I’ve always felt deeply for other people. When someone gets hurt, whether physically or emotionally, I feel that pain as if I’m the one being hurt.
I don’t like that feeling. Just imagine being bombarded with negative news every single day. And these aren’t the only stressors I deal with. As a human being myself, I also go through difficult times — I feel stressed and have worries of my own, too.
So with all the negativity inside my mind, at one point, I felt like I was going crazy — I had trouble breathing, my heart would beat fast, and my hands would shake. All the negative vibes gave me an anxiety attack.
I didn’t understand why I was like this. I thought my ability to feel other people’s sadness so deeply was a burden to me. That is, until I did a Myer-Briggs personality assessment and discovered my personality type — INFJ, which refers to Introversion (I), Intuition (N), Feeling (F), Judgment (J).
Turns out, most INFJs are highly sensitive people, and due to our passion and strong desire to connect with others, we unconsciously absorb whatever others feel. But with so many emotions coming at us, we can feel as if we’re drowning. Not knowing how to explain our overwhelming emotions to others, we might take in whatever’s coming and pretend we’re okay.
This was hard for me. I spent countless nights crying over stuff that concerned others — my friends, family, people who were suffering as shown on the news, even strangers I saw in the street. Sometimes the negativity would last for days or weeks, affecting my work, relationships, and life in general. It would sap my motivation for everything.
I knew I had to do something about this problem. I couldn’t stay negative all day long and let my emotions control my life. So I started to look for ways to take back control of my life — and I found them. Dear INFJ, if you’re struggling like I did, I hope these things help you, too. Even if you’re not an INFJ, this advice will help.
INFJ: How to Deal With Negative Emotions
1. Feel the negative emotions, and embrace them.
Don’t try to suppress your negative emotions. Accept them as they are and do whatever you need to do to express them in a healthy way.
This can be difficult for INFJs because we care a lot about how others feel. We don’t want our emotions to burden or inconvenience others. We’d rather take all the negativity on our own than let anyone know we’re spiralling down and make them worry. This is definitely unhealthy for an INFJ, because bottled emotions will explode one day. Suppressed emotions can even lead to depression and anxiety. This was what happened to me.
Whatever emotion you feel, be it anger, sadness, or disappointment, find a way to express it. If you don’t want to affect others, find a way to express it anyway. Try writing about it on a piece of loose leaf paper, then throwing it away. Our journal about it, shout it out loud in an empty place, or cry as much as you want. If you have a trusted friend who’s willing to lend an ear, talk to them.
2. Get clear on who the feelings belong to.
The good thing about experiencing others’ emotions is that our friends and family often feel understood and comforted after talking with us. We know what to say and what not to do to make them feel better.
On the other hand, the bad thing is we can become so connected to them that we experience the same pain as they do, and this can leave us drained.
Worse still, we confuse our own feelings with the feelings of others. I often wonder, “Am I feeling sad because of what happened to me? Or am I upset because of others’ sadness?”
The solution here is to set boundaries. It’s okay to comfort a friend and show your support and empathy. But you have to be clear about the emotions you feel along the way.
Identify the emotions you feel and get clear about why you feel them. One simple exercise to achieve this is to name the emotions you feel. Write down what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it. You can be as descriptive as you want about your emotions and what you’ve seen, heard, or experienced that made you feel this way.
If these are your own emotions, express them as needed (as mentioned in the first point). If the negative emotion belongs to someone else, you can let go of it simply by asking it to leave. Sounds too simple, right? It really works! Just call on the emotion you want to let go of, “(Emotion), I feel you, and I understand you feel bad. It’s okay that I feel so deeply. But I’ll be okay since this feeling doesn’t belong to me. You can leave now if you’re ready.”
When you’re too overwhelmed to let go of the negativity, take a break. Learn to say no when you feel your emotional energy depleted. Take a break from social media and the news. You can be the listening and understanding INFJ again after your break.
3. Make meditation your habit.
Meditation can reduce stress, control anxiety, and promote emotional health. It’s one way to help calm your thoughts and regain your inner energy.
Meditation doesn’t require much effort or any tools to begin. You can meditate anywhere at any time easily.
One of the easiest types of meditation is deep breathing. Just set aside 5 to 15 minutes a day, find a comfortable place where you can relax and be quiet. Then you can start your breathing meditation:
“You may close your eyes or keep them open, depending on your preference… Breathe in deeply through your nose for at least three seconds and hold it in for a further two seconds. Next, exhale for at least four seconds through the mouth. You can repeat this exercise a couple of times if you’d like. Next, gradually transition into natural breathing. If your nasal passages are clear, you should breathe through your nose. The mouth should be closed or slightly open. During meditation you should let your body, breath and mind be as they are while maintaining awareness.” –MindWorks
Recently, I took the 30-Day Meditation Challenge. At first, I struggled to continue for various reasons, but eventually, I made meditation my habit! You can read more about my journey here: 30-Day Meditation Challenge for Beginners.
4. Seek help from professionals.
I know how it feels to be mentally tired because of the negative energy you’ve been absorbing from others.
I wanted to help my friends and family when they were sad, so I never turned my back on them whenever they wanted to vent their emotions. I was always the patient one who was available to comfort them, even when I had my own stresses and frustrations.
It was when I felt that my own emotions were bottled up that I realized I couldn’t go on like this anymore. I imagined myself a cup full of water (my emotions). I was filled with water, so full that I could barely hold it all together. But others were still pouring in more and more water, and my cup simply overflowed. I was a cup with water overflowing constantly.
I started to lose control of my emotions. I got triggered easily by minor things. I started to lose my patience when people came to me for a listening ear. I couldn’t stay calm and would sometimes overreact to a friend’s upsetting experience. Then I felt anxious because I worried that I unintentionally hurt their feelings.
I also felt depressed because I wanted to be by my friends or family’s side when they needed support and encouragement, yet I no longer had the capacity to take care of their emotional needs.
When I realized that something needed to change, I researched psychotherapists and made an appointment with one. I’m glad I did. My therapist guided me out of my negative loop by giving me a different perspective, one I’d never thought about. I also learned useful techniques to manage my emotions better.
If you’ve tried everything you’ve learned from books or articles and you’re still struggling, consider reaching out to a therapist or a coach to help you. Yes, you’ll have to pay for the service, but consider it an investment that will help you be happier and healthier.
Sometimes, it may feel like your highly sensitive INFJ nature is a burden, but when you learn how to regulate your emotions, you’ll see the power you truly have.