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.

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Self Sacrifice Can Make You Sick

Self sacrifice is very hard to escape.

It is so conditioned into us that whether you are an HSP or non-HSP doesn’t matter. You are subject to the expectation.

Self sacrifice carried to an extreme will make you sick, emotionally and physically.

Why is self-sacrifice such a problem?

Self Sacrifice Solves A Lot Of Problems

Self sacrifice solves so may problems:

  • if there are scarce resources, self sacrifice ensures that there is “enough”
  • if someone is abusive, expecting self sacrifice from victims “erases” a problem and injustice
  • if life is unfair, it is because self sacrifice is your “lot” in life
  • if the system does not work, self sacrifice enables us to avoid dealing with the problem
  • expectations of self sacrifice ensure that social inequities remain in place by allocating support only to some
  • expectations of self sacrifice maintain unequal relationships and relationships that are one way streets. They maintain power imbalances and the status quo.

How Self Sacrifice Affects An Individual

Self sacrifice feels devastating to the individual who experiences it. It is more than feeling like you are less than others. It is a way of appropriating the life force of one individual for the benefit of others.

For highly sensitive people for whom emotional vampires are a danger, a life of self sacrifice can be even more cruel since you are being both emotionally and usually physically exploited without any hope for reciprocity and care.

People stuck in self denying situations often feel angry depleted and robbed of their lives.

They are right!

Self Sacrifice Destroys Relationships

Self sacrifice is culturally conditioned. That means it is expeted and is often the basis of social and familial approval.

When such an arrangement is socially supported, change becomes more difficult, because the social support for change is not there. Generally some people benefit from the arrangement and therefore will not want to end it.

A sacrificing arrangement takes away the power from the person who is sacrificing, because it is in the nature of the relationships to deny the validity of any claims from the individual who is being used. That is why many people who have been in self sacrificing situations will feel rage and powerlessness at the same time: wo uncomfortable emotions and even more hurtful together.

An unequal self sacrificing relationship is set by expectation and social custom, therefore, it is not always possible to negotiate a beter arrangement, and if improvements are possible they are often hard won and hard maintained.

Without appearing too gloomy, it is important to be honest about the deep difficulties faced by those individuals and groups whose lives have been damaged by individual, group and systemic exploitation. When you grasp and feel the intractability of racism and sexism, you can have some compassion for those recovering from those forms of discrimination.

Self sacrifice may be physically and emotionally devartating to the victim, but it is also spiritually damaging, even more so for the perpetrator than the victim, although both are harmed, nonetheless.

Changing Your Life

Changing your life to one of healthy living and wellbeing is very challenging. It is important to treat oneself with respect during the difficult process of change.

People who seek more equal and more respectful relationships are often considered troublemakers, and misanthropes by those who gain from the inequity.

We see this resistance to change all over as our world gradually evolves to one where individuals share the world more fully. As desirable as equality is, it takes time to make a transition to an equality based life and can take a long time depending on the support that you have and receive.

As individuals recovering from racism can attest, the road to full acceptance can be a long one.

There are steps you can take to make the process easier:

  1. assess your skills and resources
  2. develop skills so that you can survive in the world
  3. determine shat your basic necessities are and get them met s that you need as little as possible during the process of creating a self respecting life for yourself.
  4. find support among people who share your desire and vision for a better way of life
  5. expect the process of change to take time
  6. honor yourself for making the journey

Developing a self respecting life is a hero’s journey. Those who undertake it deserve compassion and respect.

Creating Harmony: When Not To Try And Make It Work

I like harmony.

I suspect that many HSPs do.

Harmony to me is important because at its best it tells us that we are making effective choices.

At its worst, we are keeping a destructive peace.

Which is operating in your life?

Why Is Harmony So Elusive?

I have often wondered why harmony is so elusive.

As a young girl, there was so much acrimony around me that I would scratch my head until it bled. I found it so upsetting.

All the conflict and misery also seemed very unnecessary.

I did not get it.

My parents grew up during the depression and World War II, so perhaps that explains some of it. If you grow up during a war, war can become your reality and it certainly seemed that war was their reality.

But I ended up thinking that their childhood spent in war was not the total answer.

Sensitivity And Conflict

I pick up on conflict easily.

I also find it uncomfortable since often what causes conflict are unresolved past issues, denial, expectations – in other words, the issues and problems people do not want to see or engage about.

Like many HSPs, I can absorb the unhappiness around me, and it brings me down.

I often do not know what to do with my awareness but know I do not want to cause harm. That is important to me.

However, if I encounter a conflict or unresolved problem and say nothing then I have a problem with myself. At the end of the day I have to be able to feel that I have made good choices to be square with myself.

Being sensitive sometimes means that I feel caught between a rock and a hard place. I live in the spaces between thoughts and actions, intentions and results, wishes and realizations, ideas and reality. It’s a place where non HSPs do not see. It creates our disconnect, our disharmony. I would love for it to be different so we could share a similar space to work from.

Sensitivity And The Big Picture

Sensitives notice the disconnects the places where something does not work. It is also part of our natures to be conscientious so we can be very uncomfortable with all of the loose ends, that are left to be taken are of. Guess who usually does that.

In our zeal to promote well-being and good will we can be the ones who do the little things that get overlooked, fix the places were denial left a gap, and extend ourselves beyond our breaking point to keep things working when those around us don’t care about it so much.

But we do.

Sometimes we are the ones who care too much.

It can not only exhaust us but also break us.

It can cause us to feel lonely, neglected and cheated.

We need a better way.

How Capitalistic Thinking Hurts HSPs

Capitalism is essentially an acquisitive, exploitive system.

Its drive for profit means that people may skim for the good and leave whatever is “unprofitable” to them. Taking care of loose ends is often considered unprofitable activity even if having things run smoothly makes life better and more enjoyable.

The demand for profit skews the way people invest their time. It forces people to be opportunistic. It also means that people may want benefits without incurring the costs – something for nothing.

The point is that our system is not communitarian, but HSPs often are and therefore may spend time serving that which is overlooked in the service of profit causing us to feel taken advantage of.

Service and exploitation are not the same thing.

HSPs Need For Self Protection

We HSPs need to consider how we are using our time.

Are we doing other people’s work?

Are we fixing things for others but not ourselves?

Are people taking our time with problems that are not our own?

Are we being “delegated to” and taken for granted?

Are we expected to clean up after others?

How To Own Your Time

The easiest way to limit being taken advantage of is to get a handle on certain realities:

  • you only have so much time as does everyone else and you need to respect your limits
  • you are not responsible for the excesses of other people
  • you have a right to set your priorities and a responsibility to make sure you are taken care of.
  • it is good to let others solve their own problem
  • people become more responsible when they clean up after themselves.

Taking back your time is a great way to rebalance your life and make sure that you are taking care of yourself, and not just keeping the peace at your expense.

We HSPs are precious and need to treat our time and energy as important.

When we do, interpersonal conflicts can diminish and we can let go of taking care of everyone else at our expense.

Then we can flourish and thrive.

Sounds good to me.

A Reexamination Of Comfort Zones And Creativity

Comfort Zones And Creativity - HSP Health Blog

Being in one’s comfort zone or not seems to be a marker of all sorts of wonderful traits including creativity and progressiveness. I can even be a path to success and wealth!

I consider myself a creative person. However, I find many ideas about comfort zones, and getting out of them, to have very little to do with creativity and creating a good life for yourself.

Since I perceive quality of life something that we can and need to create for ourselves, I think that reevaluating comfort zones is a necessary step before it is possible to actually improve your life.

Distorting Comfort Zones

Current ideas of comfort zones, in particular getting out of one’s comfort zone, are very much tied to the growth model of economic progress. Getting out of one’s comfort zone appears to have become somewhat of a cultural ideal and I think that is problematic. Being uncomfortable is not necessarily better than being comfortable. It is important to be able to know when to step out of comfort zones and when not to.

Here are some reasons, a society might value having people move out of their comfort zones:

  • if our comfort zone is “bad”, we will seek continuous self-improvement. Although there is nothing wrong with learning, it is better when it is for healthy reasons rather than to live up to a cultural ideal,
  • we buy and consume more, in particular more than we need. If living in a smaller house and having fewer possessions makes sense for us, it will be demeaned in a consumption based economic system. “Enough” is just a synonym for your comfort zone.
  • it can be thought of as supporting the hypermasculine culture of Western civilization with its emphasis on markets, competition, conquest, and expansion. Nurturing and sustaining activities are mostly devalued. One example of the mindset occurs with those people who assert that they will rest when they are dead, as if rest is a waste of time.
  • if we are out of our comfort zones, we may not be true to ourselves. For example, we are out of our comfort zone when we pretend to be happy when we are not. If we do this often enough we lose access to and recognition of our real feelings and true selves.
  • if we go along with getting out of our comfort zone as a cultural model, we may not be able to identify our real values and aspirations.
  • there is more to comfort zones than the demands of a hyper consuming society.
  • getting out of one’s comfort zone is not about becoming extreme in sports or any other endeavor.
  • getting out of one’s comfort zone implies that what is natural may not be good. Should we be rude because being cordial is in our comfort zone?
  • dissing comfort zones suggests that the ordinary is not good enough. Actually the ordinary is magnificent if we can stop long enough to see it.

Getting out of one’s comfort zone can be as mindless as any other idea.

Reframing Comfort Zones

One way to get out of the trap of comfort zones is to reframe what you are doing because frankly your comfort zone is really not all that important an idea to wrap your life around. It certainly should not be a reason for doing anything.

If you make yourself present to where you are, what you want or need to do and the steps to accomplish what you need to do, how do comfort zones enter into that?

Do you need to get out of your comfort zone when brushing your teeth. Perhaps standing on your head while brushing would be out of your comfort zone, but would it be worthwhile to do so?

Perhaps you should consider sleeping standing up because that would be out of your comfort zone.

A Better Use Of Comfort And Discomfort

All absolutes are problematic, because there aren’t any. Absolutes are an illusion. So turning anything into an absolute as a guide for living life is a mistake. That includes “getting out of your comfort zone” if you use it as a measure of whether or not what you are doing is a good idea.

It is far better to use comfort to determine when something is working or not. We use it as a tool for learning and living in a healthier way.

We HSPs have the ability because we are so intuitive, creative and in touch with our feelings to notice comfort and discomfort as a way to make life work better – not as an absolute but as a tool for compassionate living.

That is really the value of discomfort and comfort and one of the wonderful ways HSPs can add a lot of value and magic to the world.

Workplace Bullying: A Survival Guide

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shutterstock_124001317Unfortunately, difficult economic conditions can increase the negative behaviors that people will tolerate in order to keep their jobs. If you ever find yourself the target of workplace bullying, it is important to have strategies to safeguard your emotional and physical well-being.

If You Experience Bullying At Work

If you are being bullied at work:

  • Don’t deny the problem. It is important to recognize when you are being bullied and to take steps to protect yourself.
  • Don’t blame yourself. Workplace bullying is usually about control and rarely has anything to do with you personally.
  • Get help.
    • Check your company’s policy. Are there any guidelines or protocols that address workplace bullying? Is there a resource person that you can talk to about the situation?
    • Contact your employee assistance group, if one is available. These groups are confidential and may be able to advise you. As an added bonus, your request for assistance can help document your experience of being bullied.
    • Reach out to family, friends, and/or a professional counselor.
  • Create a paper trail of the bully’s “bad behavior” and your “good behavior”. For example, if you receive a threatening phone call from the bully. Don’t call the bully back and subject yourself to further abuse. Instead, respond to the call via email, reiterating the bully’s threats and formulating your own professional response. If the bully ignores your work-related requests, send an email indicating that you haven’t received a response and copy others.
  • If you choose to confront the bully’s bad behavior, always do it in writing. State your concerns in an email, and keep it professional. Indicate that you are raising your concerns in an effort to work better together.
  • Exercise caution when confiding in your co-workers. Be careful about saying things to others that you don’t want to get back to the bully. The last thing you want to do is provide evidence against yourself. Also, some co-workers won’t want to be put in the middle, in which case you should respect their wishes and seek support elsewhere.
  • Be impeccable. Keep your performance level high, and play strictly by the rules. This is often the best defense against someone who is trying to sabotage your success.
  • Maintain a cheerful and positive attitude, even if you have to fake it. While this will be very difficult to do, it will show the bully that his or her campaign is not having the desired effect, which is sometimes the best revenge. (One caution though, some bullies may respond by escalating their campaigns.)
  • Do not lose your temper. Always behave in a professional manner, regardless of how the bully is behaving. Not only will feel better about yourself, but it will also prevent the bully from gathering ammunition against you.
  • Be proactive. Bullying behaviors are repetitive and often predictable. Do your best to anticipate the bully’s behavior, and have an action plan ready. Try to stay one step ahead of the bully.
  • Take care of yourself. Relish your downtime. Relax, and do things you enjoy. Consult your healthcare provider if you are experiencing signs of stress or other medical issues.
  • Update your resume, and keep your eye out for other jobs. It is empowering to know that you have other choices and that you don’t need to tolerate a hostile work environment. You should also realize that many workplace bullying situations can never be satisfactorily resolved. It’s best to be prepared for all possible outcomes.

How To Report Bullying

If you decide to report the bullying:

  • Keep a written diary that details the nature of the bullying (e.g. dates, times, places, what was said or done, and who was present).
  • Maintain copies of harassing/bullying paper trails, such as emails, and save threatening voice messages. You should also hold on to copies of documents that contradict the bully’s accusations against you (e.g. time sheets, audit reports, etc.)
  • Keep a list of people you think may have observed the bullying. Find out if any of those people would be willing to speak on your behalf.
  • Make a list of all the efforts you made to work the situation out (e.g. emails, phone calls, requests for help from HR or Employee Assistance)
  • If you are experiencing serious health problems as a result of the bullying, get a documentation from your doctor.
  • Report the behavior to an appropriate person or department, such as Human Resources or your Union Representative. Be prepared to present your case and back it up with plenty of documentation and evidence.

Don’t be a victim. Take a proactive stance to protect yourself. Use this situation to motivate yourself to find a better situation and environment.

Note: This article was first published in Cliff Harwin’s newsletter.

25 Ways to Handle Anger Productively

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I observe with slack jawed awe as a customer has a meltdown of manic intensity over an account payment query that would bring the New York stock exchange to its knees—the amount in question? Ten dollars! Like a large indignant toad she looms over the cashier who exhibits superhuman maturity and restraint. Without raising her voice, she smiles and gives a logical step by step explanation of why there is no error.

This information is obviously not penetrating the customer’s self righteous fog so the cashier offers to credit her account. At this, the customer hisses I’m not a charity case! I don’t want a credit! I’m a bookkeeper; this account is wrong; you’ve made a mistake! The cashier points out that it’s an automated accounts system and asks whether she should cancel the credit. Yes yells the customer.

When I walk by twenty minutes later, the combat weary but still calm cashier is asking so can we get this clear? Would you like me to credit your account or not? The customer by this time is the subject of ill concealed humor from others. Her ego temporarily punctured, she whips the printout from the cashier’s grasp and departs.

What Was That All About?

Why expend all that energy making a major production out of a minor issue? Why did she so desperately need to be right while making the cashier wrong? The amount in question was absurdly small so it wasn’t about the money.

Obviously her sense of value was disproportionately dependant on being right. When your sense of value is fragile the propaganda machine inside your head often attributes malevolent intent to people when none exists. I know you’re laughing at me….I know you’re out to get me so I’m going to get you first.

But Anger In Itself Isn’t Bad

Like the stress response, it’s a messenger. Anger has a purpose and is frequently misunderstood. Used productively in the right context, it can be a powerful force for good.

  • Anger helps us draw boundaries
  • Anger tells us what is and is not acceptable
  • Anger alerts us when we’re giving too much and receiving too little
  • When someone’s words or actions make us angry, it tells us what WE need to change to feel safe and comfortable again
  • Anger invites us to look inward—rather than the knee jerk reaction of lashing out.

Don’t Believe Me?

Rewind the movie of your life to a time when you felt trapped, victimized, backed into a corner—and suddenly something snapped “enough! I will not tolerate this! I am worth more, and this has to change now” you screamed. I’m willing to bet that desperate, angry outburst led to a quantum leap forward in some area of your life—a dead end work situation, a painful relationship, an overdue lifestyle makeover or an increase in self value. Anger can catapult us out of a comfort zone that has ceased to be comfortable.

25 Ways To Handle Anger Productively

  1. To derail the momentum of someone’s rage—replace the anger trance with a sudden change of subject, or authoritative command. The verbal equivalent of slapping someone out of hysteria.
  2. Although being disemboweled by a leopard might be more appealing—agree with her, show empathy, invite her to sit down, relax and build rapport you must have had a really rough day…..I know how frustrating it is….this deflates anger instantly.
  3. Count to ten or visualize a tranquil scene….yes it does work! It allows the adrenalin surge to subside.
  4. Instead of reacting like a sleep deprived snake, challenge your perception of the issue; reframe the picture in your mind. Perhaps his intent isn’t malicious. You wouldn’t get mad at a toddler for his limited communication skills, would you?
  5. Breathe—slowly and deeply! It is biologically impossible to remain tense or angry while doing this. Try it!
  6. Anger is a condition in which the tongue works faster than the brain; walk away—mentally and/or physically. It could save someone’s life.
  7. Before radically redecorating your aggressor’s face, press the pause button and ask yourself what underlying fear or insecurity pulled your anger trigger.
  8. Get to know your anger triggers intimately.
  9. Use your mental zoom out facility. See the whole picture, not just part of it. Put things into perspective.

10. If it feels as though you’re trying to reason with a stick of dynamite, hold up a ‘red card’ or ‘stop sign’ to call a halt, while you all cool down and evaluate the situation.

11. Channel your rage into physical exercise—go for a walk, run, ride a bike, dance or pummel a punch bag. Regular exercise reduces the anger impulse.

12. If you can visualize eviscerating him or her, you can visualize floating safely above the war zone in a bulletproof bubble.

13. Toilet train your impulses, instead of exploding lock yourself in the bathroom and vent.

14. When your self esteem is strong, you’re confident about where you stand, so you don’t need to keep ‘growling’ to prove it.

15. Suppressed anger makes you sick. It’s as productive as ingesting arsenic. Pour it out on paper, do some emotional vomiting. You might even end up with a bestselling book.

16. Find constructive alternatives to yelling, swearing, attacking, throwing things or ingesting substances. Have a personal life goal that you are passionate about. Think about it, talk about it, study and research it and work towards it—especially when you feel threatened, overwhelmed and powerless.

17. Laugh! If it’s likely to fuel the fire—lock yourself away and laugh. Use your overflow valve.

18. Talk anger triggers through with a counselor, therapist or good friend.

19. Build firm personal boundaries so that it’s harder for people to pull your triggers.

20. Cut or limit contact with people who are anger triggers in your life. Pump up your verbal self defense skills.

21. Recharge your batteries regularly in a quiet ‘safe space’ that no people or noise can invade.

22. Remember our brains cannot discriminate between what is real or imagined. What you consistently watch, listen to; participate in, focus on and who you hang out with colors the way you react to the world.

23. If you do explode, once you have calmed down—apologize; it costs nothing and has a profound impact.

24. Use your resources—get professional help.

25. Use anger CONstructively instead of DEstructively.

Unfreeze Those Feelings

The HSPs 7 Paths To Reducing Sensitivity - HSP Health Blog

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To a child all feelings may seem huge, since they feel so small – and are.

Children are very natural about their feelings. They experience them and let them go.

Unfortunately, it does not take long before we learn that our feelings are unwanted and inconvenient.

Then we start to reject them and hold them in with all the negative effects that brings.

What Happens To Our Feelings?

Our feelings become objectified. We learn to treat them like objects at a store, some unwanted and others preferred as demonstrated to us by our families and educators.

And so the stress starts. According to Yogi Amrit Desai, founder of Kripalu Yoga in a June, 2010 article in Natural AwakeningsHealing the Root Cause of Addiction with Ayurveda A Natural Cure for Unhealthy Dependence by Linda Sechrist,  

“It is important to recognize that most people don’t know the difference between tension and stress…

He observes that stressors—thoughts and reactions to our lifestyle, relationships, work environment and family life—are introduced through the ego mind. Emotionally charged thoughts and feelings of blame, shame or guilt then get metabolized into our biological body system. Stored in the form of toxins and neuro-glandular imbalances, these feelings create energy blocks that prevent the free flow of energy, or prana, the body’s self-healing wisdom.

Energy blocks may take the form of muscular tensions and weakness in liver, kidney and digestive functions. Gradual decline results in a progressive deterioration of biological processes and consequently can manifest in external symptoms of fatigue, fear, anxiety and insecurity.”

Essentially we are socialized to have certain emotions and reject others and our unwanted emotions then get stuck in our bodies and gradually make us sick.

Why Rejecting Feelings Is A Mistake

When we reject our feelings, we cannot own them and process them.

When we are processing our feelings, we take them in, accept them feel them and listen to them. It is called metabolism.

Metabolism comes from the greek word ” metabole” for change or transformation. At any given time as we interact with our world we are in the process of metabolism – of perceptions, thought, feelings, emotions as well as material substances such as food and water.  All forms of life engage in metabolism, from plants to humans.

When we are unable to metabolize a food it will clog our bodies. When we are unable to metabolize or process emotions, they will clog our system as well. Ideally we process all food and experiences each day so that we are in a state of flowing with life. If only it were that simple!

It is often not  possible to process all information and feelings when they occur. Some feelings can be part of a larger process.  The grieving process is a good example of that.  However, the most difficult situations are those where an acceptable arrangement is not possible – situations that are abusive, demeaning, and dehumanizing –  because the pain of these situations often does long term damage to the energy of the body, and takes a long time to heal.

Learning To Accept And Release Feelings

It can be useful to think of feelings as information.  When the feelings are the result of a past experience transferred onto the present, it is a sign that there is unfinished business in the past that must be dealt with. Another way of looking at it is that energy has become blocked in the body, it has not been metabolized. Under these circumstances it is our job to accept the feelings so that they can be released.

There are releasing practices available including meditation,and the energy healing practices of eft (emotional freedom technique) and reiki that help with processing emotions. Writing in a journaling has been widely used and can be effective.  Therapy groups have been helpful to many.  The more severe the experiences causing blocked energy the greater the need for therapeutic solutions.  The body has its wisdom and in some severely abusive situations it will “store” emotions to be processed at a later date if that is what is needed to survive.

Highly sensitive people and severely abused people need to be aware that they can accept and take charge of their healing process by finding therapeutic practices and groups that will let them forgive and let go of the past. Engaging in such practices helps minimize the potential for long term destructive addiction and therefore is valuable for all people.

Inside The Spider Web Of Approval

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Note: This article received such a response in my newsletter that I thought I would make it available to everyone.


I like receiving approval. I suspect we all do. Yet I hate wanting or needing it.

I hate all the games that go with approval:

  • the withholding of it – treating it like it is a prize or a weapon.
  • the distortion of information to manipulate approval
  • the overvaluation of approval when we are really all in this together

We are social creatures, so social issues are important. Often we personalize social issues and judge each other, while disregarding the toxic social climate that can create many behavioral challenges. So many issues that are labelled emotional and are assumed to be simple but are really anything but. Approval is one of them. It is one of our biggest challenges.

Approval is a kind of social stake in the ground. A position, if you will, with group force behind it. That is why we take it so seriously and should.

Why Approval Is Difficult

Approval is the manifestation of group structures, an expected allegiance. The viability of social arrangements require allegiances. Approval is a way of enforcing allegiances.
So it often feels as if we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t and there is some truth to that. We cannot simply ignore the group structures that we need to negotiate. We also cannot let destructive groups totally control us either.

It is impossible to escape the wounds of our social structures. The best we can hope to do is do our healing work, find our integrity, our calling and make our contribution to quality of life.

Approval: The Spider’s Web That Claims Us

It is important that we are kind to ourselves about approval. It is such an important part of our lives, that when we fall under its spell we need to be good to ourselves. Approval can be very seductive and cause us to give up opportunities to learn and grow.

One of the reasons we need to be kind to ourselves about our susceptibility to approval is that approval is an important tool for learning. When we are young we are learning and do so in a number of ways:

  • trial and error is one as when we learn to walk
  • imitating others or approval based learning is another.

Imitation is more than peer pressure or conformity. It is actually a way to learn skills. Neuroscientist David Eagleman, who has investigated conscious awareness, memory and unconscious mental processing. demonstrates how imitation is an important form of learning. In this article, he shows how approval was used to teach chicken sexing in Japan in the 1930′s and plane spotting in World War II in Great Britain.

It may seem like a reach, but the point is that much of our learning is absorbed through imitation, and cues from our environment from approval. We store the learning in our brains and draw on it in the future from our memories.

Therefore, it is inevitable that approval will play a role in how we learn. In fact, according to the article it can be the most effective way to learn some things. Unfortunately, we may also naturally develop the bad habit of starting to judge ourselves on the basis of the approval or disapproval that we receive.

Approval may be used to teach us many things:

  • group values to promote social cohesion
  • how we are expected to demonstrate loyalty
  • our “identity”
  • how to be in relationship
  • what are acceptable behaviors and boundaries
  • what group customs are important
  • how we are to contribute to group stability and often therefore what change is likely to be rejected.

Approval is the past carried forward. It is a kind of solidified social opinion.

The Two-Edged Sword Of Approval

Often when we are making decisions we take the temperature of the social circumstances around us. That is not necessarily bad, however, it means that we will be constrained by the approval of others. If we are in a supportive, benevolent and constructive environment, we can easily make decisions that support us. If our environment is not so benign, our self affirming choices will likely generate a backlash.

Group norms which are supported through approval and disapproval play a huge role in the ability of a group and its members to embrace change and personal growth. For many abiding by group norms is fine and comfortable. What do you do, however, when those group norms are toxic and resistance to change is high? What do you do when group norms become a kind of sleepwalking so that the groups members are really not engaging with reality and potentially risking the well-being of the group?

The big problem with approval is that we and other can become ossified by sticking to what is approved and what is not. What can be a useful learning method can come to block our ability to fully engage with life and our development.

All Anger Is Not Equal

Anger is an interesting subject in my opinion.

I grew with narcissistic parents. They were angry a lot.

I always found it puzzling because they would become hostile about the silliest things.

Their anger was always more important than everyone else’s, of course.

And so this HSP was off and running trying to understand it all.

Much has been written about anger so I was reluctant to wade into the subject.

So often it is discussed as one issue.

I think it is more complex.

Anger Can Be Hard To Handle

There is more than one kind of anger, in my opinion.

Injustice and cruelty are sources of angry feelings.

These are the sources of anger, most difficult for HSPs to handle.

These are legitimate sources of anger. They are also often invalidated, so not only can they be hard to feel but the invalidation adds an additional source of anger and pain.

Cultural Anger Triggers

Since we have access to so much information today, we have more reasons to feel hostile. Our rich media system plies us with so many instances of unfairness and misery that it is hard not to have our anger triggered.

Competition and behavioral permissiveness around displays of anger (let it out) all contribute to a climate of hostility.

As a result we are likely to feel the environmental energy of hostility we are exposed to.

Highly sensitive people will pick it up more than others and suffer from it more.

Structure And Anger

Then there is hostility that is not based on our experience.

I call it anger from our heads because it is not a living anger.

It is based on oughts and shoulds. It is based on expectations and entitlements.

It is based on concepts about life, not life itself.

It is based on the demands created by the social structures in our lives.

Anger based on structures and conformity are generated a number of ways:

  • through social roles when anger is directed toward people who do not conform to them.
  • through expectations that we will support a cultural structure whether we want to or not, whether we think it is healthy or not. This type of anger can be a demand for loyalty to something we may or may not agree with.
  • through ideals of some kind, the demand for the impossible.
  • through some sort of perfectionistic expectations.

Structure And Anger

Not all anger is wrong or misguided.

Some anger is based on serious inequities and unresolved structural issues.

This is the kind of anger that people use to fuel their passions or it grinds people down and causes despair and hopelessness.

When people are subjected to serious inequity day in and day out, their anger will harm them. Internalized anger with no hope of resolution is very destructive.

It is also very controlling.

Put someone in a position where they are angry every day due to injustice and handling that anger will consume their attention and energy and make it difficult to be effective in their lives.

It is a great way to keep people down.

HSPs And Anger

I think that highly sensitive people have strengths and weaknesses in handling anger.

On the one hand we are often fairly aware. That means that we have the ability to make compassionate choices. We can act to change injustice and support the healing needs of people who are suffering including ourselves.

On the other hand we are often so inundated with the harm in the world, that it can be difficult for us to function. We literally drown in the pain of the world.

We also suffer from the abuse we have received and often need healing ourselves.

It therefore is important for highly sensitive people to take special care of themselves and their physical and emotional health while acquiring the wisdom to know what situations to get involved with, what they can change and what they have to let go of.

The anger in the world is serious stuff.

We need to take special care of ourselves so that we can handle it properly.

 

Guilt Riddance

Guilt Riddance - HSP Health

Guilt!

We all hate it, and it can cling to us no matter what we do.

Why is that?

Where Does Guilt Come From?

I think guilt is interesting in a way. None of us are born with it, and yet it is like a plague of emotional contamination in our lives.

Many of us are taught to feel guilty from a young age. I know I certainly was.

So why do we need it? Do we need it? If we do not think we need it, why would someone else think we do?

Guilt is taught to children.

Why?

Probably because of the belief that humans are intrinsically “bad” and need guilt to prevent them from being destructive.

Given the many studies and anecdotal experience which demonstrates the natural empathy of humans, isn’t it strange that we think we need an emotional mechanism to ontrol people?

Are People Intrinsically Bad?

The idea that people are intrinsically bad has been around for a long time. Many religions, including my inherited one, promote the idea of original sin, an assumed badness that must be trained out of the individual.

Unfortunately, a defined idea of goodness and badness is irrelevant in reality and serves to create order not goodness. How deceptive!

In a simplistic way, if we look at the traditional definitions of a “good” man we are offered: strong, in control, provider, unemotional, rational. These are soldier characteristics. Soldiers are meant to maintain order. A traditionally “good” woman is self sacrificing, modest, family oriented. A woman who supports others in particular men who keep the order in society.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with these characteristics. That is the problem. They can be useful, but so can others. They keep the order in a society at the expense of our development into whole, intentional and compassionate human beings.

The Dirty Secret Of Guilt

Guilt has a dirty secret. When we try to make someone else feel guilty we are really making them responsible for us, and our feelings.

At a group level, that means that we make some people responsible for the feelings of others. This dynamic is the basis of oppression and discrimination.

Such guilt based expectation means that other have to be a certain way for us to feel safe. It is a preemptive strategy that denies someone else their becoming and takes their life force to meet our needs.

It is a way to operate as an emotional vampire without being honest about it. All in the name of safety.

The High Cost Of Guilt Based Stereotypes

Stereotypes result in dependency. Traditionally, men are responsible for “thinking” and women for “feeling”. What a mess that has created!

More importantly, we give up important parts of ourselves when we submit to stereotypes. Thinking and feeling are not really separate parts of ourselves. They inform each other or should. When we split off parts of ourselves we lose our resilience and effectiveness. Then we really lose our goodness.

Maintaining order has been a primary goal of social organization for thousands of years. Many consider it necessary for our survival. I am certain that at some time it was. However, we have to wonder whether or not so much effort needs to be expended by various groups trying to impose their version of order on others.

Do we need to cripple people with guilt to keep them docile and quiet?

Do we need to cripple people with burdensome identities that prevent them from becoming ming into their true Selves?

Do we need to cripple people with fear of each other so that we can maintain the investment of outworn structures?

Do we need to make people afraid of parts of themselves so that they fear introspection?

Do we need to maintain false certainties to promote self doubt in the thinkers and questioners in our societies?

 A False Bargain

When we submit to guilt induced ideas about right and wrong, we are abdicating the stewardship of our well being and even our souls.

We are allowing that approval is the same thing as happiness and then wonder why we cannot understand what is missing.

What is missing is us, our authentic selves.

When we give up guilt, we invite our authentic self to emerge.

I think that is a fabulous deal.