I’ve always been sensitive. My feelings and emotions sit just below my thin skin, waiting to pour out at the slightest positive or negative provocation. When I was a child, all my dad had to do was raise his voice and I was in tears. No wonder my mom always said, Brenda was so easy to raise. I never wanted to cause trouble or create conflict. I felt(feel) discord like a physical wounding. Harmony was the salve I constantly sought. Sibling rivalry was particularly hellish and led me to many happy and safe hours in my bedroom.
Not alone in my tender-heartedness
I only knew a few people like me until I was in my mid 30s. Then I ventured into the creative realms of music and writing. Suddenly, my tender-heartedness and idealism didn’t seem so foreign and weak. There were others who were easily and intensely moved by art, nature and human stories. They weren’t weak. They were beautiful and kind. They were content. They mirrored and nourished my spirit.
I’m not over-sensitive. I’m just an INFP.
I eventually wound my way to personality theory and trained to become a Myers Briggs Practitioner, which further illuminated the facets of my INFP personality type. Finding out I was an (I) introvert and what that really means (NOT shy, nerdy or misanthropic), was a huge awakening. I get my energy from internal ideas, impressions and thoughts? Of course! No wonder I disliked petty talk with co-workers and constant busy-ness. They took me away from close meaningful relationships and my fulfilling inner world. No wonder I am so people focused (versus task or logic focused). I have a preference for (F)feeling which means I make decisions based on personal values and the people involved in the situation.
Not mainstream but still valuable
Over the years, I’ve noticed when I’m in a warm and encouraging environment my emotional compass guides me to creativity, graciousness and full-blown admiration for the human condition. I spill love and inspiration all over those in my presence. When in a critical or more negative environment, I often close up to protect my tender underbelly. I desperately try to shut down to prevent an outpouring of the emotions I’ve learned I should hide. Tears and sadness reveal weakness in our culture of stiff-lipped task completion and revered self-control.
Sensitivity Meets ‘No Bullshit’
But neither shutting down nor bursting into tears really work when it comes to communicating in a healthy relationship. For the record, being snippy and defensive don’t work either.
Go figure, a sensitive and emotional writer type (INFP) would fall for a former military ‘I get shit done’ type (INTJ). All I know is there was a spark and a deep interest and appreciation for all the shit he’d seen and done. Despite his tough exterior, his words and writing were intuitive and thoughtful. OK, his boyish smile melted my heart too.
We’ve been together a year and it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster. First of all, he was by my side through the difficult months preceding and following my mother’s death. He was my rock during those rough times. I’ve had a few emotional bouts where I was not sure I could stand his straightforwardness and industriousness. His critical eye hurt my feelings and I let him know.
We are different in many ways but the primary difference is that he’s a Thinker and I’m a Feeler. Things have to make sense to him. He’s utilitarian. As long as it works or we have facts to back it up, he’s good. His first response to something new is more critical than appreciative.
Things have to feel right to me. I consider how they will affect others and if at all possible, things should add beauty. I’m cooperative and more into aesthetics. My first response is usually soft and positive.
Real life relationship stuff
He’s called me over-sensitive. I’ve called him an asshole (under my breath in another room;).
Our first big blow-out occurred after I shared with him my visions for new features on the space2live website. He immediately shot them full of holes. He told me there were lots of other sites doing the same thing and it was too big of an undertaking. A friend of mine calls that, Sitting on my birthday cake, when her husband does it to her. Whatever you call it, it feels mean and negative. However it made me feel, his feedback was sound.
I’ve had to dig deep for fortitude and I’ve pulled out my Myers Briggs knowledge of different types to help us understand each other. I’ve explained how we are wired differently, hoping he won’t throw in the towel and say he can’t work with my emotions and sensitivity. I’ve told him we are different but neither type is better or worse. We just speak different languages.
Will you learn my language?
To his credit, he’s willing to learn. The other night he asked me why he is perceived as negative. I explained how he often points out ways to improve things or what someone did wrong rather than supporting or encouraging the relationship or person. It seems as though the task or being right (I’m just stating the facts) is more important than the relationship.
I have been on the learning end myself throughout our relationship. He constantly encourages me to be direct, blunt even, regarding what I want/need from him. His steadfastness and thoughtful actions, make me feel comfortable enough to resist shutting down. Instead of withdrawing when things get rough, I tell him how I feel. I face the confrontation. I can’t lie, this is draining and hard for me, but the reward is a solid and honest relationship built on understanding and genuine love.
Are personality differences causing tension in your relationship? Do you love someone with a more logical Thinker temperament?
Please know you are beautiful and valuable sensitive beings. You can find love and make it work. You are worthy of so much love. I know how to thrive with a sensitive nature. I can teach you. I can help you if personality differences are eroding your relationships. These are areas I cover in personal coaching. Please contact me for more details.