The INFJ “Counselor” Personality Type
My mom is an INFJ. As I look back on my childhood, I have no idea how she managed all the “stuff” she had to do each day. She was a stay at home mom that homeschooled me and my brother, she worked right along side my father in the non-profit they both ran together and she still found time to pour into the lives of others.
A quick recap of her amazingness…
- She raised & home-schooled two boys
- She kept a nice 3 bedroom house clean and organized
- She had dinner on the table every night
- She was the summer camp director for 1000 teenagers and dozens of counselors each summer
- She maintained the financials and books for the non-profit
- She wrote all the fundraising/thank you letters/newsletters for the non-profit
- She acted as office manager to the staff, counselors and volunteers at the non-profit
- the list goes on and on…
As a child it seemed like my mom was able to handle anything.
But there is a dark side to being an INFJ.
Sometimes it was too much to deal with all the emotional garbage that came at her in life.
I’ve observed her in one-sided relationships time and time again.
I’ve seen her physically break down from working non stop and ignoring her own needs.
I’ve seen her feel deeply disappointed after putting out so much for others and very few people (if anyone) pouring back into her life.
As an INFJ – maybe you can relate.
Maybe you’ve been busy getting things done – serving others – and have had your share of crazymakers who hijack your emotions and energy.
Maybe you’ve been going for months or years without attending to your own desires or needs. Maybe you don’t even remember what those needs and desires are anymore.
Keep reading. I’m going to break down the mental wiring of your INFJ mind and then dig into some strategies for dealing with some common INFJ problems.
The Wiring of The INFJ Mind (aka YOU)
Your four letter code INFJ gives us insight into how your mind is learning information and making decisions.
The primary way your mind sees the world is by using a mental process we’ve nicknamed “Perspectives.” It’s technical name is Introverted Intuition.
When looking at the world – Perspectives is interested in finding deep insight.
It tends to ask a lot of discovery questions, like:
- What is the meaning of knowledge?
- What are the long-range implications of emerging social trends?
- How are two people in an argument actually agreeing without realizing it?
Imagine a four passenger car.
If one of your mental processes could drive – it would be Perspectives. Using this mental process puts you in flow. You’ve been using it your whole life. It’s your reality filter and informs what captures your attention.
If Perspectives is how you see the world as an INFJ, then the mental process we’ve nicknamed “Harmony” is how you make your best decisions. Harmony is a feeling process and asks the question, “What gets everyone’s needs met?”
Think about that four passenger car again… if Perspectives is in the driver seat – then Harmony is in the front passenger seat.
It is your Co-Pilot mental process and what we call your growth state.
Of course – this is a four passenger car so you also have two mental processes in the backseat.
Sitting right behind the Co-Pilot is a mental process we call “Accuracy.” Accuracy asks the question “Does this make sense?” It’s a thinking process concerned with data, truth and congruity of thought.
When not used in a healthy way, Accuracy can cause an INFJ to withdraw and become hypercritical of themselves and other people.
This mental process has the development of about a ten year old child.
Finally – behind the driver of Perspectives sits a mental process we’ve nicknamed “Sensation.” We call this your blind spot or three year old mental process. Sensation is all about real time kinetics, and understanding the world through your physical senses by being fully immersed in the here-and-now.
Notice – I haven’t talked about INFJ behaviors.
Instead, I’ve been talking about the mental wiring of your mind.
Behaviors can only give us clues to how your mind is wired. It’s far more interesting to dive into WHAT CAUSES our behaviors as people.
Here at Personality Hacker – We don’t talk about personality types for their own sake. We think understanding your personality is one of the best ways to frame your personal growth journey. And we attract INFJs who are interested in personal growth.
Asking For What You Need Should Not Lead To Disappointment
Many INFJs struggle with disappointment.
You are aching inside for someone to recognize the needs that have been going unmet for a while (sometimes years).
You need more alone time. No one seems to realize this and you continue to be surrounded by people who sap your energy. Disappointment.
You need quiet space to think and process. No one sees this need and you push ahead with half drawn conclusions and less than elegant thoughts. Your brain feels scattered as you go. More disappointment and now frustration sets in.
You need positive approval and emotional stimulation. You need excitement… romantically, energetically and spiritually. These needs are not noticed by others and you even worry that the needs themselves may be childish or immature… so they also go unmet. Even more disappointment floods your heart combined with frustration and a sense of guilt for “wanting such silly things.”
If you found yourself nodding with my descriptions above – keep reading.
I have a few thoughts for you.
Asking For What You Need as an INFJ
Getting your needs met is a skill you will need to continue building throughout your life as an INFJ.
You are already half-way there.
You are very good at meeting the needs of others around you (especially the people you care about most).
But my guess is that you lack the same tender love and care for yourself.
Let me ask you?
When was the last time you drew a hot bath, lit some candles, locked the door, told the kids to stay out while you read a good book?
When was the last time you booted up the computer to just play a game and drink coffee?
When was the last time you hung out with your friends just to talk?
When was the last time you did something (anything) for yourself? No spouse. No Kids. No Boss. Just you getting your needs met?
My guess… FAR TOO LONG.
Oh, I’m sure you’ve STOLEN a few minutes here and there.
You’ve been able to sip a little from that novel your reading while waiting at the dentist. You’ve been able to swing through the coffee shop and get yourself a quick latte. You may have even been able to set aside an outing for yourself one night last week.
But who are you kidding? You know that every minute, every experience… every “me” moment…. had to be bought, borrowed, negotiated or stolen.
You got a couple personal needs met… sort of. And after the latte is gone – the dentist calls your name – or your spouse returns with the kids – you feel worse. You feel like you are living on borrowed energy and everyone wants more from you. You already have a deep sense of guilt for taking time for you.
Well my INFJ friend, it’s time to get real and start setting boundaries for yourself and your needs. Because you are being selfish. I want you to read that again…
When you don’t get your needs met – you are being selfish.
Is this the type of person you’ve become?
Your superpower is in creating harmony all around you. Your genius of getting the needs of others met is starting to atrophy the more you neglect the very source of that superpower… YOU.
You are the starting point of bringing your greatness to the world. And you’ve been seduced to believe that you don’t have very real, urgent and pressing needs to meet.
I know, I know. It would be a wonderful world where your girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse, parent, child or friend instinctively knew what you needed and could carve out the time and resources to make it happen. That can sometimes happen. But if it doesn’t – it’s no excuse to ignore yourself.
So what’s stopping you?
As an INFJ, your best defense against disappointment is to focus on getting your needs met.
You May Not Feel Entitled To Get Your Needs Met
Think back to the last time you were on an airplane.
Just before the flight, as the attendants are going over safety procedures, they always explain how the oxygen masks work. You are instructed to put on your oxygen mask BEFORE you help anyone else.
Because you can’t be of any help to anyone if you are unconscious from lack of air.
With Harmony as your decision making process, you vet all your decisions through the question of “Will this get everyone’s needs met?’
Notice the word “everyone.” YOU are a part of “everyone.”
If you truly want to get EVERYONE’s needs met – you must include yourself. Put on your own “oxygen mask” BEFORE you can help others.
You May Fear Lack Of Approval By Others
Lack of approval from others is a legitimate fear for INFJs.
You understand the social currency of approval better than most. I bet you can remember all the times when you felt the lack of approval in your life. These were probably not casual events for you. The pain still feels real. You can sense the shame, embarrassment or fear when you think about those times.
If you can include your needs with everyone, then you can also include the ability to offer approval and disapproval.
Why do others get to set the tone for what is worthy of approval? Why can’t you also set the tone for approval?
You don’t have to approve of another person’s disapproval. Seriously, you can decide right now to disapprove of your mother-in-law.
Just like that. You just decided.
There’s no government telling you that it’s illegal.
There’s no mother-in-law mafia that just ordered a hit on you.
You get to do that. You are empowered.
When you realize that you are the creator of your experience – you are included with the group, and your needs also need to be met – you will be stepping into your genius as an INFJ.
The Difference Between Being Kind vs Being Nice
I want to make a clear distinction between two seemingly similar concepts. It’s my belief that INFJs can benefit from making a clear distinction between being kind and being nice. Being nice means that you will say what needs to be said to preserve feelings.
You may stretch the truth, flatter or offer fake approval just to “grease the social wheels.” If being nice tells people what they WANT to hear, being kind tells people what they NEED to hear wrapped in love and good intent.
Telling your best friend that he dresses sloppy and that’s why he’s having a difficult time dating sounds harsh, and yet it is a kindness. When a friend asks you to support her in her addictions (food, alcohol, etc) and you go along with it, that’s not kind. You were nice in the moment and she likes you for the positive words, but they aren’t truthful and ultimately she will hurt herself.
I’d love to hear some of your examples of kind vs nice in the comments below. Where have you seen this come up in your life?
You May Feel Misunderstood and Resent All Your “One-Sided” Relationships
Let’s move on to friends, family and feeling misunderstood.
The one thing I think all INFJs have in common is the statement, “I feel so misunderstood.”
Wanting to be understood by friends and family is natural. And yet – your INFJ brain is wired so differently you end up with a smorgasbord of one-sided relationships.
People may love you – but they don’t know you.
People may think you’re smart – but they don’t seem to actually respect your thought process.
People dump their problems on you – and as you begin to express your own challenges in life – they lose interest or turn the conversation back onto themselves.
So, it’s easy for INFJs to move through the world feeling alone, isolated and misunderstood.
We all crave deep intimacy and connection. We all want someone else to deeply understand us on a core fundamental level. However, INFJs have a tendency to lose themselves in relationships, which only adds to their feelings of isolation, pain and misunderstanding.
The story is common for INFJs. You fall in love and now it’s ALL about the other person. You’ve lost touch with your own interests and desires. You seem to be living for this other person and what they want in life.
Or you completely lose yourself to your children.
Or you allow your friends to set the tone of your relationships.
You may have distant memories of your hobbies, interests and purposes in life. But your past desires have now become hollow echoes of a life that seems more like a dream than your personal history.
Making Friends That Will Meet You Halfway
It is possible for you to have fulfilling co-creative relationships with people who get you on a deep emotional and intellectual level.
First, you need to recognize that not everyone will be able to provide you with a peer relationship.
You may be lucky and have other Intuitives around you each day. But often your intimates (spouses, parents, children, etc) may not be the people in your life who provide deep connection.
Second, you may need to work a little harder than others to create the type of friendships you crave on a core level.
If you’ve been riding along on relationship fumes for a while, it’s well worth the work to create a dynamic soul boosting friendship.
As an Intuitive you have a basic need for Intuitive conversation. To be the best version of yourself and feel connected to another human being, you want to create an outlet for this need. Begin to identify other Intuitives around you. Focus on developing deeper connections with them.
It is important to gently communicate your need of Intuitive conversation with the sensors in your life.
Let’s say your spouse is a sensor (very common pairing with INFJs). They love you deeply. You can both talk about the shared values and interests that attracted you together. You are a loyal and loving partner in life. And, because of your spouse’s mental wiring, they are not able to meet your need for highly abstract “out of the box” conversation. So you will have to fill that need somewhere else.
Find a friend or co-worker who can share ideas with you. If you’ve done the hard work of carving out some time for yourself, as I suggested, you can now begin to look for friends who can fill your need for Intuitive conversation.
Stop Losing Yourself To Others
If you don’t take time to regularly meet your own needs you will begin to lose yourself to your relationships.
It will start out small at first.
You will begin by putting your needs second or third in line.
Then eventually they will find themselves at the bottom of the list.
After a while, your hopes, dreams and desires stop making the list at all.
It is at this point you’ve lost yourself to others.
I believe this “losing yourself” comes from not honoring your own feelings. Knowing how YOU feel about things is not your super power. You are much better at identifying how OTHER people feel. In fact how you feel can be easily traced to others. As an INFJ, realizing that you are wired to FEEL what others are feeling AND remember your own deep desires and inner truths can be a challenge.
One technique we’ve already talked about is including yourself in the group. Meet everyone’s needs including your own. And also include yourself in the approval/disapproval social games.
Once you are certain you’ve done these two recommendations, it’s time to consult your inner logical truth. This is found in your 10 year old Accuracy process (the technical name is Introverted Thinking).
Caution: this mental process can be tricky for you as an INFJ.
Accuracy is concerned with inner logical thought, regardless of feelings. Accuracy is that rational place inside you that loves crossword puzzles and Scrabble. It’s that critical voice that can pick apart a friend’s new outfit. It’s the part of you that loves to debate and gossip.
If you go to your 10 year old of Accuracy BEFORE you’ve checked in with your Harmony process (ie getting your own needs met and including yourself in the approval/disapproval game) you may become cold, detached or protective.
When used to support your Harmony process, Accuracy can help you stay in touch with your inner truth. It’s where you remember YOUR dreams – YOUR desires – YOUR passion.. Your Accuracy process guards against compromising your deep inner truth by letting “social truth” set the tone for your life.
- “Does it make sense for me to put aside all my desires for this relationship?”
- “Does it make sense for me to lose myself to this person completely?”
- “How can I get my own needs met AND completely support my spouse/parent/child/friend?”
I want to hear about your experiences with losing yourself to others in relationship. What have you learned about yourself when this happens? Do you have any ideas or techniques for honoring your own dreams, desires and inner truths? Leave a comment below.
Learning To Say “No”
As an INFJ you have full permission to use the word “NO.”
This may anger and annoy those around you.
The people in your life know you. They know how predictable you are. They know exactly how to manipulate you to get what they want. That’s the biggest reason people try to stop you from personal growth. They are afraid you won’t stay predictable and manipulable.
I’d guess that you could triple the amount of times you use the word “NO” each day and still live a healthy, happy and productive life.
Here’s an exercise I want you to try.
For the next 24 hours practice saying no to EVERY request.
Wife needs you to pick up the milk on the way home from work…
Friend texts that she’s coming over to your dorm room to cry about “Mr. Right” who just broke up with her…
Stranger asks you to hold a parking space by standing in the way so they can bring their car around…
Lover wants to get frisky tonight…
I know, I know. As an INFJ you would FEEL terrible by saying no to needs that seem so simple and easy to meet.
But there are two things I want you to remember here.
First, you have way more practice saying no than you realize. You tell yourself no a million times each day. You are quite good at it actually.
Second, you are practicing an extreme version of boundary setting. Saying no is an easy way to set a boundary. Remember, when you use this skill in real life you aren’t going to say no to every request.
This exercise is simply meant to help you practice sitting with the awful feeling that comes up when you create a boundary.
It may make you feel better to warn all the people you love that you are doing this as a personal growth exercise. Tell them that ALL requests in the next 24 hours will be met with an automatic, firm and kind “NO.” This way you know – that they know – you still love and cherish them. This is just one of your personal growth exercises.
“I Feel Like Crazymakers Hijack My Emotions”
I’ve seen my INFJ mom let crazymakers hijack her emotions on more than one occasion.
These are people who have URGENT and IMMEDIATE needs that they feel trump everyone and everything else. Crazymakers may be the bane of an INFJs existence.
As an INFJ you are sensitive to the urgent needs of others.
Even when your Harmony process is doing well and you’ve set boundaries for yourself – a crazymaker can screw that up in five seconds.
Just imagine that you’re finishing a major project at work. It’s a critical project that will help the company increase revenue. It’s due first thing in the morning. It’s one hour before quitting time and you are in flow. Ideas are pouring out of you. You are feeling great about your progress.
Suddenly your boss calls you with an urgent request. She is unable to be there and needs you to escort a vendor to the boardroom and entertain them for 30 minutes until she gets there.
You know the project you are working on will increase the revenue of the company. You know meeting the urgent need of your boss will set you back an hour this evening. Your family will eat dinner late if you help her.
But your boss is right there on the phone panicked and desperate. You’ve been her go-to solution in the past. You like meeting needs. It’s so urgent. You agree to greet the vendor and wait with them knowing your focus, attention and energy will take a hit, your family’s needs won’t be met tonight and your project quality may suffer. You may even miss your deadline in the morning.
Wouldn’t it be better to have a game plan to deal with crazymakers like your boss? Here’s what you do.
Each time a crazymaker asks you for a favor – ask if you can get back to them in five minutes. Give yourself time to check in with your inner truth and the needs of everyone (including yourself).
Spend those five minutes mentally listing out all the people that will be effected by your decision:
- List yourself – because you need focus and energy to continue your critical project.
- List your family who is depending on you to show up for dinner on time.
- List your co-workers who depend on you to have this project done today.
- List your boss – who may be sabotaging her own department and ultimate goals with her request.
After you see the bigger picture call your boss back with your decision.
You may still decide to say yes. But at least you will agree with full awareness that you aren’t meeting everyone’s needs and in fact were just hijacked by the needs of one crazymaker.
If you keep at this process long enough – you will want to ask yourself how you can remove crazymakers from your life altogether.
Being The “Host” or “Hostess” Means You Start Social Interactions With Empowerment
As an INFJ, you have been assaulted by other people’s energies and emotions your whole life.
Every time you ride a bus, walk though a store, eat in a restaurant, attend a party or participate in an event – you have to deal with real and powerful assaults on your emotional energy levels.
One of the challenges for you as an INFJ is entering a social situation where you can’t predict the outcome.
You may end up feeling like you are on the receiving end of social interaction. You may feel very vulnerable to the situation. I’ve heard of INFJs needing up to three days to recover from one night out at a social engagement.
This emotional assault comes from your two primary mental processes. Your Perspectives learning process is sensitive to the patterns of social dynamics. Your Harmony process can instinctively pick up on other’s emotions (even the ones people are hiding from the world).
It’s as if you are walking through the outer world with a raw nerve on your “INFJ sleeve.”
You pick up the psychic and emotional garbage of others without even trying.
It can be overwhelming and painful. You feel vulnerable to the situation. It gets to the point where you don’t want to go out at all.
I have a suggestion that I want you to try.
Start taking the social lead in more situations. Find ways that you can be the host or hostess. When you host others – you get to select the people involved – the venue – and the purpose of the interaction.
This idea of hosting could be literally hosting others in your home.
Or you could be the one to take the lead and select the restaurant you and the girls will eat at this Friday night.
Another idea is to proactively offer to arrange the invitations and communication for people involved.
The point is to activate your Harmony process – take the lead – and set up the social conditions for empowering you as an INFJ.
When you set the tone for the next outing, event or get together – you will feel much less vulnerable to all the unknowns that normally plague your worries.
This is how your Harmony process is used in a good way.
The Critical “Accuracy Bubble” Of The INFJ
As an INFJ your 10 year old of Accuracy can cause you to be very bitchy at times. I imagine a bubble of criticism. I’ve noticed more than one INFJ with a small protective imaginary “bubble” around the people they love.
If you are in the “bubble” the INFJ gives you plenty of love, support and praise. INFJs are endlessly giving of their affection, time and resources to the people inside their “bubble.” It’s a small emotional area that only a few friends and family members are allowed access.
INFJs also have people that are outside this “bubble.” If someone is outside your “INFJ bubble” – watch out. You probably have no problem articulating your disapproval of these people in a hypercritical and sometimes vicious way.
It makes sense for you as an INFJ to be critical of those on “the outside.” Because you resist vulnerability, your Accuracy process is your go-to protection from emotional pain. If you keep someone outside your “bubble” as protection for your own emotions – they are fair game. You can rip them apart and feel totally justified for having such harsh criticism. You are protecting your own heart after all.
As an INFJ you may even surprise yourself with the amount of vicious and hypercritical thoughts and words you express about others. You may not like this part of yourself – but it can feel like it’s the only protection you have from the assaulting nature of the world.
Here’s the thing… by using your Accuracy to protect yourself with a defensive stance toward the world – you are hijacking your Harmony’s ability to be proactive and create win-wins. The cure for the “Accuracy Bubble” is to expand it’s territory through your Harmony process. I would encourage you to do the scariest thing for you as an INFJ… to work toward including all humanity inside your bubble on principle.
At first it may feel like you would end up tossed around an emotional washing machine of pain. But if you’re actively developing your Harmony process – while also proactively setting clear boundaries in your life – you will gain more skill expressing love and compassion for all of humanity without feeling like a punching bag.
I’ve watched various INFJs expand their bubble of inclusion over time. Instead of criticism – they begin including strangers in their principled love for other people. Their happiness increases. They are more relaxed during social interactions. Overall they are mature and attractive INFJs.
As an INFJ – what’s your relationship with your “Accuracy Bubble?”
Protecting Your Heart By “Cloaking” and “Flushing”
So you’ve done everything I’ve recommended.
You are finding Intuitives and having long deep abstract conversations that nourish your soul.You are including yourself in the needs of everyone. You realize that you too can grant and revoke approval of others. You have even been taking the lead in social situations to play the host or hostess. You are increasing the size and scope of your “Accuracy Bubble.”
But what if emotional and psychic garbage still seems to find you?
(Spoiler Alert: It will. You are an INFJ and this is just how you are wired in this world. Emotional pain finds you like a 3 year old finds finger paint in the back of a locked cabinet. It will happen.)
Here are two ideas to protect yourself against all the outside forces that assault you each day.
First, tap into your imagination and use it to create an emotional “cloak” for yourself. Each time you know you will be put in the path of emotional terrorists (i.e. people of the world) – imagine stepping into an emotional “cloak” that covers and protects you.
Literally imagine an invisible soft cloak that you step into and zip up around you. This invisible cloak protects you from bad emotions thrown your direction. Sometimes emotions can seep in a bit – but the cloak will absorb much of it. While walking through a store – just imagine emotion after emotion hitting the protective cloak you’re wearing and falling to the floor. Your cloak reminds you that you are not obligated to take on emotions just because they are tossed your direction.
When you get back home – take time to remember to step out of your imaginary cloak so you can open your heart to your family and friends once again. If you treat your imaginary cloak as if it’s real (stepping in and then out when done using it) your mind will reinforce belief in it’s protective power and it’s use will continue to increase over time.
Second, begin to see the emotions that do make it into your heart as “flush-able.”
There is no law or rule that says you have to keep feeling an emotion that someone else gave you. You have full permission and authority to “flush” the emotion away.
Here’s another quick mental exercise you may want to try. For this I recommend doing some reading around Chakra work. (You may want to get this chakra book that I’ve found helpful).
Spend time focused on developing your root chakra.
Here’s a quick exercise that I remember from the book. Imagine a red slow rotating light energy spinning from your perineum into the ground. Imagine your connection to the earth. Realize that the earth can absorb as much strong emotion as you send it. Imagine all the emotional baggage you carry as flushing down your body and through the chakra connection to the earth. Feel how the strong emotion drains out of you and feel it hitting the earth in a dispersed way.
This purging process can feel very empowering for you as an INFJ.
You can begin using this every time you are feeling overwhelmed by the emotions that others have thrown your direction.
I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that some INFJs need to use this technique a few times each hour. With use, however, it becomes so unconscious that the INFJ can move through the world with ease.
I’d love to hear your feedback on both of these mental exercises. Also – what have you developed as a strategy to cope with assaulting emotions around you in life? Leave a comment below.
We Need INFJs In Our World
We need you as an INFJ in our world.
You bring an incredible amount of insight, compassion and love for humanity that changes lives for the better.
The best thing you can do right now is focus on your needs and proactively grow your Harmony process.
If you pay attention to your growth you will be ready to impact people as the transformational leader you know you are destined to become.
What do you think? I’d love for you to share your experience in the comments.
~ Joel Mark Witt
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