I am angry. I am angry with myself mostly.
There is a lot of responsibility that lies squarely at my own feet for how I allow people to treat me. I am not blameless, though truthfully I’ve never claimed to be.
Rather I am achingly aware of my shortcomings and I spend a disproportionate amount of time focusing on them. I have low self-esteem and in incurable desire to care for people, to “love them whole”. Noble but not practical. It’s like having a neon sign above my head that reads “Free Heart Repairs Here While You Wait”. I unwittingly make myself available to the emotionally deficient and manipulative.
What is it about these people (men) that doesn’t stop me from getting drawn in? When it becomes clear that these people (men) are not suitable, why do I not turn and run?
I spend a lot of time processing the emotions of other people and I’m not very good at turning this off. It’s for this reason that I avoid social contact, unless it’s with a close knit group of people, because walking into a crowded room is like receiving the signal for hundreds of radio waves which all broadcast simultaneously. I allow myself to be affected by each one of those radio waves as opposed to letting them simply move through or past me.
Sometimes I project these feelings without realising their origin (meaning they aren’t my emotions). This is bad, especially when I’m under stress and have the tendency to dissociate which impairs my reaction to an emotionally charged situation. I will either shut down completely, try to run away or I will become defensive, agitated and shouty.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. On the positive side, my empathy makes me very good at helping others with their problems, talking through deeply emotional issues and providing comfort because I can feel their pain, sometimes on a visceral level. I can relate to others on a very intimate level and as a result of this the other person feels cared for, understood, appreciated, and I feel needed. This is the hook.
I am primarily focused on helping the other person but I do this at the expense of my own emotional well-being and welfare. Something that is apparent in a co-dependent relationship. This disorder was first identified around a decade ago while studying the interpersonal relationships in families of alcoholics but the term has broadened to include any dysfunctional family or relationship.
Often co-dependency is called relationship addiction because people with co-dependency very often form and maintain relationships that are predominantly one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive. Co-dependents have low self-esteem and will look outwards to make themselves feel better and may do so through alcohol, drugs, food and/or sensory pleasures like gambling or indiscriminate sexual activity.
This can also be true for the INFJ who when stressed is forced to process data using our extroverted sensing function with which we have very little experience and with which we have extreme difficulty managing.
It’s been said that there is no better way to deal with your own pain than by helping someone else with theirs. It seems this is something I have taken to heart as a method of ignoring my own pain and consistently not dealing with it. Noble but not wise.
Childhood bullying, emotional trauma suffered at the hands of my ex-husband’s family, the divorce of my parents and my father’s subsequent marriage to a woman who despised me and my siblings, my emotionally distant relationship with my father, as well as my own divorce have all had long term effects made worse because I didn’t adequately deal with them.
The more I have tried to dull, cover and numb these painful events, the more I’ve sought out a subject to nurture, take care of and “fix” without ever having afforded myself the space and time to sufficiently process my own traumas and heal sufficiently.
So where to from here?
It’s easy to feel uncared for when people cannot love you the way you need to be loved. It’s also difficult (for HSPs especially) not to internalise this as a reflection of your own self-worth.
The truth is, how people behave and operate has so much less to do with you than you think. It’s about their own insecurities, their own struggles, their own anxiety and feelings of inadequacy.
This is not evidence of your failings and it doesn’t mean you are difficult to love. Nor does it mean you are unworthy of love.
The fact that you can empathise and are able and willing to share your love even if it means having your heart broken, is a strength. Loving someone else is a courageous act.
And so the work isn’t to fundamentally change who I am, the work is to deal with what happened and leave it behind in the past where it belongs and make better choices. To stop making a choice of people who only make an option of me.
I am not too much, I am not needy, I am not too sensitive.
I am thoughtful, I am empathetic, I am kind, I am vulnerable, I am generous of spirit and I am enough.
You are enough.