Stress, Shadows and a Snoozing Cavvy

Sunday, July 22, 2012 1 Comments A+ a-

Hey, guys!

It's late, but I've had the yearning to get out here and post. Having been under stress for a good part of the weekend, I wondered why I acted the way I did when my mind perceived a stressful or unresolved situation. So I've been doing a little research.

Several websites--mostly forums--have mentioned that when INFJs begin to stress, they fall into "shadow" habits. The INFJ shadow is something I'm only slightly familiar with due to Arisa's doodles. But apparently when we stress out, we are prone to falling out of our normal behaviors and can start exhibiting our shadow functions (which take on the negative form of ESTP). We might end up doing things like acting impulsively, being selfish or critical, attacking others, contradicting our own values or engaging in excessive activities. We might also obsess about something inconsequential or hyperfocus on details and miss the big picture.

Looking back, I was definitely hyperfocusing on small details and missing the big picture (while simultaneously anticipating the future and its overwhelming workload). But I can also recall times in my jaded past where stress did lead me to behave impulsively and do things to excess. These are not good memories, by the way. Fortunately these tendencies have improved with age and responsibility, but I still recognize them as areas of weakness.

Here are a couple of Arisa's doodles on how the ESTP shadow can cause us to act the opposite of our true selves:

I love her doodles. She gets right to the heart of things, doesn't she?

Something else I read, too, made me stop and think. I found a fascinating article on about the nuances of the INFJ type, and the author had this to say about us:

The INFJ has a curious mix of psychological preferences that both serve them well but also create almost constant dynamic tension.  The first of these is the tendency to desire closure and timeliness battling with an even stronger preference to keep generating more options and perspectives (N vs J).  This can lead to a feeling of being confused or disorganized because even as an INFJ is trying to complete something on time, new ideas keep appearing which try to displace that which has already been decided.  One of my earliest recollections of this in my daughter was when she shouted, “Mom! Help me stop this video in my head!” An INFJ may begin a project or a paper and find themselves operating under a time crunch not because they are disorganized, but because they have yet to call a truce between their imaginative mind and their need for closure.

Reading this paragraph was sort of an "Aha!" moment for me. It explains my desperate desire to finish my book battling with the desire for new plots twists and an evolving storyline. I desire closure, but my imagination desires freedom of expression. Hmm.

The author calls this an "almost constant dynamic tension" which, in my opinion, sticks our INFJ foot right on the threshold of the ole' stress door. If two of our functions have opposing agendas, and we're not aware of how to resolve this, we could easily succumb to our shadow functions when things get tough.

The upside to these opposing forces is that the INFJ, having an awareness of what is happening, can consciously turn off the debate, and enjoy a rare combination of creative thinking and follow through. An INFJ wants both!

When you think about it, the complex and multifaceted aspects of the INFJ make us a puzzle even to ourselves. We're mysterious enough as it is. Add in stress, and you're basically throwing water on a grease fire. Ever seen that? It doesn't put the fire out. Just spreads it around and makes it more dangerous.

Well, we can't always avoid stress, although that's the ideal. What can we do when stress has us by the ba--, er, I mean tail and threatens to swing us around until we get dizzy and puke?

For me, having alone time and mental space is a huge stress relief. Today I got out of the house, went to church, spent much-needed writing time at Starbucks for awhile, moved to the library for more writing, and escaped to my room this evening to read.

In addition, having a close and trusted friend helps with stress. Calling Wendy and having her listen to my frantic ravings...then having her show me the big picture and calm me down...was one of the best things I could have done. It's like I was stuck in my obsessive Ti loop and needed her to knock me out of it :-)

Blogging also helped. Writing gets things out of my system and onto a concrete form where I can review it from a logical perspective. When ideas, fears, or emotions go unexpressed, they bounce around freely inside my head. Tethering them down with the written word puts them in a better position for examination. Unfortunately, you guys had to deal with it once it was out here. Sorry!

Well, the hour is late. Rosie, my tri-colored Cavalier, is snoozing next to me on the bed. Wish I could look that adorable when I'm asleep, lol! At any rate, I think I need to follow suit and catch some Z's myself.

Sleep well, my complicated and mysterious friends...


Write comments
October 4, 2013 at 11:35 AM delete

AMEN and AMEN! Thank you for sharing this!