What happens to an INFJ "in the grip?" (extreme stress)
Have you ever done something completely out of character and later wondered, who was that? In this previous article, I mentioned that everyday stress causes an exaggeration of your dominant cognitive function. When your introverted intuition (Ni) is exaggerated you withdraw even further inside. There's a tipping point when things swing to the other side of your cognitive function stack. This tipping point causes your inferior function to step up and say, "Hellllloooooo! Remember me?"
(For a short description of each, look here).
Well, hello there, Se.
There are situations that cause your extraverted sensing to wake up and say, "Hey! I want to play!" And by "play," I mean take charge to start balancing things out. When this happens, we say you're "in the grip" of your inferior function. This can happen when you experience something greater than "everyday" stress. Examples include the loss of a loved one through a broken relationship or death, unexpected events, or a major deadline or exam. Continuous "everyday" stress also triggers your inferior extraverted sensing.
INFJs in the grip
Your behavior will be completely out of character in the grip of extraverted sensing (Se). You may become obsessed with details about the outside world. You might start overdoing sensing activities. You try to control everything in your environment and make endless lists. You may walk through your house and become hyper aware of all the things that need fixing or that are out of place. External blame often pops up for INFJs in the grip, too. If you stub your toe on your bed, you may immediately get mad at the bed for being there (or the person who put it there)! Any activity that involves your senses can be overdone (eating, drinking, exercising, watching TV, etc). INFJ women in the grip are especially susceptible to obsessing about an aspect of their physical appearance and how they appear to others.
Most personality types feel somewhat critical of themselves after being in the grip. INFJs are very critical of themselves after an episode because it's seen as evidence of imperfection. It's important to remember that you are human! This process is normal and brings you back to equilibrium. In her book, Was That Really Me?*, Naomi Quenk explains that this process is completely natural and normal. Knowing what happens to you when you're in the grip and recognizing when it happens makes you more self-aware. This self-awareness allows you to make more conscious decisions in your life. By the way, if you're really interested in this topic for all types, I highly recommend her book. It's fascinating!
Returning to a balanced state
You may have to experiment to find the right thing to help bring you out of the grip experience. In general, though, time alone in a silent, low-stress environment helps. Removing as much external stimulation as possible is key for a lot of INFJ women. Lighten your load for a bit and clear some things from your schedule. You know it's not super helpful to you when others try to help in these circumstances. It's up to you to remember to be kind to yourself. You, too, are human! You're allowed to act out of character every once in awhile.
Now you know the purpose of this out-of-character behavior. Recognize it when it's happening and remember that your body, mind, and soul are crying out for some self-care.