INFJ Personality Profile

By Dr. A.J. Drenth

The INFJ personality type is among the rarest of the 16 types, constituting only 1-3% of the general population. Unlike the INTJ personality type, in which males predominate, there is greater gender parity among INFJs, with nearly equal numbers of males and females.

INFJs are “old souls.” Many grow up feeling wiser than would be predicted by their chronological age. Having discovered the benefits of their Introverted Intuition (Ni) quite early in life, INFJs grow to trust its judgments and insights. They may take on the role of counseling and advising their friends and siblings, or even adult family members, from a fairly young age. Their gift for providing wise counsel often continues into adulthood. INFJs often feel happiest and most fulfilled when helping others understand themselves and their problems.

Because of their strength of intuition, many INFJs report feeling like aliens in the world. One INFJ described her experience as a constant feeling of deja vu. Others report feelings of disembodiment. The fact is that many INFJs (and INTJs) seem to experience the world and their bodies differently than other types do. It is therefore not uncommon for INFJs or others to occasionally question their sanity.

INFJs see two people in everyone. They see the public persona, the outer shell, that everyone else sees. But more importantly, their Ni provides a deeper sense or impression people, penetrating appearances and reading hidden motives and intentions. Rightly or not, INFJs often feel they can see people more clearly than those people can see themselves.

To best understand INFJs, or other IJ types, it is necessary to recognize the full implications of their dominant function being a Perceiving function. I discuss this issue in my post, Rethinking Judging and Perceiving in IPs & IJs. In short, I suggest that INFJs are best viewed as predominant Perceivers and display many characteristics of ENPs, only that these are manifested inwardly rather than outwardly. More specifically, INFJs are far less serious inwardly than they may appear outwardly. Their inner world is well described as playful, imaginative, colorful, mischievous, and daring. Characterized by Perceiving rather than Judging, it is far less controlled and regulated than that of INFPs. INFJs love playing with ideas, perspectives, images, symbols, and metaphors. Their Ni serves as the veritable foundation for this inner playhouse. Because their Ni is dominant rather than auxiliary, INFJs tend to be more subversive in their ideation than ENFJs.

While INFJs are deeply theoretical, they don’t build their theories by consciously assembling facts in the way that Thinking or Sensing types might. Rather, INFJs see general connections and patterns by way of their Intuition; they experience everything as interconnected. For INFJs, discovering truth involves getting a better handle on the nature of this connectedness by discerning universal laws and patterns.

INFJ Carl Jung

Carl Jung, INFJ

INFJs also have a deep concern for quality. As will be elaborated later in this profile, they long to see their ideals (Ni) perfectly manifested in physical reality (Se). This need for quality underlies many common INFJ characteristics. Their attraction to art, for instance, can be understood as their attempt to perfectly embody an ideal in physical reality. Their love for fine food, clothes, and architecture can be understood similarly. Unlike INFPs, who tend to see food, clothes, and housing as little more than physical necessities, INFJs see the physical world as a forum for manifesting beauty and perfection, a place to marry their Ni and Se.

Despite their refined or sophisticated tastes, INFJs are generally not overly pretentious or serious individuals, at least not inwardly (ENFJs, as dominant Judgers, are characteristically more serious). INFJs enjoy regularly engaging with people, listening to music, and watching movies. Perhaps more than anything, INFJs love spending time engrossed in meaningful conversation. Because of their verbosity and communal nature, they are commonly mistaken for Extraverts.

Like the INFP personality type, many INFJs struggle with bouts of depression, which may relate to any number of things. They may, for instance, get depressed when they feel their creative inspiration has abandoned them or because they feel consistently misunderstood. Depression may also stem from feeling dissatisfied in the INFJ’s careers or INFJ’s relationships. They may dream of having a beautiful home adorned with beautiful things, but feel stuck in a low-paying job that they are reluctant to quit because of a poor economy.

INFJ Personality Type Development & Functional Stack

INFJs’ functional stack is composed of the following functions:

Dominant: Introverted Intuition (Ni)

Auxiliary: Extraverted Feeling (Fe)

Tertiary:  Introverted Thinking (Ti)

Inferior:  Extraverted Sensing (Se)

INFJs’ personality type development can be broadly conceived according to three phases:

Phase I (Childhood)

Early in life, INFJs are characterized by the development and dominance of their Introverted Intuition (Ni). Since they are Introverts, they may also show significant development of their second function, Extraverted Feeling (Fe), which can serve as a useful extraverted tool for navigating the outside world. The Ni-Fe function pair allows INFJs to make and express judgments. INFJs are particularly well-equipped to read and evaluate people, including their underlying motives.

Since Ni is a Perceiving function, INFJs should not be viewed as closed-minded at any point in their development. But during Phase I, they might appear overly opinionated or closed-minded, at least from without. Even if their judgments are precociously accurate, Phase I INFJs may lack some discernment regarding if and when it is best to express those judgments. Moreover, their Ni-Fe conclusions have yet to be honed and tempered by their tertiary Ti, making the INFJ more reluctant to carefully review or revise them.

Phase II (Adolescence-30s)

Once the dominant function reaches a certain threshold of strength and dominance, INFJs’ inferior function, Extraverted Sensing (Se), enters the picture and begins to play a more influential role. This can be confusing because the inferior is not next in line for development in the functional stack. The inferior’s undue influence derives from its bipolar relationship with the dominant function. As I’ve discussed elsewhere, the inferior function is the primary culprit in unwise career and relational decision-making. Unfortunately, its influence peaks in Phase II of type development, which happens to be the same time INFJs are making life-altering decisions about their careers and relationships.

In addition to the increasing presence and influence of their inferior function,  INFJs also begin to open up and hone their judgments by way of their tertiary function, Introverted Thinking (Ti). The logic of their Ti serves to cross-check and refine their Ni-Fe judgments. As INFJs develop their Ti, they also become more interested in exploring their inferior function, Extraverted Sensing (Se).

Phase III (30s, 40s, & Beyond)

Phase III, a phase which many individuals never reach or complete, is characterized by an attempt to understand and integrate the tertiary and inferior functions. By bringing these less conscious functions into the light of consciousness, we can better envision our path toward wholeness. Doing so requires understanding the nature of how these functions manifest within our type and becoming more aware of our personal patterns of unconscious behavior. Once these patterns have been made apparent, they can be replaced with healthier thoughts and behaviors. Decisions and behaviors become increasingly wise and conscious, engendering a lasting sense of satisfaction and wholeness. For INFJs, Phase III personal growth entails a deeper exploration of the nature of and challenges associated with their tertiary Ti and inferior Se.

INFJs’ Dominant Function: Introverted Intuition (Ni)

Intuition is generally considered a subconscious process. It is often contrasted with more conscious types of rational thought. Because Intuition is commonly associated with the unconscious, it is often thought to have a certain magical quality, capable of delivering comprehensive answers or solutions suddenly—“out of the blue.”

One of the central features of Intuition is its capacity to synthesize information. It is sensitive to patterns and similarities, quickly seeing connections among disparate pieces of data. By seeing how everything is connected and interrelated, it is capable of discerning universal laws and structures.

What is interesting about types with dominant Intuition, including INFJs, is that this Intuitive process, which for non-Intuitives is largely unconscious, is more accessible and observable in consciousness. This seems particularly true for INTJs and INFJs, whose Intuition is directly inwardly rather than being fused with the outside world. INJs have the good fortune of witnessing and consciously participating in a mysterious process which for other types is entirely unconscious.

Because Ni affords INFJs a more intimate relationship with the workings of what most people call the subconscious mind, INFJs’ routine existence often assumes a sort of dreamlike quality. For INFJs, there is less of a distinction between their ordinary waking state and the experience of sleep. At times, this can make it difficult to separate dream from reality, making nightmares all the more disturbing for this type. It is little wonder that many INJs, including Jung himself, find dream analysis so intriguing and important.

Because of their ready access to subconscious or subliminal information, INFJs are commonly viewed as profound, insightful, and sometimes even psychic or prophetic. While not diminishing the unique capacities of INFJs, Ni can be rational, non-magical terms.

In order to understand Ni, it is first necessary to understand INFJ’s inferior function, Extraverted Sensing (Se). For INFJs, Se functions subconsciously and is constantly gathering copious amounts of sensory information from the environment. Meanwhile, their Ni is constantly working to process and synthesize this incoming data, like assembling pieces of a puzzle. Eventually, it manages to construct an impression or vision of what is happening. Because other types are not privy to the workings of this Ni-Se processing loop, it can seem as though INFJs’ insights are magical or divinely inspired. In reality, INFJs cannot see the future, but are simply more skilled than most at accurately discerning what is happening in a given situation. This allows them to better envision what how things might unfold should they continue along their current course. This ability to accurately “see” is why INFJs are sometimes described as prophets or seers.

It is often said that human beings rely more heavily on vision than we do our other senses. This seems especially true of INFJs, who often ascribe a strong visual element to their Ni. INFJs often “think” by way of images rather than words. Their intuitions often manifest in the form of symbols, images, dreams, or patterns. This is consistent with Jung’s characterization of the Ni type as a dreamer or seer. There is a distinct visual character to these notions, which is why vision-related terms—foresight, insight, seer, visionary, etc.—are invariably used in describing INFJs. The visual nature of Ni might also tie into INFJs’ inferior Se, which is also a highly visual function. The difference is that Se is attuned to the specifics and details of the environment, whereas Ni is more concerned with forming an impression or theory of what is happening based on the totality of incoming sensory information.

INFJs’ propensity for processing information visually may contribute to one of their signature strengths: reconciling opposites. One advantage of visual processing is it doesn’t have the same rules or impediments of verbal processing. In some cases, problems may be better solved by employing images or symbols rather than by other means. It should not surprise us that Jung himself hailed the value of imagery and symbols. For Jung, symbols were critical for dealing with paradoxes, including the challenge of reconciling opposing psychological functions, which he dubbed “the type problem.”

INFJs’ Auxiliary Function: Extraverted Feeling (Fe)

INFJs use Extraverted Feeling (Fe) as their auxiliary function. As the most interpersonal of all the functions, Fe is attuned to surveying and improving interpersonal feelings and morale. Like other FJ types, INFJs work to cultivate “good feelings” in the interpersonal environment. In order to survey others’ feelings, Fe contributes to INFJs’ ability to read emotional expressions and body language. This, in combination with their Se and Ni, allow them to effectively read, understand, and relate to others.

Interestingly, INFJs can have a more difficult time with perceiving and understanding their own emotions. This is due to the fact that their Feeling function is directed outwardly (i.e., extraverted) rather than inwardly. Unlike INFPs, whose Feeling function is introverted (Fi), INFJs are less equipped to manage their emotions independently. Inwardly, they deal in the currency of Intuition (Ni) and Thinking (Ti). Hence, when INFJs find themselves in emotionally taxing circumstances, they often turn to others for aid and support.

Fe also entails an extraversion of judgment. INFJs utilize their Fe to express their thoughts, feelings, opinions, and grievances. Fe gives voice and shape to INFJs’ feelings and intuitions. In many cases, INFJs do not know fully understand the nature of an Ni insight until given the opportunity to verbalize it. They may have a hunch or a gut feeling, but the content of the intuition can remain somewhat nebulous until it is expressed via their Fe. Assuming they have not been severely censored in their upbringing, INFJs are generally happy to share their feelings and perspectives. In fact, given the right opportunity, INFJs will often talk at length about their feelings and intuitions. Unlike FP types, who generally prefer a more dialogical format, INFJs are inclined toward monologues, which allow them to fully flesh out their ideas on a certain topic.

INFJs’ Fe can present differently among strangers than it does with their intimates. In larger groups, INFJs may seem consistently cheery as part of their attempt to cultivate good feelings. Many INFJs have a good sense of humor and can be funny and engaging. Enlisting their vivid imaginations and knack for metaphor, they can also make good storytellers. In the company of close confidants, however, INFJs use their Fe to be more open and direct with their grievances. Since some INFJs feel like tortured souls, their commentary may take on a characteristically negative tone. They may seem moody, pessimistic, discontented, or restless. They can also seem fairly intense in their communication when infused with the emotion of Fe. Consequently, their expressions can seem exaggerated, dramatic, or irrational, especially to Thinking types. They differ in this respect from INFPs, who are less disposed to melodrama in their verbiage. INFJs can also be susceptible to self-pity and self-loathing, seeing themselves as victims. They may curse the fact that life isn’t fair, feeling that they always end up with the short end of the stick.

For INFJs, expressing themselves through their Fe is critical to their psychological and physical health and well-being. Even if doing so does not provide them with immediate solutions to the problem at hand, they tend to feel better once they have expressed their feelings, whether through words or tears. This is especially important for the mates or friends of INFJs to recognize. While not necessarily looking for others to solve their problems, INFJs value emotional support, empathy, and reassurance. Without such an outlet, INFJs can begin to feel isolated and depressed, turning to their inner fantasy world as a means of escape. And while fantasizing may seem helpful in the short-term, it can make the real world seem even less tolerable and exacerbate existing frustrations toward life.

(This Personality Junkie type profile is continued on the next page.)

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Comments

  1. Siesie says

    Re-reading your comment, I see what you meant now. Sorry for the misunderstanding. I focused on “no INFJ is anything like another because of the varying degrees of each dichotomy; one person can be a 30 Introvert while another can be a 2″ and assumed you were one of the people who see MBTI as a 4 sliding scales instead of eight different functions, and complain that it’s merely another “label” or “box.” I get frustrated because so many people view MBTI this way, and then go on to discredit it and spread misconceptions based on their flawed understanding, so I’m sorry if I came off as rude. I should have read your comment more carefully before assuming that was what you were doing.

    “Too many people read these descriptions that are casually tossed out on the internet and say “Yes, that’s me!” without considering environment, family structure, etc. And that’s why I cringe and consider it highly irresponsible for “professionals” (or non-professionals) to toss this stuff out like candy when it should actually go hand in hand with therapy sessions in order for people to fully understand the profile – which is why the real MBTI is restricted to being given by certified professionals.”

    Very true. Unfortunately, most people aren’t interested in learning about the theory behind it or consulting someone who is qualified to type them. It bothers me that people who aren’t familiar with MBTI take a glorified online quiz and then completely trust the results. However, I think this site is good about backing up the profiles with theory and acknowledging the limitations/variations within type theory, so I personally wouldn’t lump it in with the majority of MBTI sites that toss it out like candy. I guess we can agree to disagree on that. But I do wish that so many readers wouldn’t gloss over the theory and cherry pick the parts that they find relatable or flattering.

    • Elaine Schallock says

      Siesie and Liz,

      I want to say thank you for bringing this discussion to the comments section, as I find it a relevant and respectful dialogue about the limitations of the typing process. Thank you as well for your readership and support of the blog; A.J. will tell you that it’s a work in progress and there are always areas to improve, edit, and further expound.

      Siesie, I think you rightly understand the intention behind this blog – emphasizing type does not necessarily mean DEVALUING environmental factors that contribute to the whole schema of one’s behavior/psychology. I hope that it’s clear (and if it’s not A.J. and I need to find a way to be more explicit about this) that we acknowledge and support psychological sciences that consider how one’s environment/circumstances affect a person’s development. With that said, that aspect of psychology is not OUR particular analytical forte – that job is generally better suited to those with the Fi/Te pairing.

      For those with Fi/Te in the functional stack, there is a stronger propensity to downplay the “inborn system” or type theory (ie. Ti) when it comes to understanding human nature, while underscoring the importance of the environment or the “external system” (ie. Te) on human development. Ironically, this propensity to favor character development as product of nature vs. nurture, or vice versa, is predictable according to type theory.

      In very truth the psychological sciences can be divided into TWO distinct, however equally germane, studies: Innate Psychology (ie. personality type as well as other intrinsically motivated propensities like the drive for individuation) and Acquired Psychology (ie. behavioral studies which typically deal with environmental factors such as discipline and training, abuse or neglect, positive reinforcement, etc.) As I said earlier, Innate Psychology is typically more of a draw to those with the Fe/Ti pairing and Acquired Psychology is typically more attractive to those with Fi/Te order

      The unfortunate error that I witness time and again in would-be psychology experts is wrongly projecting ONE of the above studies (usually whichever type of study appeals to their own personal functional preferences) as applying WHOLLY to psychology. I’ve seen it go both ways: Ti/Fe types downplaying the importance of environmental factors as contributory to mental health potentially causing them to overlook abuse or neglect and Te/Fi types systematically labeling things as “abnormal” or “disordered” anytime they encounter a variance they can’t rationally explain.

      A TRUE expert is one who can appropriately account for his or her own type biases in order to make an accurate and objective assessment about what the source of the psychological distress in a patient is. I applaud the Te/Fi types who can appropriate refer a patient dealing with Innate Psychological issues to the appropriate Ti/Fe counselor, and similarly to the Ti/Fe counselor who is able to defer to a Te/Fi counselor on issues of Acquired and Abnormal Psychology. In my experience, though, finding such people is rare. We’re all too quick offer our prescriptive judgments through the lenses of our subjective type.

      That, in and of it itself, is evidentiary of the need for the study of type. Without the language of type, we would be unable to have a discussion at all about how it is that some of us think psychology is only a product of type and how others think that it’s all acquired.

      Best to you both,

      Elaine