I started learning about cognitive functions, and, nope, my life is not the same. I always knew about the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator and that people talked about “Se” or “Ti,” but I didn’t study it until recently. When I started to learn about it, I started to “see” the members of my family better. It also helped me personally make some big decisions and invest that much more in my health.
I looked into every cognitive function stack of my family members. There are 8 cognitive functions in total and 4 that any given person mainly uses. The first of them is how you mainly “show up” to the world. Mine is “introverted intuitive,” and honestly nothing could describe me better. I prefer to live in my own head, with my own thoughts. I, an INFJ, will also take “as much sensory deprivation” you can give me. Oh, yes. Please, please, let me be in a room doing my writing, analysis, and research. It’s what I do, and I can never get enough. My secondary cognitive function is “extroverted feeling.” This is a relationship between how I interact with the outer world. When I am scanning the outer world, I am scanning people’s emotions. And I totally am. Now imagine you are constantly scanning for people’s emotions, and then processing those feelings, as inside your own mind. You know, it makes me good at child development work, what I am known for. But, depending on the situation you are in and the people you are around, it can send you into what I call “overwhelm.” I am thrown into overwhelm often, and I have to calm it down. I can do it live, now that I understand it. But it usually involves sleep, hot baths, and a massive amount of processing my thoughts to get back to calm. Oh, and my third cognitive function is introverted thinking. So, I am again in my own mind, doing detailed, focused analysis of what I am interested in. It just never ends for me. Lastly, my only real saving grace, is “extroverted sensation.” I can indeed enjoy the outer world. I can even play sports and such. It makes me like things like dancing and hiking. And, oh yes, I do. This is the part I wanted to develop more. I decided to give up on some intellectual pursuits, keeping me in my head, and focus a bit more on developing the extroverted sensation part of me. I did this not because social media is constantly sending out life advice to do this or that, but because I took a look at my own personality, my current life situation, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do. My favorite website for this is verywellmind.com.
I decided to plot my children’s cognitive functions. I was pretty amazed by what I found, and it gave me great insight into them. I can tell my children’s personality types, e.g., if they are ESTP or ENFJ. I do this first by figuring out if they are an “N” or an “S.” An “N” is intuitive, and they process a lot of data. An “S” is a sensate and likes to be in the moment. My two oldest are an N and my youngest is an S. My two oldest can process a large amount of information and both need downtime after a while. My youngest can watch things buzz right by his head and he has no issue with it. For me, this is my biggest clue that he is an S. He likes to be in the moment. After this, I determine if they are an F, a feeler, or a T, a thinker. This is pretty easy. Do they like cars, trains, and bicycles, or do they like relationships, emotions, and such? Determining if they are an I, an introvert, or E, extrovert, was a bit difficult when my children were younger. My oldest seemed to genuinely straddle between the two. However, by the time they were 7, it was obvious. Where do they draw their energy? From things they do solo or in a group of people? Finally the J, judger, versus P, perceiver, can be a bit difficult. I had to look at the personality descriptions to really figure it out. But, do they tend to be judgmental or even abrasive? Are they organized? They might be J. Do they like to just do a job quickly and get it over with? Do they greatly enjoy being entertained or entertaining? They might be a P.
Here are my family’s personalities and their cognitive stacks.
I was really shocked by a couple things. First, notice that my daughter, Emily, and I have the same exact functions, just in a different order. This actually made me see her in a whole new light. I started to see how she was basically me, just a highly extroverted version of me. For instance, we both are walking contradictions. She tells me she loves to talk, but then gets really shy about what she just said. I do the same thing, over and over, except I do it in writing, not verbally. I can better relate to that part of her, knowing it’s similar but just a bit different. We are also both “extroverted feeling” and every now and then she tells me how much she likes to show people she is of use to them. Instead of lecturing her about people pleasing, I had to nod: indeed, it feels good, sometimes, to know we did something good for others, right? That’s the extroverted feeler in both her and me. And, oh, my poor daughter. You have no idea how empathetic she is. She says she can feel people’s emotions directly. She’s done this since she was 3, at least, where if someone gets a cut, she says it feels like she has the cut. Can you imagine, being an extroverted feeler dominant, how intense that is?
Now check out my son, John, the INTJ. I’ve always felt he is a male version of me. He is highly sensitive, like me, and his sensitivity is identical to mine. We can process data like no other; we don’t like a lot of busyness; we need a tremendous amount of down time; and, I’m not going to lie, we both think people can be stupid sometimes. He and I both have “Introverted Intuition” as our dominant cognitive function, and I just plain *get* him. I’ve described it as the only real difference between us is he likes math, history, and physics (his T function) whereas I can like those things, but my heart is with relationship and people (my F function). I also notice he and his dad are the only ones with extroverted thinking and introverted feeling. This also has ramifications that I notice. I can do it, but I strongly prefer to not have to fix a broken mechanical object. I go to them for that. Yes, I already go to my son, 10, to help me with technology.
Now, again, look at my youngest son, an ESTP. He ALSO has my same cognitive function stack, just rearranged. This helped me “see” him so much better. As he is an Extraverted Sensate dominant, it’s a bit harder for me to identify with him. Oh, I “see” him. In fact his cheeky self endears me like no other. But seeing that underneath all that extraverted sensation, that desire to be in the moment and be active, is introverted intuition and introverted thinking helped me see a new side of him. He can be quiet, thoughtful, and deliberate. In fact, when he’s pulling one of his cheeky jokes, I can see the enormous amount of patience he has as he pulls it off. I see that about it him now. And it endears me like no other.
Also notice that all of my children have functions that came from their parents. In other words, they all have something one of their two parents have. I especially notice their aunts and uncles in my children. My youngest is my one brother. My daughter is my husband’s sister. I draw on this, as well, to understand what their issues might be and how to help them.
This helped me cater to my children. For instance, I looked up what kind of hobbies an ENFJ, my daughter, would like. The very first one listed was literature. Oh my goodness, yes. This girl, at 7, has read all of the Harry Potter books by herself, as well as many other shorter books. She has many extroverted needs, and it’s hard for me to keep up with them. I thought to myself that a book club would be great for her, and I was right. She loves her weekly Harry Potter book club. I also learned she would derive a tremendous amount of joy in serving others or doing charity work. So, I am looking for those opportunities. I re-remembered that my son, an INTJ, would like solo hobbies, such as swimming or golfing. And, yet, as he has some extroverted sensation in him, he would also like some thrills and being in the moment. You know, I was stunned when he told us he wanted to try soccer. And, he loves it. He loves to improve his skills at it and being out on the field. And my youngest, what can I say? He’s a charmer. That I already knew.
This was a treasure trove for me in helping my children, and I hope it can help you understand your children, too.