I adapted the following insights from Lenore Thompson’s Personality Type book. If you wish to learn more, I recommend it as an excellent, in-depth resource with far more insights than alluded to here.
Fi is a way of looking at life, a lens grounded by direct experience of good and evil. It focuses its attention on a personal relationship to an evolving pattern to gauge the situation by an ideal. FPs know the difference between a good and bad outcome in their bones. Moral choices from Fi are based in the subjective experience of being human—the will to deal with a situation in terms of human ideals. Fi puts human value first. IFPs find understanding reality via general principles (the thinker’s perspective) cold and dehumanizing.
Fi works in the background of awareness, moving to adjust rationally to a situation while it’s happening. Personal experience shapes the IFP’s reaction to the outer world. All they see is what is “good” and what is “bad.” They use their subjective values to navigate through life. IFPs need to find a way to integrate their inner world into the outer realm, to see the difference between “I feel this way” and “this is an objective moral truth.” They need enough objective experience to appreciate the difference between purely circumstantial values and those that link them with greater humanity. Some values are shaped by context and irrelevant when circumstances change. Others are undeniably unconditional. These cannot be erased from the human psyche, regardless of the present social situation.
Fi gives the IFP the capacity to see a situation whole and to determine the integrity of their actions. It relies on experience and empathy to make decisions that affect us as human beings. The who, the where, or the why matters not. They recognize by way of their experiences an unconditional value that links them with humanity, and treat this as sacred. They are seeking larger truths for themselves. Value for them comes from within and aligns their behaviors to a larger purpose outside social obligation. Fi offers the gift of detachment from social conditioning.
Without Se/Ne development, IFPs judge every situation after their own experience. They can become absorbed in defying “conformity” to social conventions or standards, or can get locked into an eternal present where nothing matters except their own experiences and opinions.
Fi is an individual viewpoint; something the IFP brings to reality from within themselves. They need to develop enough functionally to invest in life as it actually is. Otherwise, they spend too much time defending themselves from situations unfriendly to their inner realm, and their beliefs against perceived external threats, rather than taking this as an opportunity to expand their understanding of different people as having unique experiences, and learning not all situations that do not appeal to them are objectively “bad.”
Once the IFP sees the difference between their own subjective values (which make them feel comfortable) and unconditional values (human life has worth and dignity), they no longer need to change people’s minds. Their perspective broadens only through direct experiences that give them no time to put up defenses; doing this, they will no longer categorize information that differs from their comfort zone as “alien” to them.
When looping, IFPs become convinced others behaviors, beliefs, ideas, or lack of tolerance or understanding is to blame for their problems. They become preoccupied by the differences between their own experiences and others’ expectations. They avoid situations that ask them to compromise, and only do things that make them feel like “themselves.” They categorize people as either good or bad and define experiences as either desirable or undesirable before they have even had them. When they do this, life cannot teach them anything.
Well-developed IFPs are so utterly present, they seem without expectations. They have no need to predict whether an experience will meet their needs. These IFPs are harmonious with life, comfortable with themselves, and can teach others by example.
EFPs take reality for granted, as it happens to them. They use Fi to support their extroverted motivations—they are good at identifying with others and recognize their power to support unconditional human values in the aspects of life society has overlooked. ESFPs do this concretely through direct humanitarian action. ENFPs try to change people’s ideas about prevailing social norms or introduce a new approach.
IFPs, unlike EFPs, do not re-invent themselves with each new experience. They use Fi to control their experiences. When their auxiliary function is underdeveloped, IFPs reject new experiences and magnify the importance of their experience at the expense of everyone or everything else (“That does not match what I have lived through, therefore you are a liar or wrong” – forgetting other people’s experiences also matter). They absorb themselves in what they find important. Se/Ne development makes the IFP less discriminating and able to value direct knowledge in many areas of life.
IFPs are drawn to things and professions that allow them to take humane action transcending human social boundaries, but can also suffer feelings of self-doubt, because their ideals generate larger expectations than they can accommodate. They may feel they don’t fit in and suffer loneliness. They feel called to do something meaningful and good, something that brings their values to the community. If they cannot do this, they do not know how to define themselves.
Most IFPs cultivate an activity that expresses their sense of harmony with life. This is not necessarily artistic but allows them to dwell extensively in their inner world. IFPs tend to identify very strongly with fictional characters that share something in common with them (a disability, loss, circumstance, etc).
ISFPs relate to the world through Se, by engaging with reality as it exists; their values are a product of concrete experience. They require sensory engagement. They are physically active and restless if not engaged. They adjust their way of looking at life based on the concrete changes based in their physical environment. Most of them are drawn to hands-on professions and artistic hobbies.
They live in the here and now, as if each experience was newly discovered, and their primary purpose is to be in harmony with it. They may have a strong identification with nature and a special gift of communication with children or animals. They have an instinctual gift (via Fi/Ni) to understand when animals are suffering or what is wrong with them. When engaged, ISFPs are focused, contained, and inexhaustible, unlike Se-doms who require perpetual novelty to stay interested. ISFPs think in terms of whatever is right in the present situation. They want a space that allows them to do what they feel called to do. ISFPs want to lose themselves in their creative acts, and become “one” with whatever they are doing.
ISFPs who develop their lower functions construct a life for themselves that honors their gifts and calling. It moves them to recognize their purpose in being alive and to find their own path.
INFPs are both highly idealistic and tolerant of people’s choices. They see nature’s underlining pattern as imitations of a larger purpose. They long to experience oneness with their circumstances, but unlike ISFPs, don’t lose themselves in physical activities. Ne doesn’t push INFPs to act, but to interpret the potential of their thoughts and behaviors in terms of their ideals. INFPs feel just as responsible for their desire to take action as for their actions themselves.
INFPs are encouraged by engaged by meaningful patterns and their values are a mixture of experience and a mental impression of alternate patterns and ideals. They are advocates of the inner world, the values that connect us to others in a fundamental way. They go where they feel needed, by helping to nurture others’ values and beliefs. (Compared to the ISFP, who uses direct action.)
ENFPs gauge the nature of external context and then recognize the value of the people in it. INFPs do the opposite—they hold unconditional human values and use Ne to figure out what that means in the outside world. They feel responsible for their hidden intentions, even if their behavior exceeds others’ expectations.
INFPs need a lot of time to themselves. They are sympathetic listeners, genuinely interested in others’ beliefs and actions, and have high romantic ideals. INFPs long for a communication of mind, body, and spirit in a potential partner. They expect that person to see past their surface actions to the things that move them and grasp the underlining meaning to their worlds.
Even in a meaningful career, the INFP may feel like something else is supposed to happen and show them what they are really meant to do. They tend to focus on human potential but may lack a clear idea of what it means to act on their values. They may feel guilty about not feeling satisfied by a perfectly decent life course. These INFPs either become perpetual seekers who try and abandon things long before creating something meaningful and lasting with them, or passive but still dissatisfied with their chosen life. They may procrastinate and accomplish little in life, due to confusion over their life course and general apathy.
INFPs need to learn to apply Ne to a task rather than imagine what a better situation would be—to live in the present and not in their imaginations. When an INFP embraces functional development, they realize being responsible to their values isn’t about fighting what exists, but discovering new ways to do things that may not occur to others. These INFPs treat others with unconditional love and compassion. The effects of their decisions are often incalculable, renewing people’s faith in human nature.