For a lot of people — including some introverts — sadness is something to be avoided at all costs. It’s something holistically unpleasant that detracts value from life and only serves as a barrier to happiness. People of the INFP personality are unique in that they not only find value in sadness but are actually drawn to it.
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INFPs realize that sadness isn’t always a barrier to happiness. In fact, sometimes it can be the most worthwhile way to get there. They’re not the only personality type that understands this, and at times, other types may be drawn to sadness, too. But the INFP’s one-two punch of Introverted Feeling (Fi) and Extroverted Intuition (Ne) makes them especially prone to it, because they both feel intensely and see the big picture. This unique combination gives INFPs a nuanced way of seeing emotions like sadness and grief.
Let’s explore why INFPs are drawn to sadness in themselves and others. Here are four reasons why this personality type values sadness so much.
Why the INFP Is Drawn to Sadness
1. INFPs easily empathize with those who are struggling.
Empathy is one of the INFP’s strong suits. They’re very attentive to their own emotions and those of others. INFPs are fantastic at putting themselves in other people’s shoes, often doing it without consciously thinking about it or being asked. Because of this, they experience a lot of “secondhand sadness,” which sharpens their emotional senses even more.
My roommate often makes fun of me for how often I feel sorry for characters in movies or TV shows who are hurting, even if they’re the villain or have just done something horribly wrong. INFPs aren’t natural fixers, but they are drawn to sadness because they want to help in any way they can — even if it’s as simple as lending a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on, and letting someone know they aren’t alone in their struggle.
2. INFPs see life as one grand story with its ups and downs.
INFPs see life as one big story. They’re the main character of their tale, but their story is but one of many, inextricably intertwined with the life stories of everyone they meet. And every great story has conflict, tension, and eventually, resolution. Any story that contains great highs must have miserable lows. For INFPs, sadness is only part of the story — and usually the part that precedes the joyful resolution.
Sadness means dreams, desires, and passions are present — even if they are momentarily going unfulfilled. Getting to the heart of these pursuits is the best way for an INFP to relate to someone else, even if the other person is in the midst of a sad time. In themselves, INFPs use times of sadness to bring themselves back to their core values and reinforce the morals and beliefs that make them unique and remarkable.
3. Sadness helps us know ourselves and others better.
Sadness helps us learn more about ourselves and others, which is perhaps the biggest reason INFPs value sadness. Personal growth is very important to INFPs, and in times of sadness, people return to their values and are forced to grow.
My first stint in college ended abruptly, and the months that followed were filled with a lot of confusion and uncertainty. I wasn’t sure if the computer science degree I’d been pursuing was even what I wanted to do, or whether the school I was attending would offer the kind of opportunities I needed. That summer also contained the heartbreak of losing a few relationships with people I’d treasured for years. All of this uncertainty and loss threw me into a time of misery and forced me to return to my identity like never before — and attempt to grow.
Realizing that a lot of my unhappiness stemmed from straying away from what was fundamentally important to me helped me return to those core beliefs that INFPs desperately need to remain in touch with. I knew I needed to search for a career and a school that would allow me to make the most of my values and build new kinds of relationships. These redirections never would have happened without those months of almost unbearable sadness.
INFPs can see how sadness has changed their own lives, so naturally they assume that everyone has these same stories. They’re drawn to sadness because they realize that even though they feel miserable in the moment, it’s going to change their life somehow. INFPs enjoy supporting others through times of sadness because they are no strangers to loneliness themselves. They believe that a person can emerge from a time of sadness even more beautiful than they already were — especially if they have someone to walk beside them.
Some personality types, especially those that rely heavily on Extroverted Feeling, might be discouraged by a friend in sadness. The burden might be too heavy for them to bear, or they feel frustrated that they can’t quickly cheer up the other person. For INFPs, walking with someone through pain and sadness can be one of the most fulfilling moments of a relationship. Nothing fulfills an INFP more than knowing they played even a small part in helping someone grow.
4. Optimistic and idealistic, INFPs have hope even amidst sadness.
INFPs tend to be optimists. So it may seem counterintuitive: Why would an optimist appreciate sadness? An INFP’s optimistic and idealistic nature doesn’t steer them away from anything unhappy, rather, it steers them away from complete despair and hopelessness. Even when they or someone they know is going through a rough time, many INFPs retain a strong underlying belief that things are going to end up the way they should, giving them hope even amidst sadness.
Their emotional intensity often means that when INFPs get low, they sink very deep. They can do this because they believe that ultimately there is a path out. They can step down with a friend going through a hard time because they believe that someday both of them will return to the surface.
We don’t need to completely avoid sadness. It’s a piece of life that can lead to hope, growth, and a greater understanding of the world inside our mind and the one around us. The INFP’s emotional intensity is definitely an oddity in the world today, but avoiding sadness isn’t nearly as fulfilling as finding the beauty in it.
More INFP Resources
- 19 Signs That You’re an INFP, the Most Idealistic Personality Type
- 12 Secrets of the INFP Personality Type
- How to Recognize an INFP Personality Type
- 12 Things INFPs Absolutely Need to Be Happy
- 7 Difficult Things About Being an INFP
- The Morning Routine of an INFP
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