Why it’s No Coincidence so Many INFJs (and INFPs) Are also Writers

I have a really weird thing that happens to me whenever I receive a bit of emotionally disturbing news. Whether it’s something small (like someone tells me I said the wrong thing at the dinner table) or something big (like getting hit with rejection or betrayal) my system immediately goes into shut-down mode. I freeze like a panicked animal, my throat, chest and stomach lock up, and the rest of me feels totally numb.

This numb feeling can last a few minutes, or it can last a few days.

When it starts to wear off, I slowly start coming out of it. Hesitantly, I poke at myself. Does this hurt? What about here? I try to gather the facts but all I get is an overwhelming sense of confusion. Then, the strong emotions come. Sometimes a sudden explosion of anger hurls itself through me. Or sometimes I end up in tears on the floor, shocked and a little scared at the intensity of my reaction. Then I go into detective mode again. What does this  mean? And why did it manifest in that  way?

When it’s all said and done it can sometimes take me a full two weeks to thoroughly process a medium-level emotional event and its consequences.

This is highly inconvenient when you’re trying to express how you feel to the outside world.

This is also why I suck at arguing. In the heat of the moment I’m frozen. My highly sensitive nervous system is flooded with stress chemicals, my introvert brain is struggling to react much more quickly than is natural, and my intuitive nature is overwhelmed by too many pieces of information coming too fast.

It’s been like this my entire life. I can never say what I’m feeling or why I’m feeling that way in the moment with someone else. It’s only days and weeks later that I get my a-ha!  moments. But by then, it’s too late. The person to which I was struggling to express something has moved on. The argument or the event was over for them a long time ago, and now it seems weird that I’m bringing it up again at such a late date.

It wasn’t until I started meeting so many other INFJ and INFP personality types that I realized this is a common occurrence among us. It wasn’t until I started coaching so many other Highly Sensitive People (who are also highly creative people, empaths, and intuitives) that I realized there is a very good reason so many of us have turned to writing as a lifeline.

Writing is basically the only way we have of truly explaining ourselves.

This is also the reason, I believe, that so much of our writing is autobiographical. As we grow up and find ourselves as adults we go through things like anyone else. We go through abusive relationships, toxic workplaces, health problems, and mental illness. But for us, it’s incredibly difficult to sit in a circle and share with strangers, or even sit down at the kitchen table with our parents and describe what’s going on. Because, for us, every important experience we have is deep and wide, complicated and complex. Any experience has the potential to grow into a sprawling independent universe of thought and feeling in our own minds.

The only way to convey a significant part of our experience is for us to put it down in writing.

In writing we might not say exactly what we mean, but it feels private and quiet enough to bring us close to the mark. We’re able to be honest and open in a way that just can’t happen when there is another pair of eyes staring back at us, possibly waiting to judge us for our answers. In writing we can go over our words again and again, making absolutely sure that each word is the word we want to use, that each sentence or phrase will bring us closer to true self expression.

For all of you INFJs, INFPs, Highly Sensitive People, highly creative people, empaths and intuitives out there—no matter how you identify—you know that finding the right word at the right time is sometimes the only thing that can save you.

This is why writing is so important to us. This is why I see the same question asked all over the place online: Why are so many INFJs writers? (And to that, I would add that the same should be asked of INFPs.) It’s because we need it like no one else. It’s a lifeboat for us, a lot of the time.

Without it, our ships would have sunk long ago.

If you’re interested in learning more about INFJ writers (and INFP writers) and the unique challenges they face with both writing and creativity, pick up a copy of The INFJ Writer. And if you’re interested in coaching made specifically for INFJ and INFP writers, shoot me an email at writecitysf@gmail.com and let’s talk.

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  • Reply Phillip McCollum 19 June, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    As an INTJ, this article really hit home for me as well, Lauren. I do not do well in debates or arguments as well and I hate getting engaged in them because I know I’ll never be as clear or thoughtful as I want to be. Writing is definitely the preferred conduit to express my thoughts. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  • Reply Bethany Reid 19 June, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    Great post and so very true. I thought no this is also why so many writers also use alcohol or other ways to self anesthetize.

  • Reply Nishka 19 June, 2017 at 11:30 pm

    Hello Lauren,

    This piece really resounded with me not only because I am an INFP, but also because in my last organisation I made all my writer colleagues take the Myers Briggs test and all of them, without exception were either INFP or ENFP. One cubby hole full of us in the office- no wonder we stood out!

    • Reply Lynne Fisher 21 June, 2017 at 2:51 am

      That’s amazing! I wish wish wish I was in your writers ‘group’!

  • Reply Rhonda Wiley-Jones 20 June, 2017 at 9:52 am

    This blog post is insightful and useful as a writer. Thanks for putting words to what I experience. I have written about your blog post and shared it with my followers. Thanks!

  • Reply Amanda Linehan 20 June, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    Makes total sense. And it’s nice to know that I’m not alone in having difficulty with expressing myself quickly in the present moment. I sometimes envy great arguers!

  • Reply Lynne Fisher 21 June, 2017 at 2:50 am

    Excellent, Lauren – I share these experiences too. I like to think I can debate/argue, and I have a go, but internally, I just can’t be calm, I get steamed up and nervy so tend to avoid it. Writing is where I can truly express myself, either that or talking to my close friend, another infj!

  • Reply Clarissa Harwood 21 June, 2017 at 9:42 am

    I can relate to 100% of this post! Everything from the physical symptoms to being bad at arguing, that is definitely me. Thank you for once again helping me to feel less weird!

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