There is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about the sensing functions in MBTI circles, recently given attention on twitter. The descriptions of sensing types, and the sensing function, Se and Si, are very limiting. The base of how the online community sees sensing, comes mainly from two different sources, the original MBTI source; Gifts differing by Isabel Briggs Myers, and David Keirsey’s Please understand me II.
However, people has lately been reacting on how both of those sources gives a limited understanding and description of the sensing functions, one that doesn’t give the sensors an accurate description. The way the sensing functions are described in Gifts differing stays fairly faithful to what Carl Jung wrote about it, only bending it slightly, making sensors appear slower and more conservative (yes, even Se) than anything Jung wrote on it. However, the real bad guy here is Keirsey. It’s mainly from his work (though this is not exactly what he wrote, even though it pointed in that direction) that the idea that Se are adrenaline junkies, and Si equals memory. This isn’t how Jung described it though, far from. And it’s a very limiting view on the functions.
Something worth checking out, to broaden the understanding of them – and I’m not saying this is the way to describe the functions, but combined with how they are described in MBTI, it gives a fuller picture of what sensing actually is. The way socionics describes the sensing functions can be likened to the two approaches to the force in the Star Wars saga, with the Jedi order representing Si, and the Sith personifying Se.
Looking at the code of the Jedi order, it shows an Si heavy attitude. There is a merging with the external world, a softer approach, focused on harmony how different pieces of reality fits together. It’s about the interaction between fields, how the person reacts to external stimulation.
The Sith code on the other hand, embodies Se. In contrast to the Jedi code, there is no merging with reality, no focus on harmony. There is a focus on the “external”, static properties of reality. The “field” around each person, the personal space. It’s a focus on the strength that is needed to defend and invade this.
Another important thing to keep in mind when trying to understand Se and Si, is to realise that introversion and extraversion doesn’t mean that it’s internal or external, but rather the way the information is treated. Si is the subjective impression of sensory data, it’s taking external information, but focusing on the subjective impression of it, the reaction our subject has on the information. Se on the other hand focuses on the external properties of what it perceives directly, not putting it through a filter. This description however is highly abstract, and to understand the actual reality of how it looks, the two different perspectives, MBTI and socionics, both offers insight.