Empathetic introverts at their worst: How can INFPs hurt people?

Have you never heard of the expression, “hurt people, hurt people”? That is the simplest answer I have for my readers. INFPs may be exceptionally empathetic, kind, and in tuned with their humanity, but at the end of the day, they are also only human. We cannot put an INFP on a pedestal and expect them to act according to theoretically designed ideas, and stereotypes that may help us simplify things, but do, at the end of the day, end up causing more damage than we think. 

Expecting an INFP to always be the perfect embodiment of compassion is not only unrealistic, but also puts a lot of pressure on them as human beings. And humans are flawed. They lie, and make mistakes, get hurt, and take it out on others, lash out, be rude, and sometimes even outright violent. I am not saying that everything you’ve ever read about INFPs up until this point is made up by someone to portray the Idealists as… well, ideals. INFPs do have all of those positive qualities that you may have come across, of course. 

I am just trying to show you a different side to them, which may often be cast off into the shadows, never to be allowed to see the light of day. And this doesn’t help the INFPs in any way. Imagine a young INFP looking up things to learn more about their type, and not being able to relate to the more negative side of theirs which exists, but is rarely discussed. 

I’m here today, to shed light on some of the things that INFPs do which causes pain to others around them. The following discussion is to help INFPs out there feel understood, and to let them know they’re not on their own. Furthermore, it is to help the people who may care about them, to learn more about them, and get a better understanding into who they are and can become when triggered.

Here are ways that INFPs can hurt people.

Their shadow self. 

All that talk about being cast into the shadows reminded me that not a lot of people may be aware of this. INFPs, when hurting, tend to switch to their shadow self. It is exactly as it sounds. It’s like entering the Upside Down which exists inside an INFP’s head. A little Stranger Things humour? No? Okay. 

So, the shadow self of any type is basically all of the cognitive functions that come naturally to them when they’re healthy, switched around to become the exact opposite. 

For example, an INFP who normally tunes in to the Fi function to navigate their feelings related to the world around them; when in distress, begins to use the Fe function instead. Fe is extraverted feeling, and no, there is nothing wrong with it, as a lot of other types (mostly extraverted ones) have dominating Fe function at their cores, and aren’t hurtful towards others. The problem arises when a usually Fi using person suddenly begins to channel Fe, without any prior experience. Because, of course they’ll be doing it wrong! 

So, an INFP who has a strong sense of self and a set of core values that define them, suddenly begins to rely on authority for their reality checks. They lose their sense of identity, and begin to compromise on their beliefs. See how that is scary?

When an INFP no longer has their true identity of being a compassionate empath, they end up hurting a lot of people who may never understand what is even going on. 

Similarly, when an INFP’s natural Te function gets replaced by its shadow self, the Ti (Introverted Thinking), it causes them to become oblivious to how their words and actions may impact other people around them. They become calculated and appear to not care about anybody else. They switch their focus to hard facts, and they become rather harsh about it, because, and let’s say it together, it does not come naturally to them. 

And don’t even get me started on when an INFP gets off track, suppresses their Ne function, and begins to manifest Introverted Intuition instead. Because when this happens, an INFP may begin to rely heavily on hunches, without having any truth to back it up with. This causes them to distrust other people, and they often become paranoid that they’re being lied to and manipulated, which is as far from reality as it can get. 

Doubts take place of the trust they usually rely on, and creates feelings of mistrust, and causes an INFP to alienate and distance themselves from the people who are only trying to look out for them, hurting them in the process. 

Suppression of their emotions and escaping reality. 

When an INFP uses their defining characteristics for the good of others, they’re being the truest to themselves. However, distressed INFPs can lose that sense of who they’re supposed to be, and fall into unhealthy patterns which not only hurt them, but also cause a lot of damage to the people around them. 

An INFP is known for their ability to feel emotions to a depth so great, very few people can understand or relate to it. Their identity is based on the emotions they experience, because that’s what allows them to navigate their way through an otherwise complex world. So, when an INFP is suffering, they tend to avoid their emotions altogether. They suppress what they’re feeling, and they lie themselves into a numb state. They may also turn to substance abuse if the noise inside their head begins to get loud. 

Who is an INFP, when they no longer engage with their emotions? An angry mess, is what they become. Not only that, their creativity as well as their intuitive sense also get stripped away from them. 

Similarly, where a healthy INFP uses their vivid, endless world of imagination to arrive to conclusions about life’s many problems, and uses their ability to come up with countless scenarios to help in decision making, an unhealthy INFP uses that same talent to escape their reality. This causes them to avoid responsibility, escape self-accountability, and drown that inner voice that keeps their conscience alive and clear. 

In the process, every single person who loves and cares for them, some who may rely on the INFP for help and advice, some who may depend on them emotionally, and some even financially… well, they all suffer. 

Stress and its impacts on a healthy INFP. 

Another very important factor in play is stress. INFPs are usually not well equipped with handling stress, and that often causes them to act out and hurt people they surround themselves with. A stressed INFP may become isolated, cold and distant. They withdraw from all their relations; even if they don’t use their words to do it, their actions are evident enough. They push people away, focus on things that aren’t even big-picture issues to begin with, and become highly critical of other people. 

Someone may be trying to reach out to them because they care, and the INFP will see it as their personal space being violated. A loved one may try and talk them out of their self-destructive tendencies, and hope to prevent them from making a horrible mistake with their currently stress-induced short-sightedness, and the INFP is going to take offense. Stress may turn them into critics, but it does not make them susceptible to handling the criticism that comes their way, in a mature manner. 

Dreadful anger and its impacts on an otherwise healthy INFP. 

That’s right. INFPs may usually avoid conflict, and do whatever it takes for them to steer clear of confrontations, but their anger sometimes gets the best of them. Granted that INFPs get angry only when they’ve been terribly wronged, one would think that their behaviour when angered in justified. However, not only are INFPs prone to becoming violent in such situations, they also tend to displace their anger a lot. 

While their love language is physical touch, they don’t shy away from getting physical when they’re in rage mode either. They may not be particularly athletic people, but their rage can give them some freakishly scary advantages.

That’s enough on INFPs physically hurting people. INFPs, when they don’t deal with their anger in a healthy way (going to a batting cage, or visiting one of those “crockery and other types of glass smashing” places, or expressing their rage through their art), can end up displacing their anger who might simply be trying to be there for them. They can blurt out harsh truths, give reality checks to people in the worst of ways, and show tough love to someone who may not benefit from it. 

There are many other ways that an INFP can hurt people, but the ones discussed above appear to cause the most damage. Maybe we’ll talk about this some more, do a part two, elaborate a little more on these issues, and maybe even discuss what causes an INFP to become a hurtful individual in the first place. 

Until then, good luck with your INFPs, and try not to abandon them when they’re at their worst. They may be struggling to say this, so let me say it for them: They need you.