ESFJ Under Stress

The Myers-Briggs type indicator is a testing system originally developed by Carl G. Jung that identifies what kind of personality a person may have. There are 16 personality types each with different variations of how people function and interact in their surroundings. A person who is an ESFJ is extroverted, senses rather than uses intuition, feels rather than thinks and judges rather than perceives.

These personality traits are how an ESFJ responds in normal circumstances. Under stress shadow personalities appear. Researches added four shadow personalities to the list for circumstances like stress in which an alter personality appears. This is not the normal behavior of the person but is most noticeable under pressure and in emergencies. It is considered a default personality or a part of the unconscious that appears when under stress. The ESFJ turns introverted with feelings, extraverted with sensing, introverted with intuition and extroverted in thinking.

ESFJ Characteristics

The ESFJ is an extremely people oriented person, a people pleaser. They often go with the crowd and are easily persuade into doing things. They are concerned deeply about what others think making social status important in their lives. The stress triggers for ESFJs are feeling unappreciated, neglected, disrupting harmony, disregarding their established rules and regulations and treating others badly, intentionally or not. ESFJs like to be peace keepers. Harmony around them is very important and they are easily thrown off balance by sudden changes.

When an ESFJ feels their dedication and ability to take care of others is not recognized, this leads them to feel neglected which in turn creates feelings of guilt and shame for feeling unhappy or stressed resulting in emotional denial. They turn these feelings inwards on themselves. If the stressful circumstance continues they then start to feel despondent and dejected. This kicks in a gloom and doom scenario where they begin to complain about burdens, revisit old wounds, suspect or project awful things about their health or future and become melancholic. This state creates a justification for not nurturing others or fulfilling obligations. Some ESFJs turn to the blame game to find someone else at fault for their current feelings, the emotional denial, while others become so wounded by the stressful situation they are no longer willing to take risks.


As ESFJs are easily hurt they take everything personally. When their beliefs are challenged they take it to heart especially if they feel they are being taken advantage of or they are not receiving due credit for their contribution. The problem with many ESFJs is they will go to the ends of the earth to avoid conflict therefore they do not work through issues when they happen, the go internal and start the shame/guilt cycle. In this same vein, ESFJs get very upset and stressed when they see others being hurt or getting emotional.


The reactions to these stressors will vary from person to person but in general, an ESFJ turns to the introverted thinking of the shadow personalities and will react totally out of character for them by lashing out at others, obsessing over their own mistakes and flaws. They exaggerate their hurt feelings and project the gloom and doom of the future without being able to look at it rationally. They get stuck in their negative feelings.


In stressful situations ESFJ despises debating issues as it is contrary to their peace keeping personality. They will fail to see potential future solutions because they are stuck in the now and their wallowing. In order to express their feelings they would rather do so in question form rather than making a statement in order to deflect conflict. This trait makes them appear manipulative or whiney. When conflict cannot be avoided, ESFJs are unable to converse calmly or without strife. When backed into a corner they lash out often in a dramatic way finding fault with everyone and everything and uncharacteristically don’t consider the feelings of others under this extreme duress.

The ESFJ enjoys orderly processes in their lives and don’t react well to change. They don’t do well with things that involve the abstract or theories. They understand solid principals and ideas much more than conjecture. When their systems are challenged they will withdraw into themselves or get agitated and strike out. They can’t see their rigid adherence to their rules doesn’t allow for flexibility or input from others which in turn can create conflict that they so greatly abhor.

In conclusion, ESFJs are peace keepers, they enjoy status and harmony. Under stress they turn internally and become very critical of themselves. In confrontations they may lash out without thinking of other’s feelings and tend to blame others without looking at their own behavior as a cause to the problem. Feelings of shame and guilt turn into a future of gloom and doom inhibiting them from seeking solutions to stressful situations.

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