Can you change MBTI personality types in your lifetime? Am I an ENFP or an INFP, really? ENFPs often feel like they are INFPs. The opposite just… never happens. How do cognitive functions – which are at the basis of our MBTI type – develop since the day we’re born? Were ENFPs born in roses or sprouts? So many questions… But let’s focus on the process of developing one’s cognitive functions from birth to old age, with a focus on ENFPs. What is the genesis of an ENFP? If Michelle Obama wrote Becoming, shall I write Becoming an ENFP? Because this is an ENFP’s blog, man. And women. And non-binary people. Is everyone being treated equally on this blog? I HOPE SO!
(If you have absolutely no idea what we’re talking about, my writing style might be confusing, or maybe you should check out this article!)
Let’s jump right into it… After a short disclaimer break.
Disclaimer: This blog post is the result of my readings (Myers-Briggs’s Gifts Differing, CG Jung’s work (not all of it), other books on psychology and psychoanalysis *404 cannot be bothered to write a 15-year long bibliography*, blogs). It’s also based on “fieldwork”: talking to my ENFP pals, and my own experience and reflection. This article doesn’t pretend to be anything else but what it is: a blog post. I hope you enjoy it!
At the beginning, there were two... Cognitive functions
As a child, the potential for our four functions is already present. But we start by gradually making clearer and clearer use of our main function, and our secondary function. One to perceive the world, the other one to make decisions. For an ENFP and for INFPs, we’re talking about Extraverted Intuition (Ne) and Introvert Feeling (Fi). So when does an ENFP become an ENFP, if we start at the same point as INFPs?
The ENFP/INFP potential: Extraverted Intuition and Introverted Feeling
Depending on one’s environment, one’s culture, one’s education and family, depending on everything that has an impact on one’s mind, we will develop one of these two functions more. As a consequence, a child will rely more on either their Extraverted Intuition and become an ENFP, or on their Introverted Feeling function and become an INFP.
This is how an ENFP is born… or a little INFP – we love them, too, dearly!
So it seems like at the beginning there is the potential for any ENFP to be an INFP and vice-versa. Is it true? Is that a thing?
“A penny for my thoughts?” All righty then! Here’s what I believe…
Are you born an ENFP or an INFP?
Our cognitive functions determine how we process information and make decisions. Are they already determined at birth?
But you’ve just said that it depended on one’s environment!
OK, OK, I will explain myself.
I’m not going to write an article on children’s psyche. Maybe someday, when I have the legitimacy to… But according to the knowledge I have gathered until now, it seems like children show a preference for introversion or extraversion very early on. Extraversion and introversion (as behaviors) are the consequences of the expression of one’s cognitive functions. ENFPs come out as mostly extraverted because their favorite function is extraverted (intuition). INFPs come out as introverts because their main function is introverted (feeling).
You got it.
But how do you explain when people change, then? Like your cousin, Paul, who used to be such an introvert but all of a sudden he’s become quite an extravert.
It is about the environment, yes. But, there’s a twist. One’s environment plays a huge role not only in the development of one’s functions – whether you develop them in a balanced way or not. But it also impacts how you express them – freely or not. This is what I’ve seen and experienced. This is the truth, you’ve read it on the internet, OK?
So you can be an ENFP but not being able to express your Extraverted Intuition safely, which can make you act like an INFP.
Let’s look at a concrete example to illustrate this.
What happens when an ENFP child acts like an INFP?
How did we get to this? 🎤
What kind of environment can impact an ENFP child's behavior?
Let’s consider that we’re born a certain type, and that we slowly develop our cognitive functions throughout our lifetime.
Our environment impacts what kind of information we have access to and how we make decisions.
So, in what environment will an ENFP child grow up to act like an INFP?
Two instances that can summarize a lot of situations:
- An ENFP grows up in a “judging” home where the figures of authority (parents, siblings, any role models…) are “J” types and share their razor-sharp opinions on everything and everyone.
- An ENFP grows up in a “Sensing/Thinking” environment, where neither the ENFP’s way of perceiving the world will be recognized as valid, nor their way of making decisions.
How can the judgment of authority figures affect the development of an ENFP’s cognitive functions? To understand this, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of an ENFP child.
Let's dive into the mind of an ENFP child
As a child, the ENFP is still developing Extraverted Intuition and Introverted Feeling. The ENFP child can’t rely on Extraverted Thinking and Introverted Sensing to balance out their judgment and behavior; Although the functions are there but underdeveloped. An ENFP child might be able to sporadically access function 3 and 4 but not fully rely on them.
So, what will occur in an ENFP child’s mind will be mainly the expression of Extraverted Intuition and Introverted Feeling.
How does an ENFP child express their Extraverted Intuition?
- a child who loves to explore new ideas and as a result might talk nonsense (in order to literally explore every possibility, including ones that don’t make any sense).
- a very imaginative child, who expresses their imagination through making-up stories and games.
- a child who will share their fantasies and other ideas they’ve randomly discovered (in films, songs, things they’ve heard from their family or at school). They can share them not just by talking about them but also by performing them. Putting on shows for their parents, playing dress-up, drawing, singing…
- Their imagination shows up in energetic spurs, as Extraverted Intuition is stimulated by its surroundings and by new findings. Which will make them randomly energetic and passionate about certain things, to then seem to lose interest when they’ve found a new idea to focus on.
These behaviors are not all specific to ENFP children only of course, but they are ways to channel Extraverted Intuition.
A little aside on Extraversion
Let’s be clear: extraversion (also commonly spelled in a phonetic way “extroversion”) means being stimulated by external sources. It’s like the need to find inspiration outside. Extraversion translates into different behaviors such as the need to share, to externalize what stimulates you. But first and foremost, it is the need to meet the outside world (whether concrete or abstract) in order to be gain stimulation and energy. The examples stated above concerning Extraverted Intuition answer those principles.
NB: Extraversion doesn’t mean “being dependent on people/being sociable”. “People” can be a source of external stimulation, but they’re not the only one that exists. People may not be an extrovert’s favorite source of stimulation. As we will actually see below. Extraversion means being focused outward and energized by external factors. Don’t automatically associate the word extravert with people-friendly. Else, you’re taking a shortcut which can lead to wrong conclusions.
Update: I have written here a full article on Introversion and Extraversion to finally understand what those two words truly mean.
The ENFP child's Introverted Feeling function
Introverted functions are difficult to observe as, as opposed to extraverted functions, they are focused inward and originate from within. Wuuuh, much secret! Very mysterious!
Examples of the expression of Introverted Feeling in an ENFP child’s mind:
- An ENFP child will not forgive “judging” types for not supporting their “extravagant” ideas (generated by Extraverted Intuition). Introverted Feeling will “decide” that judging types are going against their values – such as exploring new ideas, the freedom of not making any sense, and being eccentric. As a consequence, they will feel defensive about sharing anything generated by their Extraverted Intuition in front of judging types.
- Introverted Feelers have very deep and strong inner values. And again, they will be hurt when they’re being judged for feeling deeply about something they consider is worth a lot, despite what harsher judgers might think.
- The ENFP child will be stressed out by disharmony and by being confronted with people’s judgments. To remedy the situation, they may act as people-pleaser. They will treat people the way they want to be treated: nicely, taking in all the aggressiveness of confrontations and arguments. As a result, they will mostly come across as mellow, nice introverted people.
- Another consequence will be that young ENFPs – in front of harsh judgers or role-models who don’t value Extraverted Intuition – will hide that they’re hurt by other people’s judgments. They will do this again to safeguard harmony. As children, most of them will accept (or at least pretend to accept) what their role-models impose on them as “normal“.
As you can see, if Extraverted Intuition is toned down and Introverted Feeling takes a prominent place in the cognitive process, the ENFP child will not really look, sound, act like an ENFP but rather like an INFP.
Why would an ENFP overdevelop Introverted Feeling?
ENFPs don't like judgement...
You’ve read it on other blogs and websites. ENFPs dislike criticisms. Not because they can’t bear the truth, they’re too weak or they don’t want to grow up (I mean, it can happen but…) but because:
- ENFPs rarely judge/stop their decisions on something unless they need a decision to move forward or they feel very deeply about something. They’re the times when their Introverted Feeling function wakes up to say “No, this is not right” or “Yes, this feels right!” in an ENFP’s little head.
- Being in a judgy environment is draining to most ENFPs. ENFPs don’t understand why other people might pass judgments so easily and it tires them out.
- To add to this, Extraverted Intuition, as an extraverted perceiving function, is by definition open to discovery. It feeds on novelty and on openness. Judging types are introverted perceivers, and by definition an introverted process wants to reduce all the possibilities to only one, to fit the individual’s truth.
You're not an INFP, you're an ENFP reacting to a certain environment
Being denied the right to explore new ideas for an ENFP is the opposite of growth. Whether this takes place in an overly judging home or in an XSTX home. It’s an attack on their way of apprehending the world. It can be depressing – literally, it will de-press the soul, pressing it down and so it cannot grow.
So in a “judging” family or in any environment where the ENFP’s main functions won’t feel legitimate, as in an xSTx family (*)…
- The ENFP child will be bound to tone down their Extraverted Intuition.
- And, on the other hand, they will be bound to compensate and “over” develop their Introverted Feeling function; because they’re going to be under the fire of their family’s judgment.
The ENFP child will have to constantly wonder “how do I feel about this lecture my brother just gave me? Is this right? Is this wrong? How do I feel about this criticism from my father? Why can’t people do what they like? Why can’t I do things that don’t hurt anyone, just because my mother thinks it’s “not proper”? Is this normal? Is this right?”. Instead of jumping from one idea, one concept to the other; which would inspire them and help them grow, feeling free and understood.
(*) There can be other situations but obviously, I’m focusing on MBTI-related cases.
The positive and negative aspects of "over"-developing Introverted Feeling
Now, there is a silver lining to overdeveloping your favorite judging function as an ENFP:
- Extraverted Intuition can get you all over the place. Developing your judging function as an ENFP is imperative to becoming a well-balanced person and to learn how to make good calls.
The negative aspect of it is:
- The ENFP child is repressing a side of themselves, and although in acting like an INFP they still develop their Extraverted Intuition, the latter might backfire. When the soul calls, you can’t escape it.
And that’s often when people realize that “a person has changed”; When a cognitive function backfires and all of a sudden the repressed ENFP reveals their true nature and lets their eccentric Extraverted Intuition show.
You can't change MBTI types
Your state of mind shows in your MBTI results
Let’s talk about the MBTI as a test. It is the reflection of your state of mind at a certain moment, the one when you are taking the test. So if you are repressing a function when taking the test, you won’t score your real type. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator can only indicate what you think you are at the moment you’re taking it. That’s why it’s only an “indicator” and not the absolute truth, neither about your identity, nor about your personality, but not even about your Myers-Briggs type. That’s why the results are normally discussed afterwards with an expert.
In a future article, I will discuss further why people are often mistyped. So, stay tuned! You can subscribe below 🙂
Changing types? More like repressing certain cognitive functions
So there is no such thing as changing types over the course of a lifetime. Unless you consider that repressing a function and appearing to be what you aren’t equals being another type (say what?). In a sense, an ENFP who unconsciously represses their first function will genuinely feel like an INFP. However, they are unconsciously waiting to let that Extraverted Intuition shine. So I believe that makes them ENFPs.
What’s the point of all this?
Embrace your type, embrace your ENFP-ness
Balance and coherence in the mind
Your type is not your identity, so why care so much? The MBTI is a great tool for understanding yourself better and with the example explained above, the Myers-Briggs theory reveals mechanisms that show that our ENFP child is not OK. An ENFP acting like an INFP, whether they’re a child or not, is not in the right environment to grow.
The purpose of analytical psychology is individuation, becoming your true self. And the MBTI can be used as a tool to achieve this. The Myers-Briggs theory helps you put words on certain processes that make you who you are. So let them cognitive functions of yours shine! Be an ENFP if you are one. Don’t restrain who you are to fit into your environment. Change your situation to be where you can thrive as much as possible.
In other words, we are born one type that we are supposed to cultivate and grow. Our cognitive functions are a way for our unconscious to express itself. So, repressing one function means not wanting to listen to yourself, not letting yourself be who you truly are.
You’re not an INFP if you are a repressed ENFP.
Earlier, I said “in our case”, does it mean there are cases when people change types over the courses of their lives? I believe that people repress certain functions depending on their environment, depending on the events they’re going through. So, what I really mean is that people can appear to change types because they’re not fully expressing their type at certain moments in their lives. Or, on the other hand, they might actually be further developing their functions, which can make them appear different (for the better!).
Truly developing your leading function
To finish with the example of the ENFP child acting like an INFP: There will be a time (hopefully) in this person’s life when their Extraverted Intuition will finally be validated by the external world. That’s when they will feel like they can express it freely, let it be! Shall I dare say it?
Cognitive functions evolve with time. They also change and deepen with the development of other functions. As I mentioned above, Introverted Feeling keeps Extraverted Intuition in check so that the ENFP doesn’t become a flaky-I-can’t-deal-with-any-planning-at-all or I-never-finish-anything kind of person.
This hypothetical ENFP child acting like an INFP could meet really extraverted friends at some point who will encourage the ENFP to show their true colors and…
… the magic will happen. And over time, the ENFP will come to terms with using Extraverted Intuition more than Introverted Feeling and be their real selves.
Hopefully, this happens in a “safe” environment, where Extraverted Intuition is used for the purpose of self-growth and not overindulging in daydreaming… or something else. The possibilities are endless, peops. Don’t make me name them.
Another bad scenario would be to constantly bypass Extraverted Intuition and to diminish its values in the eyes of the ENFP. This could lead to self-esteem issues, depression and potentially other mental health-related issues. We will talk about this in a future article.
Conclusion: your cognitive development impacts your MBTI results
In conclusion, it can seem like one can change types throughout a lifetime, but it is actually the manifestation of one’s cognitive development.
You are not an INFP. You are an ENFP. How you use your cognitive functions changes as you grow up, as you grow older and wiser (hopefully?) and fully develop. It also varies depending on the environment you are in.
We’ll talk about loops –getting stuck in a certain mindset and only using certain functions – in a future article.
Stay tuned, spread the love, embrace your MBTI type, embrace your whole self. ENFPs will change the world someday. In their heads. It’s going to be amazing.
Share this article if you enjoyed it – that’s how you tell search engines it’s worth a read. Thanks a billion, peops! Have fun being who you truly are out there