Sensitivity & Chronic Physical Discomfort
Are You A Highly Sensitive Person?
Have You Ever Heard:
Oh, you are just too sensitive!
You take things so hard!
Just let it roll off your back.
Why can’t you just let it go!
And maybe even,
What’s wrong with you?
You are such a cry baby!
You have probably thought they were right – there must be something wrong with you!
One of the sure signs of a truly sensitive person is feeling animosity toward his own sensitive nature. Many sensitive adults have learned to hide their sensitivity from others.
They feel like their sensitivity is a weakness.
They wish things didn’t bother them so much.
They wish their emotions weren’t so obvious to other people.
They wish they could let things go and not worry so much.
They aren’t comfortable with their sensitivity, and wish they could do something to get rid of it (or at least get rid of the negative aspects of it).
Most sensitive people whole-heartedly wish they were tougher and more thick-skinned
The first person to bring this term into our awareness in a big way was Elaine Aron, with her book The Highly Sensitive Person. She has several more books available now, on related topics, including understanding your relationship and how to raise a sensitive child. Available at Elaine Aron’s website.
I speak as a “highly sensitive person” myself. It has taken me most of my life to understand this temperament and value it for its gifts. In my work as an Intuitive Mentor and Spiritual Life Path Coach I have worked with many people like you or your loved ones.
If you’re reading this and feeling, “Yeah, that’s me, alright!” YOU are the help that is on the way, whether you are sensitive yourself, or partnered, working or interacting with, or the parent of someone who is sensitive.
Remember our wonderful ideal qualities:
- Internally deeply caring
- Deeply committed to the positive and the good
- On a mission to bring peace to the world
- Strong personal morality
- Often make extraordinary sacrifices for someone / something we believe in
Being sensitive is not only a real Emotional Temperament – it’s the kind of awareness that can save the world
We Are Shaping the Future
I believe that in a real way the future depends on people like us. We are like the canary in the mine.
Do you remember the stories about the miners that took a canary in a cage down into the mine to find out if the air was safe to breathe down there? If the canary died, the miners didn’t go down. The canary pointed the way for them; it insured their safety.
I believe that highly sensitive people are pointing the way for all of humanity, toward learning a more graceful way of living. I believe that in some way we don’t quite understand, the world has called each of us to be here, for our specific gifts.
Sensitivity and Chronic Physical Discomfort
However, for many of us, this feeling can lead us to feeling sick and so tired. More often than not we put our commitment to “saving the world” ahead of our own well-being.
In fact, many of us have the unconscious belief that we must “save the world” before we can attend to our own needs.
I believe that anyone who experiences a chronic condition probably has a sensitive temperament. People who are this sensitive are less than 20% of the population, and possibly a lot less than that. If you are sensitive, you know that it feels as if you are the only one in the world, and there must be something wrong with you. No one else seems to understand.
I co-developed and taught a class on sensitivity and chronic pain with Nancy Selfridge, MD. She is now Chief of the Complementary Wellness Clinic at Group Health HMO in Madison, Wisconsin. She has healed herself of fibromyalgia, and wrote the book Freedom from Fibromyalgia. Here is some of what she has to say about sensitivity and chronic pain:
Nancy Selfridge, M.D. on Sensitivity and Chronic Pain
I believe that chronic pain patients start out with a sensitive system to begin with—by birthright—temperamentally. One of the tests that I have administered in my practice is the Highly Sensitive Person test developed by Elaine Aron. All my patients scored high on this. And the other thing that I noted, if I asked my patients if they’d done a Myers-Briggs temperament inventory they were, except for two patients in my recollection, they were intuitive feelers. The I or E, the T or J doesn’t matter so much but that NF function seems to identify a nervous system that has fewer filters on it than is considered the norm.
Now these people are rare people. I’m one of them; [if you’re reading this] probably most of you are too. This is a nervous system that seems to have an extra element of vulnerability to stress and trauma, maybe in the ways that the nervous system tends to be over activated in our particular cultural context.
Since I have a sensitive temperament, medical school training was extremely stressful for me. It didn’t appear to make anybody else in my class sick (although of course some of them have coronary artery disease now, in their 50’s.) Kindergarten was okay for me, but first grade was horrible. I threw up at least 3 times a week almost for half a year and I kept going to school. That’s insane. School can be quite traumatic for a sensitive child. We have these triggers and they can be a single event or cumulative stressors. I don’t think it was a single event for me in training, I think it was just a lot piled on over time.
This fits this neuro-plasticity model for pain generation that we’ve known about for ages. You can take an organism, let’s say mammals, because they are higher, and you can subject that animal to a painful stimulus again and again, and the animal will begin responding with the pain response at lower and lower levels. So you start with a shock at 10 and sooner or later you get to a level of one, and the organism is still startling and responding with the pain response.
I think this is sort of what we’re seeing in chronic pain, although it may not take too many shocks. Why would that be? I believe that chronic pain patients start out with a sensitive system to begin with—by birthright—temperamentally.
I believe when we change our thought patterns and change our beliefs by using some cognitive approaches and also manipulating subtle energies, we’re going to see changes in electrochemical flow in our brain from the limbic system. I think these help to uncouple old established patterns that are translated into pain in our patients, and into autonomic dysfunction.
So using therapies that work with beliefs and work with energy, subtle energies, which I think really involve the central nervous system—the final frontier—makes good sense. When you start to see healing, you’re really seeing that everything that is reflected in the brain is reflected in the body and vice versa.
The Eight Master Keys to Healing What Hurts
- You are Highly Sensitive (and that’s good)
- What Broke Your Heart?
- The Power of Belief
- Symptoms and Emotions as Messengers
- Restring Harmony of Spirit
- The Principle of Yum and Yuck
- You Were Born Good
- Be Self-ish!