Why INFJs Process Their Feelings Outwardly, Even Though They’re Introverts

IntrovertDear.com INFJ feelings process

Fellow INFJ, do your thoughts and emotions overwhelm you sometimes? Do they make it difficult for you to function normally?

When I get overwhelmed by my thoughts and feelings, I desperately need to talk to someone I trust, and when I do, the conversation usually takes a while. I share all that’s on my mind in whatever order I can get it out without worrying about sounding coherent or organized. The goal is to just get whatever’s in my head out in the open before a safe friend or family member.

It’s only after I’ve shared that I can begin to make sense of it all, and I start to relax.

(What’s your personality type? Take a free personality assessment.)

Have you had similar experiences? Why do we INFJs need someone else to help us process our thoughts and feelings? Why can’t we just do it on our own like many other introverts?

Why INFJs Need to Talk to Someone Else

I learned a great deal about why this is the case from Marissa Baker’s The INFJ Handbook. One big reason we need other people to help us process, according to Baker, is that we’re wired to pick up on other people’s thoughts and emotions — but not our own.

Your dominant mindsets as an INFJ are Introverted Intuition and Extroverted Feeling. You use Intuition inwardly as you brainstorm, identify patterns, collect insights, and envision the future. When you employ Feeling, however, you use it in an extroverted fashion. It clues you into social norms and expectations and helps you think about others and what their needs are.

Your combined Intuition and Feeling give you an amazing ability to pick up on other people’s thoughts and emotions, even without them telling you what they are. You can sense if someone is genuine or if someone is trying to act as if everything is fine when it’s really not.

Unlike INFPs who introvert their Feeling and tend to be highly aware of what they are thinking and feeling, we INFJs have a hard time figuring out which feelings are our own and which ones belong to others. We tend to mix other people’s emotions with our own. We “absorb” other people’s emotional states without trying to do so. This happens to me primarily when I’m around someone who’s discouraged or depressed. When my wife has had a bad day at work, for example, I internalize her feelings and can’t shake them until she’s recovered.

I need other people to help me process.

As Extroverted Feelers, INFJs Need Others

All Extroverted Feelers turn to others for emotional support. You’ve probably seen this in ESFJs and ENFJs, whose primary mindset is Extroverted Feeling. As extroverts, they’re fortunate to have a large network of people they can trust and turn to when they’re down. These extroverts are quick to open up and share what’s bothering them, and they usually receive more than adequate support from the people close to them.

We INFJs are also Extroverted Feelers like ESFJs and ENFJs, but, like ISFJs, we’re more reticent. We will only share our feelings with people we trust deeply. We’re complex, original thinkers who know few people understand and appreciate our real thoughts and feelings, so we tend to keep them to ourselves. We’re also slower to make friends because we’re introverts who need time to ourselves. And on top of it all, we’re hypersensitive to criticism, so we try extra hard to protect ourselves from biting words.

But in the end, we desperately need to share. Our sanity depends on it.

INFJs Must Nurture Relationships

What’s the solution, then? The answer is to nurture relationships and employ a few other strategies to help you work through emotional buildups. Here are four that have worked for me in the past.

1. Connect with introverts. Other introverts make good friends because they’re great listeners and appreciate meaningful conversations. You might enjoy talking with an ISFJ because she understands the need to share personal thoughts and feelings and to process them aloud. You might also appreciate ISTJs. Like INFJs, ISTJs have deeply-held values. Many are good at keeping confidential information private, and you can trust them not to blab your personal struggles. Though ISTJs are Thinkers, their Thinking and Feeling preferences are somewhat balanced, so they can be mature, compassionate listeners — especially the ones who are used to working with people.

2. Befriend extroverts. Don’t count out extroverts. As INFJoe points out in Text, Don’t Call, some extroverts get you and understand your needs. The ESFJs and ENFJs whom I mentioned earlier are tremendous empathetic listeners and can really help you when you develop a relationship of trust. ENFPs are great too. One of my closest friends is one; he’s helped me through some difficult times. I love ENFPs because their minds are wired similarly to our own. They understand and appreciate the way we think and can be extremely encouraging.

3. Journal. If you don’t have the pleasure of connecting with another person, Baker suggests you try journaling. Journaling affords you as much time as you need to process your thoughts. It also helps you get them out in the open so that you can sort through what feelings are yours and which ones you’ve picked up from other people. INFJs tend to be writers, so this strategy might become a go-to solution for you.

4. Talk to professionals. INFJs are among the personalities most likely to seek professional help when they’re overwhelmed. They naturally trust and turn to psychiatrists and counselors. I’ve talked to and appreciated the input of several counselors, and I know a few other INFJ friends who have too. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with turning to skilled professionals when you need to work through your thoughts and feelings — particularly if the issues you’re contemplating are serious.

To learn more about the way you process emotions, why you think as you do, and what makes you tick, grab a free copy of my recent eBook, The INFJ Personality Guide.

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Read this: 47 Things I Wish Other People Knew About Me as an INFJ retina_favicon1

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  • As an INFJ, I find that I use music to connect to my feeling. It works like a mirror, reflecting what in inside back at me, so that I can see it. I also have a lovely ENFP partner who allows me to talk my feelings out. Professional help is also useful, when things get too bad ,or too close, to the people you would normally talk with.

    • Bo Miller says:

      Awesome, Natalie! I love music – probably for that very same reason. Thanks for that great insight.

      Glad you have a great partner and know when to talk to someone who can really listen. Thanks for sharing!

  • Angelica Winton says:

    One thing I’ve noticed for me personally as an INFJ is that not only am I unaware of my feelings, but I tend not to notice when I am on the brink of emotional overload. This often leads me to have unforeseen outbursts when under stress, when I get that all-or-nothing mindset of “I can’t take anymore!” I wish I could regulate my feelings better instead of unknowingly suppressing them. Sometimes we even justify bottling up our emotions because we feel that expressing them would hurt someone else’s feelings or our relationship with said person, at the expense of our own mental health.

    • I completely agree. I often feel that if I am not aware of my emotions then everything is fine, because I am happily Ni and Ti-ing. When i get overloaded, it hits like a tsunami because i didn’t even notice it starting.

      • Bo Miller says:

        Interesting, Natalie. When do you find you do the most Ni-Ti-ing?

        • When I’m working on solitary creative or intellectual work. I like to learn things or create things and then go into the world and share insights.
          This isn’t the way the world wants to operate, and I have to rely on my Se too much in the world and it gets burnt out quickly without time to process. When I’m around people I will pick up their emotions Fe. If I’m spending a prolonged period doing both of these things, I end up burnt out and feeling things that aren’t mine. Meanwhile Ni and Ti are trying to process everything, without a rest and the whole lot derails.
          Ni and Ti work so much better in a familiar environment without other people’s emotional baggage left about.

          • Bo Miller says:

            Wow! That’s a great vignette of many INFJs’ daily experiences, Natalie. Thanks for elaborating.

          • Spanglylovesheels says:

            What you just wrote was very much an “aha!” moment for me. Thank you for writing it Natalie. I left my last job because of that exact conflict. I work as a scientist in private industry and the company I worked for is poorly managed in my opinion. This allows a fair amount of uncertainty and negativity to infiltrate the labs. And the thing is, I pick up on all of it and it stresses me out even when I am not aware of it. The last three months leading to my leaving started out fine. I had a project and started focusing on it and was very much in the groove of it. I completed it and presented it with no major issues. But during that three month window, there were many personnel changes and a whole wave of fear for the future direction of the company began gaining strength. I really stayed above the fray and was happily going about my work. But I think this shows how out of touch I am with my emotions like you and Bo said. Inside I was picking up on a lot of turmoil around me and at some point I knew I was going to boil over. I didn’t want to sever all my relationships with a blow out so I quietly left instead.
            The point is that the outside environment got to me. The whole chaos of the new administration of the US was also feeding into that as it has since the election. I need time to process and events happen too quickly and so a part of me is always burning energy on what is essentially old business while I go about my daily activities. Eventually I burn out or or snap. No fun.

          • April Jones says:

            I am exactly that way. I have a house hold of 4 kids and a type B husband and I have to say I wish they taught Myers Briggs in school. I’m just learning about personality types just now with a house full of emotional fires that I’m not able to handle on most days. Husband could care less and despises my need for solitude. By the time I get everyone off to work and school, I’m often too lethargic to function. I literally would sleep the rest of the day.

          • Ernest B says:

            I had an “aha” moment reading your reply Natalie. I left my last job due to feeling wiped and I think its because of what you are referring to. I thought everything was fine and then it wasn’t and I needed to be out of there. I think I had absorbed all the negativity and chaos of my work place and although I went about my work fairly happy and engaged, I was unconsciously spending a lot of energy on what was swirling around me. But I was emotionally numb to it until I reached a saturation level and quit before I exploded and did lasting damage to my reputation.
            I loved your line “this isn’t the way the world wants to operate” I feel like I have been at odds with the “world” most of my life. INFJs truly march to their own drummer! Thanks for your comment.

          • Angelica Winton says:

            I think it has something to do with our idealistic tendencies. INFJ’s tend to view the world through rose-colored glasses and it’s not until something happens to shatter that perception that we start to notice our own feelings. It’s almost like we go through life on auto-pilot if you will, and our focus is on others and being considerate of their well-being, while forgetting our own. I completely relate to picking up other people’s emotions Fe, which is one reason why I find social environments so draining.

    • Bo Miller says:

      Good point, Angelica. I definitely bottle up my feelings around coworkers and people who don’t know me as well, wanting to keep the peace and preserve the relationship. My thoughts/feelings “explode” when I’m around family, unfortunately. Is that the case for you?

      • Spanglylovesheels says:

        Same with me Bo. And that is what causes me the most distress. People at work think of me as so friendly and easy going but that is not the truth. I just have good people skills and am able to tamp down feelings or maybe I am not in touch with those feelings like I replied to Natalie. But sometimes at home, my family sees the explosion. The people I love see the worst while strangers see the best. Its not right.

      • Angelica Winton says:

        Yes it is, and I hate that about myself. I can’t share real thoughts/feelings except with those close to me and especially when I’m upset I can’t express it to anyone else. This means I end up “taking out” my frustrations on my loved ones which is not what I want to be doing. Usually whatever is bothering me is not their fault; it is just emotional baggage I pick up from people I interact with at work or school. How do you deal with this and do you have any suggestions for how to approach this situation differently?

        • Bo Miller says:

          One thing that’s helped is trying to be more direct and open with coworkers so that I don’t take it out on my family. There are a few people at work with whom I can process my thoughts, and they’ve helped me tremendously. Praying about the situation also helps give me perspective. I certainly don’t have this figured out. Has anything worked for you?

  • Myrna Pouyatt says:

    Awesome article, thank you! I do not have a network of friends I can share my feelings with, but the idea of journaling is perfect for me. I have been doing it of late, for the very reason that I have no one in my life to really talk to, and I hate social media, because I do so absorb everyones crazy emotions, which make me crazy. I also use music as a way to connect to my feelings. Great article! Thanks, again.

    • Bo Miller says:

      Awesome! Glad that journaling and music are working for you. Those are two phenomenal options!

      You’re welcome, and thanks for your kind words!

  • Gina Jarasitis says:

    Thanks for the great article, Bo. I have learned fairly recently that getting my feelings out where I can see them is vital to understanding them. I write in my journal a lot.

    I’m noticing that I usually don’t know what I’m feeling, but it isn’t just because it is internal; my feelings are almost always mixed. They are so varied, I wouldn’t be accurate to give them any label.

    Also, I’m curious if this is true for other INFJs, my favorite and most common mood is a little melancholy, which comes along with some joy and excitement. What do you call that? Do you ever feel that way?

    • Bo Miller says:

      That’s really interesting, Gina! I do enjoy that mood as well. For me it’s a creative, reflective, thoughtful one. Melancholy is a good word. I haven’t ever given it a label.

      I haven’t heard other INFJs tell me that’s their favorite and most common mood, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was. When you have our temperament, thoughts and feelings tend to lead you that direction.

      I like the way you explained your thought and feelings as “mixed.” That’s a great way of putting it.

      Thanks, Gina!

      • EarlyR says:

        I will concur on the melancholic mood preference. I think it shows up in my music choices. The Smiths are my go to but there are many. Rather than journaling I write notes and make additions to my perpetual novel outline, a burst of creativity seems to help settle my mind.

  • redwildorchid says:

    Wow, what timing. I have an appointment tomorrow morning to speak with a therapist for the first time, but have not seen much in writing acknowledging that type of interaction. As always, I appreciate having my experience validated. My concern is that I won’t click with the person. I can imagine some personality types just being happy to have a sounding board, but it’s not just that I have super special thoughts for only a select audience, altho I do feel reticent, but more the interaction won’t be complete, with a healing impact, if the therapist doesn’t have some really insightful advice that I would not have come up with on my own. I don’t talk in order to feel better, talking is an effort not a relief, rather I talk or brainstorm to find a solution. I need a practical actionable resolution, then if I feel better after I put in the work, great. But am I being too demanding, or expecting too much?

    • Nicola says:

      I have to agree; talking to someone isn’t so much a relief for me, but rather a way to find a solution to whatever problem I am facing. I often feel like I don’t need sympathy (although I do need understanding and validation), but rather, I need advice on how to tackle a problem from a different angle (something practical that I perhaps couldn’t have come up with on my own). I do find talking to someone helps me (even if they don’t give insightful advice), because once the emotion is out into the world, you almost absorb and process it differently (at least, that has been my experience from time to time). I have also considered the therapist route, but I have very specific things that I want to focus on and achieve through such sessions – quite similar to your “practical actionable resolution”, I suppose. Not sure what the answer is, but I have felt a combination of various methods/approaches seem to work best for me (writing/journaling, painting, as well as talking to loved ones, etc). Thus, a variety of approaches in varying degrees, instead of just one. It also helps when your “go-to” option isn’t available. Good luck with the therapist, and I really hope you find what you are looking for!

      • bjulia33 says:

        Thank you Nicola. Yep, journaling is my go-to, always helps.Thanks for the warm wishes! And so far so good.

    • Bo Miller says:

      Hi, bjulia33. I don’t think it’s over-the-top to desire a solution or an actionable takeaway. That’s what most people would want. I hope your appointment went well, that you clicked with the therapist, and that it was helpful to talk to someone who was really listening.

      • bjulia33 says:

        Thanks Bo. Been catching you on Youtube, and been surprised at great info I get a lot out of it, no offense. I say that only because I’ve dived into the INFJ type, soaking up everything, and had started to get echo chamber-like, if you know what I mean. Lol anyway, find your work refreshing, you earned another subscriber. See you around, I’m sure. 🙂

  • Tovia Behanu says:

    Horoscopes are as meaningful as Myers-Briggs. LOL

  • Bianca Lewis says:

    This is brilliantly written – it’s so relatable!

  • Carlos Claudio says:

    This is definitely true for me as an INFJ. When we externalize our emotions, it seems that Fe picks it up and can that’s when we can empathize with ourselves and our own emotions. Too often, when Ni and Ti loop an emotion or thought, it is just a constant cycle of trying to solve something that only empathy can truly pick through. For example, if you give and INFJ a logical problem to deal with, Ni and Ti are helpful because the only data being inserted into the process is logical data, in which Ti, although it is a tertiary function, at least has the skill to handle. But, giving Ti an emotional problem is like asking an electrician to write a rhetorical essay on a novel (let’s just make it an extreme case for example’s sake, but in reality, electricians are NOT solely logical): the electrician will try to logic his way through the writing, but will lose aspect of the emotional themes and issues of the novel at hand (again, EXTREMELY extreme example, bear with me here). But, give Fe that issue, and Fe will sort through all the feely stuff, and Ti will deal with the scraps of logicality that Fe could not process.

    But…Fe is external. That’s why I have one extroverted friend (dunno his MBTI though) and an ISTJ friend in which we all are comfortable sharing thoughts and emotions with. Anything to get my emotional data out there and bounced back into my Fe so the problem can finally be solved.

    How I’ve experienced it: usually an emotion so strong will hit me (joy, sadness, etc.) and I will become overwhelmed by it, but even a good emotion becoming overwhelming can be tiring sometimes, so I express it so Fe can break it down in an empathetic way once and for all. I also found talking to myself out loud or writing a story about someone treating a representation of me helps, as well. Anything to kind of “detach” my emotions from my thinking process and just allow myself to feel them.