Previously I explored how challenges and traumatic circumstances can force the INFP to act from the Victim, Shadow Martyr, Warrior, and Hero archetypes. This struggle pushes the INFP not only to better understand their strengths, but to also come to terms with the limits, weakness, and traits they’ve ignored or disowned. This process, although difficult, can lead to so much inner healing and growth.
At this point, the INFP can start to identify their shadow. This happens by:
Being able to see the influence of the Victim and Martyr.
Having an understanding of the positive and negative ways they relate to power, control, and influence.
Taking time to examine the individual childhood influences that contributed to the creation of the shadow.
Clearly seeing which negative qualities of their personality style applies to them without denial.
On the other hand, the INFP also knows their unique strengths and owns them. Through this whole journey, the INFP learns to observe both sides of themselves without rushing to judgment.
Psychological integration is giving loving awareness to your shadow without denying it’s there. It’s also about fully accepting your gifts and abilities, without ignoring their existence too. It’s openly acknowledging the light and the dark. You may not like some of what you see, but you accept its presence. And as a bonus, you also start seeing how your shadow also holds amazing qualities that you’ve rejected to better blend in with your family or culture.
Like for example, something that made me very self-conscious for a long time is my natural expressiveness. I’ve always been one of those people who has their emotions clearly written on their face. Unfortunately through my elementary and middle school years, I experienced some negativity surrounding that trait, and I got the message that maybe I expressed my emotions too easily.
My natural openness to people eventually became part of my shadow. It’s a part of myself I ended up rejecting. I didn’t disown these traits straight out. It’s more like there was a voice in my head that said, “Keep a straight face. Hide how you feel,” without much explanation. I began to believe that I was good at keeping my emotions hidden. However, when I started dating the guy who’s now my husband, I learned that I was totally wrong about that.
He’s an ENFP, and what I love about ENFPs is that they’re so honest. Anyways, one day he pointed out how terrible I am at hiding my emotions and that what I’m thinking usually shows on my face. From that incident, I learned the truth of how the traits we disown and make part of our shadow are often still there for all to see. Other people can usually see our shadow better than ourselves.
Over time, I’ve come to appreciate that my openness of expression is an important part of who I am. And as an adult, my expressiveness helps me build relationships because people know that what they see is what they get. Since I approach conversations with openness, I’ve been surprised at the amazing things people share with me. And overall, I feel more at ease socially. I’m not doing much to maintain how others perceive me. I just am.
When you see your strengths and your shadow at the same time, it becomes harder to deceive yourself. You can tell the difference between doing something because you truly care or doing it to get attention, control others, feel special, to blend in or any other tricks you used to play unconsciously to win the love of others. And even more importantly, you start seeing that you had what you needed all along.
The need to assert your uniqueness is replaced by understanding that like handmade pieces of art, every human has things that sets them apart from others, and this makes people even more interesting and beautiful. There’s no need to try to show off how one-of-a-kind you are because you already are.
You may even find that trying too hard to be influential only puts you at risk of being influenced by everyone. Your natural level of influence and visibility is what helps you to keep your autonomy.
For me, the need to receive admiration was replaced with realizing that those who love me will support me even if I’m too beat up and broken to do anything. My existence makes me worthy to receive love.
All the insights you gain through this process is more than motivational fluff. Thanks to your inner journey, you’ve become intimately acquainted with the ways in which you are truly enough.
For INFPs, there’s the realization that achieving strict external and/or internal control isn’t really the goal. The goal is being deeply in touch with and having influence over one’s inner world, and that isn’t done by ruling with an iron fist but with observational patience, understanding, and compassion. It’s also building trust in the workings of intuition and improvisation. Productive improvisation is daring to be out of control and in control at the same time.
For the INFP, inner mastery is going with the flow of the here and now while keeping any kind of structure flexible. When things get tough, being forgiving and intuitive wins out over being controlling and frustrated.
The interesting thing about the Hero archetype is that it’s transitory. The Hero eventually returns home with renewed purpose. The person you are when you return is largely up to what you discover and how things unfold. There’s no way to tell what you will identify with when you come back from this journey into your inner world.
However with the INFP personality type in mind, here are eight archetypes you may end up embracing by the end of the journey. And remember, it’s normal to resonate with more than one of them:
The Lover. You’ve learned to approach life and others with love and care. You now know your boundaries and respect your limits. You’re ready to help others build loving relationships with themselves, others, and/or their personal creativity.
The Sage. You’ve collected knowledge and wisdom that can aid others. You may decide to share that knowledge through teaching. People may even seek you out for what you know.
The Wounded Healer. You’ve learned to heal yourself emotionally and maybe even physically. Now you’re ready to help others to walk the path of healing themselves.
The Explorer. After exploring your own inner landscape, you’re now ready to help others explore their inner experiences. You are also open to sharing your own experiences of traveling through life.
The Visionary. From your journey you have learned the power of creativity and imagination. You know what it takes to dive into what’s possible for you, and you can help others to gain awareness of all the possibilities that are open to them.
The Caretaker. What you’ve experienced has motivated you to assist those who are neglected, oppressed, and overlooked. You use what you’ve learned to aid and empower the powerless. You give love and care to the vulnerable and endangered.
The Magician. You’ve become skilled at transforming your own life. And you now have the skills and knowledge to help others to transform just as you have.
The Child. Through your experience, you’ve seen the power of imagination, curiosity, and optimism. You have the ability to help others to navigate difficulties by showing them how staying curious, playful, and hopeful can lead to finding solutions.
There are an endless number of archetypes out there, and this list is in no way definitive. Do one of these resonate with you? If so, do research to find other archetypes related to the type that speaks to you. Looking at archetypes that remind you of yourself is a great way to figure out what to do after you start integrating your shadow.
Regardless of how you change though, there is one thing that you can do now that you couldn’t before. You’ll be able to assist others through their own darkness and maybe even through the deeper layers of their personality. You can help others to create inner harmony and discover what they are capable of. You are now a guide to the underworld of the inner-self.
So is this the end?
Nope. This is a never ending cycle. And as humans we are always learning and growing. The way we change never stops, and each time we experience this process, we come out seeing ourselves in a totally different light.
However, I think the more daily awareness we have of the Victim and Martyr, the less likely we are to let those roles dominate us when going through a tough time, creating more resilience for future struggles. And it’s resilience that helps us to refocus on finding the solutions that help us heal.
Where are you right now?
Are you the Innocent, Wandering Explorer, Victim, Shadow Martyr, Warrior or Hero? Or do you resonate more with the archetypes that may make their appearance on the return home?
It’s important not to rush this process. It doesn’t happen smoothly or all at once, and can take a very long time. I think this is part of why INFPs are “late bloomers.” It’s through finding self-acceptance and internal harmony that we understand what jobs, relationships, and lifestyles we truly want, and that takes time. So it’s important to enjoy the journey and let the path unfold.
This isn’t a direct quote but a concept I really loved from a book I recently enjoyed entitled Creative, Not Famous The Small Potato Manifesto:
Take a break from chasing the whale and bring some focus to what’s on the boat instead.
Accept where you are now and make the most of it. When the time is right, shifting from one role to the other will get easier. Even when trying to escape victimhood or martyrdom, be gentle with yourself and take your time. Feeling like the Victim is simply a reminder that it’s time for you to be taken care of. And the Shadow Martyr is reminding you of how your suffering will impact your identity. Give both of those parts of yourself the compassion they need, but be ready to leave them behind the moment the time is right.
It’s okay if you notice that you are between phases or more than one of them sounds like you right now. There have been times when I’ve felt like both the Victim and the Innocent. Sometimes I’m a Victim in one area of my life, but the Hero in another.
Once you get an idea of where you are, learn more about that archetype. Believe it or not, Pinterest is actually a great place to learn about and visualize archetypes. I’ve created quite a few boards exploring blends of archetypes. Check them out:
Thanks for sticking with me through all of this! I know it’s a deep dive, but it was so rewarding to write.