A Psychosocial Profile of an INFP
–from Dr. Jim Nolan of Southwestern College, Santa Fe
(offering fully accredited, master’s degrees in holistic Counseling and Art Therapy/Counseling)
People laugh when I tell them I am an “I”. I am funny, can be outlandish, and as president of my graduate institution, I give auditorium graduation speeches, which are smart, entertaining, sincere, authentic (OK, for the most part…)
Classic Extrovert, they say.
But I have read somewhere (and it resonates with me) that sometimes Introverts lead with their “E” function, and save the “I” for those closest to them. There is a preference for privacy in the “I” function, or so it feels to me. If you think you know me because I talk a lot and create humor when you are around me, you probably do not really know me, and of COURSE you would take me for an “E”. I am holding you at that distance, and I control the information to which you have access and thus your perception of me. If I can be around you without saying much of anything, we are probably closer friends. This is not at all intentional, at least on a conscious level. I have to stop and reflect deeply to get ahold of these insights about my own dynamics, or hypotheses about them. But for the most part, I am in charge of who truly gets the front row seats in my life.
As an “I”, I protect myself from the over-stimulation of people energy, and I can control the input from others, to some extent, by controlling my own output. I know, it sounds convoluted, but it’s how it is, for me. I might just talk more, so that I get less of you guys invading my field. Hmmm…
It seems weird to me that I feel I have to protect my preference for space, and time alone, and for privacy, but we all know that there are people who will buffalo straight into your private space without even really knowing they are doing it, AND will do so with the full endorsement of a culture that values “outgoing-ness” and being assertive. Wowee.
Intuition. Not necessarily Intuition VERSUS Sensing. But sometimes it feels that way. With 59 years of experience in my current job as “Jim Nolan”, I continue to find that what our Social Science world calls “evidence” (which the insurance and psycho-pharmaceutical industries take for Bible truth), I find laughable, and, paradoxically perhaps, sad. I would never refer anybody to a Psychotherapy practitioner whose primary epistemology is based on “evidence” as defined by our current evidence-collecting systems. It’s even a scary thought, to me.
(The “Dustbowl Empiricists” used to say “What exists, exists in some amount, and if it exists in some amount, it can be measured.” Yeah, no. You can PRETEND you are measuring “it”, but one–you do not even know what the “it” is (for example, loyalty, love, courage, sorrow—all reified hypothetical constructs), and two—your measuring methodologies are severely limited (and compromised) by your world view, and three–your materialist approach means you will not even be able to SEE what does not conform to your philosophy. Yikes all around.)
I have always gotten my jobs in wildly synchronistic ways, and the “sense-based” and “common-sensical” and linear ways never really seem to correspond to any reality with which I have had contact, as face-valid and “logical” as they seem.
I am often frankly skeptical of “senses-based” epistemology. I think our ways of knowing, indeed, our Inner Knower and Inner Teacher, are among our most powerful sources of wisdom, and they are largely discounted and dismissed in the “scientific” world. And the Asch experiments and a million more tell us how reliable the senses are anyway. Not very, sometimes.
Don’t get me wrong–the five senses are among my favorite things in the world, but Intuition is even more important to me. Right–brain is becoming more and more important in this culture as the predominantly left-brain jobs get computerized or sent to India. And for some reason, left-brained ideologies seem to be much more dogmatic than right-brained views, so they always think they are “right.” “You’re not being LOGical!” Yeah, whatever, dude.
We have to remember that these types are not dichotomous. (Heck, they don’t even really exist—they are metaphors, and codes, and reified constructs that make it easier for us to have discussions about differences—but that is a different blog post…) You can be heart-based and still have a strong cognitive processor. These are PREFERRED styles, not indicators of capacities. If I have to make a decision based on one or the other in my personal life (sometimes I have to go the other way in my professional role), I am typically going heart-based. If I really decide I want to save some money, I could buy Barney cheaper dog food, or feed him ½ as much as I do, or sell him on ebay, and put the cash in the bank. But I’m not doing it. Data and logical thinking might support it, but the heart rules that one. I would also rather pay more taxes to help others out than pay less and have fewer social services.
But do others “get” that I “get” the argument AGAINST more taxes? Because I do. The fact that I decide from the heart does not mean I am a moron. I TOTALLY understand the other point of view, and I simply do not share it. Just like I can’t convince you that Pad Thai is the best food in the world. It is just a preference—it’s what’s real for me. INFP’s most often do not require that you share our way-of-being-in-the-world; we ask that you try to understand it, or at least accept it, without trying to tell us fifteen ways that you are smarter and your personal view is superior. We have already heard that speech, explicitly, and even more often implicitly. Spare us one more showing of that movie, please. No, really.
And those of us who are metaphysically-minded (like EVERYBODY and anybody in Santa Fe, and to tell you the truth, I no longer remember how the rest of the world even works…) believe that there is a “One-ness” principle in the universe. Far from being woo-woo or New Age, this may be the oldest philosophical principle in the world, held by every wisdom tradition from Trismegistus to the Law of Attraction. Of course, Modern Science, the know-it-all 15 year old in the world of knowledge, discounts all of this because it does not fit in its model, and cannot be measured or studied in the very limited ways of studying that it happens to recognize.
That is why your insurance company will not pay for you to get Shamanic healing, spiritual or religiously-based healing, or to go on a vision quest. Never mind that the universe has been using just these healing modalities since the beginning of time—“THERE IS NO EVIDENCE! We AIN’T PAYIN’ IF THERE AIN’T NO EVIDENCE.”
And so it goes…
Disruptive Innovators do not lock hard into one option, but keep scanning the field for the next improvement, the next best answer. The older I get, the clearer I am that I know very little, that there are sources of inspiration and information well outside the senses and well outside our current knowledge and experience base. Personally, the more adamant, certain, dogmatic, unswerving, and swiftly decisive a person is, the less I trust them—unless circumstances DEMAND such a move (enemy troops are pouring over the hill, the Higher Learning Commission report is due tomorrow) AND the person somehow acknowledges, or intimates, or otherwise indicates that they know they do not have access to a full process and all of the information and knowledge they would prefer, but to the best of their judgment, we have to move this way, and FAST. I can go with that. And I can even be that guy, have been that guy. It’s part of my job.
So, that “Decisive J” thing does not have the impact on me, personally, that the culture at large seems to experience. I do not necessarily admire or trust it. And I see it more and more these days. It is disconcerting. I see “personal taste” and “my preference” masquerading proudly as “bold decisiveness” or great leadership. No thanks, not having any today. I am more likely to see it as possibly fear-based self-doubt, flattering itself (less than consciously, of course) that it is an informed, strong voice that should be acknowledged for its quick bolt to action. I suppose occasionally it is, but my “N” function places great trust in my distrust of Power J’s.
P is for “Possibilities” (within reason, of course—we all “get” that hyper-indecisiveness is not a great way to go.) But we do not want to limit our vision prematurely. The universe is a many-splendored thing, and we want to look at the menu a while before we make choices. We are not in any big rush about it, and if we miss one right answer, our assumption is that there are fifteen more right answers, and we only have to be sure to find one of them. “J’s” can sometimes think there is one right answer, and the sooner we choose it the better. It can drive them nuts that we want to shop a little, and weigh the pros and cons. It makes us nuts that they want to have dinner at Denny’s because it’s right across the street, and the prices are decent to boot. How obvious a right answer can you get??
So that is one introspective take on being an INFP…so much more one could say, but…
Anyway…there you go…I am going to my room, where I will lock the door and read for a year or two….see you in ’14…
Jim Nolan, President, Southwestern College, Santa Fe