INFPs are generally described in key buzz words which are supposed to somehow encapsulate the broad spectrum of idiosyncrocies. Words like “Dreamer” and “Idealist” come to mind. If you googled INFP, the first thing Personalitypage.com will tell you is that INFPs have a rich inner world and care more about people than the average folk. It also says that we have trouble dealing with reality and logic. While all these things are true in the abstract, I just want to make it clear that our stack of cognitive functions operate so paradoxically that what churns up tends to manifest in different people differently, making for a bunch of interesting types of INFPs who are a product of their environment and their particular habits. Here are the different types of INFPs (as I see them). Yes, they are somewhat caricaturized but that’s generally how all my posts about people play out so just take it all in stride. If you are an INFP, you may find yourself fitting neatly into one of these categories or you may find pieces of yourself, all sides of the same coin (if the coin is basically a hexagon).
The Fish Out of Water INFP
We all know this guy (or girl). He’s the INFP friend who has no idea that he is an INFP or that he’s not supposed to be like other people. He’s always super awkward and out of place, as though he were an alien transplanted into a world of gregarious, every day humans and is trying desperately to emulate those around him and fit in. What ensues is absolute hilarity, since INFPs, when uncomfortable in social situations, tend to act inappropriately or comically. INFPs are so full of depth and hidden meaning that they just don’t know how to cope with their own feelings about the world around them.
INFPs that face failure in the real world tend to get down on themselves, living in a state of paralysis and self-concious inadequacy. Annie from Bridesmaids seems to be one of these INFPs who has failed so hardcore in her life that she accepts less than nice treatment from partners and roommates, feels insecure in her friendships, and absolutely HATES her job. She can’t even get the tail light in her car fixed. A failed Idealist is ultimately a failed human in every aspect. Luckily for Annie, she’s also a pretty nice and accepting person and the people in her life who care about her end up pulling through for her. In a way, the story of Annie is the story of all INFPs; a story about finding meaning in one’s own life and being able to reach out to those around you for help in finding that meaning.
Fringe of Society INFPs
There’s a lot of variations of this type depending on what specific books, comic books, movies, games, counterculture, art, music, and shows they’re into. One thing they all have in common is that they all live in a colorful fantasy world from which they refuse to emerge, even for practical reasons. A lot of these people don’t have jobs and if they do, they’re not normal jobs that will cover living expenses. As a result, most of these types tend to be teenagers who live with their parents or young adults living with several roommates. Some are college students without jobs that require their hair to be a normal color and others work as tattoo artists, hairstylists, and other such careers that allow them to look like a cartoon.
The interesting thing about this type is their pure dedication to fantasy. You see these people on shows like Taboo, talking about what it means to be a real life human cat or live in the forest and eat fruit out of people’s garbages. Their disconnection from reality is rather extreme but admirable in a way. While some INFPs fret about savings accounts, careers, and other pragmatic things, these INFPs have learned to stop giving a fuck about what society wants and they just go for it. Of course, it doesn’t earn any brownie points from society when you go out in public with a purple tail and launch campaigns to save the unicorns but if it’s your thing, who cares what anyone else thinks?
The IT/Gamer INFP
Here’s a subtype that is commonly mistaken for their Rational friends, INTP and INTJ. This type is a unique type of INFP because they’re largely influenced by Thinkers and as such, have adapted a proclivity for all things IT, mechanical, electrical, and RPG. What’s more is that they tend to see themselves as “Intellectuals” rather than humanitarians or architects of fantasy. While this INFP walks, talks, and acts like a Rational duck, they’re still not a duck primarily because their motivations are still centered around personal values and people. What’s more is that these particular INFPs have more of a sense of aesthetics than an INTP or INTJ typically would, which generally manifests as some kind of high tech art. If INTPs and INTJs are the gaming programmers creating maps and aggro algorithims, INFPs are the conceptual designers and artists creating the characters and storylines. This type of INFP also has a sentimentality towards technology which Rationals generally don’t have. One described his soul as “being one with the computer”, citing that he feels most centered and at home in the server room. While Rationals love their machines, they don’t generally think in those terms. They are more about the puzzle and the challenge, not so much about the human..er..machine experience.
The Lazy Writer
Some of the smartest and most gifted INFPs, this is one that also can’t be bothered with ambition or consistency in anything. They are deep, well-intentioned, and can hold eternally interesting conversations about anything, impressing you with their expansive knowledge and wordy and pretentious vernacular. This is the type of INFP to go off about the particulars of integration of Asocism and Egalitarianism in the modern Atheist paradigm. They’re like intellectual hipsters, arguing why the mainstream interpretation of Austrian economics is so passe’ and they’ve evolved their stance to exclude many of the writings of Milton Friedman in order to preserve its ideological integrity (don’t ask me how I know this). They’ve developed excellent debate skills, when they can manage to keep their emotions under control, partially because they’re obsessive INFPs and partially because they’re good at confusing ordinary people.
The problem with this type is that even though they have good ideas..no, they have great ideas..they’re still not really going anywhere with their lives. All they can do is write prose and get themselves worked up, without ever having published anything or done anything in any real sense. Somehow, they just float through life, living on caffeine, cigarettes, and xanax, waxing poetically and feeling intellectually and ideologically superior to everyone else. The few that manage to actually do something become legends (usually posthumously) and the rest…well, they have blogs. *pulls up scarf to obscure face*
Joan of Arc INFPs
The most noble of INFPs, these ones can be described as having something of a Joan of Arc complex. They are humanitarian minded and self-sacrificial. Some might even say that they’re martyrs in a sense. Joan of Arc INFPs (or JOAs for short) just care so much and so badly want to help others, to the point in which they’re willing to sacrifice their own comfort, material posessions, safety, and well being for their cause. They’re usually very idealistic about their goals, even if they don’t make sense “I want to feed every starving child on earth”. While that all sounds wonderful, this type rarely considers exentuating factors which might undermine their goals, you know, like logic, political and environmental influences or even..I don’t know…personal choices. But none of that matters because it’s not even the goal per se which matters but the efforts which are extended to meet those goals. Every little bit counts, right?
You can tell a JOA because they’re shy and soft-spoken nurturer types like ISFJs, except globally minded as opposed to being purely family-oriented. They’re usually members of the Peace Corp. or the Red Cross and if they’re not building schools in Guatemala, feeding children in Calcutta, or serving as a Peace Ambassador in Benghazi, they’re doing something else humanitarian like counseling/therapy or saving animals or the environment. They’re the sweetest and most likable of INFPs, with an open mind and just a touch of quiet self-loathing and neurosis in order to be interesting. They’re loyal and supportive in their personal relationships and passionate, sometimes even subversive in their public persona. Because JOAs are so popular, this can introduce a dynamic to the INFP personality which most INFPs don’t ever have to deal with in their lifetimes. They have to thwart affection from others while at the same time, embrace it. JOAs are forced to establish boundaries between themselves and other people in order to restore balance and preserve their precious privacy without being cold and violating the humanitarian principle. Matters become ten times worse when the INFP is also physically attractive. This can make for a particularly stressed, frazzled INFP that ends up relying on the under-developed structure of Te and becoming internally conflicted as a result. Heavy hangs the head which wears the humanitarian crown.
Metaphysical INFPs are the close cousin of JOAs in that they utterly ignore practical logic for idealistic reasons. These INFPs are into everything Rationals typically find ridiculous: religion, spirituality, astrology, numerology, chinese astrology, MBTI typeology, enneagram, fortune cards, palm readings, crystals, chi energy, law of attraction, yoga, meditation, you name it. This INFP is into it. Why are some INFPs into this stuff? Because they’re all compelling tools to use for a harmony and balance, something INFPs hold sacred. Think of this way, the Jedi of Star Wars relies on a duality of light and dark forces to guide their way through life and develop their powers. Such is the way for INFPs, who utilize symbols and belief systems to do the same.
While INFPs are rarely religious fundamentalists, I think its fair to say that most are instrinsically spiritual. In fact, they tend to prefer the metaphysical and humanitarian spiritualism over religious fundamentalism. Why? Because religious ferver in major religions like Islam and Christianity are more SJ territory in that they are clearly defined by a set of rules and principles, powered by unwavering obedience without question. This tends to offend INFP sensibilities because it doesn’t make case-by-case allowances for the rejected, the unsavory, or the disenfranchised. The black and white dichotomy which emphasizes one or the other, instead of the balance of yin and yang works contrary to the inner strive for balance which is present in virtually all INFPs. Religious fundamentalism is an open-shut case without room for other possibilities. Even when INFPs are religious, they still like to keep their options open.
Which brings me to crystals and palm readings all that other crap. While INFPs pick and choose what they want to believe in or reject, some are just more inclined to it than others. This is where you get the yogis and the variation of JOAs who travel to Buddhist temples and surrender their lives to the discipline of achieving Nirvana. Among the INFJs, I could see an INFP resigning themselves to long periods of fasting and meditation to achieve the ultimate spiritual enlightenment. It would be a very INFP thing to do, which is why I’ve included this subtype in this blog.
This is pretty much what everyone thinks of when they think of INFPs. They picture someone wearing black and feverishly writing dark poetry with a pistol in their other hand or musicians writing a soulful piece before slicing their wrists open. We tend to think of INFPs as being talented and deep but whiny and self-destructive. Not that there isn’t some truth to the stereotype but its a little more complicated than that. INFPs which dedicate themselves to the arts, be it music, art, or writing, tend to be self-indulgently dark, yes, this is true. But I’ve known some INFP artists and they’re actually quite optimistic but that optimism is notably tempered with conflict. What do I mean by that?
Let’s just take Kurt Cobain for instance. We all know he committed suicide. Well, some say Courtney Love conspired with assassins and anti-semites to get rid of Kurt and take his money but that’s another story. For the bulk of Kurt’s life, he wasn’t particularly known for being “dark”, at least not by the people who actually knew him. A more apt description for him would be sentimental and perfectionist. He was sentimental about life and other people and demanded of himself, complete authenticity and originality. INFPs commonly describe themselves as “perfectionists” due to their relationship with their inferior function, Te which demands perfection as Fi sees it.
Contrary to popular myth, it wasn’t Kurt’s authenticity or his demand for perfection which killed him. It was drugs, plain and simple. An INFP can be conflicted and an artist with a mission without going balls to the wall self-destructive. Drugs usually do that job. They do that by destroying your body, your mind, and your spirit. They make you vulnerable, they exaggerate every personal demon you’ve ever had and they destroyed Kurt and Edgar Allen Poe and Jim Morrison despite their natural inclination to love art and a life lived for art. Don’t mistake an INFP for the drugs that ruined them. Also, don’t blame Courtney Love…or do…as long as you have irrefutable proof.
A little known fact about William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is that it wasn’t just the greatest love story of all time. It was the love story because it was written by an INFP, about two INFPs, for INFPs. INFPs are by far the most romantic personality type on the spectrum and I don’t mean in a conventional dinner, wine and candles sort of way. I mean in a I will fucking die for you sort of way. In other words, they are intense. While some INFPs are content to write, make music, and live alone with their four cats, others are all about finding and keeping not just a partner but a soulmate, someone to connect with and “get this drift” as Alanis Morisette would say.
To a Romantic, all partners are not created equal. There is someone special out there for you and they were destined to fall into your arms and love you forever, unconditionally. But because INFPs are so reserved, you won’t necessarily know you’re dealing with a Romantic until suddenly, out pours a tidal wave of depth and emotion which is great if you feel the same way and really, really bad if you’re like most people and you approach love gradually, with cautious optimism. Though everyone loves the idea of a impassioned romance, few have the gall to be as impractical and inappropriate about it as an INFP. They can’t help it, they just have so much feeling inside them that it’s bursting to get out.
In truth, INFPs just really like to feel intensely because that means you’re alive and everyone wants to feel alive. They can derive that intensity of emotion from any source, be it a book, a song, a piece of art, a situation, or a romantic partner. It’s just that some INFPs are more inclined to be more romantic towards another person than other sources. While the INFP believes that he or she has found “the one” and is convinced that “the one” is the only option they can accept, the truth is that INFPs are far less discriminating than that. You know how many “The One”s there are out there? Probably millions, that’s how many and it can change from person to person throughout a lifetime. Still, you wouldn’t know it because an INFP will convince you that you are the most special human being on earth and the Gods themselves ordained you special. I don’t think that really makes it any less true, it’s just that the reality of relationships and reconciling differences can dim the fires of the INFP passion in a hurry. What it breaks down to is that INFPs are the firestarters and initiators of romantic relationships, bringing passion and spontaneity to them while others tend to stabilize the relationship, making it more fit for long-term success. At least, that’s probably how it should be. Can you imagine if Romeo and Juliet actually lived and got married and had to live with each other? I don’t think they could sustain on passion alone, they’d have to dig into some other INFP resources to make that one last. And as long as you know how to be considerate, warm, supportive, respectful, and communicate well and yes, feed the flames of passion, that shouldn’t be a problem.