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The INFP’s Introverted Feeling & Enneagram 4

March 9, 2020

Over the past several weeks (months), I’ve been (not so) casually trying to figure myself out. This has involved going through some old and well-known personality assessment tools like the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (albeit with a different lens now), as well as looking through some new (or rather, less familiar?) frameworks like the Enneagram.

I am aware that MBTI isn’t necessarily psychologically sound. However, to me, I have always chafed at the critique that the MBTI suffers from the Forer Effect — when I read about different descriptions and explanations, I can usually strongly intuit that some descriptors fit and some don’t.

Of course, there is also the gap of things I don’t understand how to process yet.

Going through the Enneagram has caused me to revisit MBTI, and to revisit my own understandings of myself.

See, if you had asked me a few months ago about MBTI, I would have said that for sure I knew I was I for introvert, and T for thinking….and then I would have been fuzzier on what iNtuition and Sensing really were about, and about what Perceiving or Judging were really about either. I didn’t know about functions and didn’t realize that even though two MBTI types might share several letters, they might be very far apart in terms of function.

So, back then, I would have said something like “I’m either INTP or INTJ.” (And I get that a huge issue with the scientific validity of the MBTI is precisely that it doesn’t allow people to stably and reliably retest the same.)

The overall impression I had of myself was as being a logical, critical thinker.

…and yet, if I think about this now, even I have to note that this was an ignorance of crucial parts of myself. I have just as strongly insisted in subjectivity, in the primacy of my own inner concepts.

WordPress recommended a decade old blog post of mine: “Being out of touch with humanity.” What a great way to encapsulate. Even a decade ago, I could identify the sense of difference, but I didn’t have a way to put it to words.

The enneagram has given partial words….yet, interestingly, it was a complicated process to get there.

When I first learned about the Enneagram, I was so sure that I was maybe a 5: The investigator. Intense, cerebral, secretive and isolated.

…but (un)fortunately enough for me, when I was learning about the enneagram, I was going through an emotional downswing because of the lack of success of my music YouTube channel, so I had enough working material to realize that 5 wasn’t enough to explain my emotional sensibilities.

And so I played around with being a 5 with a 4 wing (since wings are a thing in Enneagram). And then I had to wonder…what if instead I were a 4 with a 5 wing? The advice I heard from many others was to sit with whichever negative description hit closest to home. And so the 4 begins:

We have named this type The Individualist because Fours maintain their identity by seeing themselves as fundamentally different from others. Fours feel that they are unlike other human beings, and consequently, that no one can understand them or love them adequately. They often see themselves as uniquely talented, possessing special, one-of-a-kind gifts, but also as uniquely disadvantaged or flawed. More than any other type, Fours are acutely aware of and focused on their personal differences and deficiencies.

And also:

Average Levels

Level 4: Take an artistic, romantic orientation to life, creating a beautiful, aesthetic environment to cultivate and prolong personal feelings. Heighten reality through fantasy, passionate feelings, and the imagination.

Level 5: To stay in touch with feelings, they interiorize everything, taking everything personally, but become self-absorbed and introverted, moody and hypersensitive, shy and self-conscious, unable to be spontaneous or to “get out of themselves.” Stay withdrawn to protect their self-image and to buy time to sort out feelings.

Level 6: Gradually think that they are different from others, and feel that they are exempt from living as everyone else does. They become melancholy dreamers, disdainful, decadent, and sensual, living in a fantasy world. Self-pity and envy of others leads to self-indulgence, and to becoming increasingly impractical, unproductive, effete, and precious.

Unhealthy Levels

Level 7: When dreams fail, become self-inhibiting and angry at self, depressed and alienated from self and others, blocked and emotionally paralyzed. Ashamed of self, fatigued and unable to function.

Level 8: Tormented by delusional self-contempt, self-reproaches, self-hatred, and morbid thoughts: everything is a source of torment. Blaming others, they drive away anyone who tries to help them.

Level 9: Despairing, feel hopeless and become self-destructive, possibly abusing alcohol or drugs to escape. In the extreme: emotional breakdown or suicide is likely. Generally corresponds to the Avoidant, Depressive, and Narcissistic personality disorders.

(I was probably in level 6 or level 7 then. Fortunately, I have never hit Level 9.)

Anyway, the newfound acceptance of my emotionality then caused me to take another look at MBTI, where upon taking a few other tests, I ended up at INFP.

I’ve noticed a weird thing in my life (which I have no idea is just something I experience, or if it is something that others do….there’s my Enneagram 4 thinking here…) where if I tried to learn something at one point in my life, it can be entirely opaque and unintelligible…but somehow, with only the passage of time, I can somehow be better able to understand the same concept later on (even though I haven’t spent any conscious time trying to figure out that thing in the intervening years.)

So, there I was with the type functions for MBTI and Jungian psychology. I’m not going to claim to be an Jungian expert in any sense, but for the first time, I could read things like “Introverted Feeling” “Extroverted Intuition,” “Introverted Sensing” and “Extroverted Thinking” and start to relate these concepts to myself (or, as it turned out for other MBTI types, utterly not relate.) (For those who aren’t aware, the previously mentioned are the functions of INFP — Fi Ne Si Te.)

I hesitated to accept INFP at first because I didn’t and don’t see myself as an intrinsically touchy-feely person…yet, as I read certain descriptions of Fi (introverted feeling), I found some descriptions that resonated:

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.

Indeed, for me, everything comes back to a personal sense. I would like to think that this personal sensibility is somewhat logical, but if there’s a conflict, I have to live with myself first and foremost, even if it alienates me.

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