- Apr 23, 2007
- MBTI Type
- Instinctual Variant
“What is a poet? An unhappy man who hides deep anguish in his heart, but whose lips are so formed that when the sigh and cry pass through them, it sounds like lovely music. …Of course, a critic resembles a poet to a hair, except he has no anguish in his heart, no music on his lips.So I tell you, I would rather be a swineherd at Amagebro and be understood by the swine than a poet and misunderstood by people.” Soren Kierkegaard.
This essay has been initially inspired by Paul James’ INTP profile. I deem for the INFP to the type that is most like the INTP. The salient common factor is introverted judgment. As Jung himself mentioned in the Psychological Types that everything we have noted in regards to the Introverted Thinking type will be true for the Introverted Feeling type after we have replaced the Thinking for Feeling. Introverted Judgment is the mechanism that is instilled in both of them, and Thinking/Feeling is the fuel they operate on.
Before we begin, I should however claim that my task is very different from that of Paul James. He wished to depict the way people with the INTP unconscious tendencies, or temperament tend to behave. I consider for such experiments in thought to be dangerous because they tend to lead to a confusion between temperament and personality, as we know that the deleterious consequence of this is pigeonholing. Our temperament is no more than our unconscious tendencies. It manifests primarily in the mind, our concrete actions are an entailment of this. Because temperament manifests primarily in the mind, Jung studied philosophy. As there he could examine the way the minds of a variety of thinkers worked. At first, certainly, he observed these tendencies through concrete actions, but then when he discovered where the actions derived from. He took his inquiry a step further and proceeded to explore the root. In this profile I will merely attempt to depict how the mind of the INFP tends to work. How this will manifest in your personal life is for you to figure out, as that will be contingent upon your personal choices. Thus, in order to avoid the problem of pigeonholing, I will only write about what you do not have control over and shall pass what you do have control over in silence.
For clarity’s sake it would be prudent for us to define our terms before we begin.
Temperament-An unconscious tendency immanent within our mind.
Type-The way temperament manifests in our conscious mind through personality.
When we talk about an INFP, we merely talk about unconscious tendencies or temperament. When we talk about an INFP person, or what INFPs tend to be like or what they tend to, a Keirseyan exegesis, we are referring to a type. Tendencies of type tend not to be fundamental to our nature or our unconscious mind, as temperaments do indeed tend to manifest themselves in a myriad of fashions. Type tends to be profoundly influenced by external circumstances. As for instance, an INFP in Greenland would be radically different from an INFP in India, despite them both having the same temperament.
Introversion-An attitude that defines the world in relation to the self
Extroversion-An attitude that defines the self in relation to the world.
Judging function-Our decision making faculties
Perceiving function-Information collecting faculties.
Thinking-Decision making faculties that abide by an impersonal standard.
Feeling-Decision making faculties abiding by a person-centered standard.
Introverted Feeling- A decision making faculty that defines the self from within, based on an internal criteria and defines the rest of the world in relation to the elected criteria.
Extroverted Intuition-An information collecting faculty that assesses information for quality based on external agenda. Generally based on how well ideas depict external phenomena.
Introverted Sensing-An information collecting faculty that assess concrete information for quality based on an internal agenda. Memories and concrete facts are seen as an end in themselves and do not need to depict the external world in order to be considered satisfactory.
Extroverted Thinking-An externally focused impersonal decision making faculty that relies on an external standard for legitimation.
Primary Axis: Introverted Thinking - Extraverted Intuition
The INFP is governed primarily by Introverted Feeling. This is a rational function and therefore strives to create internal order. Extroverted Intuition tends to be used in service of this faculty. Experiences are to be assessed based on the personal values elected by the INFP. Unlike the dominant Introverted Thinking temperament—the INTP who seeks to derive an understanding of external experiences, the INFP seeks to derive a sense of personal meaning. An INTP asks what is the most accurate model to depict the observed phenomenon, yet the INFP would ask—what personal lesson could be derived from this particular experience? And how this is conducive to an establishment of sound personal values. In short, whilst the INTP tends to ask—what is true, the INFP asks what is humane? As Soren Kierkegaard, famously wrote
“There is something missing in my life, and it has to do with my need to understand what I must do, what I must know-except, of course, that a certain amount of knowledge is presupposed in every action. I need to understand my purpose in life, to see what God wants me to do, and this means that I must find a truth which is true for me, that I must find that Idea for which I can live and die. For what would it profit me if I found the so-called ‘objective truth’, if I worked through all the systems of philosophy and were able to analyze them and expose their inconsistencies; what would it profit me to develop a political theory and combine all the intricate details of politics into a complete whole, and so construct a world for the exhibition of others but in which I did not live; what would it profit me if I develop the correct interpretation of Christianity in which I resolved all the internal problems, if it had no deeper significance for me and for my life; what would it profit me if truth stood before me cold and naked; indifferent to whether I recognized her or not, creating in me paroxysms of anxiety rather than confident devotion?’’.
This suffices to depict the discrepancy between the INTP’s search for truth and the INFP’s search for authenticity. However, we should take note that despite the striking contrast in attitudes of these two types, the similarities seem to be more prominent as they both find it paramount to discover a higher purpose and devote their lives to this archetypal notion. Much like for the INTP, the experience tends to take a ‘back-seat’ role for the INFP, as they too tend to be highly theoretical. Paul James writes in regards to the INTP “what is not yet understood is a very powerful force in the life of an INTP.” As powerful of a driving force for the INFP would be the need to come to benign terms with their external environment. Introverted Feeling can be characterized by the will and need to love to the same extent as Introverted Thinking by the need to understand all. Therefore the INFP seeks to find harmony with all things in an analogous fashion to the INTP attempting to find an objective understanding of all things. The INFP seeks a subjective understanding of all things, or personal sympathy, in a fashion much akin to the INTP seeking an objective understanding of all things. John Milton’s search for paradise is a glaring example of the INFP’s longing for harmony, as well as Virgil’s beuatification of Rome. John Milton was an avid reader of Virgil’s work and greatly admired his style of poetry. He too, deeply sympathized with the need to romanticize due to the irrepressible drive for harmony that permeated his being. And he once asked himself, Virgil glorified Rome, but why glorify a nation when you can glorify God? Isn’t God the most deserving entity of adulation there could be? The Romans can certainly disappoint you, though God, given that he truly is as magnanimous as he is in the scripture must love you back. This, somewhat portentous essence of character is perhaps the most prominent in the INFP psyche. This shows that unlike an Extroverted Feeler whose primary goal in life tends to be ‘to love’, the INFP finds it more important ‘to be loved’. An Extroverted Feeler would wish to make an emotional attachment under all circumstances, whilst the Introverted Feeler would experience intense reservations unless they thought that what they have inputted would truly be appreciated. This seems to evince that the function of Introverted Feeling gives one a more direct access to the essence of pure feeling than extroverted. For this reason the INFP tends to be more aware of whether or not their input has been appreciated on the level it deserved to be. Their longing for harmony first and foremost leads them to make intense emotional attachments to ideas that they are compelled by from a person-centered perspective. And since they are unable to remove themselves from the situations that their minds place them in, they very much envision themselves as having the basic emotional human needs. Due to their inability to detach, they always envision themselves as protagonists in their reveries. Fi gives them a direct view of their personality, from a person-centered perspective. Whatever they do, they always engage in vicariously. Introverted Feeling, much like Introverted Thinking possesses the ability to focus intensely. The INFP, unlike the INTP focuses intensely on the human element. Hence, the INFP will devote their whole might to whatever catches their sympathies. For this reason, one can get the impression that they feel through whatever is important to them with all of their being. As aforementioned, Introverted Feeling is a direct representation of their personality in action. Thus, due to the intense focus and an intensely personal approach to life the INFPs, much like INTPs often get lost in their thoughts. The salient difference between an INTP and an INFP is that the latter takes a person-centered approach, and may feel charged from contemplation, as an introvert, though likely will be emotionally drained afterwards, had the experience had a negative emotional tone. An INTP, on the other hand is always sheltered from this due to detachment. In this respect, INFPs are absent-minded professors to nearly the same extent as the INTPs. Though their intense ability to focus comes in at a time when their feeling-sensibilities, as opposed to analytical faculties are engaged. As we have defined earlier, introversion is an attitude that defines the external world in relation to itself. Therefore, the INFP defines the external world in relation to its feeling-based assessments. For an Extroverted Feeler, Feelings likely would be means to the end of an external endeavor. Yet, for an INFP, feelings are always an end in itself. They do not require any external signal for legitimation, as they can be legitimated by virtue of themselves. For this reason, an INFP is least likely of all types to downplay their feelings. There dwells an immensely powerful unconscious drive within them which insists on their feelings being treated as valid, not only their feelings, but the notion of the human sentiment in general. Hence, the essence of pure feeling for the INFP is analogous to pure logic for the INTP. For this reason, the INFP will likely be very stubborn to comply with a stipulation, much like the INTP, before having had a chance to think it through for themselves. Unlike the INTP from whom we are likely to receive stubborn resistance, the INFP will silently reject the stipulation tainting their attitude towards the person, yet will conceal their rejection until their values are violated to a great extent. In such a scenarion, they likely would have no choice but to treat the person in an effusive fashion. Both INTPs and INFPs tend to be conflict-avoidant. Both are due to their need to conserve energy, as being intensely internally focused they tend to have little external energy, as well as they have an intense need to protect the integrity of their inner world. The INFP, however, will be even more conflict-avoidant because of their intense need for harmony with all things, that is the driving force behind nearly all of their thought and action. Thus conflict resolution can be highly problematic for INFPs, the less developed the Te, the more likely this problem is to abound. Earlier, we have mentioned that the primary drive of an Extroverted Feeler is to direct passions to the outside, and by these merits their whole being will be fulfilled. The Introverted Feeler, however, does not need to direct passions to the outside in order to be fulfilled, because he/she can accomplish this internally. The Extroverted Feeler, is the go-getter, one who likely will do all that is necessary in order to achieve the goal of being loved, ostensibly by attempting to 'love others'. Yet the INFP needs to be engaged first. This is much akin to how INTPs tend to be excellent self-starters when engaged by a task, though non-starters when not-engaged. This is a property of Extroverted Intuition for both types, as we can only be informed of the task through our perceiving function. Since the perceiving function for INPs is extroverted, it must derive from the outside. They may remain stagnant for long periods of time due to their internsely internally focused nature, much unlike ENPs who would pursue the external tasks in a highly energetic fashion. For this reason, the INFP, as beforementioned is highly likely to retreat to the inner world for intense emotional experiences. Introverted Feeling, as a dominant function, always needs to be making decisions, as we see that it is an end in itself and therefore internally fueled. Hence, so long as the inner being is in operational mode for the INFP, Introverted Feeling will be in session. This is much analogous to the INTP's need to be consistently challenged. Thus, the INFP consistently needs to be in a state of harmony. For this reason, as for many mentioned above, the INFP is more likely to withdraw into the inner world of reveries than other types. Harmony is a must accomplish objective, and if it cannot be found in the outer world, the INFP will doubtlessly turn to where it could be found. Very often, when the external world does not comport to the vision of an INFP, the INFP is forced to seek a place where their vision could be thought of as a reality. This stresses their very strong introverted nature, or primacy of the inner world over the outer. Much like Hegel, an INTP philosopher once said, 'If the facts do not comport to my system, so much worse for the facts'. Much like the INFP will disregard not only concrete facts or empirical observations of the outer world, but also ideas that do not comport to their intricate feeling-based system of values.
INFPs seek out intense emotional experiences, that is due to the sheer depth and intensity of Introverted Feeling. Depth of emotional experience for an INFP is analogous to depth of dispassionate thought for the INTP. For this reason, the INFP poets like Virgil, Shakespeare and Kierkegaard were the ones who shed most light on the profundity of 'human spirit'. No more effervescent intensity and profundity of passion could be found in a few other works, likely those of other dominant Introverted Feeling types.
Therefore they not only wish to affirm others, but tend to find the reciprocation of this to be necessary. For this reason, Milton was not satisfied with just glorifying a nation, as something akin to the nation (this does not need to be interpreted literally, we can think of a nation as a metaphor for an entity of this world, as opposed to the ‘world to come’.) could potentially have taken his feelings lightly, yet an omni-benevolent being would not. Though perhaps the salient reason why the Introverted Feeler differs from an Extrovert in this regard is that the Introverted judging function tends to set abstract goals, those that cannot be assessed in terms of concrete benchmarks that Judgers tend to employ. Thus, such an unconscious tendency within the INFP psyche suffices to explain John Milton's fascination with grand universal themes, such as the origin of Evil. The INFP, much like the INTP shall seek out the grand principles which could be established as paradigmatic for the ebb and flow of the entire universe. The Rationalist philosophers thought that if they found the axioms on which the design of the universe hinged on, the formula outlining the way the entire world works shall follow as a logical entailment. An INFP parallel to this would be that if we were to find the true essence of human nature and learn to love it, we would come to harmony with the entire world. Hence, John Milton identified this axiom as the origin of evil. Satan as the pereptrator of evil, and romanticized him. He even learned to love his Satan. Thus, based on this one can say if we learned to love even Satan, nothing should stop us from coming to full harmony with all things that are. Much like the younger brother Kamaramazov, who was doubtlessly an INFP was known to love the person almost to the extent that he was wicked. Or the more wicked a person was, the more he loved him. Hence, the more difficult an object is to harmonize for an INFP, the more resolute they will be on coming to harmony with the subject. Much like the more difficult an idea is to understand for an INTP, the more resolute he will be on putting a grasp over the idea. Thus, the INFP's drive to harmonize what we are out of harmony with parallels the INTP's drive to understand what has not yet been understood.
The INFP must first understand that their mindset is comprehended and accepted by others before they could move themselves out to the open. This, as aforementioned tends to lead to major reservations. For that reason also, they tend to cling to their idealistic visions of ‘kindness and understanding’, that is, simply because they are unable to find a place that is fitting for their high ideals. An INTP can claim to having undergone similar experiences whereas their thoughts are not comprehended because their decision-making faculty is too abstract to be of use to practically minded individuals. As Leanor Thomson once pointed out, that even INTPs with highly developed communication skills struggle to express their thoughts in a way that Extroverted Thinkers could understand, because their ideas tend to have little meaning to them because no clear-cut application to the real world is observable. The INTP however, can explain the essence of their ideas to the Judgers on the theoretical level, as they tend to be objective communicators. Judgers will not be at ease dealing with such ways of thinking, but their affinity with logic will lead them to find common ground with the INTP. However, for the INFP, the dilemma is more difficult. Being more subjectively inclined, INFPs are unable to explain their ideas to Extroverted Feelers from whom they may often look for sympathy. The more the INFP is misunderstood, the more reservations they shall experience. Emotional comfort will derive almost entirely from within. This means that they are not directly influenced by the emotions of others much like Extroverted Feelers, but at first retreat and then process it through in their solitary meditations. For this reason, INFPs can be mistaken for being cold, on the notion that they dont feel at all, as they do not demonstrate emotion on the spot as EFJs tend to. Yet, no notion could have been any more foolhardy, INFPs process their passions more intensely and more profoundly than all other types due to their dominant Introverted Feeling nature. Unlike the Extroverted Feeler who may need ritual-like consistent reassurance of being appreciated, the INFP merely needs to know that they are appreciated. Much like the Extroverted Thinker needs to be solving problems consistently in order to feel competent, the Introverted Thinker only needs to know that he can solve a problem if necessary. Since Introverted Feeling requires more authenticity than Extroverted, due to the factor of introversion which demands more depth, the INFP, despite the lack of a need for constant reassurance will require to be appreciated more in order to be in their own element. The INFP is most influenced of all types by their emotional environment due to the fact that their feeling preferrence is stronger than that of other types. It should be noted, however, that extroversion almost by property of itself implies a more scattered attunement with many entities at the same time, whilst introversion implies an intense attunement with a few entities. Based on this, one could speculate that the INFP is only intensely attuned with the few things that are held in high esteem by their values, and has little regard for things that are not honored by their value system. This may be true, however, almost irrespectively of the situation they are facing, an INFP will find a few entities in their environment to be intensely emotionally attuned with. For this reason, the INFP will be more influenced by their external environment more than the Extroverted Feeling type.
Moreover, we should notice that the INFP as an introverted judger, does not rely on external symbols for communication. This quality stands in sharp contrast with the Extroverted Judger. An example of this distinction is as follows. If we show EJ a table, and say that we ought to call this a table, they will become attached to such a symbol and will not wish to call the object as anything other than a table. An IP, an INFP in this case, crafts symbols internally. Therefore they could express almost any notion because they can craft any kind of a symbol that their mind shall conjure. The idea of boundless expression is clearly more germane to the INFP than any other type. The ideas may not be easily understood by others, however, this would change as soon as the readers understood the INFP's symbols. A parallel to this with the INTP would be the work of Hegel and Heidegger who invented words of their own to convey their ideas. Their justification was that the conventional symbols do not allow for them to depict their ideas faithfully to what they have in mind, thus they need to invent symbols of their own. This is a hallmark of a highly individualistic mind. As well as an entailment of the following: with Jung we have learned that introverts are closer in tune with their unconscious. That is because the unconscious mind is the true essence of mind, the conscious is merely an external manifestation of the unconscious. Therefore the deeper the person is in his thought, the closer he is to the unconscious. And the more his external perceptions are influenced by his unconscious mind. The perceptions are often altered to fit the flavor of the person's inner being. Thus, INPs, for this reason often have difficulty collecting information in a truly objective fashion. However, the bright side of this notion is that the INPs are least influenced by the external environment, thus they are most closely in tune with their inner being. The search for higher purpose is without a doubt at the primacy of the agenda of an INP. Thus, because of such a radically individualistic approach to life, the INPs tend to see everything as means to the end of being as close in tune with their inner being. That is their purpose which underlies all of their external agendas. We also could infer from Jungian inquiry that the Extroverted Mentality tends to accept the world for what it is, but the Introverted tends to accept the mind for what it is. The Introverted mentality, accordingly will seek the essence that underlies the external world. For this reason, IN philosophers have been fascinated by ontological idealism--or the notion that the utlimate reality is not in matter, but in the mind.