Friday, December 18, 2015

How to emotionally protect yourself: Advice for ENFJ

Oh, hello my dear ENFJs! I really appreciate and love you; you're some of my very favorite clients/friends/loves of all time. I hope my slowness didn't hurt your feelings. 

ENFJ functional stack: Fe Ni Se Ti

So, the usual caveats are relevant here: some of these will resonate with you, some of them won't. No one is exactly the same, and we all have different needs/desires. But, I'll start with the biggest thing, which if you are truly an ENFJ will for sure ring a bell: 

1) ENFJ, my friend (and I say this so very lovingly, because I know what a good place it is borne of) you've got a serious case of Major Boundary Issues. If there is one specific hallmark ENFJ has that clues me in that that's the type I'm dealing with, it's a general lack of or difficulty with boundaries. This may pop up in any number of ways, but most commonly manifesting as a lack of boundary between your emotions and the emotions of others. So let's say item #1 on our agenda is just to get clear on the fact that you're not naturally well-suited for establishing clear boundaries. It's your Achilles heel. It's the place you falter the most in your quest for genuine soul happiness, deep and sustainable satisfaction at work, balanced love and friend relationships. 

2) And next let's also clarify that these issues occur specifically because you care so much about other people and you so much want everyone to be safe and happy and cared for. I emphasize this part because I need you to know that there's nothing wrong with how you are. The world needs people like you, because you help us all out so much and you provide so much love and support. You are the givers and teachers and most generous lovers of humankind. You are inspirational! And I know that you really get a lot of genuine satisfaction out of providing all the love and support you can, and sometimes it feels like you have endless capacity to provide. It's just that...well, this lack of boundaries very often ends up making you feel shitty in the long run, (for a variety of reasons) and we don't want that. 

3) I need you to understand - deeply. in your bones. - that identifying and correcting your difficulty in establishing and maintaining boundaries is not an act of selfishness. It is not harmful to others. It is an act of self-care, self-love, and self-respect. You are setting an example for the many people who look up to you, because truly it is only through loving and caring for yourself that you can effectively sustain the love and care you want to provide for the people in your life. People look to you for guidance for any number of problems, issues, concerns, etc. You can practice and model solid boundaries with a little bit of mindful adjustment. Remember that the world does not need you to martyr yourself. There's a reason the flight attendants say to put your oxygen mask on first. 

4) So, let's start with a plan for emotional boundaries, or the fulcrum at which the feelings of other people can overpower or even become your feelings. It's basically like having emotional hypochondriasis: if you are too enmeshed in others, you can literally begin to manifest the emotional state of the people around you. You may be super happy one day, like everything is going great and there's not a cloud in your emotional sky...and then you may meet for coffee with a super negative friend who complains the whole time. And then you may spend the rest of the day in a funk you have no identifiable reason to be in. Meanwhile, your friend  feels so much better after spending time with you. You know why? Because that Negative Nancy has vampirically sucked the very joy from your veins, and you let him/her do it. You veritably offered your neck for the joy-sucking. This can happen to you so easily if you are not mindful of and actively protecting yourself against this risk. This is especially dangerous for your emotional state if you partner with someone who is very dark or very emotionally needy. You can fairly easily find yourself in an effectively parasitic relationship in which you are the sole source of happiness or positive emotion for another person or even a whole system (family/work/friend group). You may not even realize you're being drained because the siphoning makes you feel so useful and important. 

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  1. This is a great post, thank you! I'm a pretty self-aware ENFJ and have been on a growth journey lately (actually all my life, if I'm being honest!) that has brought to this place where I've decided to start asking for help and support. The problem is that I genuinely don't know how, especially when I'm feeling really vulnerable (and extra in need of it of course). I just get so scared I'm asking for too much. Usually it's because I know what everyone else in my life is going through and I think, I can't add my stuff on top of all the other stuff they have going on. Or I think, I'm already a bit full on for them (my INFJ friends) with how much I talk about things, or people see me as the rock, and I don't want them to see me neurotic or anxious or down about something, so I stop myself from asking. It took a lot of introspection to figure out what my needs even were, but I'm happy to say I'm starting to be more in tune with that... it's just asking for support when I need it (and not after I have dealt with it) that trips me up! Every site on ENFJ growth I read talks about how ENFJ's should make sure to also get their needs met, or to set boundaries, but none explain how to do that. I appreciate all the thought and detail that went into explaining how to do that here! It's spot on.

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