In a recent post – SINGING, OR SOMETHING, IN THE RAIN – I mentioned that I’d taken the Myers-Briggs typology test – the sort of psych test they do when they interview you for jobs, and then tell you that you are just too peculiar to work here. I was only once called upon to take a psych test, at an interview for some sort of dead-end office job. The HR lady came out with the results looking green around the gills. She made a real effort to be positive about not giving me the job, and gave me a print-out of the results which I have since, of course, mislaid.
I took the test again the other day more or less by accident. I was writing about liking the rainy weather (just as well to be in England) and this led me on to wondering whether anyone was likely to like rainy weather, or whether it was only specific types. So I splattered type – people – like – rain into Google and up popped the Myers-Briggs typology test.
I came out as an INFJ. I’d expected to be an Introvert – I mean, most people are aware of at least that much about themselves – but the character description for INFJs was really depreeeeesssing. As far as it went it was accurate – apart from wanting to legalise marijuana, which I have never tried…
…or any other sort of drugs for that matter, apart from Nescafé and the very occasional glass of el-cheapo vino – mostly, since I am now totally impoverished, proffered by neighbours at Christmas…
So the first definition of INFJ was:
Creative, smart, focus on fantasy more than reality, attracted to sad things, fears doing the wrong thing, observer, avoidant, fears drawing attention to self, anxious, cautious, somewhat easily frightened, easily offended, private, easily hurt, socially uncomfortable, emotionally moody, does not like to be looked at, fearful, perfectionist, can sabotage self, can be wounded at the core, values solitude, guarded, does not like crowds, organized, second guesses self, more likely to support marijuana legalization, focuses on peoples hidden motives, prone to crying, not competitive, prone to feelings of loneliness, not spontaneous, prone to sadness, longs for a stabilizing relationship, fears rejection in relationships, frequently worried, can feel victimized, prone to intimidation, lower energy, strict with self.
Although I did my best to make light of it at the time, this did rather get me down. What was the point of me, I agonised, saddled with a duff personality like that? I mean, what use was I? No wonder my life had been crap, with a personality like that. Why was I even writing? Nobody was ever going to read the output of a defective soul like that.
You see, that’s the trouble. If you are unfortunate enough to be phsically disabled, it’s bad, but at least you and everyone around you can clearly see that you are disabled. Other people can then make allowances for you and you can make allowances for yourself. But if you have a disabled personality – no one makes allowances. Worse, being stuck inside it, you have no means of seeing beyond it. Or have you?
I actually sat down that evening and – focus, focus, focus – tried to visualise what someone sensible would have done with their lives? And how would a not-INFJ proceed in the future? The plan I came up with was almost identical to the plan my INFJ self had already come up with, and failed to put into effect.
However, I do believe it’s possible to transcend oneself, but it’s a hard, really hard thing to do. I have only managed it once. [You may prefer to skip this bit]. I was having to take my old cat to the vet to be put to sleep and I knew I could not cry. He needed me and I could not allow myself to go to pieces, and yet – that’s what I do – always – I go to pieces.
And then another ‘me’ spoke to this struggling, sinking ‘me’. It said: You can choose not to act through her. How? I asked. And then one ‘me’ began to wrench itself up and out of the other ‘me’. It was like – no way to describe it – ghost self sitting up while flesh self stays lying down, or – pulling oneself out of treacle or quicksand. The pain did not lessen – I can feel it now as I write – but the ‘I’ that could choose not to act through her somehow then endured the long drive with an aged cat who was struggling for breath, the forever wait to see the vet, the dreadful process – and only fell to bits when it was all over, when she was sitting behind the wheel of her car in the PDSA car park.
I don’t know why I told that story – except that it seemed to want to be told – and might help someone trying to get through something they are not equipped for. And, to end with, here is a more rounded description of INFJ by Marina Margaret Heiss and Joe Butt:
INFJ: Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging
INFJs are distinguished by both their complexity of character and the unusual range and depth of their talents. Strongly humanitarian in outlook, INFJs tend to be idealists, and because of their J preference for closure and completion, they are generally “doers” as well as dreamers. This rare combination of vision and practicality often results in INFJs taking a disproportionate amount of responsibility in the various causes to which so many of them seem to be drawn.
INFJs are deeply concerned about their relations with individuals as well as the state of humanity at large. They are, in fact, sometimes mistaken for extroverts because they appear so outgoing and are so genuinely interested in people — a product of the Feeling function they most readily show to the world. On the contrary, INFJs are true introverts, who can only be emotionally intimate and fulfilled with a chosen few from among their long-term friends, family, or obvious “soul mates.” While instinctively courting the personal and organizational demands continually made upon them by others, at intervals INFJs will suddenly withdraw into themselves, sometimes shutting out even their intimates. This apparent paradox is a necessary escape valve for them, providing both time to rebuild their depleted resources and a filter to prevent the emotional overload to which they are so susceptible as inherent “givers.” As a pattern of behavior, it is perhaps the most confusing aspect of the enigmatic INFJ character to outsiders, and hence the most often misunderstood — particularly by those who have little experience with this rare type.
Due in part to the unique perspective produced by this alternation between detachment and involvement in the lives of the people around them, INFJs may well have the clearest insights of all the types into the motivations of others, for good and for evil. The most important contributing factor to this uncanny gift, however, are the empathic abilities often found in Fs, which seem to be especially heightened in the INFJ type (possibly by the dominance of the introverted N function).
This empathy can serve as a classic example of the two-edged nature of certain INFJ talents, as it can be strong enough to cause discomfort or pain in negative or stressful situations. More explicit inner conflicts are also not uncommon in INFJs; it is possible to speculate that the causes for some of these may lie in the specific combinations of preferences which define this complex type. For instance, there can sometimes be a “tug-of-war” between NF vision and idealism and the J practicality that urges compromise for the sake of achieving the highest priority goals. And the I and J combination, while perhaps enhancing self-awareness, may make it difficult for INFJs to articulate their deepest and most convoluted feelings.
Usually self-expression comes more easily to INFJs on paper, as they tend to have strong writing skills. Since in addition they often possess a strong personal charisma, INFJs are generally well-suited to the “inspirational” professions such as teaching (especially in higher education) and religious leadership. Psychology and counseling are other obvious choices, but overall, INFJs can be exceptionally difficult to pigeonhole by their career paths. Perhaps the best example of this occurs in the technical fields. Many INFJs perceive themselves at a disadvantage when dealing with the mystique and formality of “hard logic”, and in academic terms this may cause a tendency to gravitate towards the liberal arts rather than the sciences. However, the significant minority of INFJs who do pursue studies and careers in the latter areas tend to be as successful as their T counterparts, as it is *iNtuition* — the dominant function for the INFJ type — which governs the ability to understand abstract theory and implement it creatively.
In their own way, INFJs are just as much “systems builders” as are INTJs; the difference lies in that most INFJ “systems” are founded on human beings and human values, rather than information and technology. Their systems may for these reasons be conceptually “blurrier” than analogous NT ones, harder to measure in strict numerical terms, and easier to take for granted — yet it is these same underlying reasons which make the resulting contributions to society so vital and profound.
Beneath the quiet exterior, INFJs hold deep convictions about the weightier matters of life. Those who are activists – INFJs gravitate toward such a role – are there for the cause, not for personal glory or political power.
INFJs are champions of the oppressed and downtrodden. They often are found in the wake of an emergency, rescuing those who are in acute distress. INFJs may fantasize about getting revenge on those who victimize the defenseless.The concept of ‘poetic justice’ is appealing to the INFJ.
“There’s something rotten in Denmark.” Accurately suspicious about others’ motives, INFJs are not easily led.These are the people that you can rarely fool any of the time.Though affable and sympathetic to most, INFJs are selective about their friends. Such a friendship is a symbiotic bond that transcends mere words.
INFJs have a knack for fluency in language and facility in communication. In addition, nonverbal sensitivity enables the INFJ to know and be known by others intimately.
Writing, counseling, public service and even politics are areas where INFJs frequently find their niche.
(INFJ stands for Introvert, iNtuitive, Feeling, Judging and represents individual’s preferences in four dimensions characterising personality type, according to Jung’s and Briggs Myers’ theories of personality type.)