“INFJs are distinguished by both their complexity of character and the unusual range and depth of their talents. Strongly humanitarian in outlook, INFJs tend to be idealists, and because of their J preference for closure and completion, they are generally “doers” as well as dreamers. This rare combination of vision and practicality often results in INFJs taking a disproportionate amount of responsibility in the various causes to which so many of them seem to be drawn.
“INFJs are deeply concerned about their relations with individuals as well as the state of humanity at large. They are, in fact, sometimes mistaken for extroverts because they appear so outgoing and are so genuinely interested in people — a product of the Feeling function they most readily show to the world. On the contrary, INFJs are true introverts…”
“Sensory processing sensitivity (SPS), a personality trait, a high measure of which defines a highly sensitive person (HSP), has been described as having hypersensitivity to external stimuli, a greater depth of cognitive processing, and high emotional reactivity.”
Hi, everyone. My name is Audra and I’m an INFJ/HSP.
I found out I was an INFJ about 5 or 6 years ago, and I can remember the exact moment I read Elaine Aron and discovered I was also an HSP, about 3 years ago.
My inner life changed in hugely dramatic ways both those times, and it has continued to shape the way I live and the way I write, and even more, the way I feel about writing.
Living as an INFJ/HSP, which I will call “empath” for ease, is not easy. I had a total breakdown when I found out I was one. Feelings of intense relief, that I was not crazy, or weak, or nearly as alone as I thought, were coupled with anger that I would have to suffer. Because it felt like the world was designed for those not like me, and I would have to adjust. I had always figured that, but hearing that it wasn’t fixable, shouldn’t be fixed, but was in fact a gift, angered me. Why me? It’s a question I’m sure every empath has asked at some point. Why us? Why are we chosen to feel for the world? Why do we have to go through this intense trip when others seem to have it so much lighter? Why can’t we surf along the waves instead of drowning under the water?
Coming out of the closet as an empath is scary. I’m revealing that I am this squishy marshmallow creature, and that’s scary. Because I still resist. I still like to pretend I am not what I am.
In fact, through high school I tested as INTJ, that cool customer who is so calculating and logical and gets things done ON TIME and EFFICIENTLY. Anything to do with sappy, useless feelings I tossed aside. I insisted I hated pink for years too. And probably fluffy things. And I was clever enough to pick answers I knew would get me the result I wanted. I knew what I wanted to be – the boss.
Perhaps somewhere in my life someone said that being sensitive was bad. I don’t recall. I don’t have any memories of other people telling me to toughen up or get over it. It was only ever me who told me that. In my room, hiding from conflict, I berated what I saw as my enfeebled and childish reactions to every tiny thing. I will be stronger when I am older, I thought. I earnestly believed that my sensitivity was something I would and should outgrow. And when it did not happen, I think some inner panic started that took a few years to let go of. Not until the movement accepting introverts and then, slowly, sensitivity began did I start a soul search to help myself out.
So then I retook the test and was honest for the first time. Or I read about INFJs and couldn’t believe someone had painted a picture of me. Or perhaps I got tired of lying that I didn’t like pink. Whatever the case, I found it out.
I was happy with that identity. Finding out I was an HSP was a bit harder to deal with. When I’m sick or tired or otherwise drained, noises and lights physically hurt. It means I have to be a bit more conscious of myself so I don’t turn into a raging, shut-down emotionless machine as a reaction to too much exposure.
Admitting that I am an empath is tough. So I have to thank Lauren Sapala and this post for helping me do it. Even the phrase in the title, “I thought I was sick or crazy,” let me know I had found one of my tribe. Her story echoes mine in many ways. I feel lucky that I was able to discover the reasons for myself earlier than she did, and in a world already a bit more comfortable with introversion as a whole, but our stories are still frighteningly similar. The physical reactions, the self-doubt, the wondering and hoping if one day adult life would toughen me up into a normal person.
I especially love the part in her post about the definition of empath. One reason I’ve always shied away from that word is its mystic, New Age-y connotations, which is code for “not real and not valid.” Perhaps that’s part of the reason I was so resistant to letting myself be an INFJ and HSP. Too close to ESP, which had no place in my logical, rational, hard-boiled upbringing.
All I want to do today is say I am an empath. There’s a lot to say on the subject later. I want to talk about what it means for me as a writer and what it means for me as an expat.
But for now, my name is Audra, and I’m an empath.
*Here are more sites dedicated to the INFJ personality.
**Wikipedia had the simplest definition, but definitely check out Elaine Aron’s site for more detailed information.