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.

Meditation Heals Traumatic Stress

Meditation Heals Traumatic Stress - HSP Health Creative Commons License photo credit: CyboRoZ


Have you developed a meditation practice for yourself?

I have meditated now for almost 20 years and it is one of the best things I have done for myself.

Like many HSPs, stress has always been a problem for me.

Meditation is one of the few things I have found that provides serious help.

Traumatic Stress Required Healing

Many HSPs not only suffer from serious debilitating stress but also the traumatic stress caused by abuse. All the the violence  including verbal and emotional violence in our world causes a tremendous amount of suffering especially for highly sensitive people because it can take a lot of time for us to recover from a traumatic experience. Unfortunately, in some situations, people do not recover, the traumatic damage is too great.

Many Forms Of  Traumatic Stress

Any form of trauma can create serious and long-lasting traumatic stress. All forms of childhood abuse, assault and any other form of violence, and bullying can create deep long lasting emotional and mental pain.

The worst of course is war, where violence is a constant for a long period of time. which is why this new study is so valuable for all trauma sufferers.

Meditation Helps PTSD

It is very useful to understand what treatments benefit those who have suffered the worst forms of abuse, since they can often help those whose injuries are milder.

According to a recent 2008 study of five Iraq/Afghanistan veterans who has served up to two years and experienced moderate to moderately heavy fighting, meditation was able to relieve their PTSD symptoms. According to the release by the Behavioral Medicine Report, the study was conducted by Norman Rosenthal, M.D., a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School and director of research at Capital Clinical Research Associates in Rockville, Maryland.

Dr. Rosenthal is a well-known researcher who has pioneered  seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and light therapy. In the veterans study, the former soldiers were taught Transcendental Meditation, and the results were monitored using Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS), which is the premier tool used to assess post traumatic stress disorder patients. After eight weeks of meditation, the veterans had a 50% reduction in their symptoms.

Apparently meditation helps PTSD sufferers significantly. This is not the first time that researchers discovered that meditation helps PTSD symptoms in veterans.  In 1985, the University of Colorado also experienced positive results during their three month study.

The Behavioral Medicine Report makes this observation:

Rosenthal hypothesizes that Transcendental Meditation helps people with post traumatic stress disorder because regular practice produces long-term changes in sympathetic nervous system activity, as evidenced by decreased blood pressure, and lower reactivity to stress. Transcendental Meditation quiets down the nervous system, and slows down the ‘fight-or-flight’ response,” he said. People with post traumatic stress disorders show overactive fight-or-flight responses, making them excellent candidates for Transcendental Meditation.

PTSD has a long history. PTSD has been called a number of other different names, including:

  • battle fatigue or gross stress reaction for soldiers who came down with PTSD after World War II
  • combat fatigue or shell shock for soldiers who experienced PTSD symptoms after World War I
  • soldier’s heart for soldiers who developed the symptoms of PTSD after the Civil War.
  • more recently it has been found to be inheritable and can be caused by abuse.

Meditation For Traumatic Stress Sufferers

Meditation has also been around for centuries and we now are starting to have the scientific proof of its benefits. The military sees Transcendental Meditation being used in the future to assist veterans suffering from PTSD which sounds like a great idea.

However, since it is so useful for military PTSD sufferers, we should use it wherever it can make a difference. Many people suffer from emotional and mental stress caused by various forms of abuse.

Highly sensitive people suffer more than most and have a particularly acute need to get help with stress disorders. Transcendental Meditation has been helpful for me. It has the important benefit of quieting and healing the nervous system which is precisely what highly sensitive people need.

Many HSP’s like myself use it and it is worth considering as a healing method.

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Meditation Increases Self Discipline And Self-Acceptance

Mantra © by j / f / photos

You know the drill.  You are sensitive and therefore it is assumed that you are unstable.

And so you get marginalized. After all sensitivity means you are not tough enough. It means you are unreliable.


Researchers at the University of Toronto Scarborough discovered a link between sensitivity and self discipline in their study about meditation. The study demonstrated that meditators were more accepting of their emotions which impacted their performance.

The Effect Of Meditation On Emotions

“Willpower … may relate to ‘emotional intelligence’,” said Michael Inzlicht, associate professor of psychology at UTSC. According to the study, meditators were more open to their emotions. This “emotional intelligence” has a strong impact on the ability of an individual to be disciplined on tasks.

When you meditate, and I am speaking from my 15+ years of experience with Transcendental Meditation, thoughts come and go. You do not attach to them. Sometimes they subside or stop. There is a flow to thoughts and feelings and the more you let the flow happen, the less likely you are to see them as part of your identity.

When you detach your identity from your thoughts and emotions, it is easier to accept them as part of the flow of life. You then take thoughts and emotions less personally and you become emotionally freer. Meditation promotes emotional freedom so that you can apply your energy to a task and stay with it because your emotions are not getting in the way so much.

Emotional Acceptance Trumps Mindful Awareness

According to the article, ” the researchers asked participants about their experience meditating, and gave tests that measured how mindful they were of the present moment, and also how aware and accepting they were of their emotions.

The researchers then hooked up participants to an electroencephalograph and gave them something called the Stroop test. In the test, participants are shown the name of a colour written in letters of a different colour – for instance, the word “red” spelled in green letters. Participants are asked to say the colour of the letters. The test requires them to suppress the tendency to read the word, and instead to concentrate on actual colours.

Meditators were generally better than non-meditators at the test… Looking further, the researchers found that the best performers were those who scored highest on emotional acceptance, and that mindful awareness – the more cognitive aspect of mindfulness ­– had less to do with success on the test. ”

Implications For Highly Sensitive People

Being highly sensitive means being aware of emotions. You cannot escape them. Being in touch with your emotions can be overwhelming and you quickly discover that you cannot respond to each one.

Although you have to process your feelings and make the wisest action choices that you can make, if you see them as part of the flow of life it will be easier to do so.

Whether you meditate or not, over time the practice of processing feelings and making decisions can become a practice that helps you develop both wisdom and self-discipline.

That is quite a gift from the supposed problem of being highly sensitive.

5 Ways That Meditation Is Changing My Life

Zen © by EverJean

I had no expectations from my meditation.I started my practice over 15 years ago after having moved from New Jersey to Virginia. We were living in an old farmhouse on a large farm when I happened to see a presentation by Deepak Chopra on PBS about meditation.I was very curious.When it aired again, I showed it to my husband.  He was intrigued as well.In New Jersey we had started to investigate health for ourselves.  We both worked long hours, traveled for our jobs, and felt tired a lot of the time. Our first health venture was to start juicing.  We sure consumed a lot of vegetable and fruit and it can be expensive!  Then we added vitamins and other supplements.All good as it goes. However I had a hunch that there was more to becoming healthy – that I was missing something. It was the Chopra show on PBS that set me on a different path.

I remember that Deepak Chopra spoke about consciousness in his presentation. Perhaps he validated an experience I had at 18 while walking to a class at Tufts.  I was early morning on a beautiful, sunny fall day. All of a sudden I felt compelled to stop and at that moment I felt the unity of all things. I stood there for quite some time because I found the experience so compelling. I believe that experience was my first taste of the benefits of meditation.

Fifteen years ago as a result of Deepak Chopra’s program, I decided to learn Transcendental Meditation and have been practicing it ever since.  I have to say that I have noticed changes in myself along the way.

Some of the benefits are remarkable, but more often than not they are subtle. These are some of the benefits:

  1. meditation expands you by putting you in touch with the universal field so that you become aware that there is more than you, your thoughts and experiences to be aware of. To some degree, we are all aware of others since we live in a world with lots of other people and creatures. But this is different. Meditation puts you in touch with the universe as a form of awareness and so enables you to see the universe as something intelligent.
  2. meditation enables you to experience the universal field as a home, a place of rest, a benevolence which brings a comfort that that you cannot get from other kinds of security seeking: money, fame, position etc.
  3. meditation aligns you with the universal field and helps you operate in what I call the  “constructive self”- in alignment with the positive intelligence of the universe. It is therefore a source of comfort to know that you are in a positive place vis-a-vis the rest of the living universe.
  4. meditation helps you realize the positive in you is a natural state.  This was especially important to me since I grew up with a lot of negativity. In realizing the positive in yourself, you also realize that you are not unique in that regard so it helps you soften into daily life. This is one of its most important daily benefits. Meditation helps reduce the feeling of vulnerability that drives so much unhelpful behavior which then lets us help others reduce their fear which in turn creates a more peaceful world.
  5. meditation takes you out of the fear which consumes so much of our lives. For that alone I am grateful.

I am immensely grateful for Transcendental Meditation. I would love to have everyone receive this precious gift.  I believe that we all deserve the experience of benevolence that meditation brings.

Inner Peace For You And Me: A Review Of “Shortcuts To Inner Peace”


INNER PEACE © by jopetsy

Do you think inner peace is for people with easier lives, people who are not sensitive like you?

You can’t afford a retreat? Don’t have time to sit for hours in meditation?

Well, I have good news.  Here is a book that makes inner peace accessible for everyone.

I have read the book, Shortcuts To Inner Peace 70 Simple Paths to Everyday Serenity by Ashley Davis Bush which is a recently published book which offers simple exercises to help people find inner peace in everyday life.

What is nice about it is that it is not shortcuts in the way we usually mean them.  These “shortcuts” are very simple exercises to intersperse throughout your day to make the path to inner peace easier.

Ashley Davis Bush is a licensed psychotherapist and grief counselor living in Epping, New Hampshire.  The exercises that she created came from her own life experience of trying to find inner peace and also as an attempt to help people she met in her practice who found it difficult to meditate. Not only does she have a busy practice and large family of five children, but Ms. Bush also suffers from insomnia and panic attacks.

The Shortcuts To Inner Peace book is divided into two main sections:

  1. Your Daily Thread which are serenity exercises designed to be combined with a specific regular daily activity.  Washing hands, having a cup of coffee, taking a shower, or stopping at a red light are just some of the activities around which the book offers opportunities to reduce stress and reclaim our inner wellness. Your Daily Thread includes sections on finding serenity in relationships and sensory experience.
  2. The Peace Portals is the second section of the book that focuses on serenity exercises for four aspects of our being:
    1. physical well being
    2. mental well being
    3. emotional well being
    4. spiritual well being
  3. The book includes appendices that  cross reference the serenity exercises make it easy to locate exercises:
    1. by type: verbal, action and imagination,
    2. by need: mindfulness, developing compassion, improving perspective, improve gratitude,
    3. by situation, extreme stress, anger, anxiety and
    4. by location: home, work and car.

So if you are tired of daily life getting you down get this book and pick one exercise and incorporate it into your day.  Many of the exercises help reframe your perception so picking one where you are having particular difficulty can make you feel a lot better.

I particularly like this approach because it is low on drama but high on results. As a long time practitioner of TM, I know how valuable meditative techniques can be. This book turns everyday events into a meditation. I highly recommend it.

7 Baby Steps For Stress Relief

newborn fawn just 2 minutes after birth © by slopjop

When we are under stress particularly severe stress, we often want to run away from it because it is so painful. Highly sensitive people struggle more than others with stress because their nervous systems are so attuned to the world around them. We pick up every hurt and dissonance, take it in and then need to process it.  The hardest part is trying to make sense of it and find a resolution when it may be beyond our control to do so. We end up not only in pain but also feeling helpless and disempowered.

There is no easy solution to these problems.  But there are some steps you can take to help yourself.  Sometimes when we try to handle our stress we go to our heads when our bodies and souls are hurting.  Sometimes we reach for the ice cream or a pill.  There is no easy answer for an awake heart.  But it is our treasure and gift.  We need to see it as a shining jewel inside of us, one that is meant to be shared.

Treasuring our hearts also means respecting their limits and setting healthy boundaries which sounds so easy but is a challenge for highly sensitive people with their big hearts. One way to improve your stress is to take baby steps to reduce it. Here are some ideas:

  • meditate daily.  It helps heal stress and supports a healthy nervous system, particularly Transcendental Meditation.
  • get exercise, since it is a great stress reducer and help protect you from disease. Yoga and walking are great choices.
  • eat a stress reducing diet of whole grains, legumes, rice, vegetables and fruit.
  • choose a vocation that is good for your heart.
  • choose social companions that are also good for your heart.
  • remove mean individuals from your life as much as possible.  You cannot change another person, but you can provide the feedback of not wanting to be around them and let them deal with their own behavior.
  • do what you can to support the humanitarian efforts being made around the globe as a way to support your heart.  Being a part of the solution is something to be proud of.

Each time you take steps to take care of your stress, your health and your heart, notice.  These are important and valuable actions that are worthy of your respect. By noticing how you contribute, you value yourself and all the little baby steps you make to create a better world.

Being a part of making a difference can only help you reduce stress, provided you take it one baby step at a time.

4 Reasons Why HSP’s Should Meditate

Creative Commons License photo credit: Ed-meister

Why meditate?  There are 4 reasons why HSP’s should meditate.  Many people have adopted the practice of meditation for many reasons as there are types of meditation. Chances are that most people adopt the practice for a short term gain like stress relief.   However there are many long term benefits that make a meditation practice worth the committment.

For highly sensitive people for whom a stress relief program is mandatory, here are 4 reasons why HSP’s should meditate:

  1. Meditation is a form of release.  Transcendental Meditation, my practice for the better part of two decades, uses a mantra to create a mechanism that enables the meditator to disengage from thoughts.  When we detach from thoughts we open to the larger universe and become more open to multiple perspectives.  Because HSP’s suffer from so much stress, the ability to achieve that kind of release from stressful thoughts is an important benefit, and facilitates a relaxed, naturally holistic perspective more easily.
  2. Meditation can helps us get out of a rut.  When we get stuck, and that can be often, meditation helps us release the cause of our rut, which is often a limited perspective.  Since life is very day to day, the capacity for perspective which meditation helps us achieve can create the internal space for new options.  When we cannot let go, we have essentially closed our sense of options.  When we meditate we open ourselves to new options by letting go.
  3. Meditation, in helping us to let go of a limited personal perspective, frees us to evolve to a more communitarian relationship with the rest of the world. Admittedly, in Western societies which emphasize the “self”, that can be a challenging perspective. However, the more we see ourselves as “all in this together” the more we reduce fear and stress in the world creating a world that is good for everyone and easier for HSP’s to live in.
  4. Meditation, when it helps us release, opens us up to our own creativity, making it easier to access our natural gifts that may be blocked by stress and unresolved issues. It enables HSP’s to have an easier time being at their best, in spite of their sensitivities and genetic diseases.
There are many reasons to meditate.  People use it for personal reasons: to help with grief, for spiritual enlightenment and other reasons, but the 4 reasons HSP’s should meditate listed above will help HSP’s reduce stress so that they can be at their best in all their endeavors.