By Cheryl Florus, INFJ
As feeling types who are naturally attuned to picking up on other people’s emotions, it may come as a surprise that INFJs aren’t always as in tune with their own. That is not to say that they don’t experience their emotions, on the contrary. They just don’t have a system in place to process them efficiently and thus experience them in a controlled fashion.
What makes their emotions so difficult to handle at times is the relative lack of an introverted judging function in the INFJ’s functional stack which is able to actively organize their emotions and thus provide a clear overview. The introverted judging function the INFJ has available to do the job is Introverted Thinking (Ti). Aside from the fact that using Ti to organize and process emotions is like using a fork to comb your hair, Ti is INFJ’s tertiary function. This means that it operates less consciously and less efficiently than if it were one of the top two functions. As a result, the INFJs may have a hard time putting their emotions in perspective and keeping them under control.
But which role does the INFJ’s Introverted Intuition (Ni) play in this, one may ask? Being an introverted perceiving function which connects the data present in the inner world, why not use Ni to put the INFJ’s own emotions in perspective? Ni internally perceives and discerns a pattern only in data that the extraverted perceiving function (Se) transports inwardly, mostly data related to the emotional state of others (Fe). This makes Ni virtually blind to the INFJ’s own emotions. Furthermore, as it’s not a judging function, Ni cannot actively modify and organize abstract data residing in the inner world, whether they be emotions or other information, just passively observe the relationships that exist between them.
But by knowing this very fact, it is possible to create ways to indirectly make INFJ’s emotions visible to Ni. As I mentioned before, Ni processes data that Se provides. So all the INFJ has to do is find a way to get their emotions in the outside sensory world and feed it to Se. This can be done by writing them down and reading them again. But another, and more effective, way of doing this is by saying out loud what she is feeling and hearing herself talk. Even better would be telling someone what she is feeling, and letting the other person (preferably someone with a dominant or auxiliary Fe) reflect in their own words what has been said, as if to check if he/she understands it correctly. What will happen next is the INFJ will automatically use her Se to sense emotional (Fe) data that she has provided herself, in her own words, or the words of the other person, and therefore gaining insight into her emotions in an indirect way. This is why INFJ’s generally feel better after talking to someone about their feelings, especially a feeling type who uses Fe with some proficiency.
The thing is, though, that because INFJ’s emotions seem to internally flow in random directions because of a lack of an inner structure, sometimes drifting to the surface of consciousness, other times sinking to the bottoms of the subconscious again, the emotions that the INFJ will likely feel the need to talk about are the ones that are visible on the surface of consciousness at that particular moment. This means that not all feelings about a particular subject will likely be expressed in one conversation, simply because she doesn’t have access to all of them at that moment. So in reality, this means that it takes many conversations to get everything out. And even then, other new emotions will always be generated, meaning that the INFJ will have to repeat this process of outwardly expressing their emotions indefinitely, either on her own or with someone else. This can be with a confidant of her choice, but also with a psychotherapist.
Learn more about INFJs in our book, The 16 Personality Types: Profiles, Theory & Type Development.