INFP: Still Waters Run … 1

by Christopher Lovejoy on April 22, 2018

For the INFP personality type, still waters run … deep.

Acutely sensitive to the many rhythms of order and chaos, accord and discord, clarity and confusion, the INFP harbors a unique potential to address and prevent conflict like the flexible, intuitive ninjas that they are, serving as investigators, helpers, loyalists, peacemakers, and iconoclasts.

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The designation known as INFP is one of 16 personality types in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), an instrument of assessment that has grown in power and popularity ever since it was first published in the 1940s, drawing on the work of the Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung, an INFJ.

Today, a refined version of the MBTI is reportedly used by more than two million people every year to determine their respective types, and according to Consulting Psychologists Press, is used by 88 of the Fortune 100 companies to make executive decisions on issues of employment.

The number of videos on YouTube regarding type is also an indicator of its growing popularity.

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A quick and dirty way to affirm or confirm your type is to go here and access the type chart to identify your preferences on each of the four dichotomies of type, and then matching your results with the one description of personality that best represents your type.

I say “quick and dirty” because some people are not yet acting in harmony with their type preferences, either because they are still growing into their respective types; they were compelled to abandon their respective types while growing up so that they could adapt to their upbringings; or they are presently feeling compelled to betray their respective types to accommodate a difficult and stressful situation.

For these reasons, testing for type should be a voluntary process.

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There is much more to the MBTI than meets the eye, but before I do a deep dive into this “much more”, I have a few comments to share about the nature of personality type through the lens of MBTI, and here, I will be speaking from my own encounters and experiences with type.

First, I am introverted and extraverted ~ and so are you (more on this soon), which is not to say that I am ambiverted ~ only that I prefer to be introverted in some situations and extraverted in others.

In saying this, I am also more introverted than extraverted (more on this soon).

If you don’t know what an extravert thinks, you haven’t been listening;
If you don’t know what an introvert thinks, you haven’t asked them!

~ Isabel Briggs Myers, INFP

Second, the beauty of being aware of your type is that you can identify its features and have an epiphany about who you are or could be; for example, “I knew I was ____ but I didn’t realize I was ____.”

Third, it’s an awesome feeling to view your type from different angles and come to a deeper and fuller understanding of who you are as a person while making useful, helpful comparisons with other types.

If finding resonance with a particular type proves to be a difficult or challenging process for you, it might be helpful to view this process as a catalyst for growing into finding your authenticity with authority, and vice versa. Also, pick a type that resonates and then act as if you are this type to accelerate the process, either until you realize you hit the typological jackpot or … you realize you need another type.

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Are you typically more or less outwardly or inwardly focused? (E or I?)

Are you typically more or less focused on reality or possibility? (S or N?)

Are you typically more or less focused on the reasons or values? (T or F?)

Are you typically more or less focused on outcomes or options? (J or P?)

Anyone can access and apply every single process that is described in the MBTI ~ sensing or intuiting, thinking or feeling, judging or perceiving, either with an introverted or an extraverted focus ~ but not every cognitive function can be tapped and tuned with anything approaching grace and ease.

We all have tendencies to be more or less introverted or extraverted.

We all have tendencies to be more or less inclined to think or feel our way into making a decision and we all have tendencies to be more or less inclined to sense or intuit our way through perceiving and then interpreting information from which to make a decision with logic or feeling.

When push comes to shove, neglected processes tend to rear their heads defensively or aggressively, obsessively or compulsively, at least until these processes have had a chance to mature.

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In light of these revelations, everyone has a favorite core character. That is, one core character holds true for every type, one that has been defined and refined over many years by professional assessments and counselling and one that expresses many variations on the theme.

For the ISFJ and ISTJ, for example, the essence of their core character is to inspect and conserve. I happen to know an ISTJ and she can sometimes go to extremes with her inspecting and conserving, and here, I am speaking through my type, whose perceptual focus is more sweeping than intense. To her credit, she has an uncanny ability (at least to me) for getting me out of a fix or a jam with a mere detail, even as she remains strongly inclined to impose provide structure for my ever shifting priorities.

For the ESTJ and ENTJ, on the other hand, the essence of their core character is to direct and demand. In working with these types, I find them to be among the most challenging to work with, given my own type (INFP), but also … potentially … the most growth-enhancing. Namely, the ESTJ and ENTJ types typically compel me, in the course of working, to use my (inferior, less used, less developed) thinking function.

Now which type do you suppose is more suited to fulfilling the role of building inspector?

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Core characters are reliable snapshots of type.

For example, if you want a sterling vision for your life, you would do well to consult an INTJ or INFJ (preferably both); if you want the revelations of an extensive analysis, you would do well to consult an ISTP or INTP (preferably both); if you want the boundless energies of an activist, you would do well to consult an ESFP or ESTP (preferably both); if you want the wanderlust of an avid explorer, you would do well to consult an ENFP or ENTP (preferably both); if you want the the expert guidance of a caregiver, you would do well to consult an ESFJ or ENFJ (preferably both); and if you want the gentle guidance of a clarifying, harmonizing conscience, you would do well to consult an ISFP or an INFP (preferably both, the first to help you see through the details and the second to help you see the big picture).

Which company do you suppose is more profitable: the one that taps and tunes talent with respect to type or the one that taps and tunes talent willy-nilly? Which organization do you suppose is more effective and efficient: the one that is tuned into type or the one that is out of tune with type?

No one type is better than the other; they are, to quote Isabel Briggs Myers, “gifts differing.”

In the listing that follows, I am tapping my sense of organizational priorities, alternating between the I types and the E types for balance and having the J types provide the indispensable bookends …

A team of two (INFJ, INTJ) can give you a vision.

A team of two (ESTJ, ENTJ) can give you direction.

A team of two (ISFP, INFP) can give you inspiration.

A team of two (ESFP, ESTP) can give you promotion.

A team of two (ISTP, INTP) can give you revelation.

A team of two (ENFP, ENTP) can give you exploration.

A team of two (ISFJ, ISTJ) can give you inspection.

A team of two (ESFJ, ENFJ) can give you guidance.

Delegate, delegate, delegate: it’s the key to organizational success. With the proper support (and respect), each of these types holds the potential to play a paired leading role for all of the other types.

If a group plays its cards right, said group can crush it with sixteen types.

Crush it, that is, in relative comfort, and with an inspired conscience.

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Where type is concerned, your functional stack is your key to growth as a person. Knowing your stack also helps you to stay the course in the face of mounting pressures and unusual stressors.

To set a context, let’s cull the essence of each dichotomy of type:

I is for Introversion: more inwardly focused than outwardly focused
E is for Extraversion: more outwardly focused than inwardly focused

N is for Intuition: more focused on possibilities than on realities
S is for Sensation: more focused on realities than on possibilities

F is for Feeling: more focused on being guided by values than reasons
T is for Thinking: more focused on being guided by reasons than values

P is for Perceiving: more focused on options than outcomes, staying open
J is for Judging: more focused on outcomes than options, seeking closure

A core character captures the essence of what is known about a type. I will use my type (INFP: the ever sensitive, creative, investigating, clarifying, harmonizing, loyal, supportive, inspirational, iconoclastic idealist and individualist with a conscience) as an example to illustrate.

In Type Dynamics, the following obtains: sensation, intuition, thinking, and feeling (S, N, T, and F) are construed as processes rather than functions, whereas introversion and extraversion (i and e) are applied as orientations to S, N, T, and F, so as to yield eight functions.

The eight functions are denoted as follows: Se and Si, Ne and Ni, Te and Ti, Fe and Fi. This action-packed, picture-packed presentation is an overview (in six minutes no less) of these functions:

According to my type (INFP), Fi (introverted feeling) is known as my dominant function, taking the lead for all of my type preferences; Ne (extraverted intuition) is my auxiliary function, supporting my Fi as Ne matures throughout adolescence into early adulthood; Si (introverted sensing) is my tertiary function, complementing Ne as Si matures into adulthood; and Te is my inferior function, which (eventually and ideally) grows to complement my Fi as Te matures into and through middle age, if not sooner.

These time periods are rough approximations because situations and circumstances in life can easily conspire to compel and catalyze the growth of a process sooner rather than later or conspire to constrain the growth of a process over time. Being aware of these processes is itself a catalyst for growth.

In any given situation or interaction, my type tendencies are, first and foremost, to focus inwardly on the process of feeling to make decisions in alignment with my core values; second, to focus outwardly on the processes of mixing and matching, exploring and extending, patterns and possibilities to get a big picture on what is going on inside me and around me; third, to focus inwardly on the process of sensing into the facts, data, and details that best serve to clarify, edify, and unify the big picture; and last, but certainly not least, to focus outwardly on a process of thinking about how all of this makes logical, reasonable sense to me, even as it serves to give a motivating structure to my life and my path.

I lead with Fi (the driver, by analogy), I navigate as Ne (the co-pilot sitting next to Fi), I have more than a little fun as Si (the 10 year-old in the backseat who sometimes can’t get his facts straight), and I moan and complain as Te (the little 3 year-old in the backseat hitting on poor Si).

In my defense, my four functions have matured over time; my 10 year-old is more like a 19 year-old and my 3 year-old acts more like an a 12 year-old ~ not quite as mature as the driver and co-pilot, but much more useful and reliable to me as guides in my journey through life.

My functions, known as FiNe SiTe, are stacked as follows …

Fi – leading with introverted feeling; imagine a red heart around Fi
Ne – navigating with extraverted intuition; imagine a map around Ne
Si – co-navigating with introverted sensing; imagine a lens around Si
Te – supporting with extraverted thinking; imagine a scaffold around Te

As you can see, I am mostly introverted, but I am also extraverted, depending on the process being used; I can access all four processes in accordance with my preferred orientations, but questions are begged.

Does this mean I cannot access Fe, Ni, Se, or Ti? Not at all; anyone can access any of the eight functions when they make a conscious effort, feel relaxed and at ease, and … have all the time in the world.

For me, these shadow functions ~ Fe, Ni, Se, and Ti ~ offer potential catalysts for growth, if I so choose to tap into them. It is worthwhile to note, however, that any one of these functions can occupy a different position in a stack, be influenced by its position in the stack, and be conditioned by the surrounding functions in the stack. In other words, one can tap a shadow function, but one will exhaust oneself in any attempt to tap it for long, because when one taps one function, one is also tapping its complement (tapping Fe, for example, will draw forth its complement Ti), as well as the associated functions that support it (for example, Fe and Ti rely on Se and Ni for making decisions). INFPs beware.

As an INFP, I am sensitive to my natural inclinations to clarify and harmonize, and I am acutely aware that my shadow functions tend to undermine and undercut these inclinations.

Here’s a very rough (and likely flawed) attempt to indicate how:

Fe – plays an opposing role to my Fi, as I am not so inclined to consider and connect with others; for example, someone who leads with Fe will be acutely aware of my disinclination to connect directly with others. As a result, I will tend to resist attempts that compel me to connect.

Ni – plays a critical role for my Ne, as I am not so inclined to grasp implications or foresee consequences; someone who leads with Ni will be acutely aware of my disinclination to grasp or foresee. As a result, I might be a critical parent to myself for not doing so or doing so poorly.

Se – plays a deceiving role, as I am hardly inclined to experience and act within the immediate context; for example, someone who leads with Se will be acutely aware of my susceptibility to being deceived. As a result, I might feel tempted to rely on deception in order to compensate.

Ti – plays a devilish role, as I am rarely inclined to analyze, categorize, and evaluate with principles; for example, someone who leads with Ti will be chronically aware of my susceptibility to being unprincipled. As a result, I will tend to play the devil in defiance of this obvious incapability.

And here, when I say “unprincipled”, I mean not acting according to principle consciously, even though I am more than capable of tapping and tuning my feelings inwardly to act in ways and by means that indicate in no uncertain terms that I have a strong and able conscience.

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In holding up a light to these shadow functions, I am intrigued by knowing just how different my type can be from other types, and so, I find it instructive to make the following comparison, while asking: which type do you suppose would pose the greatest challenge to my type?


INFP:   Fi – Ne – Si – Te (this is “me” on a good day)

ENFJ:   Fe – Ni – Se – Ti (human resources manager)

or

ESTJ:   Te – Si – Ne – Fi (the manager of operations)

Here is my take on this: where a mature ENFJ offers the most potential for me to be aware of my shadow functions, a mature ESTJ offers the most potential for me to grow into all of my conscious functions.

The converse is also true: where I offer an ENFJ the most potential for her to be aware of her shadow functions, I also offer an ESTJ the most potential for him to grow into all of his conscious functions.

My hunch, however, is that these offerings are not very realistic.

In an ideal world, no ENFJ or ESTJ would ever be expected to interact with an INFP (and vice versa) for any length of time without first knowing what they were getting themselves into by so interacting, as such interaction can be very triggering for everyone involved and concerned.

Again, I could tap into Fe, Ni, Se, and Ti, but because I am so habitually focused on Fi, Ne, Si, and Te, in this order, I remain susceptible to neglecting my shadow functions and being triggered by them.

Having said this, can you imagine getting a quick fix on the functional stacks of those with whom you come into contact with the expectation of more contact? And so, yet another question is begged …

How does Type Dynamics know which function is dominant, which is auxillary, which is tertiary, and which is inferior in any given personality type? This is where P and J come into the picture.

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Let me start by delineating my type, thus:

I ……………………… NF ………………………. P

In the literature on type, NF is one of four function pairs; here are the others: ST, NT, and SF.

Those with an NF in their type have strong inclinations to care and grow, explore and create, inclining them to find meaning in the arts, the clergy, counselling and psychology, writing, education, research, and health care, whereas those with ST in their types are more likely to secure a place in business, management, banking, applied sciences, construction, production, and law enforcement.

With the first letter in my type being the letter i, my functions must alternate between i and e, in the form of “i e i e”, in keeping with the Law of Opposites, whereby opposite forces in the psyche compensate to maintain balance, such that my N must be Ne and my F must be Fi.

And so, here is the structure for my conscious functional stacking:

I : i = ?

N : e = ?

F : i = ?

P : e = ?

With my INFP type inclined towards introversion for the dominant and tertiary positions in the functional stack, which of these two positions takes my introverted feeling function (Fi)?

With my INFP type inclined towards extraversion for the auxiliary and inferior positions in the functional stack, which of these two positions takes my extraverted intuition function (Ne)?

For an answer, I can look at the last letter in my type, which is P for perceiving, which indicates I am more inclined to remain open to experience as I continue to seek options (P) rather than be inclined to focus on gaining the outcome so that I can have closure (J).

I note that my P is extraverted (see above), following the form i e i e in keeping with the Law of Opposites (or the Law of Compensation), and so I am now ready to place the Ne, as follows:

i

e << this is where my first extraverted process of perceiving (P) occurs, which is N for intuition, and therefore my auxiliary function is Ne (or extraverted intuition)

i

e

By implication, the first introverted process must be Fi (or introverted feeling). In the theory of Type Dynamics, functional stacking adheres to one of two forms, where P and J are concerned:

1) PJJP

2) JPPJ

These forms are not related to any specific type; that is, just because my type is INFP does not mean that my functional stacking follows the form of PJJP; rather, the stacking, for my type, follows the form i e i e.

And so, because INFP aligns with JPPJ, the dominant function is a J (Fi), the auxiliary function is a P (Ne), the tertiary function is also a P (Si), and the inferior (less used, less developed, less mature) function is a J (Te). Again, note the compensating i and e and i and e throughout.

I : i = Fi

N : e = Ne

F : i = Si

P : e = Te

Following the form JPPJ alternating between i and e, the INFP stack is FiNe SiTe.

Here, the PP is not unlike a married couple; if they work well together, you’re golden. For myself, it’s in my best interests to get my Ne (P) and my Si (P) working well together. For example, in comparing possibilities to actualities in my past, I get a sharper, more refined picture.

Where Ne enables me to look at new and fresh thoughts and experiences from different and unique angles, Si enables me to compare them to what I know was true for me in the past; as Ne seeks the big picture, Si seeks facts and details to clarify and unify this picture.

For a mature INFP, Te complements Fi and Si complements Ne; Ne-Si also supports Fi-Te.

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Fi is my dominant function, refined throughout childhood into adolescence until I could finally tap into my intuition (Ne) and begin supporting my Fi with a focus on looking at everything inside me and around me from different and unique angles to paste together a unique worldview.

With every new and fresh experience, Fi (1st) asks: “how do I feel about this?”
With every new and fresh experience, Ne (2nd) asks: “what about this possibility?”
With every new and fresh experience, Si (3rd) asks: “how does this stack up?”
With every new and fresh experience, Te (4th) asks: “can I even do or get this?”

Where the italicized “this” from Si indicates a request or demand to be heard directed at Ne, the italicized “this” from Te indicates a request or demand (usually a demand!) to be heard that is directed at Fi.

With this rare glimpse into the inner world of the INFP, one can see both the advantages and disadvantages of being an INFP. One can also see where the INFP is potentially strong and where the INFP is potentially weak, presenting as relatively invincible and relatively vulnerable.

This is why it’s important for the INFP to develop all four conscious functions in the functional stack (FiNe SiTe) before deciding to do a deep dive into the INFPs four shadow functions (FeNi SeTi), and in so doing, becoming that much less vulnerable to deception and predation.

In our daily lives, it’s likely sufficient to discern and relate to the first two functions in those we meet for the first time and in those we expect to know only for a short time; otherwise, it’s probably advisable to get a fix on the entire functional stack for a loving or working relationship.

How does one do this?

By becoming familiar with the functional stacks of each type.

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Every functional stack in every psychological type is unique.

As an INFP, no one shares my FiNe SiTe stack except those who identify as INFP. Among INFPs, no two INFPs are equally developed in their functions and no two INFPs apply these functions in exactly the same way. Truly, where types are concerned, novelty and variety are the spices of life.

Fi and Fe, Ni and Ne, Si and Se, Ti and Te: these are the building blocks of a functional stack. I now invite you to consider the following chart of types and stacks …

INFP:   Fi – Ne – Si – Te

ENFP:   Ne – Fi – Te – Si
INFJ:   Ni – Fe – Ti – Se
ENFJ:   Fe – Ni – Se – Ti

ISFP:   Fi – Se – Ni – Te
ISFJ:   Si – Fe – Ti – Ne
ESFP:   Se – Fi – Te – Ni
ESFJ:   Fe – Si – Ne – Ti

INTP:   Ti – Ne – Si – Fe
INTJ:   Ni – Te – Fi – Se
ENTP:   Ne – Ti – Fe – Si
ENTJ:   Te – Ni – Se – Fi

ISTP:   Ti – Se – Ni – Fe
ESTP:   Se – Ti – Fe – Ni
ISTJ:   Si – Te – Fi – Ne
ESTJ:   Te – Si – Ne – Fi

I’ve arranged these types according to functional groups: NF, SF, NT, ST.

As an INFP, NF is the functional group most supportive of my type. Whereas SF offers me valuable input from S and F to support my N and my F, NT offers me valuable input from N and S to support my N and S. As an INFP, I feel the least visible among those in the ST group of types.

Where ST is concerned, I know from direct (awkward and unfulfilling) experience that I do not share all that much in common with executives, managers, bankers, applied scientists, technicians, construction workers, production workers, law enforcers, military officers, and soldiers.

If I were to organize a cause, my first priority would be to surround myself with those from my own group (NF), starting with INFPs, and then expanding outward to include ENFPs and INTJs, followed by ENFJs.

With my fellow INFPs, I would take a leading role to strengthen the conscious functional stack of the INFP, namely, helping each one to get clear about how each function operates in the INFP stack, before helping each to harmonize the functions in this order: Fi – Ne – Si – Te.

As a dominant function, Fi manifests as a moral compass that points its user towards the direction that they feel they ought to explore next, based on how they feel about the information at hand (preferably with a clarified, unified picture): if Fi could speak in a dominant position, it would declare as follows: “I must decide how I feel and where I stand on this issue before I come to a conclusion about what to do.”

“How do I feel, where do I stand? Okay, now here’s what I intend to say or do …” For INFPs who have honed their relationship with Fi through adolescence into adulthood, this process is almost effortless, especially as and when their relationship with Ne gets off to a great start.

As an auxiliary function, Ne manifests as a plethora of possibilities that arise to support or expand upon a thought or a decision that the user is in the process of weighing or making: if Ne could speak in an auxiliary position, it would declare as follows: “I see a lot of different ways to look at this concept or idea, and I do hate to admit this outright, but I really and truly want to consider them all.”

“How about this plan? How about this pattern? How about this possibility?” For an INFP with a strong and healthy relationship with Ne, this process is usually and usefully guided by a strong relationship with Si, what with its focus on getting the relevant data, facts, and details.

As a tertiary function, Si manifests as being prone to nostalgia, serving as a method to contrast the new and exciting with the old and inviting: “I will now examine how this new situation measures up to my past experience and how this new idea measures up to my way of understanding the world.”

“How does this stack up? What about this? This seems promising. This doesn’t look so promising. Yes, how I wish I could … Hmm, I don’t remember it being this way. I do remember it being this way …”

For the INFP, a strong relationship with Fi is even more effective and efficient with Te.

As an inferior function, Te (at first) manifests as an inability to put plans into motion towards meeting desired outcomes. As Te matures, users are more able to source the required resource to turn dream into reality, even as they become better able to express their thoughts to others in a straightforward, logical manner: “I now know I can set my plan in motion to meet my desires without fear of ridicule or rejection.” To wit: “these are my desired outcomes and … this is my structured plan to meet them.”

With eight functions ~ Fi and Fe, Ni and Ne, Si and Se, Ti and Te ~ and four positions in a stack (dominant, auxillary, tertiary, and inferior until developed), the number of potential variations are considerable (8 x 4 = 32), which is a lot to keep in mind while interacting with others.

These 32 variations are further complicated when the stack is not so well developed, if at all.

What follows are some useful and helpful ways to reduce this cognitive load.

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From the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, Jung took the notion of a unity of opposites and applied it to the four functional axes in his typological investigations (namely, Fe-Ti and Fi-Te, as well as Ne-Si and Ni-Se), by contrasting and unifying F with T and N with S by way of E and I. For example, the host of a party compelled by the extraverted feeling function Fe will naturally seek to accommodate the needs of her guests, which in turn will naturally attract attempts by the accommodated to understand the accommodation with reasons that make sense to the subjects of the accommodation (Ti).

Think of it this way: stars cannot shine without darkness just as darkness cannot be fully apprehended in all of its inkiness without the presence of stars; likewise, fluffy white clouds cannot stand out without a blue sky just as a blue sky cannot be wholly apprehended in all of its glorious depth without the fluffy white clouds. Figure and ground require both sensation and intuition.

Where Fe-Ti and Fi-Te are the rational functional axes of type (making decisions with values or reasons), Ne-Si and Ni-Se are the irrational functional axes of type (irrational in the sense that information is gathered and processed with cognitive maps and perceptual lenses without valuation or logic). Drawing on comparisons between each rational axis (Fe-Ti and Fi-Te) and drawing on comparisons between each irrational axis (Ne-Si and Ni-Se) are useful and helpful for affirming and confirming your personality type. Such comparisons also help to clarify relations between types and type groups.

The axis of Ni-Se or Se-Ni represents intense perception, one that tends to overcommit or overanalyze, but by virtue of so doing, can gain a surprising depth of insight. A direct focus on an object expands into a contemplation of possibilities and related impressions (Se-Ni), or vice versa, where the contemplation of said possibilities and related impressions contracts into a direct laser focus on the object (Ni-Se).

Looking at a wedding ring on someone’s finger arouses a sense of possibility for the integrated Ni-Se, whereas for the integrated Se-Ni, the ring serves as a reminder of someone’s wedding this weekend.

Needless to say, Ni-Se and Se-Ni complement each other quite nicely.

The axis of Ne-Si or Si-Ne (for the INFP it is Ne-Si) represents a multi-faceted and sweeping perception that tends to undercommit and bounce around, but by virtue of doing so, can gain a surprising breadth of insight, reinforcing a wanderlust that can result in a welcome resourcefulness not found on the other axis: either a contemplation of an object’s patterns and possibilities narrows down into a subjective focus on the meaning of this object (Ne-Si) or a subjective focus on the meaning of this object expands outward into a contemplation of its external possibilities for the subject (Si-Ne).

In looking at a sunrise, the integrated Ne-Si with a camera will consider the thematic possibilities of this sunrise before drilling down into the one subjective meaning that best exemplifies this sunrise, whereas the integrated Si-Ne will first focus on the one subjective meaning that immediately captures this sunrise before blowing it up into a contemplation of other possibile meanings that does this sunrise justice.

Needless to say, Ne-Si and Si-Ne complement each other quite nicely.

The Te-Fi or Fi-Te axis (for the INFP it is Fi-Te, dominant to inferior) represents a two-way street between assessing and evaluating the facts, data, and details based on subjective impressions (Fi) and making logical judgments and drawing inferences from objective data (Te) based on objective determinations. Where someone who leads with Fi will prioritize having and using their subjective impressions as a way and a means of making sense of the world “out there”, someone who leads with Te will prioritize acting on their logical judgments and inferences over acting on their impressions.

If I lead with my introverted feeling function (Fi) and someone surprises me with a gift, I cannot help but first draw on my impressions of this act of giving (“hmm, she seems rather happy, even excited to give this to me”) before drawing on logical inference (Te) (“this amazing gift could have been a reward for …”), which might not even happen until long after the gift giving occurred.

The Ti-Fe or Fe-Ti axis represents a two-way street between drawing personal valuations from objective information (Fe) and making logical judgments based on subjective impressions (Ti). Where someone who leads with Fe will prioritize drawing value from an objective reading of a situation, someone who leads with Ti will prioritize making logical judgments based on subjective impressions.

If I lead with Fe, I might greet someone for an interview with a warm smile knowing that this person is impeccably dressed and makes good eye contact, appearing calm and ready for the interview, before making any judgments based on impressions. If I lead with Ti, however, I might seem a bit stoic, greeting this person with a firm handshake based on impressions that this person “belongs here”.

The functional axis (whether perceiving or judging) always points to a dominant preference.

As an INFP, I prefer filling a big picture with facts and details (Ne) before using my impressions of said facts and details to paint a big picture (Si); I also prefer making decisions that align with my values (Fi) before they align with my reasons (Te). The operative word here is “prefer.”

In light of these preferences, I can now make a conscious effort to go both ways, juggling sharp outlines with blurry impressions when processing patterns, pictures, and possibilities with facts, data, and details, as well as juggling values with reasons when making quick decisions.

Now just as functional axes can be usefully compared, so too can the functions themselves.

Someone who leads with F leads with a warm, caring, and giving heart, tending to view the world as cool, or even cold, and so the job of F in the heart of F is to bring warmth to the cool or cold world.

On the other hand, someone who leads with T (with a calm, cool, collected head) tends to view the world as warm, even sultry, and the job of T in the mind of T is to bring a fair-minded, even-handed approach to a world that sometimes seems too warm and fuzzy for its own good.

Fi warms the world with subjective ideals; Te cools the world with objective assessments. Fe warms the world through objective assessments; Ti cools the world through consistent impressions.

Is someone you know typically warm and fuzzy? If yes, then F.

Is he typically outgoing and accommodating with his warmth? If yes, then Fe; if no, then Fi.

Is someone you know typically calm and cool? If yes, then T.

Is she typically quiet when assessing a situation or interaction? If yes, then Ti; if no, then Te.

The key word here is “typically”, and so, careful, prolonged observation of someone in the interests of typing is highly recommended before jumping to any conclusions about the type of this person.

Following the Law of Opposites, if Fe, then Ti also (or vice versa); if Fi, then Te also (or vice versa). For the INFP, Fi leads calmly, warmly, albeit inwardly, and Te follows, unless of course Fi gets overwhelmed, in which case Te, if immature, will sound rather loud and brash.

*

In my daily interactions with people on the street, in public spaces, and in service transactions, I have observed what I have come to call the invisibility factor to refer to an underlying constant of people being too busy, too preoccupied, or too emotional to be visible to each other.

I have also observed (subjectively and objectively) this cold, dark factor in the workplace.

A big part of why this is so has to do with people having disparate types and function pairs.

Consider the interactions of an INFP with someone from the ST group, who is often found working in business, management, banking, applied sciences, construction, production, or law enforcement.

In viewing the functional stacks of each type in the ST group, note how glaringly different they are from the function stack of the INFP. If an INFP actually had the audacity to enter a working group of STs, the INFP would more than likely be very challenged, especially if undeveloped:


The ST group

INFP:   Fi – Ne – Si – Te

ISTP:   Ti – Se – Ni – Fe
ESTP:   Se – Ti – Fe – Ni
ISTJ:   Si – Te – Fi – Ne <<<
ESTJ:   Te – Si – Ne – Fi <<<

A mature or maturing INFP might stand a chance if said INFP found common cause with an ISTJ, who specializes in the art of inspection and conservation, but even then. Or … an ESTJ, who specializes in the arts of command and control, but only if said ESTJ had a mature stack.

With any ST group, the INFP is well advised to seek the support of the xSTJ and to offer this group intuitive support for the Si function in getting to know which impressions to gather or process.

With the NT group, the INFP can breathe a little easier, but not by much.


the NT group

INFP:   Fi – Ne – Si – Te

INTP:   Ti – Ne – Si – Fe <<<
INTJ:   Ni – Te – Fi – Se
ENTP:   Ne – Ti – Fe – Si <<<
ENTJ:   Te – Ni – Se – Fi

NTs are often found in the sciences, law, computing, the arts, engineering, management, and technical work. With this group, the INFP might find common cause with the INTP, at least where perceiving and processing information is concerned, just so long as the INFP is not faced with the near impossible task of making decisions with the INTP by getting past the shadow function of the already inferior Te, namely, Ti.

Needless to say, chatting it up with an ENTP would be more challenging for the INFP. Having said this, INFPs would nevertheless find some usefulness in the NT group in support of getting the big picture, but only if they have a technical, investigatory bent (not likely for an INFP, but not impossible either).

With the SF group, a ray of sunlight is observed, where the feeling function is concerned. SFs are often found in the clergy, teaching, health care, child care, sales and office work, and personal services.


the SF group

INFP:   Fi – Ne – Si – Te

ISFP:   Fi – Se – Ni – Te <<<
ISFJ:   Si – Fe – Ti – Ne
ESFP:   Se – Fi – Te – Ni <<<
ESFJ:   Fe – Si – Ne – Ti

With those in the SF group, the INFP might find common cause with the leading introverted feeling function of the ISFP, but this would be as far it goes (which is still far), and at least some resonance with the Fi of the ESFP, helping the xSFP and supporting the SF group with making sound decisions.

At last, we come to the NF group, where INFPs are most at home with gathering and processing information to make decisions with others of their kind. NFs are often found working in the arts, the clergy, counseling and psychology, writing, education, research, and health care.


the NF group

INFP:   Fi – Ne – Si – Te

INFP:   Fi – Ne – Si – Te <<<
ENFP:   Ne – Fi – Te – Si <<<
INFJ:   Ni – Fe – Ti – Se
ENFJ:   Fe – Ni – Se – Ti

The INFP will find allies with their fellow INFPs, as long as they remain on the same page where clarity and maturity are concerned, and with the ENFP, whose functions are identical, but in a slightly different order, which makes for stimulating yet warm and enthusiastic interaction.

Now, one might think that the xNFJ would serve the INFP well, and vice versa, but as you can see, they mirror each other’s shadow functions, more or less, and the mirroring could easily go one of two ways: an impasse in communication or a welcome deep dive into the shadows.

Given their resonance with introversion, the INFP and INFJ would do the deep dives.

For the ever lovable INFP and for the ever capable ENFJ, their communication with each other will seem rather awkward and superficial in any prolonged discussion. To the ENFJ, the INFP might seem aloof, even standoffish, yet confusingly empathetic at the same time; to the INFP, the ENFJ might seem overbearing, even domineering, yet also oddly sympathetic at the same time.

Luckily, the INFP can find an ally in INFJ when approaching the ENFJ.

That is, if the INFP can find an INFJ, the rarest of all types.

*

In reviewing this information on types, functions, positions, functional stacks, functional axes, and function pairs, I hope I have impressed upon you the significance of getting to know your type and getting to know your type in relation to other types, especially the groupings of types.

Speaking to the INFP, if ever you wondered why you felt so alone in the world, now you know. Of course, you do know you can compensate truly, deeply, and richly with your ever fertile feelings and imaginings, just so long as they get expressed and shared in meaningful ways.

This fertile expression is relatively easy to do, but the meaningful sharing can be quite challenging in a world that does not, indeed cannot, support the INFP in any truly, deeply, and richly meaningful way, compelling many INFPs to become pale poor imitations of other types in the world of work.

In posts to come, I hope to bring some clarity and serenity to this deficit.


This post has been filed under Application in the Ultimate Outline.

Note: my evolving outline on approaching a realization of the ultimate in personal fulfillment can be found here, accessible from the nav menu under the page “Be Here Now”.

Note: this ever growing perspective began here: Ultimate Perspective