Can you tell me how you get over heartbreak as an ENFP? Last winter my boyfriend of three years left me for someone else and I don’t know how to deal with the pain. I feel like I’ve tried everything and that I should be over it by now but instead I’m just more lost than ever. As an ENFP, how do I get over this breakup and move on with my life?
Oh anonymous. First of all, I have never wished quite so badly that I could reach through my computer and hug somebody.
There’s no two ways about it – heartbreak is horrible. It’s treacherous. It’s a vast, barren wasteland filled with landmines and booby traps. It’s the bottom of a well with no ladder. It’s the nightmare we cannot escape. And what I want you to know, first of all, dear Anonymous, is that you are not stuck there due to any inherent weakness of your personality or of yourself. We’ve all walked through that godforsaken wasteland. We all know there’s no easy way out.
As an ENFP, I have tried everything under the sun to get over past relationships. I’ve tried wallowing. I’ve tried distracting myself. I’ve tried throwing myself into new projects and goals and I’ve tried throwing myself into the past to try to figure out what went wrong. I’ve tried winning the breakup and I’ve tried losing it. I’ve tried mourning somebody like they’re dead and I’ve tried winning them back like there were no other option in the world than for us to be together. If there’s a single method under the sun for getting over heartbreak, you can bet your ass I’ve tried it. Because that’s what we do as ENFPs – we attack from all angles. We think outside the box. We try everything we can possibly think of to try and if we still can’t find the answer, we invent new problems for ourselves, simply to prove that we can solve them.
I can’t tell you exactly what is going to work for you in this case, anonymous. All I can tell you today is how to not plant those landmines ahead of yourself. Because there is no shortcut out of your wasteland. But there are a thousand different ways to move through it.
When it comes to ENFPs and heartbreak, there are two specific patterns I’ve identified – and perhaps these correspond to enneagram type. One tendency is to throw oneself into wallowing. We can get absolutely lost in the pain of it all, in the feeling of it, in the giving ourselves permission to be at its mercy and letting it run its course. This is healthy in moderation. It is not healthy when it takes over our lives.
The other strategy I’ve observed (and this is one I’m personally inclined to) is to entirely deny our heartbreak space. To run from it, pulverize it, to look at it like a challenge that must be risen to or a goal that can be defeated. We don’t want to play the victim so we play the champion instead. And as a result, we never give our feelings the chance to work that person out of our system. He or she remains a tight knot of anxiety inside of our chest that never truly unravels. No matter how many other demons we defeat, that one person eternally remains our kryptonite. Because we never learned to fight them, we only learned to run.
There is one thing that both these coping mechanisms have in common and it is their tendency to take over our lives. We either fall into the pit of our emotions or we flee from the scene of the crime. In either case, we lose focus. We get sidetracked. We let our lives and our defences fall to pieces in our attempt to surmount our heartache. As a result, we find ourselves more lost six months after a breakup than we were the day it happened. And that is the phenomenon we have to learn to combat. It is something that only the most neglected part of our personality can help us fix.
The ironic part about being an open-ended, possibilities-oriented ENFP is that we actually function best within a framework of external structure. And for many of us, relationships provide the exact sort of structure we need – particularly when we partner with judging types. So when a relationship ends, we lose not just a person we love but a significant source of care and structure. And this is offsetting in ways that we neglect to acknowledge. We like to think we’re above the need for routine, but we’re not. And we have to accept that about ourselves when we’re at our weakest.
When going through a breakup, ENFPs need to consciously and purposefully create structure in their external environment. This means taking particular care to eat properly, exercise regularly, get eight hours of sleep per night and stay focused on goals and projects. We need to be our own parents when we’re struggling, even though there’s nothing fun about it. If introverted feeling takes the wheel during heartbreak, it’ll crash the whole car. So we have to make it take the backseat. For once, introverted sensing and extroverted thinking get to take a turn at the wheel.
When we take care of ourselves throughout a breakup, it gives us a safe space in which we can process our emotions. Rather than going on a self-destructive rampage (which extroverted intuition and introverted feeling are inclined to pair up and do), you can let yourself grieve naturally – and you should.
Let yourself feel it. Let yourself take the odd night to crawl right inside of your heart and be lonely and terrified and lost. Let yourself think that you’re never going to make it without them. Let yourself listen to all your old songs and relive your old memories, and accept the stark truth that it’s over and you’re not getting them back. Let yourself feel all of that. But don’t feel like it’s never going to end. Don’t feel like the hole you’ve crawled into has no exit route. It does, because you have created one. You’ve provided your own sense of stability and you’ve mapped your own way out of the wasteland. You don’t have to feel like nobody is coming to save you, because somebody is and it’s you.
When heartbreak has left you at your worst, dear anonymous, be the very best version of your very worst self. Let your introverted sensing and your extroverted thinking work with your extroverted intuition to coax your introverted feeling back to health. Set goals. Move toward them slowly, dispassionately and carefully. Let yourself be unimpressive, but okay. Trust that you will come back to yourself in time.
Because that is the thing, dear Anonymous – you always come back. The positivity, the optimism, the enthusiasm and the joy that you are so keen on sharing with the world is still in you. It’s just waiting for the rest to drain out – all the pain and disappointment and sadness that are plaguing you now. The ‘you’ that you know and love is still waiting for you on the other end of all of this. He or she is re-establishing him or herself within you. You are carving out a new space for yourself. And that’s okay.
For now, just be patient with yourself. Be diligent. Be good to yourself and remember – that you have to keep walking through this wasteland. Self-destructing won’t bring you to the exit. Wallowing won’t bring you to the exit. And hating yourself for not having found your way out yet definitely won’t bring you to the exit. So forget all that, dear Anonymous ENFP, and for now, simply walk. Walk slowly. Walk confidently. Walk defeatedly. But walk.
You’re so much closer to that exit than you think.