“You don’t want to be a J.”
-----When I first found MBTI and tested INFP, which was back in January (2012), it was a revelation. I had finally found something that explained why I am so different from everybody I’ve ever met. When I found PersonalityCafe, I felt like I had finally come home. Finally, I had found my place.
-----I had been guided to MBTI by my therapist (Psy.D.). She didn't tell me my type at the time--indeed, I thought she couldn't know without having my test results. After I took the test, I told her I was an INFP. It turns out she is an ENFJ.
-----I read everything I could to help me understand this theory that seemed to explain people so well. I had no doubts about my type until I started reading about personality types under stress and/or in the grip. Having been under incredible stress for quite some time, I was hoping to find type-specific stress-reduction methods. But almost nothing about the INFP stress/grip response sounded like what I was going through. I branched out, but neither the ENFP or ENFJ descriptions fit, either (and I knew I wasn’t an E, anyway). And then I read the INFJ description. Not only did what I read resonate, but the story of an INFJ named Angie, entitled “Let Me Help You Diagnose My Illness,” is essentially my same exact story. My wife said one could scratch out “Angie” and replace it with my name. I couldn’t deny the similarity, but I thought it could be coincidence. However, I did begin to doubt my type for the first time since January.
-----I had already begun studying cognitive functions and function order, but I found most of the vague descriptions left me with little sense of how to differentiate between specific functions. In many descriptions, there is little tangible difference between Ni and Ne or Fi and Fe. However, in speaking with other NFs, I came to understand some of the differences between Ni and Ne and Fi and Fe. But I was still reluctant to admit I am an INFJ.
-----A few weeks ago, I asked my therapist to type me, but she (politely) evaded my answer. But I had noticed in the prior weeks that she kept making little comments about how I was organized. Of course, I don't see myself as organized, so I wrote it off (you know, I wrote off the opinion of the professional whose opinion I was paying for).
-----Finally, last week, my therapist typed me as an INFJ. She explained the J about three times, but I rejected the notion on the spot. It went like this:
-----“You’re very organized.”
-----“I don’t think I’m very organized.”
-----“Well, will you at least admit that you are not the most spontaneous guy?”
-----“I can be spontaneous.”
-----“You are an INFJ. There’s a ‘J’ at the end.”
-----“I usually test ‘P.’”
-----“You’re stubborn! But in a good way.”
I can already laugh about that. I have never thought of myself as stubborn, but I am. I need to understand something for myself, and if I don’t, then I reject it (it's alien, and if you've seen Aliens, I think you know what humans do to Aliens—and vice-versa). I can never settle for merely adopting someone else’s understanding (without understanding it myself, and modifying it appropriately). To me, that’s absurd. I reject people’s conclusions if they do not “show their work.” People who say, “This is the way it is,” and expect me to agree with them annoy me to no end. When they get angry in response to my asking them to explain their reasoning, I think they’re absurd. But more to the point, I am only open to considering alternative opinions/options during the learning process—when I haven’t yet fully developed my own personal understanding of an idea. After I have developed my own understanding, I am closed off to going back and reexamining the choices that got me there—that would mean reexamining my whole understanding (which I resist, even when it would be wise). At the time of the therapist’s communication, I was not ready to accept the “J.” In other words, I literally refused to believe that I am a “J.” That was incompatible with my personal understanding of myself at that time. The idea of learning something about yourself from someone else still seems off-putting to me, but now I've experienced it.
-----Upon reflection, I realized that I had focused so fully on what I was like now and had been like over the past few years, that I had failed to consider what I had been like before that. As a teenager, I had planned my whole life out, and through pure willpower, I accomplished incredible things (completing novels, losing 100 pounds, and numerous academic achievements). But there were setbacks, and an especially major setback involving a chronic medical condition. My life wasn’t (isn’t) going the way I planned, and my reaction has been exactly that of a perfectionistic INFJ.
-----My personal future is uncertain/unpredictable, and my past attempts to follow the path I charted have not come to fruition, so I haven’t wanted to chart a new course (and haven’t been healthy enough to do so, either). Ni failed me (or so I perceived), so I drifted from Fe (seeking help), to Ti (trying to figure it out myself), to Se—giving up and trying to live in the moment. But the problem is that that’s not who I am. I had recognized my intuitive framework (Ni) and conflated it with my unhealthy “live in the moment” stress/grip response (Se), which made me see Ne.
-----I am not asking for sympathy or help; I am just sharing my understanding of how I came to discover I am an INFJ.
Possible Reasons Explaining Why an INFJ Can Mistype as an INFP
-----In addition to the reasons applicable in my own case, I’ve read about quite a few other reasons this can happen:
- Chronic illness/medical condition. In my case, the condition makes me uncharacteristically scattered and unenergetic—unlike how I used to be.
- Traumatic childhood. This can dramatically affect INFJ (and any type’s) variability.
- Anti-Fe bias. In my case, my mother, an unhealthy ESFJ, used Fe to tyrannize. I tend to view extraverted judging functions (Te and Fe) and extraverted judgmentalism (Fe, Fi, Te, Ti can all do this) as tyrannical—in other words, any attempt to exert control over me—but that has everything to do with the particular person, and not personality type.
- Ni-Ti (or Fe-Se) loops. Apparently Ni-Ti loops are often running in academically-oriented INFJs.
- Chronic stress and/or being in the grip of the inferior function. An excellent understanding can be developed by reading Naomi Quenk’s Was That Really Me?: How Everyday Stress Brings Out Our Hidden Personality.
- Unusual Enneagram type. I’m a Type-9, and I think that has also played a large role in my confusion.
- Looking at the present or short-term past instead of reflecting on one’s entire life.
- Holding oneself to an unreasonably high standard. In my case, my wife is an ISTJ who is super-organized, so even though I am fairly organized, I did not recognize that trait at first (since relative to her (and only her), I am not organized).
- Aspiring to and/or working on developing traits; developing tertiary, inferior, or shadow functions.
A Few Interesting Things I Learned
-----Here are a few questions one can ask oneself if one has doubts (each is just one piece of information—not definitive):
- Would you feel comfortable going on a vacation where no hotel reservations or other reservations have been made in advance, and no research has been done on what to do? Y=P; N=J.
- Assume you are given a problem in an area of interest. Would you feel satisfied (and be able to not return to or dwell on the problem) after not being able to come up with a best/right answer—but only having learned a little bit about the subject? Y=P; N=J.
- Assume you have a minor medical issue. If you knew there would probably be appointments available at your doctor's office next Tuesday, would you feel less stress A. after calling the office and scheduling an appointment, anyway, just to be safe, or B. just waiting until Tuesday and walking in (without experiencing anxiety about the visit between now and next Tuesday)? A=J; B=P.
-----I've also found that another difference is in the way MBTI is perceived (and this idea is originally from a website, but I see that it is true). INFJs are apparently fine with being categorized, as from the INFJ perspective MBTI helps us find our place in the organic web of humanity. There tends to be a right (or best) answer for us (at least so far as is applicable to our own personal understanding)—one cannot be ISxP for example. One is either ISFP os ISTP. INFPs, on the other hand, do not (seem to) like categories at all. I think this is because Ti, which is the function responsible for categorizing, is 8th in the INFP stack. Ti is the devil, and so totally untrustworthy. Thus, INFPs will put much less stock into categories/tags in general, and emphasize that the whole of their being cannot be categorized. Categorization is wrong and limiting. INFPs will often advocate that one can choose one's type or change one's type at will—that there is no right and permanent answer. Or else they will say that type doesn’t matter at all. They will also tend to take issue with any INFP stereotypes, emphasizing variability. So you can see that's why I am probably annoying some people on the INFP forum by trying to 1. categorize (by identifying differences), and 2. organize according to opposing traits. That's how I appreciate difference—by recognizing and understanding it. INFPs appear to be more likely to say, "Why categorize at all? It's so limiting. Just enjoy the experience." I am able to see the difference, so I can appreciate it. : ) For INFPs, it’s all about what the INFP can get out of an idea—understanding the whole idea is not necessary, as what the INFP got out of the idea is valued in and of itself—as something separate (the ideas generated by the INFP in response to being exposed to the idea) from the original idea. From a complete understanding (and also while I am forming that understanding), I synthesize elements of what I know with what I am learning to come up with a new understanding/model personal to me.
-----An excellent resource:
Thank You INFPs ~ I Will Always Appreciate You
-----I will always appreciate your gentleness, acceptance, kindness, and flexibility. Had I begun in any other forum, I’m not sure I would have stayed on PerC or put so much time into it. In the other forums, I've felt like a target—attacked or rejected out-of-hand (based on my type label)—and certainly not accepted. Within the INFP forum, I was accepted—and that has been a profound experience. Before January, I had never met or communicated with another NF. This place is magic—I was like Harry Potter receiving his owl-carried Hogwarts letter. You may think that’s hyperbole, but it isn’t. I know that the vast majority of you will have no problem with me still posting here, but I still want to express my gratitude to you. You just being you has helped me to begin healing. Thank you allowing me the space in which to find myself. I’m not sure you realize what a special gift the space you provide is to others. INFPs truly are Healers of Souls.