Anyone can fall prey to toxic people such as a malignant narcissist or sociopath. These are people who have very little empathy combined with an excessive sense of entitlement, false sense of superiority, and a tendency to be interpersonally exploitative for their own gain. That being said, it is interesting to note that INFJs were represented as one of the biggest groups to be on forums such as PsychopathFree.com, a support forum for survivors of narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths.
The dynamic between empaths and narcissists has been explored in numerous articles, but what about the INFJ empath? It may seem bizarre that one of the most “authentic” personality types could end up with someone who is inauthentic and superficially charming. But there are reasons why they may (initially) gravitate towards each other.
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Let’s explore how the traits of an INFJ empath interact with the traits of a narcissist–and how, like any other personality type, we can be both vulnerable to narcissists as well as empowered by what we’ve learned from our experiences with them.
1. As natural perfectionists, INFJs seek the “ultimate relationship.” According to PersonalityPage.com, INFJs are idealists. They place a high value on the few people they invite into their private inner worlds. When INFJs seek the ultimate relationship, their heart is in the right place–they only want what they know deep down they deserve–a person who respects and honors them as they are.
To an INFJ, the narcissist’s love-bombing (a period of excessive idealization and “grooming” that a narcissist subjects a victim to) may initially represent the ultimate high of a perfect relationship. The INFJ finally gets the affection, adoration, and attention they may not be getting from other sources.
As lovers of communication, INFJs may initially be charmed by the narcissist’s ability to be a cunning wordsmith. Like any other personality type, they can be susceptible to the toxic person’s “false mask” of seeming vulnerability and innocent admiration. But once an INFJ has learned all the tricks and tools of such charlatans, they are able to differentiate between authentic interest and an inauthentic agenda.
2. INFJs have a tendency to want to “fix” others. The compassion and empathy of an INFJ empath is an enormous strength of this sensitive personality type. Yet sometimes INFJs run the risk of going beyond just helping someone and serving as a catalyst for their growth. Instead, they try to “fix” a toxic person who doesn’t take accountability for their own healing.
If you’re an INFJ who has been emotionally abused by narcissistic parents or a toxic partner, please know that it is not your fault. Your sensitivity and empathy may have been exploited by a toxic person, but that doesn’t mean that these are not some of your greatest gifts to give the world. It simply means that we should use our empathy in a more discerning way, towards the people who won’t use it for their own agenda.
Know that there are genuine people out there who won’t take advantage of your empathy and will be grateful for your support. You don’t have to break your own boundaries to meet the excessive needs and expectations of toxic people.
3. INFJs avoid conflict and are highly sensitive to criticism. Since INFJs tend to skirt conflict whenever possible, they may feel themselves starting to walk on eggshells around a toxic partner. Any survivor of abuse—emotional or physical—can get caught up in this because of the effects of trauma. However, INFJs may be even more prone to rationalizing, denying, and minimizing the behavior of their abusers in order to “keep the peace.”
Narcissists may gaslight the INFJ into thinking that any abuse or mistreatment is “all in their heads,” when in fact their sensitivity is alerting them to potential danger. Abusive partners, family members, or friends may tell the victimized INFJ that they’re being “too sensitive.” It is true that INFJs can be highly sensitive, but they are also able to think critically and recognize when their boundaries have been crossed.
If the INFJ does speak up, they may later find themselves wanting to apologize for their words. The problem is, when you apologize to a toxic person who hurts you continually, regardless of any long-winded discussions about their behavior, you ignore the inner voice that tells you that this relationship is not okay. You begin to realize that you are not the sensitive one–they, in fact, are the insensitive ones—even though toxic people can have very sensitive egos and can rage when they don’t get what they want.
How to Protect Yourself From a Narcissist
How can you protect yourself from a narcissist? One way is to hold true to yourself and your expectations for a good relationship, without expecting that everyone who initially seems like an ideal match is in fact the ideal. In many cases, compassionate love builds slowly, like a friendship, and the sudden spark of chemistry does not necessarily represent the authenticity of a long-term romance.
As an INFJ, one of our biggest challenges is learning to honor ourselves and our instincts above the appearance of the ideal—in order to achieve the real thing.
Extricating Yourself From a Toxic Situation
If there’s a narcissist in your life, it may seem impossible to extricate yourself from the relationship. But there’s good news: INFJs can call upon their fiery spirits to counteract a toxic situation with a narcissist. INFJs are also driven to end injustice, so much that they may go to the extreme of cutting any person who exhibits toxic behavior out of their lives without a second thought. INFJs can use their stubbornness to their advantage when cutting ties with toxic people, if they are willing to confront conflict head-on. Only then can they get the healthy lives they truly deserve.
It’s important to remember that it is not an INFJ’s sensitivity or willingness to call out mistreatment that is the problem when it comes to the dynamic between an INFJ and a toxic person. Rather, an INFJ’s sensitivity allows them to “feel” on a deep intuitive level when someone is toxic, or even a malignant narcissist, sociopath, or psychopath.
Your sensitivity can act as an intuitive radar for when toxicity is present. So while it’s good to take a step back and mindfully note your reaction to someone, remember that as an INFJ, you also have a deep connection to your intuition. And, you may be more likely than other personality types to pick up toxic vibes early on.
So what does this all mean? It means that as an INFJ, you can trust your inner voice, for it can be your greatest friend and source of salvation from dangerous situations. As a healer, you don’t need to be a constant “fixer” in order to change the world. As a sensitive being, you don’t need to dismiss your sensitivity as paranoia, when it is in fact one of your greatest intuitive tools. And as an empath, you can still be compassionate towards others from a distance.
You don’t have to tolerate toxicity, mistreatment, or abuse by anyone simply to keep the peace. Really, the most loving, empathic thing you can do for others and the world is to hold others accountable for healing themselves. By doing so, you can continue to heal your life and the world.
Read this: 5 Ways to Stay Strong as an INFJ Empath