Introverted feeling (Fi) finds it complicated to explain anything, including itself. Putting an explanation into words is difficult, because if you don’t explain enough, then everyone else oversimplifies it and interprets it much too narrowly. If you explain it enough, people are bored and say you’re making it too complicated. You’ll notice lots of parenthetical comments in my writing (and I think, introverted rationals’ writings in general), because there’s all sorts of things that need to be in there for better understanding, but if they’re not in parentheses, people are just going to get lost. Well, they’re lost anyway, but I’m trying to be helpful here.
So then a lot of other people try to describe introverted feeling, the dominant function of ISFPs and INFPs, and they mostly fall into two kinds of description: either introverted feelers are closed-off, cold-hearted, bitchy people who are totally inaccessible to anything or anyone (i.e., Lenore Thomson and Carl Jung’s description, and I think, more broadly, the extraverted rational’s take), or they are mushy, Unite-The-World-For-Peace-And-Harmony, rainbowy, words-don’t-matter saps (i.e., just about any T’s take).
I clearly come off as the first (inaccessible and cold and angry) to a lot of people, because they’re afraid of me, and when they’re less afraid, they’ll tell me this. I don’t understand why, most of the time. I’m not mad at them. I’m not mad at anyone. Life is just, intense. It takes concentration. And it’s serious. If life is going too well, then something is probably either already wrong (e.g., someone’s cheating someone or something), or is about to be (e.g., catastrophe waiting in the wings). Think of the introverted thinker’s distaste for and suspicion of predictive theories that keep on making the right predictions, and then apply it to individuals instead of propositions, and you’ll have my take on success. I guess that makes me cold and pessimistic.
Also, getting at the best understanding possible is much more important than feeling good about it. Feeling good about something, or wanting to feel good about something, often seems to be at war with real understanding, so the former often gets repelled. Even, perhaps, when feeling good would be entirely harmless. This would contribute to our image as party-poopers… Sigh. (See? what did I tell you? Understanding over feeling good, right there. ;p And I didn’t even realize I was doing it.)
David Keirsey comes the closest to getting at an external description of introverted feeling, I think, when he talks about them always moving towards some vision of good, but always looking over their shoulder at some pursuing evil.
When I talk about individuals, I don’t necessarily mean people. I think I used to think I just meant people, and I think most people (including a lot of introverted feelers) only apply the term ‘individual’ to ‘person’ when they talk about what introverted feeling cares about. But it’s not true. Anything that can be seen as having a past and a present and future, particularly if they also have an internal state, a mind, that can be seen as being an individual (this what analysts call the introverted feeler’s obsession with uniqueness). Animals and much of the natural world are easy targets for individualism, but depending on the introverted feeler, just about anything could be seen as an individual. Are introverted feelers prone to pantheism?
Each individual is an extremely complex bundle of motivations, values, and experiences that make them distinct from everything else (Mooch: No two anythings are alike.) As an introverted feeler, I like to think about what all those motivations and values and experiences are, how they fit together, how it relates to what I see and experience of them. Oh, I bet that’s where the thinker’s use of the phrase “inner harmony” comes from. How come they don’t apply that to their theories that they want to be all harmonic? No, no, they use terms like “consistency” and “internally coherent”. I see how it is. But I digress.
So I ask lots of questions (mostly to myself - things don’t tend to go well when I ask them of other people): “What does X mean when they say that?” “How does X feel about that?” “What is it like to BE X?” “How is X the same or different from Y?” “What would happen if X experienced Y?” “What are the criterial properties of X?”
(Hmm. Now that I think about it, Kierkegaard’s obsession with the solitary individual probably suggests that he is in an introverted feeler.)
As understanding comes, I want to take that understanding and tack it onto my larger understanding of something like the concept of “Life” or “Existence”. I want all the pieces to fit together; I have a deep-seated belief that truth - even when it looks contradictory on the surface - can always be integrated with other truth. Integration and a holistic picture (of anything, and everything) are vital.
When it comes to myself, I ask those same questions that I ask of other individuals. I spend a lot of time trying to understand what I think, what I believe, what I want. This doesn’t always seem to be put into words, in the sense that it’s not readily explainable to others. Often I’m comparing different states I’ve had, or decisions I’ve made, or things I’ve said, trying to understand how they can be integrated, or whether they signal development (or regression!). I try to understand what kind of trajectory I’m on, and what the things I’m thinking, doing, saying show about me. When people say things about me, my internal response is almost always “Yes, but you don’t know about [fill in the blank].” So it’s hard for me to take compliments; it’s not even that I think I’m really evil or don’t deserve them, it’s more that I don’t think they have enough understanding for the compliment to be valid.
Oh yeah, there’s another thing. Nothing’s ever a closed book with introverted feelers. Just like introverted thinkers never reach a logical conclusion (i.e., a theory by which they can test everything else), I don’t reach conclusions. It’s all open for additional data or reinterpretation. So my favourite words are the hedgers: I think, I guess, maybe, okay, might, probably, etc. Don’t box me in, people! On the other hand, though, I know experience will always mess up my theories, so often I’m afraid of it and try to keep it at a distance. I’ll just go with my tentative theory use that for the next twenty years. It’s hard work revising it. Sometimes I get tired. Of course, this always makes me unhappy in short order, and then I get rigid about my tentative theories. I know, it’s a paradox, and I’ve seen it make people mad. I don’t know what to do about this. Anything?
So now I’ve written a whole ton about introverted feeling and I’m not sure it’s clarified anything for anyone. Although, it clarified a lot for me, particularly about other people’s takes on introverted feeling and how and why they might be coming to the conclusions they’re coming to. So for me, as an introverted feeler, this is a success.
I’ll try to come up with some quotes that I think define introverted feeling (and maybe I’ll even talk about why I think that), and see if that helps anyone.