Possibility Warrior

Lighting The Way Forward

Perceiving Functions

How can two people witness the exact same event and come away with two completely different impressions of what happened?  Or perhaps the question should be, given that everyone comes away with different impressions of just about everything, why are we always so certain our own perception is correct!

It’s common to call Sensing and Intuition two different ways of Perceiving.  I’d like to clarify that as two different cognitive ways of focusing on stimuli taken in by the sense organs (eyes, ears, skin, etc). And since Sensing and Intuition can both be extraverted or introverted, that gives us four ways of perceiving the data that comes to our brain.

It’s also common to claim that the perceiving functions simply take in information without evaluation, which is left up to the judging functions. I’d like to suggest that the perceiving functions act like filters, each presenting a very specific aspect of the information. In this way, the perceiving functions set the stage for the decisions made by the judging functions, by framing the information according to their particular perceptive preference.

The Sensing functions will be paying conscious attention to physical reality. Extraverted Sensing (Se) is going to be placing you in space and time relative to all the other objects around. If you stop right there and immerse yourself in experiencing reality as it is currently unfolding, you are perceiving the world through Extraverted Sensing. Sitting by the ocean, watching the tide roll in, listening to the waves, feeling the spray of water, smelling the salty breeze, your cares and worries gone for the moment.

Introverted Sensing (Si) will take sense information from the moment and compare it to the past. This perception is focusing less on the actual experience and more on the personal history of the experience. Have I experienced this before?  What were the consequences?  Is this safe or risky?  The focus is self-preservation. You step outside and notice the sky is clouded over in a gloomy grey, so you go back in and grab your umbrella.

Both of the Sensing perceiving functions have an Intuitive perceiving function that acts as a counter balance. While Si is focusing on the past, Extraverted Intuition (Ne) is looking into the future. While Si looks at preservation, Ne looks at potential. Si wants to conserve, while Ne wants to create. These two functions are complements and if your Personality Type has one, it has the other. The key to maturation is to bring them into balance. Too much reliance on Si can make one rigid and afraid to move forward, while too much reliance on Ne can make one reckless, scattered, and directionless. Together they can work in iteration — this is what we know, this is what is possible, this is what has been demonstrated to work, this is what would move us forward, this is what is safest, this is what is most bountiful — and reach a happy medium of pushing the envelop, but not too much too fast.

While Se is absorbing the nuances of physical reality, Introverted Intuition (Ni) is asking what it all means. The moment doesn’t happen in a vacuum, it has implications based on context. Ni synthesizes all the moments and implications into a grand theory of everything. Ni is chugging away in the background, finding a place for every new piece of information in its vast web of connections, rearranging strands of the web as needed. When the puzzle comes together, Ni waves for your attention to hand you its composite idea. Again, if you have one of these functions in your Type, you have the other; and Se and Ni work best in conjunction with each other, gathering and synthesizing information hand in hand.  Too much emphasis on Se can make one short-sighted and indulgent, while too much emphasis on Ni can cause one to dissociate from reality into fantasy. Together they can present the clearest picture of the world.

It’s important to remember that just like our senses can deceive us, our perceiving functions can also be wrong. Even the keenest and most differentiated, individualised human can only assess the past (Si) and future (Ne) and gather (Se) and synthesize (Ni) information to a limited extent. The implication of this reality (I’m Ni after all) is that the more you want to truly perceive about the world, the more you require input from outside your own limited self!


Contact me to learn more about your own powers of perception.


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