The Feeling of Being Different: Interplay of INFJ and Enneagram Four

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.

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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

The Feeling of Being Different: Interplay of INFJ and Enneagram Four | LikeAnAnchor.com
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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.

 

If you’d like to know more about the INFJ personality type, check out my book The INFJ Handbook. I’ve updated it with a ton of new information and resources. You can purchase it in ebook or paperback by clicking this link.

 

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The Enneagram Types As Fictional Characters

One of the things I like to do when studying personality types is find examples of the different types in fictional characters. It helps each type make more sense to me if I have some example to link it to. While I was reading The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile, I started having fictional characters come to mind as I was reading. The types “clicked” as I realized I understood them well enough to relate each to a fictional character.

Much has been written in books and online about the numbers on Enneagram, and today’s post is not going to re-tread that ground with complete profiles of each Enneatype. I’m just going to give a brief example of each type using a fictional character that I think is a good example of that type. I’m still an Enneagram beginner, so don’t take everything I say as the definitive view on the Enneagram. But I hope to give a overview for others who, like me, are trying to get a better sense of how the Enneagram shows up in real life using examples of fictional people. I’ll be quoting from the book I mentioned earlier as well as type profiles from The Enneagram Institute®.

Ones — Steve Rogers

These types are perfectionists who follow rules to the letter and are deeply committed to the concept of fairness. They tend to believe that their way is the right way and they’re very sensitive to criticism (both from other people and from their harsh inner critic). Ones have a mind that naturally compares things and makes value judgements, but as The Road Back To You points out, they tend to be shocked that other people see them as critical. They’re “The Rational, Idealistic Type: Principled, Purposeful, Self-Controlled, and Perfectionistic” according to The Enneagram Institute. Read more

Why Type Fictional Characters?

I love typing fictional characters. Partly it’s the same part of me that enjoys studying English literature in an academic setting. I like analyzing stories and character motivations, and writing deep-dives into why something works the way it does. It’s also partly about my interest in typology. I like thinking about how Myers-Briggs® types show up in actual people and fictional characters can provide a nice way to analyze that.

It’s this second reason that starts to get at why I think it’s useful as well as entertaining to type fictional characters. Discussing the personality types of fictional characters gives us a chance to exercise our typology skills without running the risk of wrongly interpreting real people’s motivations. My friend might not appreciate me micro-analyzing their every word and action to figure out what their type is but Tony Stark, Scarlett O’Hara, and Luke Skywalker don’t mind.

Typing fictional characters also lets us use them as examples when we’re describing personality types. One of the first questions my mom always asks if I’m talking about a specific type is, “Do I know any of them?” Sometimes I can give her an example of someone she knows in real life but more often I’ll use a fictional character as an example. They’re a great way for us to see examples of how a single type can look in different for different people based on their individual preferences and personal background. And it also shows that we can relate to people even if they don’t share a type with us (such as the INFJs I’ve talked with who relate to ISFJ Cinderella).

This brings us to the reason for today’s post. I ran out of time to write a full-length post for Tuesday this week because I was working on a post for my other blog, Star Wars Personalities. Susan Storm asked me to guest post about the Myers-Briggs® types of Star Wars characters, and I got that post done with plenty of time to spare (I’ll share a link with you when she publishes it). But then I got distracted writing a full-length post about Princess-General Leia Organa’s personality type. Here’s the link if you’d like to click over there and read it.

 

“I Feel There Is Something Missing in Me” — The Wounding Message of Enneagram 4s

I’ve been trying to study the Enneagram for several years now. I’ve read highly recommended books by Helen Palmer, Don Richard Riso, and Russ Hudson but for some reason none of them really made sense. I mean, I got what they were saying and it seemed like a useful system but I didn’t feel like I understood it well enough to actually use it in my life and especially not in relating to other people.

This latest Enneagram book I’ve tried is one that my first counselor recommended over a year ago. I’ve finally been able to get it through a digital library (didn’t want to buy it if it would just sit unused on the shelf like all my other Enneagram books). I haven’t quite finished it yet, but what I’ve read is enough to know The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile is the best Enneagram book I’ve read (please note this is an affiliate link, which means if you click on the book title and make a purchase I’ll receive a small commission at no additional cost to you).

I’ll be talking in more general terms about the Enneagram in later posts, but today I wanted to share a personal story. I know my enneatype is 4w5, but until now that knowledge as been more depressing than helpful. Myers-Briggs® types tell you how your mind works. We can talk about healthy and unhealthy versions of each type, but overall it’s usually a fairly neutral description. Your Enneagram tells you how you’re broken. It talks about your deadly sin, your childhood wounding message, and your core fears. To me, it seemed overwhelmingly negative. Read more

Introduction To Cognitive Functions: The Decision-Making Processes

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If you’ve been hanging around Myers-Briggs enthusiasts for a while, you’ve probably heard about the Jungian cognitive functions. They are key to understanding Myers-Briggs theory, but they can also be very confusing. Basically, the four letters in a Myers-Briggs type tells you what type of mental processes you use most effectively in making judgements and decisions (Thinking or Feeling) and perceiving the world (Intuition or Sensing). It also tells you whether you are more oriented to the outer world or inner world (Extrovert or Introvert).

Everyone has and uses four functions (out of a possible eight). Your primary function is the one you’re most comfortable with and use most effectively. It’s supported by your secondary function, which acts as a sort of co-pilot. The third and fourth functions are less well developed, and while we have access to them they are not used as effectively. You can look up your type’s cognitive functions on several websites, including PersonalityJunkie.

Last week’s post focused on the four perceiving/learning functions, so this week we’ll cover the judging or decision-making functions. Everyone has an introverted or extroverted form of Thinking or Feeling in their function stack. We use one or the other most effectively when making decisions and thinking about what the world “should” be like. Most Myers-Briggs enthusiasts still refer to these functions by their full names or abbreviations, but I think the Personality Hacker labels are easier to use when first learning about cognitive functions so I’ll include those as well.

Thinking

Thinking types prefer to make decisions using an impersonal, logical approach. They value truth more than tact, prize accuracy, and want to make fair decisions.

Accuracy/Introverted Thinking (Ti)

Accuracy is mostly concerned with whether or not data, ideas, and observations make sense to the individual. Types with this function are less concerned with drawing conclusions from data, and more concerned with creating theories, questions, and insights that line up with their internal fact-checking system. Types who use Accuracy rely more on their own power of observation and thoughts on a given subject than on outside sources when making decisions.

This is the perceiving process used most effectively by ISTPs, INTPs, ESTPs, and ENTPs. The introverts use it as their primary function, the extroverts use it as a co-pilot to support their dominant learning function.

Effectiveness/Extroverted Thinking (Te)

As an outward-focused Thinking function, Effectiveness relies on facts and data gathered from outside sources when making decisions. These types want to experiment to find out what works and what doesn’t, and how they can be most efficient. It’s a practical function focused on finding solutions, discovering and classifying facts, and setting goals.

This is the perceiving process used most effectively by ESTJs, ENTJs, ISTJs, and INTJs. The extroverts use it as their primary functions, the introverts use it as a co-pilot to support their dominant function.

Feeling

Feeling types prefer to make decisions based on their personal values and how the decisions will affect other people. They want to maintain interpersonal harmony, and may soften truth in an effort to be tactful.

Authenticity/Introverted Feeling (Fi)

As an Introverted Feeling function, Authenticity wants to understand the self. These types make decisions based on what feels right, as influenced by abstract ideals. It is a focused, deep sort of way to experience emotion that many Authenticity types find hard to express to other people.

This is the perceiving process used most effectively by ISFPs, INFPs, ESFPs, and ENFPs. The introverts use it as their primary function, the extroverts use it as a co-pilot to support their dominant function.

Harmony/Extroverted Feeling (Fe)

When feeling is turned outward, Harmony focuses on getting everyone else’s needs met when making decisions. These types adapt themselves to given situations trying to fit in, and value the ideals and customs of their community. Harmony seeks true peace and understanding between people, and is adept at sharing feelings to create sympathy.

This is the perceiving process used most effectively by ESFJs, ENFJs, ISFJs, and INFJs. The extroverts use it as their primary functions, the introverts use it as a co-pilot to support their dominant function.

Introduction To Cognitive Functions: The Learning Processes

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Understanding the Jungian cognitive functions is key to Myers-Briggs typing. Unfortunately, it can also be very confusing. Basically, the four letters in a Myers-Briggs type tells you what kind of mental processes you use most effectively in making judgements and decisions (Thinking or Feeling) and in perceiving the world (Intuition or Sensing). It also tells you whether you are more oriented to the outer world or inner world (Extrovert or Introvert).

Everyone has and uses four functions (out of a possible eight). Your primary function is the one you’re most comfortable with and use most effectively. It’s supported by your secondary function, which acts as a sort of co-pilot. The third and fourth functions are less developed, and while we have access to them they are not often used effectively. You can look up your type’s cognitive functions on a variety of websites, including PersonalityJunkie.

For this first post, we’ll focus on the perceiving or learning processes (there will be a part two next week for the decision-making processes). Everyone has an introverted or extroverted form of Sensing and Intuition in their function stack. We use one or the other most effectively when learning new things and interacting with new ideas. Most Myers-Briggs enthusiasts still refer to these functions by their full names or abbreviations, but I think the Personality Hacker labels are easier to use when first learning about cognitive functions so I’ll include those as well.

Sensing

Sensing types are primarily concerned with what exists in concrete, observable reality. They focus on either the past or the present, and would rather work with something tangible than something theoretical. They can enjoy life in the moment and appreciate sense-impressions like good food and attractive surroundings.

Memory/Introverted Sensing (Si)

Personality Hacker says “that people use this process to learn new information based on their memories.” Isabel Meyer said a person using Introverted Sensing “sees things highly colored by the subjective factor,” and develops an inner self that may appear eccentric because of their unique way to seeing the world. However you phrase it, the Memory process is concerned with collecting sensory information and taking the time to check it for reliability and see how it fits in with their other ideas.

This is the perceiving process used most effectively by ISFJs, ISTJs, ESFJs, and ESTJs. The introverts use it as their primary function; the extroverts use it as a co-pilot to support their dominant decision-making function.

Sensation/Extroverted Sensing (Se)

The difference between the introverted Memory process and the extroverted Sensation process is that Se types process their sensory impressions externally. They want to experience and interact with something when they encounter it, rather than after-the-fact. People who use Sensation as their primary or secondary process have a reputation as adrenaline junkies.

This is the perceiving process used most effectively by ESTPs, ESFPs, ISTPs, and ISFPs. The extroverts use it as their primary functions; the introverts use it as a co-pilot to support their dominant decision-making function.

Intuition

Intuitive types are primarily concerned with what could be. They focus on patterns and future possibilities, and would rather deal with theory and potential than something that’s already here. They are imaginative, original, and value achievement and inspiration.

Perspectives/Introverted Intuition (Ni)

When focused inward as the Perspectives process, an intuitive type is concerned with deep insights and understanding patterns that form inside their mind. Perspectives types are extremely creative, and analyze external data as well as internal thoughts and feelings to come to an understanding about how their minds work. We then use our self-insight to interpret life and promote understanding (as Isabel Myers puts it).

This is the perceiving process used most effectively by INFJs, INTJs, ENFJs, and ENTJs. The introverts use it as their primary functions; the extroverts use it as a co-pilot to support their dominant decision-making function.

Exploration/Extroverted Intuition (Ne)

Extroverted Intuition is also concerned with ideas, possibilities and a desire to understand, but it’s focus outward. Often, these types will perform experiments just to see what will happen. Personality Hacker calls this process Exploration because “the best pattern recognition system for the outer world is to mess with everything that can be messed with, and to explore, explore, explore.”

This is the perceiving process used most effectively by ENTPs, ENFPs, INTPs, and INFPs. The extroverts use it as their primary functions; the introverts use it as a co-pilot to support their dominant decision-making function.