Finding The Nurturing Sensitive Person Within

Ritu KaushalCulture And Sensitive People, Emotional And Mental Health, Personal Development0 Comments

nurturing

Five years ago, I moved from India to the United States as a trailing spouse. It was soon after that I read Dr. Elaine Aron’s book, The Highly Sensitive Person. The book felt familiar, and yet new, giving me a context for the “too sensitive” label that had followed me since childhood. Now, I was once again face to face with my sensitivity, once again in a tussle with overwhelm. In the first few years of the move, I often met people who told me that adjusting was simply a matter of a few months or a year. Maybe, they were hardier than me. Or maybe, they had just forgotten what their own shift had been like.  

This wasn’t my experience, and so in the beginning, I felt extremely isolated. As usual, it was taking me longer to make changes. As usual, there were people ahead of me. As usual, my own experience was not mirrored back.

Rediscovering The Need For Nurturing

But after five years living in the States, which has been a roller-coaster ride, sometimes feeling intensely alive, sometimes feeling as if I am going to topple over, I have come to a place where I think that I might have started off the move asking the wrong questions. Most of my life, I have tried to ask: How can I get people to understand me? How can I find someone else to look and see me?

But with this move and living in a culture very different from the one I grew up in, has nudged me towards different questions. If others might not see me, what options do I have? How can I see myself? How can I feel stable when things are shifting around? How can I become my own good mother?

This learning of self nurturing has, and continues to be, a difficult process for me. After all, self-compassion is not as easy as 1-2-3, no matter how many motivational quotes we read. For some of us, the template for a nurturing figure is missing in our own psyches. We often come up blank and feel at a disadvantage when we compare ourselves to people who seem (at least on the outside) to take great care of themselves. Even when we fall down in our attempts to take care of ourselves, we judge ourselves. Where is that nurturing voice in our own self?  

If you have had trauma or neglect in your past, you might struggle with your attempt to construct this positive care-taking nurturing figure as well. I understand your struggle. I know it feels terribly unfair. I know it can make things doubly hard.  

For me, this nurturing voice is something that is still finding its feet. It still falters and regresses. But ten years ago, or even five years back, this was a voice that was very feeble. Feeding my nurturing voice has made it stronger.

Over the past five years, I have chanced on and used some tools that have helped me become more intimate with my own nurturing self. Some of them have helped me manage the emotional intensity that is at the center of my own experience. Some have held up a mirror to my wounded parts. They have shown me ground reality. There is more work to be done. Here are some of those tools. I hope some of them might resonate with you or give you a clue that helps you on your own path:  

Here are some of those tools. I hope some of them might resonate with you or give you a clue that helps you on your own path to self nurturing.

Self Nurturing Through Dream Work 

 I have always had vivid dreams and been deeply interested in knowing about dreams. But I grew up in a rational-minded family that had left the dreams and dreamers of old India behind. My interest in dreams had seemed superficial. But when I moved to the States, my dream world intensified and beckoned to me once again. In the beginning, there were often lakes and rivers overrunning their boundaries. That meaning seemed pretty simple.

I was overwhelmed in real life, feeling as if my emotions were going to run me over. But more than a year after my wedding and the move, I was still having dreams of wedding ceremonies taking place. What did all this mean, if it meant anything at all? Who were these characters roaming on the stage at night? It was then, with my building curiosity, that I finally followed this deep interest. I started writing down my dreams before they disappeared into thin air. 

I started reading books on Dream Work. The more I read, the more I realized that some of the most intelligent minds in the field of psychology had worked seriously with dreams. Carl Jung, the great psychologist who gave us the concepts of Introvert, Extravert and Persona, thought that dreams were the bridge to the unconscious, a part of us that not just included what we had repressed but also our creative potential (in stark contrast to Freud who thought dreams were merely about things we had repressed). Working with dreams is a major part of Jungian analytical psychology.

In our dreams, we come across many different parts of our self. Many of us meet our Shadow, those parts of us that we don’t consciously identify with. In one of my Shadow dreams, I walk behind a woman who in real life is very task-focused. In the dream, I notice that there are amethysts growing on the side of the road. But I ignore them, even though my heart pulls me towards them, and I trudge obediently behind. We are afraid we will miss a train, and this woman is keeping me on task. But in the end, the train is there, and a feeling comes over me that I shouldn’t have hurried. I puzzled over this dream for long before I realized that not just the obedient woman, but the task-focused woman was me as well. I was driving myself forward, trying to control the outer world and I was missing the gifts of the move, the things that I had to pause to ingest and make mine. With dreams like this, I saw my Shadow and its different aspects.

As I owned it and made changes in my waking life, my dreams changed as well. In other dreams, I came across other characters. One of these is the “other” in each of our psyches. Jungians tell us that every woman has a masculine principle inside her – “the animus”, just as every man has a feminine principle, “the anima”. Sometimes, the animus is negative. In women’s dreams, we often have male figures chasing after us, holding us hostage even when we are pretty secure in everyday life. We then have to turn to see how we relate to the masculine. What does it mean to us? How has it been modeled?

Dreams provide a mirror for what we are experiencing right here, right now, even if we are not consciously acknowledging our feelings. Dreams also seem to provide a commentary, almost as if there is an objective observer/principle inside us looking at what we are doing, and giving us its opinion. For me, working with my own dreams has been the most wonderful adventure I have taken in years. If you are interested in dream work, some accessible, yet layered books are Where People Fly and Water Runs Uphill by Jeremy Taylor who has facilitated Dream Workgroups in places as fascinating as the San Quentin prison and the great humanistic psychologist Erich Fromm’s book The Forgotten Language. Dreams really are a language we all share, whether we realize it or not. Like I did, maybe you will find that these books will lead you onto many more, or to people that could help you work with your dreams and relate to parts that have fallen by the wayside.      

Self Nurturing Through Colors

I think of myself as an artiste in the broadest sense. I used to perform as a classical dancer. I write. I love photography. One sense that I did not feel as connected to was my visual sense. I have always felt as if people who see in images or have pictures pop up in their head had access to a way of being that felt missing for me. That was until a few years ago, when I started writing by hand. This was a time when I had just started blogging, when I was still trying to find that elusive thing writers search for, my “voice.” As I did some playful writing exercises by hand, I had the experience of images popping up in my head. It was as if connections were being made, one note was struck and reverberated. Like much of creativity, it was a mysterious, but at the same time “normal” process. It did not feel jarring or otherworldly. In fact, it felt like “me.”

With these images and my interest in following my intuition and feelings, my interest in colors heightened. I had always loved colors. Now, I was curious about them. Like always, I read any books I could find and listened to other people’s experiences with color. I remembered how there was a time in my life where I wore a lot of yellow, a color associated with the solar plexus chakra, the chakra for personal power, at a time when I sorely needed more will and power in my life. I noticed how I often unconsciously reached for reds, at a time when I was creating a structure for my new life here in the States, a color associated with grounding. I started making art and instinctively using colors that called to me – purple and green and red and orange. One tool that I have discovered, love using and highly recommend are Inna Segal’s

One tool that I have discovered, love using and highly recommend are Inna Segal’s The Secret Language of Color Cards. These color cards come with a booklet that explains colors and their healing properties and include meditations to bring those energies into your life. My experiences with these meditations and observing what colors different people are drawn to has deepened my already deep belief and interest in colors. For example: I know people with breathing problems who use Peach intuitively, a color Inna says helps with breathing. Another instance: after I made a painting with peach as the main color and shared the image with a friend, she talked about how she was having a hard day, and seeing the painting gave her relief. She could feel herself “breathing slower and deeper.” That, I think, is the magic of colors. I think working with colors has also shown me that there is a deeper part of us that intuitively picks out what is right for us. This is important for us to remember as sensitive people, who might have gotten the message that our way of being is faulty. It’s important to realize that we don’t even have to buy a book or look at what an expert has to say (although that can be insightful). Something in us is already self nurturing, reaching out for the things it needs. 

Self Nurturing Through Art

If you are an HSP like me, whose struggles with their sensitivity are often centered around the intensity of their feelings, you have probably thought: What do I do with these intense feelings? How do I become more “normal?” These questions might have come cracking at you time and again. As I think about these questions now, I am in my mid-30s. I have spent decades trying to slay the dragon of my feelings, wondering why I am so “intense.” It is only in the last few years, in sporadic, embryonic bursts, that I have started thinking, maybe, This is my normal. Without the way I respond to the world around me, I would be less than I am. Maybe, what these feelings need is a channel, so they flow through. They are almost like raw materials, to be painted, to be written about, to be shaped into characters, to be photographed in the shimmering shadows all around me. Maybe, what we need is not to contain feelings we don’t like (which is impossible) but to re-frame our intensity and see that we are also on the verge of drawing back the curtain on the beauty a little bit. Then, we can actively search for those beautiful, succulent moments that we feel as deeply as we feel all our hurts and pain.

Right now, as I write this, I am travelling. I am in Austin, Texas. Yesterday, I went to see a sight that this city is famous for. Up to 1.5 million bats live under a bridge in downtown Austin. Every summer night, hundreds of people wait for it to get dark to see North America’s largest urban bat colony emerge.

The show, as it was, went on for more than half an hour yesterday. After sunset, the bats came out. In the backdrop was a cityscape that felt like Gotham city. The bats flew over the flowing water below, searching for insects. There were boats on the water, one with a red light, pointed towards the bridge. Some people clapped. As it became dark, after some time, all you could see were quick flashes as the bats flew. There were some precious moments when I felt connected to the magic of this world. Something opened, and the world belonged to these bats that have become an emblem for Austin.

Once upon a time, the city did not want these bats. They thought they were a menace. It was only with time and the effort of conservationists that they realized how helpful the bats were in keeping even agricultural pests down. Now they are emblematic for a city that has this as its slogan – Keep Austin Weird.

Weird is enchanting. Weird is something not so commonly seen. Weird is something living out its own kooky life.

As people who sometimes feel on the margins, who sometimes fall down the crevices in an attempt to be “normal,” weird is that something which shows you the world in a way that others don’t view it, as yet. It connects you to the bigness of this world. It helps you take flight.

Whatever it is you feel, whether it is an interest that has no decided path, a nudging curiosity about something that only you seem interested in, that irrational something is probably the call of your own path. Why wouldn’t we, just like everything else that exists, not have it inside us to find our own direction or to rise on the currents around us? Why would we have to struggle so much to find our place in the order of things? Maybe, it’s because we have been taught to look outside at others for direction, and not at our own inner world, our own promptings that tell us to first turn this way, and then that.  

If we could just listen to it, then we could take wing. Maybe, then, we could be part of the magic of this world. 

Emotional Healing And The Body

Mary Kay ParkinsonEmotional And Mental Health4 Comments

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Highly sensitive people come into the world very attuned to the sensory world.

We perceive so much from inside ourselves and from observing and sensing others.

When we encounter intense pain or even trauma, that same gift of sensing can overwhelm us with too much sensation and information.

Our system can shut down to protect us from this “too muchness”.

Counter intuitively, returning to sensing in our bodies can also be the path back to wholeness and health.

The Necessity Of Pain Processing

“Most importantly, I learned that as much as I wanted to, I can’t simply “turn off” the hurt, and move on to the next chapter without fully processing and experiencing the associated pain. Truly feeling my emotions and acknowledging physical responses to stress and pain has been hugely beneficial to me.”- L. H. on healing from a painful divorce.

Working with the body can help facilitate emotional healing. Trauma and pain are stored in the body – we remove our conscious awareness from certain parts of our body in order to stop feeling the pain or trauma. Often we first experienced this pain or trauma when alone. It overwhelmed our singular energy system and so we shut it off. Healing can come when we put our conscious awareness back into that part of our body where it was shut down. Then we can allow the process to unfold at a pace that we can manage (and not be overwhelmed) until a natural resolve is reached and we authentically move on.

How Being Highly Sensitive Helps Healing

Being highly sensitive can assist with this process as returning to simple body sensations is the most effective way to re-open the shut off area. Going directly into emotion can quickly return the original overwhelm, whereas re-entering through awareness of body sensations can return awareness step by step and begin to open the shut off area without overwhelm.

Careful attention to the unfolding sensations will bring vital energy back into the area, and movement and growth will resume in the most microscopic, manageable way. Underlying physiological processes that were cut short can resume and be allowed to resolve.

The Importance Of A Healing Partner

Having another person involved helps as then there are two energy systems to contain the energy. Then it is not as overwhelming. The other person can also monitor the unfolding process and stop it or slow it down when it becomes too intense and we risk re-traumatizing ourselves. Re-traumatization occurs when the energy opened up is more than we can stay present for. Therefore their system closes down once again with a sense of helplessness and overwhelm.

When consciousness returns to the blocked off area, the helping person watches for signs of “too much” – for example, heart rate elevation, rapid breathing, eyes not able to focus – and stops or slows down the process when these signs emerge. Slowing down the process can be achieved by returning to purely physical sensations, letting go of the emotional reactions to those sensations and allowing more distance and open space around the sensations.

The task when the process is stopped is to comfort the pain and distress that has arisen and return the person to a grounded, balanced place in the present moment. In working to heal trauma, sometimes safe places are established as body memories during one of the early sessions. Then they are returned to when the pain and distress has arisen, as a place of comfort and restoration.

Healing Helps You Regain Your Power

The overall task of healing is to be present to small, manageable size pieces of the pain or trauma, in a number of sessions over time, until there is a natural resolution. It is also important to allow the body to cycle through and complete any physiological processes that were begun, so that physiological balance is restored and the body moves on naturally.

Doing this work uses the natural gifts of your sensitivity. The work may be natural as you already are tuned in to sensations. Emotional healing through the body can be very rewarding as you restore your own presence, awareness and vitality in your body. New energy and awareness can help you to truly come into your own power.

The Secret Gift Of Being Present

Maria HillEmotional And Mental Health, Energy Healing, Personal Development8 Comments

Source: Morguefile

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 Social Challenge Of Highly Sensitive People

Maria HillPersonal Development, Social Smarts, The HSP Trait19 Comments

sensitive people

Source: Morguefiles

 

Highly sensitive people are known for being independent and able to be alone.However, that does not mean that we necessarily are happy and comfortable with it.

Recently I have been asking myself why being alone is considered, “bad” or a sign of a problem.

Do I need to be herded into a group, an identity, or a cause?

Why Is Being Alone Stigmatized?

Have you ever noticed that being alone carries a stigma?

Why do we disparage the “crazy cat lady”, or the “poor” bachelor?

It amazes me that to this day the early definitions of being human still apply. You are to be married, have children, women should be mothers and men should be warriors.

These are important and valued roles. They are the subject of most social discourse. Succeeding at them is gives us status which gives us social protection.

Does Popularity Protect Us?

Acquiesing to and succeeding at these roles also give us popularity.

That is a lot of social incentive to conform!

Does popularity protect us?

Popularity may have had important survival implications in the past.  Consider an old civilization having food shortages. Who would eat and who would not? Certainly the least popular would  be less likely to be saved.

The popular social roles once has serious survival implications. People did not live long, so we continually need new ones. War was common and soldiers were needed. War, disease and short life spans meant that only certain roles were supported, roles that affected the ability of the group to survive.

Those days may be over. However, they still seem to live in our minds.

We have certainly developed a lot of skills around coercing people to be a certain way. And the stories that we tell are often around our survival story.

Saving ourselves is a popular story and popularity is like social grease in a complicated world of many differences and agendas.

Ostracism As Punishment

Being alone is often used as a punishment.

It is the basis of shunning and ostracism, and designed to engender conformity.

Being alone or the threat of abandonment is a great way to enforce loyalty to a group. Since we need others to survive, ostracism is a serious threat. It does not matter whether you are an adult or child, unless you have independent resources, ostracism can be very harmhul to your health and well-being.

However, it is often more of a social game than anything else in modern society – the game of who is in and who is out. A game with consequences.

Social Rejection

For me and from other highly sensitive people, social rejection is a greater concern than being alone.

Social rejection for many highly sensitive people comes from being different, something over which they have no control.

Being holistic and inclusive thinkers, we do not naturally see the divisions, rules and roles that others may call reality. The survival game that engages so many people is not a natural conversation for highly sensitive people.

The problem can also be a sensitive one since highly sensitive people are outnumbered and will be unlikely to have a significant voice in many social situations.

Highly sensitive people are good at seeing beyond social and cultural drama, so when they are being rejected it can be because they see life and what is important differently. The value of highly sensitive people does not lie in the the survival drama, it lies in the manifestation of our higher selves which we need to do more of.

Finding Social Value For Highly Sensitive People

The Dalai Lama made the observation that we do not need more successful people, we need more healers and peacemakers. We need more people to lay down their weapons, give up chasing trophies. We need more people to become grounded in the reality that we are not really adversaries and there is no prize to be had. There is no one to beat.

Highly sensitive people offer a lot to a world that sorely needs their holistic brains in order to detach from the human survival  story so that something new can emerge.

Our social value comes from our wisdom and insights, our knowledge of the pain caused by repeating the survival drama with each new generation.

We can question, offer new ideas, encourage new thinking, offer our creative prowess and friendship.

This are important social contributions that make highly sensitive people valuable and worth having around.

Creating Harmony: When Not To Try And Make It Work

Maria HillPersonal Development, Social Smarts15 Comments

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.

In Search Of A Real Conversation

Maria HillSocial Smarts, The HSP Trait3 Comments

I like a real conversation.

I do not like a faux conversation.

I do not like pretend conversations.

I do not like manipulative conversations.

It can be quiet around me.

What Is A Real Conversation, Anyway?

It probably sounds silly and perhaps a little whiney – but what is a real conversation? It may be easier to talk about what it is not.

I have no trouble with people being pleasant with each other except when it becomes so rigid that real issues and problems cannot be discussed. A real conversation talks about what is and needs to be.

When I see conversations that are stiffly pleasant, I often think people are talking about what they want life to be like rather than what is. I don’t want conversations that feel like some sort of weird dream. I prefer a conversation that feels robust and timely. It should be present.

A real conversation is present. It doesn’t need to manipulate. I have enough going on, I don’t really have the time. This kind of conversation does not demand a big acting job on the part of others. There is nothing to gain or lose. There is just the getting on with it.

Real Conversation Is Slow

Real conversation is slow. It starts but does not necessarily end at the same time. I like the kind of conversations that feel like a kind of weaving of information, thoughts, and feelings. The results are not the primary concern, the exchange is.

It makes the conversation less about an agenda or result and more about groundedness.

Conversation can be a way to ground. It does not have winners or losers. It doesn’t have rules or authority. What is is the authority.

A Real Conversation Is Lighter

A real conversation is lighter because it doesn’t need rules, roles, poses, and agendas.

It is grounded in the present and stays there. There is no place to go. Just a place to be.

It’s also a place here anyone can be. There is no exclusion because we are all here in this present.

So a real conversation can make life easier and more enjoyable.

I also think it makes life more companionable since there is no competition.

A real conversation is a place for friends.