I’ve never liked the term personality test applied to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Each letter of the MBTI signifies a behavior preference. The letters tell me what I prefer to do, not who I am.
For example, I’m a risk taker. Before I had children, I did many high-risk activities for recreation like rock-climbing and martial arts. Which letter combination of INFPs indicates that I liked doing activities that have risk of physical injury? I’m very social with my friends. My wife and I hold dinner parties every other week. We often invite people we’ve just met in order to get to know them better. Which letters of INFP indicates that I like to be social?
I’ve read many descriptions for INFP. They’re all very flattering, but they’re also very general. Many of those descriptions seem to have some archetypal heading like Healer or Dreamer as if one word could encompass the sum of any one person. I value my ideals but I’m not an Idealist. I’m very pragmatic when it comes to daily living. When I read INFP descriptions, I see the exceptions. I see the parts that apply to some INFPs but not all. I also see parts that could describe anyone not just INFPs.
I think that INFPs are the worst at confusing Role and Identity because that idealistic Extroverted Intuitive (Ne) mental function wants our roles to be our identity. Everyone plays many roles in their life, but we only have one core identity.
In my daily life, I have several roles: father, husband, employee, blogger, friend, etc. Each of those roles requires a certain set of behaviors to be successful in that role. Also, those roles are transient. I haven’t always been a father and sometime in the future, my role as a son will pass away with my parents.
Our Identity or a better term, our Self, is not so fleeting. Our Self is an amalgam of our values and beliefs. Our roles are external manifestations of those values and beliefs.
Some have chosen to make their primary role their identity. Ask any random person the question, “what do you do?” and more than likely the answer will be their role as a income earner, i.e. I’m a maintenance engineer or I own my own business. The danger in closely identifying your Identity/Self with your roles is that roles can be taken away. Your role as an athlete might be arbitrarily taken away by a drunk driver. Your role as a employee might be downsized because of the economy. Your role as a spouse can end with divorce. If we make our Roles our Identity, when those roles are suddenly taken away, we end up “losing ourselves”.
INFPs tend toward depression and it’s not really a big mystery as to why.
It’s about making choices and decisions. I think that’s why INFPs who are extreme Ps are more depressed more often than INFPs who border the J preference. A very clear P preference tends to signal an active Extroverted Intuition (Ne) function which keeps imagining a better life than the one we have. A well-developed Extroverted Thinking (Te) function which moves us towards the J preference balances the Ne idealization by helping us organize, plan and carry out our dreams.
A main cause for unhappiness is that I don’t think INFPs can define “happy” in measurable terms. Happiness is some vague ideal like Truth. It’s the overactive Ne mental function that keeps changing our definitions of happy. It’s hard to achieve a goal that can’t be defined. However, I do feel that most INFPs grow out of that phase as we get older and our Te function gets more developed. Our definitions for happiness become more concrete because we realize we’re running out of time. Unfortunately, the goals we finally set for happiness tend towards unrealistic which starts effecting self-worth.