Why INFJs Struggle with Major Life Changes (and How to Deal)

an INFJ personality struggles with change

The day I sat down to write this piece, my husband lost his job. He was the main breadwinner for our household. To say this leaves us with uncertainty, anxiety, and worry is an understatement. I’m an INFJ, and this kind of major life change leaves me more than just stressed — it’s debilitating.

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INFJs are, in many ways, an emotional sponge. Wired to think about feelings, relationships, and what’s best for people, we tend to absorb the emotions of others even in the best of times. Unsurprisingly, that can leave us pretty exhausted — and that’s true even if the feelings we’re picking up are mostly positive ones. We also tend to feel our own emotions very strongly and need time to process them deeply.

If that sounds like a recipe for really struggling with major changes, it is. To me, the financial worry feels like a monster that has me tangled in its tentacles.

To be clear, INFJs aren’t the only Myers-Briggs personality type that can struggle with change. In fact, research shows that change can be stressful for anyone, whether it’s positive or negative, whether you wanted it or not. According to psychoanalyst Hans Loewald, it’s probably because change inevitably creates confusion.

But they say writing is cathartic, and I know I’ve been through major life changes before — and it’s possible for an INFJ to survive them not only intact but also emotionally strong. From an INFJ’s perspective, here’s why change is hard, and how you can deal with it anyway.

Why INFJs Struggle With Change (and How to Deal With It)

1. In hard times, INFJs tend to self-isolate.

When major changes — especially negative ones — shake up an INFJ’s life, we can go into shutdown and automatic isolation. Even though we feel a wave of emotions, we may not share them easily with the larger external world (such as family, friends, or coworkers). Partly, this is just because we’re introverts: research has shown that introverts’ brains are actually wired a little differently from those of extroverts, with larger, thicker gray matter in our prefrontal cortex. This predisposes us to sit and ponder things before we take action or, potentially, before we even share them.

For INFJs specifically, because we tend to feel things very strongly, we’ve also grown accustomed to others not understanding our perspective or even thinking we’re over-reacting. We may feel like no one will truly listen and empathize with us — which further pushes us toward isolation.

All of which means that, during times of change, INFJs can become reclusive, tightly wound springs, shutting out family, lovers, and even our closest friends as we try to avoid the inevitable unraveling.

If you’re an INFJ and you find yourself withdrawing during a big change, it helps to remember two things. First, know that this is normal, and it’s okay to spend spend time internalizing the situation and coming to grips with it. If you need to be alone with your thoughts, you have a right to that. It is essential to your recovery.

Second, take the time to explain that need to your closest loved ones. If you suddenly shut them out, they may get more worried than ever, especially if they know you’re dealing with a big change. You don’t have to let them into your inner thoughts before you’re ready, but you can say, “I’m going to need a few days to process this on my own. I promise I’ll talk to you when I’m ready.”

As feeling and loving individuals, sometimes we forget to show ourselves the same love we show everyone else.

2. INFJs can (sometimes) run from conflict.

When life is particularly cruel, the emotional knee jerk reaction by all involved parties may be to lash out. As a result, major life changes are not just stressful, but also laden with conflict. This can be internal conflict, like feeling anger at an ex-boss or your ex-spouse’s one-night-stand partner. Or it can be very real person-to-person conflict, like the drawn-out proceedings of a divorce. Both are emotional poison to an INFJ’s sensitive soul.

Of course, almost no one wants conflict in their lives, but INFJs abhor it, especially when it does not work towards a constructive resolution. Our feeling nature simply makes us prone to inner chaos and a scary feeling of loss of calm or control. In addition, we are highly intuitive, and we recognize the other party’s tempest of emotion. Empathetic and caring, we may even feel compelled to help preserve that person’s ability to maintain their own calm before words are shared or feelings are voiced.

So, while others may see our avoidance as an attempt at evasion, the INFJ knows that this step away is necessary to compose ourselves and avoid an ugly escalation of impromptu emotions or words that may be said and later regretted.

That means that, in some cases, avoiding conflict may be surprisingly healthy — like steering clear of a big explosive argument with an ex. That’s where the INFJ door slam (simply cutting the person out of your life) is a pretty handy tool. If the feelings still sit with you afterward, try writing a letter that you’ll never send. Write down everything you would say to the person, and simply tear it up and recycle it instead.

If dealing with the conflict is unavoidable, the healthiest step may be to just admit to yourself that you’re avoiding it and look for help getting it solved. Take the time you need first, but ask a trusted friend to help you to think about how to move forward. Often, INFJs are strongest when we draw on our relationships and loved ones — it’s our superpower.

Do you ever struggle to know what to say?

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3. We want to fix things immediately…

…and the truth can be a bitter pill to swallow.

There are just too many things that life throws our way that even an INFJ cannot spontaneously mend: a broken heart, a loved one’s permanent absence, the lost security of a job or location.

But the “J” in INFJ stands for Judging, which is Myers-Briggs speak for desiring to solve and organize things. And, during times of uncertainty, it’s perhaps the biggest hurdle for many INFJs to overcome.

INFJs thrive on routines; we find security in the decided, the definite, and the structured. Warriors till the bitter end, our initial knee-jerk response may be to not accept the human truth that something is truly “gone.” There must be solutions, ways to feel better, ways to make our world “right” again — right?

So we fight and fight (we can be so stubborn at times, even in the face of the obvious). After a battle against the very inescapable nature of life itself, such as loss and change, we may feel broken and defeated. After all, we are perfectionists and usually believe that there is nothing passion and hard work cannot conquer.

I honestly believe this is a good thing. It’s why INFJs can sometimes succeed even at the impossible. It’s why we dream so much bigger than many others. And it’s why we have such a deep idealism about the world.

But, at times it can also lead us to burn up all our energy on something we cannot fix, exhausting and overwhelming ourselves. In the worst cases, it could even lead us to stay in a situation that has become toxic.

If you’re an INFJ and you’re struggling with whether to accept a change or keep trying to fix it, ask yourself: Have you tried to fix this situation before (and it didn’t work)? Do your closest friends think it’s admirable, or are they worried about you? And, how much energy are you spending on it — do you feel “healthy” right now?

If planning provides comfort, then try to find structure in the chaos. What things can you do that will provide clarity and security? What questions can you answer that may not solve the big issue itself, but may work towards the end goal of overcoming your present fears and emotions?

These questions can help gain perspective when you’re feeling inner turmoil.

The ‘secret’ is just this: We must be kind to ourselves.

INFJs, There Is Only One Way to Adjust to Big Life Changes

The “secret” is just this: We must be kind to ourselves. As feeling and loving individuals, sometimes we forget to show ourselves the same love we show everyone else. Try to imagine the wonderfully wise words you give to those individuals who come to you for your advice. After all, many call the INFJ “the counselor” for good reason.

Now, speak those words to yourself. Intuitively, you know the answer to the questions life throws at you. Be patient, listen to your inner voice, and trust that the fighter in you may be discouraged, but in no way defeated.

Slow and steady, INFJ warriors. You got this. Continue to love yourself and remember the exquisite words of Max Erhmann’s poem “Desiderata”:

You are a child of the universe

no less than the trees and the stars;

you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,

no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace…

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,

It is still a beautiful world.

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