Hannah Strachan is a contributing guest writer for CelebrityTypes. As always with guest writers on the site, Strachan’s piece represents her own insights and assessments and not necessarily those of the site (in fact, she details some direct disagreements with our approach below). In this piece, Strachan attempts to correct what she sees as some widespread misconceptions concerning Fe.
By Hannah Strachan
As far as I know, most of the great typology theorists have been Fi, Ni, Ne, and Ti types. It seems to me that there must be a reason why no Fe type has made a bid for the mastery of a field where their dominant function could easily give them an edge. Why is that?
One reason could be that Fe types don’t recognize themselves in the Fe function descriptions or the EFJ type portraits and tend to lose interest early on. And if that were the case, then who could blame them? From my perspective, many of the Fe descriptions that I have read don’t actually describe the Fe psyche, but rather some bundled-up list of traits that EFJs tend to share while entirely missing the reality of how Fe actually functions and why those traits appear from a function-based perspective.
In this article, I am going to map out a few of the differences as I see them. As my starting point, I will compare my own conception of Fe with Briggs’ definition, as it appears in Gifts Differing (Davies Black Publishing 1995) p. 79. Candidly speaking, I have never read a description of Fe that did not diverge from my own view the way Briggs’ does, so my intention is by no means to single out Briggs here – I am simply using her work as a foundation for my own. For each of Briggs’ seven points on Fe, I shall reproduce her point in full and then add my commentary below.
Briggs: [Fe] is determined chiefly by the objective factor and serves to make the individual feel correctly, that is, conventionally, under all circumstances.
Briggs is right, almost by definition, when she says that Fe is chiefly oriented towards the “objective” (i.e. external) factor. There isn’t much room for subjectivity in Fe judgments (in fact, of all the functions, only Te is likely to leave less room for the subjective element in its operations). However, it is doubtful whether Fe really leads the individual to feel “conventionally” under all circumstances: When Fe is made to be synonymous with blind adherence to social norms (as is often done), we lose sight of the inner workings of the Fe type, which may be far less conventional than they first appear. Indeed, Briggs’ daughter Myers always took care to warn us that when we see an introvert, we are not necessarily laying eyes on the most significant parts of their personality, since they are merely meeting us with their extroverted adaptation. Something similar might be said to be the case with Fe types: It is easy to see the surface adherence to social norms, but harder to see what goes on underneath.
Then there is Briggs’ assertion that Fe serves to make the individual feel “correctly and conventionally” at all times. If, by this description, Briggs means that Fe seeks to induce others to feel certain values or emotions, then I would say that the proclivity to push for one specific outcome or emotion is much too close to the subjective (i.e. internal) factor to be associated with Fe, or indeed with any extroverted function. The push for equivalence between inner and outer psychic contents is much more often seen with the subjectively-laced introverted functions, with Ni and Si being perhaps the clearest examples here.
If, on the other hand, Briggs means that “feeling correctly” is the same as feeling included and validated, then she is much closer to what I contend to be Fe: Rather than imposing itself on others, Fe tends to “spread its warmth” so as to “do the groundwork” for the whole room to feel comfortable and willing to contribute. Since others are granted a space in which to share their perspectives and open up to others, it follows that Fe does not impose any one way of feeling upon others, but rather includes their way of feeling in the overall nexus of the feeling situation. On this point, I therefore disagree with the site admins that the individual’s aims or desires are not at least partially determined by the functions themselves: On my view, Fe has the intrinsic goal of bringing as many voices as possible into the discussion and to help others see the points of disagreement between their views, so that eventually, a conclusion may be reached that everyone can agree on. Of course, that isn’t always possible, but that is what Fe is driven towards.
Briggs: [Fe] adapts the individual to the objective situation.
Given what I said above, it should come as no surprise that I agree with Briggs on this point. As I said, Fe can often act as a catalyst, focusing people and aiding them towards bringing out the best of what they have to offer. Likewise, Fe has a natural inclination towards adapting itself to others with the aim of respectfully coordinating their perspectives and views so as to attempt to find agreement (where practically possible). So it makes a lot of sense, as Briggs says, that Fe adapts itself to the objective (that is, external) situation.
Briggs: [Fe] depends wholly upon the ideals, conventions, and customs of the environment, and is extensive rather than deep.
Given the manner of Briggs’ definition here, I think she misses an important point: Fe is not interested in social conventions, customs, or traditions a priori: Fe is first and foremost interested in people – what they believe, what they care about, and how different people and groups see things; what they have in common, where they diverge (and how they might be reconciled). So while Fe might in practice look as if it’s interested in conventions, it is my contention that this is only the case because social conventions and traditions have very real effects upon people, which, as I mentioned, is what Fe truly finds important.
As to Briggs’ point that Fe is extensive, rather than deep, our response should hinge upon the exact definition of this deep/broad dichotomy. On the one hand, if Briggs means that Fe is broad where Fi is deep, much in the same way as Ne is broad while Ni is deep, then what she says is true because Fe covers a much broader spectrum of perspectives and views than Fi does, and does so without going into each of the perspectives in as consummate a level of detail as Fi does (again much like the difference between Ne and Ni).
However, there is also another manner in which we may conceive of the broad/deep dichotomy: Since Fe generally has a greater understanding of alternating viewpoints than Fi (again akin to Ne and Ni), and since Fe is more naturally predisposed to strive for sympathy with the lot of others in general (as opposed to the more personalized focus of the Fi type’s affection), these dispositions do in themselves constitute a form of depth: The depth of investment in, and receptivity to, the other. If we apply the deep/broad dichotomy in this manner, then Fe would, all other things being equal, have just as much or more depth than Fi.
Finally, while many Fi types can often just put forth their values in a “take it or leave it” fashion, there is in many Fe types a moral urge to push for a collaborative and respectful process of social change and the facilitation of discussions on various topics, undertaken with the aim of slowly moving people towards a shared perspective that everyone can agree on (even if such total agreement will not always be practically possible). In this way, too, Fe has more depth than Fi, and is even a bit like Ni.
Briggs: [Fe] finds soundness and value outside of the individual in the collective ideals of the community, which are usually accepted without question.
As we already covered, it is true that Fe finds soundness and value outside of the individual and by orientating itself towards viewpoints that are widely agreed upon. However, when Briggs says that Fe accepts such viewpoints (such as the “ideals of their community”) “without question,” then that’s exactly the kind of description that in my experience is likely to turn EFJs away from the study of Jungian typology.
Even from the rather modest corrections that I have made to Briggs’ definitions so far, it follows that Fe does not – in fact, cannot – accept the standards of its community without question. So long as there is at least one person who disagrees with the dominant mores and thinks they are immoral or wrong, it will be natural for Fe to attempt to talk to that person and figure out what reasons that person has for dissenting. Since Fe is a rational function in the Jungian parlance, those reasons can then be reified and brought before others to serve as points in a discussion that has the aim of reaching reconciliation. And should that not be possible, the Fe type can at least ensure that the dissenting person’s viewpoint is treated with respect.
To put it another way, since Fe is so attuned to other people, Fe types must – almost by definition – keep an open mind about a great many values and viewpoints. The idea of Fe types accepting a ready-made assemblage of beliefs “without question” goes against that.
As an extroverted judging function, Fe shares a certain structural affinity with Te (although their functional operations are different). From this premise, it is my contention that Fe is not merely interested in the default consensus viewpoint (as is otherwise so often claimed): Rather, Fe is interested in achieving the best consensus viewpoint that is possible, given the confines of the current situation. Where it differs from Te, however, is that it goes about those aims by trying to foster respectful and constructive exchanges between people who might otherwise disagree amongst themselves.
Briggs: [Fe] has as its goal the formation and maintenance of easy and harmonious emotional relationships with other people.
Briggs is right that Fe aims for the formation of harmonious and meaningful relationships among people. However, as I said in the beginning of this article, I think the operations of Fe go deeper than that: Fe isn’t just about wanting to make nice with individual people. Rather, its most natural ideal is for the complete (but utopian) eradication of conflict so that everyone may live in harmony with one another, each of them partaking in the one Good (as akin to the Platonic, Socratic, and Pythagorean conceptions, as covered elsewhere on this site). As detailed in some of articles on Determining Function Axes on this site, this ideal might well be a “root representation in consciousness” to many Fe types, even if they do not consciously hold such beliefs.
Briggs: [Fe] expresses itself easily and so shares itself with others, creating and arousing similar feeling and establishing warm sympathy and understanding.
Fe types are often quite eloquent; however, I don’t think there’s any function-based reason why this aptitude for expression should be a facet of Fe. On the whole, one could perhaps make the argument that Fe steers the individual in the direction of wanting to share their thoughts with others and thus to develop those warm and sympathetic overtures that are most likely to have an effect. But as many type theorists have said before me, and indeed as even the official MBTI training material makes clear, a person’s type is about preference and does not necessarily pertain to ability. Hence it does not follow that EFJs are necessarily good at expressing themselves in the way suggested by Briggs. For their part, the CelebrityTypes admins suggest that EFJs can sometimes have Avoidant traits, and for my part, I have personally known several EFJs who seemed to fit this bill. But even underneath their avoidance, the wish to connect was still there, and so was their interest in building consensus.
Briggs: [Fe] has a tendency to suppress the personal standpoint entirely, and presents the danger of becoming a feeling personality, giving the effect of insincerity and pose.
To say that Fe has a tendency to suppress the personal viewpoint entirely is perhaps an overstatement – it would be an odd person indeed who habitually held no personal opinions! On the other hand, it is of course true that Fe does repress the subjective factor a bit – as all extroverted functions do.
As for her second point, Briggs is right that Fe types are in danger of giving the effect of insincerity, but it is just that; an effect and not the cause. As the American typologist James Graham Johnston has argued, it is true that Fe types may lose themselves in the process of “feeling into” the various viewpoints of others, thus giving the impression of holding conflicting sympathies over time (and therefore of insincerity). But if what is meant by “insincerity” is that the Fe types do not really care about the people they interact with, then this depiction entirely misses the affective reality of the Feeling function. In short, nothing could be further from the truth.
This is the extent of my commentary to Briggs’ definition of Fe. As I said above, my aim was not to single out Briggs (or indeed, any other theorist) for being “wrong,” although I do feel that almost every Fe description that I’ve read so far has short-changed the Fe function (and EFJ types) in similar ways. As noted, I also disagree with some of the things which the CelebrityTypes admins have said in their work on the functions, so my view should not be taken to be synonymous with theirs (or vice versa). Perhaps what I have tried to do above all is to facilitate one of those respectful and cooperative exchanges that might in the future lead to a slightly more nuanced (and perhaps slightly better) consensus viewpoint.
Update: A previous version of this article stated that the bullets on Fe found above were the work of Myers. They were in fact taken from the notes of her mother, Katherine Briggs, and reproduced in Myers’ book, Gifts Differing.
Image in the article commissioned for this publication from artist Francesca Elettra.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and MBTI are trademarks of the MBTI Trust, Inc.
CelebrityTypes.com is an independent research venture, which has no affiliation with the MBTI Trust, Inc.
Metaphorically speaking: Fe sees the car ahead; Te sees the traffic light; Fi avoids jams; Ti finds shortcuts.
Sorry, I don’t think I understand your metaphor. Could you explain what you mean in more detail? :)
More like: Ti tries to figure out why traffic jams occur, Te would want to figure out the fastest way to get out of the jam.
Cars are people. Traffic lights are rules society goes by. Fe deals the person in close contact whether they follow the rules or not. Te looks beyond the person they deal with and thinks of the rules. Fi goes where there are less people (independent values) while Ti is in terms of crossroads rather than people (independent reasoning).
It may need some tweaking but there’s something to it I suppose?
Good stuff. I would say it another way … In a nutshell, an Fe type completely understands the concept of “venting:” That is, listening to an Fe friend sound off about, for example, something unfair that a boss did to them on the job, but for which they didn’t speak up about, so as to avoid conflict. That Fe listener would not be surprised or troubled if say, that same Fe friend later said something really nice about the boss without acknowledging the past rant against this same boss.The Fe listener would think, “oh, I see this person feels better now. Everything is back to normal,” instead of thinking, “that person is really fake/fickle and can’t be trusted.”
Conversely, I would think an Fi type would be more likely to ask that same Fe friend, “but what about last week when you said your boss was a tyrannical such-and-such?” To which the Fe type would answer, “I was just frustrated and needed to vent to someone. I don’t really hate my boss. She has some good qualities, overall.” Then, perhaps the Fi type might see that as a red flag of insincere behavior, but really both of the Fe type’s opinion of the boss were sincere — just at different times.
Or at least, that’s how I see it. In fact, after reading Hannah’s contribution here, I think I’m wholly Fe when before I thought I was auxiliary Fi. It should be mentioned that I was going mostly by Myers’ definitions! Of course, no one wants to think of himself or herself — as Hannah mentioned — “accepting such viewpoints (such as the ‘ideals of their community’) ‘without question.’”
I think it’s confusing the issue to bring in the “rules society goes by” factor. :) I don’t think societal rules really have much to do with typology. The vast majority of people follow society’s rules pretty closely, regardless of type (even those who think of themselves as independent thinkers). That’s just how human societies work.
The difference between the introverted Judging functions and the extroverted Judging functions isn’t so much about “independence” vs “rules of society” I think. It’s more that extroverted Judging functions naturally adapt to the external situation (Te collects new facts to gain closer alignment with the current external reality, and Fe does exactly the same in the Feeling realm) and seek to have some impact on the world, while with the introverted Judging functions it’s more about the purity of the inner ideas and experiencing these inner ideas in real depth.
I hope you aren’t suggesting FJ types “vent” more often than other types? :) I don’t think that’s the case — pretty much everyone complains on a regular basis, regardless of their type.
I do agree that FJs more naturally understand this kind of behaviour though. They are probably more conscious of it while they are doing it themselves (and I think expect other people around them to understand this too and not take what they say as gospel — which can lead to obvious misunderstandings), while FPs will vent, contradict themselves, and then deny it later, or shrug it off.
To put it a different way, EFJs will sometimes say things they don’t really mean when emotional (like everyone), and they will be easier on others when they hear them do the same because of Fe. And their inferior Ti will lead to them usually being pretty tough on themselves afterwards when alone for being insincere.
IFPs will also say things they don’t really mean when emotional, but their Fi will probably not pay much attention to this. When asked, they’d probably say “Well that’s how I felt then, I was just expressing myself” and really not see much of a problem. However, their inferior Te will lead to them being very critical when other people do this kind of thing. :)
At least, those are my personal thoughts on your post. It could all be wrong for all I know. :)
Interesting article. But I’m tending towards thinking that the author espouses a sort of ‘schemata’ that links the type to a certain kind of direct affective manifestation: the crux of the disagreement with the Celebritytypes admins as was succinctly put:
“I therefore disagree with the site admins that the individual’s aims or desires are not at least partially determined by the functions themselves: On my view, Fe has the intrinsic goal of bringing as many voices as possible into the discussion and to help others see the points of disagreement between their views, so that eventually, a conclusion may be reached that everyone can agree on.”
I think that’s a necessary consequence of that view- that there IS even a compass of sorts to one’s affects that allows us to deduce a common core of sorts, namely, Fe as function. Of course, in practice it’s not quite so clear cut. The admins of this site avoid the problem of ‘determination’ entirely, but the idea advocated here would need a kind of ‘internal to external’ idea to ground it. OR one can claim that terms like internal/external as are ill-suited to the current scenario entirely.
tl;dr What’s the translating mechanism between the function and the aims or desires? I’d just like some clarification here, if at all possible.
Just a thought. I liked the article though :D
Hi, thanks for the comment. :)
I started writing a reply, but stopped because I’m not sure I understand the problem you have. Could you explain what you mean in a bit more depth, or in a different way?
I was just saying how the functions relate to conventions since you mention that in the article. What they are about by definition is of course different.
But you’ve still misunderstood my comment: for example finding shortcuts doesn’t necessarily mean crossing red lights, and avoiding jams doesn’t necessarily mean not noticing where the cars ahead are going.
In the end I was getting at something similar to your point.
Note that functions are different from personalities. (as I’m sure you know) Everyone uses a mixture of the eight functions so that even if a function pushes for ‘independence’ or ‘purity’ it would be corrected by other functions when needed.
Yes, misunderstood your posts. Sorry about that. :)
I don’t think you should be apologising! :D
J Butler’s “metaphor” is stupid and makes no sense. Nobody could understand it. Except crazy people. They understand everything. Except that they’re crazy.
Anyway, here’s how I’d rewrite the whole “traffic scenario”. :)
Fi is you in your car, warm and listening to music you love, and picking out the beautiful and ugly things you see around you. Ti is about your car that you are driving, your understanding of what it is and how it works, especially things specific to that car you’ve figured out for yourself. Te is the traffic signals and road signs bringing order to an otherwise chaotic situation and making everything run smoothly. And Fe is the roadsigns you see that are like, “Welcome to Sludgefield, we’re happy you’re here. Please drive carefully.” :D
Thanks for the response. I think everyone complains/vents with equal frequency, for sure! :-) But, yes, I think you and I are basically in agreement.
It’s good to see so many people sharing their thoughts while we’re working on our next update.
Awesome, don’t call other people’s contributions stupid, call them raisins in their prime. :)
My impression of Fe as “polite” remains the same.
This article makes me feel it is trying to justify “Fe” as sincere when it’s just not.
It’s not that being “polite” over “sincere”(Fi) is a bad thing at all.
We all need politeness and cooperation sometimes in this society. so sometimes…apparently especially for Fe users, we need to sacrifice individuality or sincerity a bit in order to arrive at a “shared goal”…so my impression of Fe as being ‘polite’ and not anything much (while that doesn’t necessarily mean that being “polite” and “sincere” are exclusive of each other but it means that if you choose “politeness”-Fe- over “sincerity”-Fi- that you have to sacrifice some sincerity and vice versa) stays the same.
John: Could you try and qualify the “just not” a bit? When you say Fe is just not sincere, are you speaking from your personal impressions/experiences, or what is the context here? /Eva
I agree with you that Fe is polite. :)
The “sincere” question is a bit more difficult to answer. If by sincere you mean something like “proceeding from genuine feelings” then I’d say EFJs are just as sincere as IFPs.
But if by sincere you mean “a person saying what they honestly think or believe”, even in situations where it isn’t appropriate, then I’d agree with you and say Fi is much more sincere than Fe. :)
I would describe most EFJs and IFPs as sincere, and most EFJs and IFPs as polite too. :)
I don’t think we disagree as much as you think we do. :)
The descriptions of the functions in Chapter 8 of Gifts Differing should emphatically *not* be referred to as “Myers’ definitions” of the functions. As Myers explained at the start of that chapter, those descriptions were “drawn by Katharine C. Briggs during her initial study of Psychological Types.” They are nothing more than Briggs’ initial summaries of *Jung’s* conceptions of the functions, and Myers made countless changes, large and small, to Jung’s original conceptions — based on, among other things, her psychometric analysis of years of test results — in developing the MBTI.
To take one dramatic example, Myers’ portraits of SJs bear little resemblance to Jung’s Si descriptions (including as summarized by Briggs in Chapter 8), and are more like the *opposite* of Jung’s Si descriptions in many ways.
Myers never produced revised descriptions of the functions, and that’s presumably because, despite a fair amount of lip service to them, her type portraits were essentially based on her conceptions of the dichotomies and the various dichotomy combinations. And in that regard, it’s probably worth noting that she thought the most significant dichotomy combinations were NF, NT, SF and ST — and that each group in that foursome consists of types with four different “dominant functions.”
If you want to know what Myers thought IFJs and EFJs were like, you need to look at her portraits of IFJs and EFJs, not Briggs’ brief summary of Jung’s Fe descriptions — and in any case, it’s very much inappropriate to refer to those Chapter 8 summaries as “Myers’ definitions” of the functions.
And it is disappointing, to say the least, that I’m having to explain this to someone who’s holding herself out as knowledgeable about the MBTI.
I don’t know whether you are right about who wrote it or not. :) The CT admins sent me those points to use as a basis for an article about Fe, I didn’t choose them myself.
Either way, I don’t think it affects my article at all. All that needs changing if you are right are those names. :)
Where did I say or imply that I am very knowledgeable about MBTI? :) I have no interest in the MBTI.
I didn’t realize my response to Hannah felt hostile. If it did then I apologize. I can indeed be a boob sometimes and not realize how I sound.
*hostile or condescending
“John: Could you try and qualify the “just not” a bit? When you say Fe is just not sincere, are you speaking from your personal impressions/experiences, or what is the context here? /Eva ”
I can agree with that.
On the Myers/Briggs conundrum, as Hannah says, we’re the culprits here, not her. :) Though Myers, as you say, kept noting the importance of the functions, right up to her death. More from us later. /Eva
Jungster has a fair point that those points were drawn from Briggs; I’ll correct that above.
Though here are some supplementary perspectives that are helpful to keep in mind:
– Myers never disowned the functions. Some observers claim that she didn’t really believe in them, while others claim that she always did. At any rate, the EFJs are grouped together in Gifts Differing; ENFJ goes with ESFJ, they do not go with other NFs and SFs. That’s not to deny that she also uses the ST, SF, NF, NT quadrants in other works. She left the question open.
– The site already notes the discrepancy on Si between Myers and Jung: /infographic/different-approaches-to-type.php – For our purposes here, however, the relevant criterion is primarily whether Myers and Briggs differ on Fe. Do they? Well, on some points, Myers’ own bullets on EFJs are more behavioral, but on others, they tend to restate the same bullets found above (“Fe types are anxious to conform to expectations.”).
– As the case of Sartre’s transmission of Heidegger shows in philosophy, or as the cases of van der Hoop, von Franz, and R.G. Gordon show in typology, the simple summarization of others’ points when dealing with complex matters is rarely just a summary, but often an involuntary act of creation as well. Jung has had many summarizers, though they all invariably seem to add a glossing of their own (ourselves included).
– As I said, you have a fair point on the Briggs vs. Myers thing, but as Hannah says, it changes little about the content of the article (in spite of the aggressive demeanor which would seem to suggest otherwise). Mistakes like these happen, they certainly did to Jung, and even to yourself at a previous time on this site, when, in a similarly aggressive manner, you thought we had misunderstood what Jung took as the central criterion of introversion, when it was in fact you who were mistaken. I hope you weren’t too disappointed in yourself (to say the least) after that episode, because as I said, it really can happen to anyone. :)
I’m not sure how clear it is, but the point of the article was to give a description of my personal opinion on what the Fe function is, and how my description differs from the “accepted view” (because my view is a little bit odd and differs a lot from the common descriptions).
The admins gave me those points by Myers/Briggs as an example of the generally accepted view (the one they themselves believe).
So the article wasn’t written to give a deeper insight into the views of Myers or Briggs, or to really critique them in themselves, but just to give an explanation of my perspective. :)
Any number of quotes from any number of descriptions of Fe could have been used. I initially asked for a mix of quotes by different authors, but I guess we were all too lazy. :)
In summary, who wrote the points is actually pretty irrelevant, because most descriptions of Fe say something very similar.
And as you’ve probably guessed, I did NOT choose the title! :D
If it’s your impression that “most descriptions of Fe say something very similar” to (1) “[Fe] … serves to make the individual feel correctly, that is, conventionally, under all circumstances,” and (2) “[Fe] depends wholly upon the ideals, conventions, and customs of the environment, and is extensive rather than deep,” and (3) “[Fe] finds soundness and value outside of the individual in the collective ideals of the community, which are usually accepted without question,” then you’ve clearly been reading a lot of poor MBTI sources.
And that goes double (at least) assuming you’re working with a functions model that says INFJs are “Fe types,” but those are poor characterizations as applied to ENFJs as well. And again, those Briggs Fe bullet points are simply summaries of Jung’s original descriptions of Fe — which, first of all, were only intended to apply to *extraverts* (since Jung didn’t think any introvert would have Fe as their dominant or auxiliary function), and second of all, reflected Jung’s (mistaken) view that *all* the extraverted types were prone to uncritically adopt the “collective ideals of the community” (while *all* the introverted types were liable to at least somewhat disfavor an ideal simply *because* it was conventional).
Jung specifically described an extravert as someone who would typically say, “I would not believe the Gospel if the authority of the Catholic Church did not compel it”; and an introvert as someone who would typically say, “I would believe the Gospel if the authority of the Catholic Church did *not* compel it.”
I’m not really sure what your point is, but thanks for the comment. :)
1. Yes, I definitely agree that I haven’t read any good sources on Fe (which is kind of the point of my article). Do you have any good Fe descriptions you can recommend, or could you write your own perhaps? :)
2. I don’t really think of INFJs as Fe types. I’d describe them as Ni+Ti with Fe. But I don’t think it’s an important distinction, because I generally agree with the IEIE/EIEI stack model (with occasional IIEE/EEII and, unexpectedly, rare cases of IEEI/EIIE — as I’d type Barack Obama, ENTP TiNeFeSi).
3. I can see what Jung was getting at (external validation versus internal validation), but I think his pro-Introvert bias clouds his judgement in that particular example, and he’s bringing in things like social religious belief which are too complicated to just pin down to E/I.
Hi Hannah! Nice article. I have a few thoughts, but here’s what jumped out at me the most:
“To put it a different way, EFJs will sometimes say things they don’t really mean when emotional (like everyone), and they will be easier on others when they hear them do the same because of Fe. And their inferior Ti will lead to them usually being pretty tough on themselves afterwards when alone for being insincere.
IFPs will also say things they don’t really mean when emotional, but their Fi will probably not pay much attention to this. When asked, they’d probably say “Well that’s how I felt then, I was just expressing myself” and really not see much of a problem. However, their inferior Te will lead to them being very critical when other people do this kind of thing. :)”
I think this part is wrong. For one thing, Ti (being interested in the logical structure of things) doesn’t really care how sincere something is or isn’t (though it might care whether or not something was true or not). Furthermore, I think Fi types are actually very, if not MORE likely to be troubled by saying things they don’t mean. Being an introverted judging function, Fi-types are concerned with living their values to the utmost, and in as consistent a way as possible, and most people value honesty.
Therefore, Fi-types will often beat themselves up internally later for being dishonest, while Fe-types, particuarly with repressed Ti, tend to be more comfortable neglecting some of the facts in favor of the general Feeling atmosphere. Of course, as you say, both Feeling types are likely to be concerned with sincerity, and so neither group is likely to be too happy about it.
“since Fe is more naturally predisposed to strive for sympathy with the lot of others in general (as opposed to the more personalized focus of the Fi type’s affection)”
I think this is often held to be more true for ENFJ’s, but less true for INFJ’s and ESFJ’s. Michael Pierce talks about this in some detail in his ENFJ and INFJ videos, but for the INFJ, auxiliary Fe has the effect of making them acutely empathetic on an individual level. The ENFJ, meanwhile, auxiliary Ni has the effect of directing their passions towards the more archetypal goals of society as a whole.
As for ESFJ’s, it’s just my personal experience that they tend to be very interested in individuals, and I think this is their Si making them interested in the reality of individual human connections, rather than the Ni possibilities of broad societal change.
Overall in the typology community, I’ve noticed a tendency for people to believe that Fe turns a person into a social chameleon who doesn’t actually think anything they say (only a slight hyperbole).
I think this article is a good step towards correcting that mistaken point of view. And I think the problem has to do with an incorrect understanding of extroversion.
Extroversion, in the Jungian sense, is about looking to the external world for your perceptions or judgments, to gain a more objective viewpoint. However, this is often (I think mistakenly) taken to imply that the extrovert’s thought processes are like a weather vane in a changing wind: adapting immediately to the current situation, never staying on the same point of view for too long, or you risk losing track of what’s currently objective information.
That might be pretty well and good for Se, which has the most direct connection to reality of all the functions. But it’s somewhat less good for the other 3, and the least good for Fe.
Why? Well, Fe is trying to orient its values towards ones that are objectively true, ones that exist outside of itself, and could be true for all people. As much as I hate to do this, I think a religious analogy is in order. (I’m not trying to proselytize, I’m an atheist :)
Imagine that it’s like, the year 20 and you are a follower of Jesus. If you believe that Jesus holds the true word of what is good in the world, and you believe that this word exists outside of yourself, then the obvious thing for you to do is talk to Jesus, or others who have spoken to him, and figure out what you’re supposed to do.
However, it should also be obvious that although these moral standards exist apart from you, they are not universally present in all situations or people. Just because somebody touched Jesus’s shoe once does not mean he has anything useful to teach you about how to lead a good life. You might listen politely in case anything interesting happens, but you’d be fully aware that this conversation is probably not going to change your worldview.
And I think this is how Fe works (I think…). Your average rational Fe user is not literally changing their values every time they start a new conversation. That really would be “lying.” But they do tend to care about good feelings in the world, and tend to believe that peace is desirable and possible, and so some minor moral inconsistency every now and then in the name of making people feel good isn’t that big of a deal.
(Contrast with Fi, which is likely to be deeply troubled by moral inconsistency, even if it sometimes means being confrontational, or losing relationships as a result.)
My point about EFJs being hard on themselves for being insincere isn’t really about Ti valuing sincerity. Instead, it’s inferior Ti noticing and worrying about the contradictions between what one says and what one really thinks. :)
I agree with the point about IFPs not exactly liking being insincere either. :)
Yes, I agree with the second post. In fact I don’t remember writing that sentence quite in that way, so it must have been edited by the CT admin. :) I think it’s very true of the Fe philosophy in itself, but most EFJs are probably just as interested in interacting with individuals than thinking about “social goals”. EFJs are almost always interested in both of these.
I’d actually divide the four FJ types up differently to you in this regard though. :)
ENFJ = Fundamental philosophy similar to my article, trying to unite various perspectives and achieve harmony among people in general (Fe). More focused on actual societal change (Ni+Se) and ESFJs and also more confident in their own opinions, seeing fewer perspectives than ESFJs (Ni>Ne). Tend to be very interested in group activities and more in touch with their inner “party animal” than the other FJs put together (Se). :)
ESFJ = Basic philosophy same as ENFJ (Fe). Less focused on, or at least more cautious towards, major social change (Si). See many more perspectives than ENFJs and find it difficult to decide what they think about things (Ne) in comparison to ENFJs. Like a mix of group activities and one on one conversation, and tend to prefer witty, fun conversations to activity-based companionship (Ne>Se).
IFJs tend to be more fixed in their Fe “beliefs” than EFJs, because tertiary Ti’s job is more to decide what the individual considers correct principles to live by rather than remaining objective and impartial about them as dominant Fe is driven to be. This can be both positive and negative, depending on the individual and the situation. They also tend to be fascinated by people, but a little more “at a distance” psychologically.
That’s how I see it anyway. :)
I agree with many points in the 3rd post. But a couple of disagreements…
1. I actually agree with the idea that the four extroverted functions are constantly adapting to new data, and tend to change their views more over time than introverts. :) That seems pretty close to the definition of extroversion to me.
2. I don’t think Fe is really aiming to find “true” values in the world. Truth is a little too idealistic and abstract to be much use to Fe (it’s more to do with Ti on the FeTi axis I’d say). Instead, Fe gets its sense of value from the deep feeling that everyone has had a say and we’ve all agreed to live by this particular standard for the time being (keeping the possibility of future change open, being an E function).
Your example about Jesus seems more IFJ to me (especially INFJ) — the idea there are some “true” objective principles for good behavior and a happy life brought together in the philosophy of a single person (tertiary Ti, not inferior). Fe would need to ask others what THEY thought about Jesus’ views and try to get an objective appraisal of him before accepting his guidelines. :)
I came back here to read this again, after being driven slightly bonkers trying to pin down a solid grasp of Fe, and what I’ve once again confirmed is that this particular article comes closest to my understanding of this function. Fe, is in fact, a pretty elusive and slippery concept — one of which so many cannot seem to agree upon. And although I think in some ways Briggs may have understood it better than she articulated, the descriptions of the Fe types and the Fe process themselves always left something to be desired in “Gifts Differing,” but anyway …
I really identify with the analysis here under the bullets:
1) “Briggs: [Fe] expresses itself easily and so shares itself with others, creating and arousing similar feeling and establishing warm sympathy and understanding;” and
2) “Briggs: [Fe] has a tendency to suppress the personal standpoint entirely, and presents the danger of becoming a feeling personality, giving the effect of insincerity and pose.”
It has always bugged me that Fi is described as deep, while Fe has been described as extensive, giving the impression that Fe is somehow a less sophisticated and more superficial feeling process than Fi; or worse, that Fe is fickle, or even silly. What I’ve come to conclude that “extensive” means here is that Fe is naturally cognizant of the other perspectives that might be in any given room, and therefore, as Hannah states, “Fe types must – almost by definition – keep an open mind about a great many values and viewpoints.”
I think because of the preceding, Fe can be a sort of paralyzing process. To wit, if I’m about to give a speech in an effort to persuade tax payers to support expanding public funding for a controversial social benefits program — if I’m an Fe type — then I must come to the podium already granting and therefore articulating to my audience that I am well aware of and sympathetic to the arguments made by the foes of this initiative. But when this sympathy for my opponents’ arguments is put into action, for example, and I answer a few hecklers from the crowd, then I may therefore become so involved in sympathizing with their dissension that I may actually become so sincerely humbled or even tongue-tied (though not necessarily) as to give the impression that I am pandering to my enemy. But of course, I still very well believe in this social program, but to a casual observer, or even an Fi type, I may be waffling or wishy-washy. Or worse, I may be a big faker, but anyway …
In sum, I think the greatest difference between Fi and Fe comes down to accountability, not empathy or sympathy. Fi expresses itself with a confidence and exactitude that is not burdened by the almost compulsive need that Fe has to somehow take on the responsibility of considering the opponents of its argument. Although, of course, this does not mean that, conversely, Fi is non-sympathetic — to me, it just means that Fi leaves the task of arguing for its opponents’ viewpoint up to the opponents, themselves. And of course, there is nothing at all wrong with that.
But, I don’t even know if I articulated exactly how I understand this … anyway … carry on. :-)
” I actually agree with the idea that the four extroverted functions are constantly adapting to new data, and tend to change their views more over time than introverts. :)”
I wouldn’t dispute that really. My point is just that being oriented towards the external world does not turn one into a mindless lemming, and I think that often gets forgotten when people talk about Fe. As a hypothetical example: Fe is often seen as harmonizing with external values, those of the people they are with. But imagine your Fe-type was getting lunch with a bunch of bank robbers celebrating their latest heist. Does the Fe-type celebrate with them, overlooking that bank robbery is pretty evil?
Or make it a more heinous crime if you wish. Real people have some consistency and memory, even if they are extroverted. Fe-types are oriented towards external values, and a lifetime of doing that has (likely) taught them that bank robbery is bad, which they are not about to immediately forget, just because the only people nearby are bank robbers, talking about bank robber stuff.
You’re probably correct in saying the Jesus story sounds more like an IFJ than an EFJ. I meant it to be more of an analogy for how a person can have extroverted values, rather than a real story of something an Fe-type would do. My point is just that no people, even Fe-types, just up and change the values they live by based on every conversation they have. The Fe-type is just more comfortable than most in looking around their values, or putting them to the side for a while, for the sake of good feelings and harmony (while the Fi type is probably least comfortable with this).
I agree with what you say, though I think you might be misunderstanding me somewhat. :)
I certainly agree with you that being an extrovert doesn’t turn you into a mindless lemming haha! :) I think you’re taking a very Introverted approach to defending Fe though, and not really getting what I mean by Fe constantly adapting to external information.
Fe is much more similar to Te than Fi, while Fi is closer to Ti. Fi and Ti are focused very much on a person’s pure ideas, and these functions can in essence run on themselves, based on information already gathered by the individual. Te and Fe are not only interested in new information about actual objects in the world, but reliant on gaining these new facts and acting accordingly. While Te focuses more on lifeless objects, Fe tends to focus more on living objects such as people. Fe needs interactions with other people, even if not direct interactions (for example, watching a TV documentary about a fascinating person, or reading a novel), in order to gain the kinds of facts about the world it is interested in and to feel fulfilled.
And of course, EFJs don’t just forget about their own worldview when talking to others. :) To be honest, I think if you (as a non-EFJ) were to jump inside the mind of an EFJ what you’d find wouldn’t actually be very different from your typical ETP — fairly consistent inner beliefs oriented around Ti.
So I would argue that, sure, EFJs would most likely think the bank robbers were doing something pretty unethical (because only people working in banks are allowed to rob from banks, right?), but they would also dearly love to talk to these people and see what makes them tick! :) EFJs are probably the most likely type to start random conversations with strangers.
so does the admin itself agrees with this interpretation or not?
I know this is an old post here that I somehow missed, but I’d like to congratulate the author on her clarifying points concerning Fe. I am an ENFJ who loves typology, but, as you pointed out, it’s unusual to find many other Fe dominants interested in typology because Fe is very misrepresented. I think another reason is that Fe dominants don’t “need” a typing system to categorize and understand those around them – they often type accurately and instinctively according to their own inner system or intuitions without realizing it. In my experience, their typings are often much more practical and “hands on” than the more theoretical approach of dominant intuitives who rule the typology world.
Thanks, I’m sure the author will be glad to hear it. :)
I’m a bit late to the party here, but I really appreciate this article! I’m one of the many male NFJs (INFJ rather than ENFJ) who had previsiously mistyped themselves over the years due to poor descriptions of Fe that make it sound like just social skills, empathy, and/or blind adherence to social norms. One only has to look at any online MBTI community to see dumb, prejudiced rants about ESFJs to see how harmful and misleading those poorly informed ideas are, especially since they are often tied into sexist and misogynistic stereotypes of female irrationality.
I especially like your remark that ” Fe types a moral urge to push for a collaborative and respectful process of social change and the facilitation of discussions on various topics, undertaken with the aim of slowly moving people towards a shared perspective that everyone can agree on”, it fits my own attitudes perfectly. I fear that in our society that “compromise” has become a dirty word, there seems to be a pervasive attitude that trying to come to a consensus is some sort of betrayal of values and it drives me absolutely crazy. Is it really so hard to just get along and not stomping our feet like petulant children???
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