A few weeks ago, I received a lovely email from Joyce Meng inviting me to join an INFJ panel on her YouTube channel. That didn’t work out for my schedule, so we planned a one-on-one conversation with questions from her audience. I’ve done interviews before, but those were pre-recorded and for the most part pre-scripted–I had all the questions in advance and could plan out what I wanted to say before the call or video started. The live Q & A format was very different, but I also found it a lot of fun (except for the part where I forgot how to say “methodical” so thoroughly that it came out as some tortured version of “methodological”).
Joyce is an excellent interviewer, and I really enjoyed my conversations with her before and during this video. Also thank you to everyone who tuned-in live and asked such interesting questions. I’m even grateful for the questions I wasn’t sure how to answer because they were so interesting to think about!
INFJs can get hurt pretty easily. Usually, these hurts come from other people, but in some cases they come from institutions like a church. Of course groups like this are made up of people, but in many cases the hurts that happen within a group aren’t blamed on individuals. They’re blamed on the organization or sometimes, for churches and religious groups, on God.
So what happens when church hurts an INFJ? One thing I found most interesting about my article “Religion and the INFJ” is how many people I’ve heard from who relate to what I mentioned in that post about INFJs being turned-off from church/religion/God. This phenomena isn’t limited to Christian INFJs, but that is who I’ll be focusing on today.
Door Slamming God
You’ve probably heard of the INFJ door slam, right? That’s what happens when someone hurts an INFJ so much that they “slam the door” and stop investing energy in the relationship. In certain situations, INFJs can also door slam whole groups of people, or even concepts like “romance.” Some INFJs who’ve had particularly terrible experiences with religions even slam the door on God. Read more →
I’ve often seen INFJs described as an intensely spiritual type. Yet a little while ago, in an online INFJ group, someone posted that most INFJs are atheist or agnostic. Being a type that appreciates truth, someone else set up a poll trying to see if that was really the case.
It’s a small, volunteer sample group, but the results were interesting. 36% identified as atheist, agnostic or non-religious. That’s the same percentage that identified with a Christian religious sect. The remaining 28% identified as “spiritual” or with a non-Christian religion.
INFJs approach religion much like we approach everything else: with an open, inquisitive mind looking for patterns, especially those relating to people. Our relationship with spirituality largely depends on how we were raised and the direction our lives took from there. But it also depends on our journeys of personal growth, how the religions we encounter line-up with our convictions, and whether or not faith “makes sense” to us.
The Hypocrisy Factor
Many INFJs I’ve seen talking about being non-religious started out in a church of some sort and then left. As with many people who leave churches, hypocrisy is often cited as the reason. INFJs are exceptionally good at detecting deception. We can read people well and pick up on inconsistencies in their patterns of behavior very quickly. At the same time, we want to believe the best of people and it can take a long time for us to admit someone who we value would betray us. Read more →
Have you ever cut someone out of your life because you were 100% done with that relationship? Then you’ve done a door slam. Anyone can door slam someone else, but it’s INFJs who are most “famous” (infamous?) for it in personality type circles. The INFJ Door Slam involves deciding not to invest any more time or emotional energy into another person. It’s also pretty final.
When you’re struggling with a hurtful and/or decaying relationship it’s always hard to know how to handle things. Do I slam the door on them and avoid more hurt? Do I try to address the problem and patch things up? The more self-aware I become, the more I realize that I have the capability to emotionally hurt those close to me and that I don’t want to do that. Sometimes relationships have to end, but perhaps it’s worth taking a little extra time to step back and ask how you can protect yourself while minimizing the damage you do to the other person.
While the door slam can be a healthy defense mechanism (like if you need to get out of a relationship with a narcissistic personality that’s controlling and manipulating you), it can also be a way of avoiding conflict. Much as we hate conflict, it’s sometimes necessary to rebuild a friendship that might actually be valuable if you’d put time and effort into fixing things. But how can you tell the difference between relationships you should fight for and ones you need to let go?
Are You Being Hurt?
That’s the first question. For a type known for their lie-detecting skills, INFJs are surprisingly prone to ending up in relationships with people who are not trustworthy. We can be far too inclined toward initially giving people the benefit of the doubt and then holding on to people who aren’t healthy for us. This might be because we feel that we need to help them, or because we see the person they want to be rather than who they are, or because we don’t feel that we have the energy to get out of the relationship. Read more →
Last week, I stumbled across an article on Pinterest talking about female INFJs. Well, technically it was about INFj in the Socionics system, which is a bit different than the MBTI type and may include INFPs as well, but for purposes of this article we’ll just talk about INFJ types. The original article, written in 2011 by someone identified only as Beskova, paints a portrait of the INFJ type that is beautiful on the surface but doesn’t quite manage to reach their heart. It’s part of a disturbing trend in portrayals of INFJs, though this is the most extreme example I’ve seen.
Like many people who treat the INFJ type as quasi-mythical, this writer describes INFJs as flawless, naive, pure and submissive. They even describe a typical INFJ appearance: “Women of this type are very feminine and are delicate, modest and even shy. … They have a very ephemeral body, and sometimes lightly stooped posture.”
Reading on, it seems the INFJ has no faults. They never gossip or argue, meet adversity with mild gentleness, focus on humanitarian efforts, fit into any job, and submit themselves selflessly to helping the people in their lives. In short, the article says, “When a female INFj becomes your wife, know that in your home there lives a quiet angel” who “makes for one of the most obedient wives.”
The biggest problem with this portrait of an INFJ isn’t just that it’s untrue; it’s the fact that INFJ women may try to fit into this mold if they end up in a relationship with someone who expects “their” INFJ to act like this. One thing that’s become clear in the months I’ve been reading things INFJs share online is that we’re one of the types most vulnerable to getting involved in unhealthy relationships with narcissists. And INFJ descriptions that make us out to be perfectly submissive and obedient aren’t helping discourage interest from unhealthy people.
Myth: INFJs won’t start a fight
It’s true that INFJs are one of the most conflict-avoidant types. Until a person does something the INFJ can’t live with, we’ll often just nod and smile at most conversations and suggestions. This happens with casual acquaintances when we don’t want to wast energy on conflict, and in closer relationships when we don’t want to deal with the emotional fall-out of conflict unless there’s a very good reason. I talk about this at greater length in my INFJ Handbook.
But if you think INFJs can’t get angry or won’t take a stand when things aren’t as they should be, think again. INFJs tend to draw a line in their minds, and once it’s crossed we’ll make sure we let you know. Once we get started, we’ll probably tack on a list of every other way you’ve ever let us down as well. The closer we are to you, the better we’ll know how to tear you apart (note: we’re not proud of this fact, and many INFJs work hard at controlling their anger). The best way to avoid this in a relationship is to keep open lines of communication, which is the number one thing many INFJs are looking for in a relationship. INFJs prefer to keep our emotions out in the open, and if we feel safe and heard then there’s no need to bottle up our feelings until we explode.
Myth: INFJs are always agreeable
In this socionics article, the writer talks about how INFJ women often need/want other people to make decisions for them. They write, “If you are her husband take responsibility for making major decisions in development of your family and she will with pleasure obey you.” Now, I’ll be honest — sometimes I do want people to make decisions for me. But if an INFJ is consistently told she can’t be trusted with important decisions and is left out of the planning process, then she’s going to stop trusting you.
The other party might not even notice an INFJ doesn’t agree with him if he’s expecting her to be what the article says: “friendly and dutiful, never quarrel nor ask much for themselves.” We place a high value on trust and communication in relationships, and assuming we agree with you instead of really asking us what we think is a good way to experience the INFJ door slam.
A tip for people who know INFJs: If we don’t actually agree with you, or simply don’t care, we’ll typically make non-committal sounds, nod our heads, and avoid eye contact. If pressured to commit to something we don’t want to do or think, but won’t openly disagree with, we’ll try to push it off to an unspecified future date. When an INFJ actually agrees with you, we’ll make eye contact, our face will light-up, and we’ll say things like “Oh, yes” instead of just nodding. Usually, we’ll also be able to explain why we agree with you in specific terms.
Myth: INFJs are completely altruistic
One last quote from the socionics article: “watch that her emotional resources aren’t spent on her girlfriends, who inadvertently will use your wife as a psychotherapist. She will never refuse them herself, of course. Out of compassion. Therefore, it will be best if you take the matter into your own hands and limit the flow of those desiring to obtain psychotherapeutic sessions and useful advice from her.” Excuse me! What gives someone else the right to limit an INFJ’s contact with her friends? That’s the sort of controlling behavior that’s a huge red-flag in any relationship.
In addition to being incapable of taking care of herself, INFJ wives are apparently so dutiful they’ll do all the housework without any complaint even though they hate cleaning and cooking. For the record, this INFJ loves cooking and the housework doesn’t always get done in a reasonable amount of time. Also, one reason INFJs will avoid conflict and try to help people is because of how it affects us. Sometimes I do what people ask just because I don’t want to stay awake for three hours that night re-hashing every word of the resulting argument. It’s a self-protecting mechanism. That’s not to say INFJs don’t care about people — we do, deeply, and we will support our friends and family whenever possible. It’s a good thing. We can stretch ourselves too thin at times, but INFJs value their introvert time and don’t usually need someone to step in an control their lives to keep them from burning out. We’re not that altruistic.
In conclusion …
I may have dispelled some of the “mystic unicorn” aura surrounding INFJs, but perhaps that’s a good thing. Our rarity doesn’t make us better than other types, and type portraits that make us out to be something ephemeral and idyllic really aren’t helpful. As my siblings (and no doubt other people who INFJs have let into their lives) can testify, we’re not perfect.
Shutting people out of your life after they’ve hurt you or someone you love isn’t specific to INFJs, but it happens often enough that we’ve given it a name: The INFJ Door Slam. I like the definition given in an article by Jenn Granneman titled “How INFJs Deal with Conflict: 10 Confessions” (which is no longer available online).
“It means you’ve hurt me so much, I’m no longer investing any of my (limited) supply of energy in you. It means I’ve come to resent you. If you value me, don’t let it get to this point. It’s really hard to go back.”
An INFJ door slam may or may not involve actually cutting a person out of your life. Depending on the circumstances, a door slam can range from ignoring someone completely, to limiting contact to the bare minimum, to acting almost normal. In some cases the person who’s been door slammed can’t help but notice, while in others they don’t realize anything has changed (though something definitely has, at least in the INFJ’s mind). Read more →