How can I live in such a harsh world,
when I am so sensitive?
I receive various forms of this question often.
Here are two examples. My answers point toward two strategies that I have spent my life exploring. Both of them are powerful and highly effective, and neither of them is easy.
We meet so few people who know how to do this, or who model this way of being for us in their own lives. We have must learn them for ourselves. This is the way the world changes!
1. Reframe your story about sensitivity
From an email:
…I had a flashback about being in the first or second grade, sitting on the bleachers at my school, looking out at a red-dirt field and wanting to die. I saw and felt nothing but bleakness and pain right then. It was so overwhelming that I wanted go back to God. For some reason I didn’t, and that is very significant. Instead, I chose to stay here. But the pain was so great that I froze all of my emotions (good and bad) until I was about 35.
Now I think that the very fact that I am still here shows that I should be here, and that being here serves my soul in an important way. I think that tapping on simply accepting being here on Earth would be helpful to me, and probably to many others.
How can I be kind to myself and reframe
what others have always interpreted negatively?
Here is my “sideways” answer to this direct question. It will show you a fun, intuitive way to come to a different story about sensitivity, and anything.
Several years ago I realized that I had a lot that I wanted to share about sensitivity, and that I wanted to write a book. I was pondering how to approach this, I wanted a theme that I could weave throughout the narrative that held it altogether. Nothing was coming to me.
On a five hour drive back to my home from visiting my mother in the US Midwest, I created an engaging process that I often do when I am in need of answers or insights.
I ask the world to be my oracle.
I said, “OK, World, I’m wondering about this question here. I need your help. I am going to pay close attention to what comes into my awareness in the next 20 minutes. I trust that you will send me some wisdom.”
In this case, I added, “And even though there isn’t much going on here in the corn fields and the highway, you, universe, are infinitely creative, and that won’t be a problem for you. So I promise to pay extra close attention so that I don’t miss your response.”
Then I just pay attention.
The wonderful thing about using the world as my oracle is that I become acutely aware of my presence in it, and my relationship to everything.
Everything comes alive! Everything has the potential of being a resource for wisdom for me. Everything feels extraordinarily friendly, as if it is reaching out to me, partnering with me. I find myself in connection with the world in a vital, vibrant way that I realize is always there, if I am paying attention.
Right away after I made my pronouncement to the World Oracle, , I drove under an overpass. It had the name of the road written on it: “Welland.”
Hmm…, I thought, wondering how it applied, as I drove on.
The next thing that caught my attention, after a long stretch of semi trucks without anything interesting on their trailers, was a big billboard that had the curious, irritating, but, I decided, hugely irrelevant words: “The Heart Breakers. Join the Gentleman’s Club.” OK, we can give that one a miss…not everything is guidance!
After awhile, I realized that I really had to go to the bathroom. I was traveling with my not-quite-year-old dog who usually needed a lot of attention, and who was sleeping through the trip for the very first time. I had kept going, trying to maximize this opportunity for quiet drive time. But I had really gone past my limit some time ago. So when a rest area came up, we exited and did our business.
Getting back on the road, I checked the time and thought, “Oh, rats! My 20 minutes is up! Not much to show for it…”
…Well, there was “Welland.“ And “rest area.” And then there was relief…
Hmm, what could I do with that?
Well… Well and Rested?
And what would be the opposite of well and rested? Why, sick and tired, of course!
How often do we say to ourselves, “I am just sick and tired of _________ !”? How many of us are sick and tired of being so sensitive? Of falling yet again into despondency over someone’s unthinking comment? About feeling left out, overwhelmed?
How often do we find ourselves sick and tired of feeling like we don’t measure up – again? Sick and tired of being so emotional? Of being teased? Of toughing it out all by ourselves? How many of us are in fact literally sick and tired? In pain, or depressed…sad, fearful, angry…
How do we let go of what has been building in us, and find RELIEF?
We have learned a lot about how to live and think in a way that makes people sick and tired. When people act and think and feel in a sick and tired way, their world, the world, is sick and tired. I think sensitive people are now exploring how to create sensitivity magic where sensitivity misery has been living.
Our relief will come when we can let go of that old story about being sensitive, that tells us that there is something wrong with us, which makes us feel sick and tired. Let’s craft a new story about finding ways to feel well and rested.
It is a funny thing about the stories we tell ourselves. Our human minds are built for both association and coherence. When many details fall together and seem to tell a coherent story, and we tell it to ourselves all the time, we come to believe it as Truth, with a capital T. But just because there is apparent coherence, doesn’t mean the story is True.
I think that the secret to making a different story is to set your detail and data radar to find the deepest biggest frame to fit the details into. Look for BIG coherence! You deserve big profound coherence in the story about who you are, not the small constricted limited story that you have been telling.
Looking for big coherence is what I was doing when I answered the question below.
2. Continually seek a strong clear calm place in ourselves, see the big picture
As humankind progresses along its spiritual journey, I still ask why causing agony to other species is part of the plan. To me, that seems more orchestrated by hell than heaven, and Gaia’s great protests seem in vain. Do these most precious souls also have contracts to fill? Do you have any insights about this?
In spite of all the contradictory evidence that we see around us, I truly do not think that cruelty to animals, or even cruelty to other humans or to the land is part of the “Plan.”
When I come across a question in myself like this one, about the pain in the world (and this happens all the time), I try to step back …and up… a little bit, and look at what is happening with eyes of love and wisdom.
Being sensitive, I too feel the sharp harsh edges of the world, and how challenging it is to go beyond hopelessness. When I find myself caught in a negative loop story about how bad things are, I remember that I can also see humanity—us—as a young, learning, growing, maturing being. I see that we are doing our best, making lots of mistakes with much ignorance and limited understanding.
But I believe that people are good, deep inside. At the same time we are misguided, often gullible, naive, and sometimes downright stupid. I try to see this as a mother would, loving her child for the shining potential she sees, and understanding that the child is making some damaging mistakes.
One of my favorite books as a young mother reminded us to look for and remember the beautiful baby there underneath all that poop. How does an angel, or God, imagine into the powerful emergence of humanity as we move into deeper understanding and awareness over the long steps of time? How would an angel or God intend to partner with this errant but well meaning young being to imagine more goodness into the world? This is my Big Frame.
I do my best to seek and find the good in humanity. I try to understand the deeper motivation, the positive intention in the acts that I might disagree with. I do my best to forgive the stupidity. I look for ways that the details might form a coherent story that reflects this Big Frame.
At the very least, I do my best to let go of the constriction of anger and grief within myself. I know that it is harmful to me, and my holding on to it doesn’t add any good energy to the earth either. I can’t be angry and sad enough to make the world a better place.
I think that Gaia, the soul of the earth, must view her partnership with the human spirit this way. Even the animals somehow understand and accept the part they play in the whole panoply of emerging life on this planet. We could say that the animals cause agony to each other too, but there is an acceptance there.
In fact, my colleague and mentor, spiritual teacher David Spangler, has said that animals are here as other very different races of equal beings, not as “less than” humans. Our many races are collaborating on earth in ways that we may not understand. And, it is not a race! There is no rush towards being the first and best.
There are esoteric ways to explain what happens in a harsh-seeming world, but basically what counts is how we respond to what we encounter, every minute, every day.
Here, many sensitive ones among us are doing a wonderful job of finding acts of kindness and goodness that seek to balance what is on the other side of the scale. Ultimately and over time, the scale tips toward the good.
I think we are asked to do our best to hold a daily calm, clear loving space for the earth and its citizens in all realms of life, to the best of our ability. This is what helps most. And and no one is judging our successes and failures.
We don’t have to pretend that things are better than they seem. We can trust in well-being. Both positive thought and negative thought generate magic. So we get to choose which kind of magic we want to create.
What we can do daily, and this is huge, is to practice changing our perspective. We can practice sorting through all the details, sensing for what feels like we want to feel. We can gather a story that makes us feel like that.
Over time, feeling the way we want to feel becomes familiar. And then it will be familiar, and coherent and magical. And there is the Truth.
With my love and blessing to you,
World Puzzle image: © Jannoon028 | Dreamstime.com
Man and kitten image: © Julia Tsokur | Dreamstime.com