The INFJ Empath: How to cope

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Have you wondered if you’re an INFJ empath and what that means? Maybe you did the highly regarded Meyer’s Briggs personality test like me and found out that you’re an INFJ, the introverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging, personality type characterised by a gentle, caring, and creative nature. Are all INFJ’s empaths too? If so, how do you cope with the onslaught of other people’s emotions?

Firstly, let’s dig into the term “empath”.

About 10 years ago, this word probably didn’t even exist, but now it’s everywhere. I’ve always been a bit sceptical of it, because anyone who is empathetic could call themselves an empath – and what does it really change if you are an empath or just a sensitive person? It also seems like every blogger and motivational speaker out there calls themselves an empath. But many psychologists and psychiatrists write about empaths – and in fact, consider themselves empaths, so there must be something to it.

A key characteristic of an empath is an ability to feel and absorb the emotions and/or physical symptoms of others because of their sensitivities. They are highly intuitive and often feel overwhelmed.

Taking this definition into account, INFJs seem to fit the bill.

But as a fellow INFJ, I needed to dig a little deeper to find out about INFJ empaths and when you can be labelled both an INFJ and an empath.

3 key traits of an INFJ Empath:

  1. An INFJ Empath takes on other people’s emotions

Empaths tune in to other people’s moods and feelings, whether they want to or not. They thrive in pleasant, peaceful environments because they can absorb good energy – like a human sponge. When the people around them are stressed and angry, they absorb these negative energies. An INFJ may differ from an INFJ empath in that they may have tremendous self-discipline and focus, whereas empaths can feel lost and overwhelmed.

So how do you know if you’re an INFJ empath? As an INFJ empath, it’s hard to separate your feelings and emotions from the emotions of those around you. If you can’t do this, you’ll start feeling exhaustion and burnout – which can manifest in physical illness.

  1. INFJ Empaths are extremely sensitive and intuitive

By definition, INFJ’s are intuitive. The INFJ uses Introverted iNtuition to process information, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that as an INFJ you have more empathy or emotional intelligence than anyone else.

Introverted iNtuition can be a detached way of visualising and realising ideas. INFJ empaths meanwhile, are arguably too involved. They process things deeply, seeing patterns, trends, and symbolic meaning in everything – and are extremely sensitive to subtleties.

INFJ empaths respond to other people’s emotional reactions more than their own. Their feelings are often hard to discern, because they’re so clouded by outside influences. While they can experience moments of deep insight, shifting their perspective to see multiple points of view – they easily become over-stimulated by bright lights, noise and sensory data.

Some INFJ’s relate to this emotional reactivity (defined as the intensity and duration of an emotional response to a variety of stimuli), but this Extraverted Sensation (SE) is an inferior process. If you’re an INFJ Empath, you’d likely find any overload of sensory data overwhelming and stressful.

  1. An INFJ empath finds social interaction and relationships difficult

Most INFJs need more alone time than other personality types because they are so immersed in the emotional worlds of other people. This is true for empaths too, who have difficulty sorting out their own feelings when they aren’t alone. When they’re with people, INFJ Empaths tend to focus on the other’s needs, their values, and their emotional struggles. They need time away from everyone and everything to process situations without getting drained by the feelings and views of the other person or group.

Journaling is a very healthy practice to explore as an INFJ Empath, because it can help you to sort out your feelings and filter input from the outside world. It’ll also help you feel less guilty for needing that time to yourself – and help you learn to demand it.

Obviously, there are many techniques and strategies for coping in life as an INFJ, an empath, or an INFJ empath. For the sake of simplicity, let’s start with just one key exercise you can try to protect yourself from the emotions of others.

Blue-footed Booby Success Formula: Visualization exercise to protect you from negative energy

  1. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths, releasing them slowly feeling your belly expand on each in-breath and deflate on the out-breath
  2. Now imagine a shield of light that engulfs and surrounds you. What colour would it be? How does it feel? Does it have a temperature?
  3. Imagine that this shield allows you to radiate positive energy outwards, but only allows positive energy to come back at you. It’s like a protective bubble that shields you from any negative feelings or emotions. How does it feel when you’re inside this shield of light?
  4. Now hold on to that feeling as you gently open your eyes. You can use this technique anywhere, anytime, even if your eyes are open – just practice it as often as you can at home so the sensation of being in this light shield becomes so strong that you can tap into the feeling easily.

As a sensitive INFJ empath, you have to learn how to effectively deal with the sensory overload you’re going to feel when too much is coming at you. It can leave you feeling burnout, anxious, depressed or even physically ill. You might feel like there is no off-switch for your empathy and you’re drowning in waves of other people’s emotions.

This is not true.

Practice the above visualisation exercise to help you feel protected and safe in any situation, rather than feeling like you have no control.

Start to identify when you’re feeling triggered and act quickly by going elsewhere (or inwards) to practice this visualisation exercise.

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