How Do Feelers Feel Their Feelings? Fe Versus Fi Explained

If you find yourself here on Truity reading articles and dipping your toes into the wonderful world of personality theory, chances are you have at least a cursory understanding of the Myers-Briggs personality model. I sometimes find myself reading social situations and attempting to understand others through the tenets of personality theory. I doubt I’m alone in this activity!

Imagine my surprise when I, in a family chock full of Feelers, find significant differences in how some “feel their feelings.”

A Quick Education

An explanation in subtle personality differences comes from understanding cognitive stacking, which looks at the order in which you engage your cognitive functions. Everyone uses a stack of four cognitive functions (out of a potential eight). Two are considered “introverted” while the other two are “extraverted”. When discussing cognitive stacking, the terms “introverted” and “extraverted” refer to whether the function is oriented towards the outer world (extraverted) or the inner realm of introspection (introverted). Regardless of whether you rank as an extravert or an introvert on the Myers-Briggs scale, you have two extraverted functions that deal with the outward, physical world, and two introverted functions that turn inward.

Now, back to the Feelers. Taking our quick education on cognitive stacking into account, this means that Feelers are split into two camps. Extraverted Feelers (Fe) and introverted Feelers (Fi). Here’s the basic difference: Fi weighs inner life and feeling before considering the outward repercussions, whereas Fe tends to make decisions based the outward environment and how their feelings will affect their physical world.

It is important to note that each Feeler will consider their inner feelings as well as their physical world. The difference between the two types of Feelers is merely which orientation is considered first and holds more weight when making decisions.

Which One Takes the Cake?

There are a few differences between the Fe and the Fi. But the major one is who puts the most emphasis on harmony.

Extraverted Feelers are more concerned with keeping connection and harmony in their environment. The Fe will take into account what is good for their family, their co-workers or whatever group they find themselves in before considering what is good for them personally. If the group is happy, the Fe is happy. Wanting to keep more connection with their environment and the people that surround them, extraverted Feelers are more likely to swallow their feelings on a matter to maintain peace. They will be the ones who agree to take on too much or endure an uncomfortable situation given it provides peace for everyone else.

Introverted Feelers focus first on being true to their authentic selves, thus maintaining inner harmony. The Fi categorizes new experiences into an internal framework of their moral principles. They are more likely to make a controversial choice given they are being true to themselves. It often does not matter who stands in their way. The Fi feels they must first be happy in order to contribute to a happier whole.

Story Time!

From the angle of personality theory, I married someone who is my opposite in almost every way. He is an ISFJ, I am an ENFP. When we started dating I figured, “well, at least we have one letter in common. We are both Feelers!” What I didn’t realize was that my dear, sweet husband prefers the extraverted Feeling trait while I am a hardcore introverted Feeler. Imagine my surprise when a disagreement would arise and I would appeal to our common ground of Feeling only to find that we considered completely opposite aspects of the situation.

In recent years, this manifested in the course of a career change. We both saw a need for Husband Dear to find a new path. I was ecstatic. Self-exploration mode is my jam! I busted out the personality theory and began conversations to cross-reference his internal principles with potential jobs. There was just one hitch -- how he processes information. Husband Dear began by considering what our family, his group, needed before jumping into my end of the introspection pool. In the end, he found something that satisfied both the good of our group (the preference of extraverted Feeling) and following his heart and passions (the preference of introverted Feeling).

As Feelers, we often consider both. It’s just about where you start.

What’s the Point?

Why is this distinction important to understand? It provides further understanding for yourself and others you interact with.

When your Feeler child indignantly insists on wearing that ridiculous outfit, what’s their angle? If you know their personality type and cognitive stack, you can clue in to whether or not they are motivated by their peer group or if they have some strong internal reason for questionable fashion. When your in-laws are visiting for the holidays and that inevitable, irksome comment is made, take a step back and consider whether personality theory and cognitive stacking can help bridge the gap. When you are at a personal crossroad, understanding whether or not you are an Fi or Fe can inform you where to begin to make your best decision.

Keep in mind this distinction is specifically for those who identify as a Feeler. Learning more about the approach of cognitive stacking opens new avenues of understanding into personality theory. This one distinction between introverted feeling and extraverted feeling is the honest tip of a monstrous - and exciting! - iceberg.

What other subtle personality differences have you noticed in your interactions with others?

Kim Jacobson

Found at the crossroad of whimsy and zeal, Kim is a quirky ENFP with a random sense of humor. She lives a wonderfully chaotic life with her ISFJ husband and two tiny humans.

Comments

Daniel E (not verified) says...

Over the years I have worked with & been involved in many different profiling assessments. In practical transactions & working together, I have always dismissed the finding that someone is this or that type or demonstrates this or that trait. While some have mastered the art of recognizing these traits & employing that understanding to work with similar or contrasting traits, types & styles, I must admit that when I need to get from Point A to Point B, "we " are going to get there as quickly & efficiently as possible, whether that person appreciates the assignment or not. If not, they are generally not invited back onto the Work Team.

Kim Jacobson says...

Sounds like you're an effective leader! Understanding another's inclinations can be a valuable asset, especially in a work environment. 

Daniel E (not verified) says...

Just as long as those "inclinations" do not interfere with progress toward a specified goal. So, when someone is Fi-ing or Fe-ing the scenario into a distraction for the Team, move on; the types are stacked in manner that may not align with with the Team's focus. 

Guest (not verified) says...

Great insight! Though didnt you say you were the extraverted and your husband the introvereted?

JAY (not verified) says...

Yeah...that was me. Did I miss something? So does that mean you can be an E and have introverted feeling? 

Richard B (not verified) says...

Yes. In fact, what the E and I in your type really shows is whether your dominant function (Feeling, Thinking, etc.) is extroverted or introverted.

Also, a little tip - every type with Te (Extroverted Thinking) in their stack has Fi, meaning all FPs and TJs have Introverted Feeling. Just to show you each type's stack:

INFP: Fi/Ne/Si/Te
ENFP: Ne/Fi/Te/Si
ISFP: Fi/Se/Ni/Te
ESFP: Se/Fi/Te/Ni

ESTJ: Te/Si/Ne/Fi
ISTJ: Si/Te/Fi/Ne
ENTJ: Te/Ni/Se/Fi
INTJ: Ni/Te/Fi/Se

Kim Jacobson says...

Richard B. takes the cake! That's exactly right! Thanks for such a great explanation! 

 

Seth Miller (not verified) says...

Richard. I've read and re-read you explaination about 18 times trying to understand what you a saying because I want to understand. But I just don't get it. I'm an INTJ but I have Fi and Se? I'm just not understanding the "math".

Richard B (not verified) says...

Hi Seth, I'll try to break it down a bit further, and I really do think this will make MBTI way easier to grasp.

The N/S in your type indicates whether you prefer to use Intuition or Sensing.
The F/T in your type points to whether you prefer to use Feeling or Thinking.

So now, straight off the bat, we know that any NT and NT type's first functions will be Thinking and Intuition.

Now, we need to figure out two things: 1) which one of those two is the extroverted function (the introverted one will simply be the other option); and 2) what order do they go in?

As I said earlier, the E/I in your type tells us whether your dominant function is Extroverted or Introverted. So INT types either have Ni/Te or Ti/Ne. 

This is where the P/J distinction comes into play - the P/J in your type points to whether your most preferred extroverted function is Perception (N/S) or Judging (T/F). So for an INTJ , your most preferred extroverted function is Thinking - thus your first two functions are Ni/Te. 

What you may not notice until you see it written out, is that this means the J switches all functions around. So even though you have all the letters in common with an INTP, you actually share no functions with each other:

INTJ: Ni/Te/Fi/Se
INTP: Ti/Ne/Si/Fe

Everyone has four functions, but if you look back in my earlier comment then you'll see that in every case the first two functions (so for you Ni and Te) are a mirror image of the last two functions (Fi and Se). This means you can work out any type from their first two preferred functions.

So for me, an ENFP, my first two functions are Ne and Fi. But since I have Ne and Fi in 1st and 2nd place, by definition my 3rd and 4th place will be Te and Si (mirror image). And of course, this works the other way round.

 

I hope this helps, let me know if you have any more questions. 

 

Guest (not verified) says...

Hi Richard,

Your explanation does clarify some points and personalityhacker.com clarifies even more.

Though, I'm not sure I agree with you statement that INTJ's and INTP's share no functions with each other (unless I misunderstood what you mean ;).

As Dr. Kiersey in Please Understand Me explains that all NT's are Rationals and share core characteristics. Here is an excerpt from their website:

Although all Rationals share core characteristics, not all of them are the same. In Keirsey's observations, he noted that there were four kinds of Rationals. They are: the Rational Fieldmarshal (ENTJ), Rational Mastermind (INTJ), Rational Inventor (ENTP), and Rational Architect (INTP). 

 

Seth Miller (not verified) says...

Thank you Richard! Its starting to make sense now. I am now going to give your reply a second (and likely third) read through to make sure I fully get it. I really appriceate the expanded explanation.

Kim Jacobson says...

Beautifully explained! I hopped on and started mentally formulating a response when I saw yours. Thorough and sound. Nicely done! 

AnneM (not verified) says...

Yes, every personality type is both introverted and extroverted. The difference is which cognitive function is primary and which is secondary.  In this example, an ENFP  uses extroverted intuition as the primary cognitive function. Therefore, they are considered an extrovert. However, the ENFP uses introverted feeling as their secondary cognitive function.  So, the ENP’s feeling cognitive function is introverted and secondary. Likewise, the ISFJ uses introverted sensing as their primary function, and extroverted feeling as their secondary function. So they are considered an introvert, but they’re feeling function is secondary and extroverted. Hope this makes sense. Check out personalityhacker.com and look at their car model to understand more fully. 

Kim Jacobson says...

The car model is a GREAT resource when discussing cognitive stacking. Thanks for sharing! 

Dr. Lorin Card (not verified) says...

Thank you for a very interesting and spot on series.  I am in the 3% group of ENFJ and now it makes perfect sense why I tow a party line as dumb as it may sometimes make me look instead of being gregarious AF and not caring how it looks externally.  And why I'm an E dominant instead of an I dominant.  Can you also please give us pointers on not appearing weird or getting scammed in public or among our friends?

Kim Jacobson says...

That's a great question! I'll see if I can come up with an article to address those topics :) 

Lori S (not verified) says...

Thanks for the interesting article. The explanations with specific examples were helpful in understanding myself, spouse and kids. I especially liked the example comparing the cognitive stack with questionable fashion.

Kim Jacobson says...

Thank you! That example happened to be my favorite part to write! 

LuAnn S (not verified) says...

Thank you for writing on this topic!  I differ a bit in my perspective in that I think it's whether the feeling component is primary or auxiliary that is the foremost determinant of the feeling component manifesting in the way you very well described.  Like your husband, I too am an ISFJ.  Sensing, which we introvert, is our dominant function and feeling, which we extrovert, is auxiliary.  I VERY MUCH prioritize being true to myself and my internal framework of moral principles, and if that means disharmony in the outer world, then so be it.  For ENFP, intuition, which is extroverted, is dominant, and feeling, which is introverted, is auxiliary. and they too prioritize being true to self.  When I think about my ESFJ and ENFJ friends, who have a dominant feeling function, which they extrovert,  I definitely see that they prioritize connecton and harmony in the environment.  When I think about my INFP friends, who also have a dominant feeling function, which they introvert, I see them prioritize being true to themselves.  So to me, whether feeling is dominant or auxiliary matters first, and THEN whether it's extoverted or introverted, in determining "how feelers feel their feelings."  :-)

Kim Jacobson says...

Hi LuAnn, Thanks for your insight! I imagine this would resonate with many who read here. Thanks for taking the time to explain! 

LuAnn S (not verified) says...

You're welcome, Kim!  Keep on writing!  :-)

 

Pocky (not verified) says...

Thanks for writing this article!  I like how you broke down how IFs think first about their inner world and then the outer - kind of explains why some of my IF friends make really idealistic but impractical decisions they kinda regret later and why EFs can sometimes care way too much about what other people say.

But I'm not entirely sure I agree with you there about Extraverted feelers caring that much about harmony.  I'm an INFJ so if something I deem as morally "bad" is going on I stick my face right into it, regardless of how the party may feel. Sometimes this creates conflict but also very interesting conversations!  But then bc I'm an INFJ maybe I care more about the "truth" then I care about what everyone else wants. But I've also seen ISFJs do the same. I guess maybe EF's are more likely to try to pursuade/push others to do what they believe is right/best for the group?  That persuade/push is what makes me think EFs are more likely to create conflict via setting rules and pushing back in order to achieve what they think will be harmony - even if that is kind of counter intuitive in the end, doh.  

My experience of IF types is that they value harmony (which I define as "no conflicts happening", even if there are problems) so that they are free to pursue their IF desires without anything to get in their way.  This live and let live approach allows everyone to go off and do what they want, kind of the opposite of "group mentality" that EFs value so much! If conflict does get in the way of their personal IF desires then all bets are off and theeeennn nothing much happens except they become passive aggressive/avoidant until you get the truth out of them.

"They will be the ones who agree to take on too much or endure an uncomfortable situation given it provides peace for everyone else."

I feel this line applies more to IF types (but mostly I'm thinking of all FP) because it's a more indirect way of dealing with problems, and the one that causes the least conflict.  I guess I'm coming at this from an angle where I'm thinking about which types are afraid of emotional conflict (I'm guessing IFs) and which types are a bit more okay with it (EFs?).

Kim Jacobson says...

I find this so fascinating! That line you reference ("They will be the ones who agree and take on too much ...") I wrote specifically thinking of the ISFJs in my life! And the ISFJs you've observed in your life behave differently -- so interesting! I love that different circumstances and life experiences can shed different shades of light on personality theory. It brings home the point that personality theory is only a part of what we experience and that there are other forces at play. What I've written here is based off of what I've learned and experienced, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily personality theory gospel! 

I really can't speak for anyone elses internal voice, but for me the introverted feeling I wrote about here is how I operate. I am grateful when advice is given. Generally, unless something said resonates with me, I nod my head, thank the person for their time, and continue down the path I had already set on regardless of fall out. 

You mentioned that you're trying to sort out personality type and emotional conflict. Personally - in the brain of Kim - I believe that dealing with emotional conflict stems more from how you have been nutured rather than your personality nature (that age old nature vs. nurture debate). I'm sure aspects of personality bleed in to this topic, but I believe that our young experiences heavily shape our interactions with each other including how we deal with emotional conflict. 

I love that you're an INFJ! One of my favorite people in my life is an INFJ and what you said about being a seeker of truth and operating off of that moral grounding resonated with what I know about her. I really love your insight and the fact that you took the time to carefully write out your thoughts and feelings. The fact that you're so observant and aware of the people in your life is a great kindness to those you know. 

Questions are good! Keep seeking after that truth and let us know what you find! 

LuAnn S (not verified) says...

I posted earlier about my thoughts that whether the feeling function is dominant or auxiliary seems to me to be a greater determinant of "how feelers feel."  I would have predicted that an INFJ, for whom intuition is dominant and introverted, and feeling auxiliary and extroverted, would prioritize being true to themselves and their framework of moral principles at the expense of harmony in their environment.  It sounds like that is the case for you.  :-)

Here's a link to something I found that may be of further interest, particularly wirh regard to auxiliary (extroverted) feeling in INFJs and ISFJs:

https://www.careerplanner.com/8CognitiveFunctions/Extraverted-Feeling.cfm

LuAnn S (not verified) says...

Update to my most recent post (see the addition at the bottom):

I posted earlier about my thoughts that whether the feeling function is dominant or auxiliary seems to me to be a greater determinant of "how feelers feel."  I would have predicted that an INFJ, for whom intuition is dominant and introverted, and feeling auxiliary and extroverted, would prioritize being true to themselves and their framework of moral principles at the expense of harmony in their environment.  It sounds like that is the case for you.  :-)

Here's a link to something I found that may be of further interest, particularly wirh regard to auxiliary (extroverted) feeling in INFJs and ISFJs:

https://www.careerplanner.com/8CognitiveFunctions/Extraverted-Feeling.cfm

 

Oh...and this too is helpful for this discussion:

https://www.careerplanner.com/8CognitiveFunctions/Introverted-Feeling.cfm

 

My conclusion then, after also considering the information in the above two links, is that with introverted feeling (ENFP, ESFP, INFP, ISFP), regardless of whether it is dominant or auxiliary, the priority will be given to being true to oneself and one's framework of moral principles over external harmony.  With extroverted feeling, there is a difference, depending on whether its dominant or auxiliary.  ENFJ and ESFJ, both dominant feelers, will prioritize external harmony, while INFJ and ISFJ, both auxiliary feelers, will prioritize being true to oneself and their framework of moral principles over external harmony.

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