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INFP, or Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiver

is a label borrowed from MBTI nomenclature and now applied to the Jungian Cognitive Function set {Fi, Ne, Si, Te}.

What Is Personality Type

What Is Personality Type

Dominant: Introverted Feeling (Fi)

"I know just how you feel--I've felt just the same way when that happened to me, and it really hurt. You should be able to say how you feel even if others don't always necessarily think it's appropriate--as long as it's truly from the heart. You should never go against what your personal moral compass says, even if that goes against the commonly accepted morality of all of your close family and friends and anyone you respect. I don't want to know what you should feel--I want to know what you do feel."

The INFP's dominant Fi is an introverted judgment (Ji) function, meaning the top priority for INFPs is full, deep, robust, profound definition of precisely what values the user finds instrumental to the essence of his personal identity and that which he finds to be fundamentally "good" or "bad" at its root core. But it's more than just good or bad; on a grander scale, the INFP is concerned with the very essence of Good and Evil, Meaningful and Not Meaningful, Sacred and Not Sacred. This duality becomes central to the moral philosophy of many Fi dominant types.

Fi users believe there is a definite moral order to the universe (meaning that it is inescapably true that some things and some ideas are inherently more valuable, more virtuous, and more worthy of positive evaluation than others), and that the only way we may catch a glimpse of this sacred ideal is by allowing ourselves complete and total connection and understanding with our emotional responses and the way they reflect that which upholds the internal "essence" of moral goodness as we understand it subjectively and individually. One INFP friend calls it "The uh oh feeling" when his Fi (bolstered by Si) somehow "senses" almost immediately that a new person is up to no good.

For Fi, standardizing ethics collectively misses the point by blunting the individual's unique identity and influence so much that the real significance is lost.

Morality for Fi is not something that anyone else can tell you how to approach: it's something you just have to look inside and feel for yourself. Morality is too complex and nuanced, reasons Fi, to be marginalized by approaching it from a collective standpoint. It's too dependent upon the essence of the individual and his personal impressions, too subject to that individual's experiences and understanding to even be approached (or worse, insisted upon) by anyone else. As soon as you try to design moral philosophy that works the same way for more than one person, you've ruined its inherently individualistic nature.

INFPs often have a distinct habit of letting resentment and negativity build up toward someone until they're so incredibly upset that they can't help exploding into a Te-rundown of precisely everything you are doing wrong and why it's simply not acceptable in moral terms they can justify (Fi.) At least two INFP friends have told me that when they focus on explaining and resolving their grievances routinely and calmly before they have time to bottle up and fester into huge issues, they find themselves much more able to maintain the deep one-on-one connections they invariably must form with others, and to reach even greater personal understanding and empathy as a result.

Auxiliary: Extroverted iNtuition (Ne)

As an auxiliary function, Ne grants INFPs both an awareness of and concern for how others perceive them, and the ability to explore, create, experiment, and play with new combinations and possibilities for different approaches and ways to change and recreate what they see around them, with an eye on how these exploratory outings will affect the perceptions and emotional states of others.

This is a crucial factor in the INFP's ability to apply Fi's uniquely individualistic values to an externally observable context in a way that both captures the attention and admiration of others and allows him to translate his inner passions into forms that others can understand, identify with, and appreciate. The INFP needs Ne in order to spread the message of his ideals to an audience that will listen: Ne is the bridge by which Fi's vision can be forged into the creations that serve as external representations of the INFP's identity.

"No need for greed or hunger / A brotherhood of man / Imagine all the people / Sharing all the world." --John Lennon, "Imagine"

Ne often ends up expressing itself through artistic and creative endeavors: This penchant for interpreting and rearranging patterns of external phenomena frequently results in a particular knack for manipulation of language and its ability to say just the right thing to convey precisely the value or feeling the INFP wants to express, in a way that makes that feeling real for others. Indeed, INFPs are quite often found among novelists, musicians, graphic artists, screen writers, and all other forms of widely recognized creative expression by which the purity of their internal worlds (Fi) can be expressed externally (Ne).

At their best, INFPs are principled, idealistic, playful, creative, and deeply empathetic. Without the aid of auxiliary Ne, the INFP may become frustrated at the conflict between her intense desire for self-expression and her inability to translate the ideals she strives to live by into a medium that will touch the souls of others in the same way they define the meaning and purpose of her own life.

INFPs, because they show the outer world their flexible Ne side more readily, will appear much more open and accepting on the surface, and indeed they will remain that way as long as their interactions with you remain relaxed and enjoyable and do not require getting into serious ethical analysis or put them in any uncomfortable situations which might make them feel morally conflicted. They will appear flexible now (Ne), and steadfast later (Fi). They are generally open to all sorts of new experiences and connections between different experiences--they love to get at the heart of the people's true character by finding and comparing the ways in which different individuals have different unique "flavors", each offering its own special kind of meaning, and they love to observe the connections between different individuals in this regard. They may come off as rather reserved at first, but it doesn't take too long before they will at least open up Ne to you and relate to you on a surface level--this usually happens in terms of discussion about some common interest, such as art, philosophy, music, etc...anything that will seem interesting and noteworthy to the collective of people the INFP deems worthy.

Inside, however, they are far more rigid and unyielding in terms of the extraordinarily high ethical standards they place on themselves and anyone they consider close enough to be a trusted friend. When you become close to an INFP, you are accepting a responsibility to uphold the high personal standards that define the INFP's entire self-image and existential philosophy. INFPs will offer only the very best ethical treatment of their friends and loved ones, and they expect no less in return--if you cannot fulfill this sacred bond to the same level they hold themselves to, you should not commit to such a close relationship in the first place.

Tertiary: Introverted Sensation (Si)

For INFPs, the tertiary relief function Si is consulted in order to provide them quick reference to the real feelings and experiences that have affected them profoundly in their past experiences. Fi+Si doesn't consciously say, "Ok, the last time this happened it caused a negative emotional reaction for me; therefore I will avoid it now"; Fi simply instinctively begins to experience the terrible emotional state Si has associated with whatever negative experience, and panic and dread take over, forcing the INFP to escape this situation at all costs, for fear of being forced into that state again. Fool me once, shame on you--fool me twice, shame on me.

I have seen INFPs who, once they begin to develop Si, start to pay very close attention to possible contaminants which could taint the purity of their physical bodies in the environment around them. They'll become extra careful to check food to make sure it hasn't gone bad, has the right nutritional content, etc. Some of them either insist on seeing a doctor more often than necessary, or become distrustful of doctors in general and avoid the experience, if they've had some negative past experience with doctors or medication (as, unfortunately, a fair number of INFPs have.) When applied positively though, it gives them a grounding into something real, something they can hold on to that they know will always be there for them because it always has been--this can be instrumental in leading the INFP into the spiritually aware and comfortable state she desires.

Development of tertiary Si helps the INFP connect her physical health and the needs of her body to the emotional and spiritual health upon which Fi is so heavily focused. As INFPs learn to pay more attention to Si, they will learn what conditions and surroundings are likely to lead them to better physical health, and recognize the enormous effect this will have on their emotional and spiritual health. As Si improves, they will appear to take a page from ISJs in their refusal to work under conditions that "don't feel right" in that they aren't conducive to promoting the calm, relaxed, and emotionally aware state under which their creative juices can flow most freely.

Most importantly, however, Si serves as a voice of caution and experience to help avoid the Ne trap of getting so lost in creative exploration that the INFP forgets where his comfort zone is and repeats the same painful mistakes again and again. INFPs with strongly pronounced Si will appear less naive, more world-weary, and perhaps a little bit more cynical--but it's generally for the best, as repeated negative experiences with being too trusting too quickly will teach them.

Inferior: Extroverted Thinking (Te)

For INFPs, Te ideally provides an objective counterpart to Fi's value judgments by allowing them to consider the importance of accomplishing real goals through real functional external world systems. This is very difficult for many INFPs to process because forcing any sort of cooperation on others for the good of a larger system (Te) is often seen as tantamount to destroying the right to express one's personal individuality at all costs (Fi.) This moral dilemma plagues many INFPs.

Te will, on occasion, pop out and result in the INFP blowing up and telling everyone in painstakingly objective detail how poorly they are living up the expected standards of their responsibilities. It kills the INFP to do this, because she wants so badly to respect others' right to personal individuality and self-expression, but ultimately she must recognize that some people will not voluntarily cooperate and must be forced to change for the good of society as a whole--nay, for the Good of Good itself!

As far as I can tell the line of reasoning goes something like this: "You are not performing your moral duty to me as a friend (Fi), and every time I have been in a positive working relationship in the past (Si) it has followed certain standards (Te), and while I hate to do this, you are threatening my right to personal identity here (Fi) and thus I must explain to you objectively and very, very bluntly how your behavior cannot be tolerated (Te)."

The real issue for INFPs struggling with inferior Te is the conflict between Fi's idealistic, highly personalized individualism and Te's somewhat Machiavellian ends-justify-the-means, get-it-done-at-all-costs attitude. Ultimately, once Fi, Ne, and Si are satisfied, an INFP nearing total maturity should be able to recognize the value in the idea that sometimes, unconditional promotion of individual freedom of expression is simply not practical from a resource management standpoint, and that in order for society (or any other organization) to function meaningfully as a unit, some degree of personal individuality must, at times, be sacrificed.

Nonetheless, INFPs remain distrustful of any suggestion that people be "forced into boxes" or otherwise compelled to conform in any way that violates their sense of freedom of choice or private identity. As Te begins to balance this attitude, INFPs will gradually realize that actually creating the ideal utopian world they envision so naturally will require paying some attention to practical considerations, namely some form of objectively impersonal evaluation, and that this doesn't have to conflict with their ideals--it can, in fact, support and assist them in their quest to set all things right with the world.

And even if they never really find perfection, at least they'll have some degree of measurable success to point to--and that may be the only way to feel content in a world which will never truly live up to the perfectly harmonious ideals that Fi lives for.