One of the ways we relate Myers-Briggs type to culture is by saying most Feeling types are women and most Thinking types are men. This seems to work quite nicely as a partial explanation for gender stereotypes in Western culture. In spite of social pushes to break-down gender distinctions, Feeling-type attributes (emotionally expressive, nurturing, relational, etc.) are typically considered “female” and Thinking attributes (impersonal, fact-oriented, business-like, etc.) are considered more “male.”
If we fit this generalization, we probably haven’t even noticed it. If you’re a woman with traditionally feminine traits or a man with traditionally masculine traits, there’s little pressure to change (though there are exceptions, of course). But if you’re a woman whose mind naturally makes decisions in an impersonal way or a man who prefers harmony to competition chances are someone has told you at some point that there’s something wrong with you.
As with many generalizations, there’s a whole slew of problems related to this observation. According to the Center for Applications of Psychological Type, about 57 to 84 percent of women are Feeling types and about 47 to 72 percent of men are Thinking types. It’s hard to get exact numbers on type distribution, but even these broad estimates show that, while the generalization holds true, there are also quite a few Feeling men and Thinking women.
Just in my family of 5, there are three good examples of exceptions to the general rule that most men are Thinkers and most women are Feelers. My dad (ISFJ) and brother (ENFJ) are both Feeling types, and my sister (INTJ) is a thinking type. My mother has asked me not to type her, but as an INFJ I might be the only one in my family who fits the “women are Feeling types” generalization.
Thinking vs. Feeling
Lest these generalizations lead you to conclude Thinking people don’t have emotions or that Feeling people can’t be intelligent, let’s take a quick look at what Thinking and Feeling refer to when we’re talking about Myers-Briggs types. Both Thinking and Feeling are Judging functions, meaning they describe how you like to make decisions. Read more →
People have been trying to use personality types to find their perfect romantic match since typology first became popular. In a previous posts about Myers-Briggs types and love languages, I talked about how falling in love — and staying in love — with someone is so much more complex than simply matching personality types. Sometimes when browsing personality type forums, I’ll come across posts from people asking how to find and attract a someone of a specific personality type (often it’s an ENTP asking for step-by-step instructions to win an INFJ, which I find hilarious). It’s like some of us think that if we can just find someone who is our ideal type-match, then we’ll be happy because we caught the mythical “compatibility” creature.
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Now, I do have some personality types I find more attractive romantically than others, but it’s not always the types I’m “supposed” to like according to Myers-Briggs or Keirsey theories. Even Isabel Myers was happily married to a man who her theory said should have been incompatible. An understanding of love languages and a mutual willingness to understand and work with each other is one piece of the puzzle. Another is something I just learned this week from Personality Hacker.*
The “Genius System”
Personality Hacker was founded by Antonia Dodge and Joel Mark Witt, who use what they call the “Genius system” to divide Myers-Briggs types into four groups based on the last two letters in a person’s type. In terms of function stacks, this means they group types based on whether the type introverts or extroverts their Judging function. The groupings end up looking like this:
According to a new article on Personality Hacker, each of these groups look for and expressed love in a unique way. Most people would tell an INFJ to look for a relationship with an ENFP or an ENTP and avoid their opposite type, ESTP. This system stays that an ENFP and and ENTP express love in completely different ways, but ENTPs and ESTPs are actually very similar in how they love. That would explain why some INFJs find ENFPs really attractive, while others prefer ESTPs or ENTPs. It’s not so much about matching two specific types, as it is about finding types who express love in a way you relate to and understand. This Genius style take on the MBTI adds an intriguing aspect to the subject of personality types in relationships. You can check out the Personality Hacker podcast on how each type says “I Love You”* for a full explanation, but here’s my brief take on what this means:
Types of Love
“Harmony” types, who use Extroverted Feeling as their first or second function, feel loved when they are connected, safe, cared for, and accepted as their authentic selves. They express love in a similar way, by encouraging the people they love and keeping in touch with them. They are primarily concerned with harmonious relationships and emotional connection.
The types who use Introverted Feeling, “Authenticity” in the Genius System, highly value honesty in relationships. They feel loved when they know someone is being real with them and is supportive of their own authentic expressions. Authenticity types express love by giving people space to be themselves and being willing to work through problems in the relationship.
“Effectiveness” types, those who use Extroverted Thinking, value independence in relationship. They want to know that the person who loves them is supportive of their goals and can be trusted to function on their own. They are loyal and protective towards those they love, and give them room to be themselves.
Those who use Introverted Thinking, “Accuracy” types, feel loved when they are respected. They want to know that the person who is in love with them thinks they are impressive and that the relationship makes sense. In return, they are protective, non-judgmental, and strive to bring the best version of themselves to the relationship.
Ultimately, typology is simply a tool we can use to understand each other. When we understand ourselves and the people around us, we have a better idea of what we’re looking for in a romantic relationship. I think that’s really the best way to apply Myers-Briggs theory to romance. We can’t just say that all INFJs’ ideal match is an ENTP — people are far more nuanced than that, even within a type. But the better we understand how we’re wired and what makes us feel loved, the more likely we’ll be able to recognize whether a potential romantic partner would be a good or a bad match for us.
This is one of the things Debra Fileta talks about in her book and blog True Love Dates. You have to know yourself before you try to get to know other people in a romantic context, otherwise you have no idea what you’re looking for in a relationship. So maybe the first thing we should do when looking at the Genius System types is find which group we fit into. If we know who we are, we’re one step closer to knowing what we want.
This study all began with perusing the “lambda” section in a Greek dictionary. I came across the word logikos (G3050), which means “pertaining to reason and therefore reasonable.” You’ve probably already guessed that it’s where we got our English word “logic.” This is the word used in Romans 12:1 for “reasonable service.”
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Rom. 12:1-2)
I tend to connect my faith with a feeling more than an intellectual idea. I know “intellectually” that God exists and that the Bible makes sense, but for me personally the feeling of Him being real and present and in a relationship with me seems more important. This has frustrated some of the more rational, logical people I’ve talked to. One atheist who had been raised Christian couldn’t understand why things that seem contradictory in scripture didn’t bother me even though I couldn’t explain all of them. Another person still in the church said that my “spirituality” is almost intimidating because I talk about my feelings for God so much, and that kind of faith seems alien to her. Other people attracted by reason and logic have walked away from their faith when confronted with scientific arguments for evolution or a “big bang” explanation of how the universe came into being.
One of the things I’ve run across in my studies of type psychology is that “feeling” types are more attracted to spirituality and religion than “thinking” types (this refers to a preference for dealing with people or data, not a measure of intelligence). In fact, I read of one study that indicated the more highly educated the person is, the more likely they are to be involved with a religion (sorry — I don’t have the citation yet. I’ll try to find it and update this post later). It makes sense that “feelers” are attracted to a place that encourages group interaction and harmony, but I worry that we may have scared off some of the “thinkers” with our talk of a touchy-feeling God who just wants to love people. It is true that God wants a relationship with everyone, but it’s not true that everyone needs to relate to Him the exact same way. He means to be accessible to all the people He created.
Order and Logic
There aren’t just one or two verses that simply state “God is ordered and logical.” Rather, the entire Bible and the whole of creation is a testament to the way His mind works. We can read Genesis 1 and see the orderly step-by-step way He created the world, then look at creation and see His master-craftsman hand at work in every aspect of the universe’s design. Scientists have been doing this for years, and many come to the conclusion that God is the only explanation for how the universe is so perfectly put together.
“The more I study science, the more I believe in God.” –Albert Einstein
“There can never be any real opposition between religion and science; for the one is the complement of the other. Every serious and reflective person realizes, I think, that the religious element in his nature must be recognized and cultivated if all the powers of the human soul are to act together in perfect balance and harmony. And indeed it was not by accident that the greatest thinkers of all ages were deeply religious souls.” –Max Planck
“When confronted with the order and beauty of the universe and the strange coincidences of nature, it’s very tempting to take the leap of faith from science into religion. I am sure many physicists want to. I only wish they would admit it.” –Tony Rothman
There are a couple verses in 1 Corinthians that speak to the orderly, logical attributes of God. Paul was discussing who should speak and how meetings should be conducted in the church, and makes these statements:
God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. … Let all things be done decently and in order. (1 Cor. 14:33, 40)
God does not author confusion — He wants things to progress in a decent, orderly fashion. Even mildly logical, perfectionistic, or OCD people can identify with this attribute of God.
The Word of Intelligence
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1-3, 14)
In these very familiar verses, the Greek word translated “Word” is logos (G3056). It is the root word for logikos, which we’re already talked about. It means “to speak,” but it is distinct from other words that specifically refer to sound or noise (lalia, G2981) or to speaking without necessarily making sense (laleo, G2980). Logos means to express intelligence.
Logos, when it refers to discourse, is regarded as the orderly linking and knitting together in connected arrangement of words of the inward thoughts and feelings of the mind. … In the first chapter of John, Jesus Christ in His preincarnate state is called ho Logos, the Word, meaning first immaterial intelligence and then the expression of that intelligence in speech that humans could understand. (Zodhiates)
One of the most well-known names of Jesus carries with it a testament to God’s reason, intellect, and logic. It is a key role of Jesus Christ to express intelligence — to communicate the thoughts of God in a way that people can understand.
Sometimes when people come across something in relation to God that “doesn’t make sense,” they assume that there’s something wrong with the Bible. But that’s just another way of saying that we think our minds work better than the Mind of the One who designed us. It’s really rather absurd to think there’s something wrong with God because we don’t understand Him perfectly. But it’s far more unsettling for some of us to admit that the problem might be on our side.
In John 8:43, Christ was debating with some of the Jews who were following Him. They were offended and confused by some of His words, and this is what He said to them:
Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. (John 8:43)
The word “speech” is translated from lalia — to make sounds — and “word” is from logos. Because they couldn’t grasp Christ’s intelligence speech, it was as if He was speaking nonsense (I’m indebted to Zodhiates’ Key-Word study Bible for analyzing this verse).
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is. 55:8-9)
Rather than assume there’s something lacking in God when we can’t understand Him and then reacting with hostility or disgust (by the end of John 8 the Jews were trying to stone Jesus), let’s follow James’ advice.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)
The Issue of Feelings
C.S. Lewis is the perfect person to bring in on this discussion. He was a very logical, rational Christian (probably an INTJ, for those of you who like Myers-Briggs). I like this description of him from The New York Times Book Reviw: “C.S. Lewis is the ideal persuader of the half-convinced, for the good man who would like to be a Christian but finds his intellect getting in the way.”
Now, the thing about Lewis is that for him, getting your intellect out of the way certainly doesn’t mean abandoning reason and just “trust your feelings” or “have faith.” On the contrary, Lewis says that our faith absolutely must have a rational basis.
Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods “where they get off,” you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. (Mere Christianity; III, 11)
That’s why it’s dangerous to try and base your faith on emotions alone. Feelings for God are all well and good, but feelings can change — we might “fall out of love” or fall into a season of doubt. But we can’t afford to give up on God when we don’t feel close to Him anymore. We have to keep choosing to seek Him because we have decided He is the only way to go.
Lewis went on to say in this chapter of Mere Christianity that we need to “train the habit of faith” daily by reminding ourselves of what we believe. He says, “Neither this belief no any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed.” And if it’s not, we’ll be one of those people who just drift away from Christianity without even coming up with a reasonable argument for God not existing.
A Logical Sacrifice
The Bible tells us to “Pray without ceasing” and “test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thes. 5:17, 20). It’s a succinct instruction from God to do precisely what Lewis was talking about. God wants us to constantly be seeking, questioning, learning, and asking Him to help us understand His words.
This is another reason to stay close to the Source of the Living Water that we talked about in last week’s post. We need Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, involved in our lives. He is the Logos, and He is well able to shore-up our faith with reason and wisdom and good-sense.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, which the Father will send in My name, that one will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. (John 14:26)
And then, having this foundation of knowing God exists, that He is more intelligent than we are , and that He sacrificed Himself for us, we can go back to Romans 12:1 and understand why it is logical for us to present ourselves in service to God. He created us, and “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). He died to buy us back from sin, and we belong to Him not only as His creation, but as His to redeem (1 Cor. 6:20).
Since I just quoted Acts 17, let’s take a quick look at the apostle Paul. He was probably the most highly educated of the apostles, since he was trained as a Pharisee (Phil. 3:5). It took direct divine intervention to show Paul that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 9:1-19), but once he was convinced of this fact he turned all the energy and emotion he’d been using to persecute the church into preaching the gospel. And he did so in a manner both firmly grounded in reason and full of zeal. He preached to groups of people from every walk of life, including presenting a reasonable argument to the Athenians and quoting their own poets and thinkers (Acts 17:16-34). He wrote most of the New Testament, epistles full of deep inspired reasoning that even Peter described as “things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Paul wrote the letter which tells us it is our “reasonable service” to devote every part of ourselves to following God, which is exactly what he did.
We are all made in God’s image, but no one person or type of person is “enough” to fully reflect all of who and what God is. I’ve seen this talked about in discussions of gender — man and women embody different attributes of God. Similarly, 1 Corinthians 12 describes different spiritual gifts, and different types of people that are all necessary parts of the church. If everyone was the same, the church would be lacking essential attributes.
But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. (1 Cor. 12:18-19)
The same, I think, can be said of personality types. Aspects of God are reflected in introverts and in extroverts, in people-oriented feeling types and in fact-oriented thinking types. And God Himself is accessible to everyone — He wants a relationship with the logical, questioning mind just as much as He wants a relationship with the more stereotypically “spiritual,” emotional people.
The problem with these types of charts is it assumes there’s an example of each of the 16 types available. Unfortunately, they’re not always so evenly represented (I had this problem trying to type people in Lord of the Rings — there’s an unusually high number of introverts). Since there’s only 13 “official” Disney princess (if you count Elsa and Anna, who haven’t been officially crowned yet), that makes it rather difficult to come up with 16 types. On top of that, there also seems to be certain personality types which make “better” princesses than others, so there is some overlap. All together, the 13 official princesses represent 11 different personality types:
I’ll give descriptions of each type in a moment, along with a bit on why I think they fit each princess. But first, 13 princesses really isn’t that many — they couldn’t have filled out the chart even if there wasn’t any overlap. So let’s add a few of the “unofficial” princesses: Jane, Kida, Giselle, Megara, Nala, and Esmerelda. We’ve now added six more characters, but only filled in two more MBTI types.
The “missing” princesses can be explained by the fact that the NF and NT types are less common in real life. The lack of ESTJs (with the possible exceptions of Jane and Kida) is explainable by Isabel Myer’s observation that it is “the most traditionally ‘masculine’ type.” But one of the reasons Disney has been pressured to introduce more racially diverse Princesses is that little girls should be able to see people like them represented in the stories they enjoy. But what about the little INTJ and INTP girls, who see very few positive portrayals of their personality type, especially as female characters? (I asked my INTJ sister if she could think of any female characters who she identifies with as a similar personality and the only one she could come up with was Dr. Temperance Brennan from Bones.)
Looking back at the chart of just the 13 official princesses, most of the missing personality types are thinkers: ESTJ, ENTJ, INTJ, and INTP. You could say that’s because most women are feeling types, but that’s a bit like saying most books are paperback instead of hardcover. There are more feeling-type women, but there are certainly plenty of thinking-type women as well. The only official Disney princesses who are thinking types right now are Jasmine, Mulan, Merida, and Tiana. The next Disney movie will feature their first Polynesian princess, Moana, and I think I would be awesome if she was also their first “official” princess who was an ESTJ, ENTJ, INTJ, or INTP. Or an ENFJ, since they’ve been left out, too.
Type Explanations for The Princesses
Disclaimer: typing fictional characters is a great way to stir-up disagreements, and it’s very rare that people agree on a typing. The types I’ve gone with for each character reflect my personal feelings, supported by reading other people’s thoughts on websites like personalitycafe.com and this excellent blog post. Please feel free to disagree, and let me know in the comments how you’d type these princesses 🙂
The personality group that David Keirsey refereed to as “Guardians” is the best represented in this grouping of Disney characters. It’s really not surprising — they make good heroes and about 40 to 45 percent of the population falls into this group. SJ types are hardworking people who enjoy helping others and want to “do their duty.”
ESTJs are take-charge people who are practical, well-grounded, loyal and organized. They enjoy new experiences that appeal to their senses, such as meeting new people and traveling to a new place. They often ignore their intuition and base most of their decision on past experience. None of the official princesses fit this type, but Jane Porter from Tarzan and Kida from Atlantis might be ESTJs (honestly, I’m not sure, but I’m not sure where else to put them either).
The ISTJ is a very responsible type, and they are extremely hardworking. They value decisiveness and logic, with little time for make-believe or patience with other people’s oversights. Practical and fact-oriented, they are honest and dependable. Tiana from The Princess and the Frog is an ISTJ.
ESFJs are warm, friendly, and people-oriented. They value loyalty, friendship, and harmony. They are typically practical people with well-defined ideas that they aren’t afraid to share. Anna from Frozen is a very good example of this type, particularly in showing the strongly social side of ESFJs and their tendency to trust people quickly. Snow White is another example, and we could also add the “unofficial” princess Giselle, since she was patterned after Snow White’s personality.
ISFJs are as hardworking as ISTJs, but more interested in people than than in facts. They are very considerate, loyal, and will put up with quite a bit of abuse before provoking a conflict. ISFJs aren’t likely to express their inner ideas and feelings except with close friends. Cinderella is a good example of this type.
Keirsey called the SP types “Artisans,” because they work well with solid objects — whether it’s a weapon or a paintbrush. This group of personality types focuses on the now, and tends to be both fun-loving and realistic. 30 to 35 percent of the population fits in this group.
ESTPs like to take action — they don’t enjoy sitting around and waiting for something to happen. They are realistic, adaptable, and enjoy physical activities. In the case of Merida from Brave, this includes horseback riding and archery. They hate feeling confined, and are impatient with theories or ideas that they can’t see practical application for.
ISTP types are good with tasks that involve some kind of physical skill, and they like to take the time to think before acting so they can complete tasks in them most efficient way. They might seem aloof from other people, but do care about equality and fairness for groups and individuals. Mulan is an example of this type, and so is the “unofficial” princess Megara from Hercules.
ESFPs are friendly and focused on other people. They like observing as well as interacting with others, and have a powerful sense of curiosity. Material possessions interest them, and they often have some kind of a collection that they find ascetically pleasing. They hate structure and confinement as much as ESTPs. Ariel from The Little Mermaid is an excellent example of this type.
The ISFP type likes to work with people and meet their needs, but is generally quiet and reserved. Isabel Myer says they often “have a special love of nature and a sympathy for animals.” Like other SP types, they work well with their hands and are in tune with external sensory details (including things like music). Aurora from Sleeping Beauty is hard to type since she has so little screen-time, but she seems like an ISFP to me.
Types who rely on Intuition are more rare than Sensing types. The NF types who Keirsey called “Idealists” make up only 15 to 20 percent of the population. They are romantic, intuitive, spiritual, and seek good. Though their rarity in Disney is reflected by rarity in reality, it’s really surprising that this type isn’t more prevalent in fairy tale stories, especially since most NF types (though certainly not all) are women.
ENFJs are very social and have excellent people stills. They have a gift for expressing themselves and can influence other people (usually they have a very strong aversion to hurting others, but they have the potential to be manipulative). Typically honest and imaginative, they may hide their opinions in order to avoid disagreements and maintain harmony. None of the Disney princesses are ENFJs.
We finally got an INFJ Disney princess when Frozen was released last year (and I’ve already written about Elsa as an INFJ). This is the rarest personality type. INFJs are focused on their inner worlds of possibility and rely heavily on their intuition. They care deeply about other people, and avoid conflict as much as possible even if it means hiding their true self.
ENFPs are creative, imaginative, and artistic. They are easily excited by new ideas, but only follow through on pursuing the most important goals. Possibility excites them, and they love interacting with people and sharing their dreams and ideas. Rapunzel, sometimes typed as an ENFJ, is more typical of the ENFP type.
INFPs value internal harmony and have deep feelings that are rarely expressed to other people. They often seem like outsiders in their society and are more concerned with their inner moral code than with external expectations. Even so, they interact well with other people and are very loyal. Belle from Beauty and the Beast and Pocahontas are both examples of this type.
“Rationals,” as Keirsey described the NT types, are the rarest group — only 5 to 10 percent of the population. They are skeptical, analytical, and independent. Their rarity helps explain why there aren’t more Disney princesses in this category, along with the fact that most (though certainly not all) NT types are men.
ENTJs are problem-solvers who like to lead. They are curious about new possibilities, and enjoy theoretical problem solving as well as coming up with practical solutions for current problems. They are very forceful and decisive. None of the human princesses fit this type. Nala from The Lion King acts very much like an ENTJ, though, especially as an adult who leaves her pride to go off and find a solution to the problem of Scar.
The INTJ personality type is almost as rare as INFJs, and female INTJs are the rarest gender-type combination. They are often cast as villains in fiction, which is a shame because they make such wonderful scientists and detectives (like Basil of Bakerstreet from The Great Mouse Detective, to use Disney as an example [Update: after re-watching this film, I now type Basil as an INTP. Click here to read why]). INTJs are innovative, clever, and very organized. If something isn’t logically challenging, it rarely holds their interest.
ENTPs tend to be independent and a bit impersonal. They are more concerned with their projects and plans than with how those plans will affect other people. They don’t like routine, preferring new experiences that challenge their quick minds. ENTPs are versatile, clever, and enthusiastic about understanding their worlds. Jasmine and the “unofficial” princess Esmeralda are examples of this type.
INTPs are described by Isabel Myer as “the most intellectually profound of all the types.” They are curious, logical, easily bored, and focus on creating theory regardless of whether or not it has practical application. They often have trouble relating to people because they see little value in feelings and find it hard to explain their ideas in a way that makes sense non-experts. None of the Disney princesses fit this type.
Last week, I learned that Neurowear launched a set of headphone about a year ago that scans your brainwaves and matches music on your iPod to your mood. As border-line creepy as that sounds to me, it’s just the next step from websites like Moodstream and Musicovery that play music based on whether you’re feeling happy, sad, calm, dark, lively, inspired, positive, creative, or pretty much any other mood you like.
I have genres or playlists that I’ll turn to for different moods, but I also have specific songs that I like to play for specific feelings. Is this just me? Or do you have a song you play every time you’re sad? A favorite song to match a happy mood? What about songs that help you deal with anger?
You know that feeling when you’re angry and you know you shouldn’t be, but you still need to do something with those feelings? That’s when I sing these songs. I feel much better afterwards and it means I’m not taking out my anger on anyone else, so they’re happy (although I have been told it’s creepy to witness).
I was trying to think up songs for this category, and my sister said, “Don’t you sing One Direction when you’re happy?” As embarrassing as that may be, yes I do. I’ve whittled it down to just one song from them, though.
I play these songs when I want to relax and I’m trying to encourage a peaceful feeling. They’re usually the first songs I play, then I move on to a playlist of related songs and artists. Or I listen to instrumental music with dolphins.
I realized Tuesday night when I was reading Fire by Kristin Cashore and crying into the bath water that I wasn’t crying because I felt sad a character had died. I was crying because someone in the book felt sad that this character had died. Once I thought about it, I realized that at least half of the times when fiction moves me to tears, it is in empathy with the characters rather than my own feelings being affected. In other words, I’m crying because the character is crying, not because of what moved the character to tears. Sometimes it is both (Ender’s Game, for example).
The extent to which INFJs report feeling other people’s emotions range from an awareness of how others are reacting, to not being able to remember the last time you experienced a feeling that belonged only to you. “You feel it, I feel it,” an anonymous INFJ wrote. I may not be quite ready to claim my feeling of and for others reaches that extent, but I share her decision to try and avoid encountering strong negative emotions (e.g. a news story about child molestation, a film where a family is torn apart, real-life conflict) because of how overwhelming it is — emotionally as well as physically in terms of headaches and stomach pain.
In INFJ Coach’s series of blog posts on “10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life,” part two is “Manage Those Pesky Emotions.” Her article is mainly about dealing with our own emotions when they surface, but the comments point out that this is only part of the problem. One commenter named Jennie wrote that she asks herself,
“Is this my emotion that I’m feeling, or is it someone else’s emotion?’ Many of us INFJs are emotional sponges for the emotions that other people are feeling. Our NF gives us a very high degree of empathy, but sometimes taking on other people’s emotions can be too much to handle.
The other side to this is what INFJ writer Cheryl Florus points out in Personality Junkie’s INFJ Strategies for Dealing with Emotions: Part I. Because an INFJ’s feeling is extroverted, we often have an easier time understanding the emotions of other people than our own emotions (for more on function stacks, see this post). We feel emotions strongly, but need to make an effort to learn how to experience and express them in a way that doesn’t seem overwhelming or uncontrolled. Often, writing down or talking about our emotions is a way to get them outside us so we can look at them more objectively (I keep a journal and talk to my closest family members). Sometimes, until I’ve done this, I’m not exactly sure what it is I’m feeling, let alone how it should be expressed and dealt with.
What about you? Are you an INFJ with experience feeling other people’s feelings (or a non-INFJ who does the same thing, because I’d love to hear from you)? Or are you someone who has never had this happen and thinks we’re crazy?