Artwork by Paul Bond
All signs point to the fact that I’m a helper.
Over the past twenty-five years I’ve taken test after test and read book after book: Myers Briggs, Enneagram, Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs, astrology, the color code, you name it, and continually found that I’m the helper. Hell, I was even born on the same day as Mother “Fucking” Teresa. Oh, and Mother Teresa is also an INFJ. (Just hammering it home, people.)
According to this site, “Twos are warm, emotional people who care a great deal about their personal relationships, devote an enormous amount of energy to them, and who expect to be appreciated for their efforts. They… thrive in the helping professions… Helping others makes Twos feel good about themselves; being needed makes them feel important; being selfless, makes Twos feel virtuous… Because Twos are generally helping others meet their needs, they can forget to take care of their own. This can lead to physical burnout, emotional exhaustion and emotional volatility.”
Here is how most of the relationships in my lifetime have played out - with friends, families, boyfriends, the post man, the clerk at the gas station, the teenager bagging my groceries, my dog…
What do you need?
Let me get it for you.
I can jump that high. Count on me.
I can cross those level 10 rapids wearing my tattered pea coat and purple galoshes, you just relax. I’ve got this.
Hmmm… that doesn’t feel so good to me but here it is anyway. Take it, I’m yours.
Refrain ad infinitum.
Ah, you’ve hurt my feelings but I don’t want to inconvenience you or make you feel bad by telling you. Besides, I’m probably just being ridiculous. I want to be sure your feelings aren’t hurt. I can handle anything so it’s better if I hurt than if you hurt.
I need something. Someone to talk to. I’m suffering. I’m not happy. I’m burnt out. My feelings are crushed. Oh, but Dear God, I can’t ask. I would never ask. You need to be a mind reader and know that I’m not doing well. Just like I sense, intuitively, when you’re not doing well. Your intuition should be as developed as mine.
I get nothing. (And yet I’ve asked for nothing.)
I’m done. I sever ties with an x-acto knife and deathly precision.
According to this site, "While instinctively courting the personal and organizational demands continually made upon them by others, at intervals INFJs will suddenly withdraw into themselves, sometimes shutting out even their intimates. This apparent paradox is a necessary escape valve for them, providing both time to rebuild their depleted resources and a filter to prevent the emotional overload to which they are so susceptible as inherent "givers." As a pattern of behavior, it is perhaps the most confusing aspect of the enigmatic INFJ character to outsiders, and hence the most often misunderstood -- particularly by those who have little experience with this rare type."
I’m ready to get off the helper hamster wheel, folks. Don’t get me wrong. I love me; my personality; my nature. I own it. It’s what enables me to serve the chock-full-of-Amazeballs clients that I work with. It’s meant that I’ve been a great friend, a great girlfriend, a great human bean (much of the time.) But it’s also meant that I often feel unfulfilled, empty, alone and miserable.
Because I expect people to be psychic. I assume people are as intuitive as I am, that they should feel and sense what I’m feeling like I do for them. I don’t ever ask for what I need. Shit, often I don’t even think about what I need until it’s too late and I realize that my cup is dry as a bone even though I never asked for a drop to parch my withered soul.
My dear friend, Lissa Rankin, first clued me in to my neurosis when she was talking with me about negotiating sacred contracts. When you’re in a sacred relationship with someone it’s important to ask for what you need, to have permission to say no when the other person asks something of you that doesn’t fill you up, and to practice acceptance when the person you’re asking something of says “no.”
Holy shit, how healthy is that? I hardly knew what to do with myself after that conversation. I could see that my relationships, up till then, had been full of my giving to others and their needs and my silence of my own needs. I realized that, while I was happy to be there for friends who needed me, I had never actually said, “I need for you to listen to me on something I’m going through.” Or… even plainer: “I need a fairer ratio. We can chat about your ‘issues’ for 45 minutes but I need at least 15 minutes to vent my own frustrations.” No, instead I would sit for hours on the phone, listening and holding sacred space and was lucky if there was a “how are you doing” at all. Even when I was going through big shit in my life. Like when I had just had organs removed and couldn’t sit upright and I didn’t ask to talk about it. Instead I spent three hours listening to the woes of a friend's relationship with an asshole that wasn’t deserving of my friend in the first place. But… the "wham, bam, thank you ma’am" is on me. Because I never asked. Because I never considered the fact that relationships are simply contracts. Contracts that need to be negotiated and, over time, renegotiated if they’re to have any shelf life at all. Wow, people. Big stuff, eh?
I don’t know about you but I’m pulling out my red felt-tip marker and going over my contracts posthaste. What sacred contracts do you need to revise? Are you on the sad path of help-y-helperdom and feeling burnt out? I'd love to hear your thoughts and advice.
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