By Michael Pierce
David Keirsey called them the “champions,” and I have also heard the nicknames “inspirer” and “advocate.” The stereotype I have seen in the Jungian community hasn’t been too far off, but as is to be expected, it fails to express the deeper aspects of the ENFP. They are seen as exceptionally energetic, friendly, capricious, dreamy, whimsical, warmhearted jokers; in a word, as “happy-go-lucky.” There is rarely any attention given to their distinctive dichotomy of idealism and disillusionment that makes war within their psyche.
As always, let’s break down what constitutes the ENFP functionally.
They are a perceiving type, meaning that they prefer extroverted perceiving and introverted judging. This means that they base their judgment criteria on subjective inner information, while simply observing and drinking in objective information and experiences. You could say that they are more receptive towards the outside world and more aggressive towards their inner experience.
Their preferred way of doing this is through extroverted intuition and introverted feeling. Extroverted intuition is innovative: it perceives and seeks out new possibilities from objective data, finding the ones with the most promise and bringing them to fruition. Introverted feeling is individualistic: it has deep, personal passions and convictions that it holds to despite outside opposition, and it greatly values the right to individual freedom of expression and being true to oneself.
Third, they are very similar to the INFP; both prefer Ne and Fi. The ENFP, however, prefers Ne more than Fi. Nevertheless, they are in some sense the same type, or at least sister types. I personally like to call NFP types the “Dreamers,” because their relation to the outside world is passive observation of the unreal, of possibilities and ideas; their passion and aggression lies in their individual convictions, which develop isolated from the outside world and become something of a personal dream: thus, both their inner and outer relations take on a somewhat dreamlike quality. Of course, “Dreamer” is merely a nickname to help me remember the NFP nature and does not mean all NFPs lie sprawled in fields of flowers and never accomplish anything.
The ENFP, then, is a “dreamer” for whom their objective perceptions and search for possibilities is more important than their individual convictions. They are primarily concerned with discovering, creating, and innovating, in other words, living off of everything new and exciting.
The word I like to use to describe ENFPs is “child-like.” This is not to be confused with the word “childish,” which implies the negative and trivial aspects of a child’s personality; “child-like” implies the positive, optimistic, joyful wonder at the world, and this is one of the most recognizable characteristics of the ENFP.
The ENFP is first a wanderer. They, more than any other type, with the ENTP as a close second, are afflicted with a wander-lust and disgust of boredom. One of their nightmares is to be locked up in a plain white room with nothing new to do or see. They hate to sit still and often find patience the most difficult virtue or altogether overrated. They want, even fear not to have, the freedom to pursue possibilities, and thus defend against the sickness of boredom and all its compatriots: habit, consistency, routine, etc. When they get the chance to play or explore with the new, whether a place, opportunity, idea, game, or even relationship, they become refreshed and energized. As Orson Welles said, “I love moving from town to town. I never got on a train in my life without my spirits rising.”
As such, their minds work at a rapid pace, or at least seem to do so, because they try to cut out any thinking that does not contribute to the creative or innovative process. Like a hummingbird they must constantly feed on sugary fluids to keep in the air, buzzing from one flower to the next; the ENFP searches for those flowers offering the most energy. This gives the impression that their mind is often racing, because they seem to jump from concept to concept extraordinarily quickly with no time to rest, for instance, in the improvisational comedy of Robin Williams. However, while it can make conversation with them an adventure and grants them a quick wit and ingenuity, sometimes their mind moves too fast for them to express themselves adequately. Sometimes their own words can barely keep up with their thoughts as the transitions between ideas become less and less.
The ENFP’s auxiliary Fi is responsible for their characteristic flamboyancy and eccentricity. ENFPs are more or less quirky. This is because they have personal, subjective values developed in isolation from everyone else. It is only natural for many of these values to appear alien to the rest of us, or in other words, quirky; and in line with Fi, ENFPs are quite pleased with their differences from others, and love to be respected for them.
Another important effect of Fi is its imagination: the ENFP develops a personal, subjective dream world where their values are exemplified. By delving so deep into their values they are capable of great, beautiful creativity which often manifests itself in stories, but more famously, in their use of language. They are often very clever, creative, and imaginative in their wielding of words to express their ideas and feelings, and ENFPs have the potential to become great writers.
ENFPs are also known for loving people. More specifically, they love individuals, as their Fi helps them appreciate and even love the differences in others. On the other hand, they dislike mobs or any massive organization where individuality is melted down into a collective, such as stereotypical corporations, churches, or governments. ENFPs love people on their own, for who they are. In fact, they have a tendency to become particularly attached to certain people, feeling a very strong introverted love for them, combined with a gregarious aversion to being alone, where it is easier to become bored; thus they may like to be around their friends all the time. This is only a potential problem, however, and most ENFPs do not become pathological about it.
You may now be able to see why I use the word “child-like” to describe ENFPs. Both ENFPs and the ideal child are pleasantly capricious, explorers, love the new, think faster than they talk, are quirky and imaginative, and love people, becoming very attached to them. The ENFP, in a nutshell, has maintained a child-like relationship to the world, full of wonder, love and optimism.
However, there is another very important side to the ENFP: they are not only a child, but also an adult. There is a sense that they are both joyously young and tremendously old. While at first they may demonstrate that stereotypical happy-go-lucky spirit, upon further inspection one discovers a severe and serious side of their personality, an adult spirit. Not just any adult spirit either, but a disillusioned, old spirit, someone who is all too aware of the pain and suffering in the world, who knows full well that everything is not happy or lucky. This side is dark and brooding, frustrated and passionate. It is the side of Mark Twain that wrote “The Mysterious Stranger,” an extremely pessimistic work concerning the “damned human race.” The ENFP is motivated by a sense of darkness of life, but also by an optimistic desire to find a better future. This dichotomy of old and young, dark and light, brooding on the past and living in the moment makes war within the ENFP and drives much of their art and expression. I think the best example of this union is demonstrated in Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” which presents a seemingly happy-go-lucky utopia of non-consequential sex, drugs and pleasure, but beneath which is all manner of darkness and controversy, asking many questions about social and political principles and where our own society is going.
The ENFP’s tertiary function is Te, which is responsible for inductive reasoning and the pursuit of logical, real-world goals. It is the direct opposite of Fi, which is responsible for subjective value-judgments and the expression of individual conviction. Te is a bulldozer, and Fi is the protestor lying down in front of it. However, in the ENFP the weight of Fi does not repress Te, and so the ENFP has a logical, driven, goal-oriented side. They are able to break away from pure expression and aggressively pursue real-world goals, and this is often done in the service of Ne, logically and efficiently getting what they want. This adds to their adventurous flair, making them fast and determined, running hither and thither, and gives them a willingness to drag someone along for the ride and bulldoze through obstacles if necessary.
The ENFP’s repressed function is Si, which represents the inevitable downside of strong Ne. Si is responsible for memory, realistic association, and the development of practical habits and routine: in short, a strong need to prepare sufficiently for the future. This caution is rather lacking in the typical ENFP, because their focus is always turned on the new. As I stated before, routine and habit and lack of the new is suffocating for the ENFP: they are wanderers and explorers by nature. What this ultimately means is that the ENFP is a ship that hates to drop anchor. Once the anchor is set down, the ship is stuck going in the same circles over and over again. The ENFP prefers, for better or worse, to drift at sea, rather than be tied down by any consistency. This can make it difficult for them to settle anywhere in society, whether a job, place, marriage, or really anything that requires some form of consistency.
So in summary, the ENFP is “child-like,” living off of the new, darting from flower to flower like a hummingbird. They are quirky and imaginative, quick-thinking and creative, and gregarious to the point of over-attachment. Their tertiary Te gives them an aggressive attitude to pursuing goals, while their repressed Si makes it very difficult for them to settle in any kind of consistency or treat the unknown future with due respect.
Thanks for reading, and to all the ENFPs out there, thank you for trying to rejuvenate the child-like genius in each of us.
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