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I have been intrigued by the INFP processing and personality; in particular, the INFP of Enneagram type 4 (leaving aside wings and tritype for the moment).

One theme which I have heard repeated by many INFP 4s is the need to be understood and valued for who one is "on the inside" conflicting with a sense of privacy and isolation, the feeling that one's inner world is so deep, so rich, so very intense compared to most of the other people the INFP runs into, that the INFP almost despairs of finding someone *capable* of really understanding, of being the long-sought-for soulmate. (I have not heard, but I suspect, that even further down, in a place that the INFP does not willingly share even with *other* INFPs very often, that the INFP has a second conflict: one of accepting the people in the outer world at a deep level, because they can't help being who they are, and if the rich inner world is something they are not equipped with, then the INFP cannot blame them for that; counterbalanced with the terrible temptation to *look down on* the shallow non-INFP types, as though being born shallow is not their fault, but their *continuing to remain shallow* is something that cannot be countenanced.)

What is it, then, that leads the INFP to the conclusion that they are, in some ways, "forever alone" even in crowds, that their vivid, consuming imagination and their deep, set-in-stone values are something which nobody else will ever understand, or even *can* understand? Experience, of course; surely every intuitive, every introspective, has had the experience of trying to relate an insight, a deep thought, a perception, and being either laughed at or ostracized. These kind of rejections teach the lesson very quickly: "You're DIFFERENT. Different is BAD." And so the thought is hammered home: there's NOBODY who will get it."

I think, however, that the problem is often a little more, well, nuanced than this; one of the issues is that the formative social experiences often happen when the INFP is young, when, even though more people are imaginative, and it is in general more acceptable to show imagination, other people as well have not completely grown socially, and often their rejections are not so much intrinsically rejections of the INFP, but are a response of wanting to fit in with the crowd, rather than risk being outsiders themselves. Some people never outgrow this; but others, maybe not fully intuitive, but still more mature, are willing to give "the benefit of the doubt." And, as one grows older, one's social circle broadens; surely there is a greater chance of bumping into a fellow intuitive. (Not to mention the internet.)

There is another problem, besides that of finding the "right person / persons" or "soul-mate" -- and it, like the INFP's inner world, is rather intricate; so I am going to take two or three passes at describing it, and hope that one or the other of them hits the spot.

One way to consider the problem of connecting, for an INFP, is to compare the INFP's personality and needs, to the computer game "Tetris". (Huh? Yes, I know, this sounds like it's coming straight out of the INTJ wishful thinking checklist, but bear with me.) In this computer game, randomly-shaped 2-dimensional blocks fall from the top of the screen toward the bottom. When the first few blocks "land" on the bottom of the screen, they stick, and remain in exactly the orientation they were at at the moment they first landed. Later blocks do the same thing, so that there is a pile of blocks growing from the bottom which will eventually fill up the screen. The player is able to use the controls to rotate a block in midair while it is still falling, and to move it from side to side across the screen; the goal is to have the block land so that it locks or matches exactly, the shape of the block it lands on. If the player manages to maneuver a block so that it *does* lock exactly with another one already on the pile, both the block that just landed, and the one it landed on, flash and then disappear. The goal of course is to get as many "matches" as possible, to keep the pile of blocks from reaching the top of the screen for as long as possible. When the pile *does* reach the top of the screen, the game is over.

Now the way I think this resembles the INFP's search for companionship is this. Imagine the rest of the world as some pile of blocks already strewn along the bottom of the screen in a game of Tetris. The INFP is a block which has just started falling from the top of the screen, and is seeking "connection". But the difficulty the INFP has in connecting with people in the real world is -- the block representing the INFP is so *large* (the expansive mind and imagination, and their huge hidden inner world and heart), that it is impossible for it to completely match or fit any other single block (hence the near-impossibility of "soul-mates" for an INFP) : the only chance at fulfillment is to seek, and to find, another person of similar stature in their spirit. And these are rare -- which is what makes them precious!

(The second issue of course, is that, in addition to being mighty in stature, the heart of the INFP is rich, deep, complex, and textured: so that even if one finds another giant in the inner self, in order to achieve a sastifying match, the intricacy of the two must be congruent: it need not be an "exact" match, but the general contours must align -- and both parties must be mature enough to content themselves with the various smaller-scale bumps, dips, and wrinkles in their nature as they join: not only without blaming the other, but without rejecting *themselves* for 'causing the pain.' And this is hard enough for a single INFP to do, let alone two at once.)

So much for the INTJ language. Let us consider the issue in a more INFP-friendly fashion: that of open questioning, and constantly broadening possibilities, rather than limiting or defining oneself to a narrow point.

As far as the issue of "content" goes, I have been coming to the conclusion that the unique problem of the INFP, even if they *do* wish to open up their inner world, or to communicate affection or romance to another person, faces difficulties of another kind: not the "square peg, round hole" problems of adjusting socially to an outside world run by and for sensors, but a problem of scale. The INFP world is unbelievably, almost infinitely, rich and complex -- and attempting to convey an entire panorama, either a rich, lustrous tapestry or riotous symphonic explosion of thought and mood and feeling, which can be invoked by a single paragraph in a book, or a single block's walk under the stars, seems as unattainable as single handedly building a ladder to reach to the moon out of toothpicks, or as foolish as trying to empty out Lake Superior with a thimble. There's just too much there!
But this, paradoxically, leads back to another social issue. Not only is the INFP inner world deep, it's also complex, closely defined, very intertwined. Even if one could find a friend willing to hear, and somehow manage to convey the *scale* of the emotions and thoughts involved, there remains the problem of detail: how can one ever hope to explore all the ramifications, to chase down every glowing cinder of meaning from the fireworks display continually cascading through the INFP mind and heart? For as you know, no expression is ever *really* finished, there are always loose ends ... not to tie up, as an INTJ would hope, but to follow as well to see where they lead, as in the following poem by J.R.R. Tolkien:

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,

And I must follow,
if I can,

Pursuing it with eager feet,

Until it joins some larger way

Where many paths and errands meet.

And whither then?
I cannot say.


I think, in reality, that the best goal for the INFP may not be to seek a soul-mate, one who "truly understands" but rather a companion, a compatriot, one with whom one is comfortable in seeking and exploring The Road forever -- together, not alone.
 

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INFP 4w5 here. The desire to be truly "seen" or understood is strong with me. I have a great relationship with my INTJ boyfriend of 3 years and am lucky to be with someone who helps in that aspect. His rational demeanor and independent but loving nature makes us great companions. I can have my need for space and autonomy and so can he, but when we come together I do not reject his desire to be compassionate and I help to encourage him expressing his emotions. On the other hand, when losing sight of the big picture he can usually (while slightly annoyed or confused) explain to me why other options may be the option, and not the option I saw as the only option.
 

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One way to consider the problem of connecting, for an INFP, is to compare the INFP's personality and needs, to the computer game "Tetris"...If the player manages to maneuver a block so that it *does* lock exactly with another one already on the pile, both the block that just landed, and the one it landed on, flash and then disappear. The goal of course is to get as many "matches" as possible, to keep the pile of blocks from reaching the top of the screen for as long as possible. When the pile *does* reach the top of the screen, the game is over.
INFP, 4w5

Although not your focus, g_w, the idea of connecting and then disappearing jumped out at me.

I believe that I have experienced an inability of others to handle the scale, that their strength could not long bear the weight.
 
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Your thoughts are on point, though I don't see the need to separate a person who understands from someone who is a companion. If someone completely lacked an understanding of me, I really don't see how they could be a fellow "seeker" in the first place, or vice versa.

I'm married to an ENFJ and we immediately had the deep connection I craved when we met. I don't think he has as rich an inner world as I do, but that's a good thing. I need to be grounded in the real world, as there are moments when I live almost completely in my head. That's not conducive to getting things done.

But, the more fantastical musings I share with him and the strong convictions - he mirrors those. When I bring up anything he hasn't considered, he's more than willing to go along for the ride.

I haven't found that sort of connection, that ability to relate to me, in any other person. He definitely fulfills my need to be understood, because he either feels the same way I do or is willing to question me enough so that he gets the general concept of whatever I'm trying to tell him. No one else shares my ideals to the same extent, or goes out of their way for me like that.

*edit: Regarding enneagram, I'm still unsure if I'm a 4w5 or the other way around (I think I'm leaning toward 5), so I may not be the best to answer.
 

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I'm a 4w3 and this pretty much sums it up. I think part of the reason why I don't make connections very quickly is because I'm still living in a place where difference is... at the very least frowned upon. It's not like strange little small town thing but... It's big enough to feel like you can be different, but small enough to know you can't. And I've been different since I was born. I kind of feel like even if I make a connection... I'll end up saying too much about myself and then get a reaction like "oh that's....nice..." and then I'll feel awkward and it'll just go down the tubes from there. I also don't make connections well because whenever my mood switches... my personality can kind of switch and I really don't have much control over how I act when I'm depressed or angry. It's not that I do stupid things but... I can't control the way I project myself when I'm feeling that way. I used to be able to but then I stopped caring about it and it's frustrating for people to be around that.

Moreover, and this is more about fitting in than anything, I'm the only INFP I know besides like my mom who I think is actually an INFJ sometimes. Nobody (and I do mean nobody) understands what it's like to have this entire universe bottled up inside that I go to when I don't want to see reality anymore. Nobody I'm around understands my INFP-isms and they think I'm freaking weird when I do go there and say something very INFP-ish. It's hard to have all of this angst built up about wanting to share something and wanting to let people into my world but not being able to because I know that they'll judge it. Even if they're nice about it...it still feels like I'm the idiot and they're the ones sitting there like "Oh you poor dizzy dreamer. You'll never make it in the real world." It's a vicious cycle of wanting to make a connection, making the connection, then regretting the connection because they couldn't comprehend my world and it changed their perception of me.
 

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Your tetris metaphor reminded me of this xkcd comic which in all seriousness is how I tend to see myself and fitting in with others.

I guess overall I'm a little confused by the general gist of your post, good though it is. So I have a question: what do you mean by a companion as opposed to a soul-mate? What do you see the difference as? Is it a different kind of personality, or merely a different way of seeking what may be the same?
Is one less or more than the other? Should I stop looking for something? I don't quite understand this. I guess my tired 3am mind can't read into what isn't explicit, so that is my fault. I'll read this again tomorrow and probably glean more from it.

I have my idealised concept of a partner as I expect do many, and I would not see them as one without the other; with anyone I would want to be both reinforced by them but also to grow from them. I would not ever want to stop looking for that ideal connection though, and why would I? Can my companion not have it too? Even though I know this is impractical to an absolute degree; individual differences even in same type relationships realistically prevent this. There will always be misunderstanding, in varying types and degrees; I see the difference in type-to-type relationships more on the nature of what one must learn from the other rather than whether one needs to learn or change at all. That's why the ideal is always malleable round the edges.

Mutual understanding creates its own problems. Although personally I really think I need that strong Fi-based mutual understanding in a partner, which I think is more specific to me and my life than INFPs in general (although I'm sure many end up disappointed in a sense when they cannot find that inner-world reinforcement from many others), so that's what I will always look for to my own concept of fulfilment, and it doesn't make sense to limit the ideal or to define it too explicitly either.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
@ATLeow -- here's my best stab at it...

Your tetris metaphor reminded me of this xkcd comic which in all seriousness is how I tend to see myself and fitting in with others.
That. was. painful. (TM)

I guess overall I'm a little confused by the general gist of your post, good though it is. So I have a question: what do you mean by a companion as opposed to a soul-mate? What do you see the difference as? Is it a different kind of personality, or merely a different way of seeking what may be the same?
Is one less or more than the other? Should I stop looking for something? I don't quite understand this. I guess my tired 3am mind can't read into what isn't explicit, so that is my fault. I'll read this again tomorrow and probably glean more from it.
Soulmate==long heartfelt union gazing into one another's eyes, complete each other's sentences, see/feel the EXACT SAME when presented with a poem, a song, a piece of art, etc.
Obviously, since INFPs are *so* internally-directed, and so, well, uniquely honed, that isn't going to happen; maybe in rare cases you get a good approximation.
The next best is someone who is attracted to the same things, and for similar, or at least non-clashing, well-fitting-together reasons.
I think some INFP-INFP pairs might be like this.
The next best, and I think "statistically" most likely, is an INFP - (insert your choice here, say ENFJ, INTJ, INTP?, whomever...);
where either the extroverted intuition of the INFP clicks with the introverted intuition of the INTJ (I'm an INTJ, so I'll stick with that as an example), and they feed off of each other's randomness, each one intrigued and yet fed by the relative strangeness of the other: but where the values or life goals are congruent, or they feed off of one anothers' deep authenticity, and use each other as a sounding board for their own blind spots, or act as each other's seeing-eye dog.
I have my idealised concept of a partner as I expect do many, and I would not see them as one without the other; with anyone I would want to be both reinforced by them but also to grow from them. I would not ever want to stop looking for that ideal connection though, and why would I? Can my companion not have it too? Even though I know this is impractical to an absolute degree; individual differences even in same type relationships realistically prevent this. There will always be misunderstanding, in varying types and degrees; I see the difference in type-to-type relationships more on the nature of what one must learn from the other rather than whether one needs to learn or change at all. That's why the ideal is always malleable round the edges.
Agreed completely -- but sometimes, paradoxically (as you pointed out, but I *think* without realizing you had said it !) -- the best soulmate is not someone who agrees with us completely, but someone who challenges us to think and feel and live and move and breathe and experience and GROW. (I know from long life experience, being married 27 years -- that the best person to spend your life with, is someone who encourages you to build on your strengths and to overcome your weaknesses.) And in the process of thinking and feeling and living and all those things, you discover more of life together than you would have on your own: and because the natural appetencies and interests of the INFP and INTJ are somewhat divergent, if you travel the road of life in tandem with the other, you will naturally (as you seek to be close to them) be exposed to things outside of your normal glide path: and in conjunction with a natural guide to open the new interests up to you.

Mutual understanding creates its own problems. Although personally I really think I need that strong Fi-based mutual understanding in a partner, which I think is more specific to me and my life than INFPs in general (although I'm sure many end up disappointed in a sense when they cannot find that inner-world reinforcement from many others), so that's what I will always look for to my own concept of fulfilment, and it doesn't make sense to limit the ideal or to define it too explicitly either.
As I wrote in this thread, http://personalitycafe.com/infp-for...nship-questions-come-chat-32.html#post4355786

"[The INTJ] radar can pick up the intense [INFP] dreaminess and it is fascinating and beautiful and compelling to the deeply buried INTJ Fi ; and at times the [INTJ's] Ni can arc across and trade intensity with the [INFP's] Fi, while the INTJ Te sagely acknowledges and approves the noble ardor, intricate order, and kiss-of-cold-steel of the INTENSE INFP values."
 

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I think, in reality, that the best goal for the INFP may not be to seek a soul-mate, one who "truly understands" but rather a companion, a compatriot, one with whom one is comfortable in seeking and exploring The Road forever -- together, not alone.
Infp's need to keep searching for that 'soul mate', someone who 'truly understands', it is their 'Road'.
Their ideals need to be of utmost importance to them. Ideals create an infp's world, which will come crashing down when they're forced to sacrifice those ideals. After being continually disappointed, frustrated and misunderstood by the outer world, they are then forced within themselves. Which is where they will find the missing 'blocks' that they've been searching for. They don't need to be understood, they need to understand themselves. But they need to believe that they're completely and utterly alone, with nobody to turn to, before they can do this. Then they can find the missing piece and they can grow.
 
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