My Life < 7 > My Story

by Christopher Lovejoy on July 19, 2020

Many have heard it said that we, as souls, are here to move ourselves out of our heads and into our hearts, but I think a reasonable proposition can be made that supplements this supposition, as follows: that we, as souls, are here to move ourselves nimbly between heart and head.

I say this as one who is naturally inclined to speak from the heart, and as one who is naturally inclined to speak through the head with cogency that lends itself to amicable agreements more often than not with those who are, from birth, already inclined to speak through the head.

It would help, of course, if this dynamic could be made conscious.

We are creatures of heart and head, of practice and pursuit, of values intrinsic (sought for their own sake) and extrinsic (for the sake of more, better, and different). At the heart of practice, we warm to contentment and enchantment; in hot, heady pursuits, we advance and achieve.


hearty practice: contentment + enchantment = fulfillment (of intrinsic value)
heady pursuits: advancement + achievement = fulfillment (of extrinsic value)

If the head is in hot pursuit of cool extrinsic values, then the heart, with practice, warms to intrinsic values, and if the head finds freedom and fulfillment via advancement and achievement, then the heart, with practice, finds freedom and fulfillment via contentment and enchantment.

In a World of Typology for Characters

One might be forgiven for believing that matters of the heart are associated with the attitude of introversion, i.e., with turning inward, and that matters of the head are associated with the attitude of extroversion, i.e., with turning outward, but the truth is much more interesting.

These two attitudes ~ introversion and extroversion ~ indicate natural directions for the subject’s attention in relation to the object: where the introverted attitude pays more attention to the subject (of being), the extroverted attitude pays more attention to the object (of doing).

Where introversion holds a strong affinity for subjects, inclined towards subjective ideas, while neglecting any objective data that might arise, extroversion holds a strong affinity for objects, inclined towards objective data, while neglecting any subjective ideas that might arise.

Those given to extreme introversion are not unlike “couch potatoes” who refuse to leave their homes after being told a volcano has erupted nearby because they don’t accept that it can even erupt in the first place. Those given to extreme extroversion are not unlike “lemmings” who ignore their nagging doubts (“wait, this doesn’t feel right”) while moving ever closer to leaping off a cliff.

Where some of us are more engaged and energized by a contemplation of the inner world of thoughts, feelings, ideas, and concepts, some are more engaged and energized by a focus on arranging and re-arranging an ever-changing outer world of people, places, and possessions.

Things get really juicy when these basic attitudes are combined with the cognitive functions.

In the world of Type Psychology, the rational (judging) cognitive functions of Feeling (F) and Thinking (T) hold the potential to be effective and decisive; the irrational (perceiving) cognitive functions of Sensation (S) and Intuition (N) hold potential to be discerning without deciding.

Feeling and Thinking are two ways to judge value before making a decision. Feeling judges whether X is desirable: X is good for me, Y is not so good for me, therefore I prefer X. Thinking judges whether X is feasible: if I can do X with Y, but not Z, then I should consider using Y.

Sensation and Intuition are two ways to sort data and process information. Sensation is bent on reality, and discerns: “it is what it is.” Intuition, on the other hand, is bent on possibility, intent on allowing reality to play second fiddle, and discerns as follows: “this is what could be.”

Where Sensation analyzes all available information to make predictions about what will happen (“actions speak louder than ideas”), Intuition makes inspired leaps to paint more-or-less accurate pictures of what could happen (“ideas are the necessary blueprints for action”).

Social interactions between reality-oriented people and possibility-oriented people are far more dynamic, and potentially more productive and creative, than the social interactions of reality-oriented people alone or than the social interactions of possibility-oriented people alone.

In extreme cases, entertaining possibilities without reference to reality is not unlike building castles in the air, whereas navigating reality without any reference to possibility is like not caring if castles can even be built in the first place ~ just more of the same: “same old, same old.”

When the four cognitive functions (F is for Feeling, T is for Thinking, S is for Sensation, and N is for Intuition) are performed in either one of two directions (I is for Introversion or E is for Extroversion), one arrives at eight basic cognitive functions informed or inspired by direction:


Judging

Fi and Fe
Ti and Te

Perceiving

Si and Se
Ni and Ne

For example, as someone whose dominant cognitive function is Fi, I have a strong tendency to feel my way through the world, judging what is valuable and desirable with reference to my own subjective feeling and sensing of what is good, right, and pure for me and for me alone.

This snapshot attempts to capture the essence of each of the eight basic cognitive functions:


Judging

Fi bases its judgment criteria on subjective values and passions; with great depth of feeling and passion, it turns inward, and may share or express only reluctantly on the outside; it tends to be isolated to the subject alone, making it idiosyncratic and individualistic; in assigning so much value to the subject, it lives exclusively in accordance with the dictates of its own conscience

Fe bases its judgment criteria on objective values or standards of goodness; being accommodating by nature, it tends to act in alignment with consensually accepted standards of care, excellence, and beauty, doing so because it comforts or pleases others generally; being very concerned with preserving or improving social norms, it is naturally and highly invested in keeping the peace

Ti bases its judgment criteria on logical but subjective ideas; being deductive by nature, it tends to judge the effects or ramifications of a set of premises, building virtual systems in their minds (great idea, but will it work in reality?) and seeking to preserve the logical integrity of a system over its actual accomplishment in reality; in a dominant position, Ti can be systematic to a fault

Te bases its judgment criteria on objective facts and data; being inductive, it uses collections of objective facts to form logical conclusions with which to govern and guide the course of its life; it tends to be obstinate, inclined towards bulldozing anything in its way (we’ve got this!); it tends to be fixed on meeting outcomes as efficiently as possible to reach logically defensible destinations

Perceiving

Si constructs subjective reality; rather than perceiving an object or a situation itself, it paints impressions of this object or situation, storing them in mind for future reference when a similar object or situation arises; impressions imbue new and similar experiences with the subject’s own interpretations, and these interpretations, good or bad, are later called upon in similar situations

Se perceives reality, having the most accurate and down-to-earth understanding of reality; it is sharp, as matter-of-fact as a photograph; being uncompromisingly realistic to a fault, it believes that direct experience always trumps any abstract idea for the simple and obvious reason that it is actual experience (stop dreaming! just do it!); it’s motivation is knowing what is happening in reality

Ni constructs subjective possibilities; being the polar opposite of Se, it relies the least on the object, though it might be inspired to contemplate the object, but rather than concerning itself with where this object is going, it instead searches after possible ideas that the object inspires in the subject (what if ?), looking for more ideas to weave a tapestry of ideas that it must do something about

Ne
perceives possibilities, scanning and spotting objects and situations for the most and best value, while inferring their vectors in the future; with a thirst for innovation, it strives to bring new possibilities to fruition; in looking at things from every angle to sate its creative hunger, it is clever at resolving issues, but with a fleeting attention span (keep calm and . . . hey, look, a chipmunk!)

Now let’s take a type, say INFP (my type), and lay down its cognitive stack …

A Mighty FiNe SiTe in Development

Theoretically, personality type development follows a predictable course from childhood to adolescence to adulthood to elderhood, with the maturation and actualization of type usually occurring by age 50.

The appearance and development of cognitive functions for the INFP follows a predictable path from introverted feeling (Fi) in early childhood, to extroverted intuition (Ne) in the adolescent years, to introverted sensation (Si) in adulthood, to extroverted thinking (Te) later in life.

For a young INFP adult, these functions appear and mature as follows:


Fi – the primary dominant presumptive function (the young adult driver)
Ne – the secondary auxilliary utilitarian function (the adolescent navigator)

Si – the tertiary supportive reminder function (the childlike passenger)
Te – the quaternary inferior instinctive function (the reactive infant)

Early in life, healthy INFPs cannot help but favor the company of those who can help them make effective use of introverted feeling (Fi); deeply attuned to their own feelings, they seek incessantly for the deeper meaning; highly empathetic one-on-one, they tend to be artistic and creative, developing a strong internal compass by which to judge, for them, good from bad, right from wrong.

As a child in grade one, I pulled out a Kleenex tissue and did an extemporaneous show-and-tell, attempting to discern its deeper meaning with metaphysical musings about the nature, origin, and meaning of its existence. Suffice to say, no one around me appeared very impressed.

As INFPs grow more confident of Fi, they come out of their shells with extroverted intuition (Ne); with a rich inner world at their beck and call, they grow ever more willing to let down their guards, allowing others to tap into their worlds. In service to their inner worlds, INFPs engage the outer world through Ne with possibilities that inform and inspire them to clarify and harmonize.

I realize now that my early attempts at understanding the bases of religion, metaphysics, and depth psychology in my early to mid-teens was a more-or-less fruitless search for the heart of self ~ fruitless because I lacked Ti and Te; fruitful because it raised many juicy possibilities.

With experience informed mostly by Fi and Ne, introverted sensation (Si) comes on line in late adolescence or early adulthood to round out the mighty FiNe coupling, adding colorful, impressionistic details to an otherwise (mostly) idealistic composite. Ever in tune with the Fi, Si adds a note of caution to the adventurous Ne, as well as a tendency to make and maintain effective routines.

As I struck out on my own in late adolescence and early adulthood, I realized the significance and relevance of having neat and tidy spaces and effective routines, at least for me. I came to understand how important it is for me to take on regular study routines in clutter-free spaces.

Later in adulthood, extroverted thinking (Te) makes an appearance, complementing Fi with logic and efficiency, with a greater emphasis on productivity, on getting more or better or different results, and on acting more firmly and directly on the outer world to bring possibilities to fruition. With time, INFPs can learn to draw on Te to plan, make quicker decisions, and get results.

What I’ve learned is that the maturation of these functions, as well as the functions themselves, are natural in origin; INFPs cannot help but be INFPs and INFPs cannot help but grow into INFPs; also, not all INFPs are created equal: some are inclined towards making peace, others are inclined towards being investigative; and still others are inclined towards being artistic or creative.

Now let’s talk about functional bubbles, axes, loops, and grips.

Welcome to My World as an INFP

As a male INFP, I am a rare bird. In a crowd of 1,000 people, there might be 10 to 15 of us standing or walking around doing what we do best: observing events, processing feeling for meaning, coming to terms with the quality and vitality of the situations and interactions we observe.

Female INFPs in a crowd of 1,000 are a bit more plentiful ~ roughly 30 to 35 of them ~ and as a male INFP, I can attest just how lovable and adorable and desirable they are, or can be, when they’re patiently and persistently approached with prudent dollops of grace and charm.

Here, I must lament, at least a little, that female INFPs are so few in number, relatively speaking.

For INFPs in general, the dynamics of function are more than a little interesting, giving insight into the inner workings of the INFP heart and mind. Here’s the heuristic I devised to capture the nature, origin, and essence of these dynamics as a guide to making the most of my type:


Fi ……… Fi bubble ……… Fe ……… Fi <> Fe

Ne …….. FiNe axis ……… Ni ……… Ne <> Ni

Si ………. FiSi loop ……… Se ……… Si <> Se

Te ……… FiTe grip ……… Ti ……… Te <> Ti

Just as a driver can drive alone along a crowded highway, so too can Fi stand or walk alone in a crowd, observing and processing all manner of feeling for meaning, alone and without feedback from anyone or anything, at least for a time. For Fi, such a bubble reality comes naturally.

Because Fi is primary, the performance of Fi is not unlike the orchestration of a school of fish in water. In supportive environments, this sort of collaboration in observing, processing, and feeling for meaning is natural and spontaneous, thriving on truth, beauty, goodness, or purity.

As Fi matures, so too does the realization that Fe has its time and place as a complementary social function for the very personal Fi, either by being deliberately more attuned to social conditioning and programming or by being deliberately more accommodating of social norms.

Here, I emphasize the use of “deliberately.” For INFPs, there’s nothing natural about any of this. We are deeply and profoundly self-centered in our nature ~ not selfish, necessarily, though this is might be the perception; just deeply and profoundly centered in self (let’s say “soulfish”). Of course, living in a world more or less inhospitable to INFPs, more often than not, does not help.

Sooner or later, usually on the cusp of adolescence, Ne comes online with Fi, adding a more outgoing flavor to the feeling function as and when the external conditions are ripe and ready for exploratory action and interaction, where possibilities for creative expression are entertained.

As Ne matures, so too does the realization that Ni has its time and place as a complimentary function, where contemplations of objects and situations inspire new and fresh ideas about them so as to weave internally coherent and consistent tapestries of ideas in keeping with Fi.

Sooner or later, usually on the cusp of adulthood, Si begins to exert its influence on the FiNe axis, enriching FiNe composites (idealistic points of view, heuristics, and perspectives, to name a few) with impressionistic details that add color and flavor to otherwise stark constructions.

As Si matures, so too does the realization that Se has its time and place as a complimentary function, where objects and situations are starkly perceived as they are, without embellishment, so as to deal more competently with the harsher realities of life more firmly and directly.

Before this realization of Se, the INFP is susceptible to what is known as FiSi loops. Many adult INFPs will know what I’m talking about when I relate as follows: “I recall that moment clearly: I must have said or did something that caused distress; I just can’t figure out what it was.”

In distress, or under stress, INFPs are at the mercy of their introverted functions. Turning inward, they obsess through Fi and Si, doubling down on imagining what they could have said or done to get them to a place where they are saying and doing what is good or right for them now.

For the INFP, breaking through this loopiness is more or less difficult, depending on the severity of the perceived breach in morals. Here, Ne is their saving grace, allowing them to once again try something new, dive into a new project, and get out of their heads and into their hearts.

ENFPs especially, with their dominant Ne function, are valuable allies for helping INFPs process their FiSi loops, but really, anyone who can be made aware of this loopy dynamic in INFPs can help pull them out of a funk, a mood, or a sulk with an extroverted, big-picture approach.

Sooner or later, usually on the cusp of elderhood, Te begins to exert influence with Fi. This becomes evident when the male INFP begins to act and sound less like a boy and more like a man, and when the female INFP begins to act and sound less like a girl and more like a woman.

For the INFP, male or female, masculine or feminine, the innocence of childhood is never left behind, but it is tempered by experience when Te comes online later in life. As I recall, Te has a tendency to bulldoze its way through anything that is perceived to be in the way of success.

Earlier in life, before elderhood, relatively immature INFPs are susceptible to what is known as the Te grip (what I like to call the FiTe grip). It has been said of women that “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned;” here, we might add: “hell hath no fury like an INFP in a Te grip.”

For the INFP and, truth be told, for all personalities types, there are many types of grip experiences, whether they be obsessive, compulsive, addictive, aggressive, or perfectionistic, generated by an immature relationship with the inferior instinctive function (the reactive infant).

Under prolonged stress, INFPs are susceptible to being caught inside (1) their dominant-tertiary loop (FiSi), with its tendency to withdraw and ruminate; (2) the grip of their inferior function (Te grip) from losing sight of the first three functions; and (3) the functional grip (being in the thrall of one function, e.g., scanning fruitlessly under the influence of Ne) by forgetting who they are.

Having said this, I wouldn’t give up being INFP for anything, even if it meant being a pale imitation of another type just to get by. Ain’t gonna happen. As I continue to grow into my type, the story of my life and the life in my story just keep getting deeper and more mysterious.

My better half (FiNe) keeps growing more capable of stewardship with my lesser half (SiTe).

In remembering who we are as INFPs, and in making allowances for our funks, moods, sulks, loops, grips, and thralls as we grow into the next best versions of ourselves, we are that much better placed to move onward and upward with clarity and harmony, serenity and intimacy.

In my next post, I speak to inspirations, opportunities, invitations, and aspirations . . .

/

please, do not walk behind me: I may not care enough to lead;
and please, do not walk in front of me: I may not care to follow;
just this: walk beside me and be my companion in soul and spirit

~ yours

Previous post:

Next post: