When you read about INFJ strengths or dig-in to tips for personal growth, one of the things that often comes up is the potential for INFJs to act as peacemakers. As an INFJ, you might have mixed feelings about that idea. Sure peace sounds nice — we love peace — but peacemaking assumes that there’s a lack of peace when you start out. In order to make peace out of conflict, you need to be able and willing to wade-in to that conflict.
Many INFJs, including me, find conflict extremely uncomfortable. Our palms get sweaty. Our insides start to shake, and possibly our hands or whole bodies as well. Our throats start to close up and our thoughts race to worst-case scenarios for how this might end. We’d often far rather quietly slip away from the conflicts, hold our tongues, or give-in on issues that don’t seem “all that important” right now than risk escalating a conflict. If we can get past that fear, though, INFJs have innate skills that we can build on to become good at conflict resolution.
We Value Harmony
Because external emotions affect us so much and we’re quick to notice disconnects between people, INFJs typically have a heightened sensitivity to conflict. We notice when something is off between two people (whether or not it directly involves us). INFJs place a high value on peace and we’ll do almost anything to preserve it.
For many INFJs, that means avoiding conflict even when something really should be addressed. We fear conflict rather than resolve it because we want harmony so much. But we need to learn that sometimes in order to create harmony, we have to deal with conflict. Read more →
I’ve talked with dozens, perhaps hundreds, of INFJs since I started this blog and wrote the first edition of The INFJ Handbook. One thing that most of us have in common is the feeling that we’re alien; that we don’t belong in the cultures, social groups, and/or families that we find ourselves in. Even if the people around us are welcoming, accepting, and seem to love us as we are we often feel as if there’s still something different about us.
Part of an INFJ’s feelings of alienation can be explained through type theory. Intuitives only make up about 30% of the population, and that means the way we process information and perceive the world is different than the way most people do. That difference is neither good nor bad; it’s just how our minds are hardwired. But as INFJs, we’re also FJ types who interact with the outer world using Extroverted Feeling. This is a cognitive function that’s keenly aware of values, ideals, behaviors, and cultural expectations. We notice when there’s something about us that doesn’t fit in, and it often bothers us.
Since I discovered the Enneagram and, years later, decided it might actually be a useful tool, I’ve started wondering if part of this feeling of being different might be connected to our Enneagram types. While INFJs can have any Enneagram type, some are more common than others. According to a survey conducted by Heidi Priebe in 2016, just over 30% of INFJs are Fours on the Enneagram, which makes it the most common Enneagram number for INFJs. It’s also my Enneagram type, and that’s the one I’m going to focus on today. If you’re wondering how different Enneagram types show up for INFJs, check out Susan Storm’s article “Your INFJ Personality Type and Your Enneagram Type.”
Why Fours Are Different
Myers-Briggs® types are typically describe in neutral or positive terms. You’ll also find information about the dark side of each type, but for the most part you’re likely to feel pretty good about yourself after reading your type description. That’s not the case with the Enneagram. When I first started reading about the Enneagram, what I noticed most is that it describes the core wounding message you internalized as a child and which you’re stuck with you your entire life.
I did not like this view. Truly, though, I probably wouldn’t have been so upset by the Enneagram’s description of Fours if part of me didn’t already believe that I was broken, abandoned, and envious of people who seem to have whatever basic human ingredient I’m missing. It wasn’t until years later, when I started seeing a counselor about my anxiety, that I realized I had internalized messages like this even though I grew up in a loving, supportive, stable home.
According to my favorite Enneagram book — The Road Back To You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile — “The wounding message Fours hear all the time is, ‘There’s something off about you. No one understands you, and you’ll never belong.’” Fours feel as if there’s something essential lacking; like we missed out on some important ingredient when God was putting people together. We’re not sure what it is, but we’re sure others have it and we don’t.
Wanting To Be Different, but Maybe Not Too Much
While some INFJs feel that their uniqueness is a burden, I’d venture a guess that most of us don’t really want to give it up (at least not entirely). The whole “otherworldly INFJ thing” can get ridiculous at times but many of us not-so-secretly like our unicorn status. I wonder if perhaps this might have to do with Fours being a common Enneagram type for INFJs
The Road Back To You says that Fours need to “be special or unique. They believe the only way they can recapture or compensate for their missing piece and finally secure an authentic identity is by cultivating a unique image, one that distinguishes them from everyone else.” I don’t know about you, but reading that connected with something deep inside me.
As an INFJ, part of me wants to be a chameleon to fit in with the people around me, but another part strongly wants an authentic identity (so much so that for a while I thought I might be an INFP, since Introverted Feeling is often associated with authenticity). This is probably the reason I started “dressing like a hippy” (to quote family members and friends who noticed my style change). I wanted a way to make myself visibly unique without stepping too far outside accepted behavior.
I suppose the holy grail for type Four INFJs is to find a way to express their individuality without feeling as if they have nowhere they fit. We want to be unique and different, but not so much that it messes with the harmony we need to have in our relationships.
Healing The Broken Things
I’ve come to realize that if there’s something inside us that feels broken, missing, and wrong, then running away from it or pushing it deep down inside us isn’t a good idea. It’s far better to let ourselves feel things and process our complicated emotions, particularly if they keep coming back to bite you after you think you shut them down (note: I’m not a therapist or psychologist. There are exceptions to every rule, and some things are best dealt with in a therapy setting. If you’re struggling with something, I encourage you to seek out professional help).
The Enneagram can be a useful tool for helping us identify and face unhelpful messages we’ve internalized. And it’s not depressing to read about those messages once you realize the Enneagram does include descriptions of healthy, average, and unhealthy versions of all the types, along with advice for how to grow into a healthier version of your type. What form that advice takes depends on who’s using the Enneagram. For example, The Road Back To You is written from a Christian perspective, and so the advice in that book is framed through that lens.
Before offering their 10 tips for Fours’ personal growth the authors write, “Fours need to hear this loud and clear: there’s nothing missing. It may be hard to believe, but God didn’t ship them here with a vital part absent from their essential makeup.” I teared up reading that the first time. I’m not convinced of it all the way deep down inside yet, but I want to be. And I’ve been heading that direction a lot more steadily over the past couple years thanks to tools like schema therapy.
Grow As Yourself
One of the most important messages an INFJ hears from Myers-Briggs® is that you’re not broken. You’re a perfectly normal INFJ, and it’s okay if that’s different than the majority of other people.
One of the most important messages we can hear from the Enneagram is that it’s okay to feel broken. None of us are perfect and we don’t have to be; we just need to grow, and realizing what sorts of foundations we’re starting with can be a great first step for that.
After someone learns about Myers-Briggs® types and starts taking online tests, one question that often comes up is how to tell the difference between two similar types. Maybe the tests you took gave you a couple different results. Or maybe you started reading about the types and discovered more than one sounds a lot like you. If you’re trying to decide whether you’re more of an INFJ or an INTJ type, I hope this article will help.
I’m an INFJ and my sister is an INTJ, and we’re both fairly typical examples of our types. Looking at the two of us it’d be almost impossible not to tell the difference between our personalities. But there’s also a huge amount of similarities between our two types — especially for what’s going on inside our heads and also how we respond to stress.
Just looking at the names of these personality types, we might think that the only difference is that one’s a Thinking type and the other Feeling. That’s true, but it’s not the full story. When we dive deeper into the cognitive functions that describe the mental processes each Myers-Briggs® type uses, it becomes easier to see the differences and similarities between these types more clearly. If you’re not familiar with cognitive functions, click here to read “The Simplest Guide to Myers-Briggs® Functions Ever.” INFJ and INTJ share the same Intuitive and Sensing functions, but have different Thinking and Feeling functions, as shown in this graphic:
The way these cognitive functions work together makes INFJs and INTJs very different in certain ways and very similar in others. The two types can often find lots of common ground and make great friends. And there are also several key differences in how they approach the world that makes it possible for us to tell them apart. Read more →
Thomas proposes nine “sacred pathways” — spiritual temperaments that describe how we’re most inclined to worship God. In the first chapter, he discusses that in the Christian churches we often expect everyone to worship God the same way. The example he uses is the “quiet time” that became a staple of church training and discipleship programs in the 1970s and ’80s. It involved spending 30 to 60 minutes each morning in prayer, personal worship, and Bible study, then having an accountability partner to check-in that you were keeping up with your routine. Prayer, worship, and study are all good things, but it’s not good if we reduce worship to “rote exercise” or assume everyone has to worship in the exact same way all the time (p. 14-15).
I’ve heard the idea that everyone else should worship “our way” voiced more or less directly by a variety of people in churches I’ve attended. Some think churches that don’t encourage dance are not worshiping Biblically; others worry about the people who aren’t committed enough to follow their example of reading the Bible through every year. I’ve voiced my own frustration with song services that have all the enthusiasm of a funeral dirge, saying we need more life in our worship to make it meaningful. Complaining about those who don’t worship the way we think they ought is a common thing. But perhaps it betrays a wrong attitude. Read more →
The world is opening back up after quarantines and shelter-in-place orders. Most of us are now free to leave our homes, even though we’re being asked to social distance. Still, things aren’t entirely back to normal and many of us find we have some extra free time on our hands this summer. Large social events like concerts and festivals are canceled, we can’t go to movie theaters, and it might be hard to get together with friends.
Maybe now is a good time to try out a new hobby. I’ve been writing a series of posts for Psychology Junkie about 21 hobbies each Myers-Briggs® type loves. For this post here on my blog, though, I’m just going to suggest one for each type. I’ll skip the more common hobbies like reading, music, and art (which people of every personality type enjoy) and focus on some that are a bit more unique.
The hobby I chose for each type is one that I’ve seen at least one or two people of that type talk about enjoying, though it’s usually not common enough it would appear on a list of top 5 hobbies for that type. My hope is that you’ll find some suggestions you’re intrigued by but haven’t tried yet. Also, don’t hesitate to borrow a hobby suggestion from one of the other types. Who knows; you might find that hobbies other people love give you a fun new experience.
ENFJ — Local Exploration
Many ENFJs enjoy meeting new people, but something you might not have thought of is how much fun it could be to “meet” new places. Travel and exploration is a favorite hobby of some ENFJs, and you can even do that close to home. I’m pretty sure there are at least a few small towns, parks, tourist attractions, or other intriguing locations in your local area that you haven’t explored yet.
INFJ — Target Practice
This is the hobby that surprised me most when I was researching how other INFJs spend their free time. I came across several INFJs talking about how much they enjoyed archery, skeet shooting, and related hobbies. Most mentioned that they shoot at targets rather than going hunting. I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised considering how intrigued I am by archery. So if you’re an INFJ looking for a new hobby, perhaps you’ll want to give this one a try. Read more →
Someone once asked me if there are any aspects of Myers-Briggs® theory that I disagree with. I told them that my main issues have to do with ways it can be misused rather than with the actual theory. But as much as I like this type theory, I also acknowledge that it’s not a complete system for personal growth or even personality. Myers-Briggs® theory just describes how your mind works by talking about the psychological functions that you use most comfortably.
You can use type theory to help you develop those psychological functions, but they’re still not the whole story of your personality. There are other things we layer on top of that like personality traits, lived experiences, and personal beliefs. The functions are like a canvas we paint on; a foundation for building. They’re not the only things that make us who we are.
One of the dimensions that a system of psychological type does not cover is spirituality. That’s not to say that psychologists like Jung (whose work Myers-Briggs® theory is based on) would have denied there’s an essential spiritual component to humans. Far from it! It’s just that type psychology wasn’t designed to be a path in and of itself for spiritual growth. For that, we need something else.
A Connection Between Psychology and Spirituality
I had the idea to write this post last week, when I was listening to a podcast from Joel Mark Witt and Antonia Dodge of Personality Hacker. They’d recently attended an Enneagram workshop where one of the hosts, Uranio Pae, made the statement, “Spiritual work without psychological work is dangerous. Psychological work without spiritual work is incomplete.”