By Elaine Schallock
In our recent post, The “Other Side” of the INFJ, we discussed the typological traits prone to cause trouble and awaken the less flattering parts of the INFJ personality type; in particular, the high level of perfectionism brought forth by Ni’s commitment to an idealized Se manifestation and the consequent disappointment that follows when that ideal fails to be realized. What initially begins as a source of great joy and excitement in the early planning phase quickly turns ugly as the hard reality falls short of the hyper-inflated expectation.
It should be fairly obvious that this same tendency is also present in INTJs since it revolves around the tension brought on by the dominant Ni and inferior Se functions. Both types tend to pour an incredible amount of energy into fantasizing about the best possible outcome for everything from job prospects to romantic relationships. They stake their hopes high and then, not surprisingly, get incredibly hung up on plans not materializing into their expected / anticipated / hoped for way.
Of course, life teaches all of us that things may not go our way from time to time. Children tend to learn this lesson early, throwing tantrums at first but typically learning that mom is always going to say “no” to sweets before dinner, and so give it up before long. Eventually we all come to accept, as best we can, that there are things beyond our control that we would do well to make peace with and move on.
But the letdown that follows an unrealized ideal hits INFJs and INTJs particularly hard. What’s notable is that even if INJs have experienced disappointment before, every time it happens you’d think they were experiencing it for the first time ever. There is such a high level of (apparently) authentic incredulousness that seems to suggest that the INJ never truly considered that things might not go the way he or she hoped – the way you might expect someone to react if he or she had never suffered a single disappointment in life. Those left to console INJs often find this, well, unbelievable, particularly in light of the perspicacity INJs typically exhibit. How is it possible, especially when the expectations they set were so very high, that they didn’t see this coming?
Such is the incredibly naïve and irrational nature of the inferior function; no matter how many times INJs are forced to face the same Ni ideal/Se manifestation dilemma, they continue to live in a state of incredulousness (denial). What they’re doing, in effect, is allowing the inferior function problem to retain its throne in the subconscious. This is bolstered largely through projection of blame onto whatever parties are conceivably culpable for the undesired outcome. At no time, however, do INJs consider that the problem may lie with their unrealistic Ni ideals or poor Se performance skills. Therefore, every time another Se disappointment pops up, it feels new and unexpected.
And in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, the calamity of the unrealized ideal is compounded by INJs’ negative reaction to it and something that could have been mitigated (at least somewhat) becomes a thoroughly ruined experience for everyone involved, bringing about an even worse result and validating INJs’ perception that they’ve been victimized. It quickly becomes a vicious downward spiral.
While INTJ and INFJs both share the same above experiences with respect to Ni and Se, there are some notable differences in how they tend to resolve these experiences emotionally. INFJs have the benefit of Extraverted Feeling (Fe), which means they are usually quick to discover and then express feelings of disappointment and frustration to others. Since they tend not to bury their feelings (positive or negative), they have a more readily accessible “release valve” for the steam generated in the subconscious pressure cooker. Generally, if the feelings of frustration and disappointment are able to be fully expressed and sympathized with, they can move on.
INTJs on the other hand, use Introverted Feeling (Fi), and are largely left to try to reconcile the negative feelings stirred up by the inferior function problem on their own. They are more likely to bury their frustration than INFJs, allowing the negative feelings to grow and convolute inwardly in the more subconscious realm of Fi. These feelings don’t technically disappear, but instead have a way of creeping up into consciousness through unexpected angry outbursts, crying spells, pouting and depressive moods. It may even manifest as a gloominess that has earned a few INTJs the reputation of being “Eeyore-like.”
Not surprisingly, these reactions (especially from adult INTJ males) tend to be less socially acceptable and somewhat awkward for those forced to bear witness. And where INFJs tend to have a broader social support network upon which to rely, INTJs may have only one or two very close friends on which to lean for emotional support.
But when it comes time to engage, INTJs tend to package their feelings in excessive intellectualizing, turning the perceived injustice into a “rational” argument about various technicalities that apparently went misunderstood. This can be burdensome for the one or two friends who become wearied of being expected to wallow in continued sympathy for the INTJ who, even after extensive and repeated discussions, may fail to find the desired emotional release. In these situations, even the most plebian of listeners will realize that there’s a chance the INTJ ought to accept some of the blame and consider it a lesson learned. But this usually falls on deaf (*ahem* stubborn) ears, as INTJs can’t imagine or accept that their might be a flaw in their logic.
At times, INTJs’ intellectualization succeeds in subduing their negative feelings, allowing them to remain in a relatively pleasant mood. Truthfully, however, only the recognition of the more fundamental and recurrent source of their disappointment—the Ni-Se problem—is capable of freeing INTJs and INFJs alike. The hope is that in time INJs become less hell-bent on planning what could be (or should be) and instead focus on using Ni to interpret what is. In so doing, their inflated or unrealistic expectations will naturally diminish, as will severity of their disappointment.