Hi, my name is Stephanie and I’m an empath, an ENFJ-T, and a logophile.
And, apparently, those things are super connected and not at all random. Granted, I kind of figured about the first two. What I didn’t realize until a few days ago is that maybe my being a logophile and my ability to edit and create written content is connected with or, rather, a product of the first two. Commence elaboration.
For most of my 30’s, I’ve been a highly self-reflective and introspective person. That’s been especially true in the last 3-4 years as I am consistently searching for reasons and understanding as to “why” I am the way I am, thus giving my thoughts, feelings, and reactions meaning and explanation (p.s. therapy is the bomb and everyone should try it). I’ve talked about my being a logophile in a previous post (check it out here), so I wanted to cover this whole empath and ENFJ-T thing.
Most of my life, I’ve know that I “read people” really well. I always thought it was just one of my God-given talents: to read people and rooms and situations with a fairly high rate of perceptiveness. And I still think that holds true. But I also think it goes waaaaaaaaay deeper than that. I’ve learned I’m an empath, and a highly sensitive one at that. Now, before you make the move to close your browser whilst thinking “ok, she’s going into some hippy-dippy realm,” stick with me here. I’m not going the touchy-feely, flower child route or the paranormal route. Because…no. I’m going a more logic/science/psychology based route. Allow me to explain.
Empaths can be thought of as having a heightened ability to register or feel the thoughts, emotions, and energies of others. But more than just being able to identify these things, empaths are typically affected by them as well. It’s like they’re contagious. This is not to be confused with someone who is merely “highly sensitive,” which is a descriptor that’s been assigned to me as well. And while that description is not completely inaccurate, it doesn’t encompass the whole picture. Most empaths are highly sensitive people (but not all highly sensitive people are empaths). Kinda goes with the territory of picking up a bit of everything everyone else is giving off. Ya feel me?
Saying that someone can “sense another’s energy” can be too abstract (or too ridiculous) for some people. But, when you stop and think about it, aren’t we all capable of that to an extent? You can tell when a friend or loved one isn’t doing or feeling well, or when your boss is in a bad mood, or when someone is giving you the cold shoulder. The only difference in that and an empath is we do it with just about everyone, we’re fairly accurate in our assessments as we pick up on another’s vibes, and those vibes affect and interact with us, usually whether we want them to or not. Again, it’s like a contagious element: you may not want to catch it, but you don’t always have a choice. We don’t just sense it, we absorb it and feel it and internalize it in a very real way.
**Slight side note: empaths are also known to often have some rather profound and intuitive experiences with animals and nature. Um, helllloooooooo.**
I already know the fellow empaths are nodding their heads in fervent agreement with utterances of agreement, while the non-empaths might be a bit skeptical. Which is normal and totally fine. Andrew is still working on trying to really understand what that’s like for me and why, as a result, I can get so worked up by someone’s presence alone (which is also an insanely real and frustrating thing. Like, to the point of me having such an intense, visceral reaction to another human being occupying the same space that I don’t just want to leave, I need to leave). I’m also trying to learn how to better manage my empathic tendencies so I’m not internalizing everything from everyone all the time. Because that sh*t is exhausting. And pretty unhealthy.
Ok, that was your crash course in what an empath is and how we function (or, often, fail to do so). Now the ENFJ-T thing. If you’re familiar with the Meyers-Briggs personality test, then you already know or have an idea. If you’re not, I highly suggest giving it a whirl. It’s pretty fascinating. My personal favorite application is the 16 Personalities site, and they’re the reference point for most of the following info.
First things first: what the hell does ENFJ-T mean? So the first four letters are descriptors from the Meyers-Briggs test and 16 Personalities included a fifth scale. The scales are: Extroverted/Introverted, Intuitive/Observant, Thinking/Feeling, Judging/Prospecting, and Assertive/Turbulent. My results fell on the scales as follows: 91% extroverted, 80% intuitive, 59% feeling, 59% judging, and 59% turbulent. So, heavy on the first two, more middle-groundish on the last three. 16 Personalities thus labels me “The Protagonist.”
Protagonists are natural-born leaders, full of passion and charisma. Forming around two percent of the population, they are oftentimes our politicians, our coaches, and our teachers, reaching out and inspiring others to achieve and to do good in the world. With a natural confidence that begets influence, Protagonists take a great deal of pride and joy in guiding others to work together to improve themselves and their community.
Without going into crazy detail on what all that really means or how each scale manifests itself in the life of a Protagonist, our strengths are listed as: tolerant, reliable, charismatic, altruistic, and natural leaders. But it’s the weaknesses that I find compelling, particularly in the current context: overly idealistic, too selfless, too sensitive, fluctuating self-esteem, struggle to make tough decisions. Huh. Interesting and eerily familiar, no? That might as well have read: “Weaknesses Specific to Stephanie Roe.”
And there’s this crazy, snowballing cycle that takes effect. I’m an empath and therefore highly sensitive. Which explains my relational anxiety and my resulting tendency to over analyze. Which, in turn, heightens my sensitivity and my tendency to pick up on ev. ry. thing. See how this wheel doesn’t just keep on turning but picks up exponential speed?
Now, let’s circle back to the logophile thing and how any of this is related. It occurred to me on Sunday (while watching church and still emotionally reeling from a pretty intense and heartbreaking onslaught of words hurled at me on Saturday) that my being both a logophile and an empath might actually be connected, perhaps even in a cause-and-effect relationship. When someone is talking to me, I don’t just hear what they’re saying. I read their body language and tone and gestures and the unspoken intention behind them. Then it alllllll gets internalized, and the bookmark for all those emotions are the words that were said, even if the emotions came from non-verbal communication. Cue the aforementioned snowball cycle. So what if my love for words and scrutinizing tendencies in writing and editing are because I’m so sensitive to their ability to leave very real marks, impacts, or scars (remember the hypersensitivity and over analysis and relational anxiety) ?
Words do matter and they carry weight. Phrases like that can be pretty controversial in an age where “words hurt” and “safe spaces” and “bullying” are thrown around in exorbitant excess. And to that point, my intention is not to deliberate or debate the whole “sticks and stones” mantra and whether or not you should take something to heart or overreact or dismiss a comment entirely. My intent is to call your attention to the importance of words, and particularly your words and what you’re choosing to do with them. Words have power. Period. They can destroy and they can create. They can build up or tear down. And they can push someone over the edge or pull them back to safety (physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually). So which intent are you choosing? And yes, it is a choice.
A few other musings for you to chew on:
For I have loved you with an endless/everlasting love. I have drawn you with loving kindness. -Jer 31:3
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; -Psalm 139:13-14
You are loved. You are valuable. And you are worthy. Yep, even and especially you. Now go out and sprinkle some word love this week.
Until next time: Do good. Be dope. Stay weird. Live authentic.
February 20, 2019