You may have heard that an INFJ is an extroverted feeling type. In this article I will show you why this is, while not completely wrong, misleading. And I will also try to show you how an actualized INFJ is different from the INFJ stereotype. But first, let me tell you what my goal is: to redefine the INFJ based on who they are when they are in a state of flow. I don’t wish to talk about how INFJs can stereotypically come across. The way I see it, INFJs can appear to be many different things – and if you just look at the surface, you will misunderstand the INFJ greatly.
I identify the positive habits of the personality types as opposed to their negative habits. I don’t want to participate in ‘stereotypology’, defining types by how they appear; it is tiresome to see people passing out blanket statements about who INFJs are. Truth is, the INFJs are many things, and it all depends on our mood, our environment, and our health. A key goal of Neojungian Academy is to formulate versatile personality descriptions that correctly define the INFJ at their best and worst. Without stereotypes. So let’s go.
The INFJ At Their Best And Worst
INFJs are leaders, idealists, messengers, philosophers, writers, and artists. They structure and organize moral systems and beliefs. They act with long-term determination towards a goal they have envisioned. Often, they act with high ideals towards something they see as good or positive for humanity.
When at their best, they assume the role of messengers or ambassadors of some higher ideal, writing stories and messages that guide people in the right direction. They theorize and reflect on how the world could be, speculating on the unknown and the future. And they often organize their ideas into a big picture concept or a one-size fits all theory on everything.
This is what the INFJ is, and does, when they are in a state of flow. Let us compare it to how an INFJ is at their worst.
The “ESTP” is a defensive mechanism for an INFJ under pressure. It can be called the INFJ’s “Hulk mode”.
The INFJ at their worst resemble unhealthy ESTPs. They are often loud, boisterous, reckless, thoughtless, often hurtful and insensitive to others. Just as they pick holes in their own world, they pick holes in others’. They can be aristocratic power-players, desperate for attention, lashing out in anger. To hide their own insecurity they project an idea that they are perfect to others, making others feel less than them.
These INFJs are anxious and nervous, overwhelmed by the world. They have grown bitter and frequently tell themselves their ideals don’t matter. They second-guess everything they do and are overly self-critical. Often, they refuse to act on their goals and ideals, poking holes in them, and telling themselves “It won’t work”. Finally, they are too caught up with chaos around them to focus on what they love.
The problem is they see themselves as broken and assume that nobody listens to them. They are too caught up with how bad the world is to even consider what it may look like in the future, and their visions are highly negative. They are never able to see the big picture because they’re too caught up with what’s happening around them. And they are frustrated with lacking energy. These INFJs feel cut off from what they find important and fascinating.
Which patterns in an INFJ are healthy and unhealthy?
People are often confused because they only study the top eight cognitive functions formulated by Carl Jung. They miss that the human mind has more than eight cognitive abilities beyond what Carl Jung formulated. Besides the eight cognitive functions, there are four ideals (NF, NT, SF, and ST) and four temperaments (IJ, EP, IP, and EJ).
And besides the eight cognitive functions, there are eight intelligences (IN, EN, IS, ES, FJ, FP, TJ, and TP). These eight intelligences were formed by studying how different networks in the human mind work together.
When a person is using the imagination network, used by intuitives, and the top-down network, used by introverts, they are in the intuitive introvert pattern. A friend of mine would often say that the eight cognitive functions could be played as keys on a piano. Well, a piano has more than eight keys you can press. And each key will have a different impact on the INFJ. Some keys make you feel great, and some will make you feel terrible. Let’s talk about the different keys and how they impact the INFJ.
Introverted functions help an INFJ to centre and to remove themselves from anxiety. Intuition gives an INFJ energy. Feeling is an intrinsic motivation to the INFJ. Judging is the way the INFJ relieves stress.
Introverted Judging (IJ) – The Leader Pattern
When you are able to work towards something that you personally see as an important long-term goal and when you have the ability to focus and to do what you want without getting interrupted or distracted.
Intuitive Feeling (NF) – The Idealist Pattern
When you are able to be a free dreamer, exploring, growing, connecting, and being creative. When you go your own way, and try out a new path.
Introverted Feeling (IF) – The Artist / Writer Pattern
When you become aware of your own emotions and your own needs and ideals. When you think about who you are and what is uniquely you. And when you reflect on your own beliefs and values.
Feeling Judging (FJ) – The Messenger Pattern
When you are able to communicate and organize your ideals into a bigger story or belief system. When you are able to guide others towards your values.
Introverted Intuition (IN) – The Philosopher Pattern
When you are able to envision the future and to learn and draw insight from it. When you suddenly figure something amazing out.
Intuitive Judging (NJ) – The Monk Pattern
When you are able to control your thoughts and your perspectives and to meditate on them until you experience a “higher awareness.” When you see how ideas fit together into a bigger whole. When everything feels connected.
It would be a big misconception here to think that I rank sensing, thinking, extroversion, and perceiving as something inherently negative. No – for an ESTP, these keys are awesome, and positive, and ESTPs do awesome things for the world as a whole. I am just saying that these keys are bad for an INFJ.
They are bad because Extroverted patterns cause the INFJ long-term anxiety and worry. Sensing patterns drain the INFJ of energy. Thinking patterns make the INFJ feel like life isn’t fun anymore. And Perceiving patterns cause the INFJ stress.
Extroverted Perceiving (EP) – The Distracted Leader Pattern
When you become distracted by frequent changes, when you have to adapt to others’ suggestions and ideas, and when you need to respond to something immediate without being able to think about it first.
Sensing Thinking (ST) – The Disillusioned Idealist Pattern
When you feel that your ideals are impossible and that change will never happen. When you fail to be free and to go your own way in life. And when you feel disconnected from the world and from nature.
Extroverted Thinking (ET) – The Dictator Pattern
When you try to control others around you and their decisions. When you try to bully others who don’t see things the same way you do.
Thinking Perceiving (TP) – The Critic Pattern
When you question everything about yourself and everyone else, feeling hypercritical, only bringing up what you dislike about yourself or about a new idea or thought.
Extroverted Sensing (ES) – The Overwhelm Pattern
When things are too intense, too loud, too bright, and too fast for you. You may feel like you’re sitting in a racecar out of your control. Being in this pattern may be fun at first, but it quickly drains the hell out of you.
Sensing Perceiving (SP) – The Frenzy Pattern
When you lack self-control and act too quickly on impulse. When you eat and take things without asking others if it’s okay. And when you fail to display patience towards something stimulating around you.
The Four INFJ Subtypes
When you put two of these letter-pairs together, you can see four primary INFJ subtypes. What are the subtypes? Read this article to learn more.
The INFJ Flow State
Philosophers, writers, artists, monks, messengers, leaders, and idealists are in this flow state.
The ESFJ – The Aggressive State
The INFJ that compromises their ideals to fit in with society. The INFJ that acts recklessly without thinking about the consequences. And the INFJ that tries too hard to control themselves and others. And the INFJ that acts purely on what the human collective wants – not what they themselves believe is true. This INFJ speaks out for something they don’t believe in. This INFJ is focused on fighting the world – rather than focusing on their own journey.
The INTP – The Avoidance Loop
The INFJ that is too critical of their own ideals, and who constantly second-guesses themselves. The INFJ that feels a need to rethink everything. This INFJ refuses to speak out for what they believe in because “Nobody is going to listen anyway”. The INFJ that is constantly thinking of options instead of just doing what they believe is right. The INFJ that is constantly trying to rationalize inaction.
The ESTP – The Defensive Mechanism
The INFJ that has lost patience and acts recklessly without understanding why. This INFJ refuses to follow their curiosity and their passion. And this INFJ is focused merely on survival and self-protection. The INFJs in this state act greedily, losing their self-control. They lose hope in their own logic and begin to look to quick answers around them.
We are all constantly changing
Give yourself a break. You will be stressed sometimes. You will be anxious sometimes. And you will be tired sometimes. It’s going to happen. You will keep jumping between all these subtypes throughout your life. Some days will be awesome, and some days will be terrible.
I have yet to meet anyone that can maintain a flow for much longer than a few days. Remember flow happens on its own. It’s not something you have to work to get. It just comes to you.