This thread is for INFPs obviously, regardless of whether or not you consider yourself an unhealthy one. Not that INFPs can be divided into such black and white categories as there are many different levels of development for an INFP to fall under.
First, here is a small fact about INFPs and typology: The MBTI is bad for INFPs and the JCF (jungian cognitive functions) are good for them (when used properly).
The MBTI may have good intentions and provide some definite benefits to INFPs but for many of them those benefits are just temporary and do not solve any of the larger and more long term issues INFPs tend to face. I use the INFP label mostly just because it's convenient and it's not much different than saying FiNe. It's also more identifiable because of the popularity of the MBTI.
Any INFP who has gotten into the nitty gritty about JCF can understand just what it means to have INFP cognition and what they can specifically do to develop themselves.
Most articles about INFP improvement originate from MBTI analysis and therefore only tell you what you should work towards but not the steps on how to do so.
The problem with the MBTI and INFPs is that it gives them a group of people to identify with but it makes no effort to explain how diverse they can be. The MBTI encourages static personalities and a heavy chauvinistic approach revolving around personality patriotism. This does not endorse true improvement as the MBTI types inherently include weaknesses with their labels so clinging to an INFP label only serves as an excuse to continue exerting unhealthy behavior and cognition.
INFPs often cling to the INFP label at first, but then may later abandon it because of either the stereotypes that surround it or because other INFPs failed to meet their expectations of having people with whom they can identify with entirely. There are other reasons as well but generally a lot of INFPs that do not continue on to JCF study tend to abandon typology entirely after a while because they realize it really serves no purpose to them and is not actually the sanctuary they desired.
The JCF on the other hand can tell an INFP how exactly and why they think and operate the way they do and they do not encourage them to set an even wider gap between themselves and other people in society (which is usually fabricated by them because of their idealistic mindset.) It allows them to see the similarities between themselves and other people of any type, rather than focus on the differences.
I'll try to discuss some of the most common issues INFPs face and the mistakes they often make when approaching life. This is by no means a thorough overview of INFP issues though as many issues are not INFP exclusive.
Most INFPs can agree that often being socially awkward or socially drained was or is a part of their lives at some point(s). Why is this?
The MBTI tells you "it's because you're an introvert" or an even simpler statement of "INFPs are often shy or hard to get to know" or "large crowds can be draining to an INFP" and not much else. That's a perfectly fine explanation/statement as it is somewhat true but it also gives off the impression that you are stuck the way you are and that you cannot change this about yourself. (depending on what article source you are looking at. some are better than others when approaching cognitive development.)
You can change this, but you need to understand why crowds drain you first.
INFPs are Ji dominant and Pe auxiliary. They want to form pseudo conclusions (ones they can easily change later on) about everything they come into contact with. This is not to be confused with a legitimately concrete decision or opinion as those are less malleable. This also doesn't mean they don't analyze things with their Ne perception frequently as well, but it means they are "pickier" about what they are willing to analyze. This is because Pe is tiresome for them to utilize if it has not been developed enough. It requires them to venture outside their boundaries and truly be open to the world regardless of what they think about it. This can be difficult for an INFP at first.
Essentially for an INFP to utilize their Ne on a social basis, they approach it the same way you would approach a large flight of stairs. It's very difficult to climb at first and as you become stronger it becomes less tiresome. Nevertheless it requires work and effort regardless of the difficulty.
In a crowded setting it becomes much more difficult to uphold this criteria and form these psuedo conclusions to utilize this internal filter of interaction. They can also feel obligated to not uphold these filters in order to co-exist with social norms peacefully (which can occasionally be more important to an INFP than maintaining their social filter). There are too many people to judge and when interaction is forced upon the INFP without their consent they feel infiltrated and they want to retract. This lack of control over interaction causes INFPs to feel a heavy mental drain or even a physical energy drain.
In other words, Ne is your primary source of interaction with the world as an INFP so if it's underdeveloped you won't be equipped to do so in most environments. It can serve as your go-to tool for internal analysis without being developed very much, but utilizing it without limits for it's true and intended purpose of external interaction may not be as easy. When you look at an ENP type for example (an Ne dominant type) you'll notice they utilize Ne on a much broader basis than you do because they don't have that filter in front of it but instead behind it. While you shouldn't adopt the mindset of "I should be more like an ENP" you can certainly look to them as a very good example of what Ne is like in it's true un-filtered form and take notes.
It is much like entering a swimming pool for the first time. You can't keep dipping just your feet in the water forever, you must eventually jump in in order to learn that it is not only perfectly safe (if you know how to swim) but it is also very enjoyable.
Alternatively, rather than face this fear of infiltration by "non-approved" personnel, an unhealthy INFP will streamline the process and form preset filters or criteria that act as an "auto-pilot" to form judgments about people, things and concepts so they don't have to put as much effort into forming the conclusion on the spot. The mindset of "all people suck" is one very general example. "Crowds have only ever drained me in the past, so all crowds suck." They are taking the perceptive load away from their Ne which requires effort and giving it to their Si which takes little effort to utilize as it is another introverted function.
This is just one example of what can lead to a tertiary loop.
Fi-Si Tertiary Loops.
This is the most common thing for an undeveloped INFP to fall into (as is with all types, but this is about Fi-Si loops specifically).
The basic concept of a tertiary loop is that if your auxiliary and inferior functions are not adequately developed, they can become temporarily incapacitated during times of anxiety and you will lack the external input and processing necessary for stable and rational thought.
Tertiary loops for INFPs are sort of the turtle shell defense mechanism that activates when something external is determined to be a threat. This "threat" can be just about anything depending on what the INFP considers to be a threat.
The externally based functions are shut off to prevent anything external from infiltrating the internal core of cognition and most often the INFP will not even realize this. This is also instigated by the fact that the extraverted functions when underdeveloped drain the INFP of energy while the introverted ones do not so it is much easier to throw them away when under stress.
For INFPs with a cognition of Fi, Ne, Si, Te, that leaves only Fi and Si left to function. Without Te the INFP cannot process anything from an objective standpoint and without Ne the INFP cannot accept any external evidence or information for which to base decisions on.
Instead they only have their dominant Fi and tertiary Si, though they will convince themselves that their Fi IS objective and that their Si is still Ne. This is because while Si is an unconcious function, Ne is a conscious one. If Ne becomes incapacitated and replaced by an unconscious function, the INFP will not be consciously aware of the fact unless they are specifically good at reading their unconscious (which again, requires developed function usage.)
This creates projection. Taking a pattern or event from the past and assuming it will occur again. Although with INFPs in a tertiary loop it goes much deeper than that. They do not see it in terms of "the past will repeat itself", their mindset is more "the past IS the future" and often they are not even aware that they are looking at past events in the first place and just assume that the future they think they see (what they think is Ne which is actually Si) is rational to consider.
Here's an example:
An (undeveloped) INFP is undergoing a hardship or something stressful and they come to you asking for your assistance or advice. At this point they are still using their full cognition (as much as is developed) which is why they are coming to you in the first place.
You listen to their long and heavily Fi-Ne based rant (common for NFPs) and when they finish you tell them what you think they should do.
If what you have to say is something they don't necessarily want to do or accept, this is where they will feel vulnerable and shutdown their external cognition.
What's more, they may be looking upon patterns or past events where people in their past have told given the exact same advice but on a more negative and critical basis. They probably have a negative opinion of those people. Although you are not those people, the INFPs Ne and Te are now shut down and they cannot reason with themselves to identify you as such and to know that you are not one of those people. With crippled external reasoning and input they will begin to form internal conclusions about you like "I was wrong about you. I can't trust anybody. If my best friend is against me then everyone is against me."
At this point they regard you no differently as one of those people from their past and they will probably lash out at you in anger (anger they probably don't actually have towards you, but towards the people they are projecting onto you.)
They have gone into their shell and from here on anything you say will not be accepted by them nor can it be. They cannot accept your evidence because they have convinced themselves that their own internal analysis (composed only of the past and their fairly subjective take on it) is entirely objective and reasonable. They cling to these conclusions because in this state their Fi is their cognitive lifeboat and anything that conflicts with it is deemed as a threat (or a shark) rather than helpful critique.
Essentially, if you aren't going to tell them what they want to hear it is a moot point to say anything else. This is why I tell people "You can't fix an INFP. Only they can fix themselves."
In order for them to combat this cognitive spiral the answer is simple: don't fall into it to begin with.
To do that they must develop their Te and Ne (Te most importantly).
Your Fi dominance is both a blessing and a curse. This can be fixed of course. You have diminished Te usage as a result of having developed Fi usage. Your Fi cannot and never will be able to form sound conclusions to fit ALL types of scenarios as it is not some kind of super function, so it's "plan B" or counterweight is Te. If you have no Te usage your Fi will inevitably be inadequate to deal with a scenario eventually and your cognition will have nothing to rely on so it will fall into the tertiary loop as a defense mechanism.
The only place to begin when it comes to developing your functions is to identify two things:
1. The times when you make "auto-pilot" decisions
2. Scenarios that cause an instinctual fear or uncomfortableness within you.
These are good signs of areas that need to be developed, and most of the time they involve Ne and Te. (Si can be undeveloped as well, but it doesn't pose as severe of a problem for INFPs if it isn't. There is almost always an inherent development of Si if Fi is the dominant function.)
First, you must learn to stop yourself. You must learn to defy your innermost desires and defy yourself for who you believe yourself to be and cling to. This can be very uncomfortable for an Fi dominant to do, but it is essential for development.
When I say "stop" I mean literally halting your normal cognitive patterns and forcing yourself to purposefully take alternate "routes" so to speak. It may be unnecessary on an everyday basis, but it's much easier to do so then rather than during stressful scenarios.
There is a difference between passive Te usage and active/fully developed Te usage.
Plenty of INFPs can SEE the other side of the fence but cannot actually venture over it. What that means is that many INFPs can see the options that their Te presents to them that often oppose their Fi conclusions but they cannot actually act upon them. I refer to this as passive Te usage. Te, when at this stage of development, can still be used beneficially in a passive sense and provide a good sense of objective rationality but when it comes to critical or stressful decisions the Fi still remains dominant and cannot be overridden by Te even if it needs to be. Many INFPs with this sort of Te usage often undergo a sense of knowing what they should do but are seemingly unable to force themselves to do it. This is just a stage in Te development and is essential for an INFP to experience if they are to begin developing their Te. It by no means is something an INFP can become stuck in.
Active and developed Te is essentially just Te as it should be used. It can override any Fi options presented if need be but it still remains the secondary option in the INFPs cognition simply because of preference alone, not lack of ability. When Te is fully developed in an INFP they no longer have as many "gut feelings" to act upon impulsively but rather they have a broader arsenal of ways to approach a scenario and do not feel as if there is only one way they have to act and they no longer feel controlled by their own feelings. They can easily reject any feelings they may have about something if they deem them unfit for a situation and want to approach something from a more objective standpoint. They no longer fear that doing so will somehow discredit their internal values and they are able to realize that their loyalty to what they believe in is not diminished just because they make an occasional exception for the greater good.
Pro tip: Clinging to your inner values and proclaiming your devotion to them in the face of opposition does not make your dedication to them more significant.
That is comparable to a child holding a toy and unnecessarily shouting "MINE!" to people even if they are not trying to take it away from them. Their is nothing mature about it and it is mostly just an act of selfishness.
Most of the heavily tarnished INFP reputation can be attributed to this behavior of irrational devotion to values. Yes, it's admirable to defend what you believe in and it's nice that you can do it with ease unlike others, but most people don't really care and they are especially not going to care when your devotion starts to become annoying or even destructive. Though if you honestly cared about the opinion of others around your values you wouldn't have formed them in the first place, what with all the negative feedback you have probably received about them over the years. Do not confuse peoples disdain towards your values with people not understanding you. They can understand you perfectly fine and still disagree with what you believe in.
Often the negative opinion that people have of INFPs (when it comes to people who have had a lot of interaction with INFPs) is that they think of them as babies. Whiny babies that cry and bitch when they don't get what they want (not to be confused with the emo stereotype). There is nothing rational about crying and bitching nor does it ever get you what you want, so why continue to do so? They can realize this but the INFPs they interact with seem unable to do so.
Obviously if one wants to carry a civil discussion, they are not going to look to the whiny bitchy baby for intelligent and objective contribution.
This doesn't have to be the case though. INFPs are entirely capable of objective and non-biased discussion as is any type, but development is essential for that to be possible because of their naturally inferior Te. This reputation that INFPs have is indeed based mostly on the unhealthy members of the INFP type but that is the case with basically all of the other types as well (save for the types that are often ridiculously good at hiding their shortcomings. *cough*intj*cough*).
The most frequent shortcoming I have seen in INFPs is this: They are often surprised that people reject their viewpoints and don't understand why people do so.
Here is the answer to that in layman's terms: You are an idealist. Idealism has ALWAYS been met with plenty of criticism in this society and if you stopped to look around for a bit you would notice that as well. By taking up such a heavily idealistic approach to the world you are choosing to be met with criticism and disdain from others, so why are you so surprised when people do not accept what you have to say?
Idealism is not perfect though. Sometimes tradition is necessary. Not EVERYTHING was done incorrectly in the past. You must find a delicate balance between moving forward and staying behind. If you move forward too fast you will ultimately crash and burn, if you stay behind forever you cannot progress and advance. In our society it is people like you that fuel that idealistic approach to life and help the world take steps forward, but many people dislike change and you should expect them to shun your ideals (at first). This is perfectly fine though and you should take pride in your ideas and viewpoint on the world as a whole while maintaining your own personal ability to accept criticism of your ideals in order to improve them and change them as necessary.
Voicing your opinions is another easy way to develop your cognition. Step outside your head and put yourself on display with pride. Some people will indeed be attracted to your ideals rather than shun them and you must sometimes dig through the hay to find the needle.