A Psychosocial Profile of an INFP
By Jim Nolan, Santa Fe (President of Southwestern College)
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 60 plus years of experience in my current job as “Jim Nolan”, I
continue to find that what our Social Science world calls “evidence” (which is often taken 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 research “evidence” as defined by our current evidence-collecting systems. It’s even a scary thought, to me. It means they are not thinking for themselves, but letting some academics do their thinking for them.
(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.
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
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
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 a couple of years…
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