All signs point to the fact that Iím a helper.
Over the past twenty-five years Iíve taken test after test and read book after book: Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, Linda Goodmanís†Sun Signs, astrology, the color code, you name it, and continually found that Iím the helper. Hell, I was even born on the same day as Mother †Teresa.† Oh, and Mother Teresa is also an INFJ. (Just hammering it home, people.)
Type 2 on the Enneagram: The Helper
According to†this site, ďTwos 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. TheyÖ thrive in the helping professionsÖ Helping others makes Twos feel good about themselves; being needed makes them feel important; being selfless, makes Twos feel virtuousÖ 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.Ē
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 dogÖ
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. Iíve got this.
HmmmÖ that doesnít feel so good to me but here it is anyway. Take it, Iím yours.
Refrain ad infinitum.
Ah, youíve hurt my feelings but I donít want to inconvenience you or make you feel bad by telling you. Besides, Iím probably just being ridiculous. I want to be sure your feelings arenít hurt. I can handle anything so itís better if I hurt than if you hurt.
I need something. Someone to talk to. Iím suffering. Iím not happy. Iím burnt out. My feelings are crushed. Oh, but Dear God, I canít ask. I would never ask. You need to be a mind reader and know that Iím not doing well. Just like I sense, intuitively, when youíre not doing well. Your intuition should be as developed as mine.
I get nothing. (And yet Iíve asked for nothing.)
Iím done. I sever ties with an x-acto knife and deathly precision.
Myers-Briggs Type INFJ
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.”
Iím ready to get off the helper hamster wheel, folks. Donít get me wrong. I love me; my personality; my nature. I own it. Itís what enables me to serve the chock-full-of-Amazeballs clients that I work with. Itís meant that Iíve been a great friend, a great girlfriend, a great human bean (much of the time.) †But itís 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 Iím feeling like I do for them. I donít ever ask for what I need. S&@t, often I donít even think about what I need until itís 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 youíre in a sacred relationship with someone itís important to ask for what you need, to have permission to say no when the other person asks something of you that doesnít fill you up, and to practice acceptance when the person youíre asking something of says ďno.Ē
Holy s&@t, 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, ďI need for you to listen to me on something Iím going through.Ē OrÖ even plainer: ďI need a fairer ratio. We can chat about your Ďissuesí for 45 minutes but I need at least 15 minutes to vent my own frustrations.Ē No, instead I would sit for hours on the phone, listening and holding sacred space and was lucky if there was a ďhow are you doingĒ at all. Even when I was going through big s&!t in my life. Like when I had just had organs removed and couldnít sit upright and I didnít ask to talk about it. Instead I spent three hours listening to the woes of a friend’s relationship with an a$$hole that wasnít deserving of my friend in the first place.†† ButÖ the “wham, bam, thank you maíam” 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 theyíre to have any shelf life at all.† Wow, people. Big stuff, eh?
I donít know about you but Iím 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.
Artwork by†Paul Bond
By Melanie Bates / Artwork by Paul Bond