The introverted sensing personality type has an extraordinary level of perceptual awareness. Like William Blake, he or she can “see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower.” This type is more concerned with how an object makes him or her feel rather than with the object itself. What is personality typology and why is it important for us to know about it? In our contemporary lexicon, personality types are most often associated with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, but Carl Jung was the first to write about personality types from a modern psychological perspective. In speaking about typology Jung said, “Classification does not explain the individual psyche. Nevertheless, an understanding of psychological types opens the way to a better understanding of human psychology in general.” Many of our conflicts with others stem from differences in our typologies. The more we understand the differences in the psychology of human beings, the better we can relate to each other. We also learn more about ourselves by understanding our typology. Our typology can even influence the way we spend our money, causing us to make impulsive decisions that get us in trouble later.
Before we look deeper at the introverted sensation type, let’s take a look at the basic components of typology and how they operate in our personality.
Typology is based on two components: attitude and function. When it comes to typology, the two attitudes, introversion and extroversion are often misunderstood. People assume they mean one’s tendency is shy and quiet and the other’s is outgoing and boisterous. While this may sometimes be the case, in typology this was not the operational definition of introversion and extroversion. For Jung these two attitudes signified, “The readiness of the psyche [of the person] to act or react in a certain direction.” This means that we have a tendency to preoccupy ourselves with either the external world of objects, or with the internal world of the subject. To the introvert the subjective world is of primary interest, and to the extravert the objective world is of primary interest. The introverted type needs time alone to sit quietly and reflect, and sometimes, may actually shrink away from the world at large, while the extravert is almost always engaged in the world around him.
Four Psychological Functions
Jung loosely defined function as the typical way in which we orient ourselves in the world. The four functions are sensation, thinking, feeling, and intuition, and unless we are highly developed, we are typically rooted in one of these ways of positioning ourselves – with either an extraverted or introverted attitude. In general, sensation tells us that something exists; thinking determines what that something is; feeling tells us its value (do we like it or not); and intuition sees all of the possibilities inherent in the thing.
We often get caught up in unconsciously believing that our way of perceiving the world is the best way. Hardcore thinkers can frequently insist only on reason and logic. Highly differentiated feelers can be too attached to their personal value system, measuring everything only according to that personal value. Intuitives sometimes see nothing but possibility, often failing to see what is right in front of them; and sensation types often place far too much emphasis on objective stimuli. Now, think about a married couple where one is a determined thinker and the other a passionate feeler. Can you imagine how a predominately oriented thinker and a predominately oriented feeler may argue their point of view and totally misunderstand each other? Understanding your partner’s typology can help you avoid the drama and conflict that can often break up relationships.
The fact is that one function simply does not give us the full view of the world or others, and neither does one function give us a full view of ourselves. Ideally, according to Jung, “For complete orientation, all four functions should contribute equally: thinking should facilitate cognition and judgment, feeling should tell us how and to what extent a thing is important or unimportant for us, sensation should convey concrete reality to us through seeing, hearing, tasting, etc., and intuition should enable us to divine the hidden possibilities in the background, since these too belong to the complete picture of a given situation.” Taking a course in the Psychology of Personality will help you explore the deeper dimensions of your personality type.
Now that we have a better idea of how this type system works, let’s take a closer look at the introverted sensation type.
Components of Introverted Sensation
Introverted sensation is based primarily on the subjective experience of a sensation or perception of an object. The object is perceived, but not necessarily “objectively”. Whereas an extraverted sensation type perceives the physical world “as it is,” the introverted sensation type perceives a subjective background of the physical world. To get a better understanding of this realm of perception, let’s consider two different types of artists: impressionists and realists. A realist paints a landscape or other scene pretty much exactly how it looks to the eye. An impressionist, on the other hand, brings out something unseen by the naked eye. In terms of artists, consider the difference between French impressionists like Van Gough or Monet versus realists like Millet or Courbet. There is a sort of shimmery, pulsating – otherworldly – quality in the impressionists whereas the realists just paint what is. That otherworldly quality is the subjective aspect of sensation.
For the introverted sensate, though the object is still perceived through the senses, once perceived, the object is left behind so to speak. What then takes over the perceiver’s awareness is no longer the object itself, but rather the subjective response to it. This reaction may or may not be related to the so-called “true nature” of the object itself, but rather is more related to the personal associations which are constellated. An introverted sensate can describe the smell of a bakery in a way that an extraverted sensate typically cannot. For the extravert, the smell of good bread makes him hungry. But the introverted type would leave the bread in the distance and be carried away by all of the associations with the bread. He may recall memories of childhood and the kitchen, and see the very thing his mother was wearing on the day she baked bread that smelled just like that.
Introverted sensation types may have highly photographic memories and can describe things with absolute precision. Emma Jung was an introverted sensation type who once gave a lecture about typology, which was relayed by Marie-Louise von Franz in her book Psychotherapy:
When somebody comes into the room, such a type notices the way the person comes in, the hair, the expression on the face, the clothes and the way the person walks. . . . every detail is absorbed. The impression comes from the object to the subject; it is as though a stone fell into deep water—the impression falls deeper and deeper and sinks in. Outwardly, the introverted sensation type looks utterly stupid. He just sits and stares, and you do not know what is going on within him. He looks like a piece of wood with no reaction at all . . . but inwardly the impression is being absorbed…The quick inner reactions go on underneath, and the outer reaction comes in a delayed way. These are the people who, if told a joke in the morning, will probably laugh at midnight.
According to the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, introverted sensation types are the world’s Guardians and Artisans. Which one they are is determined by their main function. As Guardians they are “the cornerstones of society,” most talented in managing goods and services. As Artisans, they excel in any of the arts, ranging from the fine and performing arts to “the athletic, military, political, mechanical, and industrial arts, as well as the “art of the deal” in business.” If you are curious about how you can apply knowledge in typology in everyday life, you can take a course where you will learn more about psychological types and using practical psychology to better understand the people you meet on a daily basis.