Self Pity And Grieving: 6 Ways To Feel Better

Army Photography Contest – 2007 – FMWRC – Arts and Crafts – Fallin

Self pity and grieving are very different.  Self pity is the stuckness of despair. It can be a bitter feeling of longing for something you cannot have but need. Often what we want does not seem like too much to ask, which is why self pity can be so painful. Sometimes it feels like the end of the world.

Self Pity And The Loss Of The Self

Self pity can be very difficult to handle not only because it can be tied to our dreams but also because it can be tied to the expression of the good in ourselves and our natural drive toward self actualization. So when our dreams – even the simple ones –  do not come true a part of us often loses its optimism and resilience. Self pity is often the loss of our idea of our best self.  Self pity is also funny in a way. No matter how worked up we get about how the world has done us wrong, and often it has, it always makes us feel worse. Whatever the problem is does not get better with self pity, so hurting ourselves or someone else never helps. Self pity can cause a lot of harm and often feels as if it simply adds to our loss.

Differences Between Self Pity And Grieving

Grieving is different. Grieving is about the loss of something or someone we have had. When we grieve we feel the absence of something that lived in our hearts and lives. Grieving is often about a passing of someone or something from our lives as a chapter ends and another begins.

Grieving is sad but does not come with the same desperation of self pity. Self pity can occur when we lose something we never had a chance to have. An example would be the person who lost their parents very early in life, and who feels sorry for themselves because their life has been such a struggle because not having parents does in fact make life more difficult. That experience is quantitatively and qualitatively different from the person who loses parents as an adult which causes grief but the loss is an ending. In the former case, the lost parents live in the imagination and in a dream; in the latter case, the lost parents live in experience and the heart.

Self pity and grief are both natural feelings. One is not more justified than the other. Self pity comes with a perception of damage to ourselves and our lives and the wistfulness of what might have been. Self pity is a hurt to our willingness to be a part of life in a positive way, because there is a feeling of not getting the chance at something.  Often the reasons are beyond our control. Grief can come at a more natural ending point of a phase of life or of a relationship. Grief accepts the transience of life and as such has a more graceful attitude toward change and loss. Grief has its pain but also its dignity. Self pity and grief may be different but that does not mean that they are mutually exclusive. But grief at some point diminishes. Because self pity often comes with a lot of anger, it may not end until we let go of one dream and replace it with another. It can take a long time.

Handling Feelings Of Loss

We live in a culture with few skills for handling negative feelings.  When our unhappy feelings are invalidated they go underground but are still there to be processed. When individuals cannot release those feelings, they may turn to “acceptable” forms of expressing their pain like alcohol and drugs. All feelings including negative ones run their natural course and need to be accepted.  Here are a few techniques for providing for your self pity and grief feelings whether your companions in life accept your feelings or not:

  • a journal can work wonders.  Of course, it should remain private.  I had one at one point, and scribbled my feelings in it which was a more energetic discharge of the feelings that also made my writing unintelligible. That worked for me!
  • meditation will help and I highly recommend making time every day for meditation.
  • embrace whatever you are grieving.  Can you make a shrine that you spend time with to honor your feelings and loss?
  • seek out a therapy group so that you can receive some compassionate care from others.
  • do not relinquish your idea of your best self because you are going through a tough time.  Often in our success driven society it can be hard to appreciate ourselves when we have a setback.  Your best self may have nothing to do with fame or social approval. Framing your journey as part of a larger human story can make acceptance easier.
  • good food and sleep are small acts of caring which do wonders.  Try to care of yourself.
We all deserve the best life we can have.  Part of life is handling our painful feelings. Hopefully this list will help you find a graceful path through sad moments by dignifying your experience and your life.
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Tyranny of the Clock

 

Clock © by Earls37a Flickr

People in an economic system based on production learn to live with the tyranny of the clock.  Although people have been tracking time since the early days of humans, our relationship with time has become different.

Time used to be related to something going on in nature.  People measured the hours of sunshine, the seasons, and how long crops took to grow.  The day began when the sun came up and ended when it set. Our survival was directly related to what nature offered us and so our relationship to time was related to nature also.

Since the Industrial Revolution, we have changed our relationship to time and nature. We treat nature as something we control.  It is understandable that we sought to control nature because we felt so out of control in relation in nature: weather was so unpredictable, the basic needs of people were not being met, and disease was rampant.  At the time, natural resources were so plentiful. So we created machines and production processes to harness natural resources to take care of our basic needs and kept on going.  Now we do not seem to be able to stop.

There were understandable reasons for the economic system that we have created.  Human society at the time of the Industrial Revolution was saddled with all sorts of limits that needed to be challenged. Some of these limits were based on belief systems. Some limits were geographical, others political.

Even time felt limiting because we were limited by the amount that each person could accomplish which in tern limited our ability to meet our needs. Since the Industrial Revolution, the clock has been used as a tool for challenging limits through productivity measurements which evaluate how well we produce in a specific period of time.  Our educational system is organized around time.  We have a certain period of time to learn a given amount of material, whether we learn or not is often irrelevant, when time is up, time is up.

When the clock controls how much attention we give to something or someone, we relinquish control over our lives because we are not really engaging with life and the realities around us.  If it takes two years to learn a subject that is allotted only six months time, then essentially one’s learning is controlled by the demand for speed. If it takes 2 hours to accomplish a task well and one hour is all that is allowed, again we relinquish control over our lives, and the quality we are able to bring to it by the demand for speed.  If it takes a year to grieve the loss of a friend, and the people around you demand that you grieve quicker, then your life is diminished by the demand for speed.

The demand for speed is a serious issue for highly sensitive people since creativity, deep listening, and serious problem solving do not lend themselves to time pressure. HSP’s inevitably suffer from distracting and unhelpful conflicts when they are expected to work under artificial, and unnecessarily restrictive time schedules. To the highly sensitive person production is not the end and be all of one’s work life. Qualitative considerations are more important than quantitative ones – within reason of course.

Being sensitive means that we notice the cost of our highly competitive and highly demanding capitalistic system. We notice that stress in ourselves and others, the loss of time for connection and the kind of deep teamwork that is satisfying and inclusive. We see the loss of our cherished natural environment and all the cost to animals and humans. I suspect that to most HSPs the cost-benefit analysis does not read that way it does to a corporate accountant. As a result, how we use time will also be different.

The tyranny of the clock does not allow for the freely engaged way of relating to living and problem solving that results in deep satisfaction. It does a lot of damage so create more problems than it solves. There is such a need for healing caused by the destructive shortsightedness of the economic machine.  As a result it is bound to be unsatisfying to highly sensitive people.

Time is precious; a high pressure system is not very appealing to highly sensitive people who will treat time as they treat other things with regard and diligence.

Love Your Defenses!

Love Your Defenses - HSP Health Blog
Love Your Defenses - HSP Health Blog

Source: Morguefiles

So many defenses. I feel like my life is often about bumping into defenses of one kind or another. Dealing with defenses feels like walking through a field of hay.  With each step you meet  a new stalk(defense) that obscures your vision and parts as you walk only to reveal a new defense.

Often the defenses I bump into are the defenses of other people. I dislike bumping into them because in doing so the relationships changes – often not for the better.

When defenses show themselves, the relationship door usually closes even if only for a moment and we realize we are not welcome. That happens to highly sensitive people a lot.

Of course, sometime defenses are our own because we get hurt and our healing is not easy.

What Are Defense Mechanisms?

According to Dictionary, a defense mechanism is:

an unconscious process, as denial, that protects an individual from unacceptable or painful ideas or impulses.

Defenses are a way for us to:

  • like ourselves in painful circumstances
  • make sense of something that does not work for us
  •  taking care of ourselves.

Defenses can sometime be a kind of denial. Denial has a bad reputation because it is interpreted to mean that there is something wrong with you, that your are too weak to face the truth about something. Denial like all defenses are often meant to protect us from a shock to our systems, and sense of loss that we are unable to process and handle.

Defenses Can Create A Healing Space

I respect defenses even if I consider them to be toxic sometimes; I understand that they have a purpose.

In the case of people who have suffered a serious trauma they can be life saving by creating a space for the healing process. I don’t think anyone should be denied their healing space. We highly sensitive people are often harmed, sometimes seriously. Our ranks have many who have suffered serious child abuse. We can have defenses as a way of protecting ourselves from further harm.

Often however, we know that our healing takes a lot of time and the world has little patience with our healing needs. So our defenses can protect us from intolerance that only makes our pain greater. At least that has been my experience.

Sometimes Defenses Do Not Help

Sometimes our defenses may create a healing space for us but not necessarily help us heal.

It could be that in spite of ourselves we are reinjuring. It could be that we have been and are subjected to the wound of prejudice and it does not heal. It could be that our injuries are so serious and grave that we need a lot of time for healing. Then we need to be kind to ourselves.

It could be that we are in a situation that causes us ongoing pain. Perhaps for some reason we are unable to make a change that will make the situation better. Sometimes we have to accept the world as it is – with all its faults, let go of it, and make the life we deserve.

What Our Defenses Are Missing

Sometimes our defenses miss a lot.

They can miss our deservingness. They can miss the generosity we receive. They can miss our creative gifts. Sometimes our defenses want something that is not there and will not be. As long as we seek what we are missing we will not have a better life that we can create.

I admit it is hard to let go.

Handling Your Defenses

Defenses deserve to be taken seriously.

We can use them as clues that we are missing something and often not what we think. We can use them to be good detectives for our well being and the well being of those around us.

We can get that denial out on the table and ask it to help us see what needs to be seen. We can appreciate ourselves for caring about ourselves and each other. We can let our defenses lead us to something better, kinder, and more rewarding.

 But first we have to open the door and go wading in the field of our pain to hear what it is telling us. When we do we will be greeted by a breeze of relief, and healing.

The Othering Of The Highly Sensitive Person

HSPs: The Shadow People - HSP Health Blog

The highly sensitive person is different.

Being different means that they often live in the shadows.

I thought about this today when I was reading an article about feminism in Great Britain, written by Anna Ford, a respected British journalist.

What struck me about the article was her wonderful description about the marginalisation of women, an endlessly repeating story that she has experienced her whole life.

The wonderful qualities that women bring to the table are mostly devalued.

Isn’t that also true of highly sensitive people?

The Marginalization Of The Highly Sensitive Person

Marginalization is an interesting and recurring experience for many people.

It manifests in the process of othering.

Othering is nasty.

It is a way of relating to someone as if they really do not have the same right to be here on the planet, that in being different there is something wrong with them.

Are there any HSPs who haven’t had that experience?

As a highly sensitive person, I have been othered my whole life.

Othering can be subtle or overt.

It is often patronizing or condescending.

When being othered you are often invisible.

What Is Othering?

According to Advanced Apes:

the othering process is the human tendency to believe that the group (race, religion, ethnicity, culture, gender, country, sexual orientation, species etc.) that they are a part of is inherently the ‘right’ way to be human.  As a consequence of this, people who other consciously, or subconsciously, believe that anyone who is not apart of their group is a threat, an enemy or a liability that must be converted to conform immediately to the norms and standards of their group, subjugated permanently, or eradicated completely…

The phenomenon of othering has its roots in our evolutionary history.  We know from primatological studies that group solidarity is exceptionally important in all of the African apes.  Knowing who is, and who isn’t a member of your group is exceptionally important for reasons intimately connected to survival.  And basic evolution theory states that any behaviour or trait that confers a survival advantage will be selected for; and the stronger the survival advantage, the stronger it will be selected for.  In the case of ‘othering’ behaviour, it probably became an extremely valuable behaviour that would have become permanently fixed within our lineage millions of years ago.  Whenever territory, food, and mates were scarce (which would have been frequently, and in most cases permanently), intra-species competition would have been strong and othering behaviour would have been selected for.  Forming a group can allow you to align yourself with other individuals altruistically to maximize your own (and everyone else in the groups) ability to acquire territory, food and mating opportunities.

The Experience Of Othering For The Highly Sensitive Person

Many highly sensitive people are very uncomfortable socially. They experience themselves as different and unwelcome in the world.

They may also be subject to bullying, taunts and social rejection.

Highly sensitive people are in the minority in the world since only 15-20% of the world’s population is highly sensitive.

Their different biology means that they do not share the interest in competitiveness and aggression that unites the non-HSP population.

HSPs offer wisdom, perspective, compassion and empathy to those around them, but those traits are not as valued as competitive skills.

As a result, many highly sensitive people, experience themselves being excluded, treated with condescension and even blamed for their different nature.

When we are othered, we are treated as not normal, and not right. People around us including our families often try to change us into a “normal” person, someone who is right by their standard of normalcy.

They are wrong to do so.

There is nothing wrong with the highly sensitive person. HSPs are simply different.

 

 

 

Human Identity At A Crossroads

Do You Need An Identity?

Masks of animals © by Kevin Hutchinson

Do you need an identity?

I ask myself this question all of the time. I find identity to be such a nuisance and I often wonder if I am alone.

Why do we need one anyway?

Is Identity Only A Social Convenience?

I think so.

It never ceases to amaze me how often people relate to me according to a perception about my identity that has nothing to do with me at all. I am sure I am not alone in that experience either.

It changes the interaction. Instead of two people being with each other having a conversation, when someone relates to you from a perceived identity, they are talking at you and so the interpersonal bridge becomes damaged. Identity may be a social convenience, but it can also be a trust destroyer.

Myths And Identity

Identity wasn’t always like it is today.

Many early human societies organized their communities around myths. Their stories were often promoted some aspect of human development. You could call them the human development industries of their times.

Some myths were created to describe challenges on our path from childhood to maturity. They became a form of communal glue that helped elders shepherd the next generation from dependency to roles of stewardship. Rites of passage were considered important and essential in earlier human societies since they depended greatly on the maturation of the individual.

Survival needs and shorter lifespans made individual maturation an imperative not an option. The result was that:

  • they ensured the survival of the group
  • they ensured the individual’s survival
  • identity was not simply a personal matter
  • identity had a reality basis that anchored each individual and the social group in nature
  • maturation was a process that helped the group and provided each individual with a way to develop skills and receive validation from the group.

Of course this is an oversimplification. Many early societies practiced different forms of identity discrimination and other practices that we find inhumane today. Nonetheless, there was still a relationship between reality and identity in earlier human societies that provided a groundedness that we have trouble finding today.

The Evolution Of Identity

It is not the purpose here to romanticize early societies but to notice how disconnected our identities can often be from a sense of reality.

Our modern consumer society ties identity to cultural rather than natural markers. In our zeal to conquer nature we have lost our connection to it and our grounding.

We have also lost our rites of passage and our connection to natural processes.There is no passing of the torch from one generation to the next.

When our connection is to nature, we have a identity formed around something dynamic. Product lifecycles, stock market movement and annual entertainment schedules are not the same thing.

Mass culture has a defiant relationship with nature. Since our survival depends on earning a living in the existing system, we will as well.

That means:

  • natural cycles are ignored, abandoned, and disrespected. We routinely ignore sleep needs which naturally restore us. Our schedules are determined mostly by work and entertainment schedules.
  • health practices which require that we respect nature in order to be healthy are routinely ignored. Our bodies are built to live in tune with the seasons. We are meant to eat differently during each season. In the spring, for instance, the foods that are naturally available then, will help us detox.
  • ignoring the deeper processes of human maturation. We have many smart people and successful people. We celebrate them. Do we celebrate mature people? In our youth oriented culture, not so much.
  • ignore needs for serious mastery. Grades may signify a type of progress but development is more than passing though a classroom and performing on a test. As Malcolm Gladwell points out convincingly in his book, The Outliers, it takes 10,000 hours to master anything. Do we provide our young people with a foundation that lets them achieve that?
  • ignore self actualization needs. Are people allowed to form their identities based on their talents and natural relating to the processes of life or do we expect them to have identities that only serve the cultural and economic system? Can we see beyond the existing system to the stewardship needs that we are missing?

The Birth Of Stewardship

Out of necessity we are beginning to evolve a new human skill: the skill of stewardship. Human society up until now has been very survival oriented. Now we have to change and with it our notions of identity have to change as well.

What does an identity forged around a groundedness in earth and based on sustainability look like? How do we create identities that have nothing to do with survival when that is what we have known up until now?

What does it do for the interpersonal bridge that is so often broken in human relations when we are in a human culture where we all share the responsibility for sustainability?

Stewardship requires maturity. Can we give up our youth oriented cultures? Can we recreate deeper human development processes that support mastery and maturity? Can we become longsighted rather than shortsighted? Can we create cultures of trust?

I do not know the answers, but we will need to find them and I am hoping we will enjoy doing so, because they will bring an improved quality of life for many people.

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HSP Identity: A Plant In The Right Place

My name is Lisa McLoughlin and I am from Green Alder coaching, based in the UK.

I would like to share a personal account of my journey to discover that I am an HSP.

Is There Something Wrong With Me?

Most of my life I felt like a weed— not belonging to my environment. Being a weed was a bad thing and needed to be fixed, eradicated, changed, and just a blot on the landscape.

I often wondered, “If only I could be like all the others…the ornamental and outrageously colorful, extravagant man-made plants (people)…perhaps my life would be easier on me?”

Well, what is a weed? ‘A plant growing in the wrong place’ is the commonly accepted description. But wait a moment, how are we to know it is in the wrong place?

The war on weeds began with the coming of intense farming and public opinion. Who’s to judge a plant and name it a weed when all it is doing is trying to survive? Surely, a weed is entitled to the same life as any other plant?

Despite mans’ persistence to eradicate weeds by hand and chemical weed killers (like the Extrovert Ideal), the war has never been won. The same old weeds show up in the same spots, demonstrating gritty resistance, and persisting through centuries of persecution.

You have to admire their tenacity!

It’s only recently that I have come to respect the weed and understand that it is a plant, that might not fit in with expectations of it’s environment, but it has just as many rights to thrive and flourish as any plant—often with useful properties and benefits to the environment. So, I am left asking, “What if a weed is entirely normal and just needs to stand proud and comfortably in its environment—room for us all?”

Harsh Words

So, my life—to date—has been built on the sense that I was flawed or damaged in some way and that my purpose in life was to fix myself and fit in with others around me.

“You will never set the world on fire…you are so quiet…you are boring…you are a swot…you are too sensitive….stop crying…toughen up…you have the McLoughlin bad-luck…you are self-absorbed…you don’t contribute” were some of the general comments I received through my childhood and adulthood.

I noticed the harsh words struck deep into my heart and I felt myself shrink into melancholy instead of flourishing in spite of them. The comments were like chemicals trying to eradicate the weed, so that an outgoing and colorful ornamental pansy would grow in its place—just like all the rest of the ornamentals’ in the garden.

How I Came To Feel Damaged

Deep down I quite liked myself. I loved my ability to paint & draw and my creative drive and imagination, my spirit, and the rich texture of my internal world.

I could quite easily entertain myself for hours and I thrived when my environment was nurturing and supportive of the unique me. I had an internal warrior-like fire of passion and persistence.

Why didn’t my inner brilliance show in my external world? Why couldn’t I shine and show who I really was?

Unfortunately, I had a tricky upbringing with a mixture of overprotective love from a mum wracked with anxiety and guilt, and a father who had a severe form of Multiple Sclerosis (since I was two-years-old). Boy, did my mum and dad struggle. But, they did the best that they could at the time.

My mum was cautious and my father was a gentle-giant of a man (an angel from heaven). My sister and I willingly tried to please them both; to make them proud, to soothe them, and make them happy. Due to our difficult circumstances, my sister and I were forced to grow-up before we were ready. I remember wrestling with my desperate need to stay as an imaginative child playing with my dolls, against the pull to be a responsible adult for my mum and dad’s sake. My sister and I were pulled into situations such as mopping my mothers brow as she cried herself to sleep (when my father was placed in a nursing home), or, at the age of ten, dragging my father from the front door to the living room chair—he crashed out of his wheelchair trying to let the dog in, whilst my mum was at an evening class. She found the three of us laid out exhausted on the living room floor.

It kind of deeply affects an HSP as you grow up. It blossoms and develops your kindness and empathy, but also caustically hurts to the point of feeling ‘damaged’ in some way.

The HSP Career Challenge

During my childhood and early adult life, I looked to external guidance on what I should do as a career— I just wanted to paint and draw. But I was gifted in school with regular ‘A’ grades. I confused everyone with my hard efforts to please, often waking at 4 am just to revise and get better grades; to make my mum and dad proud.

My internal compass went awry, and I reluctantly agreed to pursue the sciences which eventually led me to physiotherapy (a role that required extroversion, ability to be with many people and groups for long periods of time and constant interruptions from junior staff and NHS bureaucracy).

The whole of my physiotherapy career was a private hell. I tried self-improvement courses, numerous physiotherapy courses and general soul-searching to see if I could change myself and grow into the role—it never happened. I was glad to eventually find some peace with regular mindfulness meditation and yoga since 2008.

In my personal life I was naturally gravitating towards caring for the planet, positive news and healthy and nutritious food. Something inside of me was starting to take control and gain momentum—I liked the feeling. I became a voluntary Director of a Community Supported Agriculture Scheme (CSA) and trained in permaculture design.

I was instinctively averse to the regular negative news; depressing soap operas; seeing cruelty to humans, plants and animals; I even struggled to watch the harsh realities of a wildlife program. There was a continued tendency to feel overwhelmed in work (seeking solitude at lunchtimes), in my personal life, and I became frustrated that I did not seem to have the robustness as others did around me.

The Beginnings Of Change

As a misfit in my personal and work life, I eventually burned-out with a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder. It’s no surprise I was anxious, I had increasing pressures in a career I disliked, and my marriage was imploding.

I did not resonate with the label of social anxiety disorder, but it was a start for healing. I noticed myself shrinking and struggling with a husband who, although extremely supportive, did not know how to nurture me gently. He too saw me as broken; just like my family and me.

With a call to adventure and internally growing courage and inner trust, I had no choice but to follow my deep-down instincts—I realised that external advice and manipulation had not worked and was actually harming me.

I left my old life and gradually grew into myself.

My inner guidance lead me to coaching the quiet person, painting, drawing, Susan Cain, Elaine Aron, writing and to a beautiful replenishing and nurturing experience—my new life.  On this journey I serendipitously discovered I have been normal all the time—an introverted HSP. The power of knowing and feeling this label is immense.

I stand tall as a unique plant in exactly the right place!!!

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Unwrapping the Gift of Our Sensitivity

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Unwrapping the Gift of Our Sensitivity - HSP Health Blog

Source: Morguefiles

I was driving home from work when my cell phone beeped notifying me I had received a text from Angie, a close friend whom I’d been teaching intuitive awareness for the past year. Without looking at my phone, I knew it was a request to call her; usually a sign that life was giving her another lesson and one she wanted to discuss.

One thing about highly sensitive people is that we spot each other in a heartbeat. I met Angie during an impromptu intuition workshop I had held while visiting a friend in another state, and when talking with her and her husband I could feel what a highly sensitive person she was. Outgoing by nature, Angie had a deep desire to work with people as a healer. Her husband’s energy on the other hand went to the other extreme. He had no interest in intuition and my efforts to share tips on using intuition in a business setting fell on deaf ears. Eventually, he grew fidgety and impatient; insisting they leave early during a break to attend a home show. Watching them walk away, I saw Angie look over her shoulder at me; although she didn’t say anything there was a pleading in her eyes which left a lingering impression in my thoughts.

In the days which followed, I had a gut feeling that there was something important being conveyed through her expression. Since I gain intuitive information through a person’s eyes and always trust my gut feelings, I sent a message through a mutual friend for Angie to call me if she needed to talk. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, her call would be the start of a friendship which would be a learning experience for us both.

Early in that first phone call as Angie shared her thoughts with me, I realized that there was a much broader range of personal concerns Angie was trying to address than anyone I had previously taught. As a highly sensitive person who was dealing with past addiction issues and trying to be the ideal wife in her marriage, Angie was experiencing numerous conflicting emotions. She was feeling worn out from setting aside her needs in order to meet the expectations of her husband and the people around her.

Intuition she told me, was a subject she wanted to learn more about; she saw it as a path to making better personal decisions in all area of her life, allowing her to be herself rather than a reflection of what she felt people expected of her. While I agreed to teach her over the phone in lieu of a small donation to an animal shelter, I also had a gut feeling that I needed to be at my personal best if I was going to be able to help her.

The Definition Of Sensitivity

“I hate being so sensitive” Angie comments during a call; “I’m tired of my constant reactions to people and all the emotions which come with them. Why can’t I be normal like everybody else? ” Since I believe that each minute of our lives is a gift in self-awareness, I decide to ask her what she feels is the definition of sensitivity. “Sensitivity is a constant reaction to things.” she replies; ” At work, I can feel the negativity of the people around me and then have to come home to feeling my husband’s expectations of what I should look like and how I should live my life. Even the women in my church group are petty and condescending to me”. “Based on your comments” I ask her; “Would you agree that your definition of sensitivity is your ability to feel the world around you much more intensely than the average person?” After a quick agreement Angie is quiet. She knows I teach through questions.

“Remember that the first rule of thumb when working with our intuition is to recognize that everything is energy. For Highly Sensitive People like ourselves, we can soak up the different energies the environment around us like a sponge. However, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Think of how different you feel when your walking in the woods verses when your at work. You’re still the same person, the only difference is in your reaction to the the energy in the environment around you.” Angie agrees and is quiet again.

“Let’s distill our definition of sensitivity down even further” I tell her; “Let’s say that sensitivity is simply heightened awareness. Perhaps, it is this heightened awareness within you that is leading to these reactions. With that being said, can you see a positive element here? “Is there one? ” she asks, laughing.

The Gift Of Our Sensitivity

As highly sensitive people, we can be reactive to the multitude of different energies and personalities contained within our current environment. Through my questions, I wanted Angie to use her sensitivity to focus on recognizing the nature of that energy rather than just feel her reaction to it.

“Angie, if we recognize that heightened awareness is the driving force behind our sensitivity, we can consider each reaction as an indicator of sorts; similar to the compass in your car each reaction points something out to you. The starting point to making better decisions in your life is to recognize what each of these reactions is telling you about your current environment.

Awareness is the gift of our sensitivity; it offers us guidance during the trials of daily living. Because this gift of awareness which we readily label “being sensitive” is often so wrapped in judgment, we never see the gift itself; instead we are distracted by the  wrapping which surrounds it.”

Awareness And The Voice Of Sensitivity

I never had a set schedule with Angie for our phone calls. Instead, I asked her to call me when she felt she was losing direction. Now legally separated from her husband, life was throwing Angie a multitude of financial and personal challenges which had her feeling overwhelmed at times. It was that feeling of overwhelm that I wanted Angie to work with.

“How do I know I’m making the right decisions?” she asks me; “My marriage has fallen apart and I feel it’s all my fault.” I can hear the guilt in her voice; using her intuition is the farthest thing from her mind right now.

“When birds fly south for the winter” I reply. “How do they know what direction to head in; what is guiding them?” She is quick to answer. “Their instincts guide them.” “What about your instincts?” I ask; “How have they guided you on this journey?” Angie doesn’t reply as she contemplates the changes she has made in her life. “Angie, keep the focus on your gut feelings. The intuitive voice of your own instinct is always felt  through gut feelings. That is where the answer to your question is.

The gift of your sensitivity created a self-awareness that you weren’t happy in your marriage and things needed to change. In your gut you knew this was true and you had the courage to act on that knowledge. The process hasn’t changed at all; to answer your question simply listen to what your gut is telling you.”

“But all I’m feeling is guilt!” she replies. There is an edge of frustration in her voice. Rather than argue my point, I leave her with another question. “And where exactly is the voice of that guilt originating from? Is it really a gut feeling or rather an emotional response as a result of your thinking?”

Intuition Versus Ego

Angie’s frustration highlighted a key point in working with awareness. To properly utilize the gift of awareness our sensitivity brings us, we want to discern between emotions created by the judgmental voice of ego which originates from our thinking verses the more neutral voice of our intuition which is a flash of feeling felt in the gut. In my own experience, the difference between the two is that intuition is felt as a sense of knowing something to be true rather than as an emotion.

The Sum Of Our Choices

While through our conversations I could make Angie aware of how intuition worked, life was always the real teacher here. While I was teaching her how to use her sensitivity to rely on her own instincts, I was also being taught about the struggles that people who suffer from addictions face. It was an ironic situation; in order to teach Angie to use her instincts, I had to rely heavily on my own.

This past weekend, Angie mentioned how for the first time in her life she could be herself in a relationship with a man she had met. Her comment reminded me of the Albert Camus quote “Life is the sum of our choices“. As she thanked me for my help, in my heart I knew that our phone conversations were going to be shorter from this point on; Angie’s life had become a reflection of the better choices she was making. Instinct was her teacher now. For the highly sensitive, that is where the gift is always to be found; in that quite voice of awareness which never, ever leaves our side.

Criticism Is Not Problem Solving

Criticism

Inner Critic © by anthom

Much has been written about criticism and the inner critic.

So why another article?

It seems to me that we take criticism for granted as an OK thing to do.

Perhaps it is our consumer culture run amok. Isn’t complaining how you get something done?

Maybe to some but I think we need a rethink about this topic.

Does Criticism Really Solve Problems?

I don’t think so.

Criticism is not problem solving. Criticism often feels intense, but criticism can be deceptive because it feels as if we are doing something when we are criticizing someone or something. However, more often than not we are not really doing anything when we criticize except putting our displeasure on someone else.

I am not suggesting that all criticism is a mistake – far from it. Without displeasure and criticism we could not improve and progress.

However, all criticism is not equal. In our consumer culture, convenience is an expectation and the absence of it often treated as a problem. This is one  kind of criticism that deserves questioning. Were we promised a convenient world?

Criticism And The Need To Be Right

Criticism can often feel strange or a little bit unreal. After all, the sun does not rise and judge us. The wind does not criticize us. A red light will not mouth off at us when we are driving through it. So criticism is our personal expression of some sort of disharmony, dissonance or displeasure.

Implicit in any criticism or judgment is the thinking that there is a right way to think, be, or do something. This is another form of criticism that deserves questioning.

One of the biggest difficulties people have in relinquishing their critical views is that they may feel that their point of view is perfectly reasonable – and they may be right. However, the result of being right and reasonable creates an obstacle to problem solving. Instead of seeking solutions to problems by opening themselves to ideas, many people turn others into the “problem” and are off and running trying to fix their identified “problem”.

Curiosity: The Missing Link

So what is wrong with this picture?  For starters, something is missing.

One thing that is missing is curiosity. Curiosity is a wonderful way to find a bridge between perceptual differences. Curiosity is about possibility whereas criticism is often about lack.  Curiosity can help us see better when we are willing to learn.

Curiosity takes a fixed position and opens it up to new ideas. It enables an individual to engage a conflict with beginners mind and find a solution to whatever the problem is. Being curious softens self righteous and entrenched positions.

Criticism often comes from a fixed perspective because it assumes that a “right” answer in advance so most differences will be seen as wrong.

A fixed position is often outcome oriented so an individual with a fixed perspective will have more difficulty understanding an unexpected result than someone who recognizes the fluid nature of processes and the potential and likelihood of different outcomes.

HSP’s And Criticism

Highly sensitive people are frequently faced with many critics because of their different perceptions, talents, and processing capabilities.  They will often be misunderstood.  By trying to shift the interpersonal ground from criticism to problem solving  by inviting curiosity they have a greater chance of improved outcomes for themselves and others.

For Additional Information:

Toxic Criticism

Toxic Criticism and Developing Creativity


20 Good Reasons to Have Clear Personal Boundaries

20 Good Reasons to Have Clear Personal Boundaries - HSP Health Blog

I was struck recently by the exceptionally high number of clients I see, whose inability to set firm personal boundaries is resulting in supersonic stress levels. Smart business people repeatedly compromised by unreliable colleagues, over demanding superiors or downright crooked clients; caring, supportive people with predatory partners or out of control children. People of integrity whose opportunistic friends, family or employees manipulate them mercilessly and drain their time and energy.

Why People Have Boundary Issues

Although their stories are all quite different, these are some common threads that connect people with boundary challenges:

  •  They are all natural born givers and people pleasers.
  •  Their personal boundaries are weak or non existent.
  •  Their goals are fuzzy.
  •  Their empathy triggers and guilt glands are super-sensitive.
  •  They are popular.

And that’s the clue.

Sometimes the personal price you pay for this kind of popularity can be way too high. Depending on others to peg your value is a fast track to stress. Why?  Because it means other people control your choices in everything you do. They always have the leverage advantage.

This not only leads to self sabotage but it can be dangerous too.

The Danger Of Approval

Being overly dependent on other’s approval can make you go against everything you value, if the threat of exclusion from what you perceive as any kind of “inner circle” is terrifying enough. The plots of many thrillers are based on exactly this dynamic. We all crave validation and respect but at what cost?

An inability to set healthy boundaries means sooner or later someone is going to have to pick up the slack—and your place in the popularity polls will plummet. The reason everyone loves you is probably because you do what they want—at the expense of what you want.

Whose life is this anyway?

Although it wasn’t always comfortable, growing up a wild child in a small town with an eccentric family certainly put people pleasing in its right place for me. I learned at an early age not to care too deeply about other people’s opinions. And this immunity to popular opinion helped me make my own rules. As far as I was concerned, if my actions gave those with empty lives something fascinating to focus on, I was performing a community service!

When people praise or validate you, accept it; enjoy it, but don’t become dependent on it. You know whether you have done well or not. Next time you are tempted to cave in order to win popularity, consider these

20 Benefits Of Boundary Building

  1. Setting boundaries saves time.
  2. Setting boundaries builds respectful relationships.
  3. Setting boundaries increases productivity—yours and everyone else’s.
  4. Setting boundaries enables a team to work as a team—everyone is headed in the same direction, towards the same clear goals.
  5. Setting boundaries builds accountability within your team—no passing the buck.
  6. Setting boundaries stops you feeling overwhelmed, resentful, victimized and stressed.
  7. Setting boundaries frees up energy and enthusiasm.
  8. Setting boundaries fosters confidence, leadership, and organizational abilities.
  9. Setting boundaries generates respect.
  10. Setting boundaries aids concentration and decision making.
  11. Setting boundaries creates a healthy balance between giving and taking.
  12. Setting boundaries allows you to take care of your own wellbeing.
  13. Setting boundaries leads to a happy, balanced life.
  14. Setting boundaries minimizes misunderstanding and conflict.
  15. Setting boundaries gives you a sense of control in your life.
  16. Setting boundaries makes delegating more effective.
  17. Setting boundaries teaches family and team members to think for themselves.
  18. Setting boundaries vastly improves communication—everyone knows where they stand and what is expected of them.
  19. Setting boundaries goes a long way towards preventing bullying.
  20. Setting boundaries gives you an authentic sense of authority. Your boundary building expertise automatically acts as a map for the people who relate to you in any way.

The Benefits Of Strong Boundaries

Boundaries spell R E S P E C T on every level—and shape the way people respond to you. If you put inappropriate parts into a machine that is vital for production, will you get maximum production?

Success requires putting the right people, with the right qualities, in the right place, for the right reasons—in every area of your life. Yes you might well have to do some reshuffling to accomplish this. And people pleasers find this very painful. They would rather struggle on for years, having their relationships, careers or health sabotaged, dragging the deadweight of dead wood behind them, silently picking up the slack and stressing themselves into ill health—than just take a stand.

Drawing firm boundaries doesn’t mean you don’t care. It means you care enough about the bigger picture, to take the necessary actions.

It doesn’t mean you don’t like someone. It means you understand where they belong in your life—and where they don’t. It just means you are placing the right components in the right place to maximize the chances of a successful outcome for all. And yes, when you first install personal boundaries, you will face criticism. Not everyone will understand why, and some will take it personally, but they will get over it. And the wear and tear on your stress-o-meter will be worth it a thousand times over.

What do you think?

Have You Tried Ecstatic Dance?

 

“In many shamanic societies, if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited or depressed, they would ask you on of four questions: When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the seet territory of silence?

So begins the forward to Gabrielle Roth‘s book, Maps To Ecstasy written by Angeles Arrien, Ph.D., a cultural anthropologist who has written The Four Fold Way and Signs of Life. Maps to Ecstasyis an introduction to the wonders of ecstatic dance.

Why Dance Is Making A Comeback

It’s noteworthy that dance is making a comeback at this point in time. Dance has never died. However its role is changing aided by several popular dance shows, Dancing With The Stars and So You Think You Can Dance. Although dance has always had a social role, increasingly its healing role is being recognized.  So You Think You Can Dance in particular has presented this therapeutic role of dance using dance for emotional, psychological and cultural healing.

These changes are not accidental. As institutional structures fracture and a new way of life comes into being, dance has the ability to help us not only heal the past but also to be more fully engaged in the present. You have to be present to dance, otherwise you trip over your feet or worse.

Dance gets us out of our heads. It heals the mind-body connection.  Dancing helps us be fully in our power and lets us see that we are OK and can trust ourselves.

Tribal Dance

It’s in the air. We can feel it.  As our monolithic economic system breaks up, the world is becoming more tribal. Tribes have had a negative reputation in maintream culture for a long time. Tribes have been depicted as ignorant, dangerous, worshiping many gods and having strange practices.

We are now learning a different story about tribes. Tribes have skills that we are very removed from: understanding nature, healing skills, and ecstatic dance skills to name a few.

Tribal dance is very old and has many functions. Many of us have heard of rain dances, but tribal dances actually had another function. Tribal dances have been used for emotional healing and psychological growth for thousands of years. Tribal dances let the dancer enter into the energy of their lives, relate to, accept it and let go. It is a way of processing deep emotional issues that is both non-harming and healing. It is a way of staying in right relation to life and the world around you.

Tribal dances are used at important life transitions to help an individual process the emotions they are experiencing so that they can release and be clear for the next events in their lives. Blocked and unprocessed emotions are inevitably harmful and prevent us from wholeheartedly engaging with life. Tribal dance prevents people from becoming frozen in an emotional state by using the free form dance to help the individual to move through their feelings.

Ecstatic Dance

Ecstatic dance is a freeform dance. Modern Ecstatic dance is the brainchild of Gabrielle Roth, who has used dance as a therapeutic method for many decades.

Gabrielle has written extensively about dance as a way to reclaim our ecstatic experience of life. Ecstatic dance gets us out of our heads into our bodies and helps us see ourselves as the actors in our on lives. It creates unity between ourselves and the life force of the planet. It helps us be one with the stages of life and accept and move through them gracefully.

Gabrielle has identified five universal life energies that she has incorporated into her dance. Interestingly they are also the stages of the creative process. She describes the five rhythms as:

  • the flowing rhythm: a teacher of fluidity and grace. Flowing is like a warm up, when we start to engage. It is gentle and curious.
  • the staccato rhythm: the teacher of definition and refinement. Staccato is structure and order, like working with building blocks. Staccato works with what is.
  • the rhythm of chaos: the rhythm of creativity seeking form. chaos occurs when we go beyond what is. We have worked staccato and now move into a creative phase with what we have been working on. All the curiosity of flowing and working of staccato prepares for chaos.
  • the lyrical rhythm: the rhythm of synthesis and integration. In the chaos phase of our creativity we open to the new and consider many possibilities until we find what will work. Lyrical is the integration and synthesis of that new information or solution.
  • the stillness rhythm: the rhythm of contentment and peace. After synthesis and integration, we can stand back, consider what we have done and gracefully let go, releasing ourselves and our work until we engage again.

The Value Of Ecstatic Dance For HSP’s And Everyone Else

As we enter a more tribal age, we each need to be in our own power and connection at the same time. For so long we have been glued to computers, assembly lines, and other structures of the industrial age, that many of us are stiff in our bodies, hearts and minds.

Ecstatic dance loosens it all up, gets our energy flowing, helps us see what we can control and what we have to let go of. Ecstatic dance is a dance for helping is to heal into a more mature and joyful time.

Ecstatic dance can help you learn to lead, to follow and to get out of the way, each in its own way at the right time. It can make us whole at a time when we desperately need whole human beings. Becoming more whole will also help us to respect and like ourselves more and in doing so we can like each other more as well, making a better world possible.

If you are a highly sensitive person, ecstatic dance can help you remain connected and remove stress so that you can stay more in your natural creativity. If you are a non-HSP, ecstatic dance can help you safely step out of your mind into you body and help you feel your connection to all things. If you have suffered harm or trauma, ecstatic dance can help you move through your feeling so that you feel like living again.

Ecstatic dance is a wonderful safe practice that can help each of us feel better and connect better. I can’t think of anything better for each of us than ecstatic dance.