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.

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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.

The Special Challenge Of The Outsider

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To be an outsider is not an easy task. It is a special role that has great potential for personal transformation.

Who Is The Outsider?

The outsider is the person who departs their existing cultural home for a new unknown destination.

People do not become outsiders accidentally. It is a path that is deliberately chosen because it is necessary, important and valuable:

  • stage of life – the transition from adolescence to adulthood is one
  • issues within the culture that makes life their untenable
  • life changes like divorce that cause a person to leave a social system.
  • the search for the soul’s purpose

The outsider is the person who brings a fresh perspective to others, a new way of proceeding, valuing, or synthesizing information.

The outsider’s journey is the beginning of the process of transformation. It starts with an awareness that something is not right or that something needs to change. According to the book, Dharma Types by Simon Tony Chokoisky:

Anything that requires radical re-thinking, leaps of imagination, and creative synthesis of many elements is the Outsider’s purview. Ruled by the Space Element, there is no ‘where’ Outsiders cannot travel, just as there is no experience they cannot have. From the highest of the high to the lowest of the low, Outsiders trek the terrains of the wild and the inner spaces of the soul,reaching to depths and heights that no one else dares to follow. Laws and morals hold little power to obstruct their need for experience, and Outsiders are most creative in their interpretation of social strictures. As a result, they can just as easily fall into depravity, as soar to the heights of purity: such is the razor’s edge that defines the Outsider’s path. However, just as it is easy to fall off track, it is also simple for Outsiders to get back on, for they are never far removed from Redemption, though it may not seem that way to them. Examples of criminals-turned-saints abound in sacred literature, illustrating the Outsider’s roller-coaster journey from truth to error… and back again.

What Simon Chokoisky is talking about is that outsiders rethink the rules and what is considered conventional thinking. They are questioners and seekers of truth and in doing so can investigate anything and make many mistakes. Being outsider carries the pitfalls of openness.

HSPs As The Outsider

Highly sensitive people are outsiders just because of their difference and because they are in the minority. Does that make them outsiders in spirit? Are we the adventurous outsider that Simon Chokoisky talks about?

HSPs in some ways are reluctant adventurers. Our nervous systems take in everything and we cannot escape that. Our sensitivity also means that we cannot escape consequences. It causes us usually to be cautious and conscientious because when you take in everything you cannot be in denial.

When you take in and process everything around you you develop the ability to look at the world from multiple perspectives. Highly sensitive people are very much outsiders in that they are the integrators and synthesizers of the human race reworking and reweaving the human story into one that seems more authentic to them. The range afforded the highly sensitive person is offset by the values that come from having an empathetic nature. Thank goodness! It will cause us to reweave the human experience into one that is healthier and more compassionate.

We humans are creative people. However, creativity is not always constructive. HSPs have the chance to make creativity something positive by applying their empathetic values to the open experience of the outsider in a way that serves us all well.

The Emergence Of The Outsiders

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The Outsider - HSP Health Blog

Source: Morguefiles

From the beginning of time there have been outsiders.

Who Are Outsiders?

 

Outsiders are different from everyone else in some way. They are a special group of people who have developed skills and often different cultural models and ideas that put them in a different place compared to the other people around them. If Einstein had been born thousands of years ago into a tribe he would have been an outsider because of his more developed intellectual capabilities.

For a long time now, people have been working on stretching themselves and growing. As a result, many have outgrown the cultural institutions of their societies. This is why we have more and more outsiders and the cause of the clashes between entrenched power and the emerging increasingly empowered masses.

What Are Outsiders Like?

Human development is a process of growing in skill, compassion and authenticity. Outsiders naturally see themselves differently from others which reflects their journey on their particular path to authenticity. This is how outsiders see themselves:

  • They hate constricting social, religious, and moral institutions, and feel it is their right to speak and act out against them.
  • They also feel justified in flouting an unjust law and not conforming to artificial regulations.
  • They are physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually different from others, and because of this find it hard to fit in.
  • They can see through people’s b——t, and that makes them want to run away from society.
  • Sometimes they resent ‘normal’ people, who were born with opportunities that they don’t have.
  • They would rather overthrow the status quo to allow fresh growth, than try to patch things up piece by piece.
  • They respect an authority that allows them to be who they are, and understand the gifts they have to offer.
  • Sometimes they think no one really understands them, and no one ever will. They love freedom, and need to feel independent and free most of all.
  • Although they can fit into many crowds, they never really feel a part of any of them.
  • They wear many hats but none of them defines them.
  • People may see them as secretive or mysterious, but they are just the way they are– different.
  • By fate or choice, they am attracted to foreign lands, cultures, religions, and values, and have embraced some of these.
  • They have talents and abilities that are not always recognized, and it can be hard to make a living if they do not compromise with society.
  • Their ambitions are somewhat unique, and they have a quirky way of seeing the world.
  • Sometimes they feel lost— they don’t know what their true purpose is, but when they look at others they are reminded what it is not: they can’t conform to somebody else’s lifestyle just for the sake of security, even though they may have not found their own.

Being an outsider is a common experience of highly sensitive people.

Outsiders As Cultural Entrepreneurs

Outsiders are some of the most important people in society. I think of them as cultural entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs see what others miss, what might be and try to make it happen. Entrepreneurship is commonly associated with business but it does not have to be. There are different kinds of outsiders. Some totally shun society like Greta Garbo, others integrate and innovate so that you can hardly know that they are outsiders. Richard Branson comes to mind.

A book I have read recently compares outsiders to the skin of the body: it covers and contains the body but is also outside unlike the heart, brain and liver. People who are outsiders are often multifunctional, and able to see multiple points of view. They are flexible and open and therefore not dogmatic and rigid. People who are outsiders have “space” for the variety in life of people, beings and things. By virtue of their natures they make space for the new to emerge.

The outsider develops when society fails. They see through institutions that would yoke them to a particular ideology or way of life. Outsiders love their freedom.

Nothing new comes into existence without the outsider. There is no innovation or revolution without the outsider’s instigation. Anything that requires radical re-thinking, leaps of imagination, and creative synthesis of many elements is the outsider’s purview. Ruled by the openness of space, there is no ‘where’ outsiders cannot travel, just as there is no experience they cannot have. From the highest of the highs to the lowest of the lows, outsiders trek the terrains of the wild and the inner spaces of the soul.

Outsiders are brave people. If they are highly sensitive they are especially brave since being highly sensitive is a challenging path in and of itself. Being an HSP outsider is something to admire and applaud in ourselves, because it is how we bring our unique and valuable richness to the world.

NOTE:

Famous outsiders include Brigitte Bardot, Richard Branson, Tim Burton, Albert Camus, George Carlin, Salvador Dali, Johnny Depp, Greta Garbo, Jimi Hendrix, Martin Luther King Jr., Osho/ Rajneesh.

Exerpts from The Dharma Types: Secrets of the 5 Ancient Castes That Will Transform Your Life by Simon Tony Chokoisky.

Can You Be Fierce And Sensitive?

Source: morguefile
Source: morguefile

Source: morguefile

As a sensitive person do you ever feel fierce inside and think that those feelings are inconsistent with being sensitive?

Do those fierce feelings conflict with the empathetic part of you?

What Does it Mean To Be Fierce?

Fierceness is very natural. It occurs in nature all of the time. All you have to do is watch animals and they are fierce as naturally as they are relaxed. They act fiercely as easily as they eat and sleep.

In contemporary society we do not see a lot of fierceness. We see aggression, we seek passion, but we do not talk about fierceness very much. So why all the confusion?

Aggression Vs. Fierceness

So often I hear people talk about fierceness and aggression as if they are the same thing. That does not resonate with me. I think they are different.

To me, aggression and fierceness are not the same thing because they come from different places. Aggression comes from ideas about life. It comes from the shoulds, coulds, woulds, oughts and other ways of defining life that really have nothing to do with life. Aggression comes from our desire for security – inner or outer. It results in nasty inner dialogues and mind games that drive us crazy. People sometimes act on the basis that the ideas are valid and therefore become aggressive in defending these ideas. All sorts of problems then ensue – some of them very expensive involving military hardware.

Aggression develops when we create a mental or cultural structure and then try to defend it. I think that inevitably where there is aggression there is a structure of some sort lurking whether it is a social role, identity structure, the dialogue of historical narrative, caste systems and the like.

As a result,  aggression comes from the head.

What Is Fierceness?

What is fierceness and how is it different?

Fierceness comes from the heart. Fierceness is the protective love of a mother bear from her cub.  It shows up in whatever love we feel for our world and the creatures in it. It is not a small distinction – the difference between aggression and fierceness. Fierceness is important because our fierce heart-based love is the basis of good work, charity to one another, making good choices and the search for wisdom. It is the part of us that seeks to be a part of the good in the world and add to it. It is also the source of our passion.

Aggression is protective of the status quo. It has a preconceived agenda. It will seek order over health and wholeness. Aggression is at odds with the heart’s needs.

Fierce And Sensitive

To be both fierce and sensitive is not as incompatible as they may sound. Many HSPs, myself included, often have fierce feelings. They may seem incompatible with our sensitive and empathetic natures but I don’t think they are. I think, however, that they can be hard to handle because we feel so many things so deeply.

Personally I think that fierceness comes from a gentle place so it is very compatible with being sensitive. Even natural. I think it is worth embracing our fierceness. It is a sign that we are alive and awake, as painful as that may be sometimes. Natural fierceness arises from being present not from being threatened; being present is the only way to access our natural loving natures.

One of the ways you can tell the different between fierceness and aggression is to ask if the feeling coming from defending a structure of affirming life. Then you know what is really going on. Fierceness in serving life tells us when structures need to change, when they have become destructive or outlived their usefulness. We are right now seeing a rise in the fierceness of the global population in response to real threats to environmental sustainability. It is fierceness to embrace the need for greater sustainability; it is aggression to defend the status quo.

So embrace your fierceness mindfully. It is a life supporting force that is worth cherishing and very compatible with being sensitive.

 

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.

 

 

 

The Mistake Of Identity

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Identity is an anchor in most of our lives.

It is usually derived from a combination of our own experiences, our family and school feedback and our culture.

Identity can feel wonderful if we have positive feedback or it can feel like a ball and chain if we do not.

The more important question is, “Is it real?”

What Is Identity Anyway?

I have always thought that identity was a little bit strange. OK, a lot strange.

Why do I even need one?

Here are some ways that Merriam-Webster defines identity as

: who someone is : the name of a person

: the qualities, beliefs, etc., that make a particular person or group different from others

:  sameness of essential or generic character in different instances

:  sameness in all that constitutes the objective reality of a thing :  oneness

:  the distinguishing character or personality of an individual :individuality

:  the relation established by psychological identification

Of course, identity – and we mean social identity – is largely based on what we can see. If someone spends time by themselves we call them antisocial. If someone is lively, we often call them fun. This means that we define the identity of others in terms of what we experience, want and need.  So we often define others in relation to ourselves which invalidates them as someone unique and on their own journey. Therefore, identity can be an exploitive construct. Ask any disenfranchised person and group!

How Identity Gets Us In Trouble

Identity gets us in trouble with others in a number of ways:

  • it causes us to think we know something when we do not. Being able to identity a koala in a picture does not mean that I know anything about koalas.
  • it causes us to think that we have the lay of the land, the map of reality. When we define others and groups even nations as “good “and “bad” we may think we are dealing with reality but actually we are not. We are working from an interpretation.
  • when we put someone into a box of identity and they object we may feel justified in our negative reaction but we are not. Everyone has a right to be who they are and everyone is more than their social identity.
  • when we treat someone as if they are there to serve our agenda and they object, who has the problem?
  • when we ascribe negative attributes to those who disagree are we right? Sometimes, but sometimes we are also missing something and need to be open to that possibility.

Identity also gets us in trouble with ourselves:

  • we may believe that our social identity, whether it is family, peer based or national is really us.
  • we may compare our inner nature to our social feedback and think that there is something wrong with us.
  • we may start to believe that we have an obligation to be what others want us to be.
  • we may start to shrink ourselves so that others will be comfortable with us and then stop liking ourselves.
  • we may stop believing in ourselves.
  • we may receive feedback as a report card on ourselves that has nothing to do really with who we are.
  • we may stop listening to our intuitive, whole self and deny it the voice it needs.

Taking Back Your Identity

Our real identity is nothing more than the inner part of us that does not change throughout our lives. It is the part of us that is universal and yet also seems particular and specific to us at the same time. It is the part of us that people often love even though we are usually taught to keep it hidden.

Although we have to live in the human world we nonetheless need to be true to ourselves. Taking the messages we have received and examining them, discarding the one’s that are wrong or do not fit us is the first step to reclaiming our best selves. It is a step worth taking.

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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Race, Culture and HSPs: “Black People Don’t Do Therapy”

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Black People And Sensitive

I am no doubt an HSP. I’ve read Elaine Aron’s wonderful and eye-opening books, I’ve taken the quizzes in the workbooks and I’ve been greatly helped by much of the advice given on HSP websites and by knowing that I’m not alone. And like very many HSPs I’ve suffered bouts of depression and very high anxiety, the type that requires professional help. Yet there’s still this nagging feeling I always have, one I have to constantly temper, that my sensitivity and the symptoms it causes are just my “weaknesses,” and that I have to work hard to not let my weaknesses show. Now I know this is just negative self-talk, which any White person who is also HSP can relate to, but my feelings and self-talk are largely influenced racially and culturally.

Admitting to and showing great sensitivity is a no no in my (Black American) culture.  Being “tough” and not “letting it ‘get’ to me” are what I was always encouraged and at times, demanded to do. I can still remember my dad screaming at me, “You got a WEAKNESS!” when I was about 12-years-old and being picked on at school. My mother would threaten to hit me if I ever cried. And since we customarily “take over” for our parents as adults and end up treating ourselves just as well or as badly as they did, I got to the point in my late 30s where I couldn’t leave the house without having a four-alarm panic attack and the bravest thing I could do was seek treatment. I could no longer function in that anxious, unbalanced state. All that “not letting it show” made me physically, and severely psychologically and emotionally sick. So even though seeking help put me in a category that is downright scary to contemplate (according to a recent Al Jazeera America special report, Blacks are half as likely to seek treatment for anxiety, depression or any other mental health-related issue as Whites), I had to save my sanity, and my life. I weighed 112 pounds. I needed help. I was sick.

Black People And Therapy

According to a paper published by the National Institutes of Health in 2008, many people of color who end up seeking treatment stated that it was the need to get well that triumphed over the opinions of the family and community when it came to seeking treatment, and often at the crisis stage.

112 pounds! Panic attacks! Hello?!??

Jinneh Dyson, now senior manager of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Arlington, VA, had debilitating depression while at college in Texas and rejected the idea of therapy for years. Loved ones would say, “That’s going to make you crazy. You’ve just got to pray and have faith,” recalled Dyson, who is Black and the daughter of a Baptist minister. “They said, ‘That’s the way of the white man, poisoning you.’”

But guess what? I’m not religious. And I’m intelligent enough to know that neither God nor prayer can stop a serious panic attack. Therefore, I, like Ms. Dyson, sought treatment.

The statistics are pretty scary:

  • African-Americans are 20 percent more likely to report having serious psychological distress than Non-Hispanic Whites;
  • Non-Hispanic Whites are more than twice as likely to receive antidepressant prescription treatment as are Non-Hispanic Blacks;
  • A report from the U.S. Surgeon General found that from 1980 – 1995, the suicide rate among African Americans ages 10 to 14 increased 233%, as compared to 120% of Non-Hispanic Whites.

Heart disease, obesity, diabetes and many other stress-related illnesses also affect Black Americans more adversely. This is no accident.  Therefore, it must be discussed and taken into account that all the anxiety and overstimulation affecting our community, and in particular those of us with highly sensitive natures, are large factors in these adverse medical outcomes, and can be addressed lovingly and effectively through good therapy.

Of course race and culture weren’t the only factors in my getting sick. There was the job I lost, there was losing my sister, and losing the romantic relationship I was in at around the same time; there was even my lack of understanding about how important it is to my HSP nature to eat healthy, organic food and exercise regularly. Yet, I wasn’t thinking about those things when I opened the door to this new therapy center. I was thinking about connecting with someone of my culture, who speaks my cultural “language” and regularly uses Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) in her practice, which I’ve been wanting to try (it’s the “doer” in me), to help patients with social anxiety, so that I don’t feel like such an alien in my brown skin anymore.

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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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