In my last post, I shared the beginning stage of personal growth for INFPs. Here I go deeper into how the difficulties that force the INFP to turn inwards can be a catalyst for change.
The INFP could find themselves relating to these archetypes:
- The Victim
- The Shadow Martyr
The INFP is facing a situation where they are forced to confront their inner world. This can be from stress, burnout, or from the appearance of mental or physical health issues. Any negative event that sets off deep introspection is the start of this phase. Just as Persephone was kidnapped to the underworld against her will, the INFP is pushed to face the dark side of their inner world against their will. This can be extremely painful. There’s a deep sense of loss and grief that sometimes feels like it can never be soothed. It can feel like all the things you worked so hard to maintain are being destroyed.
If you are using a psychological mask to face the world, you may find yourself suddenly unable to keep it up. You start to struggle with having enough energy to disguise your pain.
When facing stressful situations, it’s normal to identify with the Victim or the Shadow Martyr. Both of these archetypes have a bad rep, but they serve an important purpose. I feel this is especially true for the Victim archetype.
The Victim archetype is about feeling powerless and helpless. It’s a strong signal that it’s time for you to be taken care of. It’s also a sign that you need to rely less on yourself and start reaching out to others for help. However, the trick is to not get stuck in victimhood. Others may come to your aid, but in the end, you are the one who has to own your power.
It’s like going to the doctor, and the doctor tells you that you need to stop eating certain types of food to feel better. But instead of listening, you keep doing the stuff that makes you feel bad. And on top of that, you blame the doctor for all of your problems. You may even complain to others that your doctor is terrible and did “nothing” for you. Basically, others may give assistance and advice, but in the end, the responsibility for healing and escaping victimhood lies with you.
The Shadow Martyr is a twist on this. The regular Martyr archetype is a noble person who is willing to sacrifice themselves for what is right. However, the Shadow Martyr wears their personal suffering as a badge of honor and uses their “suffering” (which is sometimes self-inflicted) to guilt trip others and to avoid taking responsibility for their own healing.
For the Shadow Martyr, suffering becomes part of their identity. They may even resist taking steps to let go of the pain because they won’t know who they are without it.
Making others feel needlessly guilty about your suffering is not the same as asking for help, but in this state, it may be easy to confuse the two. Taking responsibility is hard when you’re down, but it’s essential. While in this phase, approach your weaknesses with compassion and understanding.
If you notice that you’re acting like the Victim or the Shadow Martyr, don’t be overly critical of yourself. Simply acknowledge that, and then make the changes.
Learning to let go of resentment not only towards others but also toward yourself can pull you out of victimhood. You may resent yourself for being a victim in the first place. These feelings are normal, but please don’t cling to them. Let them go. Forgiveness is the key to letting go of guilt and blame, two emotions that will keep you stuck in the past if you don’t learn to release them.
If you feel like you could use a therapist, this is a good time to reach out to one. But remember that the action of visiting a therapist isn’t enough. You need to do the work of understanding your situation and taking care of yourself when you’re not in the office. If you can’t access a therapist, get your hands on books by authors who have experience with your situation and follow the advice that resonates with you.
There’s also the need to let go of the way things used to be. Give yourself space to grieve the loss. Don’t try to stuff down your emotions in an attempt to shortcut the process. You will cry a lot. And that is okay.
Watch out for using addictions to cope with difficult feelings and to disconnect from your body. And when I say addictions, I mean more than just drugs and alcohol. Shopping, eating sugary foods, overuse of digital devices, and overworking also count.
Addictions can seem like an easy way out, but they’re not. In fact, they can distract you from the inner healing that must happen. Also, beware of falling into codependent relationships and friendships. Codependency can cause you to get stuck as a Victim or Shadow Martyr for a very long time because it encourages a cycle of helplessness.
Can you think of any moments when the Victim archetype has had an impact on your life? What was the situation?
Do you remember any moments of experiencing the Shadow Martyr archetype? How did that impact the way you treated yourself and others?
Are you experiencing either or both of these archetypes right now? If so, what do you think you can do to start creating a feeling of safety? Learning more about your situation, reaching out to others who make you feel comfortable, and practicing self-soothing techniques can be a start.
Once you accept your feelings of powerlessness and show them love, you become more ready to take back your own power.
Deciding to Fight
At this point the INFP is embodying these archetypes:
- The Warrior
- The Hero
You may feel that you can’t have a warrior inside of you, but believe me, it is.
Once the INFP takes responsibility for their well-being, they are now positioning themselves to not be controlled by fear of their inner darkness. The anger, jealousy, and other negative emotions aren’t gone, but instead of being threatened by them, you’re ready to work with them from a place of compassion. You’ve decided to move past playing the guilt and blame game and focus on taking actions that will make your life better. You step into being a protector and healer of yourself.
Being your own advocate involves feeling fear, but doing what you need to anyway. It can be scary to assert your needs, but at this point, you view your health and well-being as the priority, and you’re willing to fight for it.
INFPs who embody these archetypes are tapping into their inferior function, extraverted thinking, in a healthy way. They say “no” to people. They gather the courage to tell those who are causing harm to them or others to stop. They break free of codependent relationships and encourage others to take responsibility for their own lives.
This is a good time to be daring and enact life changes. It’s also an opportunity to let go of feeling like you need to explain yourself all the time.
Like the hero, your actions become goal oriented. You also become aware of the sources of guidance and inspiration that are helping you to find your way through the dark. Keep a list of authors, friends, YouTubers, artists, professionals, or anyone else who is regularly sharing tips that are helping you to navigate through the confusion.
If possible, send these people a thank you note. Facing your inner darkness can feel extremely lonely. I’ve found that showing gratitude towards those who have inspired me can create connectedness to others despite all the hardships.
Write a list of what qualities, traits, practices, and relationships make you strong. The Clifton Strengths Finder and the VIA Strengths assessments are also useful in getting a better view of your strengths. The Redbull Wingfinder is also surprisingly good at getting a view of your gifts. Learning more about introverted feeling, extraverted intuition, and your enneagram type can also help you to see what strengths and talents (aka weapons) you have at your disposal.
Like the warrior archetype, you can become preoccupied with control in this phase. This ranges from self-control to even a desire to assert some control over others. This makes sense because you are taking your life back into your own hands. As a Victim and Martyr, you felt powerless and out of control. The Hero and Warrior are about winning it back.
I’ve found that when working through this stage, having a good sense of humor is invaluable. Taking the time to have a good laugh often gave me the needed strength to fight another day. However, unlike some other personality types, when the INFP starts to work with aspects of control–and by extension, power–that’s when the unconscious contents of the shadow start to come into play once again.
Facing the Shadow of Control, Power, and Influence
Extraverted thinking is intertwined with external control, and as the inferior function, INFPs struggle to use it consciously. Although INFPs can find ways to work with extraverted thinking positively, they can also end up using it in harmful ways without realizing it.
When INFPs use extraverted thinking too much, they become rigid and overly critical of themselves and others. And society’s fixation on hustling, competition, workaholicism, assertiveness, and other abrasive aspects of extraverted thinking only puts INFPs more at risk of falling into the excessive influence of their shadow.
Even deeper in the shadow of the INFP is extraverted feeling. Extraverted feeling is the primary function of the ENFJ personality type, which is the shadow personality of the INFP. I’ll go more into detail about the ENFJ shadow in the future, but for simplicity, let’s say the theme of extraverted feeling is influence.
ENFJs are sensitive to the outward reactions of others and are influenced by the emotional responses they perceive. ENFJs regularly put external harmony over internal harmony. Healthy INFPs are usually the opposite. Although INFPs value getting along with others, they care more about achieving harmony within themselves.
For INFPs in the shadow, this can go a few different ways. On the one hand, the INFP who is facing their shadow can find themselves relying so much on the advice of others, that they start to struggle with making their own choices. They have a hard time using introverted feeling and listening to what resonates with them personally. The result is that the INFP may start to blindly follow advice without thinking if the advice fits what they want and who they are.
On the other end of things, the INFP may become jealous of those who wield more influence over people than they do. This shows up as being suspicious of “popular” people, but secretly wishing to be popular and well-known too. Unfortunately, the INFP who is being influenced by their shadow in this way can fall into manipulating others or even returning to the Victim and Shadow Martyr archetypes to get the attention they want.
If you find yourself feeling constantly jealous, irrationally angry at those who are doing better than you, or inexplicably hungry for power/popularity/notoriety, then you may want to do some shadow work.
All of these pitfalls come from the INFP not understanding the real nature of their personal power. Even worse, the shadow is alluring because it holds all the things we think we need to be emotionally whole and happy. The goal of the hero and the warrior is not just emotional healing but to help the INFP understand what power is for them.
The real power of INFPs is integrating the dark and creating inner harmony. And at this moment, if the INFP has been approaching their life with clear-eyed observation, they’ll see that they already have what they need to do just that.
Do you feel like you’re being overly swayed by the ideas of others? Take an information break. Log off of social media and put down the nonfiction reading for a day or two. Replace these activities with a journaling practice where you ask yourself questions, and then see what kinds of responses you come up with. You may not have a solution to every question, but digging into how you feel about them can make a difference.
Shadow work jump-start: Do a search for ENFJ celebrities. Which celebrities do you like? Which ones have traits that annoy you? Who has traits that make you a bit jealous? In a journal, vent about how you feel about the personality traits of these celebrities, expressing your likes and dislikes. Leave some space between the lines as you write.
Then go back through, cross out the celebrity names, and replace them with your own.
Now read what you wrote. Do you see any of the traits you noticed in the celebrities appearing in yourself to some degree?
At another time, try this exercise again, but instead of using ENFJ celebrities, use people who you know personally.
So how does the INFP change when they are successful at creating more inner harmony by integrating their shadow side? My next post will dig into that!