What’s all this about?
This is a quick crash course in INFJ. We will dive into the INFJ mental process as described by Jungian Psychology, founded by C.G. Jung and advanced by many of his contemporaries. We believe it to be the most accurate, comprehensive, and organized system to describe the human psyche, and so it’s used extensively on INFJ Men. Your understanding of this framework as it relates to the INFJ psyche will help you digest and appreciate (or argue, if you’re inclined) much of what is written on INFJ Men.
If you’re not sure whether you’re an INFJ, you can take the quick test we’ve designed to help assess. We’d recommend doing this before you read the descriptions below so that your answers aren’t skewed.
What is Jungian Typology?
Jungian Typology is a theory of personality that categorizes individuals into various types of psyches. Within the theory is a system for describing the mental processes that occur consciously and unconsciously. The mental processes that Jung identified are sensing, thinking, feeling, and intuiting. Sensing tells a person that something exists; thinking tells him what it is; feeling tells him whether it’s agreeable or not; and intuition tells him what it means or can be used for. Jung called the four processes “functions”.
Attitudes: Extraversion and Introversion
Jung believed there are two flavors for each of these functions, which he called attitudes: Extraversion and Introversion. Extraverted processes seek to merge with the outside world and outside people, creating a shared experience. They are often outgoing, candid, adaptive and they venture forth without undue though. Introverted processes step back from the experience to reflect upon their own understanding, or to see whether it can be compared with prior experience. They are often hesitant, reflective, retiring, and defensive.
Each function (mental process) takes on either an extroverted or introverted nature. The combination of function and attitude is a function-attitude, and is represented by the two-letter identifiers: Se, Si, Te, Ti, Fe, Fi, Ne, Ni.
Jung posited that as an individual matures from childhood, they will favor some mental processes over others. The earliest of these processes that a child relies on will become areas of strength for an individual (e.g. Ni and Fe for an INFJ). When strong enough, they are said to be “differentiated” because they are accessible as a stand-alone function that has a different, unique character from the others. Undifferentiated functions (like Te and Si in an INFJ), on the other hand, are typically blurred with other functions when accessed, and they are not able to be accessed truly on their own.
Conscious and Unconscious
Jung believed that every individual uses all eight function-attitudes at various points in their experience, but that he or she would access the differentiated functions more than the others. In fact, the function-attitudes could be ranked 1 through 8 in order of decreasing ability to use them consciously. Roughly the first four are differentiated (though even 3 and 4 remain relatively undifferentiated in most people) and are able to be accessed by the conscious mind, and roughly the next four are undifferentiated and are largely unconscious — though still “flavor”, or impress upon, what’s going on in consciousness. The development of consciousness is essentially the ability access the different function-attitudes at the appropriate time in the appropriate way, for example using extroverted feeling to empathize with a depressed friend, instead of using extraverted intuition to give them possible solutions that they’re not asking for.
The 8 Function-Attitudes
Now would be a good time to introduce the 8 function-attitudes as they exist for the INFJ, in the diagram below. Notice how the diagram is split into two sides, representing the Consciousness and Unconsciousness. Also notice how each function-attitude is labeled #1-8 as they exist for the INFJ.
Advancing Self vs. Defending Self
If you read more closely into this diagram, you’ll see that the conscious is described as “advancing Self through organized thought” and the Unconscious is described as “defending Self through chaotic thought”. This is a key difference between how some Jungian analysts believe conscious processes and unconscious processes operate in the Jungian model. They believe our consciousness is used to organize and make sense of the world, often aiming and aspiring to goals; it is largely helpful and well-intentioned, even if things don’t always go to plan. Processes in the consciousness are typically heroic, caring, and playful.
Our unconsciousness, on the other hand, may be used to defend the Ego when it’s stressed and under attack. These processes, though they also mean well, often carry a shadowy stamp. They can often be avoidant, limiting, critical, manipulative, and sometimes even downright destructive. One can see, though, how avoiding the bad intentions of others (Ne Opposition) or constraining one’s actions (Fi Critic) can sometimes be a helpful defense mechanism. The unconscious compensates for the weaknesses of the consciousness, so if Ni is being used to intuit internally, Se exists unconsciously to orient the individual back to reality. When unconscious functions are repressed, they can show up as neurosis.
The last thing you’ll notice in this diagram are the descriptors — Hero, Father, etc. — attached to each function-attitude, which Jungian analysis refers to as “archetypes”. Jungian analysts have realized that each function-attitude, depending on where it is in the stack of eight (#1-8), expresses itself in a way that is similar to various popularized, fictional archetypes, e.g. the Hero archetype, the Child archetype, and the Trickster archetype. What this amounts to is that when a particular function-attitude is accessed, it often takes on the character of the associated archetype. So, for example, when an INFJ uses extraverted feeling (Fe), he uses it like a good parent who is trying to care for and protect another. And when an INFJ attempts to use extraverted intuition (Ne), he tends to use it in a paranoid and avoidant way, much like a villian that opposes the hero in a movie. Other personality types will have different function-attitudes in the eight positions, but the archetypes stay in the same positions (so, for example, an ISTJ will use extraverted thinking, Te, like a good parent, to research and plan for others).
Let’s dive into each of these eight functions-attitudes and their corresponding archetypes specifically for the INFJ. By looking at the typical thought processes of an INFJ along with the character of each, we can come to better understand the INFJ’s strengths and weaknesses. As you read through the following eight descriptions, consider whether they resonate with your own experience.
The INFJ Conscious
The INFJ’s strongest, most differentiated function-attitude is introverted intuition. He uses this to imagine — almost “knowing” — what the future is going to bring, especially with regard to people and society. Premonitions of the unexpected and novel ways to understand universal truths come to him easily and frequently. Reading between the lines, connecting the dots, and exploring potential possibilities and meanings are all profound strengths of the INFJ. For the INFJ, nothing stands on its own, as everything is perceived in a web of relationships to others. Since this is the INFJ’s strongest function, it is often pervasive in all of his mental activity, flavoring all thought. It’s a major source of pride and identity for the INFJ.
An INFJ, however, may rely on this function too much, and it can become a problem when they “just know” things themselves but are not able to explain why or how to other people. Overuse may also cause them to lose touch with people and reality, as imaginings, symbols, and concepts take precedent over what’s “actually” happening around them.
When Ni Hero speaks, he sounds like:
- I like to see the big picture, then (maybe) dive into the details.
- I often “know” things or have premonitions, without knowing how or why
- I see everything as connected, and leap between and connect different ideas easily
- I feel energized by imagining the future and how to transform it for the better
An INFJ uses extraverted feeling like a good father to care and protect others. They tune into others’ feelings and what is important to them, as a good parent would. They find it easy — almost automatic — to empathize with others and to adopt their point of view. Relationships almost always take precedence, and the INFJ will go to great lengths to make other people feel special and to not damage the relationship.
Sometimes the INFJ can be overbearing with extraverted feeling and use it in a way that stunts growth for another, e.g. by withholding unpleasant things that need to be said. They may also struggle to know what they’re feeling themselves as they’ve over-indexed on the feelings of others.
When Fe Father speaks, he sounds like:
- I am able to feel what others are feeling, and I often know what’s important to them.
- I am able to make others feel comfortable and even special.
- I believe that being tactful with people is more important than being blunt and honest.
The INFJ likes to learn frameworks, models, and theories. They often prefer to come to realize them on their own, rather than be handed them. Solving problems is often a source of joy for them, and because introverted thinking takes on a “childish” character for them, they can be quite inventive and playful with their problem solving. By the same token, they enjoy playing with words, as in naming the things, people, and relationships around them. The INFJ is also creative with “leaps of logic”, and thinking through unexpected responses, twists and turns in conversation is often how he presents humor (again, the “child” at play).
The INFJ can also become too rigid in their thinking. When they “know they’re right” they can become critical of those who don’t follow the same principles. With childlike hubris they can become inflated with introverted thinking, coming to believe they are smarter than everyone else; with childlike sensitivity they can become deflated with introverted thinking, if told they aren’t as smart as they think.
When Ti Child speaks, he sounds like:
- I like to learn theories, models, and frameworks (like Jung!)
- I like to think things through for myself, rather than just accepting the “facts”
- I like ideas clearly stated
- I like to play with words, ideas, and leaps in logic
The INFJ aspires to understand how things really are, and they want to feel anchored in something practical and real. Though often times, reality can overwhelm them. This is particularly true with sensory stimulation, as they can become overloaded with it quite easily. For this reason, the INFJ meters his stimulation gradually. Overtime the INFJ will find wisdom in new experience, as the more experiences he has “survived” the greater perspective he will achieve.
Extraverted sensing is also a source of embarrassment for the INFJ. It’s where his inferiority complex, i.e. his feelings of inadequacy, often reside. Because of this, the INFJ is concerned about the experience that he is giving to other people and how he is coming across to them in terms of appearance, conversation, or performance. Performance anxiety affects INFJs more than it does most other types, because of the inadequacy he feels in the immediate moment.
When Se Inferior speaks, he sounds like:
- I need ideas to still feel anchored in something real (even though I’m often intuiting)
- I want to see my visions and ideas for transformation to become a reality
- I am often nervous about appearances and performances
The INFJ Unconscious
For the INFJ, extraverted intuition often opposes (Opposing archetype) the grand plans and possibilities of his introverted intuition. This mental process will “read between the lines” but often with a pessimistic spin, which leads him to questioning the intentions of others, new approaches, and emerging information. They may lock onto hidden meanings, knowing “without a doubt” that they have the situation figured out, when in actuality it’s paranoia running wild.
For the INFJ, introverted feeling often takes on the character of a curmudgeon and critical old man (Critic archetype). It will delay decision making by dwelling on, and being critical of, beliefs, which results in the INFJ feeling paralyzed. Since the INFJ is often unable to assign a positive value to potential action, he will be stuck believing that a situation is entirely negative, therefore, not worth participating in. The INFJ can take this criticism as far as questioning their own self worth, which – taken far enough – can lead to anxiety and depression.
Extraverted thinking is all about organizing things and ideas, making plans, and accepting the laws and beliefs of society. The INFJ is not particularly good at any of them. What’s interesting, though, is that because Te takes on the character of the Trickster, the INFJ often believes he is relatively capable of things like organizing and making plans. They’re “deceived” by this function, and will often spend more time and energy than they should trying to do so. It’s exhausting for them, and often leads to unfavorable results for the INFJ and those involved.
Si is concerned with having a robust database of stored facts, figures, and memories, that can be compared with the present situation in order to guide action. In an INFJ, Si takes on the character of a destructive Demon that will undermine his planned action. The INFJ, therefore, is usually ignorant of the past and usually lacks a proper storehouse of memories anyway. When the INFJ does recall upon past events, he can get stuck in false impressions of how things actually were, which will result in misguided action going forward. Since Si is also concerned with personal experience and well-being, a stressed INFJ can also become careless about their own well-being, overindulging in pleasures like food, alcohol, and sex.
How do I know if I’m INFJ?
You may recognize yourself through the short descriptions above. You may have been nodding vigorously as you read — so vigorously your neck is now sore. In fact, the most reliable way to type yourself as an INFJ is by comparing the mental processes that you experience with descriptions like these. Tests like MBTI can be useful guides that help you narrow type to one of a few possible options, but results will often change over time and with your mood and life situation. So, to type yourself as an INFJ or another type, I’d encourage you to read more about INFJ mental processes, strengths, weaknesses, and attitudes to see if they match your own experience.
If you haven’t already, you can try the INFJ test we’ve designed as well:
Yep. I’m an INFJ. Now what?
Well, that’s great news! You’re an insightful developer of people, who can guide and support others through their most difficult times. But you can also be paranoid, self-critical, and destructive in the some of ways mentioned above. Keep reading INFJ Men for advice on how to leverage your strengths and overcome your weaknesses. Furthermore, become part of our growing community so that you can add to the collective INFJ unconscious and support other INFJ men in their own growth.
As immediate next steps, try reading through a few of these published articles that have been helpful for many INFJs before you:
If you have any questions about life, love and happiness as an INFJ man, don’t hesitate submit to Ask INFJ Men, so that we can stir up conversation and gather useful responses.
And definitely take part in our INFJ Men Weekly Surveys, so that we can keep a pulse on how the community (of INFJ men like you) is feeling.
Once you feel like you are beginning to get a handle on what being and INFJ male is all about, you may even feel moved to write an article for INFJ Men. Let us know here!