The Dark Side of the INFP

Hi there Psych2Goers, a friendly disclaimer that this article is for informative purposes only. The Myers-Briggs Type Inventory is a theory and has personality types that are just rough tendencies rather than strict classifications. Nonetheless, please enjoy!

Graphic by asensitiveINFP on Tumblr

An INFP is usually portrayed as an angelic and sensitive soul. They’re gentle, idealistic, a bit naive – and one of the kindest people you get to meet.

But a shadow lurks in the unconscious of every INFP type. And no matter how much an INFP may try to subdue or control it, it can come up and surface unexpectedly. 

Why is that the case? Let’s explore in-depth.

Cognitive Functions

Before you see the dark side of the INFP, you would benefit a lot if we wrap our head around cognitive functions first!

Based on Jungian’s cognitive theory, each MBTI type is categorized by parts within our psyche called cognitive functions. According to Jung’s book Psychological Types, these cognitive functions are mental processes within a person’s psyche that are present throughout our lives. All MBTI types have 4 primary functions that they consult in their normal day-to-day (conscious) and four other secondary/shadow functions that are floating around the subconscious.

The order of these functions is what differentiates the MBTI types. And they all are paired up based on the function’s introversion/extroversion. (i.g. No type has both Fi and Fe or Ti and Te etc. in their main function stack)

For an INFP, their function stack is Fi-Ne-Si-Te in that order. Take a look at the chart below to see the meanings of these abbreviations.

All 8 Cognitive Functions. Image from PersonalityJunkie

These eight functions are further categorized into two equal-sized (4) groups called primary and shadow functions. We will focus on the dark side, the shadow functions. These functions are an unconscious and often neglected part of your personality that arises when you are under a great deal of stress. 

This source of stress is different for each MBTI type. For an INFP, their stressor is based on their unique order of shadow functions, found in the graphic below.

An INFP’s Cognitive Functions and Shadow Functions. Image from PersonalityJunkie

Don’t worry too much about not knowing the terms above if you don’t know them! They will be touched upon as you read on. You can also see how they come to be in real life.

Let’s look at the dark side, the 4 shadows, of the INFP.

1) Primary: Introverted Feeling (Fi) vs Opposing: Extraverted Feeling (Fe)

Graphic by: Mbtihell on Tumblr

First up is the dominant function (Fi) of the INFP vs it’s opposing role (Fe), the so-called leader of the shadows.

INFPs have a steady grip on their emotional state and their values. They act based on inner emotions rather than base it off outward sources. For the INFP, their main thought pattern is “my values” over “outward values.”

The dark side is when the stressor gets called upon from their shadow side. Fe, or extraverted feeling is the opposite of Fi as it bases its decision through external sources rather than through internal enrichment.  

While both Fi and Fe have elements that cross over, like empathy and harmony, the motivation where it comes from stems from entirely different viewpoints. An ENFJ (Fe-dom) values outer harmony, an INFP (Fi-dom) values inner harmony.

The dark side of Fe: How it Happens 

Do you find it difficult to separate your values from your identity, especially when under scrutiny? That’s the shadow Fe function at play.

Unhealthy INFPs (those with underused Fe) oftentimes get too fixated on their inner world and emotions to the point they develop a distrust of other people or perspectives. They may also not be as quick maintaining outer harmony in a group compared to say, an ENFJ or an Fe-dominant, since they concern themselves with their needs first. 

In addition to this, they can also be stubbornly rigid on their values and find opposing values a threat to their identity, which adds to the already sensitive nature of these types. Although the presence of unyielding values isn’t inherently bad, INFPs may tend to resist change which can stifle their growth and sabotage new chances for them to explore outside their comfort zone.

2) Auxiliary: Extroverted Intuition (Ne) vs Critical Parent: Introverted Intuition (Ni) 

The main secondary function of INFPs, Ne, is drawn to branching patterns and the “what-ifs” of things. On the opposite side of the axis is Ni, which accounts for insights developed from within and underlying patterns that others do not easily see. (Bold Introvert). 

To show contrast, an INFJ (who has a dominant Ni, Critical Ne) would organize their thoughts to focus on one singular thing, while an INFP (auxiliary Ne, Critical Ni) would rather have a vast array of options available. 

The dark side of Ni: Critical Parent


Have you ever had an ambitious dream but stop short of achieving it because of a voice inside your head? That’s the shadow Ni function at play.

The Ni of INFP is the “critical parent”, oftentimes harsh and overdefensive of the ego. (Storm, 2017) 

What does this mean for an INFP?

For an INFP, their underdeveloped Ni function is brought into life haphazardly. This makes the INFP prone to overthinking; making up false assumptions of situations and people which may oftentimes be inaccurate. 

Ni could be brought out in positive ways too, akin to a sudden Eureka moment. But more often than not, an INFP is much better off focusing on strengthening Ne, since creativity and imagination have close ties within that function. They also find comfort and ease utilizing Ne over Ni.

3) Tertiary: Introverted Sensing (Si) vs Trickster: Extroverted Sensing (Se)

The third function axis for the INFP is Si, while Se is the shadow counterpart. Si is a function that contrasts new experiences with memories.

Lurking on the shadows on the opposite side of the axis is Se. Se is known to be responsible for how you conduct yourself in the physical world at the present moment. This third shadow function of MBTI types is aptly called the trickster since it usually distorts experiences.  

The dark side of Se: Trickster

Have you ever preferred drawing, writing, or the arts over sports and physical excursions? That’s the shadow function Se in play.

An INFP’s preference for their inner world makes them susceptible to fall out of touch with their external surroundings. This often makes them clumsy or aloof at times, and they can find it hard to participate in activities that require strenuous physical effort like exercise. They may forget things often, misplacing things, and even have periods of forgetting what is happening at the present moment. 

4) Inferior: Extroverted Thinking (Te) vs Demon: Introverted Thinking (Ti)

The lowest in the list contains the lowest of the INFP’s function stack.

As you may already know, INFP values moral and ethical decision-making over pure objective decision-making. But Te, and Ti, to an extent, are both still aspects of the INFP, just tucked farther away from their main decision-making functions. 

The extroverted thinking (Te) function encapsulates objective knowledge, step-by-step reasoning, and external execution. Introverted Thinking (Ti), on the other hand, focuses on impersonal analysis, categorization, and evaluation based on a set of logical, subjective principles. (Storm, 2017)

The dark side of Ti: Demon

Have you ever been so worked up about a logical failure or inconsistency you have made in the past? That’s Ti-demon talking.

The fourth function that lies on the opposite side of the inferior function is the demon function, lurking at the bottom-most part of your subconscious. “Essentially, it’s our inferior inferior.” Mark Hunziker says. The Ti-function is something that the INFP is insecure about since it is their least used and most underdeveloped function.

When Ti is in the INFP’s grip, it tends to lead the INFP to do things that they will regret later on. This is the case since Ti is so far away from the main function, Fi – which prefers authenticity and values over cold hard facts. 

Moreover, if an INFP does use Ti, it can also lead to them to over-fixate on logical models, which can wear them out considerably. They can also be very self-critical about their past logical failures since logical deduction is not as strong as their value-perception.

Closing Thoughts

All MBTI types have their own set of flaws, insecurities, and weaknesses. That doesn’t take away from their countless amazing and unique traits each of them have, though!

We hope that you have learned more about the shadow functions and the dark side of the INFP, and what drives them to act the way they do. 

That’s all for now Psych2Goers!

References

  • Storm, Susan. (2017) 10 Signs You Might Be An Introverted Thinker. Retrieved at https://www.psychologyjunkie.com/2017/10/26/10-signs-might-introverted-thinker/
  • Storm, Susan. (2017) Understanding INFP Darkness: Getting to Know the INFP’s Shadow Functions. Retrieved at https://www.psychologyjunkie.com/2017/10/10/understanding-infp-darkness-getting-know-infps-shadow-functions/
  • (n.a., n.d.). Bold Introvert. INTROVERTED INTUITION VERSUS EXTROVERTED INTUITION. Retrieved at https://boldintrovert.com/blog/introverted-intuition-versus-extroverted-intuition

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