Shadow Boxing #2: The Critical Parent (Fi)

Wednesday, March 08, 2017 2 Comments A+ a-

Hello, my friends. I'm sitting here with my coffee, listening to the wind. Not by choice, mind's been screaming outside my bedroom window for weeks. I don't know if it's because the townhouse we're renting is positioned funny, or because the terrain around here is so freaking flat. Maybe both. All I know for sure is that the siding creaks, the windows rattle, and the front door attacks me every time I open it.

Oh, and every hairstyle ends up like this...

Long hair + wind = NO

So I'm definitely staying indoors today (my hair just sighed with relief) and am prepping to climb back into the ring to face our next functional adversary. Last time, we went a couple rounds with Extraverted Intuition and ended up fairly bruised. Today's opponent isn't quite as intimidating, but still packs a punch. In INFJ terms, she's the Critical Parent. Allow me to introduce:

Shadow #2: Introverted Feeling

Ah, the independent and incredibly self-sufficient Fi. Just look at her as she ducks through the ropes and makes her way toward you. Quiet, unassuming. Librarian-ish. Doesn't seem like much of a fighter, does she? Before you write her off as an unworthy contender, though, keep in mind that her strength comes from deep inside. She's resilient in ways that you--as an expert Fe--cannot comprehend. 

Why can't you comprehend her? Well, the Feeling function, by itself, is a judging function. It helps you make decisions and structure your life according to your preferences. It's also concerned with maintaining harmony. Your feeling function is extraverted; you pick up on other people's feelings/energy and use that to decide how to keep everyone happy. The Fi function, on the other hand, is introverted; it looks at its own feelings/energy and uses that to decide how to keep itself happy.

What does this look like in the ring? Pretty unbalanced, actually, because you've got one fighter who wants to please everyone in the entire stadium by sticking to the rules and putting on a good show, and another fighter who wants to please herself. Sounds kind of weird to me. But hey, it's just another fight. What could possibly go wrong?

A lot. (sigh)

Okay, this type of battle strikes very close to home for me. As a child, I was constantly aware of other people's feelings. My Fe picked up on everything--sadness, joy, fear, excitement, sexual desire, insecurity, disgust, anger--all of it, whether I was mature enough to handle it or not. Most of my awareness was on a subconscious level, so I couldn't control it. But I responded to it, usually in ways that other people didn't understand or appreciate.

So, those same people decided that I should act differently, and over the course of my childhood, I learned that responding to other people's feelings often led to negative experiences. You can imagine how difficult this was. My Fe came naturally to me. I couldn't just shut it down, nor could I tell if what I felt belonged to me or someone else. The whole "feeling" thing was confusing. How was I supposed to deal with it in a way that made everyone happy?

My ultimate solution: keep it all inside.

Please understand that I made this decision at an incredibly young age. I didn't know what I was doing. I only knew what was rewarded and what wasn't. But I'm pretty sure that by ignoring my Fe, I ended up relying on (and strengthening) my Fi. I still cared about harmony and tried to maintain it by pleasing others. However, my decisions and beliefs were filtered more through my own happiness than theirs. This led to imbalances; I was warm one minute, cold the next. My Fe would compel me to say "yes" to someone's request for help, and my Fi would immediately resent them for it. Fe wanted perfection for others, Fi wanted perfection for myself. The inner conflict never let up.

In short, I was a seriously mixed-up Fe/Fi mess.

How did this manifest negatively? For starters, I was almost always stressed out. The constant conflict between pleasing others and pleasing myself led to a level of tension that only Bruce Banner could relate to (for non-nerdy folks, that's a Hulk reference). Decision-making often felt like torture. I was terribly critical of myself and judged others by standards they couldn't possibly meet. And when I blew up--which happened a lot--that criticism and judgment flew out of my mouth without warning. Instead of maintaining harmony with others, I verbally destroyed them.

Now, it's not unheard of for INFJs to get super mad and cut someone to shreds. But that's not our normal mode of operation. We'll do just about anything to resolve the problem first, even if that means walking away from (a.k.a. door-slamming) the person to keep from being cruel to them. My own personal battle isn't typical--thank goodness!--but it does give you an idea of just how menacing this shadow function can be.

Introverted Feeling manifests itself in the INFJ as an internal criticizing voice. “Why can’t you make up your mind? Don’t you stand for anything? You are such a fake. You have failed to uphold your own standards.” It can also express itself in judgments the INFJ makes upon others; “that person is being fake, that person is a phony, that person has no real values or morals, they are a failure and an embarrassment.” Normally the Critical Parent function will only show itself in times of extreme stress where something important is at risk. When it is engaged, it can overpower us and cause major damage to ourselves and our relationships. --Psychology Junkie

One short-term solution would be to recognize when a stressful situation is coming on and find a way to release (or reduce) some of that internal dialogue before it takes over. A physical release--working out, rock climbing, jogging, even housecleaning--might help. Whatever takes the spotlight off your brain and focuses it elsewhere.

If you're dealing with a long-term situation like mine, I've found that it helps to stop labeling things. What do I mean by that? I mean to stop thinking of issues in terms of 'good' or 'bad' and more in terms of 'it is what it is'. This makes me more flexible (and less critical and judgmental) in the way I approach people/life. Granted, I still need closure. I still put things in boxes. But the boxes are more neutral. This flexibility--along with my strong Fi--can sometimes make me seem more like an INFP than an INFJ. Rest assured, though, my core MBTI will never truly shift.

I'm INFJ all the way, baby. 😊

Overall, I do think it's important for INFJs to value who they are and what they feel. We should set firm boundaries instead of letting our Fe drag us into a million responsibilities that will just stress us out. But it's probably best to leave Fi to the perceiving types that can handle them.

Next up...the Trickster. Stay tuned!

Image Credit: Wind BlownBody Slam, Fe/FiWatch Your Tongue


Write comments
Arlee Hang
March 9, 2017 at 10:48 AM delete

Wow... so does this explain why I feel so passive aggressive. I want to please others, but if I feel a little salty about who I'm doing it for, or what I'm doing then I will do it with attitude. Roll my eyes, handle things a little more roughly. This gave me insight and reflection. Thanks!

March 9, 2017 at 11:48 AM delete

It's quite possible that your Fi is more developed and causes some of your passive/aggressive feelings. Some of it might also be due to the value you place on the other person's request--if you don't find value in who you're serving or how you're serving them, you can end up copping a 'tude (lol). I think the difference is the motive. Fe wants to serve others to maintain harmony in the outside world, and Fi wants to serve others to please itself. Same goal, different motive.

If you find yourself getting testy over serving, examine your motives. Fe will always do the 'good for humanity' thing, even if it has to bitch and moan all the way through it. Fi will balk because it doesn't find personal gain in that particular service. Neither is wrong...our functions are there to help us make decisions. It's just that we're better suited for Fe. Knowing which one you're acting on can help you make choices that are more oriented to your INFJ make-up. :)