All of us, big or small, no matter how enlightened or bogged down an individual may be, no matter the relative struggles or seeming lack thereof, have some “baggage” we carry with us. I think we could do with less of this term in the world. It implies the accumulated negative experiences are burdenous, and certainly they do feel that way when they are holding us back from our higher goals and desires. But they are more than just a negative lump of dead weight and bad associations. Baggage is normal. It is even healthy if we let it work for us.
I think baggage can be related to our shadow superpowers. It is our subconscious mind that refuses to let go of experiences which deeply affected us. But those same things that feel so prohibitive are the source of a fountain of wisdom, charm, and will-power we normally could never get close to. We don’t need to shun the baggage which comprises our dark side, we need to respect and pay it special considerations to become the fully realized human monster angel we really all are.
Let’s take a look at the INFJ shadow functions for now, since I deal with them often enough, I get their workings. I do plan to go into other type functions in future posts, but this is the logical beginning for me.
Si – Introverted Sensing
AKA: The Chronic Victim
At my weakest, I will experience sensory flashbacks which can be extremely painful and confusing. Yay PTSD! Usually starts off with preoccupations with negative past experiences, regret, guilt, shame, pain, rage, sorrow. The meaning: Remember why we endured it. It is all too easy to take current liberties for granted.
I know I quickly am on the move to the next step most of the time, and this can lead me to neglect my own needs in one way or another. This, if left unchecked, leads to increasing apathy and lethargy, which if also left unchecked, will spark these almost resuscitative shocks of horror, like saying “Care, damn you! Look at all this we went thru! Care!!!”. Worse still, if you have frequent associative reminders of what you would rather pretend wasn’t a part of your history, like a state of self-delusion, you don’t want to take in that data, and your subconscious rebounds to double remind you. You forgot, from too much pain or isolation, what boiled you into a rage and into simpering tears, you forgot what inspired and propelled you out of that situation and into who you are. Then it is hard to keep track of your direction. All that productivity and neglect will be for not if left to stagnate here.
You could’ve stopped there and then, and faded away, but here you are still fighting with every breath. Honor who you were, whatever the struggles and mistakes. You earned respect for your journey. Hard to think this way when you can’t get enough air and the walls of time are threatening to crush you. Harder still when wrongs were never addressed. Baggage indeed.
Full of myself though I feel, the way I have lessened the frequency and impact of these panic attacks and chronic moping has been to more habitually think of my past self as the hero of my story. Yeah, I made my mistakes, was far from graceful at times, and there were periods I wanted to give up, but then I didn’t, nor have I given up my values. Sounds like a hero to me.
Traumatic past experiences are not baggage. They are a testament to your endurance. And every wrong against you left unchecked shows your compassion and mercy. Still, fight to right any wrong which will help others more than hurt them in the long run, let the rest go. We all make our own best hells after all, and they will find theirs too regardless of what you do.
Fi – Introverted Feeling
AKA: The Bully
On a dime, if performance isn’t matching up to expectations, the harshest thoughts will leap up about myself and everything else. The meaning: Remember what matters most, ensure behavior avoids harm. Trick here for me is to reevaluate expectations more reasonably, and try not to verbalize too many of my impulse reactions before thinking them thru. Most of the time, this harsh voice of criticism has insights that can help if used objectively. Bossy, critical parent though it can be (in my case, this comes out via Fi, internal feeling where suddenly my thoughts shift from a focus on the well being of others to my own feelings and expectations). Many statements collected from authority figures over the years come out here. Very past-centric much like Se. Daddy and Mommy issue baggage.
This may sound a bit crazy, so be it, I find relief from thinking of this naggy tyrant as a bodyguard I created. Literally, I visualize it as a shapeshifting android wolfpup. It becomes whatever person or theory has something to offer from my storehouse of collected FAQs on life. I even programmed it to be harsher if something is really violating my established ethics. In the end, just my bodyguard and ethical consult. The risks I choose to take are mine to take, but it doesn’t hurt, particularly of you happen to be lacking the wider array of personalities in your life to give you perspective, to have this loyal guard dog on hand. The cuter it is in your mind, the less threatening, the better. Just train your puppy to behave and put a muzzle on it if needed from time to time. You do have the power to send it to its own corner. Meditation helps quiet this voice I’ve noticed, when Si will let you.
Te – Extroverted Thinking
AKA: The Self Righteous Know-It-All
When I feel threatened, I resort to mind games. Kira and L and I could have some debates and mind spars when my thinking turns outward, or so I like to think (the stronger my emotions, the more I think I am right, and the less accurate I actually am). My shadow auxiliary function puppy dog quickly jumps in to validate (usually) or discredit my ethical claims. I’m not guaranteed to listen even in the rare instance the guard dog doesn’t leap immediately to my defense and their overall obliteration.
So then, I go talk to someone I can trust, as soon as possible, definitely before reacting directly to whatever triggered it. If no one is available right then, I will write a rambling, typically seething argument which captures the cold, hard “truth” of it all thru my Ni and Te. Then I go smoke a cigarette, or brood at something majestic like a sunset, and glory in the truths I have written. They will see! Oh they will see! Enter the megalomaniacal scientist.
Reading this back to myself after this pause and glory, I usually can see the flaws in my rationality, and with some effort, I can usually force myself to address them. Eventually I determine a better approach to fixing the disharmony than by becoming a Sith and laying waste to the land. Think of other people too, and how they might react to your same situation, particularly those you know who wouldn’t even see it as a problem. You know at least one.
Talking it out with someone whose values are aligned with yours will be much more efficient though, so don’t avoid people altogether. You’ll either get defused enough not to self destruct or encouraged to right the “wrong” in a more guided way. God help the fool you talk to who refuses to acknowledge the wrongness, though. If you really don’t have someone to trust, stick to expressing yourself thru art or writing. Be careful, don’t break any hearts, you will regret it later. But don’t ignore those you could trust just because you want to be angry. (After all it feels so good. The power of the dark side is a real thing!)
Ie – Extroverted Intuition
AKA: The Dictator
“This is so wrong, if they continue down this path, they will fail. Since they can’t see it, I must do something! I will fix them!”
Yeah, the self-righteousness and overvaluance of ones own ideals (Fi) shadows the natural respect for mutual independence. When Te undoubtedly chimes in, it turns into a quest for order and justice. Recipe for unbridaled progress or a hostile takeover.
I still struggle with this, when I care too much about something. A pet peeve trigger as innocuous as a coworker forgetting to complete a task can launch into an action plan to “correct” the unacceptable behavior regardless of what anyone else may think about it or the energy I would need to expend. After all, they don’t see as far as you do and only I can make this happen! If they did this every day, this horrible thing could happen! Picture the entire business in flames, hundreds out of work, because this slacker is sabotaging us!
Okay. Now, I have gotten better at dealing with this one by only letting it burn when I have, beyond the shadow of a doubt, confirmed it via Ti and Fe and verified its relative importance with Ni. In English, I use my strongest assets. I brood over data I’ve accumulated, I look for more if needed, and I try to confirm a pattern. If no reasonable pattern can be found, I put that mission on hold until a pattern develops. Sure, a coworker may neglect a duty sometimes, it is inevitable, but if it happens every day, it deserves attention.
So, a pattern is isolated. Then, bounce the theory off of anyone and everyone who has the experience to back this theoretical problem. If the overwhelming majority don’t see a problem and aren’t affected, well, it probably isn’t worth the fight. We can get so wound up in an individual inconvenience that we assume everyone else must be inconvenienced too, or will be. It is often not the case though.
But let’s assume others are on board. Hurray. Now before actioning any tasks on this grand mission to save everyone else from this work-dodging bastard, take some time, write, meditate, be creative, go on a hike, whatever, and consider your own future. Where do you want to be? Does this mission help get you there? Or is it opposed? If it is opposed, move on with your life, delegate to others to action the issue. Resist the temptation to step in and save them from themselves when they lose interest and old habits resume. It is their problem to fix, and you have bigger things to worry about.
Now, on occasion, you may still be right in pursuing change even when not validated by others. You may consider turning into the revolutionary and fight for the cause even if it causes distress to others. Before doing so though, reduce the problem down as far as you can. Does this really matter enough? One coworker neglecting duties? No. Let it go. One coworker frequently harassing others and causing disharmony to all, right now (not in some supposed terrible prophecy), that is worthy of some mission work, one coworker with a coalition of sneaky bastards you are certain are embezzling (you’ve seen the paper trail), nuke the lot of them with your glorious vengeance! Delegate authority on the issue to someone else as soon as you have someone who can be trusted however, or your head will eventually burst from all the expansion. Ego check!
The Perfect Storm – Alter-Ego
Oh Kira… I recently watched Death Note (again) and when it comes to Ne, Fi, Te, and Si full shadow alignment in an INFJ, he takes the cake and eats it all while still having it. There is no reasoning with this combo, it has to be contained and allowed to burn itself out. All real conscious control is lost. You are now batshit. At least at extremes.
Unfortunately, the world usually validates us with authority, money, and respect while in this state if what we are striving for has even some credibility among the masses (which it usually does). Yagami Light, Kira, sought to rid the world of criminals, bullies, and leaches upon society. All those ever wronged by one of these started to revere him, at least a little. Enough not to want to stop him, if not so much they were willing to die for the cause. Hail Hitler. Exploding buildings, terrorism, etc.
On a less dramatic scale, this could be the micromanaging boss that, while respected, is ultimately never connected to anyone. The workaholic and politician comes out and narcissism reigns. Likely successful, but incredibly malnourished psycholigically, and spiritually on death row. It just isn’t a good place for the INFJ to be.
Prevention is key because once the weaving of delusions and distortions has been set, it will be mighty difficult to break free short of a complete and possibly dangerous retreat from the daily routine. Depression, shame, and so forth then spring up and the identity crisis will begin. You’ll be lucky to get out of it in time to get your job back, but if successful, you will find a better use for your life.
One good friend is all you need to snap you out of it in a pinch. They will know and see just how out of sorts you are, and help jar you back into natural alignments. They must know how to handle the fury of defenses that spring up, and it may take time, but if you are feeling like you might be trapped in this negative rut, there is no painless way out. Let them help. They will forgive you for any slights on your way back, but you have to make it back. Short of this, seek a good therapist that shares your fundamental values.
So, yes, all this sounds like quite the chore on one hand, all these feelings and thoughts bubbling up with limited control. It can be terrifying and feel like you are going nuts. They are normal reactions to life though, and have a purpose. Used productively and within a healthy value system, they can launch you into success. Or they can toss you into the flames if left unchecked.
Like with any power, caution and wisdom must be applied to avoid destructive patterns. And you must learn awareness and find your coping strategies, or they can easily take over your life. Respect them, listen, do not ignore or argue with them. Don’t seek them. But if one of these pesky devils pops up, really pay attention to what it says, for it is probably pointing to your true calling in life. Understand me here, if Ne has you convinced of some outrageous action plan, best idea is not to do it. But look at the root of why you think you should. There is where your greatest treasures will be found.
Back to the dumb coworker, my action plan that came springing forth (so many what ifs) to stop the terrible neglect (springing from a long history of being neglected and observing self-neglect). What I really cared about was that the task got done so things proceed efficiently and more reliably, and so that I don’t have to hear anyone stressed over some symptom of the issue (Long history of being the ear of problems I had no power to directly influence). I hate disharmony. Rather than going on a mission to get anyone fired or demoted or even collecting more data (and questioning my self worth and fighting external judgments throughout), I suggested to a supervisor the report be handled by someone else. So it went. Harmony restored. No drama. No hassle. No armory. Done. He went on to handle a report he was more confident in handling, so he rarely neglected work after that.
Considering the emotional reactions I had, the simplicity of this answer pissed me off. My Fi wanted the strife, Ne wanted to be right, Te wanted to prove it, and Si wanted to drudge me thru every neglectful relationship I’ve ever been in. But I got over it when I witnessed the resulting harmony. Eyes on the big prize. We don’t have time for petty things, but hey, without the shadow functions, that work would have continued to be substandard! I fixed something thanks to their insight, unpleasant though it was at moments. Baggage, our dark side, has a powerful purpose. Hurray for baggage, the world’s most driven problem solver!
Topic to ponder… Shadow functions and dream identity…