The price of being an INFJ

INFJs I think are especially sensitive individuals, not in the sense that it means we get easily offended, but that we have a natural ability to absorb and read energy around us in a way that many people can’t.  We absorb so much in fact, that there’s a limit to how much stimuli we can experience before it becomes too much to bear, and we need to withdraw into solitude to escape from the overload of sensations we sometimes feel.  While this describes many introverts, I think INFJs are even more keenly sensitive to our surroundings, and we can quickly detect changes in mood and behavior long before others do.  When there’s negative energy or conflict, we don’t merely sense it, we’re actually experiencing it as well (like being in a middle of a storm).

While others can take people and things at face value, INFJs experience intuition at a uniquely high level that can’t easily be understood or verbalized.  We just KNOW things, even in the absence of any foreknowledge of the subject at hand.  It’s also why we can detect disingenuity in people’s behavior and words so quickly, or as Obi Wan Kenobi would say, we sense a “disturbance in the force.”  Such intuition can’t be experienced in a detached manner either, somehow we’re also absorbing the negative energy we sense, giving us a feeling of dysphoria that doesn’t stop until the deception ends, or we remove ourselves from that environment (usually the later).

This is not a personality trait that many people can understand or relate to.  One of my Facebook friends in fact dismissed a recent post where I commented that INFJs “see fake people” as the result of me projecting my personal bias onto others, not due to any innate ability to read others.  Her flippant disregard belies a fundamental ignorance of what INFJs experience, and I’m sure most of us would candidly admit, far from seeing this as some sort of superpower we can brag about, it’s actually a burden we wish we could TURN OFF.

It’s like having eyes without eyelids.  There’s no way for us to merely shut this off and block what we intuitively feel, even when we desperately want to give people the benefit of the doubt.  The overload of negative energy/stimuli becomes so overwhelming that the only way to get a reprieve from it is by dissociating ourselves from its source, either by seeking solitude or the company of a very small circle of friends and family we implicitly trust.

My experience at the Grand Canyons was such a good example of this too.  In the early morning I managed to find a quiet spot near the edge and enjoy the views in peace.  I closed my eyes, and I could feel the canyon’s winds gently blowing past me, the sounds and echos of birds, animals and plants moving in perfect harmony, while my nose were permeated with the smells of damp earth and swirling pollen.  I felt at ease and at peace.

Grand Canyon View from Rim TrailAnd then the crowds came.

Obnoxious, braying, loud and boisterous, they continued to swarm past me as I tried to regain the short-lived moments of peace I had experienced only minutes earlier.  It wasn’t enough to shut my hearing aids off:  I could still FEEL them.  Crazy, chaotic energy disrupting my inner world with its poisonous darts.  I literally did not feel at ease again until I left the Canyons and drove the through the Navajo Nation on the way to Colorado.

Rarely does a day go by when I wish I weren’t the way I was, that I could be more detached and numb to the world around me.  I’d probably have a FAR wider social circle of friends and associates, as well as being a happy go lucky person with no sense or awareness of the evil that surrounds him.  Ignorance as they say, is bliss.

I wish I could be that person sometimes.  But it is what it is.

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29 Responses to The price of being an INFJ

  1. an observer December 1, 2013 at 9:52 PM #

    It’s a hard thing to describe, and I’m unsurprised that a solipsist girl immediately dissed something she doesn’t experience.

    People are also spiritual beings as as well as flesh and blood, and I sometimes wonder how much of that sense is influenced by the unseen. I know there is body langauge and behaviour, but I think the kind of impressions you talk of go much deeper than just a learnt ability to read. I find putting on the full armour helps in resisting the negative energy, for want of a better word.

    Had a weekend with no social commitments, so could recharge. Yee hah! Important in the leadup to Christmas and the inevitable family gatherings.

    • Frank Swift December 1, 2013 at 10:44 PM #

      I’m convinced it IS spiritual, even though I’m using the word energy to describe it in secular terms. I suspect some people have a higher sensitivity to the spiritual world than others, which is why they experience things they can’t fully explain or put into words.

    • Jen September 25, 2014 at 4:23 PM #

      Quick story about a ‘disturbance in the force’: In HS (I am 26 now) when I was a freshman I was dating a senior, who was hispanic (parents were not happy). It was Valentine’s day and I had a bad feeling all day. I even said to my BF something doesn’t ‘feel right’. After school, went to basketball practice, came home to my mother standing at the door… pretty much saying she didn’t approve of the relationship and I had to end things.

      I will never forget that day.

    • Frank Swift September 25, 2014 at 9:30 PM #

      The worst is when you get that uneasy feeling that never gets explained or solved, ending up as one of life’s little mysteries.

  2. Laura December 7, 2013 at 6:31 PM #

    Frank,

    I ran across this particular post while browsing tumblr – I feel like tumblr is where introverts dwell and communicate with each other on the internet because it’s like a blog for everyone without having to interact with everyone.

    I am also an INFJ personality type, and I feel your pain. I wish I could turn it off at times as well, but much like you, I have realized that it is something I must learn to live with and somehow try to help people understand. I believe that’s the most difficult part – trying to help people understand the way you think about and feel things. I have never met anyone who understands themselves at the depth that I understand myself, thinks about the world in the same way that I think about it, or feels at the levels that I feel. It can be a lonely existence to feel as though no one else “gets” you, but the beauty is that we are people who are happy with ourselves and, if we aren’t (and let’s face it, we always know when we aren’t), will work to change ourselves for ourselves. That is something many people cannot say, but we know that loving ourselves is as essential as food and water.

    Off of that, I have greatly enjoyed browsing your posts this evening. Keep on keepin’ on, Frank.

    • Frank Swift December 7, 2013 at 9:03 PM #

      Thank you for your kind words, Laura. Interestingly enough after I wrote this post I discovered two of my Facebook friends were INFJs as well and shared my sentiments. Amazing how we manage to find each other despite the rare nature of our personality traits.

  3. John December 22, 2013 at 4:44 AM #

    I actually think there’s a linkage with LGBT in that they have now been able to `come out` and not hide who they are and think `am I the only one`. Perhaps there’s a new conciousness around us. I’m a strange INFJ in that I enjoy cities and towns more than the countryside – saying that I’m pretty reticent around people and constantly thinking. Sometimes it’s because there’s such a greater access to the arts so I can be at one with others who are introverted and have such fantastic imaginations. Yet, I’m never happier in these cities than being around like-minded people, in a cosy coffee shop or listening to a symphony by wonderful players. It’s a conundrum really – we need to conserve our energies yet need the mass to find people like ourselves. It’s why I really don’t care for tv as much as radio – I don’t want people putting images into my head visually – I want to hear the voices etc and create the shapes and images myself.

    • Frank Swift December 22, 2013 at 12:29 PM #

      I don’t think INFJs in particular are anti-people so much as they are anti-bad-energy. When I was at the Canyons I felt oppressed from feeling the collective energies of all the tourists there, and felt the same way when I was visiting Vancouver in British Columbia, yet I felt perfectly at peace when I was in Seattle. Even let someone share a table with me while I was at the library without feeling anxious or ill at ease. When there’s more people there’s a higher likelihood of sensing negative energy than if you were in a rural area, but if you run with a good crowd or you visit the right kind of city I think INFJs can be just as content in an urban setting.

  4. a December 29, 2013 at 11:31 PM #

    I haven’t read this yet, but thought you might like to check it out.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0830837027?ie=UTF8&tag=jescre-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0830837027

    • Frank Swift December 30, 2013 at 12:48 PM #

      Interesting, I’ll have to add that to my book list.

  5. embracingourfemininity January 4, 2014 at 9:36 AM #

    “Rarely does a day go by when I wish I weren’t the way I was, that I could be more detached and numb to the world around me. I’d probably have a FAR wider social circle of friends and associates, as well as being a happy go lucky person with no sense or awareness of the evil that surrounds him. Ignorance as they say, is bliss.”

    I have always felt exactly the same, I thought I was somehow “broken”, that there was something seriously wrong with me. I remember as a child, after a short interaction with somebody who was in an angry mood(though he wasn’t outwardly expressing it) I picked up on it somehow, and it overwhelmed me. It would ruin the rest of my day, and I remember telling my father how I was so upset because of the other person’s mood. It puzzled my father, as he had seemed “perfectly fine” to him.
    I guess we are just very hypersensitive.. most times I wish to be different.. but then I also wouldn’t want to trade the heights of positive emotion I feel, the sublime joy.. for anything. To feel such depths of emotion is truly living in my opinion, less than just “existing”.
    Plus it’s also a great plus in that it can really help us to help other people.. to see them and feel with them and feel so compelled to help them through it, because we feel what they are going through.

    The photo of the grand canyon is breathtakingly beautiful, by the way.
    Lovely blog! I look forward to reading more from you, God bless you.

    • Frank Swift January 4, 2014 at 12:02 PM #

      Thank you for the kind words. Ultimately I feel the same way, with the bad comes the ability to deeply feel all the positive emotions and energies that others take for granted.

  6. ExpansivePsyche February 21, 2014 at 1:24 AM #

    Wow! Elegantly put!!! *claps like a maniac*

    Yup, deep existential frustration and depression can easily root themselves in the psyche because of this ‘trait’.
    Detached, curious observation has been my savior!!! Took forever to learn, tho… and there are times when it fails me. But for the most part, I found within myself a mechanism that allows me to detach from my infinitely deep well of emotions, and assess a situation without passing emotional or intellectual judgement right off. I’ve become merely an observer of reality, neither completely apart nor completely separate from the whole. Balanced in between spectrum extremes.
    I feel like I have awakened to the drama, while everyone around me still believes that their roles are who they truly are. I don’t take life as seriously anymore because I’ve expanded my reality to perceive what most people wouldn’t be able to comprehend in a million lifetimes. Thus, I am alone inside myself. Accepting this fact and no longer needing others to understand me has also helped the crazy ‘feels’ of INFJness.

    Thank you for sharing your soul!!!!! It is brilliant, and beautiful, and comfy like a fluffy pillow. :)

    • Frank Swift February 21, 2014 at 12:27 PM #

      LOL, fluffy wouldn’t have been the word I’d use to describe my post here, but I’ll take it. ;-)

  7. Tony March 10, 2014 at 1:42 AM #

    Wow. This is so me. Slowly figuring out that I am not alone in this world.

    • Frank Swift March 10, 2014 at 11:58 AM #

      No, people like us are definitely out there, we just have the rarest personality traits so it’s much harder to come by.

  8. Kt October 26, 2015 at 9:46 AM #

    I relate to the not being able to process the inputs until getting alone. And I also definitely experience the “not knowing how I know” things. However, I recommend to be skeptical about infj intuition. We are human and simply not always right about our intuitions of people. I know I’ve made judgments before about people because they seemed similar to others I knew well, come to find out they were different after more interaction. It’s best to keep a level head or you will be misjudging people and may get caught up in counting the hits and dismissing the misses.

    • Frank Swift October 26, 2015 at 11:36 AM #

      I notice that happens when I have a personal bias about someone rather than due to putting too much stock in INFJ intuition. If I remain objective that increased sense of intuition can help me learn more about a person, but if I’m determined to dislike people, then not so much. ?

  9. JSD November 10, 2015 at 8:29 AM #

    Really related to this article. Finding out I was INJF a good number of years ago so helped me understand how I was in certain situations especially social and helped me be happy with who I was. But I need to constantly remind myself because I so often feel that I don’t fit in… But definitely this knowledge of how other people are feeling without even speaking to them and sensing the emotions of others and especially tension and for me getting highly anxious over conflict and perceived negativity (which is nearly always correct) can be a blessing but often a curse for my own wellbeing!!! . It’s so good to read about other INJF’s experiences. Thank you xx

    • Frank Swift November 10, 2015 at 6:02 PM #

      Glad to see it resonated with you, even though it’s a rare personality there are many of us out there who could use that sense of camaraderie in knowing they’re not alone. ?

    • Roslin May 13, 2016 at 9:35 PM #

      I so relate to this!

      I can walk into a room where people are all smiles and feel if someone is really angry or whatever strong emotion.I have often viewed this as a curse. Peoples emotions will cling to me for some time and it’s hard to shake them off.
      I have found that writing/playing music helps to “wash them away” and also helps me to get in touch with what I am really feeling, which can sometimes be difficult being so sensitive to others emotions. Music for me is a great way of getting through waves of intense emotion to the other, calmer side.

      I recently found out I was an INFJ and this has helped me relax into my true nature as it were. Also my much younger sister shared that she is too, it feels like we share this extra bond (I wish I discovered it at her age! 21, I am 54)

      I wonder how many INFJ’s also identify as Highly Sensitive People? I do so myself.

      In this article you really helped to confirm and validate these experiences, which is very helpful for me, and as an INFJ must feel pretty good for you too! :)

    • Frank Swift May 14, 2016 at 5:05 PM #

      It does, glad you were able to relate! I don’t know if I’d consider myself highly sensitive (definitely sensitive though) so i guess it’s a matter of degree. I love music as well but not nearly as gifted so i just listen to my favorites when I need to work through emotions. :)

  10. Dan June 15, 2016 at 10:01 AM #

    Hi Frank,

    As the others in the comments have mentioned- thank you for making me feel like I’m not utterly alone in this world :)

    I’m 26 and currently traveling open ended. It’s perhaps the strangest place for an INFJ to be… constantly in new environments, without a home to go back to. My life now is on the road until I find a place that keeps me there. The first many months were unbelievably vivid and alive- I was awe struck with the beauty of the world. But as I move onwards, now solo, I find the INFJ pains creep in on me.

    For me the greatest trouble has been figuring out which career I want to settle into. My mind is excited at the thought of new discoveries and finding new people to connect with, but I worry that I lack the strength to settle for one thing. And so the INFJ negative energies of those around me hit me rather hard when I try and open up on the road. Fortunately tonight I have a private room at a hostel instead of a massive shared dorm :)

    Anyway, cheers and thanks for writing. I’ll look into your other posts, but this made me feel good on a lonely night in Malaysia.

    • Frank Swift June 15, 2016 at 2:04 PM #

      You’re welcome, thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  11. Solace July 21, 2016 at 1:50 AM #

    I really quite loved this introspective look into the metaphysical yet human life of an infj. I’m particularly depressed at this moment and looking into the wonders of my type’s psychology always fascinates me. (Plus youtube and music, you gotta know)
    As a high school senior I’ve always clung to God and have pretty much nailed the spiritual choices and level of a random person sitting next to me or across the freaking room (automatically knew that the girl next to me was a witch, for example, although she was really sweet to her peers and myself, honestly.)
    Thanks so much for this little narrative. Pretty much going out of the house is a disturbance in the force for myself if it involves a whole lot of strangers.
    Make no mistake: I love people, and when I have a good friend going I love to keep them happy (but not at the expense of my own wishes.) However, I can get really easily frayed with humans though just because I’m not even fully “homosapien”, if you will.
    I’m even hypersensitive to music and “spirits” in the atmosphere. Many find me really outgoing only to find that once I withdraw I’m hardly in the room. At one point I had a girl openly tell me she was seriously afraid of my mysterious presence. Can’t say I didn’t enjoy the moment (her face was priceless) but it was merely because i had withdrawn from the people she was around and herself due to incompatibility. I was dead silent for like days. Crazy stuff. Wish I could turn it off in some ways. But it’s that upheld and singular feature I find so interesting that makes me delve into cognitive psychology for my new shiny career. This helped me get a grip.
    Thanks for the connections, friend. Sorry for the oddly lengthy reply.
    God bless!!

  12. Philip Walker July 26, 2016 at 7:50 AM #

    I liked this and I’m an INFJ too. I have to say though I liked it other than the last paragraph. I do truly understand your feelings as I’m just the same but the only way forward is through by acknowledging and loving who you are by embracing yourself as an INFJ. I do feel it’s really important to give it out as this message so it’s not like a curse. It is important to all present our own gifts and part of infj gift is intuition etc which is often lost in our very mechanised world. Your gift to see through the fake people, to see the grand canyons beauty the way it was meant to be experienced etc etc. Peace.

    • Frank Swift July 26, 2016 at 11:32 AM #

      Thanks for your thoughts! It’s actually getting harder these days, as I only seem to have peace when I keep my distance from others, but maybe that will change as time goes on.

  13. Vanessa August 4, 2016 at 8:01 AM #

    I have this at the moment, my hormonal problems (pms) adding to things, and outside people just started to “play” the guitar or fiddle around/learn

    I absorb, wonder what it’s like not to like the average person, them outside are actually hurting my head but just by their presence

    Oh they went further away * feels better * What a way to live

    • Frank Swift August 4, 2016 at 11:40 AM #

      I know, but on the other hand it definitely adds to the “spice” of life. :-)

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