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Introverted Intuitive

photo by Eloise Christensen

The introverted intuitive relates to internal objects the same way the extroverted intuitive relates to external objects. “Their reality is not physical but psychic” (Jung, 1971/1976, p. 398 [CW 6, para. 655]). With a focus on the subjective, internal experience, introverted intuitives access the personal and collective unconscious. The natural inclination toward the internal world allows the introverted intuitive to grasp concepts that have governed the species for centuries. They have a deep understanding of the intricacies central to the soul. This is the typology style of many mystics and shamans throughout history.

This function (intuition), which to the outside world is the strangest of all, is as indispensable to the total psychic economy as is the corresponding human type to the psychic life of a people. Had this type not existed, there would have been no prophets in Israel. (p. 400 [CW 6, para. 658])

This type senses the pulse of the collective unconscious, and understands instinctual and archetypal changes afoot. As a shaman or philosopher, the introverted intuitive holds the knowledge of deep movements. “He knows about the slow processes which go on in the collective unconscious, the archetypal changes, and he communicates them to society” (von Franz, 1971, p. 33). The information translated to society is a priori and primordial.

Introverted intuition apprehends the images arising from the a priori inherited foundations of the unconscious. These archetypes, whose innermost nature is inaccessible to experience, are the precipitate of the psychic functioning of the whole ancestral line; the accumulated experiences of organic life in general, a million times repeated, and condensed into types. In these archetypes, therefore, all experiences are represented which have happened on this planet since primeval times. The more frequent and the more intense they were, the more clearly focussed they become in the archetype. The archetype would thus be, to borrow from Kant, the noumenon of the image which intuition perceives and, in perceiving creates. (Jung, 1971/1976, pp. 400-401 [CW 6, para. 659])

The introverted intuitive has the capacity to grasp the archetypal levels, both primordial and psychoid. Led into the deeper layers of the unconscious, he interprets the possibilities of under and upper world with “prophetic foresight” (p. 401 [CW 6, para. 660]).

Since the unconscious is not just something that lies there like a psychic caput mortuum, but coexists with us and is constantly undergoing transformations which are inwardly connected with general run of event, introverted intuition, through its perception of these inner processes, can supply certain data which may be of the utmost importance for understanding what is going on in the world. (Jung, 1971/1976, p. 401 [CW 6, para. 660])

The unconscious is alluring and easily discovered by the introverted intuitive making staying afloat in the conscious world a central psychological task. The proclivity to track unconscious processes is balanced through a well expressed sensate function.

This type is sensitive to subliminal stimuli which can be distracting or overwhelming depending on the developed ability to discern what is being perceived (von Franz, 1971, p. 36). The introvert with a dominant intuitive function may appear vague when in fact many of their conscious resources are being pulled to track subliminal and unconscious activities.

They have to keep their consciousness unfocused and dim in order to get those hunches. They are sensitive to the atmosphere of a place. Probably intuition is a kind of sense perception via the unconscious, or a sort of subliminal sense perception. It is a way of operating through subliminal sense perception instead of through conscious perception. (von Franz, 1971, p. 36)

Again, Jung (1971/1976) and von Franz (1971) discussed ways the introverted intuitive type may present when imbalanced. “If not an artist, he is frequently a misunderstood genius, a great man ‘gone wrong,’ a sort of wise simpleton, a figure for ‘psychological’ novels” (Jung, 1971/1976, p. 401 [CW 6, para. 661]). The introverted intuitive may tend toward isolation, and in more extreme cases reclusion. An acute sense of situations and underground trends may not lead to much because implementation of ideas is an elusive process. Details can elude this type. In contrast, someone with a dominant sensing function makes sense of every detail (von Franz, 1971, p. 22).

When the looming intuitive function dominants the inferior sensate function it is expressed in consciousness through hypochondrical anxieties, misguided faith, or paranoia (Jung, 1971/1976). Significant to the study of addictions, both extraverted and introverted intuitives can experience an inferior sensate function which manifests through impulsivity and dependency on external objects and processes. The neglected body strikes mutiny through addictive behaviors (Romanyshyn, 1989). Compensation and compulsive behaviors, symptoms tantamount in addictions, are common in this presentation. “The form of neurosis is a compulsion neurosis with hypochondrical symptoms, hypersensitivity of the sense organs, and compulsive ties to particular persons or objects” (Jung, 1971, p. 403, para. 663). The sensate function becomes demanding through distorted attachments to people or perverse physical needs. In this state it causes a great amount of distress. Jung wrote:

It gives rise to a compensatory extraverted sensation function of an archaic character. . . . Instinctuality and intemperance are the hallmarks of this sensation, combined with an extraordinary dependence on sense-impressions. . . . The unconscious goes over to the opposition, giving rise to compulsive sensations whose excessive dependence on the object directly contradicts the conscious attitude.” (Jung, 1971/1976, pp. 402-403, [CW 6, para. 663])

The conscious attitude is overpowered by instinctuality and the need for some kind of physical expression, and the intuitive function is captivated with potential in others which forms in wishful thinking and compulsive attachments.

Von Franz (1971) described the dynamic of the inferior sensate and dominant intuitive functions:

In psychological practice one frequently meets with men and women who see themselves as “unrecognized geniuses.” I have noticed in such cases that the unconscious does in fact relatively often present genuinely creative impulses and inspirations in dreams. Tragically enough, however, the right conscious attitude is missing. It is too narrowly conventional or the necessary education is lacking, so that what is being revealed from within is falsely evaluated or distorted; it may be, too, that the person concerned is simply lazy and prefers instead of working at a genuine assimilation of his unconscious intuitions, to proclaim them in an inflated and vague way “as newly discovered truth.” The products of such an attitude generally fail to find a publisher and mercifully disappear into the wastepaper basket. Only an inwardly open “naive” attitude to the unconscious on the one hand and an honest, conscientious, and painstaking devotion on the part of ego-consciousness on the other can bring the creative contents of the unconscious matrix successfully over the threshold into consciousness. (von Franz, 1980/1987, p. 89)

The allure of intuition can prevent the development of other necessary functions. Surprise and mystery surrounding the seamless arrival of ideas leads to enthrallment and a tendency to internally organize and sooth through fantasy and imagination (Jung, 1971/1976). Orientation to the internal world can cause an attachment to fantasy, illusions, or fervency to ideas without the support of logic or reason. Willfulness without the integration of outside opinions is common. A false sense of the intuitive knowledge gives rise to a misguided faith that things will magically manifest. Grounding ideas through implementation involves both the development of the sensate function and capacity to reason. Intuitive knowledge is only the first part of the equation. The sequential steps of follow through and discipline require the fastidious capacity for vagueness and distraction as well as submission to ego consciousness (Jung, 1971/1976; von Franz, 1980/1987). If there is a lack of integration between the conscious and unconscious psyche the intuitive function is fragmented and sporadic. This unpredictable knowledge can be intoxicating in the hope of stumbling across potent intuitive material.

Looking further into the psychological implications of a dominant intuitive function, Dossey (2009) applied Jung’s typology theory to those prone to premonitions by assigning the following traits to this personality type (p. 129). They have an ability to use fantasy and the imagination. “A sense that the here-and-now does not constitute all of reality.” There is a view of all living things as connected and a strong capacity for compassion and empathy. “Boundaries between the self and others soften, and the distinctions between past, present, and future recede.” They tend to comfortable with “chaos and disorder,” as well as an “external locus of control” (pp. 130-131). People who believe in and allow for premonitions inherently see the “goodness of others” and are comfortable with complexity (p. 132). They respect the unconscious, their dreams and have an intrinsic understanding of the soul (Dossey, 2009, p. 132). Dossey stressed that intuition is best cultivated in environments where it is accepted and encouraged, and the ambiguity of life’s circumstances are tolerated (p. 137).

Dossey (2009) continued by cautioning against cultivating premonitions when there is an entrenched history of trauma.

Some things don’t mix well with premonitions. There is firm evidence that traumatic life events, such as childhood maltreatment and post-traumatic stress disorder, can contribute to anomalous experiences and distorted reality testing. Persons with a history of substance abuse, schizophrenia, and mood disturbances such as major depression and neuroticism, in which a person is abnormally sensitive, obsessive, tense, or anxious are also more likely to have anomalous experiences. Some brain conditions, such as damage to the left temporal lobe and dysfunction in the right cerebral hemisphere, can cause hallucinations and delusions. Individuals experiencing any of these problems should think twice before intentionally cultivating premonitions. (p. 169)

Cambray (2002) explained the analytic perception that psychological trauma frequently leads to an increase in anomalous experiences. The waters that Dossey cautions against are the waters the analyst wades through in most treatments.

As has been frequently noted in the analytic literature, more dramatic forms of synchronicity often occur in the treatment of psychotic and borderline patients. This is thought to follow from their possession of a strongly constellated archetypal field that is not well mediated, due to chronic emotional distress and inadequate ego resources. I would add that synchronicities also tend to come into play in highly traumatized states, which matches Jung's view that such events supervene when serious risk or danger is perceived. (p. 422)

A porous sense of self, coupled with an internal chaos, encourages an archetypal field that is not integrated and is somewhat unmanageable (Cambray, 2002, p. 422). People with malleable emotional boundaries and strong intuitive perception are often concerned about being “overloaded with thoughts of others.” Synchronicities can be destabilizing to someone with a traumatic history (p. 422).

Psychoanalyst Reiner (2004) wrote about trauma and the impact of intuitive experiences:

The capacity for unconscious communication reflects access to that transcendent self, but too early access to this awareness as a response to trauma or lack of emotional containment can obstruct mental development, fragmenting the mind’s capacity to contain or regulate emotion. (p. 333)

The fragmentation and inability to regulate emotion can cause an internal sense of chaos but it potentially points to an intuitive function that needs to be integrated. Often people with this psychological make-up create emotional regulation through addictive behaviors. Addictive insulating patterns pose as a makeshift skin. Underneath the faulty regulation and impulsivity is misunderstood intuitive knowing. In recovery, learning to manage intrusive unconscious states is a necessary psychological task done “through discipline and thought rather than the primitive action of a mind in flight from itself” (Reiner, 2004, p. 332).

Rosenbaum (2011) wrote the state of mind that is intuitive and impulsive touches the psychotic core (p. 58). To navigate the therapeutic encounter with patients like this the therapist is required to have a “greater fluency with both his own and the patient’s primary process experience” (p. 57). “These boundary-blurring states occur frequently in the mind of the psychotic, the mind experiencing psi, and the mind of the psychotherapist” (p. 62).

Telepathy, synchronicities, and clairvoyance in the analytic dyad are referred to as intersubjectivity, aspects of transference, countertransference, and projective identification (Cambray, 2002; Rosenbaum, 2011, p. 57). Projective identification, for example, parallels “psi communication” in that the therapist takes in unconscious aspects of the patient, through feeling, image, thought, and psychologically processes them. Once metabolized by the therapist, these aspects are interpreted in a way the patient can assimilate (Rosenbaum, 2011, p. 63). This process involves telepathic attunement and the emergence of undifferentiated states between the therapist and patient.

What seems to happen in psi experiencing is that the ego voluntarily and temporarily vacates its boundary—I would call it the “ego in the service of regression”—and then returns to try to read the hieroglyphs left by whatever entered its space. (p. 79)

Rosenbaum explained unconsciously oriented personality styles, from creatives to those with attachment disorders to addicts, “Dwell more in this intermediate realm, where symbiotic phenomena of all kinds may be more likely to occur and to be perceived” (p. 67). Reiner wrote, (2004) “Despite these traumatic beginnings, however, like most gifts or talents, psychic intuitions are of complex origin and meaning, and at times seem to grow like a pearl, from an irritant, in this case an irritant of psychological origin” (p. 314). Encountering and exploring the intermediate realm phenomena in recovery establishes a new relationship to the unconscious that is in service to the conscious psyche.

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