Collateral Damage Pt. 2

Collateral Damage Pt. 2

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.

Co-dependency.

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 unlovable or difficult or unworthy of love. It just means that they are not necessarily very good at looking past themselves.

The fact that you can, that you empathise and have the ability 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 me an option.

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.

 

Image by Amarit Opassetthakul and licensed by CC

 

INFJ_characteristic_4

The fourth installment in the INFJ characteristic series. I have tried to keep to the simplified format of the series however this is the one that really and truly hits home for me so I’m going to go into some necessary detail.

I spent a large part of my life not understanding who or what I was or why I felt so out of place–often at odds with the world–yet had such a strong desire to make a difference in people’s lives, which would explain my altruistic actions in the past.

Descriptions of the INFJ always emphasise our peaceful natures but few go into depth about our dark side – and it is very dark when we are stressed in the long term or our home environments are in turmoil.
The INFJs dominant function is introverted intuition which means that the shadow function which emerges when we are under stress is extroverted sensing. This is something the INFJ has extreme difficulty managing.

Stress in the INFJ causes obsessive focus on external data which is the exact opposite of how a healthy INFJ processes information, and this in turn makes the INFJ extremely irritable and obsessive, making us seem nit-picky and irrational.
I see it in myself whenever I allow stress to get the better of me.

Stress will also cause a skewed focus on sensory pleasure, which can manifest in self-medication like excessive drinking, overeating, shopping for things we don’t need and becoming uncharacteristically self-centered.
If you speak to my ex-husband, you will see him nodding his head in agreement. This is because my home and internal lives were in a state of chaos and I had no healthy coping mechanisms, so I became the worst version of myself in that environment.

Finally, stress will create in us an adversarial or misanthropic attitude to the world around us. The INFJ is primarily characterised by a desire to better the world around us, to make a real difference in the lives of individuals, so this may seem a little extreme but when forced to exercise our sensing function, with which we do not have much understanding due to our strong intuitive leanings, we will become suspicious, intolerant and frustrated with the world around us.
The people nearest to us will then become the unwitting and incredulous recipients of “INFJ rage”.

If you are looking for an in depth analysis on this subject, Naomi L. Quenk is an excellent resource for how each type reacts when they are under pressure and I highly recommend her book, Was That Really Me?

Thank you for reading.

You’ve Got To Love Yourself

Self-love-and-the-art-of-letting-go-of-worry

And kid, you’ve got to love yourself.
You’ve got wake up at four in the morning, brew black coffee, and stare at the birds drowning in the darkness of the dawn.
You’ve got to sit next to the man at the train station who’s reading your favorite book and start a conversation.
You’ve got to come home after a bad day and burn your skin from a shower.
Then you’ve got to wash all your sheets until they smell of lemon detergent you bought for four dollars at the local grocery store.
You’ve got to stop taking everything so goddam personally.
You are not the moon kissing the black sky.
You’ve got to compliment someones crooked brows at an art fair and tell them that their eyes remind you of green swimming pools in mid July.
You’ve got to stop letting yourself get upset about things that won’t matter in two years.
Sleep in on Saturday mornings and wake yourself up early on Sunday.
You’ve got to stop worrying about what you’re going to tell her when she finds out.
You’ve got to stop over thinking why he stopped caring about you over six months ago.
You’ve got to stop asking everyone for their opinions.

Fuck it.

Love yourself, kiddo.
You’ve got to love yourself.

~ Unknown

 

The Christmas Not So Jollies

christmas

‘Twas the eve(ish) before Christmas and I spied on my Facebook feed a post that said simply “I am feeling so down”.
I immediately thought to offer some words of encouragement and as I looked at the comments on the post, I noticed a particularly ill thought out response that read; “Don’t be, it’s Christmas!”

Let me first say that this time of year means little to me. It is at best a time to spend with those close to me and share a meal. Though I am Christian, I do not celebrate this particular holiday. I did as a child but as I have grown and delved deeper into my faith, the reasons and machinations of what Christmas is became less of a production and more of a farce. I am however not here to discuss that—or any person’s choice to celebrate the holiday but it means more to some than it does to others and offering that as a suggestion to fix what may in fact be causing the problem in the first place is largely callous.

There is what feels to me to be a deluge of forced joy and displays of ‘look at how fabulous I am’ that you can only wonder if any of it is genuine or if people are merely trying to keep up with (or out do) everyone else, which is not a little farcical, and don’t even get me started on the metaphor that is the gaudy bauble and tinsel draped trees that are hacked down, dressed and lit up and left to die a slow death as some sort of symbol.

This time of year is loaded with so much expectation by way of bombastic and for-the-sake-of-others’ show, social media plugging about what a wonderful time I’m having on my island holiday or on my destination ski trip, that it creates a very skewed yard stick against which we measure ourselves.

With so many high expectations and people running around behaving like pseudo jetsetters and hotel chain heirs, there are equal, if not greater, amounts of people who succumb to the pressure that this time of year is known to bring.

However, getting back to the “Don’t be, it’s Christmas” statement on my friend’s page, it struck me first as glib and then as a little insensitive. I’m certain that was not the intention but Oscar didn’t intend to kill Reeva, and well, she’s dead… but I digress.

I believe it is paramount that we feel free to acknowledge and express our feelings in order for us to deal with and move past them. Unless we do so, we have little hope of ever overcoming them and growing as individuals.
Furthermore, there still exists an inordinate amount of stigma where mental illness is concerned.
Speaking up is one of the scariest things a person can do because saying the words “I need help” can lead to feelings of incredible shame and failure.

So what am I trying to say with all of this? Well I guess it is that we need to encourage people to talk about the things that are bothering them without fear of recrimination and judgement. That we need to foster an attitude of acceptance regarding how we feel, especially when those feelings appear to be the opposite to what’s going on around us and/or despite what is going on around us.
It can be murder to constantly force a smile because we are expected to be happy and fulfilled.
It takes a super human effort to pretend that everything is okay when you feel like you are breaking to pieces inside. We can often feel a great sense of isolation and loneliness as a result.
The good news is, if we do not feel able to talk to a friend or relative, you can seek the help of a professional. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, everyone—including myself—has at some point had feelings of extreme sadness and/or depression and the important thing to realise is that there is always a way out!

My personal philosophy is “Throw the closet door wide open, monsters hate the light and the more you shine the light on them, the smaller and less scary they become.”
To some this will come relatively easily but for others this can be very intimidating and even frightening. If this is the case for you, reach out to someone, which you can do anonymously but make the effort to reach out.

If you need help or if you need someone to talk to, here is a list of places you can find help:

The South African Anxiety and Depression Group http://www.sadag.org
Depressed Anonymous http://www.depressedanon.com
Psych Central http://psychcentral.com/disorders/depression/

Alternatively, contact a support group in your area.

In closing, I hope that everyone reading this does find some joy this holiday season. Be safe and may the next year be a better year than this one.

Thank you for reading!

A Year In the Making

What a difference a year makes.
It is amazing how much you can accomplish, how much it can bring you, how much it can take away and how much you can learn.

I leave my finance job tomorrow. I open my own business in a week. I am now a content developer. I have been invited to collaborate on a women’s lifestyle book. I am emotionally in the best place I have ever been in and I am living a love that makes me light up every time I think about it. All of this is of course not solely thanks to simply starting a blog but it is largely due to the fact that writing has served as the catalyst in helping me reset the tape inside my head. It has served as a way for me to work through all the hurt and pain of the past and to look at it objectively, learn and grow from it and allow that pain and those experiences to change me. To make me better.

It has helped me redefine myself, clarify what I want from life, who I want in my life and all of this has ultimately helped me to find a meaningful balance. Still lots of learning and growing to do, most assuredly, but I am far more centred and at peace now than I was even a year ago.

It is from this vantage point that I can see not only the great strides I have made to get here but I can also see the bright future ahead of me, an exciting, fulfilling and promising future and that is truly priceless.

When I was younger my father would ask me why I was so angry. I never had an answer for him because I never understood my own emotions and thoughts enough to make sense of them, much less communicate them to someone else. This journey, however, has led me to uncovering and exposing the empath side of me and that knowledge alone has made me more consciously aware that the feelings I am experiencing are not all mine. Awareness of this has enabled me to better choose my reactions to external stimuli. I don’t always get it right, sometimes my conditioned response–especially when under stress–is a negative one but I’m working on it and that’s what matters.

Not long ago I received a text from an ex-in law. She berated me, my blog, issued a kind of threat and an instruction. My reaction to that message partially baffled me and impressed my nearest and dearest. Once so quick to speak up, lash out like the cornered animal I felt, this time I swiped to the left and hit the ‘block’ and then ‘delete’ buttons.
On another occasion, I received hate mail from a toxic former associate. Once I realised who it was I simply deleted the messages.

The overwhelming sense of peace and relief I experienced was heady. I realised that I did not have to get into the ring on every single occasion. Of course being told this by people is one thing, coming to a realisation through your own experience is vastly more meaningful and empowering.

I never understood how liberating simply walking away is until I did it, until it was the only reaction I wanted to have. I was never able to do it until I started analysing, organising and categorising my feelings. Until I started searching for the “why” underneath it all.

Nowadays I don’t always have to get the last word in. If you don’t understand what or why I’ve said something, I don’t need to fight tooth and bloody nail to get you to do so. All that got me was statements like “You just want to be right” or “You just want the last word”. It’s at that point that I now walk away because that person is really just telling you that they are not willing to part with or see past their dogma, which borders on wilful ignorance when you strip it down.
Instead of trying to get them to understand, thank them and walk away. Seek out people who are intelligent and open minded enough to see more than just their own subjective view, who will converse with you and explore with you – you learn a vast amount more that way. It’s also how you solidify or change your own opinions based on new information. I’m not saying one should be blown about like reeds in the wind, have the courage of your convictions but don’t shut out every other voice in favour of your own. You will come off as arrogant and the only thing arrogance will do for you is make you a wholly unattractive person to converse with.

So with that in mind, I aim to take the lessons I have learned and work at putting them into practice daily. I really believe that life is that simple.
Be graceful when you are being taught a lesson in life, knowing that you are partially responsible–in small or large measure–for where you currently stand in life and you can either let it make you stronger or you can let it defeat you.

Thank you for reading.