4 Curious Traits of the Enigmatic INFJ

An INFJ personality reflects on his curious traits.

As an INFJ, one of the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types, sometimes I feel like an inharmonious fusion of opposites. I’m equal parts prone to rationality and emotion but not planted solidly in either one. INFJs are often seen as contradictory in their qualities, and I can assure you, as someone who is a living, breathing specimen of one, we feel contradictory as well.

Here are four traits that might make the INFJ one of the most enigmatic of all the personality types.

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Curious Traits of the INFJ Personality

1. Everything is bittersweet to us.

If my life had a soundtrack, it would be a haunting, pensive classical piece, like something from The Crown. I often listen to such music when driving, coasting down empty streets, flitting past darkened houses. This background music feels eerily appropriate.

Music like this does not make me sad. Rather, it makes me behave in a more purposeful, profound manner. Things suddenly have more weight to them — and not an icky, burdensome weight, rather, a solid sense of meaning.

Sometimes I’ll be driving home, suspended in thought, my eyes wide, my expression sober, synchronized to the gloomy, tension-filled striking of piano keys against the background of a quiet orchestra.

And I’ll think: Everything means something. Suddenly I’m wetly blinking, my nose burning, my eyes glazed in a film of tears.

Life as an INFJ means things will always be tinged with poignancy. We see how things can be both achingly beautiful yet tinted with tragedy.

I often find that I cannot shake the sensation of death on the other side of life, decay on the other side of growth, destruction on the other side of beauty. There’s a heaviness to existence, and INFJs know it well. Life is both pleasure and pain, and we feel this duality on an intimate level.

2. We rationalize other people’s behavior.

Preoccupied with human motives and psychology, we INFJs have a knack for understanding where everyone is coming from. This does not mean we are ambivalent about what we believe. Nor do we need to agree with someone’s viewpoint to understand their thought process and methods of arriving at a particular belief.

This explains why I’ve always been mildly bothered by the statement — usually said aghast by other people — “I just don’t understand!” Then, with a hint of alarm, I realize I can rationalize other people’s behavior to the degree that I can find comprehensible reasons behind it.

For example, why do people lash out and get wildly angry? This doesn’t read as a mystery to me. It has less to do with the singular situation at hand and more to do with the person’s overall story; with some thought on my part, it can quickly become understandable. I connect it to an emotional impulse of theirs or a psychological need. In this way, INFJs are capable of being empathetic in a strangely cerebral manner.

Because of our penchant for linking things together and taking the big-picture view — rather than seeing things in a contained, situational light — we take into account people’s life stories, their unique impulses, their family life, etc. We use all this information to form a more comprehensive understanding of their behavior, rather than merely contending with what is upfront and visible.

3. We can detach from our emotions at will.

Many people mistakenly assume that INFJs are these soulful, vulnerable creatures all the time. This is simply not true.

Yes, we are emotional and deeply passionate people, but more often than not, we’re terribly private. I have a theory that our insistence on privacy helps temper the uncontrollable aspects of our emotions. That’s because privacy is a form of restraint, and INFJs have a hunger for order.

Often, as an INFJ, I feel caught between my sensitivity and my rationality. And often, I have this weirdly cerebral ability to choose which path to follow. This means when I encounter something that should be heart-wrenching, like a movie with a very poignant storyline, I may not shed a tear or become distressed at all.

Instead, I’m immersed in some kind of analysis. This deliberate switching on and off may account for the INFJ’s aptitude in stomaching the deep, dark things about humanity that most people don’t want to look at.

In some ways, this conscious detachment from my emotions is a self-preservation mechanism for me, sensitive as I am. Sometimes I simply could not survive the sheer intensity of operating out of my feelings all the time.

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4. We’re not as serene as we appear.

I cannot count how many times I’ve been told I was envyingly “laid-back.” I would pleasantly laugh but inside think, “You have no idea what the inside of my head is like every single day.”

The truth is, the two are very much at odds — how people perceive me and what my internal environment is actually like. INFJs tend to disguise their intensity. However, if you’re around us long enough, you’ll no doubt notice it shining through the cracks.

Similarly, I’m told I have a calm demeanor, yet on any given day, my mind is more like a raging sea than a tranquil pond. A lot of mental torment goes on inside the heads of INFJs, and we’re perpetually haunted by varying degrees of existential dread.

Quiet panic may be ensuing in our minds and the surrounding humans would have no clue. Again, this may have something to do with the INFJ’s abundance of thoughts or our need for structure. Perhaps it’s just a way to reduce the threat of being fully overwhelmed. Consequently, we can masquerade as more convincingly put-together than we actually are.

INFJs, being the rare breed that we are, get to be the chameleons that toe the line between right brain and left, emotion and analysis, chaos and order. With our outer shell that we show the world with can disguise a lot.

These four traits of ours do not always see the light of day — but I hope this has helped a bit in demystifying the enigmatic INFJ.

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Written By

Lauren is a writer and INFJ. Avid journaler, reader, and total homebody. Books, nature, and the kitchen are her friends, as is perfecting the art of living quietly with a loud mind. To read more of what she writes, follow her on Medium.