The INFJ’s “Grip” Experience
Every person has a shadow self. This is the darker side of one’s personality which usually shows through our behaviors in a negative way. Carl Jung spoke a great deal of this portion of ourselves, believing that by simply acknowledging it and shedding light on it, we could combat the negative characteristics it brings about.
“Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.” – Carl Jung, “Psychology and Religion” (1938)
INFJs are no exception. We carry with us a shadow self which is formed through each individual’s personal experiences. How we exhibit these negative traits is often referred to as the ESTP shadow due to the fact that it can mirror the negative aspects of the ESTP personality type.
When an INFJ becomes overtired, overwhelmed, overstimulated, overtaxed, depressed or angered, their ESTP shadow is most likely to emerge. The introverted iNtuition (Ni) and extroverted Feeling (Fe) cognitive pairing which allows the INFJ to empathize and offer compassion to most is overtaken by the extroverted Sensing (Se) inferior function (which is the primary function of an ESTP personality type). Se craves sensory fulfillment, so when left unchecked by other functions, it takes on an almost animalistic appearance.
INFJs in their ESTP shadow may find themselves:
- acting or behaving impulsively, without regard to themselves or those around them.
- lashing out toward those they care about, behaving in a combative manner and even seeking out verbal or physical altercations.
- focusing only on the negative aspects of their life as well as the negatives of those around them.
- becoming hypercritical of everyone and everything.
- overeating, drinking to excess, abusing drugs or seeking sexual promiscuity.
- excessively playing video games or watching television.
- acting selfishly and materialistically.
- disregarding their personal moral code.
“A man who is unconscious of himself acts in a blind, instinctive way and is in addition fooled by all the illusions that arise when he sees everything that he is not conscious of in himself coming to meet him from outside as projections upon his neighbor.” – Carl Jung, “The Philosophical Tree” (1945)
It is possible and likely that an INFJ will experience this ESTP shadow in small doses on a regular basis, particularly when tired, angry or stressed. Indulging in healthy outlets, such as occasional sensory treats, an evening of binge watching on television or venting to a trusted friend, are all therapeutic ways to handle temporary bouts.
However, some INFJs may experience longer periods stuck in their ESTP shadow, particularly if they are depressed, struggling with self-care or in a stressful life situation. This is called the “grip experience” because it feels as though this state has a tight grip over your life, leaving you feeling helpless to relax the Se function and regain the healthy order of your functional stack.
In a case where you feel stuck within this grip experience, the best thing you can do for yourself is self-care. Taking time to focus your energy on positive sensory experiences helps balance your extroverted Sensing, diminishing the need for negative sensory stimulation. Offering yourself compassion as you recognize what is triggering this grip state and acknowledging that your behavior is that of your shadow self will help the grip slowly release.
No matter how brief or long you may have been exhibiting your ESTP shadow, odds are you will feel guilty for your actions as your Ni-Fe functions remind you of your moral code. Take responsibility and make amends where necessary, including to yourself. You may have been having a difficult time, but a large part of combating one’s shadow self is by recognizing it as a piece of who you are.
The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge. – Carl Jung, Aion (1951)