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INFP therapy and coaching can help INFPs get to know themselves, embrace their attributes, and realize their potential. INFP is one of the most sensitive personality types. They are generally intuitive, creative, gentle and caring. INFPs are introspective and often have unconventional thinking patterns. They feel comfortable when they are cared for without being intruded upon, and when they feel they are listened to and warmly accepted. (This article involves generalization, as all typology discussions do!)
Who are INFPs
INFPs are introspective people who care deeply about their values and the people they love. They often have a strong sense of idealism and are driven by their principles. INFPs are creative, caring, and compassionate people who strive for harmony in their lives and in the world around them. They usually appear reserved and quiet, but deep in their hearts, there are often intense highs and lows. This is because they have a rich inner life that is filled with imagination and inspiration. They care deeply about the people and things they care about, so any change in their interpersonal or romantic relationships causes strong ripples in their inner lives. Most INFPs strive to find meaning in their lives, even if it takes some detours before they finally find their calling.
Your Character Strengths
INFPs are often considered the “idealists” among the Myers-Briggs personality types. Their strengths include a keen sense of intuition and emotion that enables them to see the best in people and situations. They are creative, compassionate, and authentic people who want to make a difference in the world. They are usually great listeners and can be the most loyal and supportive friends and lovers who help others become their best.
Career and Vocations
INFPs are often very misunderstood people. They have a strong sense of idealism and need to feel they are doing something that has meaning. When it comes to their vocation, they need to be in a position where they can help people and make a difference in the world. They also need to be able to express their feelings and creativity.
When it comes to their careers, working for a sense of purpose and a congruent mission is extremely important to them, usually much more important than money or fame. INFPs can have a hard time doing tasks that do not interest them or that do not fit their personal values. At the same time, they may be judged by others as not serious enough or unable to concentrate. Many consider the dreamy nature of INFPs to be “scatter-brained.” Yet, under the surface, INFPs care deeply about what they do. They take their tasks seriously, sometimes to a fault. INFPs are ultimately not ‘chaotic’ and can be very good at finding answers from systems and inspirations, but in their search for answers, they adopt an expansive thinking style and like to gather as much information and inspiration as possible before committing to a direction. When they are searching, other people, especially those more accustomed to a linear thinking style, may portray INFPs as chaotic, slow, and unrealistic and lose patience with them. Therefore, it is important that INFPs can find people who appreciate their unique perspective and give them space to slowly explore and refine their thinking. When it comes to the workplace, if INFPs can find a leader who understands their need to be a little “messy” in their creative process and search for answers, they will absolutely thrive.
However, because of their sensitive and introspective nature, many INFPs also find it difficult to deal with criticism, even constructive criticism. This is especially the case if they were criticized a lot as a child or if they were born a sensitive child into a predominantly extraverted, thick-skinned family, or narcissistic parents. Their parents may have tried “tough love” to motivate the INFP, but that usually does not work. INFPs usually respond well to love, caring, and gentle praise. They like to be attended to without being intruded upon. Both as children and as grown-ups, INFPs like to know that someone is “there” when they need them without constant questioning or badgering. They also appreciate the opportunity to express their excitement and creativity. Therefore, anyone who wants to love an INFP and help them grow, including an INFP therapist or coach, should know that they will respond not to harsh criticism, but to gentleness, care and respect. Ultimately, INFPs need someone who understands them and will appreciate them for who they are.
INFP Romantic and Social Challenges
INFPs are often praised for their creativity, authenticity, and idealism. However, these same qualities can also lead to some struggles for INFPs. One of the biggest challenges for INFPs is that their idealism can sometimes cause them to feel out of step with the world around them. They may feel that their values and beliefs don’t line up with those of most other people, leading to a sense of isolation. INFPs may also find it difficult to conform to societal norms and expectations. They often want to do things in their own unique way, which can be challenging in a world that often favours conformity.
Another challenge is that INFPs can be indecisive and perfectionistic. They may find it difficult to make decisions because they think they can be making the ‘wrong choice.’ This is especially the case if all their lives they have been criticised by others for being ’slow’, or ‘unrealistic’. INFPs do not usually like to take linear, conventional life paths. And they may have to make a few detours before they can settle on something that feels true to their soul. A vocation that suits the INFPs is one that allows for expansive thinking, creativity and have meaning and a sense of mission.
INFPs often have a difficult time dealing with the harsh realities of life. Many INFPs struggles with feelings of inadequacy. They may also find it difficult to handle criticism or confrontations.
Socially, INFPs can come across as shy. This can make it difficult for them to get out there and share their ideas or connect with others.
INFPs are deep thinkers. They believe that there is more to the world than what is seen on the surface. They are constantly exploring their inner thoughts and feelings and looking for ways to improve themselves. This means they have the ability to focus an extensive amount of time on a creative project, but it can also lead to them feeling isolated from others.
INFP vs INFJ
INFPs and INFJs are both introverted intuitive types, but they differ in their auxiliary functions. INFJs use Fe (extroverted feeling) as their auxiliary function, while INFPs use Ti (introverted thinking).
INFJs tend to be more externally focused than INFPs. They are better at seeing and understanding how things fit together. They are also better at reading other people and taking into account their feelings and needs. INFPs are more internally focused. They tend to be more creative and have a stronger sense of individualism.
INFJs are typically more strategic than INFPs. They are able to see the big picture and come up with long-term plans. INFPs, on the other hand, tend to be more spontaneous and focus more on the present moment. INFJs can also be more critical than INFPs. Some INFJs are not afraid to speak their mind and give honest feedback. INFPs, on the other hand, tend to be more forgiving and less critical of others.
They are both idealists and have a need to make meaning in the world, but in slightly different ways.
INFJs are more likely to be leaders than INFPs. They are more decisive and can be very efficient in getting things done. They also have a strong sense of justice and often feel called to champion causes. Even though they are introverted, many INFJs are not shy. They can be very good actors, public speakers, and influencers.
INFPs are more likely to be ‘pure’ artists than INFJs. They have the ability to wander in an imaginary world for hours and even days without needing to make something concrete, this means the outcome they produce, when they get around to producing it, can be more vast and imaginative. They may not be as ready in making change as INFJs, but they are the poets, artists and writers who bring beauty and meaning to the world around them.
INFJs are more likely to be interested in people and relationships than INFPs. They are typically more skilful at reading other people’s emotions and motivations, and they often have a gift for counselling or teaching. INFPs are more likely to be interested in ideas, magic, and theories than people. They often have a strong interest in philosophy, psychology, and theology.
INFJs tend to be more decisive than INFPs. They are better at taking action based on their intuition, whereas INFPs can struggle with procrastination and making decisions if their intuition conflicts with their feelings.
INFP Mental Health Challenges and How Therapy or Coaching Can Help
If they struggled with secure attachment in childhood, an INFP may find it difficult to develop a strong sense of security in their relationships and be plagued by fear of abandonment. They may have a pattern of constantly anticipating, expecting, and preparing for abandonment. This can lead to insecurity and fear of being alone (even if they enjoy being alone). People with abandonment anxiety often have difficulty trusting others and, counterintuitively, may be overly dependent on their partners. They may also act out of jealousy, even if they are not possessive at heart. An INFP therapist with awareness in attachment theories and is able to work relationally can help the INFP see their difficulties and start their healing journeys.
INFPs are very trusting, to begin with. However, when they have been repeatedly hurt, it is the opposite – they become hypervigilant, paranoid, and have difficulty trusting anyone. They may become extremely suspicious of the world in order to protect themselves from being hurt again.
When an INFP is severely traumatized in a relationship or had grown up with narcissistic parents, they may become suspicious of others and expect the worst from them. They may also be reluctant to enter into close relationships for fear of being hurt again. When avoidance of social contact is combined with their rich imagination and tendency to focus excessively on the inner world, they may disconnect from reality in dysfunctional ways. As a result, many INFP reports experiencing depersonalization and derealization following severe trauma. Ideally, an INFP therapist would have some understanding of the mechanism of detachment and depersonalisation as a survival/defence mechanism.
INFPs may also experience blockages in their ability to be creative and imaginative. Even if they have something inside them that they would like to bring out – a book, a song, a piece of art – they have difficulty feeling inspired enough to do anything. This creative frustration can cause an INFP to feel extremely stuck in life, to the point of emptiness and self-destruction. An INFP coach who is experienced in helping people with their creative blockages can help in this regard.
INFP Therapy or Coaching
INFP therapy and coaching can help INFPs get to know themselves, embrace their attributes, and realize their potential. INFPs need a therapist/coach to help them explore their feelings and emotions. The therapist should also be patient and supportive, giving the INFP time to process their thoughts and feelings.
If an INFP was traumatized in childhood, they may develop a strong dependence on their therapist. This is because, deep down they long for a mentor who respects them for who they are and gives them the guidance they need.
At the same time, INFPs tend to be sensitive to interference. At any sign of control, or intrusiveness, or if the INFP therapist or coach tries to impose their own agenda on the INFP, the INFP feels unduly pressured and wants to run away. This may be the reason they drop out of therapy. But fearing conflict, they may not let their therapist know and simply disappear.
INFPs need therapists and coaches who can help them explore their feelings, values, and beliefs. Ideally, an INFP therapist is someone who is patient and compassionate and who can help the INFP develop at his or her own pace rather than pushing him or her to conform to the pace of the world.
Many INFPs struggles with social anxiety and assertiveness. A good INFP therapist or coach can help the INFP develop confidence and assertiveness by practising their skills, being a role model, and exploring the deeper reasons why they fear conflict or suppress their anger. INFPs may also need someone to help them set boundaries and stay true to their values.
Many INFPs also crave deep meaning in their lives and want to optimize their potential. For them, optimizing their potential is not about making a lot of money and making big names. Instead, it is usually about finding deep meaning, developing new theories and systems, and creating art or music. INFPs need someone to help them find meaning and purpose in life without pushing them into the “obvious.” The therapist or coach should also understand that the INFP may not want to do what is conventionally accepted if it means sacrificing their own imagination and creativity.
INFPs are often called “the idealists.” They are creative, gentle, and sympathetic. They have a strong sense of personal values and dislike conflict. They often seek therapy to help them deal with stress and anxiety.
There are many benefits to therapy and coaching for INFPs. The first goal might be to give them a space to process their feelings and inner thoughts, as well we reconnecting with their instincts. The second goal of INFP therapy is to help them deal with day-to-day stress, sensory overwhelm, extreme sensitivity, and the harshness of reality. Then, creativity coaching may help the INFP balance their creative process with the ability to take action, so they can turn their inspirations into products. Ultimately the goals of INFP therapy and coaching would be to help INFPs build self-love and self-confidence, know and embrace who they are, and make the best of their traits even though others may not understand them.
INFP individuals often feel misunderstood and even labelled as “crazy” by those around them. This is because INFPs process their thoughts and feelings internally, which can make them seem erratic or irrational to those who do not understand them. INFPs do not usually like to take linear, conventional life paths. And they may have to make a few detours before they can settle on something that feels true to their soul. A vocation that suits the INFJs is one that allows for expansive thinking, creativity, and have meaning and a sense of mission.
INFPs are not ‘strange’ or ‘disconnected’. They are creative and imaginative individuals who need time alone to reflect and process their feelings. In fact, INFPs often benefit from therapy or coaching in order to help them better understand themselves and their unique thought process and, most importantly, accept themselves for who they are.
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Imi Lo is a consultant and published author with extensive and international experience in mental health and psychotherapy. Her books Emotional Sensitivity and Intensity and The Gift of Intensity are available worldwide and in multiple languages. Imi has two Master’s degrees; one in Mental Health and one in Buddhist Studies. She works holistically, combining psychological insights with Eastern and Western philosophies such as Buddhism and Stoicism.