INFJ
Individuation

We cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life's morning; for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true, will at evening, have become a lie.

-Carl Jung                

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It's important to acknowledge that type is not a "static" model.  It is a developmental model.  An INFJ at age 15 will look dramatically different from an INFJ aged 50.

One reason for this is due to what Jung named "individuation."  (Others prefer the simple term "growth.")

What this simply means is that we go through different stages throughout our entire lives, indicating that we are naturally developing one function progressively after another.  It's all about a process of maturity.  As we cultivate each of the functions, we unconsciously seek out "tasks" that will help us to engage and exercise the developing function.  It is important to note that not everybody develops according to the pattern or according to a precise timetable -- the stages of development suggested below are an idealized perspective of what development would look like in a "classic" candidate.

The dominant function for an INFJ would be introverted iNtuition.  It normally develops from birth until about the age of 12.

Think about your own life during this time period.  What behaviors do you remember that might prove this to be true?  It may be helpful to make some notes.  I remember very little about this period of my life.  I know this is when I read a lot -- especially fairytales and mythology.  I didn't care about playing outdoors or making friends.  I was always in my head or in my room, which drove my mother crazy.  My favorite place in the world was the public library, and we have several family stories about that.

Here is how Harold Grant describes INFJs at this stage:

1st period - 6 to 12 years (Introverted Intuiting)

By innate preference you were drawn in childhood to develop your imagination and creativity.  Perhaps you created an imaginary playmate, or several, with whom you secretly lived while your parents wondered about your dreamy silence.  Only a favorite friend or two, or a wise and gentle parent, was permitted to share your world of make-believe.  Teachers frequently had to remind you that you were not paying attention.  It is hard for you to remember the details of this period, especially as details did not engage your interest.  But you do recall the general atmosphere, whether of happiness, sadness, pain, or pleasure.

The auxiliary function, extraverted Feeling, usually starts to develop around age 12 and continues until about age 20.  

Think about your own life again.  Did you or are you now manifesting behavior that might bear out this development?  Again, you may wish to write some notes.  This was when I discovered Feminism and became more vocally opinionated.  I became interested in socially-sanctioned achievements -- such as getting high test scores, making the Honor Roll, and winning membership in National Honor Society.  I started sewing because I cared about my outward appearance, and became highly involved in extra-curricular activities, especially acting.  I was always a very expressive actress, unafraid to display emotion and "let it all hang out."  (My mother says she thinks I enjoyed experiencing what it was like to BE other people.)  I had some boyfriends and began to notice how "out-of-step" I was with my peers.  I held down up to three jobs at a time and tried to give my mother money to pitch in for living expenses.

Here is Grant's description of INFJs at this stage:

2nd period - 12 to 20 years (Extraverted Feeling)

While continuing to perceive in a predominantly intuitive way, you now become aware of a desire to give expression to your life of feeling.  Sensitivity to your own feelings and compassion for others became characteristic of you, and because you were led to manifest these qualities others came to know you predominantly through them.  You perhaps surprised yourself by becoming more outgoing, in contrast to your previous shyness.  You became more aware of ways in which you could help others, especially the poor, the suffering, the underdog, and you may have joined groups committed to the service of others.  You may have found it difficult to find time for yourself in the process of obliging others.

The tertiary function, introverted Thinking, typically develops when one is between ages 20 and 35.  

Does this hold true for you?  What are you now or have you experienced in the past that verifies this to be true?  This was the stage when I left a relationship that felt like it was stifling me instead of empowering me, and I went about it very badly.  I began navigating the freeways of Los Angeles by myself in my own car.  I became a computer consultant and took on the trappings of a "professional businesswoman," feeling comfortably presentable in a variety of settings.  I became a director of a computer user group, and helped that group flourish.  I got deeply interested in database designing and taught myself several software programs and integrated them.  I learned money management techniques and bought a condo.

Here is Harold Grant's description of INFJs at this stage:

3rd period - 20 to 35 years (Introverted Thinking)

At twenty you experienced a tendency to become more independent, more your own person, and became critical of your previous habits of submission to the wishes of others.  Because this development was taking place in an introverted way, you were not fully able to explain to others your new determination to become more autonomous; hence others may have been offended or baffled by the change in you.  At the beginning of this period you probably felt you were handling the transition badly, but your conviction that it was right helped you to persevere and grow.  The solution to your occasional ineptness was, you believed, in going forward toward assertiveness, not back to your earlier submissiveness.

The INFJ's fourth function is extraverted Sensing.  Since it is opposite the dominant function, people sometimes make dramatic shifts in their personality -- what is sometimes labeled a "mid-life crisis" -- during this phase of development.  They may become radically different persons from how they were in the past, although this will not necessarily be so if has been able to embrace change along the way and have individuated previously in a healthy fashion.  The fourth function usually develops sometime after age 35.

If this timetable currently describes you, what behaviors are you now or have you previously exhibited that bear out that you are developing your fourth function?  I'm in this stage of life now, so I have a hard time saying -- but I daresay getting married at Stonehenge may have been an expression of my extraverted Sensing!  I'm also beginning to take more pleasure in delicious foods, enjoy developing websites, and being a clotheshorse.  Ebay has become a dangerous place.  I enjoy interior decoration, architecture styles, and art museums.  Sightseeing has become one of my favorite activities.  I enjoy taking cruises with my husband, and we are quite the pair when we go out swing dancing.  In a funny way, I feel as if I'm just "waking up" to what life is...

Here is Grant's description of INFJs at this stage:

4th period - 35 to 50 years (Extraverted Sensing)

At this point you begin to experience a call to develop your least acknowledged gift, your sensing.  Now you began to notice the details of life around you, which previously, in your basic preference for exploring the possible, had not engaged your interest.  As if for the first time you took pleasure in the exercise of some or all of your senses.  You probably became keenly interested in such things as doing things with your hands, playing a musical instrument, taking up a craft, or collecting and classifying objects; and you engaged in this type of activity with a precision which contrasted strongly with your previous vagueness about the life of the senses.  Now in fact you became somewhat impatient with inexactitude, daydreaming, and disorder in yourself and in others.  Your preference now was for engaging in the newly found life of the senses in company with others, not in solitude.  You liked to have someone with you as you attended concerts or visited museums; and your companions were struck with your attentiveness to the fine details of artistic creation.

The timing of these stages varies with the individual.  Some develop their dominant and auxiliary functions clearly and reliably by their early twenties; others may find it a much slower process.  Some will reach the traditional midlife period and find that they have not, for various reasons, developed one or both of their preferred functions.

For most people, midlife transition takes place between 35 and 50 years of age.  However, some are plunged into premature midlife reassessment by a divorce, job loss, serious illness, or the death of a relative or friend.  Some people don't seem to go through a midlife transition, but rather experience a burst of growth toward the end of life.

Once all four of the main functions have developed (or "individuated"), it's anybody's guess what happens next.  Some people believe we proceed back through the pattern "backwards," while others say we start over at the top but in the opposite attitude and work from there.

Whichever way it works, the consensus appears to be that, if we live long enough, we will eventually develop all eight of the processes and become fully individuated.

Now when people first learn Jung's theory, they get the idea that it would be ideal to develop all eight preferences with equal facility to achieve "perfect balance."  Some people brag about re-taking the MBTI over and over in order to achieve a perfect "XXXX" score, as if it represents a wonderful accomplishment.  According to Jung, however, development does not work this way.  If a person tries to develop both ways of perceiving equally, for example, then neither Sensing nor iNtuition will receive the focus of energy and attention necessary to become fully reliable and trustworthy.  Likewise, Thinking and Feeling are opposite ways of making decisions; developing a reliable decision-making function requires directing most of one's energy to one side of this dichotomy and therefore taking it away from the other.

The four functions tend to pull in opposite directions:  Sensing, to the reality of the present; iNtuition, to the possibility of the future; Thinking, to decisions based on objective logic; and Feeling, to decisions based on subjective values.  People who do not establish the leadership of one of each pair of functions are inconsistent in their behavior, pulled first in one direction and then another.  They are unpredictable to others and to themselves and remain what Jung termed a primitive personality.  Because Jung's theory is one of opposites, directing attention and energy to all of the functions equally ensures that the leadership of one will not be developed and the resulting perceptions and judgments will be inconsistent and unreliable.

The goal of type development, then, is not equal development and use of all the functions, but rather the ability to use each mental process with some facility when it is appropriate.  The developing individual thus gains the ability to call on the less-preferred functions to accomplish the purposes of the dominant function, bringing more balance to the tasks of life.

Good type development includes:

  • Trust and excellence in the use of the dominant function to provide purpose and consistency

  • A well-developed auxiliary function to provide balance and support

  • An ability to use the tertiary and inferior functions when appropriate

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From Image to Likeness: A Jungian Path in the Gospel Journey by W. Harold Grant, Thomas E. Clarke, Mary M. Thompson

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