People usually don’t associate the word “anger” with INFJs.
It’s difficult to imagine how a gentle and quiet person like an INFJ can be angry.
Especially, aren’t we the personality type that desires harmony and dislikes violence and conflict?
But INFJs do get angry.
We just don’t like to be angry and express our anger.
Once my student asked me, “Teacher, how come you never get angry?” I asked her, “If I get angry, will that help you to learn and understand the concept better?”
The student replied, “No.” So I said, “Then, it’s pointless to be angry.”
Even though this sounds rational and yes, it’s true that INFJs believe anger doesn’t help in most situations, but this is hardly the reason why INFJs don’t like to feel angry.
Why INFJs Don’t Like to Feel Angry?
INFJs usually feel uncomfortable and even ashamed of being angry. It’s difficult to accept anger because our empathetic nature (our Fe function) denies it as part of our identity.
I told my student, “Yes, I do get angry on rare occasion. But you don’t want to see it. If I ever get angry in front of you, you probably never see me again.” Then, I went on to explain how I gave one of my students the door slam after he tried to provoke me and cross my boundaries repeatedly.
We cut people off before we become angry.
Whenever I sense that my anger is coming, I usually remove myself from the situation because it’s not a pretty sight when I get angry. After I get angry, I always feel bad for making the mood awkward and hurting the people I care about. And I’ll hide somewhere and cry.
Being Angry Is Not Part of INFJ’s Identity
Having empathy for others is good. But when we over-identified with our extraverted feeling (Fe) function, it causes us problems. We become out of touch with our own anger. We believe it’s not nice to be angry and we don’t allow ourselves to feel anger when we needed to.
Owning your emotions is related to the Fi function because when you have emotions such as anger, it actually tells you what your personal values are or that your boundaries have been violated. These are things that INFJs might not be that aware of.
There is an internal conflict between empathy and anger.
It’s a like war between our Fe and Fi functions. On one hand, we want to create external peace and be helpful. But on the other hand, we want our personal desires and values to get met.
Usually, our Fe function will win since it’s our more dominant one, while Fi is our blind spot. We end up sacrificing our own desires for others, so as not to affect our harmonious relationships with others.
If we do get angry, it’s difficult for us to face the other person again. Our empathy for others can help us see the perspective of the other person easily and forgive them for their wrongdoings. But it can also make us feel guilty for expressing our anger and desires.
Being angry opposes our identity of being empathetic. So the angry part of us is often repressed and get rid of unconsciously. But this is not healthy as I come to realize.
INFJ’s Anger Styles and Unhealthy Ways of Dealing with Anger
Growing up, I thought that I’ve gotten better at dealing with my anger because I have fewer anger outbursts or rage.
Resisting anger is actually worse than expressing anger.
When you can’t blame or direct your anger at someone or something else, the anger gets directed inward. During my episode of depression, a part of me was feeling intense anger but it wasn’t able to express itself. I’m so used to pushing the anger down. So my mind started attacking itself and it just spiraled downwards from there.
So after I recovered from depression, I started exploring and asking myself:
- Where did my anger disappear?
- Why can’t I feel angry anymore?
- Why do I feel uncomfortable when other people are feeling angry?
Below is what I have discovered about myself and my anger issues. Bear in mind though, INFJ males and females might handle and act out their anger differently, especially in terms of intensity and styles. So I’m not implying that all INFJs have the following anger issues.
INFJ Rage: The Violent Expression of Anger
As I was researching about “INFJ anger”, I came across this Quora example of INFJ’s rage:
My friend, the quiet INFJ softie people-pleaser; a guy who works hard to create harmony between people and loathes violence and conflict. He is watching this episode unfold… Without a word, he charges towards the guy attacking the bus driver, pulls him off the driver, gives him a few hard jabs to the nose, pushes the guy out the open door into the snow, and then throws his Christmas tree on top of him. This is a guy who’d never thrown a fist in his life.
INFJ rage is as rare as the INFJ personality type.
INFJ rarely expresses their angry in front of others. But when we are in a highly stressful and provocative situation, our rage is pretty scary. A couple of times, I told my friend that I might punch someone in the face if I am placed in a situation that’s traumatic for me and they think that I’m joking. Yes, I was. But there is some truth in the joke.
I know there’s a violent person residing inside of me. When I was young, I nearly strangled my younger brother to death. I don’t remember why I did that but I remember he provoked me and I just went out of control. My brother told me that after I strangled him, I went hiding under a table crying and shouting like a madman. But I don’t remember anything about this.
Probably my mind had blocked out most of this unhappy memory because it doesn’t fit the INFJ persona. But I can definitely see this happening because when INFJs come back to our senses and the extraverted feeling function (Fe) kicks in, we are able to see the harm we inflicted on others. So we feel intense remorse for what we have done and want to hide somewhere.
INFJ Anger Outbursts: Fast and Furious
Fortunately, I never acted out on my rage ever since. I must have been so traumatized by my own violence that I never allow that part of me to resurface. It’s as though I’ve killed or disassociated that angry part of me.
Of course, this doesn’t work for long. INFJs, like any other personality types, have desires and when our desires are not met, we get angry. When INFJs keep focusing on serving other people, our own desires get ignored and resentment builds. Then, this accumulated anger gets released in one shot without warning, sometimes, over something minor.
It’s like a boiling kettle.
The water has reached its boiling point but yet we still force the lid down and try to hold our anger in. What happened as a result is a display of explosive anger. We snapped and lashed out at other people unexpectedly. People who are caught by our outbursts not only get hurt, they get a shock at our behaviors because it’s not how INFJs normally behave.
In my teenage years and early 20s, this is how I deal with anger. Instead of expressing my desires, I would accommodate others until I couldn’t anymore and then, I have an anger outburst.
Luckily, it doesn’t happen that often like only once every two to three years and it usually happened at home. (Sorry, my family members!) And the anger outbursts don’t last very long though. It only lasts for less than 10 seconds. So usually, I apologized to my family members on the day itself.
INFJ Anger Repression: Silent Treatment and Withdrawal
It’s difficult for INFJs to express our anger in front of others. Somehow, we are afraid to let other people know that we are angry with them.
So instead of dealing with the conflict upfront, we might put on a happy face and ignore or deny our angry feelings. We act like everything is fine and try not to let other people know that we are angry but in reality, we might be harboring resentment inside.
For some of us who find it difficult to act in front of others as though there’s nothing wrong, we will choose to distance, withdraw, and give other people the silent treatment. Instead of being our usual warm self, we become cold towards the person we are angry with.
This is a passive-aggressive way of fixing our anger.
And it is to be differentiated with INFJ door slam where we cut the person out completely. Unlike the door slam, when we withdraw, we are secretly hoping the other person will somehow understand what they do wrong and make amendments.
But of course, this method is ineffective because the other person usually doesn’t know what we want from them. They might not even realize that we are angry at them until much later.
Why Do INFJs Feel Anger?
The reasons why INFJs feel anger is mostly the same as other people. However, I want to point out a few reasons that might be more common in INFJs.
Unmet or Unexpressed Desires and Needs
This is probably the most common reason why INFJs have short, intense anger outbursts.
Like I mentioned above, INFJs seldom impose their personal values and needs on others. We prefer to accommodate others and not cause any conflicts. But if we keep doing that, anger will bound to show up to tell us that we have reached our limits.
Seeing Injustice or Our Deepest Values Have Been Crossed
INFJs empathize with others easily and usually have strong opinions on how people should be treated. To see others or ourselves being treated unfairly, mean, disrespectfully or be bullied, this might trigger INFJs’ anger.
Like in the Quora example previously mentioned, seeing the man attacking the bus driver, the INFJ turned into an “Incredible Hulk”.
But I feel that his rage could also be due to unresolved trauma.
Self-Protection and Unresolved Trauma
The INFJ in the Quora example might have been physically abused as a child or have witnessed a close one being physically abused and that’s why he reacted so drastically to seeing someone being attacked.
After discussing with my younger brother and sorting out the timeline with him, I realized that my rage might be a result of past trauma. I was bullied by my classmate because I refused to let him copy my homework. Instead of stopping him, I froze and let him take my homework away. My classmate saw that I was bullied but he also didn’t say or do anything.
I guess after that incident I became rather edgy at home because I never get to complete the trauma cycle. I never get to express my rage toward my classmate and defend myself. So I was outraged when my brother provoked me.
It became a self-protection mechanism to prevent myself from getting bullied or be taken advantage of.
Repetitive Angry Thoughts
Lastly, INFJs get angry when we keep thinking about the problem and can’t resolve it. The more we think how the other person hurts us, the angrier we get.
Our over-analysis of a person or a situation can make us trapped in resentment and anger for a long time, especially if it has to do with betrayal, being manipulated or lied to. Especially, when we think that our kindness has been abused, that can make us really angry.
INFJ Anger Management: How to Calm Your Anger?
Repressed and passive anger can hurt our health, our body, and our brain in the long run. Expressing anger aggressively can hurt our relationships.
To live a more peaceful life, we have to be in touch with our anger and know how to manage it appropriately. Here’s how to deal with it.
1. Acknowledge that your anger exists and accept it.
One day, a student called me and said that he has an exam tomorrow and he feels like slapping his grandmother for not arranging the lessons with me today. Sensing his anger and afraid that he would act out violently, I told him not to be angry. And he immediately replied to me with a harsher, angrier tone, “Why can’t I be angry?”
At that moment, I realized he’s right. Why can’t he be angry? The more you try to tell an angry person to calm down, the angrier the person gets.
INFJs might not be aware of how uncomfortable we are with our own anger.
After that phone call, I started observing how I feel when I’m around parents who are angry with their children and I realize that I feel rather uncomfortable, afraid even when they are angry. My threshold for anger is very little.
To manage your anger properly, you have to first learn to recognize and accept its existence. When you acknowledge someone’s anger, the person feels seen, understood, and validated. Their emotional charge naturally goes down and it will be easier for you to calm them down later.
This is the same with your own anger. When you are angry, acknowledge what you feel and it’ll be easier to calm it down later. Never push your anger away. If not, it will eventually come back with more vengeance in other ways that might sabotage your life.
2. Let your anger vent a little and listen to it mindfully.
When I say vent, I don’t mean acting out violently, throwing things around, or punching pillows. Yes, these actions might help you release your pent-up energy and make you feel good temporarily. But they don’t help in the long term.
What I mean by vent is to let the anger express its needs and concerns.
So it’s important to be mindful and listen deeply when your anger is venting. If you don’t, you will miss valuable information. Mindfulness also prevents your anger from taking over your body and mind. With mindfulness, you won’t do or say things that you later regret.
It’s about being there for your anger, listening to your inner dialogue and feeling the energy in your body. You don’t need to act out your anger. However, sometimes, the internal venting might make you feel uncomfortable.
For example, a few times there was this angry teenager inside me, firing vulgarities at people. Other times, the anger felt like an angry child stomping on the ground, throwing tantrums. Occasionally, there is no mental noise at all. Just the tightening of the chest and contracting of the body.
What’s important too is not to judge your reactions. If you stop your anger too early, you will not be able to know what it actually needs.
Most of the times, the venting will stop after a few minutes. When you sense that the anger has lost some of its momentum and energy or you realize that the thoughts have become repetitive, this is the time for you to intervene.
3. Treat your anger with tenderness.
Usually, anger is used to cover up hurt feelings and underneath the hurt feelings, there is love, especially if you are angry with people that are close to you. So try to understand the real pain behind your anger.
For example, children want to love their parents and to be loved in return. They don’t want to hate their parents. But when their parents did not give them what they desire or failed to meet their emotional needs, they feel hurt, angry, and unloved.
Love can be easily turned to hate.
But hate can also be easily softened by love.
When you show your anger so much love, tenderness, and compassion, and take time to understand why it feels hurt instead of resisting it, it will naturally soften.
We INFJs already possess these skills. When we empathize with others, we listen to them and spend time understanding their pain. What we can do is to make a u-turn and direct this empathy we have for others inward for ourselves. We can talk to our anger in a loving manner and find out what’s hurting.
In his book, Anger, the Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, suggests writing love letters in advance. When you are in a loving state, write an individual letter to the people in your life that you care about and say how grateful you are to have them in your life. Then, keep the letters somewhere.
Whenever you feel angry at your family members, spouse, friends, take the letter out and read it, and your anger will naturally subside. When we are mad at someone, we forget how much we used to love the person. We actually don’t want to hate the other person. We just don’t remember our love for them.
4. Meet your needs the best that you can.
One thing I learn from my anger outbursts is that I have to communicate my needs better. I cannot depend on others or wait for them to figure out what I want from them.
For example, I used to not want to close the door when I’m working on something because I didn’t want my family members to feel bad about watching TV or having a conversation with each other in the living room. But I’m sure you know how impossible it is for INFJs to work under noisy environment.
Instead of disregarding my needs and later becoming angry, one day, I just gathered all my family members and told them: “I need to shut the door when I’m writing. It doesn’t mean that I’m angry or unhappy with you. I just need the space and quietness to do my work. If there is anything you want to tell me, you can tell me when I come out of the room.”
I had to explain this to them because I’m the only one in the family who closes the door. But luckily, they understand where I’m coming from and respect my desire for serenity.
Communicating our needs directly to others is not easy for INFJs.
But we have to practice this, starting with the people that are closest to us.
However, what if you communicate your needs and the other person doesn’t respond to your needs kindly?
I realize that most of the times, we can satisfy our own needs. For example, even if my family doesn’t understand my need, I could still shut the door and allow them to deal with their own perceptions and feeling.
If someone doesn’t give you enough attention or do what you want, give yourself the attention you need or remove the expectations you have for them. If someone is abusive or treats you badly, just remove yourself from these situations before you get into a rage. There is always something you can do.
Understand your anger is not enough, you have to take action to fulfill your own needs. Otherwise, the anger will keep coming back until you get the message.
If you want to find out more about how to love yourself as an INFJ, be sure to download my free eBook called Self-Acceptance for INFJs.
Featured Photo Credit: Anger / Saurabh Vyas