The Othering Of The Highly Sensitive Person

HSPs: The Shadow People - HSP Health Blog

The highly sensitive person is different.

Being different means that they often live in the shadows.

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

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

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

Isn’t that also true of highly sensitive people?

The Marginalization Of The Highly Sensitive Person

Marginalization is an interesting and recurring experience for many people.

It manifests in the process of othering.

Othering is nasty.

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

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

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

Othering can be subtle or overt.

It is often patronizing or condescending.

When being othered you are often invisible.

What Is Othering?

According to Advanced Apes:

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

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

The Experience Of Othering For The Highly Sensitive Person

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They are wrong to do so.

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

 

 

 

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HSP Identity: A Plant In The Right Place

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

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

Is There Something Wrong With Me?

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

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

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

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

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

You have to admire their tenacity!

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

Harsh Words

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

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

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

How I Came To Feel Damaged

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

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

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

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

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

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

The HSP Career Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

The Beginnings Of Change

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

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

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

I left my old life and gradually grew into myself.

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

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

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Unwrapping the Gift of Our Sensitivity

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Unwrapping the Gift of Our Sensitivity - HSP Health Blog

Source: Morguefiles

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

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

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

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

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

The Definition Of Sensitivity

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

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

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

The Gift Of Our Sensitivity

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

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

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

Awareness And The Voice Of Sensitivity

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

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

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

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

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

Intuition Versus Ego

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

The Sum Of Our Choices

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

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

Sensitive And Powerful: Can You Be Both?

Powerful? Then you can’t be sensitive.

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

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

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

What Is Power?

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

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

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

Both of these definitions equate power with action:

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

They also have a flaw.

The Flaw In The Definition Of Power

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

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

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

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

A Powerful Distortion

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

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

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

If action is a strength then contemplation is not.

If logic is a strength then intuition is not.

If brawn is a strength, compassion is not.

One-sided dualities are inherently limiting.

So How Can Sensitives Be Powerful?

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

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

That is the opportunity for highly sensitive people.

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

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

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

There are , however, some things we can do.

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

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

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

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

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

We do not need to change the world.

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

All we have done is introduce some new possibilities.

That is powerful.

And it is powerful enough.

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Identity And Thoughts: Changing The Narrative For Highly Sensitive People

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Do your thoughts drive you crazy?

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

Do you think that your thoughts control you?

What Are Our Thoughts?

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

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

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

Why Are Our Thoughts So Painful?

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

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

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

Our Thoughts And The Cultural Narrative

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

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

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

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

Reclaiming Your Narrative

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

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

Narratives are not necessarily the TRUTH.

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

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

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

Creating Your Own Narrative

Highly sensitive people need to create their own narrative.

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

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

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

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

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Masking Our Sensitivity

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Source: Morguefiles

It’s two days before Halloween as my wife and I head to our favorite Italian restaurant in the city.  Entering the foyer of the restaurant, I notice a message written on the chalkboard listing the night’s specials. In addition to mussels with plenty of garlic and Venetian zuppa de peoci soup, a psychic is also on the menu tonight. “This should be good”, I tell my wife as we walk through the dimly lit dining room to a booth along the far wall.

I had recognized the psychic’s name written on the chalkboard; a local woman named Carol well known in the area for her accurate readings on a local radio show. Our antipasto has just been served as the nights entertainment begins. Sitting on a stool in the front of the room, I notice as Carol politely refuses an appetizer brought over by the owner stating that she doesn’t eat before reading for people. Noticing the owner’s surprise she explains that the food will make her sleepy and affect her energy. It was an awkward moment; the food in this restaurant was some of the best in the area and I don’t think the owner ever had one of his dishes refused especially when he decides to serve it to her personally. But she stayed true to herself; not letting social pressures distract her from the job at hand. Taking note of her behavior, I was pleased to see her actions embrace her identity.

Our main course was served as Carol began to walk around the room, stopping at each table. Since we were sitting over by a far wall, we had pretty well finished our meal by the time she arrived. Talking to my wife first, she addressed some health and career concerns my wife had before turning to me and studying my face for a moment. “You do some really good work with people” she commented; “But in public, you keep that side of yourself so hidden; why is that?” Still studying my face, she raised her eyebrows urging me to say something. There wasn’t much I could say; the fact that she knew that I always kept my intuitive sensitivity hidden around strangers without having ever met me was a testament to her psychic sensitivity. Perhaps, in response to my startled expression, she gave me kind smile and moved on to the next table. Watching her walk away, I knew without a doubt that she had just shown me how I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin.

Being Comfortable In Your Own Skin

For Highly Sensitive People, it is very easy for us to feel the emotions and unspoken attitudes of those around us.  During our interactions with others, if our sensitivity prompts a negative reaction from them, we are painfully aware of it. And, if over time this pattern repeats on an ongoing basis, we can become very hesitant to show our sensitivity at all.

In my own life, as a child raised in household where I was taught that men didn’t cry or show much emotion, I could feel my father’s disapproval whenever I got too emotional. There was always that unspoken judgment hanging in the air between us. Being that I could sense the emotions of the people around me very easily, this mindset created a conflict with my sensitivity when I was growing up. Funerals were especially difficult where I would feel overwhelmed by the mourner’s emotional energy circulating within the room. Taught that crying in public was taboo, I would fight my sensitivity to keep my emotions in check.

Now sitting in a restaurant many years later, I found it ironic that right around Halloween when it is tradition to don a mask in order to elicit a specific response from those around you, I realized that I had been following that pattern most of my life; hiding my sensitivity behind a mask of acceptable social behavior.

Learning To Accept Out Sensitivity

To be comfortable in our own skin means we have to be accepting and nurturing to the gifts our sensitivity bestows us in the face of a culture where being Highly Sensitive or intuitive may not generate a favorable response. The key here is to stay focused on our values; following our values keeps us authentic which in turn allows us to acknowledge, and work with the gift of our sensitivity.

Living A Meaningful Life

In his Extraordinary Living Program, author Stephen Cope points out that in order to live a meaningful life requires we not only work with our gift but acknowledge the sacrifice which often accompanies it. For Highly Sensitive People, working with the gift of our sensitivity may require us to sacrifice the emotional need to fit in by not attracting unwanted attention. I find it interesting that Cope also states that most gifts are borne from a background of suffering at some level. Like myself, the majority of highly sensitive people I have met raised in dysfunctional family’s dealing with alcoholism or addiction issues also battle the “Don’t ask / Don’t tell”  syndrome of putting up a false front  in order to not attract attention to your family. Learned at an early age, we blend into our environments like a chameleon in order to avoid the predatory eye of judgment.

The Gift And Its Sacrifice

For the Highly Sensitive it’s not always easy. Recently, I spent an afternoon hiking with a friend who was grieving the death of a family member. Although I didn’t feel it at the time, the energy of her shared grief affected me on an emotional and physical level. Days later feeling moody and morose, I decided to take an early morning jog alone along the Mohawk River rather than meet up later that morning with my running partners Linda and Shelley. I simply did not have the energy to pretend that everything was OK with me and didn’t want my mood to bring them down.

However, in response to my text declining participation in our usual Sunday run along the river, I was surprised when both texted me back stating they would be on their way shortly and would meet me by my car. Shelley was the first to arrive. A highly sensitive person herself, as she got out of the car she immediately sensed my emotional state. As I spoke about my hike with our mutual friend earlier that week and its effect on my emotions, I saw her eyes tear up a bit as she went to hug me. My stammered apology wasn’t necessary. Shelley knew of  my sensitivity and saw it hiding behind the mask of  self reliance I was trying to present.  “You need us right now” was all she would say.

7 Steps To Access Intuition For Balanced Living

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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.

The Paths We Travel Working With Our Sensitivity

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The Paths We Travel - HSP Health Blog

Source: Morguefiles

“All of life is a circle” my meditation teacher tells me during a discussion on  the lessons life often presents; “Regardless of the starting point, at one time or another life’s circumstances will always steer you back to similar circumstances; if for no other reason than to allow awareness of the progress of one’s own journey.”

In my memory of that conversation, the point he made lingers.While time has shown me that it is all too easy for the Highly Sensitive to  fall prey to any negative emotions generated during these experiences, over time  I have realized that it is actually our sensitivity which plays a key role in also allowing us to recognize the lessons in growth contained within the experience. Similar to a double edged sword, our sensitivity can hinder or benefit us; it all depends on how we work with our sensitivity.

Working With Our Sensitivity

Working with our sensitivity may seem like a strange concept. Similar to how we work with our sleep dreams, we can be passive or proactive with the experience. The key here is in recognizing that being a Highly Sensitive Person is not an identity as our ego’s would have us believe. Instead, it is simply an aspect of our energetic makeup which in itself has different aspects; one of which is intuition. Sensitivity and intuition often go hand in hand. A favorite teacher of mine put it succinctly when she  commented” It’s all about energy” when I had asked her where intuition comes from.

As I exited the building where our meditation class was held, I saw the lone figure of a friend, Kira, sitting on a bench by the Koi pond.  A tall, thin blond in her sixties, Kira held herself with a quiet dignity that I often admired. As I walked up behind her, intuitively I could feel that dignity was not foremost on her mind as she looked across the pond seemingly mesmerized by the occasional flash of gold and white as the Koi fed in the early morning stillness. One of the gifts of being a  Highly Sensitive Person is that we can easily feel the energy generated by emotions of others especially if we are within an arms reach of them. For me,  it is a quick feeling in my midsection followed by that quiet, unassuming voice in my head speaking of emotional patterns and images.  Sitting next to her after a brief hello, I could feel that someone had said something emotionally painful to her. Questions of her worthiness lingered in her thoughts; a cloud of negative emotions obscuring the warmth of morning sunshine which surrounded us.

How Do You Work With Energetic Experiences?

In these situations , there is often a choice which presents itself ; we can be passive and simply acknowledge the emotional pain felt by ourselves or others as we journey through the experiences life presents.  Or, we can be proactive and use the energy of our sensitivity to tap into our intuition and search for the lesson behind the experience. Being proactive won’t make the lesson any less painful, but it will move us from a victim stance to one of power; instead of going for a ride and observing the scenery we are now driving the bus.

 I knew Kira was a Highly Sensitive Person from the moment I met her.  Often quiet in groups,  she preferred to sit towards the back of the room during our class. In an earlier conversation, she had told me she was divorcing her husband and being that this was her second marriage there was something reflected in her eyes which spoke of the emotional toll being paid. Now sitting with her, I wondered how I could follow the philosophy our meditation teacher often spoke of; that there is a lesson in growth in each and every moment of our lives.

When working with intuition, I always start by checking in with my gut; that is, I concentrate on the area just behind my belly button to see how my sensitivity is reacting to the energy of the person I’m working with. In this case, I experienced a strong feeling of blame and in my mind I saw a all too familiar pattern to which we all fall prey; faced with the negativity of the situation she was blaming herself for everything that had happened. As I searched my intuition for an  answer, suddenly I knew I needed to share one of Aesop’s fables with her; the story of the Scorpion and the Frog.

Turning to her, I asked her if she knew of the story of the Scorpion and the Frog. As she shook her head no, I began to recite the fable.

“A scorpion and frog meet on the bank of a river and the scorpion asks the frog to carry it across the river since the scorpion was unable to swim across. Ever mindful, the frog asks ” What assurance do I have that you won’t sting me as I carry you?”

The scorpion replies; “If I were to sting you, I too would drown”. Satisfied, the frog allows the scorpion to climb on its back as they set across the river, however midstream the frog feels the sting of the scorpion.

“Why are you doing this to me?’ the frog gasps as it grows weaker, knowing that their drowning is imminent.

“Because it is my nature.” the scorpion replies.

Finding Grace When Working With Our Sensitivity

Kira studied my face as I finished speaking. Because intuition can be  accessed through a persons eyes, I watched  her eyes as I presented the lesson I had  observed through the fable;

” Perhaps your divorce centers around that fact that like the scorpion, your husbands true nature is to sting causing you both to drown. In every situation there are two sides to the equation; take responsibility for that which is yours but also recognize the true nature of the person you are dealing with.”

As I spoke, I could see awareness register in her her eyes. She understood the lesson and I could feel that over time she would the see how the metaphors contained within the fable could  help her understand the experience of her divorce. It wasn’t up to me to teach her those connections within the lesson; instead my role was to lead her to awareness of the lesson itself. To fully understand it, she would need time for contemplation. Only then, would healing begin. Giving her time to do just  that, I  leaned over and gave her a brief hug before walking back to my car.

The following week, Kira came up to me after meditation class. I could feel the question in her eyes before she asked it; “How did you know to share that particular story with me?” It was obvious from her expression that the lesson had hit home with her.

“It’s all about energy or using our sensitivity to perceive the environment around us ” I replied. “We are taught in class that we are all droplets in the same ocean of humanity; perhaps intuition allows us to see beyond the waves.”

I could tell she wasn’t entirely satisfied with that answer. She wanted something concrete to explain how I knew of her husbands nature which she had never spoken of. However, it has always been hard for me to explain the mystery of Grace; the experience of being in the right place at just the right time in order to bring someone healing through awareness of the bigger picture. Reduced to its purest form,  Grace  is the gift our sensitivity gives others in the face of life’s lessons. As we become proactive in working with the energy of our sensitivity, Grace is the foot print left behind for others to follow, as we continue our journey on the paths we travel.

What Happened To The Sacred?

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tWhat Happened To The Sacred

Source: Morguefiles

 

The word “sacred” is one that we hardly ever use outside of religious settings or events. For a number of reasons it has become a word that we shun. It is, however, and important idea about an important subject that transcends cultural definitions about it meaning.

Because it has been so misused, it deserves a look to see if we can reclaim it in a productive way.

What Does Sacred Mean?

According to Wikipedia,

The word “sacred” descends from the Latin sacrum, which referred to the gods or anything in their power, and to sacerdos and sanctum, set apart. It was generally conceived spatially, as referring to the area around a temple.[citation needed]

The English word “holy” dates back to at least the 11th century with the Old English word hālig, an adjective derived from hāl meaning “whole” and used to mean “uninjured, sound, healthy, entire, complete”.

The religious meaning of sacred is the commonly used reference for the word. It is interesting that the English word derives from an adjective that means healthy and whole.

The Ancient Sacred

Aboriginal culture is one of the oldest if not the oldest living culture in the world. The aborigines migrated south from somewhere in Asia to Australia over c. 60000 years ago. They created one of the richest sacred traditions in the world known as “Dreamtime” . In their culture sacred referred to the land and the ancestors, both of which were considered the basis of well being of the people of the culture.

So for them, sacred was a life giving and life supporting idea. It was directly related to daily life. They help nature to be sacred since it supported their lives very directly.

The Sacred And Modern Life

Later cultures institutionalized the sacred under religious institutions and so the Roman (latin) definition of sacred as directly related to the gods located power in a religious/mythical figure and assigned those figures power. Nature was no longer the location of power.

With the institutionalization of the sacred, the sacred was removed from the individual and located in the hands of those with hierarchical authority. Once that happened, hierarchy and the sacredness of elites became a cultural phenomenon.

It does not really matter how the sacred is removed from nature to cultural institutions. Once it happens, nature becomes degraded as does the “average” meaning non-elite individual. We humans have been fighting about this ever since.

Hyperindividualism And The Sacred

Removing the sacred from our daily lives by cultural structures has impacted the relationship of individuals to one another especially since the natural world is often concentrated in the hands of elites. It has changed what we considered vital for our survival and elevated money as a need for our survival. As a result many people do not make the connection between the natural world and their survival and well-being.

Since nature is no longer communally owned we do not have a natural access to our survival and as a result have become disempowered. Few people have the ability and skills to survive in nature any more. All the money on the world does not protect us from that disempowerment.

HSPs And The Sacred

Highly sensitive people have a natural access to the sacred of life and to nature. It is our natural home. Our intuitive, energy sensitive natures cannot deny the sacred power of the natural world. It is unlikely for HSPs to transfer that awareness to cultural institutions no matter how respect-worthy they might be.

One of the special gifts of the highly sensitive person is our access to the natural sacred and it is one of the gifts we have to offer the world. There is a movement in the world to reclaim our rightful place in the world and that involves siting ourselves as a part of nature not over it. It also means rediscovering nature’s awe and mystery.

What’s lovely about it is that we HSPs have a wonderful opportunity to offer our eyes and experience of nature’s gifts to those who need to reconnect. It is a wonderful gift that we have to offer others.

The Special Value Of The Outsider

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The Value Of The Outsider

Source: Morguefiles

Outsiders have been shunned by many societies for a long time. They have a special value for their cultures that is often unrecognized and overlooked.

Outsiders are the guardians of authenticity.

Outsiders And Authenticity

Outsiders live on the edge in a way which provides them with a particular vantage point on life. They tend to have one foot in the conventional world and one foot outside of it. They stay in the world in order to earn a living but are usually not part of the striving energy of the culture. They are usually interesting people.

Outsiders live at the intersection of form and space but their hearts are in space; the place where all creativity and authenticity are possible. There is a reason for this.

Much of human life is sculpted by the social and economic structures that have been created by prior generations and they serve us in many ways. As much as they provide us with support to make life work, they are usually rigid. So they have the downside of being inflexible and not responsive to the needs of an ever changing world.

Inevitably they become burdensome and restrictive. When social structures are unrelentingly inflexible, they invite rebellion and sometimes revolution.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Outsiders have the ability to be the eyes for much needed adaptability and flexibility for existing social structures.

What The Outsider Sees

The outsider notices the disconnects, the holes, the places where existing social and economic structure does not meet the present. In essence it notices when culture is out of step with reality or the truth. Another way of looking at it is that societal structures tend not to have their feet on the ground much the way the head of a corporation does not have the experience of the people in the field or the factory. They tend to be too removed often intentionally so.

Outsiders are interested in discovering what is true as part of their path. It is not a rigid ideological idea of truth. You know – TRUTH.

When outsiders seek the truth they are interested in what is real. What is real is never fixed which is the opposite of the fixed cultural structures that we live with. What is real is ever changing, as is the breath and what we breathe in and out. Each moment is a specific place with its own conditions, constraints and requirements. Societal structures do not deal well with them and as a result often fail. Outsiders are often curious about what is happening and why from their unique vantage point. This makes them great detectives as well as observers. They then can provide the rest of the world with their observations to the benefit of all. They have the potential to help fixed structures be more flexible and responsive to ever changing conditions.

HSPs As Valuable Outsiders

Highly sensitive people usually think of themselves as outsiders. They also, by virtue of their natures, have a lot of insight about what is going on around them. They have the ability because of their nuanced perceptions to notice the disconnects, gaps and other ways in which existing structures fail to meet reality in an appropriate way.

Nuance is the home of highly sensitive people. You can only notice it if you are open to it. By virtue of their open nervous systems, highly sensitive people have a special window on the every changing nature or reality. They have the potential to offer this precious knowledge to the world.

It’s just a matter of connecting the worlds of HSPs and non-HSPs, outsider and insiders.