introverted Feeling

Introverted Feeling is a really weird function.

It’s the dominant function of INFP and ISFP; it’s also the auxiliary function of ENFP and ESFP.

I’ve read and listened to lots of descriptions of introverted Feeling (Fi), but hardly any of them feel right to me.

To me, Fi is like an inner landscape of a strange world with diverse terrain. The things that happen in the real world are mirrored in this inner landscape.

So when something happens that you don’t like, it feels as if the inner landscape has become a kind of dark, arid, and rocky mountainside where you’re struggling to find your footing.

When something arduous and oppressive happens, it feels like you’re mired in a horrible swamp, up to your waist in thick mud.

When something unexpected and wonderful happens, it feels like you’re suddenly in a beautiful mountain valley on a warm spring day.

These changes in feeling can be rapid and intense, and they can occur without you even leaving your room.

In an ideal world, a healthy Fi dominant person would use this inner landscape to navigate the real world. We would make choices and seek out directions that take us to good-feeling places in our inner landscape, and avoid actions and circumstances that take us to bad-feeling places.

But as mentioned in my previous post, Fi is extremely hard to describe, especially when we’re young.

We all assume from a young age that everyone else is like us on the inside. So when people act in ways that make us feel really bad, we assume that they also feel bad, but that somehow feeling bad doesn’t matter.

At other times we are explicitly pressured to act according to external parameters that conflict with our Fi, and we are also pressured to provide non-Fi justifications or explanations for our own choices and actions.

Not only do we get cajoled into situations that feel bad, but being forced to justify and explain ourselves also feels bad, as it denies the integrity and authenticity of our introverted Feeling.

Someone calls you and says “Can you please do this for me?”…and your Fi presents you with an endless, stagnant swamp you’re being asked to cross.

But what do you say?

You can say “No”, or “I don’t want to.” But some people won’t be satisfied with that.

Can you say “Doing that for you would feel like being plunged into a foul and interminable swamp”?

I don’t think that would go over too well.

But “I don’t feel like it” sounds capricious and flippant.

So what do you do?

You look for “reasons” or excuses that explain and justify your refusal.

“I’m busy that day”, “I have things to do”, “I’m overloaded at the moment.”

It’s not that these things aren’t true, just that it’s not how your mind works.

You haven’t sat back and thought “Can I help them? No, I can’t because I have too much to do already”.

So you end up having to translate your Fi into a reason that is completely un-Filike.

Over time you develop the unpleasant feeling of being a foreigner in your own country, translating your inner world into something that others deem acceptable.

The good news

Ah, but there is some good news.

The good news is that once you understand your Fi, and the lesser functions that are undermining or inhibiting it, the path to feeling good again is relatively simple.

I’ve discovered that so long as I recognise the interference of Si (intrusive memories, adherence to customs, past experience, old habits and sensory immersion), and the interference of Te (the demand for outcomes, explanations, efficiency, and step-by-step planning), it’s possible for me to take whatever I’m currently feeling and simply change it.

I might be presently mired in a swamp or stuck on that barren, rocky slope, but if I remove the hindrances I can fly in an instant to an idyllic forest, or a sublime mountain peak.

I can go somewhere magical in that inner landscape. I can let my feeling be the substance of my conscious experience, rather than some unhappy by-product of external forces and conditions.

I can – as terrifying and counter-intuitive as it might sound – let my Fi be the guide to my choices and direction in life.

And in that capacity, it really does feel like something miraculous. It really does feel as though “feeling good” has the power to substantively change my experience of life.


7 thoughts on “introverted Feeling

    • That’s a pretty good metaphor. I’ll need to reflect on it more, but first thoughts:
      Are you an INTJ? So Fi is your tertiary function?
      That’s pretty cool. I’m INFP so Fi-dom, and as my dominant it’s difficult to clearly see or communicate it.
      To borrow your metaphor I’d emphasise that the tentacles are extremely sensitive, and all around me, and they respond to pretty much everything I experience, not just to connections with people. I guess I do have the power to choose whether to connect to someone or not, but they’re always reacting to something in my subjective experience.
      Do you feel in response to ideas or ideals?
      I wonder if Fi-dom vs tertiary Fi means it’s harder for me to switch it off or direct it.
      By contrast when I use my inferior Te I feel like everything is very simple…”you’re either for or against, yes or no, closer or farther away”, but I suspect a Te-dom or auxiliary Te like yourself would view my Te as overly simplistic.
      Thanks for commenting! It’s pretty cool to hear someone’s take on Fi as a non-dominant function. My only caveat would be that although it feels like we can feel other people’s feelings, we’re actually feeling what we would feel if we were in their circumstances. And yes I just used the word feel way too many times.

      • Yes, I’m an INTJ. You seem well versed in the cognitive functions, which is great as most of the MBTI enthusiasts I’ve talked to weren’t, so discussions about the MBTI couldn’t get to the level of depth I preferred.

        Introverted functions, at any position of the stacking, are always difficult to communicate and see externally. And yes, introverted functions are all subjective and subjectively experienced and interpreted.

        My post only focused on the emotional aspect of Fi and did not address the value system of it. As an Fi-dom, I would think that Fi for you would be more all-encompassing and have a much heavier emphasis in your life. It is essentially your focal point, just like how Ni is for me, and how Ni is constantly running in the background for me, which I thoroughly enjoy. I would think that in Fi-doms’ younger years, they’d/you’d find it harder to control these tendrils. It’s only as you grow and mature that Fi-doms become more adept at choosing whether to connect or not, as a mode of self-preservation, but it’s still ever-present and ubiquitous. However, for tertiary and inferior Fi users, it’s much easier to turn it off whenever we want and be “cold”. Although it sometimes bubbles up and overwhelms us no matter how unaffected we’d like to be.

        Asking whether I feel in response to ideas and ideals is a great question. That is the way for you, but for me, my immediate response would be to go straight to Ni-Te mode. I would say that only certain ideas and ideals would impact me emotionally, depending on how touched I am by them, etc. I do like listening to music and riding the Fi wave though—the Ni-Fi is amazing.

        Inferior functions would always be lacking when compared to ones higher in the stacking. In the same way, inferior functions would always appear childish and underdeveloped when they mushroom due to stress. Inferior Te users would make biting remarks when under stress (and then later feel guilty about it and wonder how they could have turned into such barbarians), and inferior Se users would make worrying and anxiety-inducing comments about the “hazardous” external environment. I find it amusing though, how my inferior Se is at times totally blind to what’s happening around me but at other times extremely aware of certain things. How does inferior Te manifest itself this way for you?

        • This is great!
          My understanding is that inferior functions also take more effort to use.
          For me, Te is something I ‘discovered’ in my early 20s and was smitten by, because it suddenly seemed that I could apply reason and logic to various outcomes (either practical or theoretical).

          I’ve been trying to rehabilitate my Fi, which has been suppressed through upbringing and culture. For me, Te is my “get shit done” mode, and there’s a temptation to live life out of that mode.

          I’ve lived a long time in Si-Te (my 3rd and 4th) which makes me very cautious and risk-averse and, if pursued, would lead me to die an empty shell of a human being.
          Occasionally I slip into Ne-Te mode, which is pretty extreme and seems to end in psychosomatic pain and inflammation.

          Your question got me thinking: I suppose the weaknesses and dangers of the inferior function might vary depending not only on the inferior, but also on the dominant? So the major weakness of inferior Te from a Fi-dom perspective is that it basically says “doesn’t matter how you feel, this is what you gotta do!”

          But perhaps the critique from a more advanced Te user would be that I’m missing a number of possible alternative options? That in turn could be because when I use Te I’m still using it as a Fi-dom…so at the very heart of my “logical” approach is a felt sense of value.

          I’ve been working with the Big 5 personality traits recently, to complement temperaments and MBTI perspectives. So right now I’m aware that my reply is disjointed and doesn’t reach any startling conclusions. My Te tells me that. The post is really running on a good Fi feeling (from meeting someone who is on a similar wavelength for this interesting stuff) and sparking lots of Ne ideas.

          I mention the Big 5 because I’ve noticed that using Si and Te more makes me increasingly neurotic (prone to anxiety and other negative emotions) as those two functions push me to be more conscientious in the sense of being coherent and systematic.

          I’m curious then…does your inferior make you feel bad? Right or wrong, with my Te I’m kinda in a bubble. It’s not the mistakes my Te makes that bothers me, but the awful way it makes me feel. It seems plausible right now that you might find your Se problematic because it leads you to do stuff that you know through your Ni you shouldn’t do, or won’t end well.

          • “The post is really running on a good Fi feeling”: Makes my insides smile.

            Inferior functions do take more effort to use adequately and in a healthy manner. They are typically harnessed during our 30s to 40s/50s while tertiary functions are typically 20s to 30s.

            You were probably under a great deal of prolonged stress during your time in Si-Te mode. Our tertiary and especially our inferior functions are how our symptoms of stress surface. Even for a mature, fully-developed, fully-functioning type at the healthiest level, this would still be how stress materialises for them, though it wouldn’t be as prolonged or severe as seen in unhealthy types. You are right in saying that it would lead to emptiness and neuroticism for you as that is not your natural mode of functioning. By living in Si-Te, you would be denying yourself your main and best mode of functioning. For ISTJs on the other hand, that is the way they function so the Si-Te combo would be harnessed in a healthy way.

            I’m a little puzzled by your question about inferior functions depending on the dominant. All inferior functions are a mirror image of the dominant functions. All Fi-doms have inferior Te and all Ni-doms have inferior Se. I would say that, when looking at the functions in isolation, the inferior would always be subpar overall when compared to a healthy dominant, auxiliary, or even a tertiary user. Using all our functions together in a healthy way though is how we’ll shine. So if you’re using Te without filtering through your Fi and Ne (and Si), it’s quite likely you’re not utilising Te in a healthy way. Even at our healthiest and most developed, our inferior will always remain our inferior and make us feel inferior. So in answer to your question, yes it does make me feel bad, particularly when I engage in it in unhealthy ways. It makes me feel unlike myself. Then again, this is only when you’re isolating each function and making comparisons between them. By looking at it from a more holistic view, comparing the healthy use of Fi-Ne-Si-Te with other healthy types would be much harder since each brings essential skills and perspectives to the table.

            You’ll find the explanations to a lot of your queries and uncertainties regarding the inferior function in the book titled ‘Was That Really Me?’ by Naomi Quenk ( It was recommended to me by an intelligent ISFP MBTI enthusiast (how unusual), and come to think of it, I don’t recall finishing the book, so I must have been sidetracked midway. I must pick it up again sometime soon and possibly restart from the beginning, which my Te does not approve of as it’s so inefficient!

            • Thanks, I’ll check out the book.
              Yeah, sorry my question was a bit confused…Ne drifting off into space. I could try to explain it, but I’m not sure it would be worth the effort for me to write and you to read!

              Prolonged stress…yes I laughed out loud at that part. My wife is an ISTJ and it’s amusing (somewhat bleakly) that our exposure to stress has made her try to be more NF and me try to be more ST.

              At the moment we’re going through a kind of conscious role-reversal where I’m trying to be less efficient, effective, and goal oriented, and she’s trying to be less creative and sensitive.

              It’s kind of hilarious to discover that my archetype is (according to some sources) essentially some kind of feckless hippie. I’m learning to accept it!

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