Disclaimer: Before I embark on what I expect to be one of my longest blog posts yet, it is important to note what the significance of an MBTI personality is. It is an explanation, not a rule. In other words, by claiming to be an INFJ, I am not attempting to limit myself to the behaviour of a stereotypical INFJ. Rather, I identify as one in order to more systematically explain some of my behavioural traits and personality.
This post was inspired by a recent traumatic experience with a close friend. I turned to my INFJ personality as an explanation for my emotion transitions – the intense hurt that transitioned into a sudden indifference. While this is a feature in almost everyone, what shines in being an INFJ is how sudden and how irreversible this transition can be – the ‘door slam’. While I do not believe my ‘door slams’ are as final as a stereotypical INFJ should have – I find this behaviour to be childish – it is, nonetheless, part of the procedure of healing for me.
I foresee this being an incredibly long post, so it is probably a wise choice to do things systematically. These are the following contents that will be found in this post:
- What makes an INFJ an INFJ? What is so unique about an INFJ generally?
- Who is a friend to an INFJ and who is not?
- How an INFJ behaves in a friendship (and other relationships) – the ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s, i.e. How to take care of your INFJ
- ‘Door Slam’ – the Breaking Point
- Can the ‘Door Slam’ be Reversed?
1. INFJ – The Advocate/Protector
The INFJ is the rarest of all MBTI types, making up less than 1% of the world’s population. While it lends itself to the title of ‘advocate’, ‘protector’, ‘idealist’, etc., as an INFJ, the most insightful label is probably that of ‘the walking contradiction’. I have often wondered why I belong to the rarest MBTI type, and a certain answer has stood out more strongly than any other – it is extremely difficult to be one, and the existence of an INFJ is often contrary to what Freud would call Eros, the life drive. Even within ourselves, INFJs contradict our personalities at every turn, almost as if we are an exaggeration of the duality of human motivations – Eros and Thanatos, the death drive.
INFJs are the extroverted introverts, the one who can at once seem like the closest and farthest person from you, the optimistic heart with the pessimistic mind, etc. Our very existence as the rarest type is problematic – we enjoy how unique we are, but we also yearn to connect and belong with others. All at once, your INFJ is the clingiest, but most detached; the most dependent and independent; the quietest and most assertive. It is no wonder that while INFJs, on the outside and from a distance, seem like the most kept-together and calm person, but turns out to be incredibly intense on the inside.
Another stand-out characteristic we have is the ability to understand. The MBTI community is obsessed with the INFJ particularly because this ability can resemble ‘telepathy’ or ‘fortune-telling’ to those who cannot understand it. I did not, at first, but once it was pointed out to me and I paid enough attention to it, I eventually came to theorise and confirm my hypothesis. INFJs are highly observant, not about seeing what is there, but rather, seeing what is not there or not immediately obvious. If you ask an INFJ in a relationship what they like about a partner, it’s either nothing or everything – we love the small details: from the way your eyes sparkle when you smile, to the way your face glows when you eat, etc. It is this level of observance of what others do not see that allows the INFJ to form an internal web of logic that can help predict actions and emotions of others. For example, if you’ve always felt emotion X after performing things related to action A, we will readily anticipate X whenever something related to A happens. For us, it is a logic of what is not logical (because it has to do with emotions and unspoken thoughts). For others, it looks like some kind of witchcraft.
This is the dominant Ni, or Introverted Intuition, function of the INFJ. We share this dominant trait with INTJs, but because our auxiliary function is Fe, or Extroverted Feeling, our intuition is more focused on emotions and feelings, rather than numbers, figures or pure logic (unlike Te in INTJs, Extroverted Thinking). Fe is the dominant function for ENFJs and ESFJs, which are often seem as the ‘moms’ of the MBTI – someone who is incredibly caring and will stand up for you while taking care of your heart. INFJs also have this characteristic, but it is overshadowed by Ni, which makes us seem more like the sagely wise-man than the caring mother. INFJs are, as a result, idealistic – our eyes are fixed towards the future and our hearts yearn to love.
But idealism is a trait shared with INFPs and the difference lies in that trait of being a ‘walking contradiction’. While INFPs are faithfully idealistic, inside the INFJ is a blunt realist – with every idealistic dream we have, we are told that it is not possible unless we forge a difficult path. When characterising figures into the MBTI, the INFJ encompasses a seemingly contradictory group of people – Hitler was an INFJ, but apparently, so was Jesus. The INFJ’s dreams are lofty and idealistic – to change the world in some manner, good or bad – and pursue it relentlessly. However, we always have that realistic voice in our head – Are we capable of doing this? This is also the reason why the INFJ is the MBTI type most prone to depression, among all mental illnesses. She is a selfless soul who others have difficulty understanding, but wishes to improve the lives of everyone around her – and sometimes, that is so difficult.
This lends the INFJ to become a private soul, which adds to that depressive tendency. ‘No one can understand us’, we think, yet we want to be understood, but we don’t want to force others to.
As a result, INFJs, when you first meet them, are genuinely the nicest and sweetest people. But to them, whether you are a friend has nothing to do with that. We seem open without being open – a tactic of diversion. We reveal so much, but in reality, we have revealed nothing. For we know, that in this world, the insides of an INFJ are too intense and sensitive, and INFJs fear rejection. If we present our entirety and are rejected on the fundaments of who we are and how we feel, it cuts us deep. The typical INFJ almost never confesses their feelings, because we love to love and our love is always genuine and deep. We can’t love more than one person because we love with our entirety – again, a contradiction, for to the other, we aren’t loving them that much at all. The most devastating moment for an INFJ is when he/she reveals their love and have it belittled, ridiculed, spat on, or doubted, etc.
2. The INFJ’s Friends
The INFJ is liked by many but close to few. It is no wonder, then, that the INFJ seems so different to acquaintances in comparison to close friends – with the latter, they feel comfortable to show their entirety without being judged. It is not that they are fake around others, they just strongly believe in making the other person comfortable with them no matter what. If the person has shown that they cannot handle who the INFJ really is, and would be happier being an acquaintance, then the INFJ will act as such. It may then seem like the INFJ is easy to step on, and that might not be entirely false. However, this behaviour turns on the fact that we see friendship as something that we actively chose – if we chose to make you a friend, and you ended up being uncomfortable with who we are, it is our fault for letting you get that close to begin with.
For an INFJ, friendships turn on two elements that must occur both ways: (1) comfort, (2) trust. Ironically, when you consider them together, it means that INFJs really only care about (1), as it is the prerequisite for (2). Comfort is, at once, the minimum to establishing anything more than an acquaintanceship and the very foundation of everything in a friendship with them. We want to feel comfortable being ourselves with you, but more importantly, we want to know that you are comfortable with us. Yes, INFJs have the tendency to make decisions for others, and this is one such case – we don’t understand a friendship without comfort, so if you aren’t comfortable with us, we will forcefully remove such an option.
If you feel comfortable with an INFJ, how do you know if they are with you?
It’s simple: you get to see a lot more of who they are than everyone else. Many in the MBTI community who have dated INFJs talk of us being ‘cute’, and that doesn’t correspond with what our outside appearance is. We are quiet, stern and highly intellectual – that is not a falsehood. Those closer to us, however, see that little boy/girl behind that – the passion with which we colour our dreams, the intensity of emotions that results from us being oh-so-sensitive, the boy/girl who wishes so dearly for world peace but fear that he/she can never make it happen. Not only that, the acquaintance who only occasionally remembers that you exist suddenly becomes a permanent fixture in your life that will always drop 100% of what they are doing to talk to you. We believe in our ability to finish this essay, this article, talk to our superiors, etc., in less time, so we gladly take time off for you.
To some, being an INFJ’s friend is what adds so much colour to life through that intensity. Yet, things don’t always turn out well for us.
Just like this fellow INFJ said, we sometimes end up overwhelming our friends. We always take the blame for: (1) it was our fault for being this unexpectedly intense, (2) it was our fault that we are such a person, (3) you really don’t need to be our friend if it makes you uncomfortable. This goes back to why we are so painfully private – early in life, we learn that most can’t accept who we really are. Instead of being angry at them, we understand it as our own flaws, so we filter ourselves endlessly until we find the select few that show that they can love us for who we are. So when that judgement is made falsefully, everything starts breaking apart.
3. Friendship with an INFJ – Dos and Don’ts
Warning: if your INFJ disappears momentarily, but not after a period of conflict, he/she is recharging batteries and if you were to interrupt, you might either get shocked or the system might break down. If he/she disappears following a conflict, please watch out for the incoming door slam. Keep your nose intact.
I really recommend looking at the above link. It is both accurate and hilarious. As expected of an ENFP/INFJ match-up.
That’s the thing about an INFJ though – we have a very distinct sense of humour, but only once you know us. Sure, as acquaintances, we will drop a joke here or there, but there’s a lack of personality to it. This is generally the trend with everything else. We laugh more uninhibitedly, really loudly, and the more comfortable an INFJ is with you, the more likely they are to share a lot about themselves – both the good and bad. It’s either all or nothing – you either hear next to nothing important about us, or we’ll let you know about our entirety.
Once again, the root of an INFJ is being comfortable enough that both parties just bare what they are to each other. This is perhaps why, in such a modern world, INFJs still see sex as something needing to be more than physical. Sure, INFJs also have the reputation of some of the kinkiest people – it’s always the quiet ones – but the need for emotional connection is the same. Like how two people bare their naked bodies to the full view of the other, a friendship is the unveiling of one’s personality in full to the other. That’s why this post, while about friendship, also applies to relationships – there really is no difference in this fundamental aspect.
4. The Door Slam
The absolute accuracy here is impeccable.
Yes, because the INFJ is that much more open in a relationship, platonic or romantic, conflicts are inevitable, especially when you’re quite the wishy-washy person. We will get angry at you, we will cry, we will scream, and sometimes, we are downright the most scary person you’ll ever meet, and you become so damn afraid of hurting us. But if you really care, you must persist. For once you withdraw from us, we will mirror that change accordingly. The moment when you realise an INFJ is done with the relationship is when nothing that really hurt him/her anymore from you. That’s normal for us. We only care to experience emotions of those we care about.
“If your INFJ is angry or crying, the relationship can be salvaged. If he/she is quietly and calmly nonchalant or indifferent, then it is over. Please see yourself out, until (and if) we let you back in.”
And how does an INFJ get to this stage? Conflict alone cannot drive an INFJ to break something off, but there are 2 things that can either happen in isolation or together to trigger this.
- If your INFJ is angry/hurt over something and you lash out, hurting a very fundamental part of the emotions that they built your friendship on.
- Once a conflict is over, you withdraw and isolate, instead of working things out.
For (1), our friendship is partially built on the fact that we are comfortable with you because you are willing to try and understand us. It is not the lashing out that hurts, but what the lashing out was about. Each INFJ has their different lists of sensitivities, but all of these fall back on one understanding – if you really know me, you’ll never accuse me on these grounds. For me, some of these sensitivities are: ability to be happy, my devotion to friends and family, not being labelled elitist or egostic, etc. And because an INFJ is naturally forgiving, they might even let you lash out at these sensitivities again and again, because it was their fault in the first place. BUT REMEMBER, for an INFJ, they understand things quite rationally: It might be my fault for creating this conflict, but you misunderstanding me so fundamentally is a separate issue.
For (2), the INFJ’s contradictions come in again. We are incredibly sensitive, but we care far more about nurturing a relationship than taking care of ourselves. We would rather keep the conflict present, continue being hurt, in order to talk it out and resolve things. This actually does enable self-preservation. If you are the type to withdraw during a conflict, the INFJ has no other option than to bottle up the hurt and anger. This makes it unsustainable in the long run – the more conflicts arise, the closing to the breaking point they get. And trust me, door slams take different forms, and by always back-channeling conflicts, you are leading us to the inevitable worst.
The INFJ will let himself/herself be hurt again and again and again. We will understand, forgive and shift the blame away, but every conflict that ends badly (by way 1 or 2) creates a new break. Eventually, it gets to the point that the very thought of the person generates pain, because none of the conflicts before were ever resolved properly, and ended up bleeding endlessly. The INFJ’s survival instinct kicks in. Like the picture above says, it isn’t that we don’t want to care for you anymore, we can’t without destroying ourselves. It is not a punishment upon you, but a last-resort solution for us. An INFJ will always be an INFJ – once we love someone, we always will, but maybe now, from a distance, never closer.
5. So, Is It Permanent?
Here is the semi-good news: Depending on the level of maturity and the distinct personality of your INFJ – maybe not. You see, the door slam is a technique we INFJs develop rather early in life, because it is the natural instinct of self-preservation. Most often, it is permanent only because the moment of the door slam comes with great relief – all of the pain disappears at once and a rational being would not want that pain anymore.
Still, the older we get, the more we recognised how childish it is. The less mature an INFJ, the more likely the door slam will happen without uttering a single word – you have to watch for signals yourself. Once we leave, we do everything in our power to change – from changing our hairstyle to even moving away altogether. Yet, I have personally developed the habit of letting the other person know when they are driving me towards the point, and the moment I have reached breaking point. I also open myself to the possibility of letting them back in.
Yes, this is still different from INFJ stereotypes. The stereotype says that the INFJ, on the inside, wishes for the other to realise what they are losing and come back to them, but will never actively display such a wish – for they have been hurt enough. I, on the other hand, as well as some other INFJs I know, are willing to start over. This notion is different – everything we have known about each other before is wiped clean, and it is as if we had never met, and never had any conflict. My door slams last for a really long time, but is never really permanent…though when you think about it, it is permanent in dismissing what has happened before.