The Surprising Dark Side of the INFJ

INFJ personality dark side

Under stress, a different side of the INFJ comes out.

No one likes to talk about the dark side of the INFJ, one of the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types. INFJs are supposed to be gentle, thoughtful, and kind-hearted. Yes, we are those things, and so much more.

Few other personality types care as deeply about humanity on a large scale as INFJs do, and perhaps no other type is better suited to start a social movement that rights a wrong — Mother Teresa, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. are thought to have been INFJs.

But under stress, a different side of the INFJ comes out. Although usually private and reserved about our feelings, we’re not immune to lashing out or being critical of others when we feel hurt. For our friends and loved ones, witnessing the dark side of the INFJ can be confusing.

Let’s take a closer look at the dark side of the INFJ. In other words, what are some of the less-than-lovely tendencies of this usually kind personality? Keep in mind that no two INFJs are exactly alike, and other personality types may struggle with some of the following “dark” tendencies, too — just not quite in the same way or to the same degree that INFJs do.

(What’s your personality type? We recommend this free personality assessment.)

The Dark Side of the INFJ

1. Stubbornness

You see that J at the end of INFJ? It’s responsible for our obsessive planning and future-oriented thinking. INFJs are capable of being spontaneous, but there will be times when we just cannot wrap our minds around a new idea. Sometimes, even just a sudden change in plans is enough to really rattle us (“We’re not going to the movie tonight, we’re going to hang out here instead”).

Honestly, if we have our minds set on something, it may take several attempts to change it. It may seem like we’re being inflexible, but really, we just need some time to be okay with the new plan or idea. As long as something doesn’t go against our deeply held morals, we’ll probably come around to it… eventually.

2. High expectations

As much as we like to pretend that we don’t have high expectations, they are there. We not only hold ourselves to a brutally high standard, but we also tend to set high expectations for others. And the closer you get to us — like a significant other, best friend, or child — the higher the standards rise.

We especially have high expectations when it comes to love. In a new relationship, we may feel quite discouraged when the excitement and romance inevitably start to fade. Then we start wondering if we were right to get into the relationship in the first place. If we’re honest with ourselves, what we really want is the ideal romance.

Actually, what we really want is the ideal everything.

Of course, we know that no one is perfect, and neither are we. Please know that if an INFJ puts expectations on you, it means they care about you and want you to care about them, too.

3. Moodiness

We know when to be on our best behavior, but honestly, we’re often swayed by how we feel in the moment. INFJs may appear calm on the outside, even when inside, we’re a bundle of intense emotions. It’s usually apparent when something is bothering us, but that doesn’t mean we’ll want to talk about it. INFJs can be guilty of pushing people away and throwing a pity party. Of course, we’d like someone to confide in, but more often than not, we feel that most people wouldn’t understand us even if we did open up.

Sometimes INFJs can be just as confused about their moods as others are. Like other introverted types, INFJs need time — alone — to sift through their emotions and understand why they are feeling the way they feel.

If an INFJ does open up to you, they may even apologize for talking about their feelings. That’s because we often keep things to ourselves to spare you the burden.

However, the best thing you can do for an INFJ is to let them talk about something if they need to. INFJs usually feel better just being able to express their feelings and concerns. Don’t judge, criticize, or offer solutions (unless the INFJ directly asks for help — sometimes we really do just need a practical fix). Try to listen and understand our feelings. And maybe give us a hug. Sometimes all it takes is some love and encouragement for our moodiness to pass.

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4. Being too harsh

We love giving helpful advice, and we’re often able to see a situation from many sides. If you want to hear only what you want to hear, do not come to your INFJ friend. We give honest opinions, and we try to do so gently to soften the blow. Trust me when I say that our honesty comes from a well-intentioned place.

But sometimes we come across as too blunt, judgmental, or harsh. We don’t mean to be cruel, though, and we’re sorry for the times that we are. Know that if your INFJ friend is telling you something you don’t want to hear, it’s because they’re genuinely concerned about you and want only good things for you. Yes, INFJs may be too brutally honest, but we’re rarely malicious.

5. Bottling up negative emotions, then exploding

We’re capable of adapting to the needs of others and love being a source of comfort. We will, however, lash out if we feel we are being wronged. It’s usually after many minor hurts have piled up, and our patience has been exhausted. We tend to bottle up negative emotions because we’d rather keep the peace than tell someone they’ve hurt us.

However, like any other human, we can only take so much, so eventually the powder keg of frustration blows — and it’s usually nasty. INFJs can prevent this type of emotional explosion by addressing minor offenses as they happen, rather than letting hurt simmer and grow.

(And, here are some tips from a therapist to help you express your feelings, even when you don’t want to rock the boat.)

6. Abruptly cutting people out of our life

Have you heard of the notorious INFJ door slam? It’s when an INFJ cuts you out of their life because they are extremely hurt. They’re not doing this because they hate you, rather, it’s because they’ve decided they can no longer deal with the emotional pain you cause them. Remember that INFJs tend to be quite sensitive and emotional.

If an INFJ slams the door on you, they may suddenly stop all communication with you. If this is not possible, because they see you every day at home, work, or school, they may simply close themselves off emotionally and refuse to allow you in. They may still talk to you when they have to, but they’ll seem cold and distant.

INFJs do not shut people out without intense contemplation. Being “judgers,” we’re not exactly impulsive people. Other people may forget just how sensitive we are despite our cool “everything is fine” demeanor. But even the nicest people have their limits, and INFJs are no exception.

Often, INFJs are right to slam the door. And people who emotionally abused, deceived, or took advantage of the INFJ should be kept out.

However, sometimes INFJs are too quick to door slam. Sometimes they let little hurts build up (see #5), then explode by shutting people out. In this case, the other person may not even know what they did wrong, because the INFJ didn’t let on that they were hurting.

How can we prevent this? Through setting healthy boundaries.

Dear INFJ, it’s not easy being a deeply feeling person in this sometimes harsh world. We may have our dark side, but we are also capable of incredible love, kindness, and empathy. And most days, that beautiful side of us wins out.

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