ENFPs & Stress – Advice For The ENFPs DARK SIDE
When you’re under extreme levels of stress, you’re not going to be aware of this happening…
Us ENFPs are kind of like the Irish of personality types.
We’re pretty happy-go-lucky, we take some risk, we’re always friendly, and open to meeting new people.
But what happens when things take a turn for the worst?
In this post I want to talk about the ENFP shadow side. This is not so much the dark side like the evil side of us, but it’s what happens to ENFPs when we’re under extreme levels of stress.
And why this is so important to know is when you are under extreme levels of stress, you’re not going to be aware of this happening, so it’s a really important topic.
How Did I Discover The ENFP Dark Side?
I first discovered this many years ago when I’d been through a business failure which left me super broke and obviously that created a lot of stress. Fortunately, I was invited to join a startup as, basically, the vice president of marketing, which was awesome.
We were working as a group and a few of the people in this startup were friends of mine, people I really respected and trusted. As we were negotiating and talking about the contracts and who would get what, what I found was that I was getting very argumentative, that I was attacking people, that I was not myself. And you know, maybe on the other side as ENFPs we can be sometimes too open, too trusting to people, too go-with-the-flow, but this was the polar opposite and not in a good way.
I found myself feeling very paranoid, almost attacking people, like:
“No, this guy is trying to screw me, he’s coming up with a plan!” or this sort of stuff and that wasn’t cool.
We were in this meeting and I caught myself, I realized I wasn’t myself. I did some reading and research and at some point I came along this concept of the shadow personality. So in Myers-Briggs this means that under extreme levels of stress we can take on the traits of our opposite personality and, generally, only the negative traits.
So as an ENFP you become like an ISTJ. But you don’t become good parts of an ISTJ, you take on the bad parts. In my case the way this looked was being very pedantic, attacking details, going after little things that normally I wouldn’t care about at all, being paranoid, being critical, seeing the worst in people when normally I see the best in them, being very protectionist, wanting to just look for myself, not thinking about anyone else, and it leads us down this path.
Unfortunately – and if you’ve watched some of my videos about this, you know how important I think it is – often we start with emotions and then we get our thoughts. So if we’re feeling really paranoid or judgemental or critical because we’re under huge levels of stress and we’ve adopted this shadow personality, what ends up happening is we create justifications. It’s really easy to think of someone in your life and think:
“Oh no, they’re trying to screw me, they’re out to get me!”
And if you look for that, you can always find reasons. It’s very easy to look at a friend and if you’re very critical, you’re like: “That guy never pays for lunch!” or they do this, or they do that, and find the worst in them, right?
And of course, if you then accuse someone of that, what are they going to say?
You’re going to bring out even worse qualities in them. You’re going to make people standoffish. It’s a really quick path to self-destruction.
And I think in that business meeting, had I not caught myself, I would’ve ruined some friendships, one of which is a really important friendship to me and that would’ve sucked.
So in my case, going back to the story, what happened was I realized that I wasn’t in my own head, I wasn’t right in the head, let’s say. And I told the group:
“Guys, I love this company, I care about you, but I can’t be a part of it, I need to realign myself.”
De-stress, basically. Dan needs to take a vacation.
And actually, fairly soon after I did move to Costa Rica and got my head on straight – and my freelance business that I was doing on the side at the same time blew up.
What To Do To Defeat The ENFP Dark Side
You might find yourself in this state and if you do, here’s a hint:
You’ve got to relax. You’ve got to take time away from the stressor and that can be maybe taking a day, or a weekend, or a week off work.
Maybe it’s going to a spa, doing a little vacation, maybe it’s even in the day – if you’re really stretched for time – take a night, watch your favourite movie, drink a glass of expensive wine (and by glass I mean bottle) and reset yourself a bit. When you’re in this heavy stress situation, whether you’re an ENFP or anyone else, you can’t think straight and you’re not going to be operating at your best.
The other thing to keep in mind with this is you’re not the only one who gets distressful spots in life. So are there people in your life you’ve noticed are not being themselves, they’re really out of whack? Maybe instead of judging them, instead of attacking them or criticizing them, think of:
Are they under heavy stress, are they out of their element and, if they are, how can you help them get back to themselves? Usually, if we have a friend who sort of helps us see what’s up with ourselves, we realize: “Yeah, something’s off. I need to take a vacation or get back to who I am.”
So that’s the extreme of stress and in my case it was prolonged stress. You’re probably not going to experience this shadow personality coming out if you just have a stressful afternoon or something like that.
Keep in mind when I’m talking about stress here I’m talking about negative stress. There’s very positive stress: When you’re exercising, when you’re learning something new, when you’re challenged, you go rock-climbing – you feel kind of stressed, but it’s good stress.
I’m talking about the negative stress, the stress that tends to be 24 hours a day.
In my case it was financial, it was trying to start a new freelancing business and at the same time having a startup business I was involved in – all the while being broke and not knowing how I’ll pay my rent month-to-month. That caused a lot of ongoing stress which really takes you out of your element.
Know and Meet Your ENFP Needs
So in case of ENFPs, there are other things that can come up that might take you out of your element or you just find yourself not really flourishing as yourself and I want to touch on those a little bit here as well.
Generally, as ENFPs, there are certain things we do very well (check the links below where I talk about more about the perks of being an ENFP).
We love to be around people, we do like to get attention sometimes, and we like to help other people as well. I think a very common ENFP trait is we care about the greater good and, if there’s someone we can help, we want to help them – we want to inspire them, motivate them or help them out in some way we can – and that’s awesome.
We also tend to be fairly creative people, we like to be learning, to be challenged, to be doing new things and if you find yourself feeling really off, there’s a good chance that one of these things is true:
Either you’re not meeting these needs at all, meaning you’re in a routine and you’re doing the same thing over and over and you’re not meeting that need for novelty (another video that I’ll link here is the one about human needs psychology – which is different than what I’m talking about here, but it’s quite related), or maybe you’re not spending enough time with people.
I know for myself if I start to feel off, I usually think:
“Alright, it’s been two or three days since I’ve been out with my friends.”
And in my case it can be more challenging because I often work from home. Now I have a great community here in Prague, but for a few years I was travelling and always to new places, so I could go two or three days with just talking to baristas at coffee shops or something, but not with real friends.
You’ve got to pay attention to that.
Are there things you’re missing out – that human contact, that need for novelty, are you not being challenged, are you not getting to use some of your strengths?
If that goes on for too long, you’re going to find yourself really feeling off and you might start to feel some of these shadow traits coming out: Being very critical of others, being very negative, or pedantic – you’ll find that happening.
The other side that can happen, which might be more rare is if you’re doing too much of that. I know, I know – do too little, do too much, it’s very complicated, right?
But if you’re always pursuing that novelty – let’s say you have an ENFP and they’re going out every day, always meeting new people, travelling all the time, you’ll probably find – and you’ve probably noticed this about yourself is that you need a day off where you’re like:
“I can’t go out, I want to sit home and play Xbox or binge watch some Netflix.”
Or something like that because you’re having too much of that novelty or that social interaction.
There are reasons behind that. As ENFPs we tend to care more in social situations, we like to make people laugh and we’re always aware of the people around us. That drains more energy than just sort of standing there like a wallflower, right?
So a couple of nights a week going out, we feel amazing.
Seven nights a week? We probably start to feel pretty drained and that can lead into this feeling of stress and going down that rabbit hole as well.
So probably if you’re feeling very off, first ask yourself:
Are there some really big life stressors going on?
Have I been continuously stressed about money, about divorce, breakup, about housing, whatever that is?
Do I have that stress?
Often if we look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it will be focused on the lower needs: Housing, income, family, these sorts of things – that stress that’s ongoing really beats us up inside. So look for that. If you have stress there, obviously try to deal with it, but I know sometimes it can’t be instantly dealt with. When I was going through a business failure, it’s not like: “Oh, I’ll just make a million dollars today and that stress will go away”, right?
So if you have a stress element in your life, something creating ongoing stress – it could be money, it could be a breakup, whatever that is, then I would suggest intentionally setting something up every day to de-stress. It could be a run, could be a swim, could be some yoga, it could be… wine might not be the best route to go down long term…but could be some wine, could be watching a favorite comedy movie – actually, watching a movie you’ve already seen before can be really de-stressing and good for the soul, so watch your favorite movie again, spend time with friends, family, support group, these things in the short term can help counter out that stressor and get you feeling right.
On the other hand, if you’re not having this ongoing stress happening, but you’re feeling off, think about what you might be doing with your needs. Are you spending enough time with people, are you spending too much time with people and these other things I talked about above.
I’m surprised I haven’t made content about this up to now because in my own life it was a really big insight and it served me well.
Fortunately, I don’t think I’ve fallen into that shadow state for at least a couple of years now, but I’m always aware of it when I feel myself maybe getting overstressed and overpushed and finding a way to bring back to normal or exceptional even.
Have you ever felt yourself slipping into your dark or shadow side?
How was it? How did you go out of it?
Please share in the comments.