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Stress Style

Bet you didn't know INFJs had a stress "style," did you?  You probably figured that INFJs just suffer stress the same as anybody else in our crazy, modern world, but there wasn't any kind of "style" to relate it to -- surely there is no model per se that describes INFJ stress.

I love this stuff!

In fact, there is a stress component to all three of the models we have been discussing.

Let's look at each of them in turn.  But before we do, it's important to note that not all stress is bad (distress).  Some stress is good, and even downright exhilarating (eustress)!

It's also important to recognize that not ALL stress is related to personality.  Stress is lurking all around us in the environment, or there may be underlying issues we are unconscious of.  It's a very insidious element.  So be careful not to make any broad, sweeping assumptions about personality and stress.  (A mistaken stereotype is that Ps feel less stress than Js!)

On the other hand, it has been said, "Type IS stress."  And that is not a facetious or lighthearted remark.  As stated previously, Type is not something you "have" while you're sitting around watching TV or reading a book.  It expresses itself through interaction.  And when you add stress to an interaction, people tend to become more limited in the choices they make with their behavior.  Any time you add tension to an interaction, Type manifests itself more vividly and the likelihood of a "personality conflict" occurring will increase enormously.  It's easy to get along with others when there are no stakes.  But we tend to "dig in our heels" and firmly express our Type preferences whenever conflict occurs.

Cognitive Function (Type) Stress

When there is a problem, we attempt to solve it with our introverted iNtuition or extraverted Feeling, as one might expect.  But when that doesn't work, rather than turning to an altogether different process, we tend to "try harder" and crank up the volume on our two favored processes.  

If that is ineffective, we resort to introverted Thinking.  When that doesn't work, we may fall "in the grip" of our extraverted Sensing.  

It is possible that we may dip into other processes -- and we can come under "the grip" of any process.

When we experience Type stress, it's important to recognize that we have created a "meaning" using one of our processes.  It can be useful to question our assumptions, and discover what is making us "stuck." 

Antidote:  if we are locked in the grip of a less-preferred process, one solution is to try a different kind of process.  If stuck in a judging process, switch to a perceiving process, and vice-versa.

Temperament Stress

Temperament stress inevitably occurs when our core values are not being met.  For the Catalyst, having energy and the strength to go on is fueled by our innermost core values for meaning and unique identity.  We further have a deep psychological need to experience empathic rapport.  If we are deprived of meeting any of these primary needs, we will experience and express distress in myriad ways.

Stress manifesting via temperament also occurs when our favorite talents and skills go unused.  For example,  if we Catalysts find ourselves in situations where we are unable to form relationships and utilize our skills for Diplomacy, that will cause us stress. And if we find ourselves in situations where integrity and ethics are compromised, we will be extremely stressed.  We need a sense of purpose, and a feeling that we are working toward "the greater good."  We feel best about ourselves when we can advocate or be a catalyst.

Catalyst stress will probably be experienced as Shame.  (The other Temperaments tend to experience guilt, doubt, and fear -- but we specialize in feeling Shame.)

Temperament stress tends to manifest in the form of survival games.  These may take the form of "Shut Down" and "Paralysis."  The way out for INFJs is to begin a new Quest, and to find a way to get nurturing from our Self and others.

Interaction Style Stress

The interaction style model taught me a great deal about myself, and learning my stress style was one of the most rock-my-world valuable insights.

I'm sure by now you've heard of the coping strategies called fight-or-flight...?  Well, there are actually four reactions to "danger" ("danger" being a synonym for "stress").  These four responses to stress correspond to the four interaction styles and include fight, flight, freeze, and flurry.

When INFJs confront a stressful situation, their initial reaction is "flight."  How they do this is by distancing themselves from the situation, usually separating from the problem while buying time.  They experience a need to step back and consider what's going on.  Dr. Keirsey's phrase for this behavior is "mute withdrawal."  Our impulse is to move away from what isn't liked, and to stay away from it.  When we become stressed, we get extremely tense, and we may feel afraid.  This is best relieved by having time and space away to think through and plan our next move, or chart a new course of action.  We disengage from the immediate situation, but still focus on the problem.  Separation allows us to devise a plan, which we can then stick by without getting disturbed or distracted by the aggravating situation.  If we can "foresee" a solution, we will return and "face" the problem (another "f" word!).  Of course, if we can't effectively work through the problem, we may just *stay* away altogether.

The downside of our coping style is that people may misinterpret our withdrawal as fear or incompetence.  It may look as if they are detached or are fleeing from the problem.  We may also miss some information by withdrawing, so our ultimate solution may not be on target.  We also miss the good that comes with the bad.

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If you are interested in general INFJ stress relief, that is discussed in detail here.

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