Introverted Sensing: Instinct and Ritual
When I was young, perhaps six, I got it in my head that there might be dinosaur bones buried in my backyard (maybe after a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago?). I started digging up my parents’ yard like an archaeological site. One day the shovel hit something hard. I got excited and dug into the dirt with my hands to find the hard object. Astonishingly, it was a dinosaur bone!
More accurately, it was a rock that looked, upon inspection by an eager young child, like it could quite possibly be a dinosaur chin bone. It was ivory and had red veins through it that looked like blood vessels. Disturbingly however, it also had flecks of silver paint on it, suspiciously similar to the silver paint the neighbor had recently sprayed on our bordering fence. How on earth had this dinosaur chin bone, buried nearly two feet underground for 4000 years (since the Flood, I grew up in a Fundamentalist Christian home) have gotten flecks of silver paint on it?
Part of me realized this was probably just an unusual rock, but it was much more fun to pretend it was a dinosaur chin bone, so I did. I also quit digging up the yard, which in hindsight was likely the objective of whichever parent picked up the rock from the side of the fence and buried it in my hole for me to find. A remarkable testament to their creative parenting, as I don’t recall being reprimanded for digging holes in the yard!
I’ve kept that rock all these years, not because it’s a dinosaur chin bone (maybe it is!) but because it brings me back to my childhood. When I hold it and inspect it, just as I did as a kid, it’s a physical link connecting me to who I was back then. It’s a means of connecting to my Introverted Sensing (Si) function.
Si is the cognitive function that remembers your past physical experience and conditions you accordingly in order to stay safe. If you had a bad experience in the past around something, you will instinctively avoid it as this function tries to protect you. This is the function you need to recondition when you want to consciously step out in bold new ways despite what happened in your past. You recondition Si by giving it new physical experiences — repeating the event, but now with a positive outcome, letting yourself sense in your body how very safe you actually are in that experience.
That last part is very important — Si is oriented to physical sensation, it has to physically experience security to believe it is safe! In fact, it is a good idea to develop this practice into a sort of personal ritual. Si feels very comforted by a meaningful personal ritual — it becomes familiar, predictable, dependable, somewhere stable to stand in an uncertain world.
If Introverted Sensing is high in your Function Family, you will likely have an eye for detail, a memory for specifics, a well grounded orientation to practical reality, and a good awareness of your internal bodily states (hunger, illness). If this function is low in your function family, you may find details tedious, overlook specifics, prefer dreaming and envisioning to the tangible, and maybe lose track of the fact that you even have a body!
If Si is high in your function family, a scent or sound may transport you back in time to a particular memory so vividly that you practically relive the sensations. If Si is low in your function family, you will still have these experiences of the present triggering the past, but you’ll be less aware of it occurring. It will play out instead as reactivity — feeling really good and not knowing why, or suddenly feeling anxious or upset without realizing the trigger.
Either way, in the case of negative triggers, if you notice the negative emotions as they occur, you can begin to watch for patterns in the situations which trigger the emotions. We tend to try to protect ourselves from feeling negative emotions, but if you allow yourself to connect to them instead, you may remember other times you’ve felt that way, going far back into your childhood — to the original conditioning event. This knowledge gives you the opportunity to begin reprogramming your past with new healthier reactions appropriate for the present. (PTSD triggers resulting from abuse or violence should be addressed with the aid of a mental health professional.)
Si is very low in my function family, and so I have often felt quite disconnected from my past — to the point that it usually feels more like a story I read in a book than events that actually occurred in my life. When I want to reconnect to my inner child, I ritually use the dinosaur bone, I mean rock. It is a physical object with significance from my childhood, and so it helps me travel back in time to reconnect with my quiet, observant, exploring inner little girl. The ritual of making this deep connection allows the strong woman I now value myself to be, to reach back in time and comfort and heal the wounds of the little girl who sometimes felt so worthless and powerless.
When Si feels safe, I can step out boldly into the world in new and inspiring ways.
If this message speaks to you, contact me to schedule a Personality Analysis to see where Si falls in your Function Family. Together, we can devise rituals you can practice to recondition the triggers of your past. ~Julie