What Do Resilient People Do Differently?

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We often tend to think when we see how resilient people navigate life with such apparent ease and grace, that they were just born different; or that they haven’t been buffeted by too many of life’s tornados. Wrong! In fact it’s often the other way around.

The more often you face adversity, the less power it has to cripple you.

The Value Of Resilient People

Resilient people leave a priceless legacy as they journey through life. They show us that it is not necessarily the challenges, but the RELATIONSHIP we have with these challenges that dictate the quality of our lives. It’s how they see themselves in relation to their problem that makes them do things differently. They still feel fear, as we all do, but they’ve mastered the art of turning fear into fuel.
Whether it’s

  • learning a new skill
  • facing retrenchment
  • relocating to a new home, city, or country
  • ending a relationship and starting a new one
  • overcoming an illness
  • surviving tragedy and bereavement
  • changing careers in mid-life
  • or sailing round the world single handedly

the reason for our fear is the same. We all need to feel safe; assured that we can avoid pain and gain pleasure.

Resilience And Helplessness

When we are helpless babies our sense of safety is easily threatened because we are so dependent on others for our survival. As we grow, most of us can release our grip on this dependency. We increasingly seek change, challenge, stimuli, and adventure to stave off boredom.

We all need to feel significant; assured that we are unique, important, special, appreciated, and part of a group, tribe or family.

When we are helpless babies our sense of significance is easily threatened because we are dependent on those around us to give us a sense of identity. As we grow, most of us can release our grip on this dependency. We become increasingly capable of forming our own identity, without it being quite so closely tied to our ‘tribe.’

We all need affectionate connections—feelings of closeness, and value to someone or something.

When we are helpless babies our sense of value is easily threatened because we are dependent on those who are close and familiar to peg it for us. As we grow, most of us can release our grip on this dependency. We become increasingly capable of finding this sense of connection with other people or situations outside our immediate circle. But some of us, for a variety of reasons find this emotional maturing process much scarier than others.

Our sense of safety, value and identity is so fragile that we find it hard to release our grip on its original source. Under normal, nurturing circumstances our definition of our core needs (safety, significance and connection) evolve and so does our definition of what constitutes a danger to them.Compare how you felt on your first day of school to how you feel when you go off to college or start a new job. By the time we get to our 50s for instance, we laugh at how traumatized we were on that first day of school (if we can still remember).

13 Ways To Become The Resilient Person You Would Like To Be

Here are 13 ways to become more resilient:

  1. Instead of seeing yourself as a victim of your circumstances and experiences—take charge; have confidence in your abilities, and fight back.
  2. View your challenges through the filter of curiosity—instead of being immobilized by fear.
  3. Reinterpret and reframe apparently negative events. This will dictate how you manage them.
  4. Accept that change and challenge are guaranteed in life. It is part of your journey—just like everyone else’s.
  5. Develop your adversity muscles. Turn these experiences into opportunities for self-discovery. With practice your confidence in your ability to deal with adversity will expand beyond your wildest dreams. You will be able to handle things that used to intimidate you, with ease.
  6. Don’t focus only on the ‘foreground’ of the picture. Zoom out and get the whole picture in your mind’s frame. Use your mental windscreen wipers. You will see that it’s just a bend not the end.
  7. Enhance your sense of self value and stress handling capacity incrementally, so you are mentally, emotionally and physically fit when the curved balls come. Train for this marathon called life.
  8. To do this, accept challenges. Move towards them instead of avoiding them; embrace them. Your resilience muscles will get stronger each time. Keep setting the bar higher.
  9. Learn to be patient and persevere. You will still be hanging in there when others have given up.
  10. Maintain a strong support team. Ask for help. Expect help. Nobody can do it alone.
  11. Practice identifying what you can change and what you cannot. Pick your battles wisely. Make the rewards worth the energy expenditure.
  12. Keep and develop your sense of humor. It puts things into perspective instantly.
  13. Stop competing and comparing. Focus on your own journey; your own values; and your own priorities.

Tips For Living The Resilient Life

Here are some great practices to make resilient living easier:

  • Look in the rear view mirror of your life regularly.
  • If you write a list of all the ways that you have broken the fear barrier during the course of your life, you’ll be astounded at what a long list it is! Celebrate each one!
  • Make friends with your fears. Thank them for the warning message. Tell them you understand that they are really looking out for you.
  • Practice expanding your fear fences. Then practice some more. The more you stretch them, the more they will expand. Take calculated risks. You’re a Christopher Columbus colonizing new territory. Pick your trips into “unknown territory’. Make the goal really worthwhile, so it keeps calling you forward when the terrain gets tough.
  • Hang out with fellow fear-fighters, who are on a similar journey; so you can support and encourage each other. Make like-minded mentors your fuel supply. Everyone is on a fear-fighting journey of some sort, even if they are not aware they are.
  • Create a safe harbor that you know you can go to if the journey really gets too tough. This may be a person, a group, a geographical location, a spiritual belief, a mantra or visualization.
    Get comfortable with failure.

Of course you are going to fail; and so am I and so are 7 billion other people on our planet. In fact we’ll all “fail” numerous times. Nobody performs perfectly every time (though some like to think they do). Dancers miss steps, musicians hit the wrong note, and photographers fail to get the focus right. The best doctors, dentists and neurosurgeons sometimes slip up. The most celebrated businessmen and women go into ventures that crash and burn. The best engineers or mechanics put a spanner in the works from time to time. Pilots, train drivers, ship’s captains and astronauts can make fatal errors of judgment.

History is littered with plans small and large that didn’t come together. That’s how we evolve. Those who master resilience are flexible rather than rigid—they bend instead of break. If they do feel broken for a while, they let their wounds heal and ultimately grow stronger where the “scar tissue” is.

What Do Resilient People Do Differently?

They don’t take the stressful episodes in life personally. They have their fair share of stress triggers but they don’t buy into them. They don’t hang onto life’s challenges and tragedies, and base their identities on these struggles. They know this is only part of their story.

They know themselves intimately—their strengths and their weaknesses. This self awareness grants them the ability to manage their emotions and read their internal signals; to decipher what their moods and feelings (like fear) are telling them, and take the appropriate action. They know what they are capable of and are not easily intimidated.

They surround themselves with a likeminded level headed support team, whose members understand, encourage, and celebrate each others challenges and victories. They help each other bounce back from adversity.

Their creative problem solving skills are well developed. When faced with a crisis or a challenge, they feel the fear like we all do, but they instinctively step back, detach from their emotions, and evaluate the options objectively.

They know where they can influence change—and where they can’t. They don’t waste time fighting battles they can never win. They don’t waste time and energy on what they cannot change. They focus instead on how they can influence positive change.

They instinctively reframe the negatives, balance them with the positives, and are therefore able to gain perspective and see the big picture. They accept and expect that challenges and crises are an integral part of life, so they are better prepared for them. They know that life is not a bed of roses, but can be a fascinating adventure anyway.

Their well developed curiosity grants them the ability to see the opportunities in adversity, so they are not afraid to take calculated risks. They constantly increase their tolerance for challenges, by exposing themselves to them—so they may grow stronger and smarter. This consistently expands their fear fences.

They keep themselves mentally, emotionally and physically fit—in tip top condition to handle the journey of life. Their ability to cope with the tough stuff and bounce back is greater because of this. They cut themselves slack when necessary, and discipline themselves when their goals require it.

They celebrate their wins—all of them, no matter how small. They know this builds confidence and momentum. They’re comfortable with risking failure. They know its just feedback, so it propels them instead of paralyzing them.

Becoming resilient ultimately depends on the answer to this question:
Will I let fear define me—or will I use it to build resilience?

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The Value Of Mistakes

The Importance Of Mistakes - HSP Health Blog

Mistakes are a no-no, even a taboo.

That is unfortunate because they are very important and necessary.

Without mistakes you cannot be in touch with and claim your own power.

Embracing mistakes is a important if you want to come into your own as an HSP.

The Hidden Benefit Of Mistakes

According to Robert Fritz, author of the Path of Least Resistance and Creating, the creative process can be divided into three large phases:

  1. the idea or germination
  2. the development of the idea from concept to completion
  3. releasing the result

Although we can make mistakes at any time and step of the process, mistakes are most valuable when we are in the development phase.

Mistakes are an important part of the trial and error process that lets us engage with an idea and reality.

They tell us when something is not working so that we can consider what to change.

It is through mistakes not only that we learn, but also that we develop mastery over a subject.

Mistakes are our path to our power and effectiveness in the world.

How Mistakes Can Seem Like A Bad Idea

Mistakes can seem like a bad idea, particularly to highly sensitive people.

We do not like the negative feedback and we feel terrible when we have done harm to others.

Our natural gifts can make it difficult for us to want to take any chances. Since we are often misperceived and misunderstood and our insights dismissed, it can seem as if we are taking big risks whenever we move forward.

The Baggage Of Mistakes

There are many misconceptions about mistakes that can create problems for us:

  • mistakes are a matter of life and death. For early humans, mistakes may indeed have been a matter of life and death. However, those days are long gone and we can lighten up about mistakes. Most mistakes may create some inconvenience and even some loss but are rarely life threatening.
  • mistakes are a sign of stupidity. Mistakes have been equated with lower intelligence as far back as I can remember. However, mistakes are inevitable when we are venturing to create something new, or learn a new skill.
  • mistakes are a sign of weakness. Making mistakes can actually be a sign of strength since it takes courage to be willing to learn something new.
  • mistakes are a sign of bad character. What an old saw this is! Character assassination is a favorite method of attacking people who take risks. Mistakes are not a sign of bad character. They are a sign of a learning process under way.
  • mistakes are a sign we do not care. Making mistakes, if we are trying to learn can be a sign of great caring. Sticking your neck out to learn takes courage which is usually a sign of caring.

Embracing Intelligent Risk Taking

The easiest way to move forward in life, embrace your personal growth and learn is to embrace intelligent risk taking.

Not all risk taking is equal. You can make unnecessary mistakes by taking on to much at once, always flying by the seat of your pants,  flying blind without conducting any research and generally making a mess.

Or you can take a wiser approach.

A Process For Intelligent Risk Taking

In order to take intelligent risks, you have to have in your mind a process that can make risk taking an important and valuable part of what you are doing. You need to create a process that you have confidence in.

Here is one that is a start:

  1. identify what you want to do.
  2. break it down into steps. This prevents you from getting in over your head and makes it easier to identify where you want to make corrections and why.
  3. research what is needed to do what you want to do. Understanding the skills, tools and other requirements will make it easier for you to take an intelligent risk.
  4. obtain whatever resources you need. D not skimp on time, materials, education or any other resource you need.
  5. pause to evaluate your progress frequently. It will help you avoid the most egregious and costly errors.
  6. once you are comfortable with your preparation, engage wholeheartedly in accomplishing what you want.

Often the difference between effective and ineffective risk taking is a matter of preparation.

Benefiting From Taking Risks

Highly sensitive people are extremely conscientious and caring people. Often the result, however, is that HSPs back away from taking risks when they d not have to.

Taking intelligent risks and using their conscientiousness and caring to embrace intelligent risk taking can make a big difference not only in being successful but also enjoying growing a learning.

HSPs have much to offer, so when we take risks, everyone often benefits.

It is worth sticking our toes in the water. We may find that it is warm and inviting.

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How To Stop Absorbing Other People’s Energy

 

HSPs frequently ask me how to protect themselves from other people’s energy.  I always tell them that there is no quick and easy answer.

People are frequently looking for a shield or want to learn how to create an energy bubble.  The truth is, if you know your own issues, then other people’s issues can’t stay attached to you, or not for long.  You need to do your personal work.

For me, that personal work involved many years of therapy.  I loved this process because as an HSP I enjoy looking inside and sorting out what I find.  I had been depressed for most of my life until I took the time to go through this deep inner process that helped to clarify and reframe my issues and experiences.  Out of that inner work I developed a deep capacity to protect myself through being centered in myself and therefore naturally knowing (or being able to sort out) what belongs to me and what belongs to someone else.  I also grew to love myself and my sensitivity, as well as trust in my own heart to guide me.

Inner Work Will Help You To Stop Absorbing Other People’s Energy

Recently I saw an exceptional video by Ralph Smart on how to stop absorbing other people’s energy. Have a look!

He gave the best answer to “How to stop absorbing other people’s energy” that I have ever heard.  I like his video because he doesn’t try to oversimplify the process, and yet gets right to the heart of the core issues involved, including loving yourself.   And here is a summary of what Ralph has to say:

  1. Remember you can’t please everyone.  Accept that not everyone is going to like you.  Once you get past that, then you can stop absorbing other people’s energy.  It’s ok to be nice, but it’s more important to be yourself.  Because you are loving and accepting yourself, you no longer need to constantly be looking for love and acceptance from others.

  2. Invitation – Chose whether or not you want to be invited to where this person is going to take you.  Nobody can enter your inner kingdom without an invitation.  We attract every single person, consciously or unconsciously.  We have the power to choose.

  3. Do not pay attention to sources that drain your energy.  “ Energy vampires”, people who act as a parasite and use your energy to survive, do not deserve your attention.  When you pay attention, you are in essence giving someone your energy.  Whatever you focus on grows.  Are you focusing on what you want or on what you fear?  Do not allow “emotional drive-by’s”– where people dump their energy on you and then go away feeling lighter, while you are left feeling heavy.  Do not become a trash can for someone else.  Love yourself and know your value.  Give only when the exchange is good for all involved.

  4. Breathe.  This simple action can change everything and is so powerful.  Go into nature – purify your senses.  Feel alive, feel free.  Meditate, dance, sing – purify the water within yourself.  Speed your vibration.  When your energy level becomes  low or even stagnant, you are more likely to absorb other people’s energy.

  5. Take responsibility for your inner condition.  Take 100% responsibility – it’s not the other person’s problem.  It is for you to take care of how you feel at any moment of the day.

These guidelines provided by Ralph are useful reminders for me each day as I go about life as a sensitive person.  I use these five skills and continually sharpen my capacity to remain free from unwanted energetic influences.  They are part of the basic skills needed to be an empowered HSP and to be at your best.

 

25 Ways to Handle Anger Productively

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

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

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

What Was That All About?

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

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

But Anger In Itself Isn’t Bad

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

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

Don’t Believe Me?

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

25 Ways To Handle Anger Productively

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24. Use your resources—get professional help.

25. Use anger CONstructively instead of DEstructively.

Rocking The Boat: An Important Life Skill

Do you want to rock the boat?

Make abstract art!

Abstract art does many things but it is best at rocking the boat and causing us to see things in a new way.

Rocking the boat is an important life skill, and one that highly sensitive people should embrace.

Mindless Activity

Currently we are besieged by change.

Given the endless activity of novelty and new “trends” you would think that we allow and accept rocking the boat.

In reality, we are probably not that open and accepting.

Mindless activity is not change.

Mindless activity can stop change because it invites shallow activity. Mindless activity is activity for activities sake; it is not purposeful and well thought out.

Another way to limit change is by creating chaos. Evolutionary psychology points out that the easiest way to stop growth and development is to have a war – which is a form of aggressive chaos.  Chaos is limiting because each moment is divorced from the next so that sustained activity becomes impossible. Under chaos, time and continuity are under siege; in war people are, too.

The Serious Business Of Rocking The Boat

When you are serious about anything, you have to invest time and energy. Serious intention requires a lot of thinking, experimentation, testing of the waters, mistakes and creativity.

Serious intention means you have to slow down enough to make the necessary investment in what you are trying to accomplish.

Working fast reduces investments of time and energy which creates shallow results. One way to keep people from rocking the boat is to have them fixate on a lot of ever changing novelty. It keeps people busy and creates illusions of change. The phrase, “The more things change, the more they say the same,” applies to this scenario.

To make serious lasting change, then, requires a considerable amount of sustained effort. It has to be well thought out because that is the requirement of serious commitment.

Rocking the boat is not the same thing as being challenging or provocative. It is relatively easy to be provocative but not easy to take an idea from conception to reality. That is hard work!

When we rockthe boat we are changing ourselves and developing strength. In doing so we are changing relationships and power structures.

Not everyone welcomes this.

Rocking The Boat May Mean A Fight

HSPs are natural albeit often inadvertent boat rockers.

Being compassionate and empathetic are two reasons. Being creative and energy aware are others. Our very natures, being different from non-HSPs, cause us to create conflict just by being ourselves.

But it takes more than creating conflict to rock the boat or tip it over.

Seriously rocking the boat takes sustained work and focus, something that HSPs may not be good at because of our strained nervous systems.

Serious boat rocking also may mean a fight although I mean fight in the sense of constructive engagement.

To create any lasting change the old and new engage in a struggle over the merits of their positions and the necessity for change, the comfort of the old and the dangers of complacency, the skills that we know and the ones we have yet to learn.

It is only in the struggle that the merits can be known, and strengths and weaknesses assessed.

HSPs are good at grappling with the merits but not with the fight. We may be good grapplers but we often do it in private because our grappling may not be welcome.

We may also avoid fights because they often seem like a smoke screen used to obscure the necessity of change. Fights often seem to be more like resistance to change so we may resist the fight.

HSPs Can Become Great Advocates For Change

Rocking the boat should not be thought of as a reckless activity. You could make the case that the best people to rock the boat and create change are empathetic HSPs.

However, we also have to be willing to fight. Fighting does not have to be fighting against, which is often how we think of it. Fighting can be the activity of bringing our hearts to a conflict.

Bringing our hearts, sensitivity, creativity and seriousness to change gives HSPs the potential to be great agents of change.

We need change and we need HSPs to embrace it and become part of leading it.

 

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Why HSPs Have Trouble With Controlling People

If you are alive, you have met controlling people.

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

Controlling people can certainly have that effect on me.

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

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

Why Do People Control?

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

Some of the reasons people try to control others include:

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

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

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

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

The Hidden Agenda Of Controlling People

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

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

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

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

The Comfort Zone Dilemna

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

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

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

So what to do about this?

Letting Possibilities Guide Us

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

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

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

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

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

Let Compassion Be Your Guide

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

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

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

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

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

What is a great gift to offer others!

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Love Your Defenses!

Love Your Defenses - HSP Health Blog
Love Your Defenses - HSP Health Blog

Source: Morguefiles

So many defenses. I feel like my life is often about bumping into defenses of one kind or another. Dealing with defenses feels like walking through a field of hay.  With each step you meet  a new stalk(defense) that obscures your vision and parts as you walk only to reveal a new defense.

Often the defenses I bump into are the defenses of other people. I dislike bumping into them because in doing so the relationships changes – often not for the better.

When defenses show themselves, the relationship door usually closes even if only for a moment and we realize we are not welcome. That happens to highly sensitive people a lot.

Of course, sometime defenses are our own because we get hurt and our healing is not easy.

What Are Defense Mechanisms?

According to Dictionary, a defense mechanism is:

an unconscious process, as denial, that protects an individual from unacceptable or painful ideas or impulses.

Defenses are a way for us to:

  • like ourselves in painful circumstances
  • make sense of something that does not work for us
  •  taking care of ourselves.

Defenses can sometime be a kind of denial. Denial has a bad reputation because it is interpreted to mean that there is something wrong with you, that your are too weak to face the truth about something. Denial like all defenses are often meant to protect us from a shock to our systems, and sense of loss that we are unable to process and handle.

Defenses Can Create A Healing Space

I respect defenses even if I consider them to be toxic sometimes; I understand that they have a purpose.

In the case of people who have suffered a serious trauma they can be life saving by creating a space for the healing process. I don’t think anyone should be denied their healing space. We highly sensitive people are often harmed, sometimes seriously. Our ranks have many who have suffered serious child abuse. We can have defenses as a way of protecting ourselves from further harm.

Often however, we know that our healing takes a lot of time and the world has little patience with our healing needs. So our defenses can protect us from intolerance that only makes our pain greater. At least that has been my experience.

Sometimes Defenses Do Not Help

Sometimes our defenses may create a healing space for us but not necessarily help us heal.

It could be that in spite of ourselves we are reinjuring. It could be that we have been and are subjected to the wound of prejudice and it does not heal. It could be that our injuries are so serious and grave that we need a lot of time for healing. Then we need to be kind to ourselves.

It could be that we are in a situation that causes us ongoing pain. Perhaps for some reason we are unable to make a change that will make the situation better. Sometimes we have to accept the world as it is – with all its faults, let go of it, and make the life we deserve.

What Our Defenses Are Missing

Sometimes our defenses miss a lot.

They can miss our deservingness. They can miss the generosity we receive. They can miss our creative gifts. Sometimes our defenses want something that is not there and will not be. As long as we seek what we are missing we will not have a better life that we can create.

I admit it is hard to let go.

Handling Your Defenses

Defenses deserve to be taken seriously.

We can use them as clues that we are missing something and often not what we think. We can use them to be good detectives for our well being and the well being of those around us.

We can get that denial out on the table and ask it to help us see what needs to be seen. We can appreciate ourselves for caring about ourselves and each other. We can let our defenses lead us to something better, kinder, and more rewarding.

 But first we have to open the door and go wading in the field of our pain to hear what it is telling us. When we do we will be greeted by a breeze of relief, and healing.

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.

HSPs And The Struggle With Body Image

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Growing up highly sensitive can have its disadvantages, for sure. You already know that, and it’s different for each and every HSP. There’s a lot of crossover between us, but we each get to have our very own unique experience. It’s such a journey, right?

What I want to talk to you about today is what I would consider one of the more common “crossover” themes that we experience as HSPs: poor body image.

More specifically—working on perfecting your body.

Self Acceptance And Body Image

As an HSP, I have a strong tendency to want to be in control. This way I am not so overwhelmed. A certain degree of control is healthy and good. The control I’m talking about today is when the control goes to a place where we are sacrificing health to be perfect.

I’m talking about those of us who feel we need to be a different weight to fit in. I’m talking about the ones who feel like they are struggling on a daily basis with loving their bodies, just as they are.

Years ago, before I knew anything about my HSP trait, I was always trying to “get better.” Somehow I landed on using my body image as a way to improve myself. I could not see what was right with me. When I looked in the mirror I focused on every ounce that needed improvement: the scars on my face, the cellulite on my thighs, the bloat in my belly. I set out on a journey to get better quick—because once I got to that magical place surely I would feel less overwhelmed.

I truly felt like people were fixated on my every flaw, just as I was. I believed my thoughts (a dangerous habit for HSPs) and even got into the habit of creating other people’s thoughts for them. My thoughts were so loud, I felt that other people could hear them and were saying things like, “Yes,” in agreement, “you need to lose a few pounds.”

I often joked around that when I grew up I wanted to be somebody. I lived life from that place of not having enough and not being enough. Happiness was surely on the other side of having attained firmer thighs and a flatter tummy – the elusive perfect body image.

So in the midst of working out and trying to control my every bite with food, tirelessly creating my “perfect body” so that I could finally feel free in my own skin and love myself, my therapist at the time had other ideas. She burst right through my perfect bubble when she said something to me that stung hard.

“Maybe you’re supposed to be a different size.”

Um, excuse me?

“Maybe you’re supposed to be a different size.”

Speechless.

How dare she! Couldn’t she see that my body wasn’t perfect yet? Did she not see how hard I was working?

“Maybe you’re supposed to be a different size.”

It stayed with me like an echo. I couldn’t shake it.

And she wasn’t talking about a smaller size.

Reframing My Body Image

At the time, I was nowhere close to being overweight. But the thing was—I had never (ever!) considered gaining weight. Why would I do that? It went against everything I had ever learned. I needed to control my weight, right? Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do so that I can feel good about myself?

I felt so found out. Did I need to gain weight? It didn’t matter. I was put face to face with a new possibility, which was exactly where I needed to be. Somebody saw me, really saw me, and let me know about something new. The rest was up to me to figure out.

We are saturated with images—daily. We see how we are “supposed” to look, what we are “supposed” to eat, how we are “supposed” to be. The message is seemingly simple: if we succeed—if we become more and more “perfect”—we are granted access to happiness, feeling amazing in our bodies, and feeling loved by everyone around us.

Let me tell you—that is one hard path for anyone to follow, especially if you are an HSP. So why would you want to? It leads to more suffering and more overwhelm. The very things we already often have plenty of in our lives.

Of course, I didn’t get what my therapist said right away. I just took offense to it. I internalized it as I do with most everything and eventually came out on the other side having finally heard what I needed to hear. The message that came through for me was that I get to love myself NOW. In this body. And that I get to love myself in the future—at whatever size body I become.

Somewhere in between now and the future is some “bettering” myself, sure. But the self love can start right now. There’s no need to wait for my thighs to become “bikini ready” (they’re ready NOW when I put on my bathing suit, thanks!)

What do you think? Do you struggle with body image and how do you deal? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.