The complications of being an HSP are already pretty demanding, but what if you added the personality type of INFJ to your identity? Yes, if you consider rare personality types as another layer of complexity. Well, actually, INFJ type is probably more common in HSPs than they would be, say in the general population.
Many of the INFJ attributes are overlapping with common HSM characteristics, so it’s possible that it really doesn’t add too much more complexity, but if you factor in the rarity of this personality – around 1-3 % percent of the world population, it is likely to be even a small subset of HSPs in the world. In males, it’s even rarer with only 1% of all males presenting as INFJ and I would guess that all of them are HSMs. So what exactly is an INFJ?
Carl Jung defined certain personality types as part of his body of work, largely based on cognitive function and style. From that seminal work psychologists Isabel Myers and Katherine Briggs further developed an instrument for testing personality typology, called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
The focus is on sixteen different personality types composed of four major indicators: Extroversion/Introversion, Sensing/Intuition, Thinking/Feeling and Judgment/Perception. Each of the four elements reflects a particular style of dealing with the world, for example: Extroversion is outwardly energetic, while Introversion is inwardly energetic, the same would be true for Sensing (fact based) versus Intuition (insight). Another dichotomy would Thinking (cognitive logic) or Feeling (values and emotion), and finally the plan of attack, Judgment (structure, plan) and Perception (flow guided).
The combination of the four elements produces sixteen basic personality types, each with its own style and process for interacting with the world. If you think about this, our personality develops as we age and serves as an outward mask we present to the world. It’s hardly static and highly interactive.
If you have been following the blog for the last six months, you should be getting a pretty good handle on the HSP personality type and in particular the HSM or male version of HSP. What is interesting as of late is there has been a lot of attention on the Introvert personality type, such as in Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. What is not being talked about as much but will be, I believe, is the overlap in the HSP personality type and the Introvert personality. In fact, about seventy percent of HSPs are Introverts. What percent HSPs make of Introverts as a whole, is still unclear.
But, back to our original proposal about the combination of being HSP and being INFJ and the uniqueness of being twenty per cent of the population on one attribute and being one per cent of the population on the other. We’re talking rare air here.Let’s delve a little deeper in to the INFJ personality type.
INFJ’s are indeed rare individuals. They exhibit many of the characteristics of HSPs. They are intuition dominant, relying a great deal on this subconscious process for assessing the world. They tend to see things in patterns, big pictures, and symbolic meaning. The live largely in the abstract, are quite independent, enjoy working behind the scenes and are very private individuals. Ironically, they can seem to be extroverted and animated when engaged in passionate dialogue about something they care about and can even sport a personal charisma that is arresting, if not a bit off type.
They love to work in environments that are harmonious and if put in chaotic and hectic situations, can withdraw due to overwhelm. They have keen insight in problem solving, even though they are less rational in their thinking and rely heavily on their feelings and intuition.
Emotion, gut feel and internal sensing play a big role in how they interact with the world. There is often a strict perfectionism about them, that can seem almost snobbish as they survey their footprint in the world, conscientiousness on steroids. They are easily hurt by what they may seem is an indifferent world, which may not have time for their grandiose visions and emotionally intuitive problem solving methodology.
You can easily see why artists, creative types, activists, healers and spiritually inclined folk would be represented in this group. In part, the same types you see in HSPs. HSPs tend to be represented well in the MBTI areas that feature Introversion, Feeling and Intuition (INFJ, INFP, INTJ, INTP).
INFJ’s are caring, imaginative people. Some examples of INFJs are Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Florence Nightingale, Shirley MacLaine, Jimmy Carter and even Carl Jung. A great crowd to be running with, but INFJs have some negative baggage, too.
INFJ’s have the highest marital dissatisfaction ratings of any of the personality types, go figure. Under stress, they can act very impulsively, even destructively, make decisions without thinking or evaluating consequences. They can be hypercritical of others, finding fault everywhere and display an OCD like obsession with meaningless details. At times, INFJs can go against their own moral code and break rules, become very selfish, and display a shadow self that is really not their core values. Again, like most HSPs the INFJ needs downtime to reevaluate, re-energize and decompress.
Now does being an HSM magnify the INFJ traits, if you are both? If being an HSM is as much a physiological based (Sensory Processing Sensitivity) personality type as INFJ is a cognitive personality type, then it would seem logical that being an HSM would amplify, through heightened sensitivity, the traits inherent in being an INFJ. Of course, if all INFJs are in fact, HSPs, then there would be no other option. And I wonder if that is not a valid assumption.
Perhaps, I’m wildly speculating here about the mix, since both personality types are small populations, but not all HSPs are INFJs. Certainly too, not all HSMs are INFJs, so at the end of the day, I think when you do see this combination, you have a rare cross breeding of personality types that can make life challenging, interesting and unique.
That fact that so few men are HSM/INFJ, means that interacting in an often unsympathetic world, which reacts to rare personality types in sometimes callous or harsh ways, you can see where the problems might arise for HSM/INFJs. My conclusion is not that the personality combo is bad or maladaptive; I think it might be more problematic because of its uniqueness. In the end, being understood is a key to happiness and for HSM/INFJs that is often a hard commodity to find.
Here are a few tips if you believe you may be an HSM that is also an INFJ:
Thanks for stopping by, until next week…
What makes film especially meaningful to Highly Sensitive Men? I think it starts with the idea that film is the most complete art form. It combines sound and sight, light and motion, emotion and feeling all into a neat package. It allows the viewer to become the omniscient observer with a dynamic viewpoint, giving us the opportunity to take both passive and active roles in the unfoldment of a story. It can inspire and uplift and allow us to vicariously experience living a fantasy through the characters, plot, and action. I mean, what’s not to like about that?
Films cover a panorama of emotion from sadness, to anger, love to loss, joy and fulfillment, horror and surprise. We respond as if the events were real, with engagement that hangs on the precipice of mutual experience with the characters. This is a great opportunity for naturally empathetic people to explore emotions within a safe and controlled environment. We respond to the sequence of images flashed upon the screen in story format and get lost, I dare say, hypnotized, by what our eyes and hears behold. It may be the greatest thing to happen to storytelling, since the campfire.
Watching movies does have a direct psychological effect on the viewer. Studies are showing that there are distinct physiological responses to plot points within the story. Whether its increased blood pressure or heart rate, tears or heavy breathing, we have all felt the visceral effects of being at the movies. Movies can have positive effects on the viewer from a cognitive standpoint. You may see something inspiring or moving and this reaction can contribute to positive feelings you may have towards yourself or others.
This phenomenon can be triggered by what scientists refer to as mirror neurons in the brain. These neurons help us to mirror the activities of others and can contribute largely to social cooperation and encourage empathy. This sounds exactly like something that highly sensitive people would be drawn to and that’s why I think HSPs in general, like myself, enjoy the movie experience. HSPs are thought to draw heavily on mirror neurons to create our great empathetic nature.
Now wrap this all around with an emotionally charged and moving soundtrack, and you have an experience unlike anything else in entertainment or education. Studies are showing the emotional effects of music in movies on the audience, which those of us enthusiastic movie fans, have known for years. A sound score carefully and artfully done can elevate a story and film to heights of emotional vibration that cements the experience for all viewers.
What’s really interesting about the score is that it often rides just below conscious awareness. We know it’s there, just like we know there’s someone sitting two rows down from us, but we don’t consciously care. A good score, I believe, affects and guides your subconscious more than you think. It charges and cues the emotion centers within, which ultimately can make a movie memorable or not.
What kind of movies do men prefer? Well, in word: action. Most men are looking for action, sex, and nudity. It all appears too much like the primal objective takes over for men in the movie house. Men like “real men” in the movies, doing real men stuff, which is often involved with blowing stuff up, driving fast cars, or bedding beautiful women. Although a couple of those sound interesting to me, they can’t hold my attention for two hours. Now as men mature, I would hope that at some point they would expand their horizons a bit, and start taking plot and characterization into account, but, perhaps, that’s asking too much.
As an HSP male, I find myself a little bit out on island. I like a good plot, a good story, good directing, writing and acting and in the end, something that moves the emotional meter. I just want to feel something from the movie. Relatability is key to me. And, I will add, I want to walk out of the theater thinking about the movie afterwards, over coffee, or dinner. Or even to be left speechless --like after watching 2001, A Space Odyssey, way back in the day. I don’t care about seeing a single car sacrificed, or a super hero demolish a city single handed, I just want the movie, to well, move me emotionally, viscerally and to create a lasting memory. I suspect most HSMs feel the same.
I don’t like trashing whole genres of film. Art is art, whatever form it takes, and I begrudgingly admit some great action movies have been made and yes, I enjoyed them. But, the corporate cookie cutter approach to film making which basically takes the Pavlovian approach, if a dog salivates at a bell, we are going to make movies about bells and bells only, doesn’t work for me. And there are many out there who agree, including producer, Stephen Simon (Somewhere in Time and What Dreams May Come), who has been an advocate for bringing back character and plot driven movies. See his website: http://theoldhollywood.com/ .
Another question is, are there HSMs in the movie industry? Of course, it’s an art form. HSMs are and can be sensitive artist types as we all well know. I would dare say that a majority of male actors in Hollywood, perhaps worldwide, are HSMs. I have no scientific proof of that but map the profile of being an HSM to being an actor, and well, it overlaps pretty nicely.
At least that applies to the really good actors, directors, et. al. (pardon my smugness here). I’m thinking of people like Robin Williams, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, George Lucas, Bruce Joel Rubin, and geez, I’m not even scratching the surface, but you can see what I mean. You can practically start rattling off names of prominent Hollywood males and derive your own list.
Are HSMs portrayed often in movies? Yes, but not nearly enough. Some of the best movies, the male protagonists have been to some extent, sensitive men. I’m thinking of movies like Forrest Gump, Dead Poets Society, Dances with Wolves, Field of Dreams, It’s a Wonderful Life, Good Will Hunting, and the list extends back into the history vaults at TCM.
What you often see in movies is the male character showing some sensitivity as a means for character growth, but often not explored deeply enough (as we HSMs would want). Hell, even John Wayne, played a sensitive character in The Quiet Man, but couldn’t get out of the movie without a half hour fist fight with his nemesis. I’m sure at the time; the male audience would have abandoned the theater if he didn’t start slugging away at some point.
I would be remiss, without mentioning something about violence in movies. HSPs in general, do not like watching violence. The more graphic, the worse effect it has on our systems. Over the years, I grew up with increasing violence in films. Long gone are the days, when a cowboy shot a bandit and there was no blood. The Sixties ushered in more graphic and gratuitous violence and the door has been open ever wider since.
I suppose there is some desensitization that occurs if one watches violent movies, but still, like cars blowing up, I don’t much care for seeing people blow up either. Maybe high sensation seeking HSMs find this appealing, but not me. We have enough in the real world; I don’t care to see it on my day off. I get that sometimes it’s important to the plot, but I think Hitchcock did it best, by suggesting, hinting at violence and letting the viewer’s imagination take over (okay, forget about The Birds).
I love the movies; I suspect many HSMs do as well. Here are some things; I think movies should do for the viewer:
Did you ever feel like an emotional junkie? Sometimes feeling like a slave to your own emotional patterns. Brain chemistry drives our emotions and the subsequent addiction to those brain chemicals can lead to repetitive and habitual behaviors that may be feeding a circle of “junk” behavior.
As we all know, HSPs commonly experience emotions in an intense way. We react to the stimulus and because of our deep processing mechanisms we reprocess and reprocess the emotion attempting to make sense of those feelings. The repetitiveness is what intensifies the emotional reaction. Within HSPs this leads us, at an unconscious level, to seek out more intense emotions, which may seem contrary to our need for moderation of emotional experiences.
What makes this happen? Emotions occur at the unconscious level and are driven by peptides released by the hypothalamus. These peptides proteins are then released into the body and attach to cells with corresponding receptors. When attached they produce a desired effect in the cell, which corresponds with a bodily function associated with that emotion. The process is largely unconscious, yet experienced and felt as feelings at the conscious level. The feelings may drive more of the same emotion, creating an addictive cycle of stimulation based on our experiences. In other words, the addiction drives the experience.
Of course, there are other brain chemicals involved, but the basic process lends itself to a model of possible addiction. It stands to reason that HSPs, more so than the general population, might be subject to this type of addiction because of their increased ability to experience sensory information and most importantly the ability to hyper-process that information.
In its simplest form it looks like this: 1) thoughts created in neurons, networked together, trigger, 2) a chemical release from the hypothalamus, peptides, which 3) release to the cells and attach at receptors on the cell creating 4) a visceral reaction, which is recognized 5) via consciousness resulting in a feeling. The emotion spoken of earlier is largely automatic and unconscious and driven by brain/body chemistry. The feeling is what we recognize consciously. It is simply emotion wrapped in thought.
Addictions by most definitions are largely automatic behaviors driven by unconscious emotion or memory or association. And the operative word here is repetition. This is why addiction is so difficult to treat and deal with consciously. The neural patterns are so reinforced that, they occur without thought. It is only when we recognize the pattern, that we can affect an interruption in the behavior.
Now how does all of this effect HSMs? Highly sensitive people are by definition people that experience sensations, feelings and emotions more intensely than the general population. Could it be that because of this ability that we as highly sensitives can become eventually more habituated or desensitized to emotion?
If the nature of emotion is largely addictive (perhaps, for survival purposes) than this addiction to emotion could lead to ever increasing need to experience more intense emotions to satisfy the addiction. The more highly charged the emotion, the more repetitive the emotion, the more likely the receiver cells will need to create more and more receptor sites to handle the incoming data; thus allowing the whole experience to grow more intense.
There is a sub group of HSPs that are sensation seekers. Sensation seekers tend to look for experiences that provide novel experiences, adventure and thrill seeking rushes, splashes into social activities that may be unconventional and are prone to boredom susceptibility. HSPs that are also sensation seekers may exhibit a less driven desire for over the top experiences, but nonetheless, need to break the monotony of HSP’s careful and cautious behavior.
Could this not include, seeking highly charged emotional sensations as a way of producing an affect high? This may be truer in HSMs, because of our cultural expectations for men, in general, to be more daring, bold and adventurous. We find ourselves taking the bait and falling into the trap of sensation seeking. Sometimes, we HSMs need not venture much further outside of our own craniums to get that rush experience. A good heartbreak can seem like bungee jumping.
Do HSPs therefore, fall in love more often and fall harder in love just for the adrenaline rush? Or do we moderate our emotions by smoothing out the intensity by avoidance, interrupting the process before intensity becomes too strong? In reverse could this lead to a state of emotional anorexia? Does being an HSP come with an automatic regulation system that prevents over-stimulation by shutting down input and requiring emotional time outs? If so, does that make us less likely to become subject to emotional addiction? Interesting to think about. Would like to hear your comments. We as a group could be emotional junkies and not even be fully consciously aware of that addiction.
To wrap up here are some thoughts on how to deal with high intensity emotions if you are an HSM:
Thanks for dropping by, until next week…
Bill Allen currently lives in Lutz, Florida. He previously lived in Bend, Oregon. He is a certified hypnotist and brain training coach at BrainPilots.com. He believes that male sensitivity is not so rare, but it can be confounding for most males living in a culture of masculine insensitivity which teaches boys and men to disconnect from their feelings and emotions. His intent is to use this blog to chronicle his personal journey and share with others.