INTJs: Uncomfortable with your Inferior Function?

Pasa Fino asked: I have a question which regards Se in a social setting. (I am an INTJ btw). This and the other Se post were helpful in a general sense, but here is a problem I personally encounter.

Whenever I am around people I don’t know well or consider as a friend, I behave in the way I am most comfortable with: distant, observant, serious, quiet, etc.. but when I am with the few people I consider my friends my Se seems to take over my brain in a most distressing manner. I begin to goof off, talk loudly, I become quirky and playful, and overall, much unlike myself. I go home feeling like a total fool. The worst thing about it is that I have little to no control over this while it is happening.

Otherwise, I integrate my Se via art, music, karate, and watching comedies on YouTube, and can control it decently well when I am in my normal environment or interacting with friends over the internet.

I am in my late teens, so I am hoping that in my twenties my Se will be somewhat tamer. Has anyone else encountered this problem? If so, is there a solution for an immediate solution for it?

#1 Yes, many INTJs experiences this:

In order to illustrate to you and others, that discomfort with the Se function is not something that any of us are alone on, I’m going to share an experience that is deeply personal to me. This is not just for you, Pasa Fino (though it is for you), but for all the people out there who may be struggling to connect with the more frightening, more human parts of themselves.

Transferring into adulthood after a very traumatising youth, I experienced discomfort towards my Se function that was very similar, though much more dangerous, than what you’ve described. In the darkest period of my PTSD journey, I had in fact, completely disassociated myself from my Se and Fi functions in order to survive. During that time, I did not use them at all.

Fortunately most INTJs will not undergo Se discomfort to the extreme that I did, but regardless of the difference in level of discomfort, the road to revitalising an Se function we are uncomfortable with is very similarly structured.

In my case, this meant re-teaching myself how to use my Se function from scratch long before I was capable of being “comfortable” with Se. And this is one of the things I want to stress in this post—the idea that our level of comfort with our Se function has largely to do with how much time and effort we devote to using and developing it.

I recognised this, and recognised it’s danger even more, and in order to reverse it before I devolved further, I made drastic changes to my lifestyle in order to force myself to use my Se function on a daily basis. I  joined a Swing dance club, got involved in my local Lindy Hop and Blues dancing scenes and made friends with other dancers.

One thing that you’ll encounter in any group of dancing-friends is an utter lack of boundaries when it comes to personal space. There are no personal-space bubbles on the dance floor, and this transfers directly into our relationships off the dance floor. No couch is too small for any number of people, and how many times four of us have fallen asleep together crammed into the back of a car on the way home from a Lindy Hop competition, I cannot count.

For me, this subculture was at first horrifying, then uncomfortable, then finally…expected if not normal. And yes, I am the one among my dancing friends who will still refuse hugs, and who tends to get everyone back on track when they’re getting to spontaneous. However, I have now redeveloped my Se function (which, prior to the traumatic events of my childhood/youth, was very well developed). And as I began to re-learn how to use it, I (like you) was very uncomfortable thinking of myself as spontaneous, or, as you put it, not entirely in control of every one of my actions. But honestly, a little spontaneity and foolishness—a little feeling—is what separates humanity from computers.

#2 Think of it as a hurdle, rather than as a problem:

Try not to think of this discomfort as a problem, but rather as a hurdle that you have to practice for a while until you can finally jump over it.

Be aware that Se, no matter where it sits in your function hierarchy, can be difficult to control if let loose (especially if you never take the time to develop it). If this bothers you, just be glad you’re not an xSFP and move on with your life.

I typically like to think of my Se function as an outlet through which to connect with the world and the people around me. And guess what, connection, particularly with other people, typically requires some form of vulnerability. Your most vulnerable functions are typically to be your lower two, in your case Se and Fi. Until you develop these lower functions more, you’re going to be uncomfortable using them, and that’s just something you’re going to have to deal with for a while.

That said, my honest advice is to make a fool of yourself until you’re comfortable with the fool that you are. Because every single one of us humans is a fool in some form or fashion, and anyone who cannot acknowledge that is never going to break free of his/her/their own complacency. To quote the bard, “a fool thinks himself wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool” (As You Like It).

What you need to understand (and convince yourself of) is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with goofing off with your friends. In fact, it is good, or even useful to do so.

My aforementioned dancing-friends (the closest being an ENFP, ISFP and an INTP) frequently tell me that I am the funniest person they know. They each recognise and accept that I am stonefaced and distant in large groups, and heartily enjoy my openness in small comfortable settings. In fact, they actually prefer to spend time with me one-on-one or in a small group because they actually enjoy my company better when I am using all of my functions.

The more you use your Se function in accompaniment with your other functions, the more you will get comfortable with the aspects of Se that are unfamiliar to you. One of the main reasons for this is that the less developed the function, the less it works together with your other functions.As you use it more, you will start using it more in tandem with your other functions, and consequently, will have more control over it.

Just keep practicing all the things I mentioned in my Se development post and everything will be okay.

19 thoughts on “INTJs: Uncomfortable with your Inferior Function?

  1. I (an INTJ) have gone through the exact same situation with my best friend (who’s an ESFP). Whenever I’m hanging around with her, I’m a giggling mess. And sometimes this even happens to me at school in class. Ugh. It’s embarrassing. But hey, now I have even more confirmations that I’m an INTJ.


  2. This is something I’ve experienced but I’ve never seen discussed on any mbti site. Interesting (and it’s good to know I’m not the only one who experiences this! )


  3. This is really interesting. I am quite sure that I’m INTJ, and I have also had the same experience that with people that I only know on the surface, or around new people I am the cold, distant , and rational version of myself which I probably show 95% of the time. But with a few selected group of friends and some family I can get into being the loud, spontaneus, physically exploding, crazy, childlike version of myself (I don’t mean that I was like that as a child mostly, I was calm and distant most of the time as a child). I can, at times, after being in the latter mode feel weirded out by it and I don’t understand it, a few times I’ve been embarassed about it when it happens with people I don’t know that well, I’m normaly a controlled person. I however, don’t see this as a problem and I often long to be that version of myself more often, because usually I feel more intense positive emotions during those periods. I wish I had the control to actually bring out that part of myself more easily, around both new and familiar groups of people. But, I find it more difficult as I get older to get into that mode. Though, this might be because I don’t spend as much time with the group of friends that I am very comfortable with, seeing as I live in another part of the country since some years back.

    It is very interesting to read about and compare feelings or thoughts, and experiences about similar feelings or personality traits. Maybe I find it more easy to accept that trait as something positive because I have been able to accept it as an intricate part of myself rather than something that is the opposite of myself?


  4. Thank you very much for the post and comments.
    I sort of guessed that might be the case. I’ve thought about it for a while, and it seems that I’m the only one who doesn’t like “Se me.” In fact, when I get into those “moods,” people want to be around me more for some reason, and later tell me that they feel very comfortable around me. I’m the only one who doesn’t my enjoy my more foolish self it would seem.
    Perhaps the less I try to control it, the more it will go away? Or that could simply me attempting to repress it again.
    It seems to be easier to have fun and not try to control my actions when I am hanging around with my ESFP sister and ENFP best friend.

    Again, thank you for the feedback.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Excellent question and answer. I am an INTJ, and I’m middle aged. I agree completely with what Arvid said: self-reflective practice is the key. When I was teens and twenties, after a social encounter, I would reflect on the ways in which I’d embarrassed myself. And I sort-of learned to hone my social performance by sheer will to cause myself less embarassment. At the same time, ironically, I grew to learn that the outlandish qualities of my personality were somewhat prized by those who knew me, and I learned to integrate the authenticity of this to a smaller degree among people I don’t know well. I still have a fairly circumspect approach to strangers, on the other hand, if there’s a party, this little introvert is fully prepared to be the life of it. And only groan a little bit about “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I said that!” Love yourself and give yourself a break, you’ll get there with practice.


  6. Hi, I know a few ISFJs who are the epitome of “reserved and proper” in most settings, but in others they embrace their self-described “hyper” to the extent that it seems pretty logical to question their mental stability. Could the same thing be happening with their Ne-functions that is happening with Pasa Fino’s Se-function?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happens to my ISTJ friend. I wouldn’t go so far as to call her “hyper”, but she becomes significantly more animated and comes up with off-the-cuff stories and scenarios at a mile-a-minute. I’m an INTJ, and with good company I can become quite a ham, to the point that I’ve been told that I couldn’t possibly be an introvert.

      But to the OP, I say try to accept it. I wouldn’t consider it a problem. You’re already doing what you can to integrate your use of Se consciously, which is great. Try to treasure these moments with your friends – they can’t be replicated.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Arvid- Your answer, as always, is well thought out and excellent. I really enjoy reading your posts.

    Pasa Fino, it’s okay to have fun. :-) You’ll get used to it.


  8. Thank you so much for explaining this. I’m an INTJ as well and I’ve had the same experience feeling like I lose control of myself and act like a fool at certain times and never understood it before. It’s bothered me a lot off and on but your explanation makes total sense. Thanks for the advice.

    (I really enjoy your blog by the way.)


  9. The question speaks to me on so many levels. I live through that everytime I’m outside with friends, and I hate every second of it when I come back home. Didn’t think it was related to an undeveloped Se, and knowing it reassures me a lot. That means I can just develop it. That means I can fix it. I like being able to fix things. Okay then. Thank you, both of you.


  10. I can definitely relate to this. In my personal life, I’m usually very quiet and reserved and “straight-laced” almost all the time, but when I’m with the people I’m most comfortable with (my siblings, for example), I often start acting very happy and silly and even “giddy” without even trying to. It feels a little strange–in fact, I used to think it was really weird–but I’ve since realized it’s okay; because, after all, if you can’t act silly with your own brothers and sisters then who CAN you act silly with? You’ve got to trust somebody with your craziness or something is really wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It’s weird for me to think of being totally disconnected from my environment (Se-less). It’s only an inferior function for you, so I can’t imagine an ISTP like me divorcing myself from Se.

    Glad you’re getting more comfortable with Se, though. The fun times I’ve had because my Se function took over xD


    • It would be sort of like an INFJ (like me) divorcing themselves from their Fe function, I guess. Which IS technically possible if you’re looping–but yeah, it would feel extremely weird.


      • ( I’m sorry for the length of this comment )
        As someone who underwent what you are describing I have to say, it doesn’t feel weird at all. In fact, I think It felt like common sense to me.I don’t know if I was looping or was in the grip or using some of my shadow functions but I was definately lacking my Fe function in some way.

        Just to clarify, I type as an INFJ but due to some happenings in my life I started avoiding using my Fe function and overusing my Ti while my Se was poorly developed too. I was often blunt to the point of being rude without noticing, i would make fun of traditions and social norms ( still do) and the most devestating of all was that I would refuse feelings in general ( my own or other’s) to the point of feeling completely empty inside. But, sometimes, I would still feel very intensely without being able to control myself. Not knowing what to do, I started bottling up my feelings and experienced health problems because of it. And all this happening with nobody ( including myself ) noticing so i couldn’t help myself or recieve help from others. Socially, I didn’t act like a mad person, I would normally come in contact with other people ( though i hated it ) but I just came across as too pround, too strong-opinioned and rude.

        Well, after being introduced to the MBTI theory and realizing that I was unhealthy I made some progress and started using my Fe again, though I still have some way to go before it is healthy again.

        Liked by 1 person

        • poihsis, I agree it doesn’t feel weird at all. At different times I have suppressed every one of my functions at least once. I’m a female ENTP, which is something our society has no idea how to deal with. Around middle school I learned to suppress my Ne and Fe, and rely solely on my Ti and Si. Maybe not the best decision, but the least painful, and yes I came off as a haughty, superior little snot, but it got me through my adolescence, and many personal traumas, and when I was in a more excepting environment I was able to re-integrate my extroverted functions. To re-integrate them, I went through a faze where I only used my Ne and Fe, I was submissive, did whatever I could to help others especially if it hurt me in the process, and everyone loved me, but I hate my self. I was the polar opposite of my Ti Si years. I came out the other side with the ability to accept and balance my extroverted and introverted functions. I still have the tendency to hide behind my introverted functions when I sense emotional danger, but I understand that my Fe needs people, and the time I spent hiding from it was damaging. I also realized I never really suppressed my Ne, I just hid it from others, now I have no problem showing it to the world. Suppressing my primary functions actually helped me develop my inferior functions, so as difficult as it may have been at the time, the results are worth it, in my opinion.
          I have learned to be comfortable with everyone of my functions, and which to turn to in different situations.

          Liked by 2 people

        • Thank you for explaining that to me. Now that I think about it, it does make sense–that for someone who’s actually in a loop, it doesn’t feel “weird,” it’s just normal, because it’s all you know.

          Liked by 1 person


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