Why HSPs Have Trouble With Controlling People

If you are alive, you have met controlling people.

Controlling people can drive anyone crazy, but If you are a highly sensitive person, you may find the effect of controlling very difficult to live with.

Controlling people can certainly have that effect on me.

Controlling people will probably not understand why their behavior is problematic for you, the HSP.

Each HSP, however, needs to understand that controlling people can be very bad for their health.

Why Do People Control?

Most people only want to be happy. Many believe that controlling themselves and others is a method to achieve the desired result of happiness.

Some of the reasons people try to control others include:

  • they have low amounts of trust possible because of negative experiences
  • they think they are more competent
  • they have deep seated prejudices about right and wrong
  • they have been taught fear
  • they perceive themselves as better and/or more “normal” than others 

Controlling people sometimes assume that others want and need what they want and need. Although we all have needs and desires in common, over generalizing about other people is a mistake that controlling people often make.

Controlling people often treat others as an extension of their needs and desires. In extreme cases, the person is narcissistic in demanding that they be catered to.

So one reason that controlling people control is to get their needs met.

The Hidden Agenda Of Controlling People

It is fairly easy to recognize that controlling people are trying to get their needs met as we have discussed.

Controlling behavior also has a social function: to maintain their comfort level which they do by enforcing social norms and conforming behavior.

One thing I have noticed about controlling people is that they often have a wall around them. You can detect it in interacting with them. They are often guarded and measured.because deep down they are afraid. Protecting themselves from that fear can be their hidden agenda.

So if there is a conflict between a controlling person’s comfort zone and another person, the comfort zone will likely win out.

The Comfort Zone Dilemna

The controlling comfort zones of other people can be hard for the highly sensitive person to handle for several reasons:

  • we are naturally loathe to hurt others. We can feel bad when we upset someone’s comfort zone, when we had no intention of doing harm. Such negative reactions over time can cause us to pull back, and doubt ourselves. We can see ourselves in an unnecessarily negative light.
  • we are sensitive to nuances which means that what we perceive to be a constructive course of action may interfere with someone else’s comfort zone. We can take on and internalize the conflict blaming ourselves and as a result cause ourselves a lot of emotional pain.
  • we are naturally creative which means our strategies may be way out of the box for our colleagues and friends. We can have a lot of difficulty navigating our creative differences with others.
  • we can be very farsighted in a shortsighted world. Our long sightedness may step on the comfort zone of people who seek short term rewards.

All of the wonderful qualities of highly sensitive people can make their relationships difficult because an HSPs talents can often lead to unwelcome change.

So what to do about this?

Letting Possibilities Guide Us

Handling fear – our fear or the fear of others  – is an important skill to master.

When we are dealing with controlling people, we can use our natural empathy to help others reduce their fear:

  • we can demonstrate the benefits of an action
  • we can offer proof
  • we can demonstrate that there is nothing to lose and everything to gain if that is the case
  • e can take the risks out of the closet, put them on the table and create a positive perception about how they can be handled.

Sometimes we can make the case for  moving out of our comfort zones. When the possibilities are attractive enough and the risks well handled, successful forward movement is possible.

What about those situations when you are not able to create enthusiasm for new possibilities?

Let Compassion Be Your Guide

There are many situations where an individual or an group is not interested in change and you have to honor their decision. Sometimes when an individual is controlling in favor of their comfort zone, they are respecting their own limits, and that is a healthy decision to make.

I think it is dangerous to assume what someone else needs or should do. Many of us require healing. The demands of healing may preclude creative activities. Or perhaps an individual simply has too much on their plate. That happens frequently as well.

It is important to honor where someone is and treat it with respect even if you do not agree and think they are wrong. You cannot force change and you might be doing harm in pushing too much. Very controlling people may have made a decision in favor of a less creative lifestyle in order to respect their personal needs.

Whenever we encourage a controlling person to let go of fear and try something new, we need to be promoting joy and wellness. We need to be supporting the agenda of our higher selves and the higher self of the other person. That may mean that we need to back off.

Highly sensitive people are lucky that their natural empathy can help them find compassionate relationship choices that can help a controlling person feel heard and loved. That is a great way to reduce fear, and helps others engage more with life.

What is a great gift to offer others!

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7 Steps To Access Intuition For Balanced Living

7 Ways To Access Intuition - HSP health Blog

Source: Morguefiles

There were nine of us sitting in a circle on the floor of the bookstore that day as I began my intuition workshop. Whenever I teach people about intuition, our journey together always begins the same question:

“Tell me something” I asked them, “how many of you feel your too sensitive and that this sensitivity hinders your life?”. Every hand in the room raised up, a few more tentatively than others.  I could see flashes of emotion cross their faces as the internal struggle between what our society defines as weakness and what their hearts were telling them began; it was that age old struggle between the head and the heart, one that highly sensitive people know all too well.

“So what your telling me, is that my dogs ability to hear sounds at a great distance or smell something I’m cooking in the kitchen while they are outside of the house is a weakness? “

Intuition And Spirituality

Pushing further, I posed another question; “How many of you feel a strong urge to work with the spiritual aspects of your life, perhaps through a desire to help others but aren’t quite sure how to accomplish this in a way which is personally meaningful? Remember, that on some level we seek guidance through our spirituality; what happens if we can’t manifest that spiritual guidance with our daily actions? In other words, does your life reflect the core beliefs of your spirituality?”

I wasn’t referencing religion here; instead my goal was to increase awareness of their spiritual values because our deepest values always originate from the heart. A trait I notice in highly sensitive people is a deep connection with their spirituality; a connection with the divine which speaks to the heart rather than the mind.

With a one last question, I pushed my point deeper; “Is your heart telling you of an imbalance between the aspects of your daily life and spiritual life? Not necessarily in words, but in a gut feeling, perhaps one felt in a dream or in moments of quiet? Maybe, you are here, sitting in this workshop, because it is time to blur the boundary between the two.” The room had gotten very quiet as my questions were contemplated. People’s moods have a tendency drop a bit whenever I ask these questions during a workshop. There’s a certain sadness felt when an imbalance between the head and the heart is illuminated.

Giving them a few minutes to be alone with their thoughts, I thought back to a time some years ago when I met a dear friend for coffee. I had spent the entire conversation lamenting the conflict between my head and my heart. My heart was calling me to work with people while my head was asking me what qualifications I had to do so. Being that I had no college degree or any sort of formal training, I could not see myself in any kind of position to teach.

Intuition And Knowledge

Returning to the present, I continued on; “Remember that sensitivity I asked you about a few minutes ago? What if I told you sensitivity was a gift that could be used to achieve balance in your life? If you think about it, from a young age we are always taught to look to people more knowledgeable than ourselves for answers. In doing so, we stop listening to the intuitive voice of our heart. Seeking knowledge from others who are farther down the path of life isn’t necessarily a mistake, however for highly sensitive people the mistake is made in only seeking knowledge through that path.

What your heart has been trying to tell you all these years is that there is another path; one that is internal and one that is aligned with your sensitivity. What you may consider a weakness is actually your greatest strength because sensitivity will lead you to intuition. And intuition, will lead you to balance.”

For highly sensitive people, sensitivity is often felt through emotion which can distract us if we get wrapped up in it. Intuition on the other hand, is much more subtle. Briefly felt in the gut, speaking in a quiet voice, it defines what is meaningful in our lives; a way of knowing without knowing how we know. That day in the coffee shop, my friend  who also was a highly sensitive person, challenged my viewpoint regarding my lack of formal education by pointing out sensitivity was something which could not be taught and was key to working with people. Without it she said, we were simply going through the motions.

In learning to listen to, and work with your intuition, you need to view everything in your life as energy. Highly sensitive people already have a natural gift for feeling the energy of the environment and emotions of the people around them. By taking it one step further and using your intuition to gauge how this energy is affects you, allows you to make better decisions in the areas of mind, body and spirit. The easiest way to access intuition is by “checking in” and seeing what your gut is telling you. Concentrate on the area just behind your belly button for any physical reactions which may be followed by a quick non-judgmental thought or image in your mind.

Exercises For Accessing Intuition

As the workshop continued I outlined an easy way to work with our intuition on a daily basis by outlining what I call the “Seven Steps to Intuition” which allows us to use intuition on a daily basis, one for each day:

  • Monday – Making decisions; check in each time you are faced with a decision. In which direction are your gut feelings steering you?
  • Tuesday – Relationships; check in and see how your body is reacting to the energy of the people around you. Do they energize or drain you?
  • Wednesday- Health and Well Being; check in and see how your body is reacting to the choices you have made for optimal health.
  • Thursday – Diet; wait half an hour after you eat and then check in. How is your body and mind reacting to the foods you ate? Food has the potential to affect us as strongly as the medicines we take.
  • Friday - Quieting the Voice of Opinion; sit quietly for 5 minutes and observe your thoughts. Are they constantly passing judgment on the world around you? That judgment is the voice of ego or the strict parent in our lives. Check in and ask your intuition if these judgments are necessary in your life.
  • Saturday – The Art of Listening; as you converse with someone, check in and see what your intuition is telling you. Is the person being truthful or trying to manipulate you? This can be a very effective tool during business meetings with new clients or vendors.
  • Sunday – Listening to the Voice of Your Dreams; as you wake up in the morning, check in and see what your emotions are telling you. Often in our dreams, feelings from our subconscious come to light. While you may not remember a dream from the previous night, the feelings you wake up with are good indicator of what your subconscious was chewing on while you slept.

As you repeat the process throughout the week, you will find using your intuition becomes second nature. Over time, you will start “checking in” with your environment on a regular basis without having to consciously think about it. Remember that working with intuition is a process backwards from traditional learning; you don’t need to read the book first.

It’s been many years since that workshop at the bookstore. But in moments of quiet, I often think back to that conversation in the coffee shop. My friend had been right; it wasn’t a framed diploma or workshop certificate hanging on the wall which qualified me to teach people. Instead, it was the gift of my sensitivity guided by the quiet voice of intuition. These days, I teach through shared experience and in looking back, I realize nothing has really changed; I’m still as sensitive as I ever was. Instead, it is simply a matter of perception which creates the balance of my journey.

Is Criticism Getting You Down? 7 Ways To Minimize Its Harm

Depressed Boy © by Tjook

Does it ever seem relentless?The complaining?The criticism?The attacking?

Do you ever feel like throwing your hands up in despair?

Do you ever feel like giving up?

To be honest, there have been times when I have felt that way.

Well, I am here to tell you: DON’T DESPAIR!

I am here to tell you a secret about the complainers, the critics and the attackers. They do not want you to know that deep down inside: they are scared.

Scared of what?

It could be

  • looking bad
  • being cheated
  • looking stupid
  • being excluded
  • making a mistake
  • feeling their own vulnerability
  • or anything else that might be a reason to feel bad.

Let’s face it we all can find reasons to feel bad.  In fact, people probably feel bad more often than not and that is not a great way to live.

The HSP Advantage

You as a highly sensitive person have a advantage: the advantage of empathy.

Granted it can be hard to feel empathetic when dealing with a critic.  So here are some ways to change to conversation to one that is more accommodating to you:

  1. sometimes empathy works.  People will displace their anger from one event onto someone else.  So if a close friend’s boss was nasty and they could not afford to stand up to that person, your friend might take it out on you.  When this happens, your insight can help you offer empathy for a bad day.
  2. sometimes you can point out something that someone does not know. Being able to offer a reason for something that makes neither one of you the villain or the victim is a wonderful strategy for defusing negativity. Providing new information can help the other person to see that you have their best interests at heart.
  3. sometimes distance is a good idea.  The chronic complainer and self-pitier can be very draining. Suggesting a helpful resource may be the best you can do. However, when the individual does not pursue a solution, you may have to let go.
  4. sometimes a complainer needs to be challenged.  Perhaps you are aware of a very negative outcome if you did what the complainer wants.  It can be a good idea to challenge their intended result.  ” Are you saying you would want —- to happen?”
  5. sometimes people complain because they are really afraid to try something different. Pointing out success stories can help with this kind of fear.
  6. sometime people criticize because they are disappointed with themselves. It is a form of undermining and it is important not to get sucked into this kind of negativity. You can offer encouragement, notice the good in the individual but you cannot overcome someone else’s negativity.  They have to do that for themselves.
  7. sometimes when people are afraid of looking bad or making a mistake, a humanizing story of your own foibles makes them feel better.  Or perhaps they just need additional information to feel secure.

Sometimes, however, you have to take care of yourself first, by taking time to take a deep breath when someone’s criticism is difficult and you have to deal with them.

A general approach for handling negativity is to be compassionate without becoming a victim by getting sucked into someone else’s negativity. We all have disappointments and discouragement in our lives.  If we can lift each other up, that is generally a better course than adding to the negativity.

There is an abundance of fear in the world.  Whenever you reduce fear even a little, you make the world a better place. And doing your best with the unhappiness of others is something to feel good about.

What Accountability Can Miss

Accuntability Is Not Enough - HSP Health Blog

I think that accountability misses a lot.

For so long accountability has been touted as important.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am all for responsibility.

My question is: why, if we are so into accountability, do we live in a world that is such a mess?

Even the most developed countries have a problem.

It suggests that we need to take a look.

Perhaps our ideas about accountability are too limited.

What Is Accountability?

According to Wikipedia, accountability is:

  • answerability
  • blameworthiness
  • liability
  • the expectation of account-giving.

That sounds about right.

We are answerable for meeting our assumed obligations to ourselves and others.

Obligations are an implied contract and based on assumptions about our expectations.

This is where accountability can be problematic.

What do we do when expectations are incorrect? even wildly off-base?

When Expectations Are Off-Base

Expectations are a very big deal. In fact if I were to survey the human landscape of problems, expectations would be at the top of my list of causes of human problems.

Look at our environmental problems right now. Many people still think that they can expect our natural resources to provide for us without fail into perpetuity.

That is a mistake of expectations that is having tragic consequences.

However, people who are working for companies who base their livelihoods on such assumptions are still “accountable” for whatever production quotas or other measurements that keep them employed.

So here is a situation where accountability is a problem, in fact there are multiple accountabilities at play.

This means that accountability is not simple and should not be treated as a simple way to assign responsibility or blame.

Accountability Is Often Tactical

Accountability is often intended to protect what exists.

It is designed to take care of existing relationships, existing organizational structures, existing wants and needs of a particular cultural system.

Accountability is what we expect from subordinates following assigned tasks. It is what is expected of us as subordinates.

Some creativity may be necessary to achieve an objective but the objective itself is usually created elsewhere by someone else with more power and authority.

This kind of accountability does not engage our full humanness and ability.

It is tactical execution.

Accountability is enlarged when we include strategic thinking since we now also consider the unknown and changing conditions as factors in our decision making and planning. So when actions take these factors into account, those actions are more honestly responsible than others.

We can do our best to be accountable, but in reality much is beyond our control and knowledge. Therefore we cannot expect perfect accountability from ourselves or others.

Accountability and Healing

I think that one of the best places for accountability is in our need to heal from emotional wounds.

Such healing is everyone’s job. We are each of us accountable for our behavior.

We have an obligation to own our early circumstances and the impact they have had on our lives and ability to function.

This is where we can have a wonderful impact on our own lives and others because the healig work we do is under our control.

We can set our own goals, write in our journals, notice our pain and the pain of others.

We can listen to the social energy around us and evaluate our contribution to it.

We can listen to others talk about their challenges and see ourselves in their struggles.

We can notice when something does not work and try to understand it.

We can see when a connection is missed, an interaction denied, a kindness withheld.

We can observe the hope and despair around us.

We can acknowledge the fragility in ourselves and others.

We can respect our needs and notice how many are unmet.

Creating Real Accountability

Our inner healing is the best place for us to develop true accountability.

All the laws in the world cannot touch our capacity to notice, act, lift up and soothe ourselves and each other.

All the speeches and lecture given by leaders and teachers are no match for our intention.

Nothing inspires us more than experience and nothing destroys inspiration more than experience.

Our healing journey is a journey to creating a new and different experience.

When we make the journey we are in fact also making a journey toward greater accountability, the accountability that comes from being present.

That is where accountability starts: in being present.

When we heal ourselves, that is the gift we give to the world.

It is a wonderful gift to give.

How Empathy Can Block Creativity

How Empathy Can Block Creativity - HSP Health Blog

We HSPs are famous for our empathy.

We are also often creative.

Often we are creatively blocked.

Is there a relationship?

Can empathy get in the way of creativity and block it?

Empathy Is Precious

I personally treasure empathy. Not just for its humanitarian value, but because it is also a great tool of discovery.

Empathy is a great way to learn about the world. It enables you to look at anything from another point of view.

It also helps you with all the information that your nervous system takes in.  Empathy helps you relate to the energy of each piece of information and if it is a multifaceted energy, you can engage it as well.

Empathy lets you into the complexity and nuance of anything. You are able to perceive the dynamics and structure of anything.

Empathy is a holistic window to the world and so offers HSPs the potential for a special kind of wisdom that only insight can offer.

The Price Of Empathy

Empathy can put us in the position of drowning in information. It can feel like we are being overwhelmed with so many factors and considerations that it can be hard for us to move forward.

Many HSPs, myself included, like to process every input conscientiously before making decisions and taking action. Hurting someone else is anathema to many HSPs. The pain is too unbearable.

Our awareness can become a huge burden. Our sense of responsibility may far outweigh our actual role or responsibility. Our skills may not necessarily be up to the information we take in.

All of this, of course, forces us to try to come up with ways to handle the overwhelming information, but nonetheless, it is a huge processing and interactive burden. And it slows us down.

Empathy Affects Our Creativity

Empathy affects our creativity because it increases the options and possibilities that we see.

Empathy helps us see beyond the object to the being.

Empathy causes us to embrace the other and to naturally care.

So we cannot take actions that would harm but we can become immobilized.

Options and choices become animated and alive.

Paths and directions can so numerous that we cannot choose.

Not from laziness or wishy-washiness, but from our own conscientiousness.

It is not something that non-HSPs will understand.

We have a right brained empathy not a left brained empathy. It is not object oriented. It is being oriented and that makes all the difference.

Empathy And Creative Choices

Empathy affects the choices we make. Like other HSPs, I certainly try to make empathetic choices.

Empathy can lead us to better choices or to weaker ones. They cause us to use our creativity to serve the greater good, or have it used to serve someone else’s self interest.

When we allow our empathy to be abused, we canot use our creativity well. Codependency can result in the misuse of our creative talents and that is never good. HSPs have to watch for those who are victim narcissists, complainers and passive aggressive individuals who use our empathy to serve their purposes.

Empathy can have a tremendously positive impact on our decisions and choices.  We can tell when it has been used well, because we make choices that have the feeling of rightness or great fit that gives us a good feeling about what we are doing.

It is up to us to make sure our empathy serves our creativity well and  is used in a positive way.

It is such a shame when it is squandered because both our empathy and creativity are precious.

The world needs more of both.


What Lennox Says About Us

Today a mixed breed dog, Lennox,  who looks like a pit bull was put to sleep.  He was taken two years ago from his disabled owner because of laws about dangerous dogs in Belfast, Ireland. He wasn’t even a pit bull, he was a lab bull dog mix.

Nobody wants to be attacked by a dangerous dog and there are some. In this case, Lennox had not done any harm to anyone and was treasured by his owner.

The Belfast  government fought the evidence for two years: no evidence that the dog was a pit bull, and a number of offers by experienced dog trainers and celebrities to rehome the dog. The dog and his owner lost. So did we.

He looked like a pit bull and apparently looks can be a death sentence.

A fabricated problem and a death that was totally unnecessary.

No Stewardship In Belfast

Lennox did not do anything. He did not have to. After two years of legal wrangling and and numerous offers to rehome the dog, the Belfast government got its way.

The basis of the social contract between governments and the people is stewardship. The tragic story of Lennox is a superb example of how a government can lose sight of its primary mission of stewardship.

Laws and rule are meant to serve and enhance life not destroy it. They are meant to support the community well-being not serve as tools of punishment and abuse by authorities.

The Belfast government stuck to their principles even though there was no reason to do so. I wish they had questioned the difference between stubbornness and stewardship. Lennox would home right now of they had.

Change The World: Own Your Lizard Brain

When humans do harm it is often attributed to our ancient lizard brain.

We all have a lizard brain, we all experience fear. Sometimes the fear is real and sometimes it is not. It is our responsibility each and everyone of us to recognize that our lizard brain can do harm. We need to question our knee jerk fears to determine if they are real.

Unfortunately, when governments refuse to question their lizard brains, the damage they create is worse.

Lennox is just the latest example of senseless unnecessary killing. Safety is being used all over the world as a excuse to hurt other living beings.

At what point are we going to wake up and demand better of our governments, ourselves and each other.

I hope it is now.

I hope there are no more Lennoxes.

Why Kindness Is Winning

Love © by Noël Zia Lee

Kindness is winning!

Steven Pinker, the Harvard College Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, wrote an article published in the Wall Street Journal, Violence Vanquished, about the decline of violent conflict in the world, and how we have evolved to become more peaceful.  The article was adapted from his new book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, published by Viking.

Mr. Pinker describes how over time we have passed through several stages of development, each of them reducing violence in the world:

  1. The first transition was from the early hunter/gather societies where people killed for food to agricultural societies where institutions started to be formed. Agriculture required the ability to store and protect food supplies which increased investment in a social structure and reduced crime.
  2. The second decline of violence occurred in Europe at the end of the feudal period. Apparently killings declined 10-50 fold as nation states emerged, consolidating large territories and increasing the span of control of government institutions over greater areas of land.  This evolution had the additional effect of creating some standardization of practices which enabled commerce to flourish.
  3. The third transition which Mr. Pinker calls the Humanitarian Revolution, began with the Enlightenment and the effort to make human life more sustainable by harnessing nature to serve our largely unmet needs. The Enlightenment also ushered in democracy and even greater investment in social institutions.
  4. The fourth major transition is the the one we are in with no world wars since the end of World War II called the Long Peace.

Over time we have a pattern of developing societies, institutions and economies to ensure our survival on the planet that also makes human life more sustainable. As we have increased the sharing of power and responsibility, we have also reduced violence since people will not support a social structure that harms them.

Mr. Pinker points to the increase in humanitarian organizations and efforts that have exploded over the past century. Today the internet now makes humanitarian outreach a daily practice rather than something we do in our spare time.

Over time human rights has gradually triumphed over state rights which has been an important developmental shift in many human societies.  You could call it a rebalancing between the individual and the group.

The humanitarian evolution of our species has progressed to the point that empathy is becoming an important human value.  We now consider empathy to be the basis for a new kind of person, the highly sensitive person.

Mr. Pinker’s article is good news for HSP’s. For a long time, sensitives had to hide their nature.  Now we are starting to be accepted.  As human creativity is evolving with our humanity, we may finally make a world which is good for all people, including highly sensitive people.

Are We All Becoming Highly Sensitive People?


DSC_0098 © by fantasy prof

Are we all becoming HSP’s?  The question recently crossed my mind for a number of reasons:

  • when I tell someone that I write about highly sensitive people, frequently people whisper to me that they are highly sensitive too.
  • the recent love affairs we have had with the penguin, Happy Feet, in New Zealand and the race horse, Zenyatta, in the United States tell me that there is a inner longing for a happier, friendlier world.
  • I suspect that Arab spring and other uprisings are an expression of exasperation at the systemic violence in that part of the world and a move toward a more humanitarian model of society.

What do all of these things have to do with the highly sensitive trait?  For starters, one of the main characteristics of highly sensitive people is their empathy.  Whether we are identifying empathy in ourselves, having empathy for an animal in trouble, an animal with a great spirit, or empathy for those who may be suffering extreme poverty, all of these actions speak to evidence of empathic sensitivity. Although systemic abuse like racism has been challenged for the past half century, social media is now making evident how far we have come as we stretch across borders and boundaries of all kinds to extend a helping hand to each other.

Many people do not know that there is a relationship between violence and the highly sensitive trait. According to this Time Magazine article about a study by Dr. Norman Geschwind of Harvard University, people who are born highly sensitive do so because the mother experiences severe and violent stress during pregnancy increasing testosterone in her system which causes developmental changes in the fetus.  The result is a highly sensitive person with great empathy and an inability to tolerate the pain of violence in any form.

The upside is that HSP’s are holistic, complex thinkers with significant creativity, although they may also suffer from any number of genetically based diseases.According to Elaine Aron, PhD, and the author of the Highly Sensitive Person, highly sensitive people are one out of every five people.  Essentially HSP’s are 20% of the people on the planet – over 1 billion people!  That’s a lot of people.

Empathy seems to be on the rise; perhaps the violent early years of human life have brought us to a point where we are becoming nonviolent.  That would be truly wonderful.