Let’s take a look at how we perceive our own functions.
Think of it like this: You are in a swimming pool and your first or “dominant” function (In the INFP’s case, introverted feeling) is the water. It’s everywhere. It’s what you do without thinking about it. It’s your natural first impulse to every situation—it comes to you so naturally that you may not even notice yourself using it.
Extroverted intuition (known as your auxiliary function) is like the ladder, or the waterslide. To an extent, you can choose to use it or not use it. You are very aware of its presence. You can’t make it go away, but you can temporarily ignore it. You have to swim through the water to get there.
Your third and fourth functions—or your “tertiary” and “inferior” functions (introverted sensing and extroverted thinking, respectively, for the INFP)—are less accessible to you, as you may not fully develop them until you are nearing middle age. When you’re younger, your tertiary and inferior functions are primarily called upon when you are under stress. If you started drowning in the water, your tertiary and inferior functions would be the life raft that you cling to. Eventually, you can integrate them to become pool toys that you use on a regular basis. Once you’ve done this, you will finally have a well-balanced, relaxing pool experience. We can also refer to this as type actualization.
Your cognitive functions develop in chronological order, as you age. In the following chapters we will take a look at when each function begins to mature and take on a more significant role in the INFP’s brain. In the meantime, however, it’s important to examine the unique relationships our functions have with each other.
Though introverted feeling and extroverted intuition are the most dominant functions in the INFP’s brain, they are surprisingly independent of one another. Think of introverted feeling and extroverted intuition as a married couple— they interact a great deal and have learned to complement one another, but there is no inherent blood relationship between them.
Where there is a close, mutual relation is between the two judging functions and the two perceptive functions. Extroverted Thinking is like Introverted Feeling’s biological child and Introverted Sensing is like Extroverted Intuition’s biological child. Everything introverted feeling does affects and is noticed by extroverted thinking. Everything extroverted intuition does affects and is noticed by introverted sensing.
While Introverted Feeling is processing the INFP’s feelings about a given situation, Extroverted Thinking is formulating a tangible plan to help the INFP achieve their desires.
While Extroverted Intuition is exploring and engaging new ideas or plans for the future, Introverted Sensing is tagging along in the background, making connections between what Extroverted Intuition is currently suggesting and what has worked well in similar situations in the past.
Eventually, Si and Te will mature and push back against their parent functions. Te might tell Fi, “Your feelings aren’t particularly important in this situation—we ought to put them aside for the time being.” Si might tell Ne, “You tried this before and it certainly didn’t work out—let’s not try it again.” Other times, Te and Si will subtly manipulate their parents into making the decisions they want, without their parents’ noticing or resisting.
The maturation of their tertiary and inferior functions will allow the INFP to become a well-rounded individual. But at the end of the day, introverted feeling and extroverted intuition will always be the main functions in charge of the INFP’s brain—and they will consequently always be the functions that the INFP ends up trusting the most.