Skip to content →

Pierce’s Revised Portrait of an ISFP

By Michael Pierce

  1. Remarkably similar in demeanor to the INTJ; they too seem to harbor very private, weighty ideas which distract them from the outside world.
  2. Gentle, serene, and graceful in their presentation.
  3. Generally so uneasy around people as they are simply mild and shy; like the INFP they have an overflow of warmth that waters those around them and ornaments whatever unease they do have.
  4. They often seem amiably unsure what to do socially — there is often a quirky degree of detachment when it comes to ‘unwritten rules’ of conduct, because they are very independent when it comes to making value judgements on things. They decide for themselves what and who is pleasant or unpleasant.
  5. They are not otherworldly beings, as people often make them out to be, but people with personal interests that ground them here on earth. They don’t come off as empty headed or alien headed.
  6. Have a natural instinct for making their own personal music, art, or expression, and tend to encourage others to tap into this creative drive and express themselves for themselves alone.
  7. There is an inner tension between their desire to experience live in the moment (Se) and the desire to delve into possibilities and ideas spanning past and future (Ni).
  8. The image I generally see behind the ISFP type is of a solitary, eccentric inventor; he or she lives in a lonely but picturesque lighthouse just outside of the seaside village, and occasionally some of the village children will visit and discover a quiet and mild-mannered fellow creating fascinating little clockwork animals, or some other magical work of art, without any regard for the quarrels, prejudices, or drama going on in the town below them — thus, in their own attitude and the expression of their attitude onto their surroundings, they effortlessly furnish a little safe haven for people from the judgement and hassle of society.

Dominant Fi

In Psychological Types, Jung discusses some of the traits peculiar to introverted feeling: “[it] demands a more than ordinary descriptive or artistic capacity before the real wealth of this feeling can be even approximately presented or communicated to the outer world…In order to communicate with others it has to find an external form which is not only fitted to absorb the subjective feeling in a satisfying expression, but which must also convey it to one’s fellowman in such a way that a parallel process takes place in him.” In other words, for a Fi dominant type to present or communicate what goes on in their inner world, they must find suitable containers to convey that information, but Fi fosters types of materials in one’s inner world that do not lend themselves to containment or conveyance (i.e. feelings, emotions, values, passions, etc.); hence, why it takes “a more than ordinary descriptive or artistic capacity” to accomplish such.

Jung points out how because Ti judgements are purely descriptive, they are far easier to communicate than Fi judgements, which are purely matters of feeling and tone, transcending mere description. The Ti type’s inner ideas, like geometric crystals, lend themselves to representation: it’s just a matter of measuring them properly and getting the proportions right on paper. But the Fi type’s inner ideas are more like sensations of heat, or the odor of wood smoke, or the pleasant savor of sautéed mushrooms — in short, nuanced emotions. Those sorts of experiences are much more difficult to represent to someone without just experiencing it for oneself. This is the dilemma of the Fi type, particularly the ISFP, as their inner experience is dominated by such non-linguistic experiences. I emphasized this a great deal in my original ISFP video; I bring it up again because it is still very important to understanding the experience of Fi.

As such, the ISFP inner world seems to be something of a primordial tumult of feeling tones and emotions, none of which are able to disturb the pristine surface of the ISFP’s face. As with all introverted functions, it is a matter of what is “constellated” in the subject, as Jung puts it, and not the impetus itself; although, an object presses itself against the membrane of the subject’s mind, the effect of this object is only realized deep beneath the surface, where it joins all the other effects and ripples still going on down there. It is specifically this part of the ISFP that they struggle to relate — ISFPs aren’t challenged in all of their communication, it’s simply that they struggle to express this major part of themselves in a way that makes them feel sufficiently connected with and understood by and appreciated by people.

The Fi experience garners such importance, of course, because as with all introverted functions Fi acts as a lens through which the whole world is viewed. The inner world obtains great relevance to the external world; it shapes the subject’s experience of the world. Just as the INTJ sees evidences for their grand theories everywhere in the world, so does the ISFP perceive their world as in accordance with their inner emotions and feelings. Their whole demeanor has this kind of sublimity: their inner being is poetically reflected in the outer world, which returns to affect the inner being again.

On that note, it becomes important to discuss some of the manifestations of the Fi/Te axis in the ISFP. These were covered to some degree in the INFP video, but it warrants repetition and elaboration here. I often describe this axis as a tension between personal feelings and impersonal facts.

Fire vs. restricting laws, impositions, etc.

For one, there’s the inner fire they seek to be true to. That is their style and who they are. At this point its worth noting about their style and how it differs from the INFP, though I’ll get more into that soon.

For two, they have no natural desire to effect other people, because of their natural focus on their own individuality. What business do they have effecting someone else’s individuality? They just aren’t looking that direction. Whereas an Fe user naturally is concerned with whether things in the external world are in alignment with the common sentiment or set or external rules. The ISFP however, thinks in terms of whether things align with the external RULES, as in descriptive laws. But this aspect is repressed or unconscious, and is not actually enjoyed by the ISFP as a main focal point, but more as a troubling afterthought and unconscious desire. More on that later.

This leads into a major difference between ISFPs and INFPs. The ISFP’s whole demeanor, at least in my experience, is more coherent and united than the INFP — they are much more singular and consistent. This is a result of Se/Ni, as opposed to the eclecticism of Ne/Si. The ISFP, in my experience, has a style; a very quiet, beautiful, graceful, particular style, whereas the INFP explores and tries on various styles and amalgamations of style (driven on by the thirst of Ne). The ISFP has an aura, a presence, a certain simplicity — I know that other types could be said to have the same thing. Everybody has an aura and presence — those are extremely vague words. But for those who are familiar with ISFPs, this will hopefully be clearer what I mean. I mentioned in my original ISFP video how the ISFP seeks to express themselves in any way that they can, even if that’s just in the life and gestures. In any case, the ISFP does always seem to have a certain effortless style. There are no explicit rules to the style, no rigidity to it or way to trace it or capture it in thinking terms; it is wholly feeling and intuitive, both of which are highly indiscrete. This is a large part of what can make them appear otherworldly, or superworldly, because something about their nature is just particularly gentle, artistic, and graceful, and somehow always incredibly consistent and coherent. Even when trying to be new or inconsistent, their way of doing it is consistent with their whole style.

INFPs are more eclectic and random and exploratory, breaking boundaries.

ISFPs aren’t so exploratory but are more consistent and sensual. They aren’t a breaking-boundaries person, but just an observer and thinker — they are more consistent, unified by Ni.

Fi is internal world; Te is needed to encapsulate it.

Feeling that they need Te in order to figure out how to do certain things rather than just feel them. To fully operationalize their feelings and get them out.

Se/Ni tension. Look around the room vs. inspired.

Se — like to look around the room and become inspired (Se/Ni) tension between that and Ni desire to look around.

Ni — unifies them. Has unified theories.

Te — seek it as a way to operationalize or encapsulate their thoughts — to make something of them.

Published in Michael Pierce