Sensitive Snowflakes

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In Missouri in the early 1860s, a ‘snowflake’ was a person who was opposed to the abolition of slavery—the implication of the name being that such people valued white people over black people. This use seems not to have endured.  Those words fell out of use while snowflake settled into the lexicon with its hushed and lovely literal meaning. In recent times, though, the word has been causing a ruckus. It’s developed a new and decidedly less pleasant use as a disparaging term for a person who is seen as overly sensitive and fragile. In the lead-up to the 2016 U.S. elections it was lobbed especially fiercely by those on the right side of the political spectrum at those on the left. And the snowball fight has continued since. -Merriam Webster

 

I want to say that this is not political, but I am pretty sure that I am going to say something that someone out there is going to quickly identify as belonging in the box on the left or the box on the right.  I have never thought of myself in political terms, and I can tell you that I have NEVER fit very well inside a box.  As an introvert, and a highly sensitive person, I can honestly say that I have avoided political debates labeled “democratic” or “republican,” because I don’t really like the sport of endless arguing.  I also don’t think in such restrictive terms.  I think in terms of people more than in terms of political parties. That statement in itself is probably enough to make most people stop taking me seriously right now, and I am sure it sounds naive, perhaps even a bit Pollyanna or childish considering how heated things have become recently.  I am by no means uneducated, unaware, or apathetic, but I have always considered myself more of a humanitarian than a politician.   

Right or wrong, I have spent the last few years immersing myself in the research of highly sensitive persons, introversion, mental health awareness, media influence on identity, and social emotional education.  I’ve enjoyed doing my podcast for highly sensitive persons called HSP SOS, and I’ve felt more comfortable allowing myself to be vulnerable and authentic for the very first time in my life.  That being said, I have not turned a blind eye to political issues or what has been going on in the world.  As an HSP, and a truly empathetic person, it troubles me deeply to see hate, intolerance, fear, loss, and intimidation of any kind.  Social and humanitarian issues are my issues.  They have always been my issues since I was a little girl. 

I don’t want to drone on and on.  I want to try and be as concise as I can, and the best way to get to my point is to share a shift I have felt in the past few months.  Like I said, I have never been traditionally “political,” but recently I can’t speak without this overwhelming feeling that I am supposed to be picking up a pitchfork and choosing a side- a side to defend, as well as a side to destroy.  In the past two weeks, I have been accused of being un-American for posting a video in a language other than English on my podcast page.  I have also been labeled a “sensitive snowflake” twice in casual conversations, as well as been witness to endless arguments between family and friends over a variety of political issues.  Right now, if I show concern for all the things I’ve always been concerned about, things like sexism, racism, inequality, hate, intimidation, dishonesty, etc., I am somehow dismissed as just being a “sensitive snowflake.”  On the other hand, if I choose not to make political statements on social media or daily conversations, I am being told that I am also weak for not taking a stand.  I disappeared for a while, enjoyed a bit of my own company, but none of it has really helped me clear my head or figure out what exactly I want to say in this climate.

I guess what scares me is this trend of oversimplifying sensitivity and assigning it haphazardly to a political stance.  As if all sensitive people are this or that, and caring about this issue or that issue makes you weak or strong… American or Un-American.  I probably do sound like a “sensitive snowflake” writing about this right now with everything else that is going on in the world.  It is as if I can still hear the adults of my youth telling me that I need to just “toughen up,” “deal with it,” “get over it,” or “get a backbone.”  There is a reason, however, why as a nation we still struggle so much with bullying mentality.  It is because we oversimplify everything.  We like to keep things in neat little boxes to help us live our lives… bully vs. victim, right vs. wrong, good vs. evil, and now left vs. right.  We like to compete.  We like to blame.  We like to be on the correct side of things.  All of these are things I’ve struggled with my whole life.  Choosing just one side, or seeing things as black or white, is nearly impossible for my INFJ mind.

Even when confused, I think I am strong.  Names don’t hurt me personally, but I think they can hurt us all collectively.  I think neat boxes prevent us from understanding the complexity of the issues we face today and the reasons why people are so passionate in this nation right now.  I think it allows for us to have two-sided debates, and two-sided problems, without multi-faceted solutions.  

I am usually a bit more articulate, but lately I am at a loss for words.  I am not certain how to wrap this up.  I kind of feel like I’m just trying to work my way through to figure it all out.  I know I want to clarify my thoughts for all the people oversimplifying my “sensitive snowflake” beliefs.  I do want to demonstrate the complexity of a highly “sensitive snowflake” for anyone that is quick to toss out the term without much consideration.  I guess that’s what I will do.  Maybe other HSPs are currently having some of these same struggles.  Maybe other HSPs are overwhelmed by the nature of conversation right now, and they don’t know whether to be political or quiet.  Maybe there are other people out there that have so much to say, but like me have no idea how to gracefully start a productive conversation.  Maybe there are people just trying to figure out what it means to be a “sensitive snowflake” too.  I don’t really know if this will resonate with anyone, but if nothing else, at least it will let me get some of this out.  Sometimes as a highly sensitive person, do something just for yourself as a kind of release.  That in itself is a good enough reason to do anything I suppose, so here it goes.

My “Sensitive Snowflake” Thoughts 

  • I dislike making fun of people and name calling.  I don’t like it in life, and I don’t like it in politics.  It doesn’t make me weak.  It makes me kind.
  • It upsets me that we accept mocking a candidate’s appearance when we don’t agree with his or her political policies.  It infuriates me when attack a candidate’s child or spouse on the same premise. 
  • I believe in free speech, but I don’t support hateful speech.  I understand that everyone is allowed a perspective, and everyone should find a forum for what they are passionate about.  I am passionate about empathy, kindness, inclusion, diversity, rights for minorities, and combating social injustices.  If someone lacks empathy, supports exclusionary practices, makes fun of others, or has viewpoints opposed to mine, it doesn’t make me against free speech if I walk away or stop listening.  If I choose to challenge opposing beliefs, that is my right.  If I choose to tune-out opposing beliefs, that is my right.  Neither action makes me stronger or weaker.
  • I don’t believe an entire race, religion, or country is the enemy.  I think there are good people, and bad people, in this world.  Sometimes terrible acts of terrorism take place that are impossible to predict.  I want to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of  closing the door to anyone sheerly out of fear.  
  • I believe that if you are in a position to help someone with less freedoms, less power, less money, less opportunities, or less education, then you should.  I don’t believe that everyone poor is lazy, or that everyone without an education is unintelligent.
  • I see a need for innovation and progress.  I understand wanting to strengthen a nation’s economy, and I do not believe all businesses are only concerned with money.  I think businesses are run by people, and different people have different values.  It is important to look at the upside and downside of every business deal to know if it is a good one.  Some regulations do need to be in place to help protect us from situations where profit becomes more important than people.
  • I am worried that a year ago, I felt more comfortable talking about topics like this more publicly.   I have always talked about social issues like women’s rights and social activism, but today I know that if I do talk openly about these same topics,  I will most likely be labeled a “cry-baby” or  called a “nasty feminist.”  I know this, because it has happened.
  • I can understand why an entire race of people feels the need to remind us that their lives are important.  I don’t believe that one group speaking out to ensure their rights as a people takes rights away from me.  I acknowledge that because of how I look, I have been granted opportunities and privileges I never even knew other people were being denied.  It is not about apologizing or blaming.  It is about doing better and genuinely acknowledging a problem exists.
  • When I hear talk about strengthening our military or defending America, and I ask questions, it is not because I am a clueless, “bleeding heart liberal” that doesn’t understand that sometimes you have to fight for what you believe in.  It is just that I want to make sure I understand what exactly it is we are fighting for or against.  My apprehension about embarking on a war before understanding the reasons and consequences, doesn’t make me anti-military.  It just means I am concerned, and I place a lot of value on the lives of family members, friends, and former students that now serve our country.  I don’t take war lightly, and I don’t think anyone ever should.
  • I know that I am providing a good quality education to my students, and I feel confident that my daughter is receiving  a good quality education at her school.  I recognize, however, that there is a disparity in the system.  I worry about children beyond my neighborhood, because I know that a good education can lead to opportunities in other areas of life.
  • I don’t believe in violence, but I believe in a desperate need to be heard when you feel like you have no voice in your own life.  I don’t believe in destruction, but I do believe in disruption.  Disruption of the workday, a roadway, or entertainment is sometimes necessary to gain the attention needed to be heard.  I would never advocate violence, but not all protests are violent.  Some of the biggest changes have come about from peaceful, well-timed words. 
  • I believe that highly sensitive and empathetic people are needed in this world possibly more now than ever.  I worry that we are sending the wrong message to future generations when as adults we make fun of a man for passionately crying, or we mockingly label people as “sensitive snowflake liberals” or  “insensitive republicans.”  Sensitivity does not belong to one side or the other.  

If being a snowflake means I am a multi-faceted person trying to look at this from the vantage point of a mountain top, so I can get a clearer picture of it all, then maybe that term fits.  The term doesn’t even make much sense to me as an insult anyway. Snowflakes are usually well balanced with delicate sixfold symmetry.  They are unique in that no two are exactly the same, yet when they land together on the ground,  they appear as a blanket of uniformity.  They can be glistening flurries, blinding blizzards, or devastating avalanches.  Being called a snowflake is a lot like being called a human, and I said from the start, that I have always been more of a humanitarian than a politician.  

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website, and Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Hard Life Lessons for an INFJ

“Superman” vs. A Rainbow

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Superman is an inflated ego and a disappearing self. He lacks the spark. What would the rainbow be if it had no dark cloud behind it? ~Carl Jung, Conversations with C.G. Jung, Page 63.

Hello, my name is Michelle Lynn, and I am an INFJ.  This isn’t an Alcoholic’s Anonymous meeting, but I do have certain addictions associated with my personality type I would like to talk about here.  Like a lot of INFJs, I have an intense inner drive to help people, love people, be all things to all people, be perfect, be an example, and be serving a greater purpose in the world.  I just celebrated a major milestone birthday, and I would say I have spent a good portion of my life trying to be an image of something, as opposed to being a representation of what I really am.  I envision myself as a modern day Superwoman of sorts.  I have always known my INFJ powers to love, help, and heal, and while I have assisted a great many people throughout my life, the inflated ego of being a “Superman,” as Carl Jung points out, is really only a disappearing self.  It’s not something that can last in reality, and when we believe ourselves to be an ideal, we push down our own dark clouds.  We push them down so far that they fail to produce rainbows, and they manifest themselves in much more stormy and sinister ways- ways that do more harm than good.

Up until recently, I would have seen nothing wrong with trying to be Superwoman.  In previous articles, and on my podcasts, I have talked about being an INFJ and how certain characteristics can lead to some negative consequences, but it is possible I have always done it more from the perspective of how other people need to understand me instead of how I need to understand them, or myself.  This is a hard realization for me, painful in fact.  I am always challenging others to do ego work by looking at themselves, but in true INFJ fashion, I have a much harder time recognizing, and an even harder time admitting, my own needs and ego.  That is my darkness.

Jung reminds us that an unacknowledged darkness can be dangerous.  It cannot be taken lightly or ignored. Shadow theory suggests that the harder we fight our true self, and fail to recognize our own flaws and weaknesses, the stronger these negative aspects become.  As well-read as I am on Jungian psychology, and as well-versed as I am on the topic of shadow personality, nothing really has prepared me for for my own eruption, followed by the sudden epiphany, that I can’t live the rest of my life making the same mistakes.  I’ve always been a bit befuddled by how a person with my intentions, and genuine love for people, could constantly be mucking things up, and I reluctantly admit that I have allowed myself to play the victim, and projected my weaknesses onto others at times in the past.  That upsets me greatly in the present.  I have painfully watched patterns from the past repeat themselves in various aspects of my life, without the full realization, that I have had some level of control over these moments.  I blamed it on bad luck, being gullible, or loving too much, and while in some cases those are also true, I have failed to recognize the role I played in most of these situations.

I am not writing this piece to excuse any past behaviors or to ease my conscience. I am writing this piece for myself and to other INFJs as a reminder that careful monitoring of our ego is needed throughout our lives.  INFJs are truly wonderful individuals with amazing gifts that can inspire people and change the world, but to be a bit cliche sounding, with great power comes great responsibility.  We have the power to transform, but we also have the power to destroy.  The universe is funny like that, always looking to balance everything out.  I wish I would have learned this, and some of these hard life lessons, earlier in my life.   I could have saved myself, and a lot of people I really love, a lot of pain.  I know I cannot dwell in the past, but I can stop trying to be Superwoman and focus on making more rainbows for myself and others.

Without further ado, the 7 hard life lessons I’ve learned as an INFJ:

 1. Tough Love Isn’t Always the Answer As an INFJ, we are all about getting people from point A to point B.  We want people to evolve and become the best versions of themselves, because we want them to be happy.  There is no denying that we love people hard, but there are times when we could be a little softer for other personality types.  I will get weepy over an article about perfect strangers or a story about fictional characters. Put me in front of a loved one showing emotional suffering, though, and it’s all strategy and logic.  There have been so many times in my life when I missed someone else’s need for my heart instead of my intellect.  The advice and logic comes from a good place, but it isn’t always what people need in the moment.  Sometimes they just need a hug or reassurance.  I can think of a lot of personal examples for this one, but perhaps the hardest hitting reminder of this came from one of my twelve year old students.  She was one of my best writers, someone who grew tremendously over the course of the year, and I had a very sincere admiration for her.  At the end of the school year, I always ask students for feedback.  She gave me great feedback, loved the class, but in the additional comments section wrote this, “Instead of always just telling us how to improve and making us do better, sometimes tell us that we are doing good.  Kids need that sometimes.”  At the time, it knocked the wind out of me.  I remember driving home sobbing thinking I was a horrible teacher.  How could someone I admired so much not realize that she was doing a great job in my class?  How could she not understand how highly I thought of her as a writer and person?  The simple answer was that I kept all the appreciation for her private, and I only outwardly expressed her areas of improvement.  This is something I have come to realize I do a lot, not just with students.  I do this with relatives, friends, and in relationships.  The people I admire most, often hear about my admiration the least.  This ultimately leaves people feeling unappreciated, regardless of my appreciation.

2. People Aren’t Projects As good as our intentions may be, it is not our job to shove everyone we meet kicking and screaming to their greatest potential.  Don’t get me wrong.  It is truly a beautiful quality to see the good in people, to be able to recognize hidden talents, and to even be able to identify why a person may be struggling in his or her life.  It is not okay, however, to forcefully help little old ladies cross the street that aren’t even looking to go in that direction.  It feels good to help people, and helping people as an INFJ can become like an addiction if not monitored.  Always requiring the people in your life to reach that next step is exhausting.  It’s especially hard for loved ones, if like in my previous example, you aren’t fulling recognizing the progress they have made, and you aren’t telling them “good job” every now and again.  Life isn’t a marathon, and you are not everyone’s life coach.  There are times, when you need to remind the people in your life that there is nothing wrong with them.  That you actually do like them as they are.  INFJs don’t dislike people for their flaws.  We do accept people as they are.  The issue arises when someone close to us starts casually mentioning something they are unhappy about with themselves, and we think we can just fix it.  I don’t like seeing people suffer, and I always see there is a way to solve anything.  I know I am hopeful, but also very clueless.  I will focus in on a problem, and disregard everything else going on around me, and I get tunnel vision for that one aspect that person needs help with.  Recently, someone wrote into The Captain’s Pod telling my co-host that he’s doing such a good job taking the “mental roastings” I give him every episode.  I had never looked at what I was doing in that way before, even though comments have been made during, and after, recordings that the content was being specifically created to “help” The Captain with whatever he was struggling with in his life that week.  It wasn’t until that moment, however, that I fully realized that maybe there are times when I could really lighten up on him.  In my attempt to help him, and other HSPs, I became very hyper-focused externally on problems.  INFJs are problem-solvers, but I think we sometimes lack a little of the finesse that goes along with encouraging others to willingly embark on the self-improvement journey.  There often needs to be a little more give and take.  In retrospect, I know that some of the shows might have been enhanced by allowing my co-host more room to “mentally roast” me, or to at least for me to share from my perspective the ways that I have been helped by him instead of just discussing problems.  Always helping people, never pausing for more than a millisecond to celebrate success, and refusing to give others the power to help, are all definite ways to make other people feel of very little use in your life.  This is certainly the last thing any INFJ wants, and it is something we need to carefully watch out for.

3. Timing is Everything You may think the world should operate on your schedule, but the reality is that not everything needs to happen the minute you want it to happen.  This one may be my Achilles’ heal.  I have a very warped sense of time.  When I see something that I think can help a situation, I want it to happen yesterday.  If there is even a minor issue that needs discussing, it needs to be discussed this second.  It doesn’t matter if the person I want to talk to is an air traffic controller, and he needs to get that plane with hundreds of people in it safely landed.  In my mind, this conversation needs to happen right now!  I am sure other INFJs can relate.  Most of us hate waiting to make things better.  We don’t want people to feel uncomfortable around us, but what we don’t realize is that our intense desire to handle everything our way, in our time frame, creates more tension than potential solutions.  Even when I want a simple project done, I might ask someone to help me, but if it takes them more than an hour to start working on it, I’m already trying to find someone else to do it, or online trying to figure out how to do it myself.  What I have missed is that by doing this, I am robbing people of an opportunity to do something nice for me.  I  inadvertently make them feel useless when I can’t wait for their assistance on a task, and I make them feel like their lifestyle pace is inferior to mine when I try and have a conversation at an obviously bad time.  I know as hard as it may be for me, there are times when things can wait.

4. You Aren’t The Only One With Intuition INFJs have excellent intuition.  Our loved ones will ask us for our first impressions and general “feelings” about people and situations regularly, because they know 9 times out of 10 we are going to be spot on.  That kind of trust and accuracy can go to your head after a while, and while it may be rare, there are times when someone else might have a better handle on a person or situation than you.  Yes, it is true!  Other people can also have good intuition and sense things that you might not be able to pick up on.  I know.  That’s a major ego blow.  I hate it when my instincts are off, but INFJs have to remember that we are only accurately in tune with the world around us when we are ourselves in balance.  I have recently been under more stress than usual.  I have been dealing with some slow selling real estate, financial struggles, anxiety related to transitioning to a much more structured work schedule, and a variety of other everyday issues we all have to deal with.  Having anxiety, I do not deal well with a lot of external pressures coming in at me unexpectedly all at once.  I know this is my issue, but I too often don’t recognize just how much my mood and behavior changes when I am feeling stressed.  I sleep less.  I eat less.  I am more emotional, and I can project my negative feelings onto the people around me.  Just last week I was having a conversation with a very dear friend of mine that happens to be an INTP, and I kept giving him a hard time for how he was responding to me.  I was accusing him of being impatient and sarcastic, and I was mad at him for having plans already when I wanted to have a conversation with him.  Now, this is a friend that is almost always willing to hang out, or talk, when I need him.  I consider him one of my best friends, and I was mad at him for having plans the “one time I actually needed him.”  I may have a flair for the dramatic when out of balance.  He has been there for me more times than not, and my response to him was completely unfair.  In the moment, all I could see was that I wanted to talk that minute, to potentially solve the problem right then, but he was already doing something with his brother-in-law.  I was completely unaware of how I was projecting.  Luckily my friend is very blunt, and he is also skilled at reading between the lines, and reading people.  He very matter of factly told me that I seemed a bit off, and perhaps a little introspection might do me a little good before continuing the conversation.  Well, the conversation ended, but not because I was taking his advice.  The conversation ended, because my ego was hurt.  I foolishly didn’t trust his perception of what was going on with me, and I relied on my own faulty perception that he must be really stressed to talk to me like that.  This was not a wise decision, because I just continued to have tension, and conflict, with everyone else I encountered until I actually did take the time to recognize my own feelings and short comings in those interactions.  INFJs have amazing intuition, but we are not always great when it comes to reading ourselves.  It would behoove us to occasionally rely on the insight and wisdom of the people we trust, otherwise we end up pushing away the people we need the most.

5. People Need Space We recharge when we are alone.  We value personal space, and we can become very protective, sometimes controlling, in our own environments.  We are champions for quiet, alone time, so it is a bit perplexing that we don’t always recognize that other people have this need as well.  INFJs are the most extroverted of the introverts, so while we revel in being alone, we also have a tremendous desire to connect with people.  Like mentioned before, we sometimes forget that the world isn’t operating on our time schedule, so when we want to hang out with people, we want it to happen exactly when it works out for us.  It’s not that we are trying to be impatient, unreasonable, or demanding.  Most of us do have some awareness of the fact that we tend to push people away when we need alone time, and we do fear that we will push so many people away that we are ultimately going to be left all alone.  We have this strange delayed processing thing going on where we see how we might have come off as rude in past interactions, so when we want to make things right with people, and spend time together.  It’s almost like a strange sort of panic attack.  If a friend is busy, or wanting to be alone instead of with us, we might totally assume it is because we have offended them in some way, or that they don’t really like us.  Again, we will feel this more when we are out of balance, but when it happens it can result in some very confusing behavior for our friends and loved ones.  I had a day last week where I really wanted to be around people, mainly because I know I have been keeping to myself a little bit too much again.  I had ignored some messages, didn’t return some emails, and cancelled a couple of engagements, because I just really needed to recharge.  I got up that morning, and I sent messages to just about everyone I knew.  An hour went by, and I hadn’t heard from anyone.  Then another hour went by, and I just got a short response from a friend telling me he was at work.  An hour later, I got a smiley face emoji from my brother.  At 5pm, my mother still hadn’t emailed me back.  My conclusion was that everyone hated me and didn’t want to hang out with me.  I let my thoughts go negative, and I assumed because other people weren’t getting back to me right away, that it was about me.  The reality, however, was that some people were busy, some people weren’t feeling well, and some people just needed some time to themselves.  I have been told in the past that I have different rules for other people than I do for myself, and it sounds so bad that I hate to admit it.  If I really take a step back, however, and look at the situation from other people’s perspectives, that is exactly how it appears.  If I want people to respect my space, I can’t bombard them with multiple messages and jump to the worst case scenario every time someone just needs a little down time or they are busy.

6. Your Love Needs Boundaries Love is important, and you are definitely capable of loving without limits.  It is wise for an INFJ, however, to realize that our kind of love does need boundaries.  As difficult as it may be to accept, there are some things we do in the name of love that can actually hurt people in the long run.  We have to constantly make sure that our unconditional love doesn’t come off as conditional.  When we fall into some of the negative patterns of behavior mentioned above, our love can feel like it is based off of an ideal person in our heads instead of the person standing right in front of us.  We also need to recognize when we are loving others more than ourselves.  When we put the self-improvement and happiness of everyone else ahead of our own, we are creating a potentially explosive situation.  As INFJs, we can be chameleons, but we should never lose ourselves in love.  INFJs are really intense.  It can be love letters at 2am.  It can be driving 200 miles just to put a heart shaped note on a lover’s car.  Maybe it’s spending weeks finding that perfect gift, or searching hundreds of music videos for the perfect expression of your love in a song.  It doesn’t matter.  If we love someone, we tend to really go all out- not just at the beginning, but all of the time.  What most INFJs don’t get, however, is how overwhelming and intimidating this can be for their partners.  It can make some people think it’s all an act, but our partners usually realize after a couple months of dating the we really are this intense.  Other people might try and match our level of loving, but just feel like they can’t keep up or measure up.  There is always this feeling that we are expecting more.  We say we aren’t, but we do have to be very careful with how we respond to our loved ones when they show us their love.  We can make our loved ones feel inferior at times with our lack-luster responses.  As INFJs, we aren’t always as skilled at receiving as we are at giving.  On my birthday, my thoughtful companion wanted me to have a very special day.  He had selected a beautiful spot to walk around, but he wanted to ask me first if I wanted to go there.  I was worried that the day was going to be too hot, and I had been having issues with my asthma.  I didn’t want to go, and then have an asthma attack and ruin the day, so I asked him if maybe we could do something else.  My intentions were good, but looking back on it, I know I did not communicate my response in the best way.  I honestly just wanted to spend the day with him.  That’s really all I wanted, but I didn’t recognize that he had a need to make a special day for me like I would for him.  Long story short, I asked him to take me to the mall.  Yes, this guy was trying to plan me a romantic day, and I had him take me to a mall.  I did have a very nice time, but it wasn’t until he said to me, kind of defeated, later in the day that I had no idea how much pressure it is to plan something for someone like me, that I realized it was a big deal.  In his words, “Not everyone is like you.  Not everyone can just think of the perfect thing to do always.”  Never wanting to be a burden, I immediately felt bad and failed to recognize the truth behind that statement.  We don’t mean for our gestures of love to seem so over the top, and there are times when maybe we should eat or sleep instead of driving those 200 miles to deliver that love letter.  We don’t need to be a superhero of love all the time, and we could definitely allow our partners more opportunities to express their love in their own magical ways to us.

7. People Understand You More Than You Give Them Credit For “No one will ever understand me!” is the INFJ battlecry.  A lot of people do misunderstand us, but there are many people who do get certain things about us. INFJs don’t let people in easily, and when we do let people in, we reveal ourselves in stages.  INFJs can always surprise people, because there are just so many ever evolving layers.  This is part of what makes us unique, but it is also part of what makes us so hard to get sometimes.  It’s not everyone else’s fault that we are so complex.  Complexity is neither strength nor fault, but when you have a bit of a mysterious nature, there are going to be times when people just can’t figure you out.  We hold a lot in, and we spend a lot of time focusing on other people.  It is truly what makes us happy.  We don’t see it as sacrificing our own needs, until we haven’t been good to ourselves, and we are out of balance, and we are hanging from the rooftops lamenting, “no one will ever get me!”  I know that I have used that statement repeatedly in my life, and I have recognized over time that that this is a really hurtful thing to say to other people that have taken the time to get to know me.  It’s a statement that can instantly make another person feel like all that hard work they’ve put into sorting through your many layers was for nothing.  The truth is that your loved ones probably try really hard every single day to determine what makes you happy.  They may not always get it right, but then again, neither do you.  Understanding is an ongoing process, and no one person is ever fully understood by another.  I’ve found it helpful to think about what people do get about me when I’m feeling really misunderstood.  If I am in the right state of mind, I am truly grateful for all the hard work and effort they’ve put into trying to get to know a “crazy” INFJ like me.

In closing, I just want to say that I am not sharing my recent reflections here to make any INFJs feel bad about themselves.  Of all the personality types, I think INFJs do get to hear their praises a bit more than other types perhaps.  We have many great qualities that draw people to us initially, and we definitely know how to excel in our jobs and special interests.  People do admire us, and we tend to have a pretty good level of confidence in the self we present to the world.  My goal here, is only to paint an honest portrait of my own downfalls, and to give other INFJs permission to not always present an inflated sense of self to the rest of the world.  If we are always trying to be a “super” version of ourselves, we aren’t spending enough time on the ground admiring our life and the people in it.  We are also probably hurting and pushing away the people in our lives that we truly love.  It’s about recognizing some of the potential reasons that INFJs feel misunderstood, or why we are sometimes bad at relationships with people.  It’s about what we need to watch out for.  It’s about not always pretending to be perfect and allowing ourselves to be human.  After all, I’d much rather rest my feet to look at rainbows with people I care about, than spend the remainder of my life flying around, pissing people off, and hiding my flaws.

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website, and Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos.

The Intricacies of Introvert Time

Michelle Lynn (HSP SOS)

What Counts As “Quality Time” With An Introvert?

cuckoo

I thought you were an introvert.  Why do you want to spend so much time together?

-A sincere question from an extrovert to his introverted companion-

There is probably no creature on this planet more misunderstood, stereotyped, and constantly questioned than the mystical introvert.  No, I don’t really believe that we are some rare, magical breed of human that exists as a sort of ticking time-bomb, but I do believe there are many people out there in the world that have this view of introverts. Introverts often feel most misunderstood by the people closest to them, which is both unfortunate and beautiful at the same time.  

Why is being blatantly misunderstood by someone close to you beautiful?  Well, when it’s obvious to you someone is misunderstanding you, there is at least some attempt being made on their part to understand you.  They are actively questioning you, trying to define you, figure you out, and in most cases, ultimately searching for a way that they can make you happy- or at least not tick you off so much of the time.  I’m sure all introverts have an extroverted family member, friend, or partner in their lives with good intentions.  Someone that tries to do things that he or she thinks an introvert would like, but often ends up missing the mark.  Introverts and extroverts are often portrayed in an oversimplified fashion.  As an introvert, I despise the assumption that I am shy, fragile, and anti-social.  Extroverts have to deal with their fair share of negative stereotypes as well.  They are not these loud insensitive beings put here on earth to torment us introverts, but problems can arise if introverts and extroverts don’t attempt to understand their unique differences.

One area that I have had a great deal of trouble with as an introvert in my interactions with extroverts has been explaining my need for “quality time” in relationships.  Not all time is equal in my introverted mind, and if I don’t get the required amount of “quality time” with people I want to connect with, then I get cranky and can come off as demanding and needy.  Just recently, for example, I have been spending an increased amount of time with my favorite extroverted companion.  We went to Las Vegas to meet up with friends.  I have gone to several of his performances.  There was a birthday party I planned and attended in his honor.  Time was spent with the children.  We recorded some podcasts, and we sat side-by-side on the couch together posting and writing.  At the end of this stretch of time, I found myself completely exhausted, yet I still told him that I really needed some “quality time” with him soon.  

If I had a camera ready, I would have snapped a portrait of his expression.  What do you mean?  We’ve spent every day together practically?  How could you possibly see me more?  I thought you were an introvert.  Why do you want to spend so much time together? I instantly felt defeated and sad when that was his reaction, because I swore he’d be craving the exact same thing.  He wasn’t, and I was just as confused with him as he was with me.  It took me a little bit to get over the fact that I had an extrovert telling me that we have had an adequate amount of social time together.  I mean, aren’t extroverts supposed to always want to be around people?  Am I that annoying that the extroverts now want nothing to do with me?

The truth, however, is that neither introverts, nor extroverts exist as stereotypical versions of themselves.  The reality is that introverts need time with people they care about.  They don’t just need time, but they need a special kind of introvert “quality time” to feel connected.  Extroverts are energized by people, but they also enjoy time to themselves.  Extroverts use alone time to regroup and reflect, and it is an important part of the balance they need to maintain in their lives as well. When introverts and extroverts don’t communicate about how time is spent, surely there is going to be a disconnect.  After thinking about my own personal experiences as an introvert, and my definition of quality time, I put together some truths for me that might apply to other introverts out there too  It’s by no means an all inclusive list, but perhaps it can help serve as talking points in your introvert/ extrovert relationships.

The Intricacies of Introvert “Quality Time”

  1. Group time does not get to replace Introvert “Quality Time”- I don’t care if I spend two weeks traveling Europe with you and five of your closest friends, this does not equate, in my mind, to spending quality time with you.  That may sound petty and ridiculous to an extrovert, but introverts often don’t feel comfortable, or able to fully connect, when there are a lot of people around.  I am miserable with conversation and maintaining focus once a group gets larger than three people.  I start feeling like I’m neglecting someone, and I end up feeling terrible about it.  I also don’t always get to talk as long with the people I’d like to in these settings.  I prefer to get into three hour, intimate conversations with people one-on-one when I care about them, and group events are not conducive to this type of connection.  I tried to make these connections last week at a birthday party I planned, but I ended up pulling people away one at a time off into a corner to talk privately.  I’m sure I appeared scattered, and I later realized I hadn’t even spoken to one woman at the party.  I had to message her apologizing a couple days later, because I was just so overwhelmed.  This is why we still need more time with people individually after such events.
  2. Daily tasks needed for survival do not count as Introvert “Quality Time”- Being in my space is not the same thing as spending time with me.  Now, I have to clarify, because introverts do like doing separate things with someone in the same space.  It’s just that I wouldn’t necessarily count this as deep, meaningful connection time.  This is more my time to be alone while sharing space at the same time.  If I am letting you share my space like this, you are definitely a trusted person in my life.  I’m letting you in on my recharging time, but understand I will not feel like I have spent any time with you after this.  I will want to connect with you probably even more after this.  If you are sleeping, eating, doing laundry, checking your email, or other routine day to day tasks in my presence, I am not necessarily going to be excited by this.  It’s not going to feel like we were present with one another.  I am going to want more connection than that.
  3. Watching movies together may or may not count as Introvert “Quality Time”- If you come to my place, turn on what you want, and don’t talk to me, then this does not count as introvert quality time.  If we pick out a movie together, and then one of us starts getting on our computer, phone, or leaves the room multiple times, then this does not count as introvert quality time.  If we select a movie together, or you suggest a movie you want me to see, and we sit there, watch it, and share our thoughts about it afterwards, then this is definitely introvert quality time.  It’s really about making meaningful connections for introverts, and not just merely about being together in the same room.  As a side note, bringing popcorn and candy to share over conversation, will definitely earn you some introvert bonus points.
  4. Working on projects together may or may not count as Introvert “Quality Time”- Introverts, and especially highly sensitive ones, bond over mutually shared goals and outcomes.  If the time working together is enjoyable and balanced, without one person being a control-freak or overly critical, then this is precious time spent together.  Conflict and negativity, however, can zap the fun and energy out of an introvert in these situations. Artistic projects, building things, and even home improvements can be rewarding time together if both parties are fully vested and share a mutual vision.  
  5. Car rides to social gatherings count as crucial Introvert “Quality Time”- It is a myth that introverts never want to socialize.  We love people just as much as any outgoing extrovert, but in general, being social requires more energy from us than it does from extroverts.  Introverts that put themselves in social environments, and allow beloved extroverts to take them out of their comfort zone, require buffer time.  Buffer time shared with one other person on a long car ride to a social event is very important to an introvert.  This is an opportunity to have some meaningful, intimate conversations before all “hell breaks loose” so to speak.  I have found that this is a simple area in a relationship many introverts and extroverts fail to discuss, which can lead to unnecessary conflict.  Extroverts want people entertained, and if they are focusing on driving, or thinking about being entertaining to a larger group of people, they may want to bring extra people along for the ride to take some of the pressure off.  The introvert, however, may have been looking forward to the car ride even more than the event itself, because he or she was counting on some quality time together. This time is viewed very differently often, and it’s definitely a point worth discussing.
  6. Pre-planned alone time together is sacred Introvert “Quality Time”- If you even mention doing something with an introvert in passing, and they don’t immediately make a bunch of excuses and run the other direction, then it is a done deal.   DO NOT alter the plan or think it will be no big deal to just do something else.  Because of how socializing impacts us, we carefully plan out the who, what, where, when, why, and how of all our social experiences.  We know we annoy our more spontaneous counterparts at times, but we are doing this out of love for the people we care about.  If we have three social engagements, a work project, and one special night with you, then we are carefully structuring our entire week to be the best version of ourselves in each of those moments.  We don’t always have the extrovert’s gift of easy energy with people.  We know we have to work harder in our interactions with people, and we definitely want our energy reserves piled high for a special night with someone we love.  It’s probably not the best idea to plan a dinner and movie with your introvert, and then at the last minute ask if you can invite a few of your friends.  Your introvert will gladly meet your friends, but at an agreed upon time.

This is all just my perspective on how I operate as an introvert.  I don’t think that I am 100% right, and I definitely don’t think my way is any better, or worse, than that of an extrovert.  I just know that I have a lot of extroverts in my life that are constantly trying to figure me out and make me happy.  I put this together as more of a way for introverts and extroverts to start conversations about preferences and needs in relationships.  I know that there are going to be times when my extroverted companion will want to pool together a group of friends for a car ride, or maybe he will forget that he promised to spend a quiet evening at home with me and end up doing something else instead.  I have to understand that extroverts operate and think differently than introverts, and we don’t have to be adversaries.  We are people, not labels.  Personality typing is really only useful if you are using it to be a better version of yourself and as a means to better understand and interact with others.  I think the saddest thing in the world is seeing a well-meaning extrovert suddenly realize that something has gone terribly wrong.  Whether we identify with being an introvert, extrovert, or even an ambivert, common ground can be found through open and honest conversation.  Bottom line is that introverts really do like people.  We want to spend time with people, but how that looks to us might not always look the same or make sense to everyone else.  

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website, and Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos.

The INFJ as a Mirror

Michelle Lynn (HSP SOS)

How And Why We Mirror In Relationships

mirrir

When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside of you as fate. -Carl Jung

As a follow up to my article Mirroring in Relationships: Making the Invisible Visible, I want to more specifically define what it means to be a mirror in a relationship for an INFJ.  Many intuitive and highly sensitive types can undoubtedly relate to the mirror analogy, but the tendencies of an INFJ make it so understanding the reasons, reactions, repercussions, and remedies for mirroring just might make the difference between a harmonious or miserable romantic experience.

What is Mirroring in a Relationship

The term mirroring has a couple different meanings.  It can simply mean mimicking someone’s actions back to them, in a sense copying their behaviors and actions.  It can also be a more complex act like trying to align yourself with a person’s interests, communication style, or personality preferences.  People often mirror one another early in a relationship to establish commonalities and build connections with a potential partner.  Mirroring can be positive.  It can let romantic partners know that the other person is paying attention and interested, and it can create a sense of familiarity and comfort that in turn fosters a willingness to open up.  The problem, however, occurs when the person mirroring loses his or her sense of identity in the process, or the person being mirrored can no longer see who is behind the mirror.  INFJs make excellent mirrors, but they need to consciously work at remaining reflective- otherwise they run the risk of feeling like fragmented shards of glass.

How Do INFJs Become Mirrors

For anyone not familiar with the term INFJ, it is an initialism used in the publications of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to refer to one of the sixteen personality types.  The MBTI assessment was developed by Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother, Katherine Myers, from the work of prominent psychiatrist Carl Jung.  The individual letters stand for various functions of personality.  INFJ, for example, indicates the following personality functions:  Introversion (I), Intuition (N), Feeling (F), Judgment (J).  INFJs make up Only about 1-3% of the population, so they are quite rare.  These individuals are intuitive, and they seem to have a way of seeing through people.  They are skilled at recognizing what others are trying to keep beneath the surface, and due to their wise, gentle nature, INFJs live to help others reach their full potential and better themselves.  As I explain in I Will Rain On Your Parade, the INFJ is often misunderstood and seen as being too intense in the continual pursuit of improvement at all costs.  Overall, however, this personality type is accepting and understanding, and they have a unique talent for making people feel at ease.  This in turn results in situations where people are willing to tell an INFJ their deepest and darkest secrets, and these conversations often start the mirroring process for the INFJ.  Here are some of the reasons that INFJs so often become mirrors in relationships:

  • INFJs observe first and talk later.  Since this personality type loves to listen, people find themselves talking more to an INFJ than perhaps to other people they know.  As a person talks to the INFJ, it is almost like talking to a therapist.  I’m sure many INFJs are familiar with the phrase, “I didn’t realize this about myself until I said it to you just now.”  People typically like conversing with INFJs, because they may feel like it’s the first time anyone has every really taken the time to listen to them.  Being in a relationship with an INFJ is a process of self-discovery through deep conversation.  The INFJ, however, doesn’t remain silent forever.  Early listening is like research.  The INFJ is gathering information about this person, and when the information gets processed, the INFJ often has practical and useful advice to offer.  Some people, however, don’t necessarily want advice.  There are many people that would prefer the INFJ to remain the silent listener, so when the INFJ remembers and uses information in past conversations to help guide the future, this is not always well received.  
  • INFJs often feel other people’s pain more profoundly than their own. If INFJs aren’t careful, they can easily focus more on their partner than themselves.  A lot of INFJs are comfortable listening to other people’s problems, because it is in their nature to genuinely want to help.  They don’t, however, open up very easily themselves, and you will rarely hear an INFJ going on and on about personal issues.  It isn’t that this personality type doesn’t like talking through things with another person.  It is just that they are so intuitive that they know when something is bothering someone.  Most INFJs will feel like their own issues aren’t that big of a deal.  This can backfire on the INFJ, because it forces most of the relationship talk to be about the other person.  Over time, it can make the INFJ feel invisible
    and their partner might feel like he or she knows nothing about the person that’s been quietly listening for so long.  It’s not unusual for an INFJ to come out of a relationship wondering where he or she has been for the past several months or years.  Standing too long behind the mirror will make one’s sense of identity vanish over time.
  • INFJs have a deep need for harmony.  INFJs value peace and balance, and they will tell you that this is achieved only through continual growth and self-reflection.  They are not afraid of enduring pain in the process of growing, as a matter of fact, they kind of expect it.  This personality type has a wonderful ability to see the big picture, and they view a lot of the everyday problems people get worked up about as no big deal. That being said, they still compassionately help their loved ones through even the littlest of issues.  INFJs want their partner to be happy, and they know that their partner needs to find harmony in the day to day in order to do so.  To make this happen, the INFJ might take on roles like personal assistant, trainer, therapist, doctor, or life-coach.  It becomes an intense relationship where the partner is ever immersed in self-work and reflection.  The INFJ sees this as a good thing, which will bring his or her partner harmony in the end, but sometimes this all becomes too intense for the person involved in the self-work.  Other personality types cannot necessarily endure the same level of intensity as an INFJ 24 hours a day, so there may be times when the partner feels like the INFJ is too serious, too harsh, too demanding, or just plain not satisfied in the relationship.  The reality, however, is that the INFJ is just trying to ensure ultimate happiness and harmony for both partners.
  • INFJs process out loud sometimes. Processing time is important for this personality type.  While listening to someone, an INFJ might be inclined to say out loud what is being observed or repeat back what a partner says as clarification.  It is like the INFJ is talking to him or herself in order to fully grasp what is being observed or heard.  This may, at times, feel odd to a partner like they are always being watched, or that the INFJ is describing the behavior out loud as a form of judgement.  The INFJ is rarely apply a judgement or trying to criticize the partner in these moments of processing.  It is just how the INFJ is trying to make sense of the input, but it can make the partner definitely feel like everything said and done in the relationship is subject to the reflection of the mirror.
  • INFJs do not accept anything other than absolute truth.  There is no such thing as fooling an INFJ with smoke and mirrors.  This personality trait is not easily deceived.  Even if a partner wants to ignore something troubling, the INFJ will see beneath the surface and want to expose the truth.  Actually, the more a partner doesn’t want to address something the more the INFJ feels the matter needs to be tended to, the more the INFJ will want to force a partner to take a long, hard look into the mirror.  This isn’t the INFJ trying to be pushy.  This is more likely the INFJ worrying that his or her partner is losing ground in the battle of ultimate self discovery.  INFJs aren’t big on distractions or putting problems aside.  They would much rather deal with the issue, so they can experience harmony as soon as possible.  It is challenging for INFJs to recognize when it might be a good idea to put down the mirror in order to let their partner take a break or recharge.

Signs That People Are Viewing You As A Mirror

Reasons for mirroring in a relationship might stem from a good place, but if the INFJ isn’t working overtime to remain self aware, trouble can arise fairly quickly.  Many INFJs feel like people always like them in the beginning of relationships, but they lose their enthusiasm for them in the end.  Perhaps their partners feel like the INFJ  is too intense to be around all the time.  It takes a while for this personality type to open up if they’ve been hurt in the past, and sometimes by the time the INFJ realizes that there has been a loss of identity as a result of extensive mirroring, both partners are frustrated, confused, and believing the relationship is too far gone to ever recover.  Relationships are not easy for INFJs, and the tragedy is that this personality type is more loyal, lovable, passionate, determined, and strong than anyone could ever desire.  Having an INFJ as a partner can be pretty magical, but too often this personality type doesn’t practice enough self love to maintain the appropriate balance of give and take in a relationship to make the partner feel like an equal.  The partner may feel loved, but they also can get overwhelmed with the whole process of mirroring.  Many INFJs report partners suddenly needing out of the relationship at a point when they thought things were going quite well.  This is why it is essential for INFJs to recognize when they are mirroring too much for their partner.  Here are some common signs that mirroring is beginning to take its toll on the relationship:

  • Partner doesn’t want to be looked at. If you used to stare lovingly for hours into each others eyes, and now every time you even glance at your partner you are asked, “Why are you looking at me?” this might be a sign you are mirroring.  More likely than not, partners feel guilty or overwhelmed from constantly viewing themselves so clearly through the INFJ’s observations and reflections.  Even if an INFJ is not openly criticizing or judging them, they feel uncomfortable confronting something they have kept beneath the surface so long. 
  • Partner communicates inability to think clearly in INFJs presence. Because partners of INFJs are still trying to have a relationship with an INFJ while the INFJ is mirroring, they rightfully get confused when they feel like every conversation somehow goes back to what is going on with them.  They may be trying to connect with the person behind the mirror, but all they can see are constant reminders of themselves.
  • Partner repeatedly reacts to INFJ in a way that does not match how the INFJ is feeling.  People react strongly to what they do not like about themselves, or when they feel like they are being criticized.  It may seem like partners are having a lot of emotional ups and downs when the INFJ is mirroring.  Maybe they are fine one minute, and then the next minute something seemingly small sends them spiraling.  A simple question like asking “what do you want to do tonight?” could turn into an argument about the INFJ never being satisfied and bored.
  • Partner tells the INFJ that it is impossible to make the INFJ happy. Serious self reflection is not easy.  When partners are able to see all of themselves through the INFJ, they don’t always like the reality of what they see.  They might initially feel like the INFJ is just picking apart all their flaws, but over time partners cannot help but see the truth. While the INFJ may be perfectly content in the relationship, the partner may not be able to believe it during the mirroring process.  If they are only seeing their flaws, then they can’t understand how they can ever make someone happy.
  • Partner appears frustrated and pressures the INFJ to speak his or her mind.  This happens when INFJs become overly focused on their partner’s needs and neglect their own.  When INFJs hear this, it is time to make sure they have not lost touch with themselves in the mirroring process.  This is said when partners feel like they have no idea what the INFJ is looking for in the relationship or needs.  This should be interpreted as a sign of love from a partner, as it is an expression of wanting to know and honor the INFJ’s needs as well as their own. 
  • Partner tells INFJ that he or she may be happier with someone else.  When INFJs continue to mirror, without taking the proper steps to ground themselves and establish clear boundaries with their partners, people often feel a great need to escape.  It could be that they need to just break free from the constant reflection of the INFJ, but it could also be that they need to just break free from themselves.  They may feel not good enough for the INFJ, or they could just feel like the INFJ can never be pleased. 
  • INFJ begins to feel confused, unappreciated, desperate, and lonely.  In the final stages of mirroring, partners try and break free from the constant mirroring.  They may become angry, frustrated, or confused with the INFJ, and they may even lash out at the INFJ.  All of this typically blindsides INFJs, and it is difficult for them to understand how their partner could be so upset with them.  This is the point where a lot of relationships end for INFJs.  There is a sudden moment where both the partner and the INFJ wake up so to speak and wonder how they even got to this point.  The partner definitely feels like something needs to change.   It could be that they need to just break free from the constant reflection of the INFJ, but it could also be that they need to just break free from themselves.  They may feel not good enough for the INFJ, or they could just feel like the INFJ can never be pleased.  Regardless of the reason, the INFJ gets that all too familiar feeling of being alone and misunderstood.

Ways to Reflect & Retain A Sense of Self 

Learning to recognize and manage the mirroring aspect of the INFJ personality, as well as understanding how it impacts loved ones, is an important relationship skill for INFJs to master. INFJs don’t need to deny who they are, but it is important for them to look at themselves from a different perspective.  INFJs are really good with figuring out what is going on with other people a lot more than they are about figuring out what is going on with themselves.  These mirroring skills can be quite useful, and there are times when it can help others.  It is just a matter of staying grounded and remembering not to lose sight of one’s self.  Here are a few items for an INFJ to keep in mind when it comes to their relationships:

  • Make sure your partner wants help before you help, and if he or she does, then set clear boundaries. Just because you can see what’s beneath the surface, that doesn’t necessarily mean your partner wants you to grab a shovel and start digging it all out.  With loved ones in particular, it makes a lot of sense to set boundaries.  Have a limit to the “therapy” sessions.  Talk about subtle ways your partner can let you know when they need some time or space.
  • Hold partner accountable for his or her own feelings, and make sure you clearly know how you feel separate from your partner.  If you notice a partner projecting his or her feelings onto you, or you don’t feel like your partner has an accurate understanding of how you feel, speak up.  Have this conversation when you both feel more at ease, and approach it in a loving manner.  Also regularly check yourself for a clear understanding of your own feelings.  It isn’t uncommon for an INFJ to absorb the feelings and emotions of loved ones.  It is just as easy for the INFJ to get confused about individual needs when mirroring becomes excessive in the relationship.
  • Take breaks.  Remember to take time off from the deep analysis every once in a while for a little fun.  Do things together that are lighthearted, and don’t forget to participate in activities independent of one another.  It is also necessary to take breaks from each other.  Stepping away from a misunderstanding to regain focus is often helpful.  It doesn’t mean anything is wrong with the relationship to pause every now and again.  It is just something that you may need to do in order to remain happy.
  • Respect your partner’s processing style.  We all have communication style preferences.  Even if you are ready to talk about something, that doesn’t mean your partner feels the same.  Make sure to discuss communication preferences before you are in the heat of a heavy conversation.  If processing styles are extremely different, discuss healthy compromises you both would be willing to make in order to ensure the lines of communication stay open.
  • Remember it is not your responsibility to heal the world.  Someone else’s self work is not your self work.  INFJs will take it too far, neglecting their own interests, in the name of “helping” someone else.  A loving partner, does not like seeing you exhausted or frustrated.  They don’t want you getting so worked up about their issues.  If they are struggling, this can sometimes make it worse.  They also don’t want you taking away their control over their own situation.  Offer a helping hand when asked, but respect when your partner firmly tells you that they don’t want you to get involved.
  • Step out from behind the mirror so that others can really see you. This is probably the most important action an INFJ can take.  More likely than not, your partner fell in love with you not your mirroring abilities.  A suitable partner will appreciate your intuitive capabilities, but they will also recognize the need for you to allow yourself to shine and be nurtured as well.   A loving partner wants you to be as happy as you want them to be, and if you are always hiding behind a mirror, they will never be able to see you and understand you in the way you deserve.

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website, and Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos.

 

 

Mental Health Marathon

Michelle Lynn (HSP SOS)

7 Things You Should Know About Mentally “Getting Better” 

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Fortunately, people are slowly starting to realize that mental health is an important, and necessary, topic of conversation.  There is a growing effort to help people become better informed about various mental health related subjects, and articles about anxiety and depression are easily found in most mainstream news sources.  You can, for example,  find foods to fight the blues, tips for coping with everyday stressors, and even mental healthcare resources fairly easily these days.  Society seems to support maintaining balance and achieving the “right” state of mind.  Many people are seeking out avenues to “get better,” and each year even more people seek professional help.  There is something, however, that gets overlooked in this sea of helpful information and resources, and that something is what the actual process of healing is like for most people.  As we like to do in our society, we tend to glorify the process of “getting help” for a mental illness by focusing on the fan fare of taking the first step on the “getting better” journey and then fast forwarding to the arm flailing crossing of the finish line or “the cure.”  Having been on this path myself for several years, and still feeling like it is a bit premature to start popping open celebratory bottles of champagne, I think there are aspects of dealing with a mental illness that need to be looked at more thoughtfully in perhaps a slow motion or instant reply fashion.  Here is what I would like anyone starting the mental health marathon to consider:

  1. The novelty wears off.  When I was unable to sleep for three days in a row, refusing to eat, and standing in a corner staring at a wall for three hours at a time, people were more than supportive of me getting help for my anxiety.  There were constant check-ins, high-fives, and “good jobs.”  Just picking myself up off the floor was enough to earn some praise.  As you start to get better, those extremes aren’t as frequent or noticeable.  When you are actually able to pick yourself up, get yourself to work, and function during the day, that is a huge win.  What feels like a huge win to you, however, won’t always look that spectacular to the spectators in your life.  This lack of enthusiasm can be discouraging, and your unhealthy self might try and convince you that no one notices your efforts, or that nobody cares.  Your healing self, however, should take this as another win, because it means the people around you are starting to view you as more stable and functional.  It’s not out of the ordinary for you to have a good day, so they don’t act out of the ordinary when you do.
  2. People start to expect more out of you when you seem better.  Perhaps when you were at your worst, people wouldn’t even ask you for a glass of water if they were on fire, because they weren’t sure how you’d react.  Maybe you could let laundry and dishes pile up for months on end, and people kind of just left you alone.  When you start to get better, people start to expect you to be better.  They aren’t viewing you as a person on the brink of disaster, so they feel comfortable requiring more out of you.  This can be overwhelming for someone trying to heal, because the process of healing is already draining enough.   A person trying to work through anxiety or depression has to exert a lot more energy during the day to stay “in-check” than people realize.  Just because you look better from the outside, that doesn’t mean you are 100% better on the inside.  Your unhealthy self will feel unappreciated and draw the conclusion that you will never be able to do enough to please the people in your life.  It may even tell you to give up.  The healing self, however, will recognize that you are starting to look like a healthy person, and this is why people think it’s no big deal to ask you for a little more.  They feel like you are someone reliable.  They think you are someone that will be able to follow through, which means they aren’t tip toeing around you anymore.  It means you are getting stronger.
  3. The further you are on your journey the harder the fall.  You will fall.  You will fall at the beginning of your journey.  You will fall in the middle of your journey, and you will fall even after you swore the journey was over.  That is to be expected, but what is not expected is just how much more it hurts to fall the longer you have been running.  You would think that the more times you fall, the easier it would get to bounce back up, but it’s not for some reason.  This may have something to do with the fact that if feels really good when you can manage yourself better for longer periods of time.  It feels good to be in control, and once you see what you can do, and get used to the smooth sailing feeling, it is extremely upsetting to suddenly have a panic attack or a bout of depression.  Your unhealthy self will make fun of you and tell you that you are just fooling yourself if you believe you are anything but a broken, flawed person. This self-defeatist thinking is what helps keep you down even longer.  Your healing self needs to step up when this happens to remind you of just how few and far between these episodes now occur.  It is easy to lose sight of where you once were, and the progress you have made, if you are only focused on a perfect finish.
  4. Your new self will loathe your old self.  When you start to heal, you will gain a new perspective.  This new perspective often involves a bit of clarity, as well as taking more responsibility for the person you once were.  When you are having a mental crises, or stuck in a really dark spot, you can be a very ugly person.  You may have said things that hurt the people you love, and you may have done things that you feel can never be forgiven.  It may be painful to talk about the past as you heal, and you might be really angry at yourself for not doing something sooner.  Your unhealthy self will try and trick you into believing you are a fundamentally bad person that doesn’t deserve to be happy.  Your healing self will need to work overtime when this happens to remind you that you cannot change the past.  All you have is the present, and in the present moment you are trying to be your best.  It also helps to remember that the fact you even recognize you hurt people through your words and actions in the past, shows that you aren’t a bad person in the present.  You are becoming a caring, healing person that wants to do better.
  5. Your new self will envy your old self.  I feel a little guilty admitting this one, but there will be days when you will seriously feel like it would be much easier to just go back to being a mess.  It is really exhausting to actively participate in healing and self-work.  The mental strain of constantly self-regulating, practicing coping strategies, being cautious of triggers, and steering clear of emotional potholes is not for the weak.  When you are a mess, people don’t expect much out of you.  If you want to sit on the floor and have a fit, you can.  If you want to skip work and lay in bed all day, go for it.  Your unhealthy self will continually sabotage your thinking by telling you how carefree your life could be if you just went back to being your old unreliable self.  Your healing self, however, will hopefully remind you how it made you feel to constantly let people down and not feel like you were living up to your true potential.
  6. You will always be the same person to some people no matter how much you change.  There will always be those people in your life that can’t let go of the person you used to be.  They might tease you about how nervous you used to get, or they might continue to walk circles around you to avoid upsetting you.  Even though you may be a completely different person, they are trapped in old ways of thinking about you.   Again, your unhealthy self will want you to believe that you can’t win and no matter what you do people will always have a negative view of you.  Your healing self knows, however, that this journey is about you and not other people.  You can’t control other people’s perceptions of you, but you can control how you see yourself.  Focus on that.
  7. There is no finish line.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you are running the mental health marathon with the hopes of it being over soon, your are going to be greatly disappointed.  Mental illness isn’t a fad or trend, and there is no magical cure.  If you suffer from anxiety or depression, you will probably need to manage your anxiety and depression your whole life.  Yes, you are always going to be running.  Your unhealthy self might want to throw in the towel upon hearing this news, but hopefully your healing self recognizes the value in building stamina and endurance for this race and your longterm goals.

Mental illness is tricky at times, but I am not in competition with my anxiety.  I am aware of what it can do to me and the people in my life, but I am continually in the process of learning how to coexist harmoniously with it as well. It may sound unbelievable, but there are aspects of my anxiety that I feel have been positive for me.  Because of my own struggles with emotional wellbeing, for example, I am very sensitive to the struggles of others.  My journey with anxiety has made me more sensitive to the emotional needs of the people in my life.  I recognize anxiety in people, and I can offer field tested strategies in the moment.  I know when someone needs me to listen, and I have great empathy for any person that is even participating in this race.  I think instead of seeking a fast and glamorous photo finish, the goal should be to stay on the track, avoid swallowing too much dust, and try to keep the sweat out of your eyes.  That seems a bit more manageable in the long run.

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website, and Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos.

Mirroring in Relationships

Michelle Lynn (HSP SOS)

Making the Invisible Visible

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Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others. -Jonathan Swift

We had been together for almost six years that rainy November afternoon he pulled the car off to the side of the road and began weeping uncontrollably.  I had known for over a year that things had gone off course, and the man that once looked at me with love and admiration could no longer look me in the eyes, let alone have a meaningful conversation.  This sudden stop and outburst were completely out of his character, so I sat quietly waiting for him to speak.  He wanted to tell me that he had been lying about going to grad school for the past three months.  He had dropped out of class, but he couldn’t tell me.  He knew I would overreact and be disappointed.  It didn’t upset me that he had dropped out of school.  It didn’t matter to me what he ended up doing professionally.  I was more upset that he felt like I wouldn’t understand his decision, or that I would in some way think less of him for this decision.  The conversation continued, and it ended with him telling me that our relationship was the very reason he didn’t want to become a psychologist anymore.  He couldn’t imagine having conversations as emotionally intense as ours everyday for the rest of his life.  It was at this moment, he also stated a need for a separation.  I was just too much for him to deal with.  I was blindsided by the reason of the breakup, but not so much the breakup in itself.  I was surprised at how angry he was at me for a disappointment I had never expressed and that he never even gave me a chance to explain my actual thoughts.

Later that evening, I stood for three and a half hours staring at myself in the bathroom mirror.  This was my first major heartbreak, and I was having a difficult time making sense of what I had done wrong.  I felt completely misunderstood and voiceless in the final outcome, and I could not fully process the hurt.  Standing there on chipped linoleum, I wanted to look into myself.  I wanted to understand myself, see myself as others saw me, and hopefully identify what it was about me that made people always want to escape me.  I stared so long that I could no longer distinguish the individual features that formed my appearance.  I don’t know what I was waiting for, or what I wanted to happen, but after gazing at my reflection for over three hours, all I felt was invisible.  Continuing to look at myself in the mirror could not remedy my confusion one bit, so I stopped. 

That was over two decades ago, and I’d like to say that was the only time I found myself so lost in a relationship, but it was actually only the start.  I have noticed a pattern of people enjoying certain aspects of my personality initially, but growing tired of my intensity over time.  I have experienced more than one person telling me that he loves me more than he has ever loved anyone else in his entire life, but I am probably better off with someone else.  I have been told that I am angry, disappointed, jealous, bitter, resentful, judgmental, too demanding, too intense, unstable, and self-centered from the same people that tout me as the most understanding, loving person they have ever met.  Sometimes these mismatched descriptors come within minutes of one another, and I am always left at that point where I am standing alone staring at myself in the bathroom mirror wondering if I really am this difficult to love.

I am not writing this to air my dirty laundry as a forlorn lover.  I am writing this to reach out to other HSPs, INFJs, or empaths that might have ever felt this way in relationships themselves.  I inadvertently came across something not long ago that helped me understand what might be going on a little more clearly.  It helped me feel a little less unlovable, so I want to share that feeling among friends.

A shift in perspective occurred when I came across two images I found while talking in various groups online.  One said, intuitives are like mirrors that people can’t bear to look into too long, and the other said INFJ love story?  Everyone will hurt you. My response was less than enthusiastic at first, because let’s be honest, sometimes the truth hurts.  The everyone hurts you comment seemed like a harsh reality I wasn’t quite ready to accept, and the being a mirror concept was one I had to toss around in my mind a bit before fully grasping what it fully meant.

Over the next couple of months, the pieces of my past began to fall into place, and both phrases began to make sense.  The premise of the conversations where these images were originally posted was that people love highly intuitive and emotional people intensely, but because we are so good at unearthing what is holding people back, and exposing it, we become too much for people close to us to cope with at times.  We become a mirror, and people cannot look at us without seeing a reflection of themselves.  Our personality type does not necessarily focus on negative aspects and draw them out of people, which is why people are drawn to us initially.  We always start by illuminating the good, because we see the beauty in people when we first meet them.  If they are down on themselves, we reflect back what is good about them.  Over time, and repeated exposures to the mirror, however, we get a glimpse into the onlooker’s eyes and what is causing them to see themselves in a negative light.  With strengths, we see weaknesses.  A mirror is honest.  If you have a blemish, the mirror reflects it.  The mirror doesn’t tell you that the pimple is ugly, but you might make that connection and begin to feel self-conscious upon seeing it.  You might then choose to avoid looking at yourself in mirrors for the day or longer until the image of the imperfection has faded from your mind. 

That analogy for me explains everything I have ever misunderstood in every relationship I have ever had, including the one with my own mother.  There was a time, for example, when my mother had been drinking too much, and without me saying a word, she knew I was aware of what she had been doing behind everyone’s back.  She looked at me and said, “I will be so happy when you get out of my hair next week, so I don’t have to keep being judged by you.”  I wasn’t judging her.  I was actually keeping quiet, because I could sense the severity of the situation for everyone involved.  She, however, was judging herself in that moment.  My silent, reflective eyes produced so much shame that all she could do was lash out at me, but really it was the reflection of herself that upset her the most.  At the time, I hurt so much that I sobbed for days.  I was about to move out of my childhood home of 22 years, and those were her parting words.  I have always had this sense of people being relieved when away from me, which is a big part of why I keep my distant until I am sure people are ready for me. 

I have a history of mismatched experiences and emotions with the people I love.  When I get really close to people, they are forced to look at themselves more than they would like to I guess.  They in a sense, are being forced into a relationship with themselves by me, because I have a way of seeing the less visible aspects of most people’s personalities.  I consciously, and sometimes unconsciously, bring the invisible to the surface.  It is as if I am standing there holding up a mirror, forcing them to look at themselves, refusing to tell them what to do, trying to be supportive and understanding, and the reactions aren’t always what I expect.  I guess that’s because I am still thinking in terms of their reactions in relationship to me.  When someone I love tells me that they need time away from me, that can be a hard pill to swallow.  I dislike that I cause people I care about such distress, even if I know it is what needs to happen for them to grow. 

I have tried to be less intense or real, but telling that to someone like me is like telling water not to be wet.  You can throw a towel over everything to hide, or dry off the situation, but everything is going to get absorbed eventually.  Does this mean that I can never have a meaningful relationship with another person, or that I am better off from a distance?  No, but that does explain why I am cautious with my feelings and sometimes build walls.  It’s not just to protect myself, but many times it is to protect everyone else around me.  Will everyone hurt me?  Probably yes, but that’s because people respond unpredictably sometimes to being exposed to what they have worked hard to keep hidden.  I think the hardest thing for me is when someone leaves me, or thinks I am better off without them, because they believe they are hurting me.  I am just holding the mirror, but I see the hurt in others.  When they leave me, I feel like they are leaving at the most crucial moment of their healing, so I become desperate to bring them back to the mirror. 

I have to realize, however, that everyone needs to heal at their own pace.  I am used to holding hurt, and I recognize the interconnected relationship between hurting and healing.  It can be scary, and I have to remember that for the people I care about.  I have to work harder at helping myself, as well as my loved ones, to see where they end and I begin.  There is someone standing behind this mirror, and that’s the person I want people to ultimately see.  I think deep down that’s what every INFJ, HSP, or empath wants, someone to really see them.  People do see me sometimes, and I think when they do, they realize what’s been going on.  They do start to see their own parts, as well as the parts that have all along been mine.  Perhaps this is why, every time a relationship has ended for me I’ve been told that I’m better off without that other person in my life.  When I hear that, I hurt, because I don’t honestly feel that way myself.  While I hold other people’s pain sometimes, I rarely keep it as my own.  The hurt isn’t from what that person thinks he has inflicted upon me.  The hurt is that this person can’t recognize how much I have learned and enjoyed our experiences together.  How much I value the light, as well as the dark.

A person really close to me once explained why sad songs are the most beautiful, and that was one of the first times I ever felt like someone could reflect something of myself back to me.  Hurt is acknowledgment, concern, and care for how things should or should not be in this world.  Even when people are hurting, and they choose things you do not agree with out of love for you, or themselves, that is far better than apathy.  Every hurt has taught me a great deal about myself, as well as forced me to continue along my path of healing.   As an INFJ everyone I love hurts me, but everyone I have ever loved has also helped to heal me.

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website, and Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos.

To Love an Empath

Michelle Lynn (HSP SOS)

If You Love an Empath, Know This

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Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website,  and  Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos .

I Will Rain On Your Parade

Michelle Lynn (HSP SOS)

-A definite promise from your loving HSP, empath, and INFJ-

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Whether you are a highly sensitive person, empath, or INFJ, I am sure you have all been told to “lighten up” from time to time.  Well, I am all of those things, so I’m just going to go ahead and warn you up front to multiply that by three.  Intense is an understatement!  I haven’t decided yet if I am poisonous or contagious, but I do know I can definitely “rain on a parade” more often than I’d like to admit.

Now, I’m not a depressed person.  I would say that I am very much the opposite of that.  I am an idealist, and I believe in love and happiness.  I wake up each morning as sunshine, ready to take on the world.  I think about how I can make the world a better place.  I’ve even been accused of being all rainbows, unicorns, and pixie dust at times.  I’ve been likened to a magical character that couldn’t possibly exist in the “real” world.  Some of these comments have been made in awe, and at other times, they have been made in disgust.  I do not become bitter or change my ways. I keep on believing in beautiful outcomes in spite of the evidence before me.

That being said, however, I am also a realist.  I am on a path of constant evolution, and I admit to being a bit of a perfectionist.  I don’t cringe at the idea of perfectionism like so many people do, because my brain doesn’t comprehend settling for less before you even try for the best.  This is where I start to lose people I think.  I am always trying to perfect things- living spaces, situations, people, myself, and even moments.  I am not afraid of hard work.  I think INFJ’s are born wearing work gloves.  Activities and conversations that end in evolution and understanding energize me, but I understand how these types of conversations are often exhausting for others.  

Where other people are content, I am always looking for more.  

I’m going to leave that sentence right there.  I am just going to let it sit there all alone and reflect on itself for a while, because that’s the core of everything people don’t get  or dislike about me.  That right there is the reason many of my relationships and friendships have ended.  I know I make people feel bad or inadequate.  I know that I can take their happy moment and suck all the joy out of it by mentioning what I perceive as an obvious truth. The difference between me and other people, however, is that I am not being critical in my mind.  I am being analytical.  I am being analytical with the intent to propel everything around me to absolute greatness.  What I am learning the hard way, however, is that people don’t always want that.  Sometimes it just makes people feel like they aren’t good enough, or that I am not satisfied with what is right in front of me.  This also is the furthest thing from the truth, and it makes me very upset when my words or actions leave people feeling this way.  I HATE raining on anyone’s parade.  It is never my intent, and I often get surprised by people’s reactions to my well meaning intentions.

Maybe this misunderstanding happens, because I don’t see the world as good or bad.  I see the world as being in a state of constant change.  If something isn’t right, then let’s work on making it right.  I look at life through the lens of development.  I am the most analytical with the people closest to me, because they are the ones I want to propel to ultimate greatness above anything else.  It’s not that I don’t like them as they are right now.  I absolutely adore them right now.  I didn’t dislike my daughter when she couldn’t feed herself or go to the bathroom on her own.  I adored her, but I still helped her learn how to take the best care of herself.  I didn’t love her less back then or more now.  I just love like I always love, and I never think of it in any other way.

I take the whole work in progress concept very seriously.  I live by it.  I don’t get upset with people when they aren’t being their best.  I easily forgive, and I do not judge.  I will, however, probably state the very obvious fact you don’t need (or want) to hear right at the moment you least want (but maybe need) to hear it.  Again, I am a bit of a storm cloud.  Just like a storm cloud, as heat and energy gets released into the atmosphere, I swell.  In my attempts to force something to rise, something else falls, and through this instability, I often create quite a storm.

I have watched the storms build over the years, and I have grown much better at tempering myself in order to prevent their intensity.  A delayed storm, however, is still a storm, and the rainy season always returns.  I don’t mind the rainy season as much as those around me do, because I see the big picture.  I don’t mind enduring thunder and lightning to nourish the flowers.  I see it as the laws of nature, a natural process of the universe.  I know though that everyday can’t be thunderstorms.  I am not writing this to give highly sensitive people, empaths, or INFJs permission to jab a lightening bolt into the hearts of everyone they meet.  I am writing this in an attempt to let people understand the “science” behind our intensity.  I am writing this to remind people of all of the beauty that grows out of thunderstorms.  

Yes, I am a thundercloud.  

I can be frightening, but I am also nourishing.  I may storm, but it is never meant to ruin anyone’s parade.  That is my promise.

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website,  and  Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos .

I Feel Weird

Michelle Lynn (HSP SOS)

weird

My Christmas morning confession is this… I feel weird! I am not particularly depressed or anxious.  I am not necessarily disappointed or upset because I had hoped that things would have shaped up differently.  I am just sitting here alone in my apartment, fireplace going with a cup of mint tea by my side, feeling pretty off.  The feeling started towards the end of the evening last night, and I tried my best to shake it.  I spent time with my loved ones, and nothing transpired that would warrant a foul mood.  Still I sensed myself turning inward, and I found myself sitting quietly away from everyone else.  I could feel myself getting annoyed by being asked, “what’s wrong?”  I felt guilty for not wanting to talk.  I always appreciate that people care enough to show concern, but when I don’t know what’s wrong, I hate that people ask. It always leads to the filling in of the blanks as we try and figure out what’s going one with me.  

Am I sad that my daughter is with her father this morning instead of with me?  

Am I missing my grandmother?  

Did I forget to eat yesterday?

Am I upset that El Nino has created unseasonably warm temperatures in the Midwest, and it just doesn’t feel like Christmas?

Should I have said something to my mom about her mom not being here this year?  Was it disrespectful not to?

Have I just had too much people time, and  I need to take some time to recharge?

Did I spend too much this year on gifts or not enough?

Am I bothered by the wrapping paper, bows, and glitter strewn across the carpet?

Do I need to get some of those papers graded, so I can enjoy the rest of my time off?

Did those cookies have red dye in them, and now they are impacting my mood?

Do I want to be alone?

Do I want company?

Am I worried about attending my brother’s party?

Are the holiday decorations invading too much of my space?

Was that post about the orphan babies too emotional for me to read before going to bed?

Should I have had breakfast and my vitamins already?

Am I concerned about where I’m going to fit all of my daughter’s new toys?

Was it just not as meaningful as Christmases past?

Am I concerned that I’m ruining the day for everyone else, because I can’t get out of this funk?

The answer to all of these questions is… I don’t know?  No and yes?  The only thing I know with any certainty is that I feel weird.  Again, I am not depressed or anxious.  I am just kind of existing here in this space right now.  It’s almost like my mind and body can’t even process my emotions.  I am tempted to beat myself up.  I am tempted to put on some holiday music, down some eggnog, and force feed myself the holiday cheer.  The last thing I ever want to do is have my weird mood affect those around me.  I am almost to the point of letting a little of the anxiety in, and then I remind myself that I am a highly sensitive person.  I am an introvert.  I am extremely sensitive to everything around me, and I AM an intensely emotional person.  Weird is just a feeling like happy or sad.  The holidays are a deviation from the norm, and I’m just feeling what I’m feeling simple as that.  There’s nothing wrong, so I don’t have to invent a reason to tell other people.  I don’t need to feel guilty for not being something else.  In this moment, I think I just need to accept the fact that I feel a bit strange.  Maybe there are other people out there feeling the same way today thinking they shouldn’t?  If so, all I have to say is Merry Christmas let’s feel weird!  

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website,  and  Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos .

Highly Sensitive Superheroes

Michelle Lynn (HSP SOS)

Can Superheroes Help “Save the Day” for HSPs and Empaths?

Front_cover_-Wow_Comics-_no._38_(art_by_Jack_Binder)

Listen to HSP S.O.S Episode #4- Sensitive Superheroes 

 

In 2002, I went to an afternoon matinee to see The Powerpuff Girls.  I was in my twenties.  I had no children, and I was possibly the only adult in there of my own free will.  It wasn’t that I was a huge superhero fan, or comic book aficionado.  I was never really that into the genre growing up, but something about Blossom, Buttercup, and Bubbles captured my heart. The little girl superheroes created from sugar, spice, and Chemical X were cute and complex.  Each character brought a different personality trait to the mix, which helped formulate a powerhouse of smarts, sensitivity, and sass.  When asked, I could never answer which one was my favorite, because I needed all three of them.

As a young girl growing up in the era of excessive consumerism and exaggerated female beauty standards, I often felt fragmented.  I felt like I had all these different aspects of my personality that helped form my identity, but I didn’t know when to be smart, or when to be sensitive, or when to stand my ground and fight back.  I love that The Powerpuff Girls are unapologetically themselves. They are by no means perfect.  They sometimes get a bit too carried away and inadvertently destroy sections of Townsville.  Even after botched communication, bouts of anger, and explosive meltdowns, however, the community still loves The Powerpuff Girls.

Subconsciously, this type of unconditional love is perhaps what drew me to their story in the first place.  I have struggled with my own identity as a highly sensitive, introverted young woman over the years.  I have always longed for a world that could accept all facets of my personality.  I have always wanted the freedom to make mistakes, have meltdowns, mess up and still trust that I would be loved.  

You might be thinking that all of this is just a little too deep for a show with pigtailed crusaders and talking monkey supervillans.  This analytical approach, however, is not a new concept.  Analyzing comic book characters, and hero archetypes, falls within the area of something called Superhero Therapy.  I first learned about Superhero Therapy when researching for HSP S.O.S. episode #4 Sensitive Superheroes.  In that podcast, I featured the work of a clinical psychologist named Dr. Janina Scarlet.  A therapist, author, and speaker, Dr. Scarlet uses superheroes and their stories to help her clients.  Much of her work centers around using stories to assist patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and PTSD.  Which completely makes sense, when you think about the parallels between some of your favorite superheroes and individuals coping with fears, phobias, and traumatic experiences.  I fell in love with the idea and her work months ago.  I haven’t stopped thinking about the concept of Superhero Therapy since that podcast.

My role on The Captain’s Pod is to produce episodes for HSP S.O.S. with Highly Sensitive Persons and emotional empaths in mind.  Sensory Processing Sensitivity is a trait, not a disorder.  According to the leading researcher on the topic, Dr. Elaine Aron, approximately 20% of the population has a sensitivity trait.  These individuals with this sensitivity trait process sensory data much deeper and more intensely than non-HSPs.  It can be very exhausting, and if individuals with highly sensitive nervous systems do not develop coping strategies to maintain balance, they can end up with a variety of mental health disorders like the ones Dr. Janina Scarlet treats.

The question I’ve been tossing around for a while now is can some superhero self-help be used preventatively for HSPs and emotional empaths?  It would seem that individuals with the sensitivity trait might relate to superheroes going through similar struggles.  Can superheroes help “save the day” for society’s most sensitive  souls?  What follows are some of my personal thoughts on how we as a community of HSPS and empaths might be able to adapt what Dr. Janina Scarlett does in her Superhero Therapy for our own purposes.  It’s a reflection on how superheroes can also benefit the 20% of the population needing a little extra support to achieve a sense of balance.

How Can Superhero Stories Help “Save the Day” for HSPs and Empaths?


  1. They provide examples of characters struggling with sensory overload and feelings of isolation. HSPs are capable of processing larger amounts of sensory information than non-HSPs.  They pick up on subtle cues in their environment and often experience over arousal, or sensory overload.  Some highly sensitive people are also emotional empaths, this means that they are so in-tune with their environment, and the energy around them, that they can actually sense and absorb the emotions of other people.  This heightened sensitivity often allows HSPs to understand or “read” people better, but it is also very draining.  Many individuals with sensory processing sensitivity end up needing breaks from people to recharge, but since empathetic individuals like to help and make other people happy, they don’t often take the best care of themselves.  This can lead to melt-downs, outbursts, and a sense of being misunderstood.  HSPs and empaths often feel like they are “weird” or that there is no one else quite like them.  You can’t always tell by looking at a person whether or not they are struggling with sensory overload, so superheroes like Marvel’s Matt Murdock (a.k.a. Daredevil) can really help make the invisible visible.  The characters that interact with Matt Murdock don’t always know just how much he is struggling to keep it together.  Because we are allowed inside the mind of this character, however, we can experience exactly what he goes through each day.  Just as Daredevil’s heightened senses are a strength for him, they are also his vulnerability.  If he is in an environment that contains too much noise, strong odors, or a lot of people, he struggles.  He may need to do something to dull his senses just to regain a bit of control over what is happening to him mentally and physically.  This is exactly how it is for HSPs and empaths, and it’s refreshing to see what sensitive individuals go through played out in comic books, movies, and television.

  2. They remind us that being self-aware is an important part of achieving and maintaining emotional balance. In the X-Men film series, Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters is a well known safe haven for mutants to train and learn to control their powers in order to get along better in the real world.  The first time I watched an X-Men movie, I found myself daydreaming and wishing there was a school like that for me to go to.  As a highly sensitive person and emotional empath, I have plenty of stories about letting myself get out of balance, exhausting myself, and exposing my vulnerability to the wrong people.  While you are born with the power of sensitivity, you aren’t born with the knowledge of how to manage and master this trait.  Maintaining emotional balance is a life-long battle for sensitive superheroes.  It is a topic that we address routinely on our podcast on episodes like HSP S.O.S. #22.  In this episode we discuss how HSPs and empaths often have unrealistic expectations of themselves.  Like the superheroes attending Xavier’s school, people that struggle with intense emotions are prone to outbursts of rage, intense sadness, and possible panic attacks.  HSPs have a strong sense of not wanting to hurt or burden the people they love, so they routinely suppress less desirable aspects of their identity.  Like we talk about in The Captain’s Pod Star Wars and The Shadow episode, ignoring “The Dark Side” only makes it stronger.  As do virtually all superheroes, HSPs and emotional empaths have to acknowledge and master their own shadows in order to achieve a strong sense of self-control and stability.

  3. They appeal to our empathetic nature and “save the world” mentality, while accurately portraying the level of self sacrifice and energy needed to live in this manner. For individuals that feel everything so deeply, spend a great deal of time in deep thought, and approach the world with a desire to make it better, it is easy to become disenfranchised with a seemingly apathetic and cruel world.  A superhero’s mission in life is to make sure that justice is served.  Stories allow us to see both the internal and external struggle of well-intentioned characters.  Complex superhero narratives will test the moral values of empathetic characters, much how society often tests its most sensitive citizens’ principles and standards.  HSPs and empaths recognize when something is not right in the world.  They have a hard time accepting things that go against their own code of ethics or doing something that they know will hurt another person. It is an exhausting aspect of the sensitive personality, and sensitive individuals do run the risk of feeling like life has given them an unfair hand.   It can be helpful in these instances to turn to fictional characters experiencing similar struggles.  Comic books, movies, and television shows are relatively short, which allows a reader to weigh the benefits and drawback of sacrificing one’s self for the greater good in a short period of time.  An HSP or empath struggling with whether or not to remain loyal to a profession that is compromising a personal belief system could, for example, take a look at Captain America in Marvel’s Civil War series.  Cap is being forced to make a decision to go along with people he has called friends a good portion of his life or go against his friends in the name of what he believes is just.  Seeing the negative and positive outcomes associated with a character’s course of action can assist HSPs and empaths as they start to assess what needs to be done in their own circumstances.  Rarely in superhero story lines do characters have easy decisions to make, so they are great models for real world issues as well. 

  4. They help us find people like us in the real world. Superhero stories are quite popular.  The comic book and superhero movie franchise is a multimillion dollar industry.  Needless to say, there are a lot of people out there that are connecting to these stories.  A few years ago, I never would have thought I would be so interested in the psychology of superheroes.  By taking a closer look at a genre I once overlooked, I have made many new fictional friends, as well as real friends.  There are plenty of social media sites devoted to superheroes and their fans.  People love analyzing characters and discussing their complexity, so it’s really easy to connect with like-minded people from the comfort of your own home.  Having people to talk to that share similar interests is something the highly sensitive desperately seek, and there is no better way to connect to people than through a shared interest.  

Superheroes come in many varieties these days, and it’s no surprise that the highly sensitive can find themselves reflected in these characters.  HSPs and emotional empaths have a lot in common with crusaders of compassion, and their stories have the power to connect, comfort, and challenge us on our journey towards emotional balance.

Author, Michelle Lynn, is a podcaster on The Captain’s Pod, and she creates content specifically for HSP’s, empaths, introverts, INFJ’s, and Myers-Briggs enthusiasts.  Her weekly podcast, HSP S.O.S. (Highly Sensitive Persons Supporting Our Sensitivity), can be found on The Captain’s Pod website, The HSP SOS website,  and  Facebook. Also connect with her on Twitter @hsp_sos .

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