Your shadow might feel like the complete opposite of your “normal” self, or like a critical parent, trickster, or even monster.
For many of us these days, the world feels strange and uncertain. And, in this unfamiliar place, it can feel like we have become strangers even to ourselves.
As introverts, we need alone time to retreat and recharge, to ponder and process. And we each feel the effects of the pandemic in our own unique ways.
When overwhelmed and under high levels of stress, we may go into self-protection mode. And here, we might just meet our shadow.
What Is Our ‘Shadow Side’?
Based in Jungian Psychology, the shadow functions are an unconscious part of our personality. The shadow appears when our dominant functions are having a hard time solving a problem or coping with stress. Depending on how it expresses, your shadow might feel like the complete opposite of your “normal” self, or like a critical parent, trickster, or even demon.
We typically have very little awareness and control of our shadow, and it often represents the qualities we like least in ourselves. When you feel “not yourself,” your shadow may be to blame. It shows up, too, when we make projections and judgments about other people. Because our shadow doesn’t fit easily with our ideal self, we may resist identifying with it.
Seemingly irrational and uncivilized, the shadow actually plays a role in our well-being: As a catalyst for growth, it offers a reality check of our weaknesses. Because it is less bound to moral constraints, it might offer tools for survival that our dominant functions just can’t seem to handle. Most importantly, the shadow is not “bad,” and we are not broken for experiencing it.
How to Deal With Your Shadow Side
To move from the darkness into light, focus on the strength and beauty of your introverted Myers-Briggs personality type. Sometimes healing comes simply by waiting out the storm. To help with the wait, the descriptions below begin with the favorable qualities of each type, and end with a “Guiding Light” affirmation to remind you of what makes you shine.
As you read, please be gentle with yourself: Shadow behavior is not a reflection of your typical ways, and usually causes deep regret. Healing can be painful and confusing, and might require the help of a professional.
Also, because we each have unique life experiences, it is possible to feel resonance with the shadow for another personality type. That’s OK, too.
The main thing to remember is you are not alone — everyone has a shadow side.
The Shadow of Each Introverted Personality Type
Motivated by service and the well-being of others, ISFJs often wish to take care of things so others may succeed. Respectful and unassuming, they prefer to operate behind the scenes, making sure important details don’t go overlooked.
It’s not unusual for an ISFJ to work long hours to ensure their loved ones are sheltered and safe. Although they appreciate a schedule and a proven path to success, they prefer to work and serve without a lot of attention or fanfare.
The ISFJ shadow often expresses itself as a passive-aggressive inner critic. This voice feels oppositional and sows doubt in the ISFJ’s mind. The shadow could lead an ISFJ to feel trapped and experience negative ruminations about past decisions. It might also influence an ISFJ to become overly critical and dismissive of others, even those they care deeply about.
ISFJ Guiding Light:
My power is to serve and protect, and I am confident in my role as a behind-the-scenes leader.
Gentle and warm, ISFPs engage with beauty in the world. They are creative and artistic — whether with a paintbrush, in the garden, or using a photo-editing app — and they appreciate all that is harmonious and aesthetically appealing.
ISFPs use their five physical senses to become absorbed in the moment. Kind and sensitive, they are quick to help others, but also deeply value the freedom to fly solo.
Under stress, ISFPs might find their shadow leading them to criticize and blame others — a big departure from their usual gentle selves. If it feels to an ISFP that others aren’t pulling their own weight, they might react through controlling or dismissive actions. The ISFP shadow can also lead to impulsive and risk-taking behavior, and an uncharacteristically pessimistic view of the future.
ISFP Guiding Light:
My power is to create harmony, and I see the beauty in others and the world.
Dependable and hardworking, ISTJs are realistic and sensible and thrive on being prepared. As parents, or business or community leaders, ISTJs help their group persevere toward its goal. And they will spot — and correct — pitfalls and mistakes along the way. Careful and thorough, ISTJs know the importance of a well-constructed plan.
Influenced by their shadow, ISTJs might doubt their decisions, and feel uncertain in the search for new ideas.Here they step off the known path and explore the unfamiliar — perhaps even considering a sudden (unplanned) major life change.
ISTJs might become stubborn or withdrawn, and begin to find fault in others yet remain unable to express their emotions; strong negative feelings can’t always be addressed systematically. And for ISTJs, more comfortable with the familiar and practical side of life, emotions might feel like an imprecise or uncomfortable means of expression.
ISTJ Guiding Light:
My power is to persevere, and I find success through planning and preparation.
ISTPs are logical but laid-back, action-driven but clever. They are intense observers and able to apply data and facts to analyze and solve problems. Often adept with tools, technology, and gadgets, ISTPs thrive on challenges — and the freedom to do whatever it takes to find a solution. They take pride in their mastery and skill, which, to outsiders, often seem effortlessly acquired.
In crisis, ISTPs might experience a bleak view of the future and withdraw from, or lash out at, loved ones. The ISTP’s shadow may bring a heightened awareness of how they are perceived by others and invite a deep sensitivity to criticism. Withdrawing does allow ISTPs to find focus in a difficult situation, but might come at the expense of others’ feelings.
ISTP Guiding Light:
My power is to problem-solve, and my natural curiosity serves me well.
Logical and intelligent, confident, and self-assured, INTJs tend to operate with drive and determination. They rely on goal-setting and planning and move forward with focus — usually with a contingency plan (or several!) within easy reach.
Strategic and organized, INTJs are also guided by intuitive knowledge. They hold strong visions of how things “should” be, and they look for ways to put their theories to work in the world.
Under the influence of their shadow, INTJs might find patterns and possibilities overwhelming. They are vulnerable to becoming excessively analytical and less confident, overthinking every detail and finding it impossible to move forward with their plans.
Their shadow could also lead INTJs to confusion and mistrust in their intuition, which usually aids them so well. In the face of their own and others’ doubt, they may scramble for evidence for their well-intentioned beliefs and ideas. Under stress, INTJs might become defensive, demanding, and controlling.
INTJ Guiding Light:
My power is to mastermind, and through logic I follow my vision.
INTPs rely on theory and analysis to dive deep into information. Through observation and intuition, the keen-eyed INTP easily spots inconsistencies and solves problems. They thrive on exploring and explaining how the world works.
Creative thinkers, INTPs uncover new information and explore unconventional methods. INTPs are often able to spot ways to improve on already brilliant solutions. Drawn to theories and insight, INTPs seek first to understand and then to explain, in often charming and witty ways.
The INTP’s shadow might cause them to become uncharacteristically direct and short-tempered, even aggressive. INTPs could find themselves running low on patience and forgiveness, something they usually give freely.
They are likely to experience doubt and blame of self and others, and feel constantly judged. As a result, they might jump to conclusions and seek to control those around them. Influenced by their shadow, INTPs may even engage in risky and impulsive behaviors, or become physically confrontational.
INTP Guiding Light:
My power is to design, and from sharp observation I build success.
INFJs feel a deep connection with others, and easily express compassion and empathy to any who need it. They use intuitive insights and sensitivities to resolve complex issues and dilemmas — for themselves and those they wish to help.
When problems arise, this “counselor personality” will step in to the suffering, see the core of the problem, attempt to heal division, and broker peace. Inward-grounded but outward-aware, INFJs thrive on helping and guiding others.
When their shadow dominates, INFJs may lose faith in their intuitive knowledge and abilities, and instead rely on external confirmation. Overwhelmed and out of balance, their inner voice becomes loud with doubt, guilt, and harsh criticism.
INFJs might begin to judge themselves and others severely for their mistakes, and attempt to uncharacteristically control people through intimidation and manipulation. More readily defensive, INFJs are likely to become untrusting and push people away, which can sometimes lead to the infamous INFJ door slam. Already inclined to ruminate, now thoughts turn to pain and trauma from the past.
INFJ Guiding Light:
My power is to connect, and I trust my intuition to guide me.
Passionate and sensitive, INFPs display a warmth and tenderness that makes them easy to connect with. INFPs often strive to do the right thing and avoid causing harm at all costs. They care deeply about matters close to their heart, and help others articulate their own values. Firm in their belief about the importance of potential and personal growth, INFPs stand ready with words of encouragement or material support.
Seeking wholeness, INFPs see possibility in the world around them. They are naturally creative, and find expression through art, writing, music, and more. They have a strong sense of self and strive to heal conflict.
Under the spell of their shadow, INFPs might rely too much on others’ opinions and even feel like they have lost their identity — something usually so easily accessible to them. In this confusion, they begin to grasp at sudden (and perhaps mistaken) realizations and judgments against others.
Their shadow could lead INFPs to feel suspicious and alienated, and toward passive-aggressive or conflict-provoking behavior, which runs counter to their gentle, warm nature. They might find themselves speaking harshly, saying extremely hurtful and critical things.