Love Your Defenses!

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

Source: Morguefiles

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

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

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

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

What Are Defense Mechanisms?

According to Dictionary, a defense mechanism is:

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

Defenses are a way for us to:

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

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

Defenses Can Create A Healing Space

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

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

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

Sometimes Defenses Do Not Help

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

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

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

What Our Defenses Are Missing

Sometimes our defenses miss a lot.

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

I admit it is hard to let go.

Handling Your Defenses

Defenses deserve to be taken seriously.

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

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

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

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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.

Creating Harmony: When Not To Try And Make It Work

I like harmony.

I suspect that many HSPs do.

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

At its worst, we are keeping a destructive peace.

Which is operating in your life?

Why Is Harmony So Elusive?

I have often wondered why harmony is so elusive.

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

All the conflict and misery also seemed very unnecessary.

I did not get it.

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

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

Sensitivity And Conflict

I pick up on conflict easily.

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

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

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

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

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

Sensitivity And The Big Picture

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

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

But we do.

Sometimes we are the ones who care too much.

It can not only exhaust us but also break us.

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

We need a better way.

How Capitalistic Thinking Hurts HSPs

Capitalism is essentially an acquisitive, exploitive system.

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

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

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

Service and exploitation are not the same thing.

HSPs Need For Self Protection

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

Are we doing other people’s work?

Are we fixing things for others but not ourselves?

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

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

Are we expected to clean up after others?

How To Own Your Time

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

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

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

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

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

Then we can flourish and thrive.

Sounds good to me.

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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5 Ways Avoidance can Sabotage You

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5 Ways Avoidance Can Sabotage You - HSP Health Blog

Source: Morguefiles

The subject of avoidance has come up more than once this week so here are some insights I’ve had.

Avoidance as a coping strategy is often formed in childhood in an effort to deal with overwhelming or painful experiences. And in this context it can be a highly effective painkiller. But this “positive feedback” is a double edged sword. Just like pharmaceutical painkillers it can easily with constant use, become addictive. Pretty soon it becomes your default program for dealing with the tough stuff of life—without you being aware of it.

Initially our avoidance techniques kicked in when we realized there was a problem, but felt we couldn’t deal with it.

In childhood this is understandable, and can give us temporary relief.

The Danger Of Avoidance

However, when avoidance becomes a default program, we no longer use it. It uses us. It kicks in automatically whenever we even imagine we are out of our depth or faced with a situation we perceive as threatening. It becomes an unconscious game of hide-and-seek with ourselves—if I can’t see you, you can’t see me! 

Avoidance, as you may have found is a highly unsatisfactory problem solving strategy. Our logic tells us this. But we’re no longer using logic—just instinctively avoiding pain. .

Habitually avoiding issues that need to be addressed leads to 5 problems.

  1. The original problem keeps compounding, until it grows to overwhelming proportions and becomes a weapon of self destruction.
  2. Our inaction and therefore lack of boundaries, sends mixed messages to whoever is the source of the threat, leading to an escalation of the threatening behavior.
  3. We are unable to see where the threat is coming from, because we can’t run away and look over our shoulders at the same time.
  4. The side effects of constant avoidance bleed into and contaminate other areas of our lives.
  5. Long term avoidance strategies often result in a sense of failure and hopelessness.

Let’s look at how these 5 complications of avoidance can show up in our lives.

  1. If you go away for long periods and leave your car standing out in the open, what may initially have started with a flat battery, will rapidly deteriorate into peeling paintwork, flat tires and perished cables and hoses. If you repeatedly avoid problem areas in business, you won’t be in business long. If you ignore relationship issues that need to be faced, the relationship will eventually fall apart. If you take no notice of health issues, they will escalate until you are seriously ill.
  2. If you don’t value yourself enough to take a stand and set behavior boundaries, it indicates a green light—go ahead and do more of what you are doing. It’s fine by me. I agree. So a person who was an intermittent irritation can ultimately become a delusional stalker or bully. If you don’t draw the line at work, eventually you will become another burn-out statistic. And if you decide to put in boundaries at a later date, it’s easy to be discredited. No one will believe you. If you weren’t happy with the dynamics, why did you go along with the game for so long? Why didn’t you set boundaries sooner? Why did you send mixed messages?
  3. Unhealthy situations can escalate to a dangerous level quite quickly if you are not paying attention and don’t heed the warnings. If you don’t take note of the cardiac symptoms until you have a heart attack. If you don’t acknowledge that your business is hemorrhaging money, until you face bankruptcy. If you don’t secure your possessions, until they are stolen. If you don’t pay attention to what your partner is saying, until he or she runs out of patience and is no longer there.
  4. If you’re avoiding the warning signs from your body that it’s taking strain—if you’re stressed for instance, that’s going to have a knock on effect on your business, and relationships. If you’re ignoring warning signs in your relationship, it may well have a negative impact on your business and health. And if you’re avoiding the warning signs that all is not well with your business, it can easily lead to problems with your partner and family and ultimately manifest as stress related health issues.
  5.  If thTese automatic avoidance strategies keep resulting in business or relationship failures or ill health, pretty soon you will start believing that no matter what you try, you will fail. It doesn’t occur to you that it is something you are doing or not doing that yields these results. All you know is no matter how hard you consciously bust your butt things never seem to work out. This results in feeling helpless, hopeless and worthless – not exactly confidence building. And the longer you do it, the more confidence eroding it is.

It’s easy to tell which areas our avoidance saboteur is operating in because what’s showing up in our lives repeatedly tells us! If your finances or business ventures or relationships or health keep lurching from crisis to crisis no matter how hard you try, it’s obvious in which area the avoidance saboteur is at work.

And what if you know where the problem lies, but you just can’t get motivated enough to deal with it? Why would that be?

The Role Of Your Unconscious In Avoidance

The primary responsibility of our unconscious minds is to keep us safe.

It’s a psychological security guard. It is therefore pre-programmed to lead us towards pleasure and away from pain. It’s just a matter of what our unconscious perceives as pain and what it perceives as pleasure. In other words how we market the desired outcome to ourselves.

So when we decide consciously that we want to achieve a goal that will make us really happy—a well padded bank account, a luxurious lifestyle, a happy, committed relationship or a fit, healthy body, the first question the security guard is going to ask is how much hardship and pain is involved and will it be worth it?

If we are not successful in selling the idea to our subconscious he will fight the conscious mind’s desires, preventing the project from getting off the ground. If the subconscious is persuaded he will sign up for the adventure.

Then everything starts off really well.

We throw ourselves into the project with huge enthusiasm, energy and commitment. Until…..reality bites! I think I underestimated how difficult this was going to be mutters the subconscious, starting to feel uneasy as the discomfort levels rise.

Our subconscious mind is not at fault. He’s just doing his job. And if we have a sound understanding of how our conscious and subconscious minds work; what their responsibilities are and how to broker an agreement between them, so that they both feel reassured, and remain on the same team, it all works well

But what if there is a consistent overemphasis on discipline, work and goals?

What if delayed gratification becomes a way of life; if a Spartan existence becomes the norm; if you don’t keep your promise to reward yourself; if life becomes a survival course; a tedious route march of all work and no play; in other words if your conscious mind tries to gain the upper hand by force? Your subconscious mind (who has your welfare and happiness at heart) just goes on strike. And all that enthusiasm, energy and commitment dies an instant death.

It’s like promising a 4 year old an ice cream when you’ve walked to the beach. But if the beach turns out to be 10 miles away, his enthusiasm for the ice cream is likely to die long before you get there. If every time he asks how much further and where is that ice cream you promised me you say just shut up and keep walking, we’re nearly there, he’s going to have a tantrum!

Worse still, if you have made your 4 year old the same proposition many times before; if he’s a jaded veteran he knows just how far 10 miles is, and there’s no way he’s going to go along with a plan he knows from experience will in his estimation entail far more pain than gain.

So the unconscious mind (that metaphorical 4 year old) takes matters into its own hands.

He distracts you; convinces you to avoid what has become painful; he tricks you into playing instead. And you end up frittering hours on frivolous diversions that don’t require any effort—chatting on the phone or Facebook for instance, rather than deal with problems that are crying out for solutions.

Getting The Cooperation Of Your Unconscious

How then do you sell a goal that requires sustained effort to a 4 year old? You make it FUN! You pump up the joy factor. You make it something he wants to do – not something he has to do. You provide positive feedback at the end of each mile. If you keep your word and consistently inject joy along the way he’ll learn to trust you and you’ll cover those 10 miles with no resistance or distractions.

And so it is with our subconscious minds.

We humans need balance in our lives; equal quantities of challenge and joy. Without joy there is nothing to build momentum for the challenges; no reason to keep on keeping on; no answer to the question why am I doing this?

Revel in your relationship. Reward yourself for your work. Enjoy being fit and health. Make time to celebrate your milestones. Take the trouble to congratulate yourself on each step in the right direction. Enjoy the fruits of your labors as you go along. Make each step of the journey memorable for all the right reasons. Squeeze as much FUN as you can out of life!

Next time you are tempted to be a slave driver or avoid an issue that you know needs addressing ask yourself this:

If I place a high value on myself and believe I deserve the best, what would I do? And here’s the clue….BALANCE.

Why Is Generosity So Difficult?

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Why Is Generoslty So Difficult? - HSP Health Blog
Source: Morguefile

Generosity is something we all want and often struggle with.

Why is that?

Ambivalence About Generosity

We tend to respond to generosity with warmth, happiness and joy. We also naturally respond to stinginess with repulsion, hurt and fear. Of course negative experiences around generosity can cause us to have more complicated feelings.

However we need to function in the world and with each other so we develop coping strategies. One such strategy that is culturally supported is the positivity movement which encourages positive thinking as a way to be in the world. Unfortunately positivity has come to be perceived as a way of not being real. Perhaps it is our own need for supportive connection that causes us to demand positivity and reject negativity. We can lose a lot in the process.

Generosity is loaded with ideas about power, what it means to be a good person, our survival needs, or needs to be respected and valued. It is an important factor in issues of discrimination and injustice.

It is also something that feels good. We all know the feeling of pleasure we get from being generous. It is the best part of the holiday season that we celebrate each year. Yet if one person gives more than another or has more than another, that largesses may feel uncomfortable.

Generosity And Vulnerability

Everything we do can remind us of our vulnerability. We are especially affected by our relationships. Our yearning for connection can be thwarted in many ways:

  • rejection can cause us to pull back from others
  • our competitive society which thrives on comparisons may be a factor in our feelings of being vulnerable with others
  • we may react to macho values of stoicism and be embarrassed by our vulnerability
  • we may see vulnerability as a weakness and be treated that way by others.

If we have experienced any shaming in our early years we are unlikely to be comfortable with generosity.

Generosity And Nature

One of the wonderful things about nature is that its existence is an act of generosity towards us that rewards us over and over just by being in it. One of the best parts of life for many people is being in nature or with animals in nature or as pets. It is one place where our generosity can express itself with little interference from intrusive thoughts about power, injustice and exploitation.

With animals in particular we are able to feel our kindred relationship with another species and have it be a warm and nurturing experience. Our generosity often comes naturally. With humans not so much.

Why Generosity Is So Important

Without the ability to be generous we are not truly free. We are shut down, and our energy is turned into ourselves in a way that is painful. It is really important that we find a way to enter our generosity in a constructive way so that we can experience the connection and joy that we yearn for.

I personally think that to increase the generosity and joy in our lives we need to go slowly and look for ways to safely increase our positive experiences of generosity and positive social connection. It helps to take baby steps and even write in a journal about our experiences. It is important in creating connection to be mindful of the vulnerability of others and seek ways to help others have less fear around connection.

Generosity is the expression of our own natural goodness and gratitude for what we have. The more we express it the better our lives can become.

 

The Secret Gift Of Being Present

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The Secret Gift Of Being Present - HSP Health Blog

Source: Morguefile

Being present offers a secret gift.

Being present is something we are increasingly exhorted to be – something that identifies us as a good person.

It’s a shame because being present has the capacity to offer us so much more.

What Does It Mean To Be Present?

Being present is the source of all potential goodness in our lives:

  • being present means that we are not living in our heads. Our heads have a way of taking over and running our lives with ideas about life rather than life itself.
  • being present means that this moment is enough.
  • being present means that we are fully awake to everything in our lives.
  • being present means accepting our humanity with all of its faults and imperfections and also the same in others.
  • being present means also accepting our limitations.

Another way to say it is that when we are present we are grounded.

Why Bother?

So why bother? it is a mentally organized world with lots of different ideas about life that seem to have the upper hand making decisions about our lives for us, isn’t it?

Being present can means seeing, hearing and feeling the judgments and negativity of the world and that can be painful especially for highly sensitive people.

Who wants to drown in all of the injustice and meanness? I know I don’t. There is a part of us that wants to remove ourselves out of self preservation to a place with less conflict, meanness and pain. I expect that we all have that desire.

Being Present Isn’t A Time

Being present is often treated as a form of time but it is really more a type of space. The past and future really do not exist. They are fictions of our minds. They occupy mental space but they do not occupy real space. They can sideline us from the needs and demands of the present.

All of life is energy and space. What the past and future do is lay claim to our energy and divert it from the present. Usually this occurs because our memories become attached to the pain of negative judgments and we want to heal them. We are seeking away out of our pain. We are also losing the opportunity to live our lives when we allow the past and future to take over our attention.

What Being Present Offers Us

The past and the future are containers for fear and pain. They could even be considered distractions.

The present on the other hand is more of a door. It opens us to space and possibility.

The present is where all creativity lies. It is also the home of all generosity which it is one of the reasons it is so valuable:

  • in the present we can decide to give ourselves a break
  • in the present we can take better care of ourselves
  • in the present we can be kind
  • in the present we can create something
  • in the present we can let go of the part
  • in the present we can be mindful about our words and develop of skill at speaking and writing
  • in the present we can chose a new direction
  • in the present we can love
  • in the present we can offer a helping hand.

The present is where all positive actions take place. It is where we start over each moment in the creation of our lives. Each moment has to be met with our best intention which is how we extend to ourselves the same generosity that we extend toward others.

That is what makes the present the best place on earth.

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.