Dark Side: Bertha-Better-Than-You

Monday, December 21, 2015 2 Comments A+ a-

Hey there! Hope everyone is having a good Monday. Mine is just starting to slow down. Social media stuff is done, I finished a workout, laundry's started, and supper's in the crockpot. I also managed to light a fire and keep it going (not always easy when you're dealing with super dense firewood). At the moment, things are quiet and cozy. Just the way I like it. :)

We're down to the final paragraph in Elaine Schallock's article, The "Other Side" of the INFJ. Some of it has to do with high expectations, as we discussed in our last post. And some, unfortunately, has to do with INFJs knowing too much for their own good. So let's take a deep breath and unpack this a little at a time.

INFJs must be careful not to let their psychological wisdom generate an air of moral superiority. Doing so can and does alienate them from those who might seek out their guidance and help. Shooting themselves in the foot in this way restricts INFJs from making an actual difference in the world since Fe social connection is the channel through which their intuitions are converted to outward change (Se).

An air of moral superiority. Hmm. What does that look like? Over-confidence? An uppity attitude? A holier-than-thou disposition? I suppose it could manifest itself in different ways, depending on the person. INFJs always try to do their best. We place high expectations on ourselves and use our intuition to perform at peak levels. We're confident our gut feelings trump facts. Over time, this could lead to some--ahem--snob-like qualities.
Hello, I'm a snob. I have razor-sharp intuition
and raging perfectionism that will, eventually, 
cause you to run away screaming.

I'm going to take this a step further and suggest that even if INFJs don't have a snobby attitude, we can still be perceived as a Bertha-Better-Than-You.* I have some not so fond memories of being picked on as a kid simply for giving 110 percent. The fact that I knew what I wanted, and had the intuition/perseverance/confidence to make it happen, really seemed to get under people's skin. To combat the torture, I mentally shut them out and just kept trying. You can imagine how that contributed to the "superiority" label.

Either way, this is not helpful for the INFJ. We might be introverts, but we're also humanitarians. We're very good at affecting change through social relationships, and to maximize our Fe's potential, we need people...beside us, not running away from us. Our intuition gives us confidence, and clearly, we must be careful not to let that confidence become (or come across as) snobbery.

Okay, moving on...

Potentially worsening matters, some INFJs, after alienating others with their unrealistic expectations, assume martyrdom, pitying themselves for being isolated by society for having “noble intentions.” What INFJs may fail to realize is that their “high expectations” may be more linked to their desire to control for Se than anything else...

Um, I'm going to have to admit to doing this when I was younger. After shutting so many people out, I did often feel sorry for myself, which had the negative impact of driving me into shadow-type (ESTP) behavior to ease the pain. Eventually I'd come out of it, dust myself off, retreat into my imagination...and raise the bar on my expectations. It was a vicious cycle that didn't start breaking until I went through a traumatic experience in my late 20s. That experience, though terribly painful, matured me in ways other experiences couldn't. It also set me on a path I desperately needed to be on...one that led to healing.

To be totally honest, I still fight the tendency to control everything in order to make my environment match my expectations (we covered this in Dark Side: The Unglued Visionary). Up near the top of this post, when I wrote "Just how I like it" is a good example. I worked hard today to make my Se reality match my Ni vision of quiet coziness. There are times when I have to remind myself that this is a form of control. Knowing that actually helps a lot, because it forces me to stop and consider the way I'm reacting to situations.

Again, learning to loosen the ego’s grip on controlling the Se outcome and instead focusing on Ni more as a way to interpret what is rather than as a way to foresee what should be, will help them live more authentically and healthily.

That's an interesting concept: using Ni to interpret the way things are instead of the way we imagine they should be. I think this requires the ability to "let go" of our expectations. You hear the phrase "let go and let God" in Christian circles, and it's always been a stumbling block for me. To really let things go, I have to keep things simple. The more complicated life gets, the more I want to control it--and the harder I cling to the small amount of time and space that is actually mine.

That brings us to a close on the Dark Side series, folks. I hope you've found it helpful, and that you've been able to pinpoint some of the issues that cause turmoil between your inner Vader and your inner Yoda. We already have a hard time feeling like we fit in. Maybe knowing how to curb our darker tendencies will help us lead healthier lives.

Until next time...take care and be good! :)

*If you've never heard of Bertha-Better-Than-You, click here to witness the cheesy glory of Ray Stevens singing The Mississippi Squirrel Revival. Warning: this video may induce laughter. Or a strong desire to knock your head repeatedly against the wall.

Image Credit: Pipe Snob, INFJ Martyr, Bukowski Snob


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December 30, 2015 at 6:46 PM delete

I'd say of our Dark side tendencies, this is the one that has caused the most friction in my life. I think much of that is my balance on the INFJ scale. My F and J leanings are rather mild while my I and N are both rather strongly rated that way. It took me a long time to understand that the reason I didn't seem to have an intuition was how constantly I use it.
I had to battle two things. I naturally understood how to succeed in school. It made sense, and, though it's not humble to say, I'm just a nice guy. Because of how naturally I fit into school, I tended to be the teacher's pet by being me. And so much of the work came to me easily. I still struggle to explain some things to others because of how intuitively I understood some of these subjects. It really didn't matter that I switched schools every couple of years, I just learned how to get along with teachers. The other thing that sets me on this dark path is that my parents encouraged both of us kids to work out what we believed and why. While much of that came from my intuition on how life fits together, I do struggle at times to understand why people struggle with certain types of decisions. I've had more practice with friends at giving that Yoda-esque wisdom we're known for, so I'm not as terribly snobbish as I once was about such things. Still I know I get into trouble because of my lofty attempts to raise others to the level I choose for them.

December 31, 2015 at 8:47 AM delete

Amazing insights, Jon. Everything you wrote resonates with me (did you peek into my brain somehow, lol?)...