Fi is a subjective evaluation or judgement of things that creates an ideal form of the object, according to subjective feeling.
Bear with me.
Introverted Feeling (Fi) is a judging function in the Jungian/MBTI system.
For INFP/melancholics Fi is the dominant function.
It’s weird. Really weird and hard to communicate.
So how does it work?
I’ve previously described Fi as like a continuous, internal movie soundtrack. But that’s really just a side-effect of having Fi.
How Fi actually works is as follows:
Ever since I was a kid I loved swords.
This love of swords evokes in me a strong feeling about swords, a feeling that is informed by everything I’ve ever read, seen, imagined or thought about swords.
At some point my feeling function created a kind of platonic ideal of a sword…not so much the look or context or dimensions or material properties of the sword, but the feeling of the sword in its ideal form.
A sword is ideal to the extent that it conforms to this feeling, which is separate from, but related to, the specific qualities and context that comprise it.
It’s as if I took all my experiences of actual swords and extrapolated from them to the existence of a hypothetical sword that exists only in my feelings.
That’s why Jung wrote that Fi:
“is continually seeking an image which has no existence in reality, but which it has seen in a kind of vision. It glides unheedingly over all objects that do not fit with its aim. It strives after inner intensity, for which the objects serve at most as stimulus.”
The “vision” is the ideal feeling-form of the object.
Fi-users are empowered to judge things according to these feeling-forms. We look at real instances of swords and use our ideal feeling-form to decide if it is a “good” sword or not.
Accordingly, when we see things like the Sword of Gryffindor in the Harry Potter movies, my Fi reacts negatively.
Further elaboration might objectively vindicate or subjectively justify that strong inner response, but the domain of Fi is really either to “glide unheedingly over” things that don’t match the Fi image, or sigh unhappily at the wrong execution of an ideal.
And to be honest it’s not easy to explain what exactly is wrong with the sword. It’s a feeling, and would require research (justification and explanation) to communicate to someone else.
Once we delve into justification we’re no longer in Fi mode, and are liable to get sidetracked. There are always valid arguments that can be made to justify alternative points of view.
An INFP is more likely to just step out of the debate.
When Fi isn’t working
Now that I understand Fi much better, I can see that there are aspects of my life where I haven’t really been using Fi at all.
Not using Fi is a worrying sign for a Fi-dom.
It means I’m operating blindly in these areas, trying to utilise less powerful functions to solve my problems.
For example, I’ve struggled with physical posture for years. I’ve been physically stiff since I was a teenager, and have spent years working at stretching and building various muscles and joints, trying to find a stronger, more relaxed, and pain-free mode of movement.
What I’m lacking is a Fi feeling to guide me – not necessarily a feeling about posture, but perhaps a feeling about the activity I’m engaged in. Properly engaging my dominant function would smooth out the resistance that results in stiffness and tension.
Instead, I’ve tried to fill in the gaps using introverted Sensing (Si) and extroverted Thinking (Te) approaches. I’ve studied anatomy, I’ve looked at functional exercises, psychological approaches, mind-body systems…
None of them provided a long-term solution, because I was already undermining my greatest strength, and then using these weaker functions to try to compensate.
Staring out into empty space
I think what actually panics me is the emptiness where I ought to have a feeling-form to guide me. It’s as if I’ve suffered temporary blindness or hearing loss and have to scramble to depend on other senses to fill in the gaps, while acutely aware of my vulnerability.
Many times I’ve found myself realising I have no idea what I’m doing, and I’ve learned to resort to Si and Te to make sense of the situation. My Te approach is to analyse tasks or circumstances according to goals and outcomes. Eg. “What is the purpose of this? What are we trying to achieve, and what is the best/most efficient way to achieve it?”
But this takes a great deal of energy, is less refined (since it’s my inferior function) and further compounds the absence of Fi guidance.
I think the solution is to begin looking for positive feelings within these activities where Fi is lacking. Look for aspects that feel good.
It also helps to let go of pre-existing beliefs or ideas from other sources that tell you how you ought to feel, or what you ought to be doing.
Think of it as going back to a clean slate, and then allowing feeling to re-emerge uninhibited.
Remember that Fi is subjective – it’s all about how you feel, not how others feel or what they think or what they tell you is important. Don’t try to justify good feeling to yourself or to others.
At the same time, trust that feeling good is a key component in your overall way of being. Everything will fall into place if you feel good; and if your activities feel like an endless struggle, it’s likely because you’re ignoring or haven’t yet let your Fi guide you in those activities.
Fi is mysterious after all, and in a Fi-dom it’s unconsciously linked to a whole lot of other functions and processes. Even something as simple as going for a walk can be awkward and uncomfortable if Fi isn’t active.
In fact, going for a walk when you don’t feel good and your Fi is suppressed is like going for a walk with a blindfold on. Fi is an INFP’s dominant function, and without it everything is a struggle.