That INFJ foible: making a full-time study of ourselves

An INFJ (Myers-Briggs) personality type can make an entire life’s career out of researching themselves. Yes, you heard me…a full-time job. And not in the way you think, not as self-obsession or run-amok ego or hypochondria or anything else like that but because, in our view, why would we need any other interface; an alternate, less reliable, second-hand, route into life (and that goes for all of us, but especially those of us with special sensitivities)? We have all the data we need right here at our fingertips since we feel it all…minutely; we perceive so much through our extraordinarily fine-tuned senses and we just seem to know stuff without having to explain how. And besides, that’s all any of us are doing, really; we are all seeing life through the filter of ourselves, however we try to dress it up as more objective, altruistic or scientific. Really, all of us are putting ourselves first as the hero of our own adventure; writing the script to ensure we always get that central part. Besides, none of us sees the same thing as anyone else, we all slant it our own personal way based on circumstantial influences, our prior experiences, our genes, our upbringing…(the list goes on). All the INFJ does is admit this and get straight to the point of specialising in the full-time study of their own experience bank and, frankly, when you feel and notice as much as an INFJ does, its nigh on impossible to focus on anything else; there’s just no room for any more data except to cross-reference what we already know.

That’s not to say we don’t take other people into account, in fact the INFJ has Extroverted feeling (Fe) as its secondary trait, which makes us more prone to feeling what everyone else around us is feeling than what we are feeling ourselves (a significant weak point in our self-care). Yet, again, we understand how all this data about others is personalised in the sense that we are the one receiving all this vast amount of data, so we know it makes perfect sense to really get to know how we do this. Most of all, we learn (the hard way) that we need to practice mitigating the massive amount of overwhelm that this trait can lead to, and this means paying close attention to ourselves and what we are taking on from the world around us.

In other words, with time and increasing consciousness around our trait, we learn to turn the Fe tap on and off to protect our health. It’s so important that we do this since, a lot of the time, we feel personally responsible for what all those other people (in our family, our office, the community, our world at large…) are going through, like we must fix it all or make some sort of significant difference, which can be a terrible burden and, again, so time-consuming. Our lack of understanding about our own emotions (since we prioritise every one else’s!) means that we are so vulnerable to fall-out damage from this trait. From  the cover synopsis of “The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion: How Feelings Link the Brain, the Body, and the Sixth sense” by Mark A Jawer and Larry Dossey:  “The less consciousness we have of our emotional being, the more physical disturbances we are likely to have–from ailments such as migraines, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and post-traumatic stress to anomalous perceptions such as apparitions and involuntary out-of-body experiences”. These conditions only take up even more of our time and attention, necessitating that we apply ourselves to endless self-study and research in order to fix our own mysterious ailments. Yet, somewhere in amongst all that, we continue to suspect that we were meant to make this in-depth study of ourselves in order to learn so much of what the rest of humanity seems to skim over when it comes to all the minute complexities of the human condition….again, so we can help people!

Between being such introverts, feeling “everyone else’s stuff”, our ailments, a desire to save the world and an obsession with self-research, we may eventually find that we have cut ourselves off from other people to a very large degree, partly because we feel (whether we acknowledge this to ourselves or not) that we “don’t have time” for so many of the fripperies that occupy other people’s lives. We are far too consumed with “serious business” and we give our all to it. This is one to watch out for since the INFJ does so desperately need to connect; though we can be quite particular about who we do this with (we only want to talk at this level, and about things that truly interest us, and not waste time on small talk) so this can make us picky. We probably need to lighten up a lot more and laugh far more often; and, given the chance, we can be very open to this but its hard to find people we relate to enough (or them with us…) to relax with.

The result is that not only do a lot of us struggle to go out there to do “a job” or to mingle in the conventional sense (and we do have to pick our career wisely in order to make it fit our traits…) but that, if we get the chance to stop working or being around others (which health issues can orchestrate for us…), we can so easily fill all our hours and days with what other people might regard to be compulsive navel gazing. We might even be assumed to be terribly self-absorbed and narrow in our outlook if anyone were to delve too deeply into what preoccupies us, unlikely though it is that we will share all the ruminations that occupy us, apart from with a trusted inner sanctum of one or two people (unless by that favourite INFJ method of writing these thoughts down, which is why journalling and blogging can be such an important outlet). Yet, really, the main carrot dangling for the INFJ, apart from making sense of their own most baffling experiences, is the longing to make a dent in everyone else’s pain. We hold out the thought that, maybe by making this full-time study of ourselves our life’s work (like the prototype human under a microscope in a petri dish), we will truly make a difference to someone…anyone…apart from ourselves; because we know, being us, just how painful life can be and we want to take that away somehow. In fact it’s the only thing that makes sense of why we are here in a bewildering world that makes so little room for our pretty specialised trait (we make up just 1% of the population) and leaves us feeling overwhelmed,  stranded , misunderstood and isolated much of the time.

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