates said, "Know thyself," I've no doubt this is what he had in mind.  You should feel lots better about yourself now!  Congratulations!

Umm, other factors affect personality of course --

...but those aren't building blocks per se, so we'll dispense with analyzing those influences for the time being.

To summarize then, we have by now identified and formulated the 8 building blocks that make up anybody's personality.  Click here to read brief descriptions of all eight of the functions and grasp the detail of what they concern themselves with.

Something important to note is that these building blocks are processes, not traits.  It's incorrect to say someone is iNtuitive [noun].  It's correct to say someone is iNtuiting [verb], or using their iNtuition.  The same goes for all of the functions -- they should have an ing suffix at the end if they are being used properly.  And remember, all of us can and DO utilize all eight of these functions -- none of us got overlooked and missed out on one or two of them.

This is a very complex topic, and you could devote your life to understanding it (some of us do!).  I highly recommend reading more in order to gain a fuller understanding of how this stuff works, especially so you don't fall into the habit of associating "traits" with the functions and attempt to turn Type into a trait-based personality model instead of the pattern-based model it was intended to be.

For an inexpensive and targeted guide to the type code and the function using this approach, this booklet is the best available:

Understanding Yourself and Others
An Introduction to the Personality Type Code

by Dr. Linda Berens & Dr. Dario Nardi

It is also the only book containing type descriptions that describe all eight functions within the individual personality.

I also have a CD available on the subject:

Type Insights: The 8-Level
Model of Psychological Types

by Vicky Jo Varner

Your next mission, after grasping what these functions do, is to rank all eight from your most favorite to least favorite.  That becomes your order of preference.  (That's why we call our type code preferences, and it's the way we get to 16 type patterns altogether.)  

Research has established that INFJ types have a preferred hierarchy for using the 8 Cognitive Processes as shown below.

Here's more terminology for you:  Dominant, Auxiliary, Tertiary, Inferior.  They're fairly self-evident -- dominant is your favorite, auxiliary is the second, the term tertiary is Greek for third, and inferior is the 4th function.  

Now let's "unpack" this code for you.

INFJs use Ni in the inner world, and it manifests through their dominant process: 

Introverted iNtuition (Ni)

  • Foreseeing

  • Conceptualizing

  • Understanding complex patterns

  • Synthesizing and symbolizing

  • Future

"This is how it will be."
"Aha, that's it!"

When Ni is a preferred process...

  • You usually feel a certainty about what is going to happen, often without much detail and without being able to trace the actual data that would support the prediction.

  • You focus on "what will be."

  • You are energized by transformational visions of how someone can grow or of a completely original approach to get there.

  • You are drawn to make those visions manifest.

  • Frequently you experience flashes of insight that present themselves as very broad themes and complex whole patterns or systems of thought without being triggered by external events.

  • Inner images come as a knowing that taps into universal symbols and with a certainty that they are true.

INFJs use Fe in the outer world, and it manifests through their auxiliary process: 

Extraverted Feeling (Fe)

  • Considering others

  • Affirming and accommodating

  • Connecting

  • Checking appropriateness

  • Evoked by what is here and now

"This is what we need."
"We do . . ."

When Fe is a preferred process...

  • You give attention to creating and maintaining harmonious relationships, often using social convention to keep harmony, to make people feel comfortable and included, and to keep the group intact.

  • Often you are at ease with social conversations and knowing just the right words to say to someone.

  • You easily disclose personal details to encourage others to express themselves.

  • You place importance on making space for the expression of feelings -- positive and negative.

  • You organize time, space, and thing in relation to the effects on people.

  • You often feel pulled to take care of everyone or even whole groups, either physically or emotionally.  Meeting the needs of others is energizing until your own needs are ignored for too long.

INFJs use Ti in the inner world, and it manifests through their auxiliary process. (This process tends to oscillate -- inflating and deflating -- so it can be larger than life one moment and then the lowest of the low.)

Note: some people dispute the attitude of the third function -- the school I'm associated with teaches that the attitudes alternate in an ongoing balancing act.

Introverted Thinking (Ti)

  • Clarifying principle

  • Categorizing and classifying

  • Analyzing

  • Checking consistency

  • Universal

"This is why . . ."
"It does . . ."

When Ti is a preferred process...

  • Identifying, naming, and classifying are second nature and almost impossible to avoid.

  • Often a refined categorizing scheme is used that is not necessarily made public until something doesn't fit and then inconsistencies will be quickly pointed out.

  • Delineating categories and articulating principles can be as energizing as analyzing and critiquing what is wrong with something.

  • There is a tendency to stay in a mode of detached analysis while getting at the root of things for effective problem solving.

  • You focus on finding just the right way to say something, often reporting only the essential characteristics rather than explanatory detail.

  • If something doesn't fit the existing framework, you either reject it or thoroughly take it apart to see how it works.  Sometimes the whole framework may have to be revised.

INFJs use Se in the outer world, and it manifests through their inferior process. 

Note: the term inferior describes the 4th function when common sense would lead one to believe it would describe the 8th.  Inferior is another unfortunate choice of terms, because it implies that we somehow can't use it.  In truth, we don't use it well.  In light of that understanding, only some of the following description will probably resonate with you -- but not all.

Extraverted Sensing (Se)

  • Experiencing

  • Doing

  • Noticing opportunities for action

  • Adapting and varying

  • Present

"This is what is."
"What's next?"

When Se is a preferred process...

  • You fully experience the immediate context to the point of "oneness" with whatever is going on.

  • You get energized when every in touch with the tangible environment and able to express yourself physically.

  • "What is" is appreciated for what it is and nothing beyond that.

  • You have very keen senses, intensifying rich sensory details and liking lots of stimulation and variety in activity.

  • You focus on facts and ask lots of questions when you're not getting a clear picture.

  • You pay attention and respond quickly to the rapidly shifting information in a random and constantly changing scene, attending to what is most relevant at the time, and ignoring the rest.


So that's a brief breakdown of the top four favored functions for an INFJ.  (I won't bother with the remaining four, although you do use them and they do show up in your personality.  The Archetypes model will say more about them.)

If the functions you favor don't match this picture, perhaps you'd best go back and clarify your choice further...

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