Tips For The Urban HSP

Tips For Urban HSPs

As an HSP, I sometimes think I must be truly nuts to be living in New York City, a place that seems like the very embodiment of the word “overstimulation.”

Crowded, loud, bright and always on, it can be a nightmare for the senses.

If you let it.

I’ve lived here for nearly 15 years now, and I’ve found ways to make it work. (I have a bit of a dream writing job, and this is one of the only places I can really do it, which is why I don’t leave, in case you’re wondering. Also, nearly everyone I love is here, which adds weight to the case for sticking around.)

 Attitude For An Urban HSP

I think the lessons I’ve learned as a Big Apple HSP can be helpful for all, particularly those who might be living in other, smaller urban environments. I think you have to start by just seeing city life slightly differently than many. Here, I think there’s often a default attitude of, “Only in New York! Gotta love it!” when, for example, you’re on a crowded train at 9 a.m. and all of a sudden theres’s a mariachi band furiously playing, mere inches away from your face.

No.

You actually don’t have to love it. (I suspect very few people love it, but I applaud their generally optimistic ability to pretend that they do.)

So here are a few of the survival tips I’ve come up with to make being an NYC urban HSP work for me.

Protect Your Hearing

1) Get good headphones, and don’t be afraid to use them.
I’ve always been shocked that so many people are willing to put up with the crappy white headphones that come with an Apple product. They make my ears sore after only a few minutes of listening, and they don’t fit well enough to filter out ambient noise (nor do they stop everyone around you from hearing your music, one of my big pet peeves about public transportation these days: if you’re not wearing headphones yourself, you are more often than not subjected to the contents of someone else’s).

No, I’m talking about getting some of those little rubbery ear buds, or, if you’re loaded, a pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones (they’re on my wish list). A little of your own curated music can radically change a walk through a chaotic city street, a subway car filled with yammering people and blaring conductor announcements, or a store where four overly cheerful salespeople come up to you within the span of a minute and say, “How ARE you today? Can I help you find anything?” Just point sheepishly to your headphones, as if they are surgically implanted in your head and totally beyond your control, and move away.

2) If you’ve got a smartphone, get a white noise app.
Music is good in many situations, but I find that when I need to really concentrate on reading or writing something, it’s too distracting. My white noise app is the best thing about my iPhone by far. Mine lets me create my own mixes of soothing sounds: beach waves crashing and light rain! Tree frogs and oscillating fan! Or just plain old white noise. Actually, brown noise, which is softer than white noise. Check it out, you’ll see what I mean. Any of these will instantly reduce my HSP stress by half. It’s also genius for hotel rooms while traveling (more on this in my upcoming sleep tips post).

Protect Your Boundaries

3) Make subway rides work for you. As Elaine Aron might put it, use your boundaries. Don’t worry about everyone else’s feelings so much. My instinct is generally to try to make other people feel good, so I’m not all that comfortable saying no or shutting things down even when I really need a break from human beings (which is pretty often).

But I’ve found that in order to stay sane, you have to just power through that instinct and be a little protective of yourself. For example: when riding on the train, someone sits down next to me eating an egg sandwich. She seems perfectly nice otherwise and part of me doesn’t want her to feel like a leper if I get up and move. But you know what? An egg sandwich smells disgusting, and it’s ruining the precious half-hour of down time I have in the morning. So I’m gone.

Ditto someone who’s having a loud, laughing cell phone conversation next to me. Or twitching just slightly oddly in a way that suggests they might be a bit off. Or wearing pungent perfume. Just get up and move. You’ll feel so much better when you do.

Similarly, when I’m leaving work and someone tries to catch me and take the train with me, I generally come up with a reason to split off (“I have to make a call first,” or “I have to run an errand”). I find that when my subway ride gets diverted into chitchat or small talk, I tend to reach my destination feeling depleted and annoyed, which reduces my ability to be present for whatever my next activity was. So I just find non-mean ways of getting out of the shared subway ride.

It’s best for everyone.

The Challenge Of Smelly Air

4) Get an air filter
One of my least favorite things about New York is the smells. And I’m not even talking about the stereotypical pee and garbage aromas, which tend, in my experience, to be a bit overstated. No, it’s the cooking smells that really do me in.

Apartment building living just inevitably comes with having to share the air with other people who like different food than you, and if you’re an HSP, those odors can feel like a punch in the face. Someone down the hall from me must, I think, own a deep fryer, because nearly every night it smells like Popeye’s in the hallway. This is not OK. This smell makes me deeply sad. But I can deal with it, because I have a pretty decent air filter going in my apartment’s entryway. It also just offers some psychological support, knowing I have a little mechanical sentry between me and the olfactory chaos going on outside my door. (In a pinch, I find that a Yankee Candle also works pretty well. Who knew? But it’s nothing compared to an air filter.)

Bottom line, just because you live surrounded by other people doesn’t mean you have to feel violated by their ill-advised culinary choices.

Create Your Own Lifestyle

5) Get a dog
In a way, this might seem odd advice, because a dog does come with its own set of stressors: they cost money, they require lots of attention, they may wake you up barking at absolutely nothing in the middle of the night. But if you get a good one, they can also offer a brilliantly convenient excuse for getting out of things and living a lower-key life than you might otherwise be expected to do as a city-dweller.

Everyone in your office going out for happy hour, and you’re sort of expected to go, even though the thought of being stuck in a noisy bar making small talk makes you want to bang your head against a wall? Don’t sweat it, you have to go home and walk the dog. Sorry! Additionally, your dog will ensure that you must go on multiple rambles around the neighborhood daily, which is a practice that’s highly beneficial for soothing the HSP’s system. Which brings me to my next tip.

6) Live near a park
It doesn’t have to be Central Park (or your city’s version of Central Park). But if you have someplace you can get to reasonably easily where you can be among trees instead of human beings, that’s going to increase your quality of life a whole lot. (As well as your dog’s.) Go regularly. Go every day. Take deep breaths and always know, when you’re in the midst of the urban circus, that this will always be here waiting for you. Don’t live near a park? Make it a habit to walk through one on your way to work, if you can. Get off the train a few stops early and incorporate a park walk into your commute.

7) Get plants
Plants! It’s like having a mini park in your apartment.

8) When all else fails, Xanax.
Just kidding. (Not really.)

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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.

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.

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?

Embrace Your Wildish Nature

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The wild feminine is on the rise and that is good news for highly sensitive people.

The wild feminine is about embracing our wildish natures, the ones that are at home in the energy that embraces us all.

The wild feminine is the part of us that has been demoted by left brained culture and ideas that act as yokes for the aliveness of the universe.

What Is Wildish Nature?

Wildish nature is the nature we have abandoned on our quest to conquer nature.

Wildish nature is. It is what we come from, it is ancient wisdom.

Wildish nature is what ancient tribes connected with as their true homes.

Wildish nature is safe, it is on our side. It is all of natural intelligence ready to help us live in our authenticity.

Wildish nature has all in it, so it can be what it needs to be:

  • quiet and still to listen 
  • curious about anything that doesn’t make sense
  • open to all forms in information that is relevant in an situation
  • strategic as called for
  • aggressive when necessary

Wildish is our wholeness interacting with and supported by the universal life force.

Wildish nature is our creativity, our innocence and resourcefulness.

It is our spirits made manifest.

It’s our intuition at work.

Wildish Nature Cannot Be Controlled

One of the things I love about wildish nature is that it cannot be controlled.

In fact the minute you try to control it you have lost it.

As Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes in her fabulous book, Women Who Run With Wolves, wildish nature is like a river. It is subject to itself and not any man made laws. It is life itself. It just is.

Wildness isn’t tame but it isn’t pseudo wildness either. It isn’t a pose we put on for others or dressing in a wild way as a defense. There is no one to please, no orders to take. There is only what is and seeing it.

Wildness is honest.

As Dr. Estes writes, wildish nature lives in the life/death/life cycle. Not the product cycle, not the marketing cycle, not the election cycle.

Wildish nature is not organized or compartmentalized. It is receptive and responsive to what is.

Your Wildish Nature Is Your Empowerment

Your wildish nature embraces all aspects of yourself in engaging with life. There is no society to belong to, so class structure, no gold stars and perfect grades, no competitions, and no beauty contests.

Your wildness uses all of your senses, not in the service of self indulgence or consumerism, but as sources of intelligence and information.

There are no targets to hit. There is no growth for growth’s sake. There are no mansions needed.

Your wildish nature embraces the unfolding of all life. It only needs to be with it rather than over or under it.

The left-brained world buts you off from what does not suit it. whatever it deems ugly. So do not grunt or growl. Too ugly!

The left-brained world wants you chasing approval and prizes, while your life’s energy becomes sicker and sicker with the striving.

The left brained world  has its order, and the full river of life is not welcome.

So leave your real Self at the door if you must and sacrifice it for the ordeals of empty achievement.

Or try letting go of it so that you can allow your whole self to breathe again free of the corsets of cultural customs and requirements.

Your Wildish Nature Is Your Friend

Our wildness is a friend. It is a friend to us and lets us be a friend to the other wild things we live with.

Your wildness is all of you including the parts you do not like generally because you have been taught that those parts are ugly: like softness and leaning and relaxing.

Wildish nature is  our natural curiosity at home in the real world.

Wildish nature is our intelligence st play.

We really don’t need anything else.

Sensitive And Powerful: Can You Be Both?

Powerful? Then you can’t be sensitive.

This is the message we receive from the time we are young.

Of course it is based on an idea about strength and power.

So perhaps we need to reexamine these ideas and see if they make any sense.

What Is Power?

According to Merriam Webster dictionary, power comes basically in two forms: personal and institutional:

  • power is the ability to get something done or create an effect of some sort. It is a skill.
  • power can also be assigned as in institutional power. This power is the ability to control. It is the province of rules, roles and laws. Often institutional power is maintained by the prevailing group consciousness in any society which essentially gives it the permission to make the rules and laws that govern everyday life.

These definitions ring true. Power is either acquired through working at developing a skill or through assignment.

Both of these definitions equate power with action:

  • the action of an individual in learning how to do something, and
  • the power of institutions to act to limit the actions of others.

They also have a flaw.

The Flaw In The Definition Of Power

The common definition of powerful is highly affiliated with masculine norms that have defined culturally accepted behavior and they are action oriented ideas about being powerful.

For so long masculine and feminine have been defined as opposites, so the feminine and feminine characteristics have been designated as less attractive and less powerful.

The feminine has been traditionally associated with right brained intuition and which means that being highly sensitive is also associated with being feminine.

“Doing” has been placed on a pedestal. Observing, knowing and intuiting are all listening skills which are generally devalued in a cultural systems that demands action oriented behavior.

A Powerful Distortion

It is interesting that we are still beholden to ancient ideas about the sexes. For all of our advances, we are still perpetuating simplistic ideas about men and women. Unfortunately these ideas have consequences and are not up to the challenges of complex modern societies.

Limited ideas about strength limits our ability to find solutions to our problems – and it is showing.

When we misdefine strength and power we also misdefine what it important and necessary.

If action is a strength then contemplation is not.

If logic is a strength then intuition is not.

If brawn is a strength, compassion is not.

One-sided dualities are inherently limiting.

So How Can Sensitives Be Powerful?

In reality it can be very difficult to break through dualistic ideas about identity and power.

Duality, however, doesn’t work. We certainly see plenty of evidence around us of how duality creates as many problems as it solves because it always leaves out key factors.

That is the opportunity for highly sensitive people.

HSP’s are the great noticers of disconnection of all sorts.

Our awareness is our power. Our challenge is to make our awareness available in the world.

Many of us have experience with resistance to change: sometimes it is ours, often the resistance of others. We know from personal experience that when people are not ready for change we cannot move them to do anything. Our ideas will fall by the wayside because it is not our job to get someone to change.

There are , however, some things we can do.

We can introduce ideas that someone might not have thought of.

We can show how a new approach can be successful by talking about innovative successes.

We can show how a positive view of humanity is worth considering because of our own experiences.

We can show how going too fast causes us to miss important factors that eventually lead to unnecessary failure.

We can help others see the benefits of going slowly and carefully.

We do not need to change the world.

We can open the door a crack and let in some fresh ideas. Perhaps someone will consider those ideas today or in the future.

All we have done is introduce some new possibilities.

That is powerful.

And it is powerful enough.

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Identity And Thoughts: Changing The Narrative For Highly Sensitive People

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Do your thoughts drive you crazy?

Do you ruminate a lot and feel that you are going around in circles?

Do you think that your thoughts control you?

What Are Our Thoughts?

Our thoughts are mental pictures that we create.  They often seem automatic and out-of-control. They are a natural consequence of our interaction with daily life and are your way of processing and dealing with what is happening around you and to you.

Our thoughts are our mind’s desire to take care of us. They also are a way of our dealing with the unknown and unknowable. Our thoughts support our assumed identities and try to identify our place in the world. They help us to belong.

Unfortunately, our thoughts often seem to be running our lives.

Why Are Our Thoughts So Painful?

For many thoughts can be very painful because through our thoughts we determine here we stand in life. Our thoughts are essentially left brained operating in a linear way and aligned with the manifested world. They are mathematical and materialistic.

If we identify with our left brained thoughts then we are only looking at a small part of reality and not necessarily what is true.

One of the reasons thoughts can be painful is because they attempt to place us in an identity that works in a world that often has preconceived ideas about who we are and should be.

Our Thoughts And The Cultural Narrative

Our thoughts can be a lot of things. They can be about personal aspects of our lives as well as the public aspects. Sometimes they have a short term focus. Sometimes not.

Most often they seem to be a way of interpreting and dealing with the cultural narrative around us. The problem with continually engaging in this way is that the cultural narrative usually has a life of its own. For highly sensitive people, the cultural narrative is usually about non-HSP life and lifestyles so it is basically not about them.

We can, therefore, feel left out and our thoughts do not necessarily help us with that.

However, we are not here to serve a social structure. We are here to become our best self. Sometimes the social structure and our evolution are at odds and we are not suppose to fit in.

Reclaiming Your Narrative

It is important to have a sense of yourself separate from the narrative around you.

Narratives about life are just stories as the research on human evolution in Spiral Dynamics show. Narratives are the social structure created to support and justify a particular cultural embodiment. They change when we need to change. They are not sacred. One person’s narrative is not necessarily another person’s narrative.

Narratives are not necessarily the TRUTH.

When you try to be a part of the cultural narrative and take your identity from it, you may be creating problems for yourself.

Identifying with the cultural narrative works for many non-HSPs since the narrative usually reflects them.  It may feel wrong that they can be so comfortable in the cultural narrative when as a highly sensitive person you feel like an outsider.

For that reason you have to identify a narrative for yourself or your thoughts will be dominated by ideas related to a narrative that doesn’t suit you and only causes you mental frustration.

Creating Your Own Narrative

Highly sensitive people need to create their own narrative.

We need to separate ourselves from the dominant narrative. To do so we need to make some mental adjustments:

  • see the existing cultural narrative as hanging rather than fixed.
  • align your narrative with the evolutionary process going on around you. That way you support improvements in life and are not simply fighting the existing cultural narrative.
  • notice how your narrative can be helpful to others as a way to help you maintain your ability to connect with others.

When you take back you narrative, you can eliminate a lot of the thoughts you have about your place in the existing system and let your thoughts now serve where you are going and what you are becoming.

It is a great way to stop ruminating and start creating the life you deserve.

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