When an INFP’s introverted Feeling function (Fi) is working well it integrates the auxiliary Ne, tertiary Si and inferior Te perfectly.
When Fi isn’t working the other functions come into play without balance or support and we end up grasping for genius ideas (Ne), trying to remember what worked before (Si), or looking for some kind of irrefutable logic to apply (Te).
How to use Fi (and why we don’t)
Fi at its most powerful is like an actor becoming a role he loves and knows inside and out.
Fi is knowing how things are supposed to feel and it draws on the other three functions to inform it.
Using Fi in this way is powerful but can feel a little fake. Being able to slip in and out of different roles or characters with ease seems too easy or strange, and we can feel insecure about our authentic self.
For example, when I learned to sing in a choir I simply imitated the kind of voice I was “supposed” to have. It took some confidence, and giving myself permission to do it. From my point of view I wasn’t singing with my voice, just imitating the inspired ideal of voices.
But for me that’s what singing is.
Singing in a small church choir was a pretty low-stakes game, and that’s why I could give myself permission to “pretend” to be a singer.
In other areas of life when it seems like the stakes are higher INFPs risk doubting and distrusting their Fi ability.
For example, in martial arts we’re warned against being someone who looks the part but has no true skill or power.
An INFP can take this to heart and reject the Fi approach, searching instead for a more authentic or objective basis of skill.
Building trust in Fi
I think without practice our Fi abilities fall into two categories. There are low-stakes contexts where we use Fi easily, and for that reason don’t prize it.
Then there are higher-stakes contexts where we distrust Fi because it feels unreal. And because we distrust it, we don’t practice it or explore it. It remains dormant or dislocated.
I think the answer is to learn to engage Fi and remain inspired by it even while practicing and improving our skills.
Imagine you’re learning to play the violin. You already have a Fi image of what it looks like, the feel of a highly skilled violinist.
But you don’t have the basic skills yet, and the gap between your skill level and the Fi image of playing like a concertmaster or world-renowned soloist is….embarrassing.
So instead of drawing on that feeling, you think “I’ll practice until I’m good enough and then I’ll start acting like it”.
But it won’t work that way because you’re rejecting your most powerful function out of embarrassment and fear. The fear of “who do you think you are?”
Practice with Feeling
The solution is to do both. Stand inside your Fi image of the highest skill and accomplishment, and bring that to your practice, no matter how basic or beginner-level it is.
Use the Fi to keep you inspired and engaged, facing toward your goal. And instead of looking like a fool or coming across as pretentious, you will bring to your practice the focus and sincerity of the very mastery you desire.
When a master of one instrument comes to learn another they don’t blush and cringe at their mistakes. They don’t cower and slouch like they have no idea what they are doing.
They bring the full bearing of their existing mastery into the practice, with the openness and patience of one who knows they have much to learn.
Anything less is self-sabotage.