INFJs and feeling other peoples pain


I love this site I sub every once in a while I think I have two accounts, the advice has helped me a lot so I thought I would try starting a topic about something that effects me a lot.

I was wondering if anyone else had experience with handling overactive empathy?

I have this thing where if someone is upset I’ll feel the same way, If I see someone be rude to someone it’ll hurt me too etc. I’ve also had it where if I’m watching a movie with someone it’s like I’m watching it from their perspective, enjoying the bits they would enjoy and disdaining the stuff I would normally enjoy.

Hmm this is kinda hard to describe.

I really can’t deal with anyone being hurt at all, I can’t just let people process their own shit and deal with it in time. I just feel raw.

And my family don’t get it at all. Like if they’re shit talking someone even someone I dislike or have issues with it hurts me the same as that person.

I hate rudeness and yelling and thoughtlessness and if I see any of it tossed around I just get miserable.

The only thing that kind of helped is reading about the idea that the only thing you can really do is try and put some good energy into wherever you are. And just focus on yourself contributing some good and not all the bad vibes. If someone throws a stone you throw a flower kind of thing.

Stoicism has also helped a bit but it’s hard to find in the moment. ‘Choose not to be harmed and you have not been harmed’, know the difference between what you control and what you don’t etc.

I wondered if I was an INFP for a while as I seemed more sensitive than INFJs I can think of but I think a lot of this is just enhanced by some of my history. When I was younger I was more serious and intense and thought I might be an INTJ.



The tide will not fail to come in, but it will go out again and in time you will realize that you have gills. After a while you will thrash less and float more and swim.
Your heart will still want to beat too hard like you will surely drown, drag you down but remember those dreams where the water is temperate and breathable like an ocean of birthing waters? Where you are joyous and free? Begin waking into that dream. All that is awful is… all that is wonderful is… still always there but you are all and inseperable and creator. Destruction renders usable material, so nothing is gone but changed and the rending and ending moves us to strive, to build. I’d go so far as to say we crave the molding, the sculptors rough and wanton hands. Our experiments.

So fucking :woozy_face: nuts or… raisins… what with all the wading and treading.

Why do I do this? To sing back, to reach out? To be seen, known? Despised? Loved? To pass the time, bridge a gap?
Or just way tired, too tired to refrain.


Energy work, protection, visualisations, meditations. What you are saying about transmuting negative energies with higher vibration intentions/imagery. I’d keep working on that. Channel a powerful archetype. Like @TinyYellowTree says, filter. The emotion / energy isn’t yours so you can feel it, recognise it, transform it or pass it on. Don’t let it claw at you and drag you down. Rise above the durge, ride the wave of positive people’s vibes. Etc etc (!)
Sorry if this is too fluffy!


Thanks guys, it helps :slight_smile:


For what it’s worth, this INFJ shares your experience of being highly sensitive to other people’s pain. And I learned how to better handle it by doing exactly what @sacha described.

Hope this helps!


At some point the pummeling, which goes on and on and on and on, while still making me flinch and ache, feels less sharp… having I think pulled myself farther and farther within. It comes duller and quieter this far under water.

I don’t know what else to say. We have no walls but those shards we gather and stack from what has been flung at us or near us. Apathy is not a piece I advise taking up, but it is often amongst those within my grasp.

Would that I was stronger, not bitter, not so far gone.
Would that I could better describe this floating inside, this watching and waiting for a clue what to do.


Here’s an alternative perspective.

I wouldn’t call myself an “empath” nor I would I say I have overactive empathy.

I do, however, possess the ability to “understand” one’s feelings, where it came from, and what is the antidote. But I do not feel the same feelings as the sufferer. I don’t even feel “sad” for them. But I understand, maybe even sympathize. (By the way, I couldn’t really resonate with Blake’s Love without Understanding at first reading, but just as I’ve written the past few sentences, it suddenly clicked. I’m fucking scared that everything he’s written, especially about INFJs, are more or less becoming revealed to be true in the past 2 years or so. I guess it takes some life experience to understand the INFJ self more fully…Or has his words shaped my character in some sort of way, a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy? )

Anyways. The truth is, I am selfish deep down. I care most about my own feelings. Not others. And generally it is clear to me what are my own feelings versus others. Others’ opinions do not affect my own. For example, people crying do not make me cry. I often feel detached, like an observer watching other people get emotional…I remember those days when everybody in the room would cry because of, e.g. parting of ways. I’d just watch and not feel a single thing, wondering why the hell people are being so dramatic. Or in church when everybody as a group would get so stirred by “the spirit” and cry their hearts out together as they lift their hands to God…Really? I was left completely unaffected by the group synergy of pent-up emotions.

If I’m affected by another’s emotions, there must be a clear link to my own. Otherwise, I remain pretty stone cold. Perhaps I’m painting myself to be some sort of sociopath. Just to make it clear, I’m not.

But I’m not emotionless. I’m very sensitive and emotional. I am, indeed, receptive to the environment. But just how so is a bit more subtle than directly feeling other’s specific pain and emotions. It’s more like this haze, or cloud of very vague emotions I feel from a GROUP, rather than from a specific set of people. A general aura of anxiety, insecurity, and desperation is what I’m really affected by. And quite often, it would be hard for me to even notice I’ve picked up on this vague haze of emotions. The only feeling I’d get is this feeling of being weighed down, a bit trapped. But it’s an incredibly subtle feeling and requires a bit of awareness.

Also, I’m probably even MORE affected by the emotional environment presented by art than real people/situations themselves. Most people’s emotions don’t affect me, because they seem too…shallow? Even if they have a real basis for it. Like a loved one deceased, that sort of thing. I don’t feel these things and they don’t affect me. But when I see a fictional character wandering around the world, lost, I would be tortured for days, weeks, months even. Existential angst is what affects me most. Tragedy. And broader, more general conflicts faced by the whole of humanity, such as the essential nature behind man-woman relationships, system vs. man, that sort of thing. Cyclical struggles, too.

Music, in particular, deeply affects me. Once I truly give in to the inner psychology of the artist, I begin to lose my sense of self. I have to be careful. Music is a great source of inspiration…and torture. If I don’t do anything about the flood of emotions, I literally sink. Which is why I try to avoid it as much as possible when I need to focus. But not all types of music do this to me. SFish music does not affect me. More feel good. The emotions behind SFish music tend to pinpoint to specific events, specific things, than something more general which is what tends to affect me.


Oh here I go again. I’ve written really long posts… :confused: I seem to do this too often, don’t I?

I might have been like this when I was really young. Like age 5-8, but not anymore. And even back then when I was young, my parents knew that I was this sensitive, quiet, angelic-like child sometimes at home and more often outside the house, but I had this nasty demon prone to violent, temperamental fits of RAGE. So while I hated loud noises and yelling, I was prone to yelling myself. And all sorts of nasty, insensitive, and incredibly selfish behaviors.

So I can’t say that I resonate with the above sentences. I think I rather like yelling. I yell a lot time to time, and while yelling can be rude in certain scenarios, I don’t really mind it…I don’t mind strong, intense flavors of emotions at all. However, my INFP partner HATES yelling; no matter what the context, yelling is unacceptable to him.

I could be affected, but I’m not as affected by the meanness of mankind. Nasty bullying or world events like floods, plane crashes, wars, and the such. Of course they’re bad. Of course I don’t like them, but I don’t get really affected by them. That is the honest-to-God truth, something I will never admit face-to-face. So yes, I’m a selfish person. Unless someone personally directs such mean cruelty to me or it affects me in some other sort of way, like my immediate working environment, I don’t mind at all if people shit-talks or yells or are even thoughtless. Unless if it’s some really bad shit-talking, crossing the line sort of thing. Then I’d get pissed off, and use that event to shit-talk the shit-talker, maybe even hold grudges, but deep down, I’d be OK. Like most normal people.


I’m still a bit like that, much to the annoyance of my partner! If I’m honest, I probably get just as irritated by his NT Spock-like calmness even when he’s clearly very angry himself. It just seems unnatural to me for a person to remain so calm and “logical” in demeanour whist being assailed by intense emotions or passions.

Happens to me at work, too, which is unsurprising I suppose since I work in an analytical laboratory with many other scientists. I can’t but help show my enthusiasm when I get passionate about a topic of interest, but all-too-often I get a dissapproving look in response, which is basically saying: “Tone it down old chap! It just isn’t proper for a scientist to get so excited about their work…”


I’m usually very bad about staying in the shadows, silently commiserating with everyone here but I absolutely have to comment on this.

This is just so profound to me, and I suspect is the deep core of many INFJ’s. (maybe a very particular orientation of INFJ if not all of them?) I think the fantasy of being able to really and truly FEEL other’s emotions can be very attractive to more independent INFJ’s, but there is no question that what you wrote is the core truth of it.

I’m also involved in a long term relationship with an INFP, and it’s obvious to me that she truly lives in and FEELS her feelings in a way I fundamentally can’t. I cannot fully understand the experience that she has with these feelings but I can plainly see and understand them, just as you said. However, I’ll get uncontrollably choked up by a scene in a movie while she is seemingly unaffected, usually some sort of selfless sacrifice or acceptance of fate, etc. The same happens with a very particular type of imagery in art or music, but obviously in a way that’s much different than her.

I think the INFJ feeling of other people’s pain comes from a much different direction than the classic romantic sentiment. It seems more duty driven almost, like the ability to understand those feelings puts me in the unique situation to help calm those feelings in others where other people may not be able to. That is an incredibly pretentious way to think about things, I realize, but the compulsion is there regardless. Perhaps it’s less about really wanting to help rid the person of pain, and more about clearing that psychic nose from my own skull… Either way the drive is a selfish one, putting my own experience before other’s.

I think that maybe this selfishness isn’t necessarily a wholely bad thing though? Maybe INFJ’s are able to do real good in the world by using that brutal understanding we have of ourselves and others and reflecting it back in a less esoteric way. Fe is magic after all :slightly_smiling_face:

Anyway, thanks for your insights. Now back to my hole… :rat:


Yeah this makes a lot of sense. The idea that I feel it’s my duty to help cause no one else will / is able to. Like you I feel in a unique position to be able to understand and help with emotional problems.

World events don’t make me feel that bad either. It’s mostly just stuff around me I guess.

I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Just the way we are wired. If it’s a story that gets you to do good then that’s fine, right?

Man your idea that it’s a feeling of duty really clicked. Thank you!


You’re welcome!

I see this as an overall good and utilitarian type strategy too. It’s all well and good to worry about the war in Syria or water shortage in Flint, etc. and donating money to charity could potentially help, but the most good anyone can do realistically and with the most impact is in their own small slice of the world. Your friends, coworkers, SO can easily have their life changed by an INFJ’s brand of usefulness.

It’s not really sexy in that classical romantic way, but I think it’s beautiful in it’s simplicity.