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Literature that advises us to find our inner child probably has in mind the fresh, uncomplicated vision that ISFPs bring to their world. Oriented by Fi and Se, these types are very much in the here and now. Naturally spontaneous, they live as though each experience were newly discovered and their primary purpose were to be in harmony with it.

Such types understand outward reality by way of sensory skills so finely tuned that they're likely to have a strong identification with nature. One might picture all those deceptively easygoing film heroes who make their statement by breaking into the psych lab and uncaging the chimps or driving the horses out of the corral and watching them thunder back into the wild. Almost all ISFPs have a special gift for communicating with children and animals, and they may have a green thumb as well.

Such types are frequently drawn to medical specialties, where their perceptual acuity has practical application, and to veterinary work, where it is imperative. Animals sometimes hide pain and illness, because signs of weakness make them vulnerable to predators, but ISFPs seem to know what to look for, and they treat all creatures with respect for their dignity.

The unconditional nature of this respect may be illustrated by an ISFP of my acquaintance who "adopted" a computer-generated puppy. When a friend asked her to squirt the creature with virtual water from a spray bottle that came with the program, she was horrified. "How can I do that?" she asked. "It's playing so happily!"

Whenever this sensitivity comes into play in the social arena, ISFPs have a sense of mission. They may, for example, opt for a pacifist, vegetarian, or anticruelty lifestyle, or volunteer their services to movements like Greenpeace and Amnesty International.

Like other types who use Se to deal with the outer world, ISFPs learn by experience, and they need hands-on contact in order to know something well. Unlike Se dominants, however, they don't require perceptual novelty to stay interested in something. When their Judgment is engaged, ISFPs are focused, contained, and nearly inexhaustible. Whether they're athletes, artists, paramedics, or nurses, whether they make music or take care of stray animals, these types are likely to regard their work as a vocation rather than a profession.

Indeed, their engagement has nothing in common with the goal-oriented Judgment of ESJs. ISFPs don't think in terms of objective limits and requirements. They think in terms of values--what's right in the situation at hand. They lose sight of themselves as objects, rushing in where angels fear to tread.

I knew an ISFP who worked in a community program locating resources for people who ordinarily lived in boxes and tunnels and under bridges. After work, he'd go out on his own trying to find program dropouts in an effort to persuade them to return. He'd often end up in dangerous situations, but it never made him more cautious. The vulnerability of those people struck him as more important than his emotional and physical security.

ISFPs are often like this in an activity that truly captures them. They're not attempting to "go the extra mile." It's who they are. In fact, their lack of objective boundaries usually keeps them from freelancing their skills the way their ISTP kindred do.

ISFP artists, for example, tend to seek ongoing support for their activities--in the way of grants, contributions, seed money, opportunities for performance, and so forth. These types don't want to think too much about the objective conditions of their employment. They want a space that allows them to do what they feel called to do.

It may be noted, in this respect, that as Fox Mulder, of The X-Files, has gradually metamorphosed (with the show's success) from a rumpled INTJ obsessive into a peripatetic ISP folk hero, he spends nearly all his time outdoors, investing himself in cases as they come to hand, happy to avoid the confines of the institution that provides his objective means. Moreover, his partner, the hyperrational Scully, now serves him less as an analytical counterpoint than as a frustrated protector, advising him of his bureaucratic options.

ISFPs tend to attract Te types of this sort, whose anchorage in the world of established systems keeps the type aware of objective responsibilities. ISFPs don't seek this kind of relationship so much as let it happen to them, granting another's investment in material stability and welcoming the structural touchstones, without according them much larger importance.

Although ISFPs are warm, generous, and develop deep connections to people, they have a certain resistance to attachment for its own sake. One might consider Zoe, the twenty-something daughter on the comedy Cybil. Zoe is portrayed as an ISFP musical prodigy, romantically drawn to a young man much like herself. Recognizing the worth of the relationship, the two have agreed to keep the connection platonic, lest the social repercussions of sexual involvement rob them of immediacy and the natural rhythms of life as it happens.

All ISFP aren't like this, of course, but the image catches the flavor of the type's caution with respect to ownership and material possession. Where ISTPs regard a tool, brush, or instrument as an extension of their body, ISFPs are like those rock musicians who break their instruments at the end of a performance. They want to see through the objects that serve their talents and ambitions, lose themselves in the creative act itself.

ISFPs will even take up disciplines designed to free them from material dependence, but this is a bit like taking coals to Newcastle. They're more likely to abdicate responsibility for their objective situation than they are to be trapped by what they own.

In fact, ISFPs are most likely to feel bogged down by possessions and material constraint when they're too dependent on their dominant function. Their inferior function, Te, is too far away from their conscious aims and goals. Whenever they encounter a situation that can't be addressed with their dominant skills, Te exerts a strong unconscious influence on them, and they lose touch with their accustomed sense of values.

This is a normal course of affairs when a primary function is too strong. The psyche pulls us away from our usual behaviors, giving us room to develop more of our potential. Like other types, however, ISFPs don't recognize their Te impulses as part of themselves. They simply feel that they're losing contact with their deepest self, and the only way they know how to solve the problem is to reject the claims of anything that doesn't support that contact.

For example, ISFPs who join a spiritual organization to nurture a contemplative life can be shocked to discover that structural containment has not organic relationship to their aspirations. Their values are being standardized and directed rather than nourished. Once these types define the problem this way, however, they don't know what to do. The right-brain character of their Fi goals suggests a life lived in surrender to their craft or commitment, but they aren't sure how to make that happen on their own.

So frustration gradually pushes ISFPs into using their secondary function defensively, to assert their existential freedom. Their devotion to a vocation becomes paralleled by an equally strong need to prove their objective self isn't important. This need doesn't necessarily result in a crash-and-burn lifestyle, although it can. Such types may simply do whatever it takes to stay aware of the creative force within--without much thought for the logical consequences. The image these ISFPs construct has quite a bit of resonance in the Se pop ethos, and such types can acquire what may be called a tragic sense of cool.

It's ironic, therefore, that what they actually need is more contact with their Se side--not to defend themselves against inferior aims, but to balance their primary needs against their real circumstances. When ISFPs don't get enough Se development, they end up using Ni, their tertiary function, to keep their dominant self-image intact.

Under normal circumstances, Ni keeps ISFPs well-rounded. It helps them to recognize that their way of seeing reality is important and real--even when they can't find a way to express it. Used as a defense against Te impulses, however, Ni simply increases the ISFP's resistance to others' influence on them.

In one of the X-Files episodes, for example, Scully asks Mulder, "Have you ever thought about dying?" "Yeah," he says, "once when I was at the Ice Capades." ISFP who are trying to resist others' claims on them are almost always defensive in this flip way, believing that others will merely appropriate their deepest feelings for their own purposes.

Such types can end up feeling like Kevin McCarthy in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, faced with two bad choices: they can go to sleep, let the pods take over, and wake up happy to be programmed, or they can fight to stay awake and spend the rest of their lives resisting cooptation.

When ISFPs develop sufficient Se, it takes them outside the terms of this either-or dilemma. They begin to see that their inner potential dictates outward responsibilities. An image given to me by Dr. Ann Ulanov, a Jungian analyst, addresses this situation in an interesting way.

She said that if you live in close contact with your inner world, it's a lot like living by the sea. You can get flooded unless you can build a structure that suits your needs. Your first instinct, however, is to build the kind of house the townspeople live in, because that's the kind of shelter others will help you construct. This is precisely the kind of house that will be ruined when the tide rises. For a while you think, "I should have built a better townhouse." But gradually you reject others' advice and you life without structure.

Why not build the kind of house that will serve your actual needs? Build the kind of house the fishermen build, one the water can go through without knocking it down. And when visitors show up, warn them not to wear their good shoes, because their feet may get damp during dinner.

This is really the primary task for ISFPs: to recognize their need, as it were, to live by the sea for their inner world. Their secondary function helps them to construct a life for themselves that honors their genuine gifts and calling. It doesn't impel them to reject everything they already have and know. It moves them to recognize their purpose for being alive and to find their own path.

Well-developed ISFPs live, as it were, between the sea and the town, doing what they need to do. In consequence, their creations, their choices, their way of being can remind people of important things the community has forgotten.
 

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Thanx for the well written article @Elaminopy.

Btw, I like the x-files examples. Love that show. Mulder eventually an isfp huh?
Never really thought about it, but I can see it to an extent.

I have an ISTP brother, and he definitely treats his tools as an extension of his own body in the way he cares for them and treats them.
He owns his own remodeling business and takes his craft seriously. It's impressive.

Great read.
 

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Thanx for the well written article @Elaminopy.

Btw, I like the x-files examples. Love that show. Mulder eventually an isfp huh?
Never really thought about it, but I can see it to an extent.

I have an ISTP brother, and he definitely treats his tools as an extension of his own body in the way he cares for them and treats them.
He owns his own remodeling business and takes his craft seriously. It's impressive.

Great read.
I didn't write it. I just copied it from Lenore Thomson's book "Personality Type". Also, I think she was saying Mulder went from INTJ to ISP and didn't specify T or F. She was saying he went from Ni dominant to Ni tertiary. Anyway, thanks for the compliment. :)
 
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