For this piece, I don’t presume to talk on behalf of all Thinking or Feeling types, nor every INTP and INFP friendships. The points I make here are merely based on my own, subjective experiences as an INTP being friends with an INFP.
I’ve briefly touched upon the differences and similarities before, but I noticed recently just how significantly we align and differ according to our personality types. Of course, the individual personality in each of us has a lot to say too, but the more I learn about MBTI, the more I sense the signifiers for the personality types themselves. Such as my dominant cognitive function being introverted thinking (let’s call me a ‘Thinker’) and my friend’s dominant being introverted feeling (a ‘Feeler’).
Anywho, I’ve noticed that my INFP friend has a way of feeling the pulse of every single thing around her, most of all herself. That is, she always seems aware of what she feels and how, making her come off as rather sensitive and wavering. I waver too, but in a slightly different way I think. Whereas she seems constantly aware of her emotions (and others’ as well) and the small sensory interchanges, I like to slightly suppress or not think about my emotions. Though I’m not a great decision-maker either and tend to waver too, I mostly know what I want and when and then decide to do it. Especially if it’s a matter I know I can easily do something about, whereas my friend … well, she tends to voice her frustration, even though (in my eyes) she could easily do something about instead of complaining. But it’s not just her. I’ve met many people who almost get off on complaining for hours about trivial matters instead of just doing something about it. Maybe I’m just too ‘practical’ in this regard or I suppress this ‘instinct’ to complain. I have, after all, grown up in a household where my mother outwardly despised trivial complaints despite more or less doing them herself (by complaining about everybody else complaining). And it’s not like I’m holier than my friend or everybody else; I just ‘complain’ about different things, and the decisions I cannot make (which seem so easy to many people, I reckon) are in direct correlation to my INTPness.
I like to plan small, day-to-day, practical things ahead because I know how stressed and frustrated (borderline-autistic, I sometimes think) I become in the smallest of matters, such as grocery-shopping for example. My friend tends to shop groceries on a whim, time and time again, despite she knows how stressed and frustrated she gets every time. Noted, she has a problematic relationship with food, so I reckon she postpones the decisions regarding it as much as possible because she generally doesn’t like thinking or, ironically, worrying about it. That’s at least why I postpone the decisions I find difficult or uncomfortable myself. Otherwise, I, ironically, take most things as they come, whereas she tends to worry overtly about matters no one could possibly predict or control.
She gets easily confused by the smallest of things that I cannot always decipher or predict, leading to a sudden, significant drop in her mood sometimes, where she tends to become rather hysteric or dramatic about her life-situation. It’s not like I cannot recognize it, because I’m an introvert as well and have my bouts of ups and downs, but I guess I have slightly different triggers and ways of expressing such frustrations. Whereas she vocalizes hers by wallowing in her doubts, yet never really concludes or does anything about them, I internalize or express mine through almost desperate self-deprecation which helps me no more than her method does her.
She wouldn’t hurt a fly, whereas I can be slightly machiavellian at times. She is more sensitive about certain ‘racy’ things (such as sex) which I simply find funny and take less seriously or personally. On the other hand, she has always been an avid consumer of British shows like Skins, Shameless and Misfits where sex (and drugs and violence etc.) is anything but implicitly portrayed. I don’t know if she somehow can distance herself from the subject when it’s fictive and/or on the screen? Or if she through watching these shows so intensely, in a sense, feels herself closer to things she misses or wants to try in her own life but is somewhat afraid to try..?
I may be colored by my own rationality here, but I’ve gathered that because she is so feeling about her and other people’s feelings, relying less on logic, she is easily set off course by the smallest of sensations and tends to misconstrue or misinterpret certain things about her self-image. A lot, actually. She is rather insecure on different levels than I am; in constant need to be in tune with everything and constantly doubting this feeling (or every feeling). To me it sounds exhausting and I tend to use my brain to make decisions she would feel her way to. I can ‘judge’ or conclude things more harshly or objectively, whereas she can be more ‘soft’ and more afraid of hurting others’ feelings or creating conflict. Hell, she’s apologetic about sneezing because she thinks it disturbs people around her! I cannot help but laugh and pity her somewhat; that she’s so reluctant to give herself the right and the space to live; always afraid that her existence disturbs other people, always giving way for people on the street, not even wanting to listen to music in her apartment or drop a fork because she thinks it disturbs her neighbours!
I guess my rationale or logic enables me to cut myself off from taking every sensibility of every person into account in the same way. Honestly, I find some of these sensibilities rather petty sometimes, but that’s just me. I know you can never please everyone and shouldn’t attempt to do so when it comes in direct conflict with your own needs or principles.
I respect her and try to understand how she judges and sees the world, but this still goes against a basic principle within me, because I cannot, for the life of me, understand how one can apologize for one’s own existence! I believe one can be friendly and decent to those around you and still claim a right to be here as well. I cannot apologize for doing something everyone does once in a while (like sneezing or listening to loud music), because we all have to live! Not use our lives apologizing for living. I worry that she spends too much of her time doing the latter, but it seems so intrinsic within her personality that it’s not easy to deter from. She cannot use ‘harsh’ logic or objectivity to the same degree I do. I guess that’s also why she’s more attracted to or open towards the personal use of recreational drugs than I am. The need to ‘go into oblivion’, so to speak, for a moment or two, in order to forget your worries and the world around and de-stress yourself. I just procrastinate and get high on or lose myself in the world of fiction and imagination.
Despite our correlating values and intellects, she’s slightly more materialistic and vain than me; taking a slightly bigger issue to money whereas I don’t give a fig if the people to whom I’ve lent money don’t pay back (of course, it’s never any great amount). However, she has always struggled financially which I’ve been so lucky to not worry much about. In general, I’ve used my money wisely while still living a moderately privileged life. However, it has me slightly baffled that despite her financial struggle and complaints about it, she constantly shops expensive make-up (always the newest, best and most exclusive), clothes and shoes. All of it always looks the same to me (all her clothes is black and shoes the same brand), but that’s just me, I guess. She always asks what I think of her new eyeshadow or lipstick and I can honestly never tell if she’s even wearing any or whether it’s different from the others she wore. Classic INTP.
I don’t quite get why she doesn’t make better priorities with her money, and at the same time, I get that you only live once and, of course, she should be allowed to indulge in her favorite interests, so I say nothing of it. Maybe I should, but I worry that if I do I will, in a sense, take something away from her that helps her relax and forget her worries, despite they are directly related to her hobbies.
This very specific selection of make-up and fashion, however, again contradicts with her insecurities. She has a very distinct, original style, yet often claims she is very confused about her sense of clothing and what the fashion industry demands. She’s almost constantly concerned how she appears to other people and what other people think about her, down to the very smallest detail like her make-up or hair or shoes. She always talks about finding ‘the right thing’ (whatever that is) to identify with, feel comfortable in and look good in, at the same time. She shops ‘in the moment’ and even when she does – at a rare occasion – find ‘the right thing’, such as a specific sweater at the right size and price that she knows she’s gonna wear more than once, she can decide not to buy it after all, because e.g. ‘it happens to be summer and thus too hot at the moment’. To me that’s just barmy, because it will be autumn and winter after summer – like every year – and thus she will need and want it then, surely?! I tell her this, but she always just gives a wavering non-answer and leaves the shop and my rationale can’t help but boggle at this.
I make her come off as more vain than she perhaps is, but most of all she can be very insecure at times. Though, I suspect sometimes that she thinks or makes herself more insecure than she is (perhaps that is a very general notion regarding insecurity). Yet, for a Feeler I find it interesting that she is so hung up on materialistic things regarding her identity and self-image (which she basically has control of and I keep telling her this), but in the long haul maybe they are just an excuse and really a projection as well from her real reasons. My insecurities as a Thinker are connected to my feelings and self-image too, yet I could never be so hung up on materialistic things regarding my identity.
I’ve talked about my own slightly worrisome self-involvement and introspection, but I fear hers is even more pronounced. Where I tend to project, rationalize and procrastinate my own ‘problems’ to and through other matters of the heart – sorta diverting the attention – she more like self-obsesses, overestimates and self-problematizes her problems. It’s no less unhealthy, askew, selfish or solution-free than my own methods, just slightly different. Where I am self-deprecating and disparaging about my worries and problems, trying as much as I can to divert from them, she apologizes and feels guilty yet keeps returning to them anyway. Thus she never really manages to see beyond her own worries and though she can be really sweet and thoughtful about other people’s worries, (not to mention, very passionate about the problems of the world) she’s still too distracted and immersed in her own and cannot lay them aside and distance herself objectively to listen and help others. Maybe because she doesn’t use logic to analyze or find solutions to emotional worries, but simply feels them and is left bereft..? But that is what any T type would say, right? I feel out of my element here. And I don’t know if what I do is any better, because giving rational solutions to emotional troubles can help, but rationalizing them isn’t always helpful.
I have very few friends and even fewer close ones, but my INFP friend must be categorized as the closest friend I’ve had outside my family. I have read yet I wasn’t aware of the fact that INFPs are ‘usually’ considered to be more ‘immature’ compared to other types (or just the INTP?). That makes somewhat sense given what I’ve just written about her. Her consistent insecurity about various, rather petty (imo) matters makes her look as if she was still stuck in her stereotypical teenage self. I always used to blame it on her being about 2 years younger than me (we are both in our mid-20s), or I concluded it was simply some INFP characteristic I could never fully understand, being an INTP, despite I tried to see it from her POV and sympathize (or, in the INTP range, more like pity her).
I have known her for a couple of years now and it has been a very fruitful friendship, since we agree on so many things in life; passionately share the same values and interests, etc.. However, as I have matured, I have lately started noticing how much I help and advice her in general – compared to how ‘little’ I receive from her in kind. She is very kind (practically an excuse of herself) and can be very insightful in matters I take for granted or am less sensitive towards, and she does ask how I am but rarely digs any deeper, returning to herself, her own worries, etc.. I always thought I was very self-involved because I was so self-analytical and inside my head, but I wonder if the INFP type is actually more self-involved since my friend has so much trouble NOT talking about herself? That she’s too ‘immature’ as a type to take on the emotional responsibility of contemplating and supporting the more deep-seated, existential worries of another person, because she (always) seems to have so many herself? Maybe it’s simply just her being too insecure or self-concerned? Or maybe it has something to do with a general discrepancy in the INTP-INFP dynamics? Or just me being – me? Being naturally curious and inquisitive and willing to lay my own needs and worries completely aside (or downplay them because I don’t know how to deal with them) in favor of helping/listening to another person and thus never get to my own worries (if that can be applied to the INTP type)? After all, I cannot say for certain that I’m not more selfish than her – or that I’m more capable of taking on the responsibility of trying to support others; it may just be different conditions.
Funny thing is, my sister tells me she is an INFP too, yet, in that case, she is a very different type of INFP than my friend, since my sister has always kept her cards close to her chest. Even after I discovered MBTI and applied it to everyone I knew, I couldn’t place my sister’s type despite I’m closer to her than anyone else. She has been somewhat of a mystery to me for a long time. Now that she has told me, some things have fallen into place; she’s always been the more sensitive type, yet she too (and that may be a product of our upbringing etc.) has a way of downplaying her need for help or support and is not always easy to read. Yet, all in all, from both an objective and subjective perspective, she is a much cooler and more likable person than I am, because of her incredible kindness, open-mindedness and understanding of sensibility as an INFP – combined with many favorable traits from the INTP, actually. But I digress.
Despite our incredibly corresponding, close likeness in so many aspects of life, I feel myself needing more from my INFP friend. That I need to receive what I offer and give in kind. Something that she so far doesn’t seem to have picked up on. Is that selfish and conceited of me? I suspect she may not want to ‘probe’ any further because she thinks I will say or talk about it myself if I need to, but after 5 years of friendship I’d assume she’d know me well enough by now to know how I am, and that I’m reluctant to initiate and talk about my ’emotional’ or deepest worries. Yet, I don’t offer any solution to this myself, do I? If she was to patiently listen and ask into more personal matters, my first instinct would most likely be to just laugh it off self-ironically or skirt around it somehow. I try to curb my instinct but with so little challenge and response from the other part it’s easier to just give in. If I took the bull by the horns it would end in an emotional outburst anyway – which I instinctively avoid in fear of looking pathetic.
*sighs* It’s a bad circle and it seems rather futile, doesn’t it? If she doesn’t know me well enough by now; after all those years of friendship; if she cannot read me and tell that I may have some worries myself, then what does that say? If I really (unconsciously) remain the puzzle INTPs are so infamous of being – even after 5 years of seemingly ‘soul-bonding’ friendship – then I really don’t have many positive prospects, relationship-wise, in the future, have I?
Nevertheless, I fear myself unconsciously drifting away from my INFP friend, because of this new awareness; affecting my very domineering INTP rationale (where even the smallest, emotional confusion can be unconsciously rationalized into distorted and sometimes fatal conclusions, if you know what I mean) and thus putting a crack in our good friendship, putting it in jeopardy, which I would very much like to prevent. But … It’s just not fixed by the one part in the friendship, is it?
I want to state my ‘constructive critique’ to her and confide in her more, I really do, but I also want to add to that: “Can you please just not run home to mommy and tell how you’ve ‘been treated by me’ or that you ‘don’t understand why’ and all that and take it as an adult, be mature and let these things stay confidential and between us, for once?” I say this in equal frustration and respect towards her. I know how close she is to her mother, always confiding with her in the smallest of matters, and that’s okay, but I really just want her to deal with matters herself for once in this case; try laying aside some of the millions of small worries she take upon herself all the time for once and be somewhat loyal to me. I think she owes me that much. It’s selfish I know, and friendship should never be about owing anything to one another, but friendship is also about somewhat maintaining a two-way, healthy balance and I cannot deny this feeling of the scale having tipped to one side. I simply ask for this singular need of mine being met for once. I’ve laid aside everything for her for so long; patiently waiting for all her worries to somewhat pass, for the right opportunity to tentatively ask for her support and her listening ear. Yet, the moment never seemed to arrive.
Maybe I should just come out at voice all these thoughts to her (though I have no clue how), and though I’m sure she will always be there for me if I need it, my guess is she’d mean in the sense of lending deep, emotional support for a temporary, tangible problem; like when one lose a family member or a boyfriend or a job, etc.. It may not seem like I give much credit to my friend, but I also know her and she is not a person I would call emotionally stable. That’s just the way she is. If I voiced my broader worries to her and that I felt she expressed a general lack of interest in them, I’m sure she’d listen and take it into account, but I’m also positive she’d just worry even more, feel even more guilty and burdened (literally the smallest things can set her off; like the whole world is tumbling down on her). She’d worry obsessively about her own guilt in the matter of not thinking of me or something, until one of her own worries would start overriding this and she’d probably push it back and forget to be more ‘considerate’ towards me in the future. And I never wanted it to be so. I may be an alarmist or overanalyze things here. But it may also just be the INTP in me wanting to have no emotional, unnecessary fuss that is likely to spiral out of control.
And again, I don’t feel like I haven’t hinted to my troubles or need of support (in lack of better words). Whenever I feel I have dropped the biggest hints to a trouble of mine, it has always seemed to be bad timing because she felt burdened and distracted by something herself which she needed to constantly deal with. There was hardly place for anything else, much less focusing on a personal battle of mine instead. In the end, we always come back to her troubles, and she always manages to guiltily apologize for not having enough time to talk through what’s on my mind. And I’ve rationalized it away by saying again and again to myself that I didn’t want to put that extra ‘burden’ on her when she clearly was so troubled already. That it wasn’t so much of a ‘trouble’ after all and that I could deal with it on my own. The thing is: this ‘trouble’ or need keeps reappearing, and I cannot rightly figure out how to deal with it or who to blame, other than to state what I know: That I suck at expressing my own emotional need for support but that doesn’t mean I don’t want or need it, and that I may suck at giving the appropriate emotional support in return without rationalizing it, but that doesn’t mean I’m not trying or willing to put myself aside to be there for people, and that the people I know and have met rarely stick around for some deep, personal, two-way talk or take any greater interest to remember or help in return if they did. But I digress again.
Is this a case of an unhealthy INFP or INTP-INFP relationship? Not in an extreme sense, but I wonder if there are some unhealthy signs that us INTPs should be aware of, and that I as an INTP have some blind spots regarding myself as well? I fear I may overlook something essential that may help the whole situation.
I read a post on Quora about the more emotional troubles an INTP can encounter and why they then tend to withdraw from a relationship or friendship, and another INTP pointed out that it could be due to various reasons, such as the INTP’s Fe being overloaded.
I realized this may very well be what’s happening here, with my friend and I. How I subconsciously have held her account for every little thing I’ve done for her but haven’t received in kind. Only a little. I’ve been slightly peeved every time she has not returned the same amount of ‘attention’ to me, always circling back to what she was feeling in the moment (which I guess is very fundamental for the INFP), but then I’ve rationalized and pushed each incident away, regarding them as frivolous and silly to deal with anyway. However, they have subconsciously piled up in my Fe basement (brillantly described by the before-mentioned INTP on Quora) and now they have festered and snowballed into a problem I cannot ignore any longer, thus influencing my latest perspective of her and our friendship. It explains a lot.
I almost wish I could send my friend a link to that Quora post, but I doubt she’ll take such a subtle, rather confusing hint. How to approach her with what’s wrong and how to explain that it’s not something I alone can fix, but that she must do something as well..?
Maybe she’ll – by some coincidence – stumble across this post herself one day and recognize who I am and that I’m talking about her (since I have been rather personal) and then we’ll take it from there? … I surely hope she doesn’t feel hurt by me or get mad, in that case. I never sought to bad-mouth her or our friendship (which I very much like to keep) but only to understand.
Bonus: INTP vs. INFP