Stress and the INFJ | INFJ Forum

Stress and the INFJ

Discussion in 'The INFJ Typology' started by VH, Feb 25, 2009.

More threads by VH
  1. According to the theory of cognitive functions, which the Myers Briggs Type Indicator is based on, every person’s thought processes are comprised of all 8 pairs of cognitive functions. Everyone has Introverted and Extroverted forms of Intuition, Sensing, Feeling, and Thinking.

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    The Myers Briggs Type Indicator is a self assessment evaluation designed to indicate which of these pairs are a person’s preferred pairs. The MBTI is mostly accurate, but there is a lot of room for error especially if a person has nearly balanced functions. Some people may have to dig a little deeper to find their ‘true’ type, but can eventually do so once they determine their two dominant cognitive functions. Once this is established, the rest of the pairs fall into a logical order. For example, INFJs have the following order – Ni, Fe, then Ti, Se, then Ne, Fi, Te, and finally Si.

    This means that when an INFJ applies their cognitive thought process to anything, they always begin with Introverted Intuition. If Ni does not provide a solution, the INFJ may accept the in ability to resolve the thought process, or the INFJ’s cognitive process moves to Extraverted Feeling. If Fe does not provide a solution, the INFJ may accept the in ability to resolve the thought process, or the INFJ’s cognitive process moves to Introverted Thinking. If Ti does not provide a solution, the INFJ may accept the in ability to resolve the thought process, or the INFJ’s cognitive process moves to Extraverted Sensing… and so on until either the INFJ finds a solution, accepts the inability to resolve the process, or exhausts their cognitive function pairs.

    The implication here is that people will develop their cognitive functions in proportion to how much they are used, and if people always start with one process and move in the same order from there, then each cognitive process will get less and less use, and therefore less and less development than the previous. This is why an INFJ’s Ni is generally more developed than their Fe, which is generally more developed than their Ti, which is generally more developed than their Se, etc.
    As children, we begin to develop our cognitive processes at a very early age. We go with what works best for us, and the rest of the processes fall into place behind them. The more we use them, the more our cognitive functions develop into a sloping pattern, like this.


    These clear preferences are the basis for personality types, as they indicate disposition and temperament.

    However, when a person becomes stressed, the cognitive function pairs do something interesting. They compensate out of necessity. When a function proves itself to be inapplicable often enough in a situation, the mind subconsciously disregards it to a lower place in the order of functions. In the case of INFJs, if Ni proves to be of no use, then it is temporarily placed second, and Fe is promoted to first. While in this state, Fe gets a lot more development than it would normally. Cognitive function hierarchy restructuring will continue if needed. This usually involves greater and greater degrees of stress, unlike the normal method of simply needing a specific cognitive function to reach a solution. If Fe proves to be of no use, then it is temporarily placed second, and Ti is promoted to first. While in this state, Ti gets a lot more development than it would normally… and so on. However, in order to do this, all of the pairs have to restructure their order.

    This is why people act like different types when stressed. In the case of INFJs, each stress level causes the following:
    #1 VH, Feb 25, 2009
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2009
  2. Long Term Stress

    (Ni, Fe, Ti, Se) – 'Normal' stress levels. The INFJ behaves as described above, moving from one process to the next in standard fashion until solutions are reached or discarded. Even severe degrees of short term stress will not cause a shift from this state in most cases. There may be minor 'symptoms' of other MBTI types as each cognitive function is in use, but the order in which they are preferred does not change. For example, when an INFJ is using (and thus developing) their Se normally, they might appear to be somewhat of an ISTP or even an ESTP, but they still have the preference orientation of Ni, Fe, Ti, and then Se, which is used last.

    ENFJ (Fe, Ni, Se, Ti) – ‘Pushed’ stress levels. When the INFJ is under enough long term stress, they begin to temporarily change the order in which their functions are preferred. Ni and Fe switch places, forcing Ti and Se to switch. The INFJ becomes more concerned with others, their needs, and making sure things are ‘right’. At this point, what is ‘correct’ is much less important to an INFJ than what is morally ‘right’, and the INFJ often becomes somewhat of a social butterfly attempting to make everyone happy, perhaps even activating their ‘silly switch’. Or, the INFJ becomes ‘crabby’ and develops a strong undercurrent of hostility. Because Fe is not their primary function, INFJs may be a little awkward here and make biting or inappropriate comments.

    ISTP (Ti, Se, Ni, Fe) – ‘Inundated’ stress levels. Ti becomes dominant and brings Se with it because Judging and perceiving pairs cannot share an introverted or extroverted preference, pushing Ni and Fe to a secondary role. The INFJ reaches a point where they can no longer use their ‘normal personality’ to reach solutions. They become very internalized and focus on intellectual concerns, while detaching themselves from their feelings to a surprising degree, for the good of everyone. “Don’t worry about me. I’m fine,” is a common phrase at this point, which is delivered so sincerely that it is often taken as truth. Even the INFJ themselves are likely to believe it at this point.

    ESTP (Se, Ti, Fe, Ni) – ‘Beseiged’ stress levels. Se takes over, completely inverting the cognitive function processes to Ti, Fe, and then Ni. At this point, the INFJ becomes large and in charge, letting everyone know how things will be, and is often quite unwilling to compromise. However, switching the order of the functions does not detract from their ability to be effective. It only dictates which function gets preference. When an INFJ goes ESTP, they still have access to their Fe and Ni, allowing them to be quite charismatic in this role, and very effective leaders in a crisis.

    Extreme and Long Term Stress (such as Intense Prolonged Abuse or Frequent Exposure to Life or Death Situations)

    ENFP (Ne, Fi, Te, Si) – ‘Resignation’ stress levels. When Ni, Fe, Ti, and Se prove to be ineffective, but the INFJ must still attempt to reach solutions, they are forced into their ‘shadow’ personality and their weakest functions take over – Ne, Fi, Te, and Si. This is the ‘pushed too far’ point at which the entire personality reverses. Normally, this is the result of extreme and long term stress. Most people never reach this point. When an INFJ reverts to ENFP, they do not resemble a healthy ENFP. Instead, all of their frustration and pain manifests itself as a smooth seductive manipulator. When there is no reason not to repress their base instincts, they come out with an alarming degree of detachment. In essence, the INFJ’s base instincts are ‘taking control’.

    INFP (Fi, Ne, Si, Te) – ‘Utterly Overwhelmed’ stress levels. Just as with the previous progressions, Fi now takes over. At this point, the INFJ becomes the inverse of themselves, overly sensitive, and prone to curling up in a ball and crying or lashing out at anything that frustrates them, only to beg forgiveness a moment later. With a very weak Fi taking control, the INFJ is literally overwhelmed by their emotions at this point, often incapacitated by them.

    ESTJ (Te, Si, Ne, Fi) – ‘Snapped’ stress levels (Te takes over, and we now find out just how much steel is in the heart of an INFJ). Much like the ESTP mode, this is also a ‘large and in charge’ mode for the INFJ, except this time it is much less of a charismatic action hero, and more of a tyrant drill sergeant. The INFJ is now an achiever. Whatever the problem was will be defeated. End of story. No compromise. And because Te is so low on an INFJ’s process order, it is likely that it will be ‘by any means necessary’ – literally. The subconscious knows that it is running out of options.

    ISTJ (Si, Te, Fi, Ne) – ‘Broken’ stress levels (As the last possible resort, Si takes over, completely reversing the cognitive order for the INFJ). At this point, the INFJ becomes completely compliant, formal, and unemotional. The INFJ has given up on all of their dreams, ideals, and fantasies, even their feelings to a profound extent. Everything that they once were is gone, and this is the last mode of thought the INFJ has to operate on. If pushed past this state, the INFJ will simply cease to function.
    Lune Froide and Xavier like this.
  3. Ending Long Term Stress

    Once the factors causing long term stress are removed, the INFJ will begin to correct the order of their cognitive processes. This can happen quickly, in plateaus, spurts, or even be eradic jumping back and forth. All of this depends on the source of the stress, the duration, and the individual. However, given enough time to reorient themselves, INFJs will eventually return to their native state.

    Positive Effects of Long Term Stress

    While no one wants to suffer long term stress, while they are under the effects of it, they are constantly and rapidly developing cognitive processes that might otherwise be ignored. We grow the most when things are at their worst.

    Changing the Myers Briggs Type

    In some rare cases, long term stress may cause the development of another cognitive function may surpass that of an individual's dominant function. This is usually the individual's secondary function, but can be any function, given enough time to develop. When this happens, that person permanently switches the order of their remainging cognitive functions to follow suit, which changes their MBTI Type, as well as their stress progression order. Remember, the MBTI is simply a tool to indicate cognitive process dominance, and as such it has to bend to accomodate the psychology of cognitive processes, not the other way around.

    Hopefully, this will explain how and why we all go through these shifts of personality at various degrees of stress, as well as how some people actually grow to change their MBTI type. The pattern holds true for all MBTI types, simply move the next function forward and reorient the rest accordingly. Doing this can create the stress progression for yourself if you are not an INFJ, or anyone else in your life that you want to understand better when they are under stress.
  4. That paragraph alone could foster an entire debate. Personally, I think a person's childhood archetype is their default because it's the expression of their genetic predispositions. They may change their personality type as a result of social or environmental factors, but it will never really feel natural or healthy to them until they return back to their childhood cognitive function order.
    Xavier likes this.
  5. I'm in chock, this is all so true and wow there is a possitive thing out of stress. I am definetly familiar with this. GReat informatoion <3
  6. I turn into an extrovert when under a certain type of stress.
  7. Would anyone believe me if I told them I've seen all eight stages, but said I'd rather not explain how?
  8. I believe you.

    Von Hase, could you describe how an INFJ with the order of an ENFP might act?
    Silently Honest likes this.
  9. I like this a lot, Von - I've never been totally in the lower levels, but I've been ENFJ, ISTP, and even ESTP more than a few times. I wonder if someone can "jump" levels while under stress (either up, or down?).
  10. I often find myself in the last stage of ISTJ. So to say 'broken' under enormous stress.
  11. Ya this is pretty interesting. I've heard about the ESTP under stress, but I didnt know there was that many levels. I've been ENFJ and ESTP before, and it's really an interesting experience. I would say that it does foster growth for sure, and it has it's benefits. Where did this info come from?
  12. Uh hun, that'd be your fourth stage, and it wouldn't be your broken, but your Besieged.
  13. Really, only fourth stage, because that is living hell for me. Like an INFJ, all my dreams and everything is gone by then I think. Furthermore the term 'besieged' does not really say me that much xD
    Wonder what my 'broken' stage is in that case? :/
  14. Trust me if you were broken you wouldn't have the will to speak about, further more you wouldn't want to speak about it.

    And your broken is ESTP, though god forbid I ever see what that looks like on you.
  15. Ahh I hope I never end up there as well. I hope you never become broken as well, dear honest. Does this mean anything though, like could you say that original ESTP's are broken people?

    Because I don't see how e.g. to an ISTJ, their broken would be INFJ.
    Maybe it would be devistating for them to lose their analyctic logical skills? The same way it i would be horrible for NF's to lose, passionate emotions?
  16. No, not at all far from it, they are as they should be, that is there starting point, if an ESTP became ENFP, then they'd be broken and vice versa.

    And it's not about what type becomes what, it's about them being pushed so far that they slowly start using functions that they wouldn't at any other time to deal with whatever life is throwing at them, everytype is there own, and theres nothing wrong with them.

  17. Ahh now I get it :) So I assume that it is not possible to be or develope like a super-multi-type ?

  18. I think the last level I've seen was the INFP level. But I think it was for a very brief period; I was kind of jumping around all over the place at the time.
  19. ESTP is, I think, the furthest I've ever been. But I basically grew up as ISTP. Pationless, emotionless, directionless. I honestly thought for years that I was a robot.

    Von, once the original stresses are removed, where does one find the path of healing? I'm desperately trying to come back to INFJ. :(
  20. The path of healing is within oneself. One can be emotionally and mentally capable, but those are responses to outputs; to be content with oneself and as close to whole as one can be, you have to be more open to your spirituality (which, in the context I'm speaking of, has little to nothing to do with organized religion). Spirituality is centered within oneself, rather than being focused as a response to stimuli.
    Try to slow down; notice yourself and the world around you. Force yourself to calm yourself, not by outside activities, but by a conscious effort to become centered through your own mind and body. From there, once you can think clearly without being stressed or distracted, ask yourself what you want, what you find important, and who you would like to be. The more you are able to do this, the easier it will be to focus on those goals, and the easier it will be to take steps towards those goals.

    Or, at least, that's what I do. It's probably one of the only things that keep me sane lately.

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