Takes 2 to Tango – The INFJ and the Narcissist

INFJs are extremely sensitive and empathetic, and so it shouldn’t be a surprise that energy-sucking vampire (ESV) personalities are attracted to INJFs, who also have a great need to help people. Possibly the worst sort of ESV is the narcissist, and INFJs find themselves entangled in various sorts of relationships with them, from personal to work-related. These relationships are devastating for the INFJ, and simply sport for the ESV, and can take a long time to heal from once the INFJ has extricated themselves from the toxic relationship.

For a great description of why ESVs target INFJs, head over to Introvert, Dear’s post on the topic. However, this post isn’t about WHY we become targets of narcissists, or HOW it happens, but is about my personal interactions with them, and how each one I’ve encountered has changed my life. In general, I am stronger for having survived each encounter, and I’ve gotten better about identifying them earlier, listening to my extremely strong intuition, and getting the hell out of Dodge before they can sink their meaty little energy hooks into me too far.

Most of my ESV experiences have been work related, specifically they’ve shown up as my direct managers, which causes a special kind of trauma. I’ve also had my share of significant others who, in their own way, were ESVs, but for now let’s focus on the ESV managers I’ve endured (and left).

Your direct manager holds a specific place in your life because they and they alone can help or hinder your career, your satisfaction in your daily life, your earnings potential, and potential for advancement. Now, if you have a human manager, and not an ESV, this relationship can be symbiotic and mutually beneficial. You do your best, and they look good to their manager, and they support and affirm you and make sure you don’t have institutional roadblocks hindering your progress. There are annual review cycles to determine “performance” and set pay rates for the coming year, etc, as well as the more common “check-ins” to see how you’re doing and see if you need anything. This is what happens in normaltown. In crazytown, an ESV is mayor, and their whole goal in life is to suck the life energy out of everything that moves, and some things that don’t.

So, if you’re lucky enough to get an ESV as a direct manager, not only can your daily routine turn into a daily gauntlet through hot coals and gelatinous cubes, but it’s always in the back of your mind that this asshole has a say over your pay, your job title, position in the company, your raise, etc. In effect, they have their squirmy little ESV thumb on your livelihood, which is just not ok. Normally with an ESV, your best plan of action is to get the hell away from them because they are literally beyond help. They WILL NOT change, because as far as they are concerned, they are awesome. They are the best thing since… since fucking ever. Except they’re just piddly little ESV MFers, really. But I diverge. But if the ESV is your direct manager, you can’t “just” get away from them unless you do something drastic like quite (which I have done in spectacular fashion). So the anxiety builds and builds, and can only be fixed by getting away from the ESV.

There are a lot of resources out there that tell you “how to deal with workplace bullies”, etc, and a lot of the advice starts with normaltown suggestions like “talk to the individual”, “explain how you feel”, or even “bring in HR”. In crazytown, none of that crap is going to work because they can’t be convinced that they are wrong in any way, they don’t care how you feel, and as if the Universe wanted to put a cherry on top of this, the narcissist often appears very charming and likeable to the uninitiated (and non-intuitive). So brining in HR, or even your officemate, might backfire because you are calling wolf on the charming and likeable so-and-so. This persona is part of the ESV’s tactic to isolate you and make you think you’re crazy, which is also called gaslighting.

Ok, so you can’t reason with them, they don’t care how you feel, and everyone around you thinks they’re great (cause they don’t know Mr. Hyde hiding behind the mask). Your only option is to get out from under them as a direct-report, so either they move or you move, and either you move internally or you just leave the company. In my case, my first ESV manager eventually moved out of my direct management path; however, because he’s an ESV, he maintained enough influence over my work, that I eventually left the company because I felt like he was continuing to block me in the directions I wanted to go. He was a passive-aggressive ESV. I had been at this company for more than a decade, and would have stayed forever I think if it had not been for this one individual.

However, leaving this company started a series of bad-to-worse experiences that saw me leave 4 more ESVs in just 3 years. Changing jobs is stressful, even when it’s a great move. Changing jobs to get away from an ESV only to find yourself under an even nastier ESV, is beyond stressful, especially for the ever sensitive and empathic INFJ. So began my journey through one crazytown after another. The next ESV I encountered didn’t have the luxury of a charming and likable facade. Everyone despised him. And yet, as is corporate culture, he was the manager for about a dozen people and had direct influence over another hundred or so. I was unhappy again, but my next leap took me from crazytown to bat-shit-psycho-town.

This town, BSPT for short, was insular, headed by a king of one, answerable to no one. HR? Ha! Nope. Checks and balances? Nope. Nothing but pure unchecked narcissism at the helm of a small company (kept small because of a continuous turnover of unsuspecting souls). I ignored my intuition, and paid for it, landing in a situation that virtually destroyed me, and even before I had my next offer I resigned in spectacular fashion, eviscerating this king of one using one of the sharpest traits of the INFJ, which is the ability to target criticism for someone that is specifically tailored to inflict maximum psychological damage, which we usually do right before the Door Slam. See, even though ESVs don’t give a shit about you or your feelings, they DO care about being criticized, a LOT, and especially if that criticism is leveled at them in a public forum where they have no chance of defending themselves or going on the counter-attack against you. This was my weapon of choice for the king of BSPT.

My next ESV was more the passive-aggressive type again, but had the charming/likable facade down pat, and had spent more than a decade cultivating it internally within the company. But, there were chinks in the armor, as I would learn, and others had a non-favorable opinion of him, which I only learned once I was experiencing the negative side-effects of working for an ESV. Well, again, my departure from this ESV was not as dramatic as it was from BSPT, but was even more damaging to the ESV, causing a huge crack in his facade, and bringing about a serious structural change with regard to others who were “under” him.

My last ESV was the shortest-lived because this time I did not wait for the red flags to pile up or get worse (or get better). I bailed at the first hint of ESV behavior, but again, on my departure I made sure to leave my truth-bomb hanging in the air, to what effect I am not sure, but I was not going to waste any more seconds of my life with ESVs.

Now I have a great manager, who is definitely not an ESV personality type, and I sincerely hope I can avoid these types in the future, but if I encounter them again, I know at this point in my life, I just don’t have the patience for them anymore, and I will likely expel them long before a Door Slam is even possible.

That’s my story. I hope it helps someone out there if they are going through something similar, to at least know that there is light on the other side of the ESV. But be prepared for the situation where you have to eject that MF out of your life in spectacular fashion if you don’t take steps NOW to move gently away from them. Whether gently or spectacularly, either way, one day you will be rid of your ESV.

Yours,

Flurginmaster

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