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PSTD in INFJ Women After Sexual Assault

Several readers have asked whether INFJ women are more prone than other Myers-Briggs types to getting PTSD after sexual assault. The readers have themselves been victims of rape. I’d never considered this idea before, but I think they’re onto something.

In my opinion, INFJs tend to have stronger emotional reactions to events than other types. Sexual assault is a particularly damaging experience and PTSD is common among rape victims. Many suffer for months, years or even a lifetime.

Role of Myers Briggs Preferences

The combination of I, N, F and J functions in INFJs sets the stage for PTSD.

1)    Introversion causes them to isolate after an assault—the last thing a rape victim needs to do. Rape victims must have support and protection but they’re afraid to seek it.

2)    Intuition prompts INFJs to seek meaning in personal situations. In most cases of rape, this is a fruitless exercise because rapists are hostile to women in general, not one woman in particular. Most rapists have assaulted women before and they’ll do it again unless stopped by the legal system.

3)    The feeling function of INFJs often prevents them from taking an objective view of events—an admittedly difficult undertaking in cases of rape. It’s a highly personal crime.

4)    The judging function disposes INFJs to seek closure on issues. After rape, a woman wants to be vindicated and have the attacker brought to justice. This seldom comes about, and as a result there is no closure.

My Experience

On a business trip to St. Augustine, Florida, I stayed at a Holiday Inn. After working all day, I wanted to relax before retiring to my room so I went to the lounge for a gin and tonic. (I was still drinking alcohol at the time.) A hotel security guard in his fifties sat next to me at the bar. He struck up a conversation. I stayed for a second drink and then a third. Before finishing my last drink, I said, “I need to turn in. I have a busy day tomorrow.”

The guard said, “Let me escort you to your room.” I thought that at my age I hardly needed an escort—but he was, after all, a security guard. Being more polite than I am now, I consented. Gallantly he offered to carry my drink, walking behind me in the hall.

After dropping my keycard into the slot and pushing the door open, I turned to take my drink from the guard. Without warning he kissed me. Surprised and confused, I laughed nervously and said goodnight. I went into my room, shutting the door behind me, took my clothes off and got into bed.

After sleeping a short time, I heard the doorknob turning. The guard had used his passkey to enter. He walked to the bed without a word, climbed on top of me, raped me, and left. I lay there groggy and confused. The attack seemed unreal. Strangely, I fell asleep again—a fact that amazes me to this day. I think the guard may have slipped a date-rape drug in my drink while walking behind me in the hallway.

Waking at dawn I felt foggy but knew that something was terribly wrong. I ran my hands over my body and felt grease on my thighs. It looked like suntan lotion. Slowly the hazy events of the night before came back.

Feeling surreal, I threw on some clothes and walked on the beach for an hour, trying to figure out what to do. I decided to report the attack to the Holiday Inn manager. This was a mistake. It gave the manager time to cover the hotel’s tracks and alert corporate lawyers. Then I went to the police. That wasn’t much better.

Back home in Gainesville, I spent the next few weeks isolating myself, fearful and depressed. I was ill, throwing up frequently and suffering migraines. I seldom left the house, never answered the door, and rarely picked up the phone. The least noise made me jump. Finally I called a friend and told her what happened. She put me in touch with the Gainesville Rape Victim Crisis Center. They told me I had acute PTSD.

For six weeks, I attended a support group at the Crisis Center. The four other women in the group had stories as bad or worse than mine. One woman had been raped by an orderly while on a hospital gurney in an elevator. He stopped between floors to assault her, then begged her not to tell anyone because he had a wife and family. He almost persuaded her.

Reader Responses

One reader responded: “I also suffer from acute PTSD. I was curious if you were aware of your personality type before your traumatic events. I am trying to see if the PTSD changed my personality or if I have just become more self-aware and mature. I never thought about my INFJ traits compounding my PTSD.” Referring to her chronic stress syndrome, she added, “In my condition, just saying ‘hello’ or working up the courage to go outside alone again have been almost insurmountable obstacles.”

Another INFJ woman wrote, “Is there anyone out there with suggestions about how an INFJ can possibly deal with a violent assault on top of the issues assigned to us as INFJs?”

My own experience with rape makes me think that I might have recovered from my PTSD faster had I been a different Myers-Briggs type. The combination of introversion, the introspection that goes with intuitiveness, and the tendency to react to situations emotionally probably made matters more difficult. Support groups helped me deal with the trauma. I needed to recognize that I did not invite the attack. I was simply walking through someone’s gunsights.

I’m still susceptible to triggers that catch me unawares. A couple of years ago, a male acquaintance came to my house uninvited. I met him in the front yard. At least, I had the sense not to invite him in. As we were standing on the lawn, he put his arms around me. I went into my old mode of getting confused and laughing nervously. I asked him to leave because I had things to do in the house.

PTSD Symptoms

For the rest of the day, I tried to avoid dwelling on the situation. I went to dinner with a friend that night. Returning home around 9 pm, I felt a migraine starting. Then I got nauseated and threw up several times. I thought I might have food poisoning. I finally realized that my old PTSD was back, triggered by the man’s advances.

Although my symptoms were gone the next day, I was dismayed that I’d learned so little from the rape a few years earlier. I decided to see a therapist. After several sessions, I’d gained more insight into my PTSD. I could see that my defenses still needed work.

Recovery

My therapist taught me to turn my rational brain off and my primitive brain on when a man violates my boundaries. It’s important to defend myself without analyzing the situation. (I tend to overthink troubling issues.)

Fortunately, I’ve had chances to practice. Predatory men aren’t hard to find. Now, when a man puts his hands on me and makes me uncomfortable, I no longer laugh nervously or get confused. I take a deep breath and say, “Please don’t touch me.” Of course, this usually triggers a dismayed protest of innocence. Predators can be good actors. All I need to say in response is, “You heard me.” He rarely comes back for seconds.

Getting Support

Women who have been raped need support—particularly the support of other women who have undergone sexual assault. They need to realize that they are not to blame. Most of all, they need to claim their personal power and become more assertive.

As females past our teen years, we are not children. We are women with a right to be strong and free.

(Note: I haven’t written about teenage girls because it’s outside the range of my personal experience, both as a female victim and as a mental health counselor. I am convinced, however, that rape is unusually devastating for these young women. They fear exposure, shame, and the risk that people won’t believe them.)

INFJ Meets ENTJ

INFJs and ENTJs are on the same wavelength in many ways. They enjoy spending time together and sharing creative, stimulating conversations. Superficial topics bore them. Both have excellent intuition and can size people up accurately on short acquaintance. They share the ability to comprehend complex situations that baffle others.

ENTJTraitsWhile the two types can become close friends, INFJs should be mindful of the ENTJ’s rough edges. This type can be blunt, with little tolerance for mistakes. Sometimes their tempers flare because they don’t recognize the effect on others. As the ENTJ’s friend you may take offense at some of his or her remarks. Refusing to engage in an argument is the most effective way to deal with this.ENTJTraits

ENTJs have a high regard for their own positions. INFJs must be the ones to establish limits in the relationship, firmly but tactfully setting their boundaries. Most ENTJs have sharp enough intuition to recognize the need for tact if they want to keep the INFJ’s friendship.

Because ENTJs can be so intimidating, many people hesitate to be open and honest with them. This deprives ENTJs of important information. Surprisingly, they respond best to those who stand up to them quietly but firmly. ENTJs have little regard for people they can push around. Eventually, most friends and co-workers learn that the ENTJ’s bark is worse than his or her bite.

While ENTJs may seem like pillars of strength, most have a sentimental side that they try to conceal. They believe that emotional displays are a sign of weakness. When ENTJs are sad or worried, they seldom talk about it. Sensitive INFJs can usually pick up on their troubled feelings and offer compassion while not intruding with solutions.

The major difference between INFJs and ENTJs lies in their need to influence or control others. INFJs lack the ENTJ’s leadership drive. In a work setting this need not be a liability, because the INFJ is comfortable letting the ENTJ take charge as long as the two parties agree on objectives. INFJs don’t have the same ego investment in running the show. They like credit if it’s due, but they won’t ask for more than their share. At home, the issue of control may become troublesome. The INFJ is likely to tire of the ENTJ’s tendency to micromanage and, when things don’t go as planned, to lose his or her temper.

Falling in Love

ENTJs are usually drawn to attractive partners. This preference is a reflection of their high standards. Most ENTJ men prefer beautiful women and most ENTJ women like handsome, confident men. To get along with an ENTJ in a relationship, an INFJ needs a well-developed sense of self. It helps to have a sense of humor.

If you’re an INFJ man, you may find ENTJ women intimidating. They are hard for many men to accept. In fact, women of this personality type can be quite nurturing and caring. Their femininity isn’t expressed in traditional ways. When their confrontational style surfaces, the most effective way to avoid conflict is to deflect arguments with humor and good will.

The partners of ENTJs will find themselves on their own much of the time. An INFJ shouldn’t expect to take top priority in the partnership. While it may seem possible at first, it won’t last. The INFJ will be expected to fit into the partner’s ambitions. Some of the INFJ’s intimacy needs will have to be met by family and friends. Otherwise, the INFJ is likely to feel emotionally short-changed.

ENTJs tend to see their partners as extensions of themselves–as supportive characters in their life scripts. They expect them to honor their commitments and respect the ENTJ’s need for autonomy. Failure to do so will make the ENTJ angry.

Family Life

ENTJs and INFJs share a love of family life. They invest themselves fully in their children, see that they get a good education, and emphasize responsible behavior. As conscientious parents, they make sure their children do their homework and sign up for extracurricular activities.

Friction can arise between the parents when the ENTJ parent takes charge too much. ENTJs prefer a domestic autocracy, with them at the head. An INFJ entering a long-term relationship with an ENTJ, including plans for marriage and children, should have a strong self-image and be able to set clear boundaries.

An ENTJ’s family can expect to have their playtime and vacations structured. The children won’t be encouraged to lie on the beach doing nothing. ENTJs don’t approve of pursuits that have no goal. In their view, leisure activities should be productive. Not only that, it’s preferable that they be scheduled. INFJ partners are likely to share this view to some extent, but they’re less intense about it.

Work

ENTJs are career-focused and fit well into corporate life. They’re quick to solve problems and have an uncanny sense of where business decisions will lead. They aspire to leadership roles and enjoy competition.

INFJs share the ENTJ’s gifts of highly developed intuition and creativity, but they aren’t interested in the power needed to run things. Because they find conflict unpleasant, it’s hard for them to be forceful. Also, they treasure their private time too much to participate fully in the social aspects of business.

In business settings, the two types complement each other. INFJs make good advisors to ENTJs. INFJs have the social sensitivity needed to help ENTJs avoid problems in the workplace that might result from heavy-handed decisions. They can express their hesitation about the wisdom of an ENTJ’s decision and have their opinions respected. By complementing the ENTJ in this way, the INFJ acts as an effective buffer.

Famous Examples

thatcherroosevelt-3Eleanor Roosevelt, an INFJ and the wife of U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was a renowned humanitarian and U.S. Peace Ambassador. Margaret Thatcher, an ENTJ, was the first female Prime Minister of Great Britain.

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