INFJ Obsession: Archetype and the Psychic Bond

HeroIt started off innocently enough. I met him in a bookstore. He was the clerk, and I was buying the books. I talked with him for five minutes about Moby Dick and Melville’s poetry. There was something about him…he reminded me of a philosopher from ancient Greece. And yes, he said, he was interested in philosophy. He’d studied it for many years. Would I care to continue this conversation over coffee?

I wrote down his number and left the store. And everything still seemed to be innocent enough.

But I was hooked.

I knew it. Because I had felt the hook sliding in.

In the days afterward I replayed the exchange over and over in my mind. There was that haunting feeling that always poked at me in the first stages of the fascination. I knew it well by now, because this was a loop I had traveled before. I could have sworn I recognized that man, that I knew him from somewhere in the past. And even though I couldn’t put my finger on it, I knew I had to see him again. I had so many questions to ask him. I wanted to know everything.

If I couldn’t crawl inside his head and look out at the world from behind his eyes, I felt there was a strong chance I might wither up and die.

This is INFJ obsession, and anyone who isn’t an intuitive feeler (INFJ, INFP, ENFP, or ENFJ) probably has no idea what I’m talking about. For most of my life I assumed I was crazy, needy, clingy or had some weird stalker streak that tended to surface at unpredictable times. Whenever the fascination overtook me, I was doomed to beat my head against my inner walls until I collapsed out of sheer weariness.

When I told other people about it, the first thing they always suggested was that I was getting too romantically attached to people who I didn’t know that well. I bought into this theory for a while, because the fascination did seem to contain elements of desire in it. But this argument didn’t hold up over time, because I found that I wasn’t always romantically attracted to the subjects. I didn’t fantasize about us being together, or have any feelings of jealousy about the other people in their lives.

I just wanted to know as much as possible about them. And of course, crawl inside their head for a short time and live there just to see what could be found out.

As I got older and learned more about INFJ Introverted Intuition and how it works, I began to notice something else about the fascination. Whenever it had me in its grip, I started to see the archetypes hiding inside the person I was fascinated with. I might suddenly stumble upon the image of the person as a king or a priest in my mind. Or as an ancient scholar, as in the case of the man from the bookstore. Then that archetypal image would take root and grow. Soon it called for me to explore it through daydreams, and finally transcribe what I saw of it onto the page.

Eventually, in every one of these cases, I would end up with a short story, or a new character in my novel who hijacked the entire book. Every single time.

And once written about, the real-life person began to fade. The fascination began to wilt and die, and I was my old normal self again, free from all-consuming obsession.

For INFJs or other intuitive feelers who aren’t writing, or who aren’t exploring their obsessions with certain people through the act of writing, the most common reaction they have to the fascination when it descends is to attack themselves for it. We might label our feelings as inappropriate, weird, or over-exaggerated. We might believe that we’re imagining things, or making things up to soothe our own egos. And yes, sometimes we do make people uncomfortable with our insatiable curiosity to know the deepest parts of others, but as a rule, we’re not stalkers and we generally are able to recognize emotional boundaries much more so than most of the population.

What’s really happening with INFJ obsession, or the fascination as I like to call it, is that we’ve met someone who we’ve formed a fast, intense, and dynamic connection with. We’ve come together with that person to exchange soul lessons. They are showing up in the world in some way that really interests us, and vice versa. It’s important to note that these relationships are always equal on each side. The obsessed INFJ is responsible for 50% of it, but the other person is also responsible for the other 50%.

This is so essential to remember because so many INFJs intuitively feel an exchange of energy with the other person, but there is not much to “prove” this on the outside of things. In fact, because INFJs are usually drawn to people who are in emotional pain, or working through deeply entrenched dysfunctional habits, it happens frequently that the object of the INFJ’s obsession is simply incapable of communicating, reciprocating, or even acknowledging the exchange of energy between them.

Now, let me stress here, that pursuing real-life relationships, whether romantic or platonic, with the people you form an INFJ obsession with is very definitely a recipe for disaster. Because the high level of psychic pain in the person is usually the thing that attracted the intuitive feeler in the first place, that circumstance will cause all kinds of conflict, dysfunction, and heartbreak down the line. The fascination is NOT a green light for romance. But it’s not cause for you to shut yourself down or run in the other direction either.

The most helpful thing for the intuitive feeler to do when caught in INFJ obsession is to find the archetype and then work from there. The object of obsession has a mirror-image in your fictional world and they need you to breathe that image into being. In my opinion, that’s one of the reasons you’re meeting them in this  world. They are meant to have a place in your work.

Ask yourself: What role is this person playing? If you feel like you knew them in a past life, what relationship did you have with them then? Are they showing up here as a king, a scholar, or a warrior? What else can you glean from the pattern of their life? Use these questions to fuel your fiction. Once you’ve written yourself dry on the subject, the obsession will begin to pass. You’ll start to come back to sanity again.

I believe that INFJ obsession is actually a totally normal thing not only for INFJs, but for INFPs, ENFPs, and ENFJs as well. Intuitive feelers are all a little bit psychic, and when we meet someone who has something precious for us, we feel it. It’s not an overactive imagination or an overly emotional nature that drives us to connect with (sometimes) near strangers so deeply. It’s because we can. This is an intimidating skill that few understand and most find uncomfortable to consider. But that doesn’t mean it’s not real, or that it doesn’t have a purpose.

The next time the fascination descends upon you, don’t run from it. Explore it. Give the object of your obsession space to speak their experience as part of your story. See what a change occurs when you do exactly what they want you to do: write it all down.

And if you’re interested in learning more about INFJ writers and how we work check out my book:

The INFJ Writer

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7 Comments

  • Reply Alyssa Hollingsworth 24 March, 2016 at 7:01 am

    I’m an INFJ, and I definitely know what you mean. There was a cute guy on campus my junior year who I didn’t speak to until senior year, but always noticed because he looked like a Shakespearean hero. (I called him “Duke Orsino” for months.) Once we actually started to interact, it was not a good fit–but it was fun to imagine the character he might have been.

    I’ve also had quite good results from those instant connections–a girl on the bus who ended up being my house mate years later. Or someone who mentioned a common interest, and ten minutes into our conversation we realized we were tangentially connected by a tragic incident several years ago.

    That sixth sense is definitely strange and interesting to explore.

  • Reply Catherine North 24 March, 2016 at 11:54 am

    Oh my God, I totally get this! It’s that really intense instinctive feeling that you have a connection with someone (and yes. it often doesn’t work out in real life!)
    I am wondering as well, is it an INF writer trait to get obsessed with your own fictional characters? I mean like seriously, weirdly obsessed? 🙂

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 24 March, 2016 at 12:46 pm

      I think so, Catherine. I’m currently “seriously, weirdly” obsessed with one of my characters. I think it’s because I’m having a very hard time getting into his head, and I haven’t had that problem with any of the other characters. For some reason, he’s almost totally inaccessible. Which is driving me on to dig into his psyche even more!

  • Reply Anna-Marie O'Brien 24 March, 2016 at 5:18 pm

    Wow, so cosmic that you’ve posted this now. It’s happened recently to me, too, and it’s all that you describe. I think this person represents my “ideal reader” – or maybe a muse. Either way, I want to crawl in his head and pick it apart because I recognized his energy so clearly – he’s so familiar to me. When I think of him, the writing comes easier, like he’s the one I need to explain everything to. Talk soon, be well! xo

  • Reply Amara 15 August, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    “The obsessed INFJ is responsible for 50% of it, but the other person is also responsible for the other 50%”
    You mention this balance in responsibility,i have always battered myself down thinking my thoughts are inappropriate and for not being able to get over them. Why do you say there is the 50 percent responsibility for each side?
    P.S. these feelings were developed towards an INTJ in context, but which cannot materialise

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 16 August, 2017 at 9:00 am

      Well, this is where we get into different belief systems. I believe that all of us are always working with each other on an energetic level (and also working with each other in the higher realms). I also believe that this is most especially true when we enter into any sort of one-on-one relationship with another, even if that relationship is only one of casual acquaintance. Have you ever known someone casually through school or a workplace, but you feel like you two have a deeper understanding? You feel like you “get” each other on a deeper level, past surface conversation? That’s what I mean when I talk about working on an energetic level with someone.

      Much of the time INFJs are able to feel this energetic level very strongly, and they can sense the deeper connection they may have with someone. Perhaps they shared a past life with that person and there is still some unfinished business there, some karma, to clean up. The INFJ picks up on that and is very strongly drawn to the person. However, in this life, the person is not interested and rejects them. Now, yes, it is important that the INFJ honors that person’s wishes about not wanting to become involved, but that doesn’t mean that the INFJ is making everything up in her head about the situation. She is picking up on SOMETHING–whether that be repressed desires from the other party, past life karma, or maybe just contradictory impulses in the other person’s soul.

      That’s what I mean when I say it’s 50/50. And again, this comes down to my personal beliefs. I believe that all of us intentionally enter into every single relationship we experience on this planet, no matter how casual.

  • Reply Amara 18 August, 2017 at 11:05 am

    “Much of the time INFJs are able to feel this energetic level very strongly, and they can sense the deeper connection they may have with someone.”
    So very true. In the initial years of my life(well for 25 years), I denied and put aside the possibility that I sense the connection because it wasn’t logical and hence I couldn’t prove it without people considering me a fool. I keep this thoughts to myself even now. But I have come to embrace a strength and energy like you mention beyond the physical realm.

    ” Now, yes, it is important that the INFJ honors that person’s wishes about not wanting to become involved”
    I wish I could bring that closure to both myself and the other person though. Else the wound remains open and continue to be carried on. It hurts to see people walk away from this mystical connection.

    Thank you for your article 🙂

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