INFP Personality Type: The Creative Seeker
By Dr. A.J. Drenth
INFP Functional Stack
INFPs’ Dominant Function: Introverted Feeling (Fi)
Dominant: Introverted Feeling (Fi)
Auxiliary: Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
Tertiary: Introverted Sensing (Si)
Inferior: Extraverted Thinking (Te)
INFPs are deeply aware of and in touch with their inner landscape. Their dominant Fi is inwardly focused and adept at evaluating and handling their personal tastes, values, and emotions. Because Fi is introverted in direction, INFPs process their emotions and experiences on a largely independent basis. With each new feeling, experience, or idea they evaluate, their sense of self becomes a little clearer. This was nicely enumerated by one of our blog readers:
My inner values and feelings (Fi) are like a building, a structure of affections that inform my worldview. This involves an inner love for certain things, and an inner repulsion for other things. My values and feelings form “blocks” of varying hardness, depending on how strongly I feel about them; the stronger ones are more resilient…I constantly discover more about the structure as I go, and what I should change to make it better. For example, I didn’t have to factually discern a respect for human dignity; I simply found myself in situations where people did not respect human dignity, and it made me angry—I found out that I hate bullying.
By reflecting on the experiences of life, whether gleaned from fiction or real life, INFPs come to better understand themselves. Despite this journey toward deeper understanding, INFPs often feel that their self-understanding remains incomplete. They may still feel they don’t know themselves well enough to wholeheartedly commit to a certain path in life. And they feel it is only through a more complete or definite self-understanding that they will be capable of acting with full authenticity and conviction.
In addition to its role in shaping INFPs’ self-understanding and identity, Fi can develop deep attachments and loyalties to certain externalities. INFPs are particularly prone to empathize with and develop attachments to those unable to help or care for themselves—animals, children, the less fortunate, victims of injustice, etc. They can often be found caring for the elderly, sick, disabled, and disenfranchised. Animal lovers to the core, they shower their pets with affection while also showing deep concern for strays. If sufficiently moved or inspired, INFPs may also take up a niche cause, such as garnering research funding for a rare disease affecting a loved one. Finally, many INFPs want (or will eventually want) their own children. Children can serve as a reliable and rewarding lifelong investment for INFPs’ love and attention.
Due to the introverted nature of Fi, INFPs’ status as feelers is not always evident from without. When immersed in Fi, they can seem a bit cool, aloof, or indifferent. Jung, rarely one to mince words in his type descriptions, described the introverted feeler (i.e., IFPs) in the following way:
They are mostly silent, inaccessible, hard to understand; often they hide behind a childish or banal mask, and their temperament is inclined to melancholy…Their outward demeanor is harmonious, inconspicuous…with no desire to affect others, to impress, influence or change them in any way. If this is more pronounced, it arouses suspicion of indifference and coldness…Although there is a constant readiness for peaceful and harmonious co-existence, strangers are shown no touch of amiability, no gleam of responsive warmth…It might seem on a superficial view that they have no feelings at all.
Of course, this sort of outer presentation belies what we know about INFPs’ inner world, which is abundant with life and feeling. It is also true that many INFPs compensate for their lack of Extraverted Feeling (Fe) by invoking their auxiliary Ne. When wielding Ne, INFPs are more outwardly open, receptive, quirky, and engaging.
INFPs’ Auxiliary Function: Extraverted Intuition (Ne)
Ne demands novelty. It craves new ideas, connections, and possibilities. It seeks to understand the world (and the self) through the lens of ideas. It therefore comes as no surprise that Ne plays a prominent role in INFPs’ search for self.
Among Ne’s manifold talents is its knack for sniffing out intriguing possibilities. As we’ve seen, INFPs commonly assume the role of wanderer or seeker. Rarely do they know exactly what they are seeking, which is largely why operating in Ne mode can be exhilarating. Ne can be associated with a sense of blind anticipation and expectation, of not knowing who or what will manifest next in one’s life journey. INFPs relish the sense of adventure, expectancy, and wonderment conferred by Ne. This is one reason they enjoy traveling. The idea of exploring nature or different cultures feels rife with possibilities. A serendipitous encounter with a kindred spirit, the discovery of a life-changing book, finding inspiration through ancient art and architecture, such are the anticipated rewards of following Ne.
Ne can function either expressively or receptively. The verbal expression of Ne amounts to something like “brainstorming aloud.” When speaking, INFPs may at times struggle to make their point, as Ne bounces from one idea or association to the next. Even ideas that seem inwardly cogent to the INFP may scatter when expressed, like a ray of light passing through a prism.
On a more positive note, INFPs often capitalize on the divergent and diversifying effects of Ne through inspired works of art or innovation. Whether they realize or not, INFPs are among the most profoundly creative of all types.
When operating receptively, Ne prompts INFPs to gather information. It scans for new patterns, associations, and possibilities. INFPs commonly exercise this side of their Ne through activities such as reading, research, entertainment, and conversation with others.
In engaging with others, INFPs enjoy asking probing questions. They find it interesting to explore the unique qualities of every individual, as well as the life story that explains or gives context to those characteristics. Hence, INFPs are typically viewed as good listeners as well as facilitators of conversation. Others sense and appreciate that the INFP is authentically interested in understanding them for who they are as individuals, and that they are doing so in a non-threatening and non-judgmental way.
Like INTPs, INFPs have a love-hate relationship with their Ne. They relish the sense of wonder, curiosity, and anticipation it instills, as well as its creativity and openness. Without their Ne, they would not be the seekers and creatives that they are. But living with Ne is not without its challenges. For one, it can make it difficult for INFPs to arrive at firm conclusions or make important life decisions. It often seems that at the very moment they feel confident about a given conclusion or decision, Ne finds a way to inject doubt and uncertainty. This can be frustrating for INFPs who feel they are working so hard to find their rightful place in the world. At times, Ne may even cause them to worry that they have made no real progress toward anything substantial, or worse, that they may never find what they are looking for.
INFPs’ Tertiary Function: Introverted Sensing (Si)
Introverted Sensing (Si) is a conservative function. It engenders a concern and respect for the past—for what is routine, familiar, or traditional.
While INFPs may appreciate some amount of routine in their lives, such as devoting a certain time of day to creative work, they are less inclined to wholeheartedly embrace traditions or conventions in the manner of SJ types. For INFPs, a full embrace of tradition can only emerge authentically after they explore it (and its alternatives) through the lens of Fi and Ne. So even when a given tradition manages to pass muster, it is only after INFPs have personalized it and made it their own, interpreting it in a way that resonates with their deepest values.
The influence of Si may also be reflected in INFPs’ attitudes toward money and material goods. INFPs are often minimalists with respect to possessions. Many opt for rather simple living arrangements so they can devote more time and energy to pursuing their true passions. This tendency toward material minimalism is often discernible in their style of dress and artistic preferences. Namely, their approach often entails the creative reuse or recombination (Ne) of pre-existing resources (Si) to fashion something new. In this spirit, many INFPs supply their wardrobes, homes, and art rooms with items from thrift shops, antique stores, or garage sales.
An oft overlooked feature of Si is its role in the perception of internal bodily sensations—the body as felt and experienced from within. Si can be associated with the raw and basic sense of “being” that exists apart from thought or outward stimuli. Historically, Eastern philosophical and religious traditions have led the way in exploring this domain of human experience through practices such as yoga, Tai-Chi, or meditation. Because of INFPs’ openness to new experiences (Ne), as well as their desire to explore the mind-body connection and enhance their sense of well-being, many are drawn to these sorts of holistic practices (especially yoga).