The Curious Case of the INFJ Hero

Today we’re going to talk about INFJ heroes in fiction, especially male heroes. But before we get to that, let’s talk about Russian literature for a moment. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky opens with an apologetic explanation from the narrator about his hero, Alexei Fyodorovich Karamazov. Here are a few highlights:

“While I do call Alexei Fyodorovich my hero, still, I myself know that he is by no means a great man …

One thing, perhaps, is rather doubtless: he is a strange man, even an odd one. But strangeness and oddity will sooner harm than justify any claim to attention …

If I, that is, the biographer himself, think that even one novel may, perhaps, be unwarranted for such a humble and indefinite hero, then how will it look if I appear with two; and what can explain such presumption on my part?” (p.3-4, Pevear/Volokhonsky translation)

As you may have guessed from the title of this post, Alyosha is an INFJ (most characters and the narrator use this nickname throughout the novel. In the Cyrillic alphabet, Alyosha is two letters shorter than Alexei, which makes this something like calling a man named Robert “Bob”). And I suspect that it’s his personality type that makes the narrator so worried about how people will respond to his hero.

It’s not that there aren’t other INFJ heroes in fiction. Just take a look at my post about 10 Stories You’ll Relate To If You’re An INFJ if you want some examples. Jane Eyre, Amélie, Yoda, and Atticus Finch are all INFJs in fiction who play a hero role. But even though there are male characters on this list, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if Alyosha was woman with all the same personality characteristics the narrator wouldn’t have felt the need to apologize for her.

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What Does Each Myers-Briggs® Type Look Like If They Get Stuck In A “Loop”?

When someone interested in Myers-Briggs®talks about loops, they’re referring to what happens when a person bypasses their co-pilot function and starts relying on their dominant and tertiary process instead. This can be a temporary situation, or it can last for quite a long time depending on the individual and their circumstances.

Some people teach that the Dominant-Tertiary Loop leads to personality disorders, but I have not found any good research to back up this claim. We can slip into a loop pattern without developing a disorder, and specific mental illnesses aren’t tied to any one personality type. It seems more likely to me that, as a general rule, loops are part of a reaction to stress or an attempt to avoid discomfort.

If you need a refresher on how cognitive functions work, click here to read “The Simplest Guide to Myers-Briggs® Functions Ever.”

We all need a balance between inner and outer world feedback, a way to learn new information, and a way to process information and make decisions. We’re got all that covered in our dominant and co-pilot functions because one is introverted and one is extroverted, and one’s a perceiving/learning function (Sending or Intuition) and one’s a judging/decision-making function (Feeling or Thinking).

When we skip our co-pilot function and go for the tertiary instead, we’re replacing the co-pilot with a function that fills a similar role because the tertiary and co-pilot are both either Perceiving or Judging functions. However, the tertiary has the same orientation (Introverted or Extroverted) as the dominant function. Going into a “loop” means we’re ignoring the world that is most uncomfortable for us and we’re opting to use a function that’s less mature than our co-pilot. This “loop” is going to look different for each type, but in all cases it means we’re not balanced. It also usually means that we’re avoiding personal growth. Read more

What Role Does The Tertiary Function Play In Myers-Briggs® Personality Types?

When we talk about psychological functions in Myers-Briggs® types, the tertiary function often gets over looked. Usually, we talk about the two that we use most often or about the inferior function that usually shows up under stress. These three functions are hugely important. Our dominant and co-pilot processes need to work together for us to have healthy, balanced personalities. And we need to understand the inferior function so we’re better equipped to recognize and deal with how we react to stressful situations. But the tertiary function is also important.

To learn more about how your inferior function works, check out my article “What Does Each Myers-Briggs® Type Look Like When They Get Stressed-Out?” And if you need a refresher on cognitive functions, or if this part of Myers-Briggs® is new to you, read “The Simplest Guide to Myers-Briggs® Functions Ever

The tertiary function is also called the “relief function.” In Personality Hacker’s car model (affiliate link), they call it the 10-year-old because that’s the level of maturity this function typically has. Psychologist John Beebe named it the “Eternal Child” after one of Carl Jung’s archetypes. Though we don’t talk about this function nearly as much as some of the others, it’s also a key part of our personality. Understanding the tertiary function, and how it relates to the other functions, can really help us understand ourselves.

Growth And The Functions

In terms of typology, personal growth happens when we’re using both our introverted and our extroverted sides, as well as our judging and perceiving sides. Working to find a balance between our dominant and co-pilot processes leads to growth and change because we’re exercising all these aspects of our personality. Read more

7 Fictional Characters That You’ll Relate to If You’re An ISFJ

What fictional characters do you relate to as an ISFJ?

Just as we can describe real people using the Myers-Briggs® typology system, we can also use the system to type well-written fictional characters. Some of fiction’s most iconic characters are ISFJs, and today we’re going to talk about seven of them that I think real-life ISFJs will find very relatable.

One of the other great things about looking at character personality types is that it can help those us to better understand people who have different types than we do. Fictional ISFJs can serve as examples for what real-life ISFJs can be like, and also show how much variation there can be between individuals with the same type. Read more

What Does Each Myers-Briggs® Type Look Like When They Get Stressed-Out?

Stress is something we all have to deal with. It’s part of being human. But how we each react to stress is, at least partly, determined by our personality types.

Each personality type has four mental processes called “cognitive functions” that they use when living their day-to-day lives. These functions describe how our minds work. For example, an ESTJ type is most comfortable using Extroverted Thinking to make decisions in the outer world. That’s supported by their co-pilot Introverted Sensing, which is their preferred way to learn and process information. Then they have a tertiary process called Extroverted Intuition, which they’re not quite as comfortable with. The fourth function, in this case Introverted Feeling, is called the inferior process and it’s not well developed at all.

For more information on how cognitive functions work, read “The Simplest Guide to Myers-Briggs® Functions Ever

When we’re stressed-out our minds typically go to our inferior process. (We can also “loop” between our dominant and tertiary, but that’s a topic for another post). This explains why we start acting out of character when under stress. Stress throws off the familiar, comfortable balance of our mental processes and changes how we deal with things. And because we each use a different combination of these mental functions, a stress-response is going to look a little different for each type.

Why Study Stress-Responses?

Recognizing what a stress-reaction looks like for different types can help us in several ways. If you’re in any kind of relationship with someone, knowing what happens when they’re stressed can give you a different perspective on them when they start to act out a character. Instead of being puzzled by their behavior, you can recognize it as the way they respond to stress.

In terms of our relationship with ourselves, knowing our own stress reactions can help us recognize when we need to practice some self-care. If you’re starting to go into your inferior function, then it’s time to take a look at your life and figure out what’s the cause of your stress and how you can get yourself back into balance. Read more

Why Is It So Hard For Certain Personality Types To “Just Get Over It”?

You know when you’re struggling with something bad that happened to you and someone says, “Just get over it,” but you know it’s not that simple? For some reason, this particular hurt lodged deep inside and letting go seems well-nigh impossible.

For this post, I’m not talking about a hurt like grief over losing someone you love. We know why things like that are hard to “get over,” and in many cases it wouldn’t be appropriate to move on quickly. Most people recognize that hurts of that sort require time to heal and grieve. I’m talking about interpersonal hurts that might seem “little,” but have a big impact anyway. For example…

  • You express an authentic part of yourself (like your happy, fun-loving side), then people assume that’s all there is to your personality.
  • You receive 99% positive feedback about a project, but that 1% haunts you anyway.
  • You help someone out of the goodness of your heart, but others misinterpret your motives.
  • You decide to open up to someone, then lie awake at night worrying about their reaction.

Hurts like this touch on the core of who we are and/or our relationships with other people. These hurts are often deeply individual, and others might not understand them. If you don’t care what other people think of you, then you’re not going to understand why someone else is so upset about the one person in their life who’s a critic. If you find it easy to adapt to different social situations, you might not understand why someone’s so upset about not being able to express their true self all the time.

The reason why things like this can hurt us so deeply is often nuanced and complicated, but it has a lot to do with how we use the Feeling sides of our personalities. Everyone has a Feeling side (whether or not there’s an F in your four-letter Myers-Briggs® type), and we each use this part of our personality a little differently. Read more