INFJ Dark Side

Descriptions of the INFJ personality type often emphasize our peaceful natures and ignore any hint of a “dark side.” For example, one commenter on my INFJ Loki post argued my typing is inaccurate because he couldn’t imagin an INFJ “carrying on a constant fight with everyone around you for the majority of your existence.” He knows INFJs are generally peaceful and conflict-avoidant, and couldn’t buy an INFJ as this type of villain.

People also describe INFJs as disconnected from the world, and unlikely to feel involved in the reality of what’s going on around us. All too often, people incorrectly assume this means we don’t care about what other people do or things that happen. This isn’t true. As Amelia Brown points out in her post The Dark Side Of The INFJ Personality Type, INFJs can be stubborn, judge others harshly, and abruptly cut people out of their lives. We do notice, and care, what’s going on enough to have a pretty decisive reaction in some cases.

Though INFJs are generally peaceful, gentle, and dislike engaging in confrontations, we’re not completely harmless (just ask my siblings). Every personality type has a dark side, and INFJs can be just as scary as anyone else.

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Disclaimer: some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase on that website.

Obsessive, Overindulging, and Defensive

Let’s dive into the sciencey-part of Myers-Briggs® theory for a moment. An INFJ personality type’s* dominant function is Introverted Intuition (Ni), which means the less-developed function which emerges in times of stress is Extroverted Sensing (Se).

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Naomi L. Quenk’s book Was That Really Me? How Everyday Stress Brings Out Our Hidden Personality* is an excellent resource for how each type reacts to stress with their inferior function. Types with dominant Se use it effectively, but INFJs are not comfortable when forced to use their sensing side. On a small level, making a “sensing mistake” that involves facts or details can make us “annoyed or defensive.” On a larger level, times of stress trigger what Quenk calls a “grip experience,” where the inferior function takes over (all quotes in this section from chapter 11 of her book).

For INFJs, stress causes an “obsessive focus on external data,” an “overindulgence in sensual pleasure,” and an “adversarial attitude toward the outer world.” The first one can make us irritable and obsessive. The second often takes the form of overeating, shopping for things we don’t need, and generally becoming self-centered. The third is a defensive response to feeling like the entire world is spinning out of control.

Their hypersensitivity to potentially dangerous surroundings can promote uneasiness about people as well. … An INFJ said she “becomes suspicious. Usually I’m tolerant, curious, and compassionate, so ‘out of character’ for me means I’m unaccepting and frustrated with the world.” …

The altered state of any inferior function is typically accompanied by a lessening of social controls and therefore more frequent expressions of anger. However, the character of that anger may be different for different types. For INTJs and INFJs, the “cause” of distress is often one or more “objects” in the environment. The anger directed at either things or people may therefore be more focused, intense, and extreme than with other inferior functions (Quenk).

It would probably surprise people who think INFJs are harmless to learn their stress-induced anger can actually be “more focused, intense, and extreme” than other types. But it’s no surprise to the INFJs.

When An INFJ Gets Angry

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Stress isn’t the only thing that can bring out an INFJ’s angry side. Back in 2014 Jenn Granneman of “Introvert, Dear” wrote an excellent article that addresses this issue. “How INFJs Deal with Conflict: 10 Confessions” is no longer available online, but here’s a quote:

Don’t underestimate my gentle nature. I’m not all warm fuzzies and smiles. If you cross one of my deeply held inner values, I become extremely outspoken and crusading. If I see someone else being hurt, I’ll have a strong urge to be their protector and defend them. An angry INFJ can deliver a wrath and intensity you’ve probably never experienced before. Think Jesus in the temple with whips, turning over the money changers’ tables.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

An INFJs generally peaceful nature can evaporate quickly when a deeply held value is crossed. We are, however, very good at bottling up our emotions until we can’t take it any longer. Until someone actually pushes us to the point where we feel like we have to say something they’re often clueless about how we really feel about them or their ideas.

An INFJ won’t share their real self and inner thoughts with a casual acquaintance, and we’ll go along with most conversations and suggestions just to avoid conflict. That can continue until the other person says or does something that crosses a line the INFJ has drawn in their minds, e.g. an INFJ woman being friendly to a guy she doesn’t really like up until the point where he actually asks her out.

I imagine it’s pretty puzzling for people who think they’re getting along just fine when suddenly an INFJ blurts out “I don’t agree. And by the way, here’s everything else you’ve done over the entire course of our relationship that irritates me.”

Dealing With Emotions

One of the great things about knowing your Myers-Briggs® type is learning about your type can help you with working on your weaknesses. I can use my Se as an excuse for angry outbursts, or I can recognize what’s going on and learn to deal with it more effectively. You can find helpful articles to read like INFJ Strategies for Dealing with Emotions by Cheryl Florus and 10 Stress-Busting Tips for INFJs by Susan Storm, or use resources like Personality Hacker to dig deep into your personality type.*

Naomi Quenk says INFJs and INTJs need “space and a low-pressure environment” to deescalate from a grip experience. It’s more helpful to take some alone time when feeling angry than to try and talk through it in the moment, partly to avoid sensory overload and partly to keep from snapping at people trying to give “helpful” advice. also, a “chance of scenery or activity can help break the negative, obsessive focus.” Try doing some yoga, going for a walk, or watching a film. Ni types can also exercise their Se through a hobby like photography, gardening, sculpting, or cooking.

INFJs do have a dark side. We don’t have to let it control us, be we should be aware of it. And other people would do well not to underestimate that side of the INFJ.

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Click here to check out my e-book, The INFJ Handbook, for more information and insight into the INFJ personality type
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46 thoughts on “INFJ Dark Side

  • “An INFJ won’t share their real self and inner thoughts with a casual acquaintance, and will go along with most conversations and suggestions just to avoid conflict. That can continue until the other person says or does something that crosses a line the INFJ has drawn in their minds”

    – disturbingly accurate, it’s almost ‘creepy’..

    Liked by 1 person

  • ” Think Jesus in the temple with whips, turning over the money changers’ tables. ”

    This made me chortle like Ernie (muppets).

    “One of the odd things that results from INFJs generally peaceful nature evaporating once a deeply held value is crossed is that some people might be clueless about how we really feel about them. An INFJ won’t share their real self and inner thoughts with a casual acquaintance, and will go along with most conversations and suggestions just to avoid conflict. That can continue until the other person says or does something that crosses a line the INFJ has drawn in their minds”

    This, I have experienced this within myself so often. Interesting to see it in words.

    Like

  • I am an INFJ and I used to have a horrible temper!! Actually, around the age of 11 I became aware of my bad temper and started trying to work on it. Before Christ, I was bitter and mean due to a lot of disappointments in life. I spent most of my time reflecting on my own resentment against others and being very self-absorbed. After a few years of God working with me, I was able to utilize my desire to help others effectively. I have been married to an ISFJ for over three years and he has really helped me learn how to be kind, patient, and gentle. I had a dysfunctional childhood, and I went from being the most argumentative and angry child to being a preschool assistant who is really just there to love children and help them grow. It’s amazing how wrathful an embittered INFJ can become, and even more amazing what God can make of our lives when we surrender ourselves to Him.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story! Christ has been helping me overcome my anger, too. Sometimes it feel like a much slower process than it should be, but it’s amazing to see how much He has changed me already and to know He has no intention of giving up on us.
      ISFJs can be real sweethearts. I know several (including my dad), and they’re great people. Sounds like you have been very blessed in your marriage partner 🙂

      Like

    • Hi Catherine! I find your view on the role that God played so interesting, because all my life I had thought that it was the opposite – loss of faith – that helped me with the same problems! I used to be very selfish and temperamental, but from my early twenties I realised this and started to work on it. It was at that same time that my once devout faith started toppling. From your view I guess it wasn’t atheism that made me better, but rather that I had been strong enough to realise my own faults and to focus on my own self improvement! Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  • This article is wonderful. Thank you for highlighting so perfectly the areas that are rarely brought up. It can be such a relief to read the negative sometimes. I think some INFJ articles make us feel an even stronger need to be perfect, so articles highlighting our dark side help remind us that we are all imperfect creatures and because of God’s love, that’s okay!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Reading this I said YES several times aloud! I scored as an INFJ recently. Before that I never knew or met anyone who thought or acted similar to me. I have just recently started to investigate what it means to be an INFJ. It helps a lot to read this and feel as though you are saying everything about me! It also helps when explaining to others! Thank you! 🙂

    Like

    • You’re very welcome 🙂 We’re a small percentage of the population, but we’re quite active online. Now that you know what to look for, I’m sure you’ll be finding many people who think and act similarly. Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting!

      Like

  • This explains A LOT. I’ve never heard of “the shadow” part before but I’ve been living it. Thanks for sharing so I can understand where it comes from. I forget which book this was from, but it described 12 different personality types and the one I identified with had this description: they live in a constant state of irritation with themselves and the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It does explain a lot, doesn’t it? I was so relieved when I first read about this — I couldn’t understand why I responded to stress like this and it was so frustrating. Now I know what’s going on and have some ideas about how to deal with it.

      Liked by 1 person

  • In the last year I found my INFJ profile. It has explained sooo much I didn’t understand about myself. And definitely the Se “shadow” taking over when you feel out of control. I usually go shopping lol or eat or drink something I know I shouldn’t. The rage can be intense if I’m set off. Fortunately I know how to walk away when it’s against a person. It can be frustrating with driving and traffic- i have zero patience. Thanks for the article!

    Liked by 2 people

  • Reblogged this on my song and commented:
    Knowing and understanding yourself is so important to a healthy well being….I wish I had a better understanding of myself growing up…but we can not undue the past…we can take the lessons learned and make it a better future….

    Liked by 2 people

  • This is quite fitting. My poor husband has learned the hard way that there is an invisible line which he mustn’t cross. Him, being an ENTJ, cannot seem to find it. LOL He actually refuses to accept the truths of the personality types, thinking that his way is right and mine is wrong. How very ENTJ of him… 😉 Anywho, I find this article very interesting. Before Christ I was quite a mess with my emotions. He has used many things – including the realization of my personality type – to give me peace with my rare weirdness. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  • Too true. It is creepy.
    My anger could be called vindictive, rage filled and wrathful. Thank you for your article.
    Yep i think i turn into the hulk when I’m extremely ticked off.

    Liked by 2 people

  • This describes me to a tee!!! How crazy. I find it interesting that everyone is commenting and saying that they’ve never met someone who thinks/acts the way they do, because I think that to myself ALL THE TIME!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I think it’s beautiful that reading descriptions of our personality type can turn this feeling of being different and isolated into a reason for connection with fellow INFJs. It’s wonderful knowing we’re not alone 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  • Wow! My dark side has a name and it is Shadow! She emerges when mean, cruel, and unfair treatment presents itself before me. And can she show up from the dark into the light in a SNAP. with little warning. I’m sure I’ve left more than a few people gaping at my sudden anger as my general mood is Miss Funny. Thanks for the great information…

    Liked by 1 person

  • I like having that dark side to my personality. I’m a big guy, 6′ 5″, 240lbs and use swimming as my release/meditation. As I know how to decompress I am generally quite placid. So much so that most people don’t find me intimidating, I’m a calming influence. It doesn’t matter who is in front of me, if a line is crossed and my loved ones are in danger I can release more rage than most people can deal with. It happens vary rarely and my eyes will express the anger before I have to physically do anything. Knowing if I need it it’s there for me allows me to keep calm in tense situations. It’s like having cavalry back up.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Yup i m infj….but right more like a volcanic infj after my entp friend shut me out of his life…couldnt handle it..has left me sad and frustrated..anyway i m working on it although i know how to make him feel bad and vulnerable..i m trying to be good and meditating..slowly i m breaking my ties from him
    Anyway it made me realise how doorslaming by others make you feel coz i seem to have it intentionally and unintentionally..first time someone has doorslammed me before i could…its a lesson that i should never forget and try not to doorslam anyone in future and embrace the harmonious side of me

    Like

    • Wow, being on the other side of a doorslam would be an eye-opening experience. It sounds like you’re using that to become more compassionate and grow as an INFJ, which is wonderful 🙂

      I haven’t ever been doorslamed, but I’m still trying to avoid doing it to others. I know there are times it’s important to set boundaries and separate yourself from certain people, but overall I’m trying to be more conscious about working through problems with people and maintaining harmony rather than letting it get to the point of a doorslam.

      Like

  • Hahahaha…ahhhh, yeah. During the birth of my third child I was paired with a midwife I hadn’t met yet. She was physically touchy. She was verbally cloying and encouraging my husband to “support” me in these ways as well. (He looked at me and winked, my good ‘ol ESTP.) Mid-push, she doubled her efforts to make up for my husband’s “lack” of care. She was invading my space, telling me what a good job I was doing… I had to shut that chick Down. this was a celebration of life and she was about to die.
    Hubby said I calmly split open my skull and told her that her helpie-ness irked, turned to him and told him it was time to catch.
    I never saw her again.
    INFJ, a cautionary tale…

    Liked by 1 person

  • “I don’t agree. And by the way, here’s everything else you’ve done over the entire course of our relationship that irritates me.” —-I SO did this to someone!!! I texted him(after he texted–“Oh I see how you are” in a sarcastic way— Uh NO you don’t see how I am—-when I didn’t respond in a timely manner for him–I was trying to be nice to him before—but I opened a can of whoop ass on him) a list of every thing he said about what he wanted in a woman, told him he could purchase every thing he wanted but I wasn’t For Sale! LOL Yup Accurate!

    Liked by 2 people

  • 2016 has been a year of 2 door slams (1by me, the other quietly mutual), two shadow anger “incidents,” and some new physical issues which have left me with a a heavy need to withdraw. These all have exhausted me and I am thankful for finding these blog postings. Right now my husband and I are in an RV at the beach for winter which gives me time to decompress.
    I laughed so hard when I read about “I don’t agree and by the way here are all the other things that irritate me” To realize that there are others dealing with the same struggles is so helpful.
    I am feeling cautious about saying too much but …. my mother was a paronoid schitzophrenic who became verbally abusive during my teen years. When I was 33 a very close family to me was murdered by Kevin Cooper who is now in San Quentin.
    So much of my INFJness I attributed to all this past history.
    I am thankful to two books that have made all the difference. The Bible and the book Please Understand Me.
    Thank you for this place to post

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story. That’s a lot to go through 😦 The Bible’s my rock as well in times of upheaval. And Please Understand Me is a great book for understanding how we, and others, think and process experiences. I’ve also enjoyed Quiet by Susan Cain and The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron. They really helped me understand myself.

      I’m so glad to hear you’re enjoying my posts 🙂 An RV on the beach sounds like a perfect place to relax and decompress. Hope you enjoy your winter getaway!

      Like

  • had an outburst today, recently learned that i am an INFJ and this helped a lot. thank you. when i read these things it feels like someone wrote a book about me, well i guess they did, but again thank you. no one has any idea how much this helps

    Liked by 1 person

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