By Michael Pierce
David Keirsey nicknamed them the “Masterminds,” and most INTJs are not at all aversive to the title. I have also seen the less popular nickname “the Scientists.” The stereotype supported by these nicknames is that of a highly logical individual, dispassionate, scientific and smugly atheistic, brilliant, self-confident, visionary, determined, and above all, able to see all the parts of a complex system and create the perfect strategy to win the game. When people imagine the INTJ, they will often imagine anyone between Dr. Gregory House and BBC’s Sherlock Holmes. As with the INFJ, the INTJ’s stereotype is too all-encompassing to really define what makes an INTJ tick.
Many attributes have been applied to the INTJ which would better describe the ISTJ, and many attributes that would apply to the INTJ have been ignored entirely. The INTJ is not scientific or even logical in the way it is usually defined, and in temperament they are generally more like a prophet or wizard than an analytical mastermind, which is a title I think the ISTJ rightly deserves, while the INTJ, in my opinion, is better described as an intuitive mastermind.
Let’s break down what constitutes the INTJ functionally.
They are a Judging type, meaning that they prefer extroverted judging and introverted perceiving. This means that they base their judgment criteria on objective, outside information, while simply observing and drinking in their subjective information and experiences. You could say that they are more aggressive towards the outside world and more receptive towards their inner experience.
Their preferred way of doing this is through extroverted thinking and introverted intuition. Extroverted thinking is inductive. It forms conclusions based on objective data, which they then aggressively try to fulfill. Meanwhile, introverted intuition is contemplative, in that it has no real interest in reality, but perceives the possibilities of ideas within their own mind, developing more and more compelling and delicious intellectual ideas, theories and understandings.
Third, INTJs are very similar to the ENTJ; both prefer Te and Ni. The INTJ, however, prefers Ni more than Te. Nevertheless, they are in some sense the same type, or at least sister types. I personally like to call NTJ types the “Trailblazer,” because they both develop compelling ideas and understandings of the world and then seek to accomplish these visions as efficiently and effectively as possible. Of course, “Trailblazer” is merely a nickname to help me remember the NTJ nature, and does not mean NTJs are necessarily more inventive or ahead of their time than other personalities, or likely to take up a career that would allow them to be so.
The INTJ, then, is a “trailblazer” for whom their subjective perceptions and musings hold more importance and interest than objective data and its resultant conclusions. They are primarily concerned with perceiving the possibilities of internal ideas, developing deliciously compelling intellectual insights.
The word I like to use to describe the INTJ nature is “visionary,” which conveys two major aspects of the INTJ personality: futurism and will to power.
By futurism, I mean that unlike the ISTJ who is planning againstunpleasant possibilities in the future, the INTJ plans how to strive intothe possibilities of the future. This is a contrast between Si and Ni; the first tends to over-prepare, while the second tends to under-prepare. In the spirit of intuition, the INTJ has a way of making uncanny leaps and bounds with their ideas, sometimes appearing ahead of their time; however, what they gain in foresight they lose in thoroughness.
For example, consider Isaac Newton and Nikola Tesla. Both made extraordinary leaps and bounds in their fields to the point that both were hailed as magicians, but these were, once again, leaps and bounds, which skip a lot of middle work in-between, giving an impression of mad determination and inhuman focus on their work until organization and important details are of no importance compared to the acquisition of their goal. Isaac Newton’s revolutionary development of calculus was only a means to an end. It gets the job done, but has a certain unrefined, hurried sloppiness to it. Another example is the explosive number of experiments and inventions Nikola Tesla was responsible for, some of which he didn’t take the time to write down because they were just curiosities he discovered while on the road towards a different goal. There is a definite sense of tunnel-vision and focus in the INTJ that blazes a trail into the future, but can sometimes be maddeningly imprecise and leave a lot of debris. In short, the INTJ’s Ni provides the futurist, intuitive vision, and the Te provides the intense focus to accomplish that vision, but because that vision is so distant on the horizon, the INTJ doesn’t always look down to see what they’re stepping on.
Unlike the ENTJ who is primarily interested in inductive reasoning and determining logical inconsistencies, this is not the focus of the INTJ. The INTJ, like the INFJ, is first an internal perceiver who gets hunches or sees visions of how the world really works. Logic is only a secondary tool towards accomplishing that vision or idea, which may not be compatible with reality. The INTJ has just as much an intuitive, mystical sense to them as the INFJ. Of Isaac Newton, John Maynard Keynes said he was not “the first of the age of reason, [but] the last of the magicians.” Similarly John Stone said that we must admit that Nikola Tesla was a prophet, as opposed to a scientist.
The second idea is the INTJ’s will to power. As I’ve already implied, the INTJ is known for having a tenacious will. This will is directed towards the acquisition of power, and this power often takes the form of knowledge and understanding. Te not only seeks to adapt to objective data, but also reworks its own mindset and judgments in order to have control over its environment. This is a major theme for the INTJ: they desire power over their surroundings through superior understanding. This is why the INTJ is often especially happy to be called the “mastermind,” because this implies them having a mastery of their environment through the mind. I have heard the INTJ mindset described as seeing the world as a game: they can naturally take stock of their resources, each resource’s future potential, and see a branching tree map of where different actions will probably take them. Thus their goal is to have as much mental control and understanding of the progressing game as possible so they know exactly how to move in every situation.
The INTJ’s will to power is also the result of an unrepressed Te/Fi axis. Te is more dominant, but Fi is not repressed and plays a very important role in the INTJ personality. Te is the opposite of Fi, where Te is the bulldozer and Fi is the protestor lying down in front of it. Te adapts to data; Fi stands firm behind sentimental principles. Thus the INTJ’s feeling is subjective and recoils from objects, retreating deep into the subject and burning quite fiercely in there.
Fi provides the INTJ with several interesting characteristics: it grants the INTJ the typical Fi isolated, alien sentiments. The INTJ’s passions and values are wholly their own and do not want to be attributed to any kind of conformity to other people’s standards. This makes the INTJ very independent and self-confident, even notoriously so. The INTJ often enjoys the image of a visionary standing bold and alone and single-handedly transforming the world despite all human opposition and ignorance. While the INFJ seeks to inspire others to cooperate, the INTJ may not want any supporters, or if they do, that is not their main focus. The INTJ could care less what other people think of their vision; what matters to them is its accomplishment according to their designs.
The INTJ is also notoriously unsocial, displaying the limited Fi range of expressions. They have no problem with people, but they don’t feel any immediate and pressing need for them, except those they have already adopted into their heart. Like the ISTJ, the INTJ very much loves who they love, and I have experienced this very genuine love and friendship from several INTJs in my life, as well as ISTJs. What it lacks in outward expression it makes up for in its endearing sincerity.
It should be noted that these characteristics of independence, willpower, and unsocial self-confidence can make a nasty recipe for acute narcissism, something that the INTJ often can struggle with. The INTJ is not as afraid of becoming narcissistic as other personalities and may often do or say things that appear narcissistic but are really the INTJ just stating the facts – for instance, Nikola Tesla stating how he has revolutionized the United States, which he has. But facts aside, the INTJ must keep themselves aware of how close to the edge of narcissism they are approaching.
Like the INFJ, the INTJ represses Se, which results in similar difficulties and reservations. The INTJ’s perception of the real world is very unreliable; they are so focused on what could be that it takes concerted and unpleasant effort to focus on what already is. As a result the INTJ often misses or ignores even large amounts of data in the conception of their vision, always drifting away from reality before managing to review all the evidence, a mistake the ISTJ hardly makes. This is another reason why the INTJ should not be considered logical or scientific in the regular sense: because their focus is not on logic or data, but on ideas and visions of the possible future, which, while appearing logical, are very often self-contradictory or paradoxical. The INTJ may hold passionately to ideas and theories that have no real evidence to support them at all. For example, Friedrich Nietzsche’s supposedly logical concept of the Eternal Reoccurrence, which represents a beautiful and compelling idea and seems validly logical, does not rely on any concrete facts or observations and makes many unproven assumptions which discredit both its inductive and deductive validity. The idea of Eternal Reoccurrence is just that, a beautiful idea. In these instances the INTJ’s expression of Te is rendered a mere illusion that doesn’t actually grasp at anything.
Another important effect is that whenever the Ni dominant types doexperience their Se it is overwhelmingly vivid because of their lack of exposure to it, and they often struggle with their relationship to sensual pleasures such as food, thrills, sex, or anything of that nature. While the INFJ demonstrates a certain morally based aversion to sensuality reminiscent of an ascetic monk, the INTJ appears less gentle or mystical about it; their asceticism often appears a direct result of their tunnel-vision drive and marriage to their work. The INFJ appears like a mystic trying to transcend their human desires, while the INTJ appears like something already inhuman trapped in a human body and therefore having no human desires in the first place. But don’t let it fool you for a second; the INTJ does have such desires and is capable of swinging from one extreme to the other. INTJs are notorious for periodic sensual binges where they begin chronically overindulging in various pleasures far past the limits recommended by others – for instance, Jean-Paul Sartre’s statement that while working on a book he began taking amphetamines, until near the end of his work he was taking twenty pills a day. At the other extreme we have Nikola Tesla, who reportedly remained celibate his entire life despite his popularity among the ladies.
So, in summary, the INTJ is visionary, tenaciously and hastily striving to accomplish their future-oriented vision, playing life like a game of chess, which requires that they obtain superiority over their environment through greater understanding. They are very independent, self-confident, and unsocial, but do hold certain values and ideas close to their heart. Their repression of Se leads to a certain amount of disconnect with reality and a susceptibility to sensual binges.
Thanks for reading, and for all the INTJs out there, thanks for trying to blaze trails for us into the unknown but beautiful future.
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