Do any of these statements feel true for you?
- Other people’s moods affect me.
- I find myself needing to withdraw during busy days: into a place where I can have some privacy and relief from stimulation.
- When people are uncomfortable in a physical environment I tend to know what needs to be done to make it or them more comfortable.
- I am easily overwhelmed by things like bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or loud noises.
- I have a rich, complex inner life.
- I become uncomfortable when a lot is going on around me.
- I make it a high priority to arrange my life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations.
- I am bothered by intense stimuli, like chaotic scenes
- When I must compete or be observed while performing a task, I do much worse than I would while doing this project on my own.
- When I was a child, my parents or teachers seemed to see me as sensitive or shy.
Adapted from Elaine Aron, www.hsperson.com
Some sensitive people are introverts, and some are extroverts.
Which one you are depends on your own personal source of renewal. How do you recharge your energy? What depletes your energy?
No More Birthdays!
I am a highly sensitive introvert. When I was four, or so the family story goes, my mother organized a big birthday party for me at my house. After the party, I told her, “NEXT year I am going to stay in my room the whole time!”
For some sensitive children (and grown-ups!), Parties = Torture
In the photo of the party all those years ago, you can see all the little kids and their moms with big grins, sitting there in happy rows in my family’s living room. And there I am, bottom left in the first row, my four-year-old face looking grumpy, tortured and stony.
I know now that I need lots of time by myself. I love the writing and the deep connecting work that I do with people-they nourish me. And I love teaching classes and talking to groups, even large ones, if it is a subject that I know about and am passionate about.
But I hate parties where I don’t know anyone, or any activity that will require me to do the surface “chit chat.” My husband long ago gave up on taking me to his work functions.
Just being in groups of people can drain me. I really only want to do interesting, vitalizing activities that stimulate my learning. I used to think I was anti-social, and maybe I am! I just know that it is my priority to keep myself Well and Rested.
I have interviewed many sensitive people over the years. Here are two reports, one from a sensitive introvert, and one from a sensitive extrovert.
From Sophia: A Sensitive Introvert
“I was isolated and very quiet. I kept to myself. I can’t handle very much stimulation at one time. I pick up way too much of other peoples’ stuff.
“In AlAnon I found being in the group so overwhelming. I find I can zero into other people’s pain, their issues. I learned there that most people aren’t as sensitive as I am. I can’t deal with it. I get overwhelmed, even though I know this sensitivity is a gift. So I tend to avoid other people, and I am critical of myself about that.
“As soon as I get over-stimulated, it makes more pain, so I avoid it. I have gotten so good at avoiding everything. I’m a combination of sensitivity and toughness. I’ve toughed it out through a lot of stuff. As a child I learned how not to show what I was feeling. My mom didn’t like sensitivity in her children. We learned really quickly not to show or say our feelings. I was really quiet, didn’t get involved with other people.
“In my years married to a drinker I would go to the bar with him, but I would drink tomato juice. I never participated, I sat with my back against the wall. I looked after everybody. Afterwards I would lie awake, over-stimulated from all that I had experienced. I was devastated by all the pain that all these people were in. I didn’t understand that I had a more than average ability to feel other people’s stuff.”
From Sandra: A Sensitive Extrovert
“I actually feel like I lived most of my life over here to the side of my body. I didn’t want anyone to see me, it was too dangerous. So I created a lot of clamorous, extroverted activity so no one would see me.
“To others, I seemed very extroverted. I also drank socially. It took the cork out of my inhibitions. I would be very amusing, a great storyteller. Creating a whirlwind, activity, noise, interesting things to look at or hear, so no one would ever notice the real me over there. It was a diversionary camouflage.
“It is not that it was inauthentic. It is what I would do if I could really be alive. Life seems to come down to knowing, “do I like this or not?” When you are outside your body you don’t know if you like some activity or not. There is this terrible starvation going on. You are terrified of intimacy. You are not there. I lost the ability to be alone with my self. I lost the ability to be myself, or be with anyone else.
“Unbeknownst to me, I was deeply unhappy, but I thought that was just the deal. I think that my mother was probably deeply unhappy, but she thought that was just the deal. It isn’t necessary to be that unhappy. We couldn’t have understood that. I think she thinks that a life is basically unhappy but you just do it anyway.
“There is a lot of toughing it out and soldiering on in my family. My dad just didn’t go to the emotions. Neither mom nor dad was available to me emotionally.
“Now, if I am alone long enough to be still inside, I am getting to the point where I can tell how I feel. I need a lot of solitude to settle into my body, feel alive. I can stay with myself now and tell how I’m feeling. I walk my dog at night near the lake. At night it is so beautiful. I noticed that once the people are all gone, the atmosphere changes. Everything is very still and very present. At first when I did this I would cry. I would walk and cry every night. Gradually I would feel joy. Peace.
“Now I can notice when something feels a certain kind of beautiful, true, authentic, spiritual. There is a touchstone inside me. Now I know how to feel positive. Now, it is quite interesting to be with people when I choose to, when I feel like it. This is all new for me.”
If you are sensitive, and you feel pressure to be “out there,” or if you go against your own wisdom, over time you could become ill.
When Dr. Nancy Selfridge and I were teaching classes on sensitivity and fibromyalgia, we gave some presentations together at ACEP, the national energy psychology conference. She talked about the connection between sensitivity and illness, and encouraged people to honor their trait:
“You don’t necessarily want to try to change your sensitivity to “be like other people.”
“I’ve looked at people in my practice that I can identify as sensitive, but they haven’t gotten sick. Why is that? Some of it is that they haven’t had trauma-triggering events. Some of them have, but they have adapted their lifestyles to meet their own needs.
“I remember one guy in particular never had any symptoms in his whole life. He had a completely supportive family, very much a cocoon type of family who completely accepted his oddities. Even I thought he was a little bit odd. He got his master’s degree in poetry. Then he was supporting himself by being an editor of an online magazine. He worked entirely out of his house.
“He wouldn’t answer his phone. Just had the phone take messages. He kept his door locked, and didn’t answer it when people came to the door. I thought… ‘I want your life!’ He had complete control over the stimulation in his life. He achieved massive amounts of low and no stimulation. That is what a sensitive person needs to stay balance.
“But a person who has a sensitive temperament, and who also has a belief system that grounds them in having to be a ‘good boy’ or ‘a good girl,’ is sort of set up for problems. They live a life as an ‘ultra’ prototype. They act Very Good. Achieve. Follow the rules. Be a perfectionist. Go the extra mile, often at their own expense. It’s deadly. Inevitably, it leads to a lot of physical and emotional symptoms.”
From the transcript of Nancy Selfridge’s presentation to the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology Conference, 2005.
You mean there’s nothing wrong with me?
As children, we assume that the only way we can feel connected, and feel like we belong, is to do what we are told to do, and be who we are told to be. We think that if we get approval, we are getting love, and therefore we must be lovable.
Learn to love and approve of yourself! Don’t just say the second half of the EFT set up phrase mechanically. Instead of wanting to ‘get rid of’ your sensitivity, celebrate it!
Here is a small part of a tapping routine from my monthly Stand Up for Yourself tapping class, to suggest how you can tap for sensitivity. Some of the words are comments sent to me by participants describing their own experience.
Even though I’ve been telling myself a story about being so sensitive, and what happened to me, and what that means about me and what is possible for me… I deeply and completely accept myself… I understand that I have been breaking connection with myself, and I want to find ways to reconnect with myself now…
Tap through the points
I have this constant gnawing that I SHOULD be able to handle things better,
I SHOULD be able to heal myself,
if I could just figure it out,
learn the lessons,
apply my skills.
I am too sensitive!
I blame myself for not being the person I want to be
and for not behaving the way I want to….
I’ve always felt like I got dropped off on the wrong planet.
This planet has often felt painfully uncivilized, coarse and violent to me.
What I’ve assumed about blaming myself
What I’ve assumed about standing up for myself
It’s a story I’ve been telling myself
But I don’t know that it’s true
Back then I was thinking with a limited experience of life
I was thinking the way I was taught to think
I’ve been living as if that story was a life sentence…
But that may not be true
I’m ready to consider releasing my assumptions…
The events that created those stories are no longer happening
I am free to choose a different story that feels better…
I am free to choose different behaviors that get better results
I’m ready to consider releasing my “too sensitive” story…
I really want to change the way I think!
Tap gently on the collarbone points, or the side of your hand:
But the truth is, this story is full of assumptions that I have made. I really don’t know that what I’ve assumed is true…maybe the people in my life were doing the best they could from their limited map of the world at the time…. maybe even I was doing the best I could….
Even though my stories about myself have created disconnection from my sacred sovereignty, I love and accept myself… and I’m willing to consider releasing these stories…. and just stay with learning about what I know deep inside to be true. I am choosing now to pay more attention to my inner wisdom about myself.
Tap again through the points:
I love knowing that I deserve better…
I choose to believe in myself and value my sensitive temperament…
I appreciate that harmony is so important to me…
I love appreciating myself…
I’m grateful for this opportunity to re-think things…
I appreciate exactly who I am…being so sensitive could be a gift.
I appreciate all the lessons I have learned…
I am so grateful for all the goodness in my life…
I am glad to have such a finely-tuned guidance system in my feelings…
When I allow myself to connect honestly with my sensitivity, I feel whole, not split.
My Spirit soars when I allow myself to get in touch with my sensitive nature.
I know I am here for a purpose.
Tap some more about the story you are telling yourself, and let it loosen up, find some flow, change its shape. Take heart and wisdom from one of my favorite poems:
stands for all things
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers of self blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness
to put a hand on the brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch,
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self blessing.
from St. Francis and the Sow, by Galway Kinnell
With my love and blessing to YOU!
PS: For more information about EFT, fibromyalgia, Dr. Nancy Selfridge, and how to take a spiritual perspective on this syndrome:
EFT, Spirituality and Fibromyalgia
And to learn more about my monthly teleclasses on sensitivity, called Stand Up for Yourself, go here:
Stand Up For Yourself