Understanding introverted feeling

Click here to read part one…

As I mentioned in part one of this series, I am an INFP according to the MBTI:  “Myers-Briggs Type Indicator”.  Based on insights from Carl Jung’s work, it measures an individual’s preferences along four temperament-based dichotomies.  To review, I am an INFP:

I am an introvert who is drawn towards my rich inner world to “recharge my batteries”…

I use intuition, a big-picture, future-oriented perceiving function tp seek out meaning & possibility…

I use the feeling function to make decisions on the basis of my personal values…

I am a perceiver who has a flexible and spontaneous approach to life…

imageIt is worth noting that these four cognitive functions, exist in a hierarchical order in terms of preference.  In other words, some of them have a stronger influence on our thought processes than others. For example, the dominant function exists as the ship’s captain, “with undisputed authority to set her course and bring her safe to the desired port” (Myers, 1962, p. 59).  According to myersbriggs.org, (n.d.) we tend to trust this function the most & are energized when utilizing it, since it comes naturally to us.  As an INFP, my dominant function is introverted feeling.  Additionally, since this dominant function doesn’t work in isolation, it is worth noting how the others functions support it.  For example, as a feeler, I am driven by personal values without reference to others, as an introvert.  In contrast, my sister is an ISFJ who extroverts her feeling function .  I would describe her as “miss manners on crack”: concerned with conventionality and not coloring outside the lines.    This link provides an excellent discussion of how introverted feeling compares with extroverted feeling.   In this section, I’d like to review my own personal experiences with this cognitive function and how it affects my view of the world….

Definitive Qualities of Fi…

mysterious & difficult to define…

“Introverted feeling is determined by the sub­jective factor…is ex­tremely difficult to give an intellectual account of…or even an approximate description of it…The depth of this feeling can only be guessed at…It makes people silent and difficult to access.” (Jung, 2014, p. 638).

mask-875534_1920The biggest complaint I’ve heard about INFPs are that they are very difficult to know.  I find the above quote from Carl Jung quite humorous. It’s certainly an accomplishment that we make so little sense for someone such as Jung – who is known for his intuitive understanding of the human mind 🙂 🙂 .  As I experience this difficult-to-understand nature, there are two perspectives from you could discuss it.  The fizzy pop can metaphor might be useful in this discussion. Let’s say there are several pop cans sitting on the counter.  Somebody grabs one of them and shakes it up a bit to create extra pressure inside, then places it next to the other cans.  I call this the INFP pop can. From the outsider’s perspective, it sits like there, as any normal pop can would, and basically takes up space until someone opens it up and takes a drink.  As the INFP, its important to remember that surface impressions don’t scratch the surface of one’s internal reality.  In other words, a view from within the pop can is very different than surface impressions might lead one to believe.  This is usually a surprise to the unknowing observer who picks up the INFP pop can and opens it up to take a drink….

It’s important to note, I’m not trying to be difficult and evasive when others try to understand me.  In my experience it seems instead as if introverted feeling (Fi) and extraverted intuition (Ne) combine to create a contrarian view of the world.  As a biracial individual and bullied child, I believe that this “against the grain” mindset was magnified highly.  When I think of introverted feeling, my own personal theory of life comes to mind. I believe that reality is a subjective interpretation and not objective fact.  As a result, I believe it is important to think for yourself, “by keeping your eyes on your own paper”.  Convenient examples of the inherent subjectivity of life can be discovered within your favorite book, movie, or television series.  It is through the character’s eyes that the story becomes what it is.  What you get is more than a plot line unfolding before you.  Instead you get a chance to “wear” a set of eyeballs other than our own, and witness life from a unique perspective….

In attempting to understand this difficult-to-know nature, it is useful to refer again to the INFP’s primary perceiving functions.  My primary perceiving function is extraverted intuition which is most effectively illuminated in the Indian fable of the Blind Men and the Elephant.  My primary judging function is introverted feeling which inherently honors individuality and the uniqueness of everyone’s experience with an attitude of empathy.  Together these functions yield a mine field of perspectives that appears much like a hall of mirrors.  Each experiential reality is a creation of self-fulfilling prophecies, whereby we project our thoughts, feelings and beliefs upon the world.  How does one begin to communicate this reality?   There are truly no words…

marching to my own drum…

“Introverted Feeling (Fi) is the attitude that everything is manifest…in the expression of a soul or life force, in terms of which everything…makes sense. Everything…is the result of a soul expressing its unique nature….each living thing is completely unique, and has unique needs. Every living thing needs to express itself …in its unique way” (MBTI Enthusiast, 2012).

horseRegarding the idea of “marching to my own drum”, the following quote from a previous post might be useful:  “As a contrarian, I feel it is important to note that ‘objective fact’ and ‘common sense’ are terms that often do not mean what we think they do.  They also happen to be highly overrated.  What is often perceived as “common sense” is instead a requisite deference to a schema-oriented social framework.  Objective facts often constitute lying by omission, when you consider their presentation often edits out the fact that our experience of reality is a perceptual construct.  Things are never what they appear to be and we need to dig deeper…”.  It is worth noting, that the MBTI is like a mental food log.  It describes my innate preferences.  With this in mind, I have an innate distaste for blind conformity and pluralistic ignorance.  My husband has a great name for people who live this way: “SHEEPLE”.  I like that term, since it succinctly describes my thoughts on conventional thinking, if it means having to sacrifice my own personal values….

…and that brings me to the issue of personal values as it pertains to the INFP.  From my own perspective, I experience my own values-laden reality as a sort of “inner knowing” of what resonates with me based on my current beliefs and experiences.  This purely subjective value system, pertains to me alone and is something which I have no desire to impose upon others.  Instead, it is reflects my belief that the true key to empowerment is self-responsibility. As I said earlier, “keep your eyes on your own paper”.  

still waters run deep…

“Introverted feeling is judgment with an emotional slant that causes the individual to view the object on a subjective level. It is primarily a silent inaccessible function that is difficult to conceptualize….and is entirely individualistic” (MBTI Enthusiast, 2012).

sunset-1227765_1920While I may have discussed this quality earlier, it is worth mentioning here again, only because it is so definitive of the INFP’s character.  The fizzy pop can metaphor is also pertinent here…. (((and it is worth noting that underestimating the INFP is a big mistake.)))  There is much of what makes us who “we are” that is unseen and overlooked.  While appearing, empathetic, idealistic, creative, and in our “own” world, there is usually much more going on.  You see, the introverted feeling function creates a uniquely personal experience in life where our values give it a unique quality.  These values are relevant to our own life experiences and we have an innate desire to live life accordingly  As I have experienced it, violating them is a mistake that (at its worst) can cause me to get very very angry.  Things can get ugly very quickly….A convenient example of this can be found in my blog posts on “A shameful Parenting Story” or “and Cancer Trumps PTSD”

…While I’m not necessarily proud of this war-path mentality, I claim ownership of it for the sake of self-responsibility.  You see, what really infuriates me is being told the reality of my experiences are irrelevant. Utilizing the above blog post links as an example…((READ THEM NOW IF YOU HAVEN’T)))… the former-friend who tells me “I’m fucked up and am fucking up my kids” violated an important ideal.  As a bullied child I feel it is wrong to blame the victim since I experienced much of this in my childhood.  As the mother of a bullied child, I’m making decisions based on my own child’s needs, and instead am told I’m not doing it right.  When its clear she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, how could a person not be angry???    Regarding the “cancer trumps PTSD” post, it hurt me tremendously to watch my parents support my sister through cancer in way they failed to do so for me.  Mind you when I was young I was very suicidal and needed help. Imagine being committed in a psychiatric hospital for suicidal ideation, and nobody visiting you.  How is it they’re surprised I’m not angry by this??

boundlessly idealistic

An INFP lives in a constant state of becoming….happiest when..our actions move us towards that Ideal….unhappy when… people or…circumstances control our ability to become our Ideal….Our values guides us towards what feels right and away from what feels wrong.  An INFP’s subjective values often conflict with external circumstances which leads to a me-vs-them mentality…[this is] the root…of our problems” (infpblog.org, n.d.).

INFP’s feel compelled to uphold their personal values because it feels like a “survival mechanism”. Denying us this can feel like a rejection of what “makes us who we are”.  For example, in a follow-up post to the “Shameful Parenting” post, I discuss the concept of “Good Enough Parenting”.  In this post, I reflect on my experiences raising a child with a congenital heart defect who was bullied as a child.  I consider these unique experiences, and raise him as I see fit, based on his unique needs  When someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about tells me this is wrong I get angry.  The key for me has been accepting the idea that others might not approve or validate me.  The price I must accept for following my own path, is that people may disagree with me.

subjective & empathetic…

Fi leads [one] to live a life based on empathy & harmony…and…see life as a never-ending conflict between souls that are intrinsically different…Fi naturally leads people to favor mercy or forgiveness…This use of empathy [is an]… orientation [which] leads to a resolute non-judgmentalness….(MBTI Enthusiast, 2012).

When I was a kid my parents took me to my first movie.  Since my sister wasn’t born yet, I’m guessing I about five years old.  This was the mid-70’s, and I was seeing a Peanut’s movie.  According to my parents I was enjoying the movie until the scene where Lucy is fighting with Snoopy in a boxing match.  Everybody in the audience is laughing, but I’m crying uncontrollably.  In fact, it gets so bad that that my parents have to leave the theater.  I remember vaguely being so angry that everybody was laughing at snoopy getting hurt.  He’s a cute puppy dog after all, why would you want to beat up a puppy dog?!?!

This quality has been with me my whole life.  I’m naturally sensitive and experience my feelings strongly – in a manner that is difficult to express.  When I reflect on how different I am from the rest of my family, it becomes clear that my “walls” are thinner.  I am an empathetic and emotive sponge who can’t help but notice the emotions of those around me.  My youngest son is 9-years-old, and displays many of these traits.  From a very young age, he has always been sensitive, and I have to be careful when I punish him, that my verbal communication isn’t too harsh.  I also have to be aware of any exhaustion, stress, or frustration, because he can read immediately.  He reacts with a “what’s wrong mommy?”.  He can walk into a room, and know immediately how I feel just by looking at me.  The only other person who can do this, is my hubby, (only because he knows me so well).

Click this link to read my series on the nature of emotions, as only an INFP can explain things.  
Click this link to read my discussion on the intelligence of emotions for an introverted feeler’s perspective.

Shortcomings of Fi…

A discussion of the introverted feeling would be incomplete without discussion of its inherent shortcomings.  What follows is a list of issues that perpetually plague my daily existence…

Pathological Perfectionism

perfectAs I stated earlier, INFP’s are know for their boundless idealism.  They feel compelled to live by these ideals and protect them – especially when challenged.  In some instances this can be a strength.  It provides INFP’s a strong motivational force and internal guidance system.  In other instances, boundless idealism is unhealthy and destructive – especially when it isn’t anchored onto reality. INFP’s should question the measuring stick they hold themselves to.  Are you investing in realistic expectations?  While criticism and self-responsibility are healthy – unnecessarily harshness is self-destructive.

The most judgmental type…

justice-9017_1920A blog post I found recently, makes some interesting points of INFP’s.  While we may appear fairly inert and unassuming, something very different can lurk underneath.  As INFPs, we are able to see beyond the superficialities of daily experience.  What’s frustrating, is these deeper truths underlie superficial experience yet are constantly ignored.  However much it acts as a definitive groundwork upon which we build our reality, we engage in a “suspension of disbelief” for the sake of illusory realism.  When reading books, or watching movies, Engaging in a suspension of disbelief is useful to enjoy the story as it unfolds.   While useful with works of fiction, it has no utility as a life approach.  What’s frustrating for INFP’s is a part of us desires desperately to point out that bullshit is bullshit.  However doing so can be an egregious violation to others’ feelings, so we say nothing.  Our hyper-awareness and empathy create a mental bullshit-o-meter for all that is incongruous and inauthentic.  Turning our boundless idealism onto the world when it fails to live up to our expectations can be truly ugly.  We can end up judging the world and those in it as we do ourselves.

overly sensitive….

woman-1006102_1280I grew up with an ESTJ mother and INTP father.  They are both college professors who prided themselves on their intellect.  As a neurophysiologist my father was great at reducing all thoughts and feelings to brain anatomy and function.  I remember being told as a kid “exercise your prefrontal cortex, Kathleen”, whenever I was emotional.  There is honestly a part of me that hates being an INFP.  In my next life I will be a callous bitch, just to see what that feels like.  Living in this life with such a think skin between myself and the world leaves me exposed.   Brene Brown’s concept of vulnerability is a terrifying for this reason.   However, over the years, I’ve learned how to put the insights of the MBTI into perspective and gain sone self-acceptance.  On the one hand, it is worth noting that this personality assessment describes our innate preferences.  Trying to change an innate preference is akin to “praying the gay away”.  On the other hand, it is wrong to use this as an excuse for our shortcomings.  For example, if the MBTI is a food log, I am I sweet tooth.  If I were to fully indulge this desire, I would gain 20 pounds in no time flat.  Just because I enjoy sweets, that doesn’t mean its okay to treat my body like a trash can.

A horse of a different color…

As I stated earlier, INFP’s can march to the beat of their own drum.  In some respects this can be a good thing, if it means an authentic existence based on self-awareness and personal responsibility.  However, marching to the beat of your own drum, doesn’t come without a price.  Going against the grain means accepting the consequences of “differentness”.   For me, in early childhood, I didn’t understand the underlying reasons for my oddball ways.  I was insightful enough to realize that “normalcy” was not possible, but still incapable of understanding why.  I was highly sensitive and very lonely as a bullied child. All I wanted to do was fit in, but never could.  It wasn’t until I grew older that I came to understand I was fighting my basic nature.

 Trying to be something I wasn’t for approval has caused me many problems over the years.  
Learning to provide validation for myself in the ways other’s failed to has been critical.  

Illogical & Unrealistic

“[introverted] feeling progressively emancipates itself from the object and creates or itself a freedom of action & conscience that is purely subjective and may even renounce all traditional values.  But so much the more does unconscious thinking fall a victim to the power of reality.” (Jung, 2014, p. 638).

UntitledAnother thing I hate about myself is my inability to be logical and pragmatic, especially since this causes me to stand out like a sore thumb in my family.  You see, this path of illogical unrealism goes way back, to my earliest memories.  It appears I prefer to take my current path to its most absurdist conclusion, until I find myself in a world of shit.  Here are a few examples, that I beat myself up over as a “REFORMED FUCK UP”…

  1. I was a bullied child, because others could tell I was the perfect target.  It took years before it truly sank in that their opinions don’t matter.  I allowed these unresolved hurts to exist as self-fulfilling prophecies well into adulthood….
  2. I was in a “very dysfunctional relationship” for four years in college.  I put up with all his bullshit simply because I took to heart everything my bullies said about me.  The reality of my true worth and what I have to offer in a relationship existed within me as fact.  Just like The Wizard of Oz story, I had the ruby slippers all along.  I just needed to believe in myself.  
  3. I made a series of stupid educational career choices in a desire to prove myself as “good enough” and successful in the conventional sense of the word, only to create failure after failure.  It wasn’t until I understood that success meant accepting my basic nature, that I was able to create forward progress

Click here to learn about Extroverted Intuition from an INFP perspective.  


beinginfp.org (n.d.)  INFP Description.  Retrieved from:  http://www.infpblog.com/infp/infp-description
Jung, C.G..(2014) Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 6 : Psychological Types. Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press.
MBTI Enthusiast. (2012, July, 11,).  Introverted Feeling as Described by Lenore Thomson. Message posted to: http://personalitycafe.com/articles/106583-introverted-feeling-described-lenore-thomson.html 
Myers, I. B. (1962).  The myers-briggs type indicator: Manual. Consulting Psychologists Press.
myersbriggs.org (n.d.) The Dominant Function.  Retrieved from: http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/understanding-mbti-type-dynamics/the-dominant-function.htm
Steele, B.D. (2009, December, 11) INFP: The Most Judgmental Type: Retrieved from: https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/tag/john-beebe/ 

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