“What is a poet? An unhappy person who conceals profound anguish in his heart but whose lips are so formed that as sighs and cries pass over them they sound like beautiful music.”
– Soren Kierkeegard, an INFJ
“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.”
– Edgar Allan Poe, an INFP
A broken shack in the middle of misty field. A lonely dying tree in a barren landscape. Tears. What draws INFPs and INFJs to these things? What makes darkness or despair beautiful to us? In the many years I’ve studied type I’ve come across hundreds of INFs who are inexplicably drawn to sad, desolate symbols and expressions. In fact, recently I’ve gotten a lot of questions from INFs who are puzzled by their own connection to the melancholy world. So I thought I would write about it here as a reference for anyone trying to understand.
I’ve always been intrigued by the question, “Are you attracted to sad things?” I’ve rarely asked anyone this question without getting a quizzical look in response.
“Attracted to sad things? What does that even mean?”
Yet if I ask an INF type this question, the majority will instantly say yes, as I did many years ago. They know right away that something about sadness is beautiful.
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But what makes sadness beautiful to INF types?
1 – Many INFs Relate to Sadness and Isolation
INFJs and INFPs make up a mere 3% of the U.S. population combined. It is rare that these two types find kindred spirits to understand them. Through the years I’ve spent talking to people from all types, it seems that a majority of INFs have spent their lives feeling alone, misunderstood, or forced into a mold that wasn’t true to their nature.
Many INFs see isolation, loneliness, and heartbreak and identify with it. They connect with that pain and find a cathartic relief in empathizing with it. In an expression of sadness and loneliness, the INF finds a true friend. For INFs who have felt alone and cut off from the world through much of life, a picture of a lonely, isolated shack can be a symbol of their longing and loneliness.
For INFs who have found companionship and connection in life, they are still drawn to the honesty and reality of sadness. They may feel inexplicably compelled to understand it, to empathize and to comfort.
2 – INFs Find Sadness Compelling
INFs are deeply concerned with those who are hurting. Both INFPs & INFJs show strong tendencies towards careers in psychology and counseling (per the MBTI® Manual, Third Edition). They are both highly empathetic types, and while they may experience emotions in different ways, they both desire to “walk in another person’s shoes” and feel their pains and struggles as their own. They have no interest in a sugarcoated life or what’s on the surface, both seek to gain a deeper more intimate understanding of the deeper longings and struggles of humanity.
“Most people try to hide their sad stories. But I want to hear, I want to know. There’s an element of truth that can only be found in a story that is full of heartbreak. I want to know about the struggles my parents have faced, my friends have faced. There’s a beauty embedded in those stories; a raw, humble, broken humanity in it. When we shed all our pretention and our egos and reveal our brokenness, that’s something I think is beautiful.”
– Melissa, an INFP
Related: Understanding INFP Feeling
Related: Understanding INFJ Intuition
3 – Sadness Connects Us All
INFJs and INFPs are true introverts, yet as feeling types they long to have meaningful connections with other people. However, the depth they crave in relationships is often hard to find. In sadness they see a unifying vulnerability that they can relate to and grasp. They feel that being with others in their grief and struggles brings them closer and forms a deeper bond.
“I am attracted to sadness. I want to listen to people who are sad, and I want to feel it myself. I have had a difficult life and I’ve been through a lot of pain, and I want to understand what other people suffer. I see beauty and strength in sadness and survival, and I want to help people through it. I want them to know they’re not alone.”
– Cassandra, an INFJ
4 – INFs Like to “Feel”
INFs like to empathize. They like to immerse themselves in emotions. Just as the SP feels good when they take an exciting new risk, or the SJ feels good when they put things in order, the NF enjoys feeling, empathizing, and understanding. Does this mean they constantly want to be inundated with negative emotions? No. While they are typically good listeners who enjoy being there for people, they also can become emotionally overwhelmed if they are constantly taking on other people’s emotions. They feel fulfilled when they can listen and connect with struggling people, but they have to do it in moderation. Sometimes they enjoy simply connecting with melancholy art forms or an idea that evokes strong emotions. They like to escape into a sad song or movie, a sad book or painting. Being able to privately feel and connect with the emotions in a story or piece of art simply “feels good” to a lot of them.
Related: The Childhood Struggles of INFPs
Related: The Childhood Struggles of INFJs
“But I don’t like sad things and I’m an INF”
There are certain generalities about personality types that don’t apply to everyone. For every 8 INFs who are drawn to sad things, there will be 2 who prefer the cheerful parts of life and find sadness overwhelming. I’ve also spoken with ENFPs, ISFPs, and ENFJs who are drawn to sadness, although not as frequently as INF types. It’s okay if you don’t feel a connection to this article; it doesn’t mean you’re mistyped.
Meet Your Potential As an INFP or INFJ!
Discovering You: Unlocking the Power of Personality Type, The INFJ – Understanding the Mystic, The INTJ – Understanding the Strategist, and The INFP – Understanding the Dreamer. You can also connect with me via Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!
What Do You Think?
Are you drawn to sadness or do you find it unsettling? Let me know in the comments!