INFJs have a love-hate relationship with emotions.
Emotions fuel our creative pursuits. They make our lives more interesting and colorful.
But yet as an empath, we absorb other people’s emotions and get emotionally drained easily. It’s difficult for us to distinguish our emotions from others.
And when our emotions get too intense, we don’t know how to handle them.
In my early 20s and prior, I had extreme anger outbursts like once every few years. I didn’t know how to articulate my boundaries then and wasn’t clear with what I was feeling. So I allowed my anger to build inside until I couldn’t take it anymore and then I exploded in front of others.
These outbursts lasted for less than 10 seconds, but it made the whole atmosphere awkward, especially when it was in front of people that are not my immediate family. Usually, after my outburst, I would find somewhere to hide and cry because I felt so guilty that my anger got out of control and made me stepped out of my norm.
It’s only recent years that I have become better at handling my own emotions.
Why We INFJs Have Difficulties with Our Emotions?
For INFJs, we have the extraverted feeling (Fe) as our auxiliary function (the second function) and introverted feeling (Fi) as one of our shadow functions (the sixth function). In other words, we prefer to use Fe and use it naturally, while Fi is a cognitive function that we don’t use often.
Even when we use Fi, we tend to use it unconsciously.
Before we discuss why we have difficulties with our emotions, we need to understand the differences between extraverted feeling (Fe) and introverted feeling (Fi) first.
Fe vs Fi: What is Extraverted Feeling and Introverted Feeling?
As INFJs, when we use our extraverted feeling (Fe), we focus on other people and the external world. We are asking the question: How are other people feeling? We care about the mood of the environment and are concerned with how our actions will make others feel. If the atmosphere isn’t great, we don’t feel good too.
Extraverted feeling (Fe) is also about expressing our emotions outward. This can be done through music, art, words, and etc.
When we use our introverted feeling (Fi), we focus on our own feelings and values. It’s about possessing the emotions inside and understanding how we feel about things.
Where does the emotion come from — inward or outward?
Some of us might think that using Fi is selfish. But it’s not.
Other personality types that use Fi frequently can be compassionate to others too. It’s just that their compassion comes from their own experiences with emotions. They try to understand other people’s emotions based on how they would feel and react in the same situation. For example, they might think: If I feel angry about this, he or she will most likely to feel angry about this too.
Personality types with strong Fe like the INFJ don’t project their emotions on others. We just share the same emotions as others and feel exactly what the other person is feeling. When other people are crying, we feel like crying too. We pick up the mood in the environment easily and so we are often affected by others.
Fi starts from the inside, while Fe starts from the outside.
So how does this create problems for an INFJ?
1. We confuse other people’s emotions with our own.
To understand your own emotions and how it feels in your body, it’s best to utilize Fi (Introverted Feeling) and Si (Introverted Sensing).
But being an INFJ, Fi and Si our blind spots. We seldom have the awareness of how we actually feel. Our Fe absorbs emotions from the people around us and we take on these emotions as though they are our own.
In reality, they are still our emotions and are authentic. When we watch a sad movie and we cry, that is how we feel at that moment. However, it’s important to distinguish this kind of emotions that come from outside with the emotions that come from the inside.
What do I mean by this?
INFJs aren’t that good at realizing how a situation affects our mood.
We are better at seeing how a situation will hurt other people’s feelings than how it will affect us. It’s much harder for INFJs to understand our boundaries. So we might not know we are angry or upset about something until much later.
Many times, when people ask me if I am angry, I’m not lying when I said I’m not. I was just unaware of my anger at that moment. I tend to focus on the other person and if the other person is apologetic, I would forgive them. But I might be offended and I didn’t know about it until days later.
2. We don’t express our emotions frequent enough.
INFJs can understand their emotion better when they express it out. Our Fe is able to pick up these emotions when they are out in the open.
However, even though expressing our feelings would make us feel better, INFJs don’t do it often enough due to circumstances. The society isn’t that accepting toward the expression of emotions outside the realm of art and entertainment. Most parents stop or punish their children for crying and having an emotional outburst. Hardly, you will see parents acknowledge their children’s emotions, telling them it’s okay to cry and be angry.
Expressing emotions is not encouraged, especially for men.
Especially male INFJs, we have a tough time showing their emotions in front of others because we don’t want to get judged by others. You know comments such as You are being too emotional, What’s wrong with you? Why are you so sensitive? and etc.
Sometimes, we are also afraid that when we express our emotions, it will affect the harmony of the group. INFJs aren’t good at being assertive. Te (Extraverted Thinking) is an efficient way to assert yourself and to communicate our boundaries. But it’s our 7th cognitive function and we are not that good at it. When we try to use our Te, we usually end out using our Fe. Instead of being efficient, we might carry too much anger and emotions when we try to assert ourselves.
We INFJs don’t like to express our anger to another person because we understand how someone will feel to be at the receiving end of it. So we end up not expressing our feelings at all.
Unhealthy Ways INFJs Handle Emotions
What happens when we get our feelings all mixed up and bottled up?
With all the emotions coming in through our Fe and produced internally, there is no outlet for our emotions.
Unlike INFP and ISFP who has Fi as their dominant function, we are not that good at keeping emotions in and processing them internally. Instead of using Fi, we tend to rely on our Ti and Ni to make sense of the situation logically, and this might lead to overthinking and the Ni-Ti loop. The more we think about the situation, the more negative emotions we create.
We allow ourselves to get emotionally overload.
If we don’t express our feelings regularly using our Fe, our emotions get trapped in our body and one day, we might just explode with intense emotions. The emotions might make us fall sick with a chronic or mental illness if we are not careful and unwittingly numb, deny or suppress our emotions. This is how it manifested as depression for me previously.
The emotions in your body have to go somewhere. Below are better ways to deal with your emotions.
How to Deal with Your INFJ Emotions in a Healthy Way
There are two schools of thoughts. One group feels that you should focus on your first two cognitive functions and develop your strengths, while another group feels that you should develop your shadow cognitive functions too (aka your four weaker functions).
I’m somewhere in the middle. The first two cognitive functions are the best for career development. You don’t want to spend your work life doing something that you are not good at or not what you like. So putting most of your time developing these cognitive functions is definitely beneficial to your career.
Not paying attention to Fi entirely might cause us problems.
However, you can’t totally ignore your shadow functions because they are blind spots and they might create mental or physical problems for you. Even though your top four functions can take care of most of the stuff in your life, you want to be at least aware of your shadow functions and meet a minimum, healthy standard.
So below I have broken down into two sections. The first section is more Fe-focused. You can start with that first and incorporate the more Fi-focused suggestions later.
1. Find ways you can express your emotions privately.
INFJs need to express their emotions but we are afraid that others would judge us. So why don’t do it privately instead?
When I have a bad day, I enjoy watching a heartfelt movie at the cinema and singing karaoke alone. It’s different when we do these activities with our friends because no matter how close we are with our friends, we tend to get self-conscious around others.
To express your emotions fully, you need a private space.
To other personality types, doing such activities alone seems as though we are emotionally unstable or unsound. But why care about how they think? The purpose of doing these activities alone is because we need a space to express our feelings freely without being affected by others. When other people are around us, we are inclined to focus on them instead of our own well-being.
There are many ways you can express your emotions privately. It can be done through writing, painting, dance, and etc. I love music especially singing and dancing because it allows me to be in touch with those deeper emotions that might not be as easily expressed through words and images. Crying also helps too. It helps to release some of our emotional pain and you will feel much lighter after you cry.
2. Surround yourself with understanding and caring people.
Another way to express how you feel is to talk to your friends. But of course, not all friends are willing to listen to you attentively. Some friends are more suitable to do activities together with, while others are there more for intellectual conversations.
INFJs need friends that have a strong Fe preference.
In other words, people who are willing to listen to you without judging or feeling the need to give you advice. Expressing your emotions to friends who are understanding and caring has the similar effect of expressing your emotions privately. You feel safe to share your thoughts and emotions around them.
Seldom, I will go to my friends with a strong thinking function. They either feel uncomfortable with emotional talk or they are quick to offer advice. Talking to them doesn’t help me process my emotions. I would prefer to talk to friends with a strong natural preference for Fe such as ENFJs, and ISFJs. They are more accepting, patient, and are good listeners.
With a strong preference for Fe ourselves, sometimes we don’t want to burden our Fe friends with our emotions. But we must remind ourselves that both parties can learn a lot about themselves and how they feel when they express their emotions. We also feel more connected with our friends when we share our vulnerabilities with each other.
3. Don’t take in more than you can express.
One thing about Fe for INFJs is it is always on. Even if we don’t consciously focus on other people, we pick up the vibes and moods in the environment very easily.
It’s a blessing and yet a curse. You can walk down a street and not feel good all of a sudden because of all the mixed emotions that people are experiencing. This is worse when you combined with your Se (Extraverted Sensing) function. You get so much information from the surrounding that it makes you feel exhausted.
Withdraw yourself from emotional triggers.
It’s difficult to shut off our Fe, so sometimes you just have to withdraw yourself from the external world to stop the influx of emotions.
INFJs have a weak Fi, we hardly process our emotions internally. We are more likely to express them out instead. However, when we absorb so much emotion indiscriminately from the world, we can’t possibly throw them back into the world without hurting someone. We are like a sponge. We soak up and accumulate these emotions daily and to squeeze everything out in one go, it’ll be an outburst of emotional energy.
INFJs have the desire to help others and give them our time. But it can also burn us out emotionally and make us feel unappreciated. So it’s important to have some downtime to recharge.
4. Understand your own emotions.
As we tend to take in emotions randomly from our environment, it’s important for us to differentiate between the emotions that are from external sources and emotions that are truly created internally. It can be confusing to sort out these emotions at first, but you will get better at it as you practice more.
One question I like to ask myself is:
What am I feeling right now?
You might not have any answer or word to describe how you feel right now and that’s perfectly fine. INFJs don’t utilize Fi much, so it’s understandable that it’s weak.
What you have to do is after you have asked the question is to pause and wait. Let everything settles and see what arises. Pay special attention to the feelings and sensations in your body. You don’t even need to describe it in words, just feel the bodily sensations.
Then, ask yourself, “Where does this emotion come from?” Is a certain event in your life or your past making you feel this way? Or is this emotion from someone else? Again, don’t engage your thinking function (Ti). This might lead to overthinking of the situation and create more emotions. It’s better to allow your Ni (introverted intuition) to bring you the answer when it’s ready.
5. Take note of what you like and don’t like.
Fi is about understanding your values and boundaries. Having a weak Fi, we must make a conscious effort to take note of what we like and don’t like. Doing this helps you to spot patterns. You will start to be more aware of the events that trigger certain negative feelings in you.
For example, you feel okay when someone is 30 minutes late, but you might feel angry when someone is one hour late. Or you feel okay when someone notifies you that they are late, but you might feel pissed off when they don’t tell you when they are late.
Be as specific as possible.
You might even want to write it down if that helps you to remember.
However, do forgive yourself when you unwittingly do something you dislike even though you are aware of your dislikes. We are so used to using our Fe that when people ask us for help, we might forget about our boundaries at the moment and automatically sacrifice our own needs to help others.
Having the awareness of your limits will at least help you to learn from these mistakes. Each mistake that we make will reinforce the importance of what we want and don’t want in life.
6. Learn how to soothe and let go of your emotions.
The opposite of expressing emotions is to suppress emotions. When INFJs don’t have the tools to manage our anger and sadness, and the circumstances don’t allow us to express these emotions, most of us will choose to suppress and numb our emotions.
But there is a third way, the middle between these two extremes. It is to let go of your emotions.
Letting go has the same effect of expression.
It requires you to extract the emotion out of your body, face it, and be present with it. However, it doesn’t have as much emotionally-charged to it as expressing your emotions. You are just allowing the emotions in your body to surface.
And when your emotions surface, you just simply place them down like how you place an object down. This is unlike suppressing your emotions though. Letting go doesn’t require you to hold down your emotions like holding down a balloon under water. Doing so will use up a lot of your energy. However, you might have to let go of your emotion multiple times before you feel lighter.
Alternatively, you can soothe your emotions like how parents soothe their kids. Whenever you have intense emotion, be there for your emotion and talk to it kindly. Understand what it needs and pacify it.
These two methods of dealing with emotions are not something that INFJs do consciously, but there are skills that are worth picking up and getting better.
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: Amargura / Edward Zulawski