Can Trauma Change Your Personality?

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hile procrastinating some writing projects on a lazy (read: self-care) Sunday afternoon, I decided to look up a Myers Briggs test I could take online and see if I still tested as my former type. Every time I’ve ever taken the MBTI, I am an INFJ.

About the INFJ

I have always had trouble balancing taking care of myself with taking care of others, and that ends in burnout and pain and allowing others to take advantage of me.

The INFJ is also called “The Advocate” personality type and is said to be quite rare, less than 1% of the population. Driven by morality, INFJs tend to be goal-oriented and make a positive impact on their communities. They seek out work in advocacy, charity, and rescue. They are soft-spoken but have tenacity behind their core beliefs and opinions (they are honey badgers that will fight you for hurting someone).

INFJs are sometimes assumed to be extroverts because of their connection with other people. But people are exhausting and the INFJ needs to decompress and take care of themselves between supporting other people.

This is where I have always been short — I have always had trouble balancing taking care of myself with taking care of others, and that ends in burnout and pain and allowing others to take advantage of me. The INFJ expects the favor of emotional labor to be returned to them, and I haven’t been the best at communicating that expectation.

The reason I sought out to explore my MBTI type again on this lazy Sunday was because I wondered if being so far removed from my trauma and abuse would have changed aspects of my personality.

Knowing that INFJ was rare and special and was going to change the world, I always held tight to my identity as an INFJ. In fact, whenever I had taken the MBTI, I noted that my I, N, and F scores were usually fairly middle of the road but obviously leaned one way while my J score was 100% all of the J.

So I was profoundly stunned when I took the test and my result was INFP.

About the INFP

INFPs explore their place in the world by projecting themselves into their creative works.

INFPs are also known as “Mediator” types and “always look for the hint of good in even the worst of people and events, searching for ways to make things better.” They may be perceived as reserved or shy but have inner passion that drives them. Similar to INFJs, INFPs are rare, making up 4% of the population. (Phew, I’m still special).

INFPs are guided by principles over logic, excitement and practicality. They tend to be fascinated by fantasy worlds and symbolism/metaphor. They are wordsmiths: poets, writers, actors. They explore their place in the world by projecting themselves into their creative works.

They can become easily overwhelmed when they spread too thin by focusing their attention on too many causes and people, and their friends typically come to rely on them.

Prospecting vs. Judging — What’s the difference?

If I adhered to strict routine and rules at home, I was less at risk of abusive behavior.

The difference between J and P is how you take in information and make decisions. According to myersbriggs.org, Judging personalities prefer a structured and decided lifestyle, while Perceiving personalities prefer flexibility and adaptability. “This preference may also be thought of as your orientation to the outer world.”

My theory about my own personality is that my Judging score was a trauma response and a function of neurotypical masking.

If I adhered to strict routine and rules at home, I was less at risk of abusive behavior. I was safe. Maintain a chore schedule, meal prep schedule, lunch packing schedule, all was fine. If I interrupted the routine by asking for help or not being able to perform at the established level, punishment.

I no longer hold myself to impossible standards for the sake of my safety and to feel valued as a human being. When I left my abuser, I left impossible standards too. I’m still learning and it’s still a process, but I am getting better at boundaries, saying no, and cultivating a life of people who truly value me for what I offer without demanding I give them everything I have.

The P lets me cancel plans because I’m out of energy. The P lets me say “Let me get back to you.” The P lets me not feel bad about not always having a productive day at work. The P lets me ignore people’s subtext because if you’re not going to tell me straight, I’m not spending my own energy trying to figure out what you want me to pick up from your obscure hints.

INFP it is. Autistic, queer, chronically ill INFP.

Prone to sudden bursts of encouragement. They/them. Queer, autistic author of bit.ly/GaslightingMillennials

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