Intuitives and Abstract/Symbolic Thinking-- A Sensing Asks!

Intuitives and Abstract/Symbolic Thinking-- A Sensing Asks!

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This is a discussion on Intuitives and Abstract/Symbolic Thinking-- A Sensing Asks! within the Cognitive Functions forums, part of the Personality Type Forums category; So I figured I'd get the best responses by asking the most intuitive thinkers here As a sensor, I'm trying ...

  1. #1
    ISTJ - The Duty Fulfillers

    Intuitives and Abstract/Symbolic Thinking-- A Sensing Asks!

    So I figured I'd get the best responses by asking the most intuitive thinkers here

    As a sensor, I'm trying to wrap my mind around the idea of thinking in metaphors, analogies, and symbols. I think about these in classic literature, within movies, or historical patterns. I don't find it too difficult to notice recurring themes that are representative of a symbol, but it takes me a bit more time to put the pieces together.

    In high school lit class, I had to work very hard to understand some of the more challenging themes within the books and the superficial metaphors, imagery, and analogies were easiest for me to pick up on-- definite sensing use. When I was in college, math and logic were difficult and now I know why. I obviously struggle with symbolic thinking, but I'd like to improve or learn how to see the world in a more abstract manner because I'm considering a career change that might require additional schooling.

    A lot of intuitives tell me that they're able to make logical leaps and tend to be "all over the place" when thinking before they arrive to their final conclusion. My functions are rather linear, similar to a food chain. I go from one, to the next, to the next. It can be painstaking because I have a tendency to move through my thoughts in this manner instead of considering other ideas. I can't even imagine how intuitives think or what these leaps might look like.

    How do you "read between the lines"? what's considered abstract or symbolic thinking? When you are conscious of it, how would you describe what is happening?
    Catfish, Cloudlight, Kharyzmatiq and 1 others thanked this post.

  2. #2
    INFP - The Idealists

    I think this is a hard question to answer, because abstract/symbolic thinking is the only kind of thinking I know (just like you can't imagine anything other than linear thinking...about which I am a touch jealous, by the way...oh, to have organized thoughts!).

    I read between the lines, because I tend not to notice the "lines" in the first place. My mind is constantly doing several things at once, is all over the place, and is constantly connecting every concept to every other concept in manifold ways (not just noticing patterns, but connecting scents to colors to numbers to concepts to words, and on and on and on). I can only grasp at pieces of it at a time, and articulating it in a linear, concrete way is kind of a joke. I drive my "S" family nuts, I'm afraid. I "know" that there's some sort of really good reason why things are connecting the way they are in my head (why this symbol points to that concept, for example, or why this action will lead to that outcome), but I can't give a logical argument as to why. I managed well as an English major because my mind sees symbols everywhere, but I would do terribly as a math major, because I couldn't begin to logically organize pre-determined symbols.

    My "S" mom is constantly telling me to "just slow down" my thinking or to "turn off" my brain. Obviously that's not possible, but I think she might be trying to ask me to put things in linear, logical, order. To go from one thing to the next in a way that makes good, empirical sense. I simply can't. It's all going on, all the time, on every level, and there's no turning it off. I have an "S" friend who asked why I took so long to make decisions. To me, making decisions means narrowing down possibilities. My mind only knows how to create them.

    Obviously, this is just my particular type of abstract thinking. And I always wonder what it must look like from inside a non-intuitive brain. Fascinating.

  3. #3

    Hum, reading between the lines comes from how things are worded. When intuitive express themselves, they leave clues, subtle cues that when putting them together forum a pattern. Its not easy to explain honestly, as most times its picked up on unconsciously. Details can be dreadful, long and exhausting for those who can read between the lines easily.

    Sometime i can't explain how i arrived at the end result in the moment, i just know. I can go back and pick up on all the cues that lead to the pattern once the moment has passed. The angles that Ne sees is coming from so many directions at such a fast speed for me its quite difficult to put into words how that effects the final outcome. I could tell you it appears as if i have eyes in the back of my head, but that probably won't make much sense. Patterns in communication and behavior are observations that aren't always made consciously either. We store data and information in our brains that we can pull from in order to make sense of things that are familiar, often we can't explain what we know. We can see things from all angles. Picture yourself turning around in a circle with flashes of lighting zapping you. Everything happens so fast, its not easy to pinpoint exactly where the answers are coming from, although the conclusion is usually correct. If under stress or anxious, we can misread things also. All i know is when i'm talking with other intuitive, we can finish the others sentence.

    Leaps of logic again is patterns and connections. It makes sense, all comes together. Once A, B become clear, the big picture, or end result is obvious. I don't know how to explain this to make it make sense to you. Leaps are predictions. If A happens, it becomes clear that BCDEF will also happen, so we can skip over all that and get right to Z. Connecting , always connecting. This connects to that, so obviously this connects with that piece, its like a big puzzle that is put together in seconds. I hope someone comes along that can explain it much better than i just did. I'm tired, and probably should have waited until my mind was clearer. Abstract isn't easy to explain, although i've seen people give some amazing explanations.
    barbalootSuits, Hastings and icecream thanked this post.

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  5. #4
    INFJ - The Protectors

    Yea the other thing is that it's not necessarily a Sensing vs Intuition thing so much as people whose sensing is a bit more preferred will default to either an in-the-moment perspective (Se) or a what does this remind me of (Si) mindset. Whereas people whose intuition is more preferred may tend to try to look at things from the perspective of implication or possibilities.

    But I would caution against saying only intuitives are abstract because really all introverted functions are 'abstract' (as in not empirically concrete) in their own ways. Se-doms are often able to read motives of people with their advance use of sensing, the difference is they may not read into a situation more than that situation calls for, where an intuitive (especially Ni-dom) might intuit a long-term implication.

    At the end of the day everyone has intuition and everyone can sense. Many of the top artists, composers, filmmakers and musicians of our day are sensing types, so it would be hard to say they don't have any sense of subtext - it just may not manifest itself the same ways it would with an intuitive.

    Director JJ Abrams is an ENFP (dominant Intuitive) who thinks through his movies from the standpoint of possibilities. Michael Bay (probably ESFP or ESTP) works through his movies from a very experience/sensory standpoint, but both of them are able to come up with very compelling visuals that convey more than simply what is on screen. The difference is just in approach. Bay might do it with a camera move or lighting or screen direction, where Abrams might do it through implication (what isn't being seen on the screen - letting the audience fill in the blanks).

    Remember we're talking about preferred perspectives or mindsets. Again everyone has some degree of both intuition and sensing mindset, its just some people prefer one over the other. But even this preference can be nebulous in some types like IPs and EJs who have sensing and intuition in the 2nd and 3rd function positions and who may be able to use both mindsets with similar strength. Really the whole S vs N thing applies more to people who are dominant sensors (ESP/ISJ) vs dominant intuitives (INJ/ENP).
    barbalootSuits, Nymma, BrooklynBoy and 7 others thanked this post.

  6. #5

    This is one of those "hard yet easy to explain" things. For example when me Te & Ni are working together well ... I come up with potentially bizarre analogies to get things done. I'm fairly adept, given the subject, in explaining things in that "linear" way.

    The linear or sensing way, for instance, when explaining the Ragnaros fight in WoW (in Firelands, so the Cata version) is this. I had to explain that the boss's platform and abilities were card shapes. This area shaped like a spade is good for X phase. This ability that falls in the shape of a club is bad. That said, the card shapes used in the encounter don't really go on to anything greater as far as I'm concerned.

    In the abstract Ti + Ne abstract thinking, for instance, I might give a lengthy explanation on why I think that the game of Scrabble makes an excellent example of life being a play between chance and man's capacity.
    Winifred thanked this post.

  7. #6
    ISFP - The Artists

    I think it's mostly an NF thing, to speak in metaphors. When I use a metaphor, I will use it to convey the incredibly abstract things in my head for which there is no real words.
    Also, besides metaphors, I tend to use a lot of similies. This is because I like to describe how I feel about things. Like, I will generally paint a picture with words and descriptive words and lead the person to feeling something so we can at least relate on some level. It's easiest to use things that are more commonly felt. "That feeling you get when you eat half of a slice of pizza only to realize that it's gone bad days ago"
    I don't know how to think linearly.. I don't know how to be a squares and boxes this drawer that drawer person.. I'm more of an artist type.. I have a hard time dealing with structure, it makes me feel very gray inside.. I function based on "essences" I suppose? I tend to think in colors, textures, movement styles, etc. I think in adjectives with no nouns o.o I guess is how I would word it? then from those adjectives, I must come up with a situation or scenario that can be related to with a similar vibe to it. Yeah.. I think that's what I'm trying to say XD lol
    OH!! Also! Symbols, I can understand them sometimes, but, if it's relevant to the person's life only and a background of that person is needed, I won't even bother to figure it out unless I know this person's life already. Poetry that uses symbolism that makes sense in the poets mind but takes too much thinking on the readers mind isn't something I like.. Being overly cryptic is just a way of tip-toeing around the truth of the matter, avoiding saying what one is afraid of saying. Being cryptic isn't ALWAYS that way though.
    I enjoy hindu and buddhist sutras, they have grand stories about astounding things happening, but, not much of it, if any, should actually be believed to have ever happened in a sense. They're meant to be taken figuratively, very figuratively. Did "mara the god of temptation" really send beautiful women his way? No, I doubt it. What do I think it means? I think it's simply implying that Mara could represent the desiring side of the mind and that side of the mind can be distracting when attempting to meditate, though the buddha remained diligent and peaceful, payed them no mind, they in some interpretations I've heard, turned to dust. Did they really? No. His thoughts about women died down, he let go of those thoughts, they were not important to him. This kind of symbolism I'm good at deciphering.
    Winifred and Singing Silence thanked this post.

  8. #7

    Below is a quote taken from an article about Ni and Ne I wrote a while ago. The first section, the definition of Ne is what you are looking to develop more so than Ni. Perhaps this information may help you decide on how to practice Ne development. I am very strongly developed in Ne, and believe that it comes into play strongly when I play chess or other turn-based strategy games (board game called Axis and Allies for instance) which encourage me to think about highly abstract and complicated scenarios playing out.

    It's also important to realize that Ne and Ni do not deal with results at all; they consider the possibilities and processes involved, and may consider various results but only as a byproduct of the actual process and varying possibilities. (Does this make any sense at all? Essentially Ni/Ne, unlike Si/Se focus on what could be; these possibilities may or may not include the actual results.) Therefore it may be useful to intentionally practice playing chess (or applying some other form of strategic thought) without any result or ending whatsoever, so that you are forced to focus strictly the process and not on the end game.

    Quote Originally Posted by Revenant View Post
    ...Here is what I found, refining the “definition” or “substance” of an Ni and Ne:

    Ne: The Extroverted Intuitive, separate from the other functions:

    1. Encouraged by, energized by, and identifier of Metaphors, be them verbal/written metaphors, physical in nature (such as a train passing by while one is contemplating life, and they associate the train with part of their life), or metaphysical (such as relating a person's personality, spirit, heart, or body to that of an animal.
    2. Intuitively or “magically” understands concepts: may become “suddenly aware” of a theory, belief, or set of ideas as it all comes into perspective, often after some time of introspection or contemplation on the matter, but sometimes suddenly, without warning or cause.
    3. Enjoys brainstorming/discussing with others, and values the results as plausible and/or objective based off of the group's reasoning. The group may be of two people: the Ne and the other, or may be with multiple persons. An important distinction is that the Ne respects the outcome as a possibility, and does not altogether disregard it when evidence or fact cannot be easily identified.
    4. Focused on ideas and abstract constructs: instead of maintaining a single focus—even one which changes or evolves, as the Ni tends to do—the Ne is constantly in thought of what if and how could. With so many “what-ifs” in the world and unexplained anomalies, the Ne may focus on several at a time until they (usually) come to the broader understanding that something else may be more important to spend time contemplating, or inversely that the underlying issue is larger and inclusive of the first. This is generally a life focus of the Ne, which they experience on a daily basis. (As a 3rd or 4th function this may only influence the Ne's thoughts, and not manifest itself as an “every day” stream of consciousness.)
    5. Identifies and considers countless scenarios when looking toward future outcomes, using their logical function (F/T) to invent or discover possible results. The form of “prediction” the Ne wields is primarily in the form of “shotgunning” the audience with numerous possibilities—even when the audience is only themselves. This process may help the Ne or others to identify and react potential outcomes as well, being a valuable tool in many situations.

    Other idiosyncrasies that Ne's share may include:
    • Easily “lost” in the vast amount of thoughts/concepts in the Ne's mind
    • Identifies multiple meanings or answers behind ideas or problems
    • Adept at indirectly affecting people or situations by suggesting/redirecting them

    Ni: The Introverted Intuitive, separate from the other functions:

    1. Encouraged by, energized by, and identifier of Symbolic items, be them physical objects (like a necklace or charm), an event (such as a rainbow on a particularly emotional day), or even a verbal statement (a friend tells you “I like your hair” just seconds after you were thinking about your hair).
    2. Intuitively or “magically” understands answers: may become “suddenly aware” of an answer to a problem, as it comes into focus. The problem could be one related to work or resource management, to family or interpersonal relationships, or even to an obstacle to overcome in one's own self. This may be after some time of introspection or contemplation on the matter, but may also be sudden, without warning or cause.
    3. Enjoys catalyzing change and encouraging adaptability in others, allowing for a more “open minded” perspective in an environment. This may be between the Ni and the other, or a group of people in a given environment. The important distinction here is that an Ni enjoys this as a motivation, and believes that others truly desire the overall benefit from the change(s).
    4. Focused on fulfilling a dream or goal: this may seem to be more of a Sensory trait, however the Ni is focused on where the Se/Si is moving toward the goal. The dream, goal, or idea may change from time to time, but the Ni has a strong desire to accomplish, achieve, or aspire to reach the dream, where the Ne tends not to maintain specific goals, or their goals are much less concrete in nature/definition. These goals or dreams may guide or help the Ni in their daily actions/reactions.
    5. Accurately predicts the outcome of events, relating past and current trends of people or systems to help understand and define the end results. This may come into play when identifying the ramifications when a friend inside a network creates drama, or could be applied toward the work place to “intuitively” (and usually with a high level of accuracy) perceive the net effect(s) of whatever action is taken.

    Other idiosyncrasies that Ni's share may include:
    • Naturally or easily “transcending” situations or problems
    • Easily identifies trends
    • May “go to sleep” on a problem to wake up with an answer
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  9. #8
    INFP - The Idealists

    Quote Originally Posted by snapdragons View Post
    How do you "read between the lines"? what's considered abstract or symbolic thinking? When you are conscious of it, how would you describe what is happening?
    Maybe I can help... I am an intuitor, but I do a lot of 'teaching' type activity and know how to get into a sensor's head.

    The thing is, is that most intuitors aren't conscious that they are intuiting.. It's really hard to be conscious of that.. by definition intuitors don't often have to sense such things. It can be likened to a heartbeat for us; we don't have to think to use it (but it's not as extreme as the example).

    I am conscious of it sometimes though. It's not "easy" but I do it. I can be conscious that I'm intuiting.. it feel like...

    Well, when it happens, I sometimes like to go back and sense the same thing as I just discovered through intuition. It's like when someone says "the signs were there" so I went to go look through and find the signs to come to the conclusion "sure, but I didn't need them; I found it out on my own."

    Now, the thing is that sensors don't do that. They have to look for the signs, like... when you come to a metaphor, you have to ask yourself if it means something and decide using your senses. What you can do is train yourself to look for things in a book that might seem irrelevant, that's a good sign that it's a metaphor, is if it seems irrelevant. Then, once you have found something you think is a metaphor, then you use your prior knowledge to connect it to something.

    Perhaps, if you want to, you could also google and see if there's a way to develop your intuition and you could work on it, if you wanted to, and learn what it's like to be an intuitor.
    Singing Silence and Choice thanked this post.

  10. #9
    ENFP - The Inspirers

    First of all I'm wondering what sort of career you're looking at and if the functions you naturally use might not work just fine or if it's actually a poor fit.

    But as others have said it's really hard to communicate. And Ni and Ne are different. I can only speak for myself as a Ne-dom, but it's like everything has a very loose sketch that could be interpreted into several different patterns/sketches or generate a whole new pattern.

    Whereas you might see a rabbit and think that's a rabbit, I've seen several, they ate all of my mom's vegetation, she really didn't like that, rabbits can be a nuisance, I'll have to watch to see how many there are and if they're doing any harm, a Ne dom might have a flash of that thought, and a series of associations maybe including fur and freedom and being prey and all of the possible offshoots of thoughts and associations from those identifications. And they all leave sort of an imprint to draw from if you see maybe a kid acting like a rabbit. The associations are broad and immediate and fluid. It fits into one or more of the patterns and lends itself to metaphors and analogies since it's more about what they have in common with other things or what is different from other things rather than the specifics about the actual thing.

    Certain types of math and logic have always been easy for me because I can see immediately what fits and what doesn't based on those patterns and I understand why even though it's incredibly hard to explain it to someone else.
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  11. #10
    ENTP - The Visionaries

    If you can remove the idea from the object, then you will understand intuition better. Rather than explain to you what intuition is, find any object. Examine that object. Now, as an ISTJ, your natural intuitive function that you will fall back on is Ne. This is important because Ne intuits based on ideas and things external to the self. You should start out with things because they are simpler than reading Plato or something. Okay, go back to the object. Notice things about it and start to imagine the various ways it could be manufactured. Ne is all about the possibilities. Don't settle on one. Focus on exploring all of the ways you can think of that the object was manufactured. Think of various ways the object could be used that it wasn't necessarily meant to be used as. Think of what the object means. Not how you use it, but what went into making, storing, shipping, selling, and using that object. Now go off of that wherever Ne takes you. When you get bored or your brain hurts, put it down and go about your daily business. When you feel up to it again, pick up another, totally different object. Repeat the process.

    Eventually, you will learn to remove the object from the idea. This is going to look different for you than it will for xNxPs. Read up on Ne and figure out how it will manifest itself in you. Intuition is all about knowing without having much to go on. You'll probably feel silly while doing this, but it'll be worth it in the end. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you can jump from A to F without needing to fill in the gaps. And I promise that you already use intuition. The exercise I laid out is for you to recognize it.

    I suppose I can write about how I use intuition personally though. I simply make connections using Ne using things that are external to me. Keep in mind that intuition, both types, need the dom/aux judging function to prevent it from spinning off wildly. Ne is the function of conspiracy theories. Without something to keep it in check

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