In the Kiersey temperament scale, the INFJ (Introversion, iNtuition, Feeling, Judging) is known as The Counselor. The rarest type, INFJs are a marriage of seeming contradictions, oft misunderstood, with a depth beyond surface comprehension. Sometimes mistaken for the INFP, who is also an NF or idealist, and shares some similarities, the two types actually share no cognitive functions. While four-letter classification is the most prominent categorization in MBTI, some say it is the cognitive stack or hierarchy of functions that actually determines functioning. So, just in case you aren’t familiar, let’s get to it:
Dominant (main) function: Introverted intuition (Ni)
Auxiliary: Extraverted feeling (Fe)
Tertiary: Introverted thinking (Ti)
Inferior: Extraverted sensing (Se).
This is an interesting functional stack: You will notice that both functions pertaining to information and facts point inward, while both governing action and the real world point outward, which creates an interesting dichotomy. While on one hand, the INFJ can be drawn to mystical realms and deeper meaning; higher humanitarian ideals and helping others, there is also a precise thinking mechanism that sorts through data and stimuli rigorously. Ideas are rarely shared in the thinking process and sometimes the person can retreat inward while contemplating complex ideas and possibilities; they would seem focused, but perhaps inattentive, during this. There is also a tendency to overanalyze, courtesy of the Ni–Ti loop. Unlike the INTJ, whose conclusions are used to construct better systems, machines and structure, however, the INFJs main thrust is toward humankind, morality and compassion. Thus, the product of inner focus is different.
By contrast, the extraverted functions of Fe and Se make the subject expressive and action-oriented, though maybe not in the most typical sense. You will typically see extraverted feelers smile with their whole face, engage you in meaningful eye contact and otherwise respond to emotional stimuli; there is a passion and a fire to their deep intellect and overarching wisdom. This also creates the desire to occasionally be the life of the party and interact meaningfully with many people, before retreating into a quiet world of almost seclusion. You see, despite their desire to socialize, INFJs possess an almost psychic sensitivity to the moods of those around them and after prolonged periods, they need to retreat and recharge. Sensory extraversion, too, means a desire to act out certain things and to sometimes use motion to organize the environment. With Fe and Se, there can also be a bubble of uncertainty regarding the self, and immediate feelings and sensations; at times, INFJs look to the external world, usually in the form of a trusted friend or advisor, to help them sort their mental or emotional state—a sounding board, of sorts. And without this, they can become a little unhinged.
All that possibility within, all those complex feelings, with no outlet.
Another close cousin, or perhaps counterpart, to the INFJ is the ENFP, who possesses the same order of functions, but with directionality reversed. For this reason, while INFJs are usually the most extroverted of introverts, ENFPs are the most introverted extroverts. You will perhaps find an interesting synergy between these two types, as, while one possesses an almost infinite depth, the other has stores of positivity, and both have a deep regard for humanity.
Finally, it is interesting to note, that while discrete type indicators such as Myers-Briggs are not as often used in mainstream academic psychology—where the focus is a little more on continuous qualities like the five factor model administered via the NEO PI-R, and the study of personality shares an overlap with clinical populations vis-à-vis the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory)—they are sometimes more indicative of personality in everyday life and career counseling.
If you’re an INFJ, do you relate to this?