I’ve had the pleasure recently of typing a cluster of INFJ Creatives, and wow, can they be slippery! So, I thought I’d write about what characteristics show up differently in INFJ Creatives vs other INFJs, making them hard to pin down to their actual best fit type, and some pearls on seeing to the heart of the matter. I also speak to aspects of creativity and Creatives in general and how that disposition manifests in Personality Typology. Before I go on, let me clarify that for the purposes of this writing when I say “Creative/s” I am referring to people who have a Highest Life Purpose of producing creative expression such as art, creative writing, interpretive dance, photography, etc. I am of the firm belief that every being on the planet uses creativity in some form or another. Here I’m talking about creativity specifically in the form of “the Arts” as a calling in its self. For more on Creativity in all facets of life, enjoy this article by my friend, Psychologist Leighah Roni Beadle-Darcyhttps://www.researchgate.net/p…/322365849_What_is_Creativity
The Paradox of the Creative Disposition and the Quest for Type
Many Creatives are of a yearning disposition, searching far and wide to find themselves, frequently torn between types, not feeling like any Type fits them like the cozy hand-knit narwhal onesie in the color that brings out their eyes as the window to their soul kind of way that they crave. Obviously I’m being silly here, but this can be a real pain-point for many INFs, particularly for those of a Creative disposition, to feel never truly seen, even by themselves. It is no small task to search for that illumination which feels like coming home to the warmth of a loving embrace after being out in the cold, the insight which describes them better than they can describe themselves. The creative pursuit its self could be described as a life mission to continually seek what only this person can bring to light. The quest its self is kind of a calling, and the search for their Type may get wrapped into this mentality. There can be a sort of subconscious (or conscious) resistance to finding the answer, that an answer would be an end to individuality and unfettered expression.
How Creative Disposition may Test the Boundaries of Type Identification in an INFJ and Other Types
To people well-versed in Myers-Briggs Typology and Jungian Cognitive Functions, the above scenario may sound a lot like Fi. It does use a lot of Fi language and imagery and describes some behavior patterns that are more often associated with IxFPs. In particular, seeing many facets of the self and of human experience, deep yearning for authentic self-expression, restlessness when faced with limiting expectations or definitions yet also wanting to understand and be seen in their true essence are staple Fi descriptions. These elements can be present in the INFJ Creative (and to some degree other INFJs and many other types depending on other factors) as well as the IxFP, and can easily throw off the identification of best fit type. I also want to make clear that not all Fi users are artists/Creatives either, just that characteristics of Creative disposition overlap a lot with descriptions of Fi and, as I discuss below, Enneagram 4. This overlap can make INFJ and other Creatives difficult to distinguish from strong Fi users based on reliance upon the patterns that are most frequently laid out as Fi examples in the bodies of work on Personality Typology.
The “INFJ or IxFP?” conundrum can be associated with Enneagram 4s, or at least having 4 in the tritype, and also at times Enneagram 7. Enneagram 4 is known as “The Individualist”, and will have a need for self-expression and identity-seeking to a greater degree than other Enneagram types. This prioritization of individuality can put an INFJ 4 in a lot of inner turmoil, tension between self-identification and Fe’s attunement to the expectations and emotional experience of those they affiliate with. I’ve seen this as a painfully defining factor in the lives of INFJ 4s. It frequently shows up as gut-wrenching need to march to the beat of their own drum through choices such as turning away from higher education. This may be despite strong family expectations, often half way through or even nearly done, after much financial and time investment. It becomes more than “making the right choice for me”, more of a reclamation of the soul.
Looking like an Fi user can also come up in the Sexual (also known as One-to-One) instinct subtype of many Enneagram types, as described by my friend Betsy Cañas Garmon, of wild thyme creative, who is an INFJ Creative and works with Creatives of all types as a Coach. As she describes it from her own experience: “I know that as an E5sx, my energy feels ‘intense’ and when I’m in Ti ‘truth-teller’ mode, it can feel like Fi’s conviction.” This Sx instinct is about transmitting energy on a direct, very personal level. It is sometimes described as vibrating with intensity. One-on-one energy exchange is often a “Flow” (most energized) state for IxFPs, but it is important to note this can be the case for INFJs and other types as well depending on their Enneagram points and instincts.
Betsy also shared her thoughts with me on healthy Fe in an INFJ including strong boundaries and attunement to self needs, a topic we are both passionate about. She refers to the need for healthy Fe users to “put themselves on the map”. I myself have experienced a phase of life in my mid 20s where I overcompensated on this, which was necessary at the time. The pendulum had to swing from me being not on the map to being an immovable object at its center, to get a strong sense of what living for myself feels like. Now I’m able to hold both other’s expectations and my own and make decisions with intention rather than out of either compulsion or defensiveness. In that strongly self-interested phase I celebrated single-hood, independence, and avoided at all costs being beholden to any outside expectations. Betsy described the concept as well, writing “There’s an energy that feels like Fi that’s actually just Fe course correcting from forgetting themselves to remembering that they count.”
The expectations of their core group weigh very heavy on an Fe person, putting them at war with themselves, and maybe with their families, if their independent streak runs deep and against the grain. All sorts of INFJs experience this to some degree too, not just Creatives. Don’t let turmoil over meeting the expectations of others or eventually shaking up one’s life with self-determining choices throw you off of INFJ as a possible best fit type.
INFJs in general, being iNtuitives, do want to walk to the beat of their own drum to some degree, though often Fe puts a bit of a leash on it due to strong influence in regard to what is considered “appropriate”, not wanting to stick out too much. As I described it to someone lately: some people need to fly their Freak Flag high and proud (more typically, though not always, NFP types), but INFJs might generally tend more toward a tasteful “freak pin”. And then there’s Marilyn Manson (postulated to be INFJ by some of my mentors and contacts)! So, the INFJ who shows up a little (or a lot) more bohemian, free-form, or non-conformist in their fashion, makeup, behavior, ideologies, life choices, and creative pursuits can end up going down a typology path that isn’t the best fit overall. For more on typology and Musicians visit another INFJ Creative colleague of mine Scott James‘ site http://intuitivemusician.com/. Though that leg of his work is no longer active there is a lot of great material residing there, and links to his new passion project:
The 90028 – intent on bringing ground-level unity to Hollywood as a neighborhood rather than a factory for Industrialized illusion.
Creativity on the Brain
An interesting thing about Creatives is that their brain actually has identifiably different patterns of activity than other types on a brain-monitoring modality called electroencephalogram or EEG. Dr. Dario Nardi has pioneered this method of studying the brain activity as it correlates to MB personality type and other traits. In Personality Hacker‘s podcast interview with him, he spoke of Creative INTJs looking more alike than a Creative vs a Technical INTJ, suggesting that there are distinct patterns present in the brains of Creatives that are different from others of their type. I’ve had my EEG done by him which is a fascinating experience I highly recommend if you’re within reach of the LA area or follow his group page Neurotypes to see if he’s traveling to your area some time!
I messaged Dario for a little more insight into the brain activity patterns of Creatives and he responded with some neuroscience gold. He described the “whole brain creative brainstorm pattern” as frequently associated with Ni users –
INxJs (80-90% of INxJs show this pattern at some point on their EEGs), which is much more often than INFPs (10-20%). These flashes of whole brain activity can represent either ideological Ni insights or crystallization of creative vision in INxJs. IxFPs’ lead function Fi is actually a “rational” (a Jungian jargon term for evaluative, decision-making, “judging”) function. Dario also makes clear that there is a spectrum of use of the whole brain mode, with some individuals using it very frequently moment-to-moment, and others only using it when they have a sporadic burst of Creative Flow. It follows that, overall, people who use this mode much more often would be less bound by predictable tracks of brain activity that are often associated with J types as Described in his book, “Neuroscience of Personality; Brain Savvy Insights for All Types of People”.
How do we tell that someone is an INFJ Creative rather than an IxFP?
In the end all of the above are different forms and interpretations of results stemming from underlying framework of Cognitive Functions, which show up uniquely in people of a Creative disposition and any individual for that mater. Identifying the Cognitive Functions at play is the key to pinning down one’s type. We all need a Perceiving and a Judging function of alternating attitude (introverted and extraverted) to give balance to our existence. We need to take in information (S/N) and evaluate that information (T/F) and need a way to self-examine (introversion) and a way to interact with our environment (extraversion). If you’re getting a P “free-form” vibe or Fi-like impression of self-reference when typing yourself or someone else of a Creative disposition, make really sure you are scritinizing the perceiving function as well. iNtuition may make its self really clear, as well as Introversion, and an Fi “artsy” vibe may lead to a conclusion of INFP (or ISFP if the iNtuitive element is in blending mode). But is the iNtuition introverted: a funnel, distilling and crystalizing essence, finding the seed from which collective awareness grows, the root that anchors the tree of knowledge, the archetypal and relativistic nature of all things? Or is it extraverted: a star-burst – branching out to infinite possibilities, making associations between concepts others never would have connected, one direction just as likely and fruitful as another, breaking the frames that others trap themselves in? Is the leading introverted inward-focused function that brings the most energy of life in the Perceiving realm or in the Judging/evaluating realm? What does the inward function need for balance from the outer world – is that perception of possibilities (Fi + Ne INFP) or is it a way to evaluate fundamental insights with respect to the people of the world (Ni + Fe INFJ)?
Fundamentally INFJs have the alchemy of Ni + Fe that creates a sense of distributed consciousness. They are a receiver jacked into what I think of as a collective energy field and they have awareness of every blip in this field. They can have strong awareness of their own nature as one position in this field and decide to honor that despite whatever else is going on in the field, but the field is a constant reality. There is no separation in awareness of themselves and how their actions influence the field, and how each blip in the field influences all of it. What they wear to a party is determined by and affects social dynamics of their tribe. Their manner influences the mood of courier who delivers their proposal to their boss which affects the fate of their project and those of others. These kinds of truths are self-evident to the INFJ without consciously deciding to process the situation in that way. Whatever choices of individualism they make, and attunement to their own emotional state, an INFJ cannot escape this force field of awareness of interpersonal dynamics. They can choose not to let the force field determine their actions, but it will always be the energy they swim in.
This is my longest article yet and there was so much I started to write but cut out. I am hoping that there is a balance here of applicable information and space for some really exciting questions and conversations! Please comment to let me know what branching-off points are sparking your curiosity and what experiences you’ve had that relate to the scenarios explored here, or any other thoughts that come to mind!
Thank you to the many brains I picked in writing this article:
Betsy Cañas Garmon; wild thyme creative
Leighah Roni Beadle-Darcy
Scott James; The 90028
Dario Nardi; Neurotypes
Schedule a Personality Type Discovery Consultation via video chat (Consultations tab on the Home page) if you find yourself still searching for your best fit Myers Briggs Type.
2 thoughts on “How Creatives Elude Type Determination”
Loving the explanation of INFJs always living in a forcefield of interpersonal interactions.
And I’m happy to see you exploring the idea that creative brains look different, and that difference can mislead people to type as an Fi user when they are actually Fe. I’m pretty sure that applied to me when I was less sure of my type. It is only in middle age that I understand that not everyone is creative as a fundamental expression of self, rather than the childlike playfulness that some use to create.
It occurs to me that one difference between INFP and INFJ might be the attitude to play?
Hi Christina, thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience. To me every type and every individual has creativity in their lives in some form, I believe it to be part of human nature and shows up in both child-like experimentation as well as in very sophisticated ways. Ne people do seem to have a special connection to play throughout life in terms of access to very ‘outside the box’ scenarios, lending to ‘make believe’ (as adults, not just as children), or ‘what if…?’. My ENFP partner has made much of his academic career in studying play, being editor of an academic journal on games, and is a firm believer in studying these in humanistic, qualitative ways vs quantitative. I love how he has described the magic of play as creative trials within constraints. The ‘rules of the game’ are like the walls and medium in a Petri dish in which one can grow anything that those conditions will allow. I (INFJ) was inclined toward makebelieve as well as a child but don’t have nearly the capacity he has to explore ‘what if’ questions as an adult. I suspect creative INFJs might keep that inclination toward play and unfettered imagination beyond childhood though, knowing a few INFJ fiction writers as I do. I’ll be thinking more about how attitudes toward play may differ between INFP and INFJ Creatives, I think it’s a great train of thought!