Freedom Is Its Own Reward

Maria HillEmotional And Mental Health, Personal Development0 Comments

Who doesn’t want freedom? After all, freedom is such a wonderful sounding word. I think there is a lot of confusion about freedom so I thought it was worth some discussion.

What Is Freedom?

Merriam Webster has a fairly complete answer to what freedom is:

:  the quality or state of being free: as
  • a :  the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action
  • b :  liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another : independence
  • c :  the quality or state of being exempt or released usually from something onerous <freedom from care>
  • d :  ease, facility <spoke the language with freedom>
  • e :  the quality of being frank, open, or outspoken <answered with freedom>
  • f :  improper familiarity
  • g :  boldness of conception or execution
  • h :  unrestricted use <gave him the freedom of their home>
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Freedom, then, can be categorized as a function of agency, status and receptivity as in being open to new ideas.

 What Gets In The Way Of Freedom?

Why is freedom so illusive?

Even in the “free world” many people do not feel free. There can be many reasons for this since we are all somewhat different from each other and have differences in experience and capacity. Whether you are highly sensitive or not, you may have experienced freedom or the lack of it.

As the definition shows, freedom is both an external state and an internal one as well. We have all heard of people who have external freedom who are unhappy and lack inner freedom. And the opposite as well, individuals without the status of freedom who find inner sources of freedom.

But this is not a lecture about spirituality and letting go and all of that.

Freedom And Struggle

Freedom is something people have long struggled for. Revolutionary wars – big and small – have been fought for freedom as something we obtain against someone taking it away from us. Yes, tyranny exists, but fighting a war against tyranny does not necessarily makes us fully free. It just frees us from the one particular tyrant.

Often in the absence of an inner self directing force we find a new tyrant to replace the old one.

Freedom And Competence

I believe there is a direct relationship between our perception that we are able to navigate the world successfully and take care of ourselves and our sense of inner freedom and our willingness to take on risks. The more we invest in developing skills the more our inner being feels safe because of our own abilities which means that we do not have to rely on the rest of the world to makes us feel safe.

Freedom And Rewards

Often we find it difficult to develop the inner resources that will provide us with the freedom we seek. One of the reasons for this is that we are culturally conditioned to seek rewards as a measure of our value. This system has us seeking approval at a minimum and validation and self value outside of ourselves.

Even if we do not buy into it we are nonetheless working and living with people who do. So not buying in can reinforce the perception we have as outsiders -to others and to ourselves. Naturally that is an uncomfortable position to be in in.

Rewards are insidious and most insidious in a system without safety nets. We may need to submit to the reward system to earn the money to survive which causes us to connect rewards and our need to survive so that we can come to see rewards as a necessity for our survival. When that happens, we really lose control over our lives.

Freedom Is Its Own Reward

Once we go inside for our rewards, when we connect them to values other than external rewards we can let external rewards drop away and then we begin to gain control over our lives.

It takes awhile but it is worth the effort.

Overcoming The Need To Please

Maria HillEmotional And Mental Health, Personal Development16 Comments

Highly sensitive people have many ways of handling their nature and the overwhelm that they experience. Being different means that relationships are often difficult for us. We often feel at a disadvantage in relationships feeling one down because we feel disrespected.

There are many reasons for this. Our compassionate non-competitive natures seek mutuality in a one-upsmanship world which does not respect our kindness. So we often want the respect we deserve but cannot claim. So we seek ways to achieve social acceptance. Pleasing is one of those ways.

Do You Feel The Need To Please?

The need to please comes from our need to establish and maintain the interpersonal bridge with others. there are many ways that the interpersonal bridge is created and sustained. Most of the time there is some kind of shared experience or other kind of bond created through:

  • blood relationships
  • being neighbors
  • school and school activities
  • shared interests
  • work
  • community activities
  • shared values
  • shared life experiences

Highly sensitive people have trouble with the interpersonal bridge because often their values are different from those around them and also because they are different and experience most things differently it is hard for them to bond over shared experiences. Many times HSPs are loners but not by choice.

The weakness of the interpersonal bridge is something that we live with each day and it is often a source of feelings of vulnerability. We do not fit in and know it. We suspect therefore that we are unwelcome.

Coming To Terms With The Challenges Of Being Different

Being different does not necessarily mean that we are unwelcome. Humans are notorious for comparing themselves to each other so we may remind others of undeveloped aspects of themselves and in that way create feelings of discomfort. That is not our fault but something to be aware of.

However, if we expect to be close with people whose values are radically different then we are probably inviting some hurt into our lives. There are many people who do not and will not “get” HSPs and that is something that we have to accept.

We can improve our social life if we reserve our serious social investments to those where our values are compatible.

When Do We Start To Please?

The need to please will surface when we are trying to fit in with a group that is different from us where we would like to have some social standing. It could be a work environment or family group. Whatever the situation, pleasing comes from thinking that the burden of the interpersonal bridge is primarily ours and that unless we make a special effort their may not be a relationship and we may be harmed in some way.

In these situations being ourselves is something we think will harm us or cause us to be rejected. We have to be someone else in order to survive socially.

Overcoming The Need To Please

The need to please is above and beyond doing one’s part in a relationship. The need to please is a function of being made inferior in some way. It is an outcome of trying to survive in a social structure where you are disfavored. It is a way of trying to cover up your differentness so that you can acquire needed resources. Pleasing is a social strategy of minorities and social outsiders throughout history.

So what can you do?

Here are some questions to ask about how you are living to see if you can make some changes that will provide you with more social safety:

  • what relationships do I have where I feel a need to please?
  • in what way am I dependent on others for supplies (of any kind) that causes me to be in relationships where I need to please?
  • what changes can I make to reduce my needs so that I have fewer relationships that require unnatural pleasing?
  • if I cannot reduce my needs can I find alternatives that are more supportive of my self respect?
  • can I create what I need?
  • can you ask for more of what you need from relationships that are one-sided to make them feel more mutual?

Sometimes a little strategy can make all the difference in helping us rebalance our relationships and make them more mutual.

Why HSPs Have Trouble With Controlling People

Maria HillCreativity, Emotional And Mental Health22 Comments

If you are alive, you have met controlling people.

Controlling people can drive anyone crazy, but If you are a highly sensitive person, you may find the effect of controlling very difficult to live with.

Controlling people can certainly have that effect on me.

Controlling people will probably not understand why their behavior is problematic for you, the HSP.

Each HSP, however, needs to understand that controlling people can be very bad for their health.

Why Do People Control?

Most people only want to be happy. Many believe that controlling themselves and others is a method to achieve the desired result of happiness.

Some of the reasons people try to control others include:

  • they have low amounts of trust possible because of negative experiences
  • they think they are more competent
  • they have deep seated prejudices about right and wrong
  • they have been taught fear
  • they perceive themselves as better and/or more “normal” than others 

Controlling people sometimes assume that others want and need what they want and need. Although we all have needs and desires in common, over generalizing about other people is a mistake that controlling people often make.

Controlling people often treat others as an extension of their needs and desires. In extreme cases, the person is narcissistic in demanding that they be catered to.

So one reason that controlling people control is to get their needs met.

The Hidden Agenda Of Controlling People

It is fairly easy to recognize that controlling people are trying to get their needs met as we have discussed.

Controlling behavior also has a social function: to maintain their comfort level which they do by enforcing social norms and conforming behavior.

One thing I have noticed about controlling people is that they often have a wall around them. You can detect it in interacting with them. They are often guarded and measured.because deep down they are afraid. Protecting themselves from that fear can be their hidden agenda.

So if there is a conflict between a controlling person’s comfort zone and another person, the comfort zone will likely win out.

The Comfort Zone Dilemna

The controlling comfort zones of other people can be hard for the highly sensitive person to handle for several reasons:

  • we are naturally loathe to hurt others. We can feel bad when we upset someone’s comfort zone, when we had no intention of doing harm. Such negative reactions over time can cause us to pull back, and doubt ourselves. We can see ourselves in an unnecessarily negative light.
  • we are sensitive to nuances which means that what we perceive to be a constructive course of action may interfere with someone else’s comfort zone. We can take on and internalize the conflict blaming ourselves and as a result cause ourselves a lot of emotional pain.
  • we are naturally creative which means our strategies may be way out of the box for our colleagues and friends. We can have a lot of difficulty navigating our creative differences with others.
  • we can be very farsighted in a shortsighted world. Our long sightedness may step on the comfort zone of people who seek short term rewards.

All of the wonderful qualities of highly sensitive people can make their relationships difficult because an HSPs talents can often lead to unwelcome change.

So what to do about this?

Letting Possibilities Guide Us

Handling fear – our fear or the fear of others  – is an important skill to master.

When we are dealing with controlling people, we can use our natural empathy to help others reduce their fear:

  • we can demonstrate the benefits of an action
  • we can offer proof
  • we can demonstrate that there is nothing to lose and everything to gain if that is the case
  • e can take the risks out of the closet, put them on the table and create a positive perception about how they can be handled.

Sometimes we can make the case for  moving out of our comfort zones. When the possibilities are attractive enough and the risks well handled, successful forward movement is possible.

What about those situations when you are not able to create enthusiasm for new possibilities?

Let Compassion Be Your Guide

There are many situations where an individual or an group is not interested in change and you have to honor their decision. Sometimes when an individual is controlling in favor of their comfort zone, they are respecting their own limits, and that is a healthy decision to make.

I think it is dangerous to assume what someone else needs or should do. Many of us require healing. The demands of healing may preclude creative activities. Or perhaps an individual simply has too much on their plate. That happens frequently as well.

It is important to honor where someone is and treat it with respect even if you do not agree and think they are wrong. You cannot force change and you might be doing harm in pushing too much. Very controlling people may have made a decision in favor of a less creative lifestyle in order to respect their personal needs.

Whenever we encourage a controlling person to let go of fear and try something new, we need to be promoting joy and wellness. We need to be supporting the agenda of our higher selves and the higher self of the other person. That may mean that we need to back off.

Highly sensitive people are lucky that their natural empathy can help them find compassionate relationship choices that can help a controlling person feel heard and loved. That is a great way to reduce fear, and helps others engage more with life.

What is a great gift to offer others!

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Masking Our Sensitivity

Edward BonapartianCreativity, Emotional And Mental Health, HSP Traits12 Comments

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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.

The Paths We Travel Working With Our Sensitivity

Edward BonapartianEmotional And Mental Health, Uncategorized11 Comments

Source: Morguefiles

Source: Morguefiles

“All of life is a circle” my meditation teacher tells me during a discussion on  the lessons life often presents; “Regardless of the starting point, at one time or another life’s circumstances will always steer you back to similar circumstances; if for no other reason than to allow awareness of the progress of one’s own journey.”

In my memory of that conversation, the point he made lingers.While time has shown me that it is all too easy for the Highly Sensitive to fall prey to any negative emotions generated during these experiences, over time I have realized that it is actually our sensitivity which plays a key role in also allowing us to recognize the lessons in growth contained within the experience. Similar to a double edged sword, our sensitivity can hinder or benefit us; it all depends on how we work with our sensitivity.

Working With Our Sensitivity

Working with our sensitivity may seem like a strange concept. Similar to how we work with our sleep dreams, we can be passive or proactive with the experience. The key here is in recognizing that being a Highly Sensitive Person is not an identity as our ego’s would have us believe. Instead, it is simply an aspect of our energetic makeup which in itself has different aspects; one of which is intuition. Sensitivity and intuition often go hand in hand. A favorite teacher of mine put it succinctly when she  commented” It’s all about energy” when I had asked her where intuition comes from.

As I exited the building where our meditation class was held, I saw the lone figure of a friend, Kira, sitting on a bench by the Koi pond.  A tall, thin blond in her sixties, Kira held herself with a quiet dignity that I often admired. As I walked up behind her, intuitively I could feel that dignity was not foremost on her mind as she looked across the pond seemingly mesmerized by the occasional flash of gold and white as the Koi fed in the early morning stillness. One of the gifts of being a  Highly Sensitive Person is that we can easily feel the energy generated by emotions of others especially if we are within an arms reach of them. For me, it is a quick feeling in my midsection followed by that quiet, unassuming voice in my head speaking of emotional patterns and images.  Sitting next to her after a brief hello, I could feel that someone had said something emotionally painful to her. Questions of her worthiness lingered in her thoughts; a cloud of negative emotions obscuring the warmth of morning sunshine which surrounded us.

How Do You Work With Energetic Experiences?

In these situations , there is often a choice which presents itself ; we can be passive and simply acknowledge the emotional pain felt by ourselves or others as we journey through the experiences life presents.  Or, we can be proactive and use the energy of our sensitivity to tap into our intuition and search for the lesson behind the experience. Being proactive won’t make the lesson any less painful, but it will move us from a victim stance to one of power; instead of going for a ride and observing the scenery we are now driving the bus.

 I knew Kira was a Highly Sensitive Person from the moment I met her.  Often quiet in groups,  she preferred to sit towards the back of the room during our class. In an earlier conversation, she had told me she was divorcing her husband and being that this was her second marriage there was something reflected in her eyes which spoke of the emotional toll being paid. Now sitting with her, I wondered how I could follow the philosophy our meditation teacher often spoke of; that there is a lesson in growth in each and every moment of our lives.

When working with intuition, I always start by checking in with my gut; that is, I concentrate on the area just behind my belly button to see how my sensitivity is reacting to the energy of the person I’m working with. In this case, I experienced a strong feeling of blame and in my mind I saw an all too familiar pattern to which we all fall prey; faced with the negativity of the situation she was blaming herself for everything that had happened. As I searched my intuition for an  answer, suddenly I knew I needed to share one of Aesop’s fables with her; the story of the Scorpion and the Frog.

Turning to her, I asked her if she knew of the story of the Scorpion and the Frog. As she shook her head no, I began to recite the fable.

“A scorpion and frog meet on the bank of a river and the scorpion asks the frog to carry it across the river since the scorpion was unable to swim across. Ever mindful, the frog asks ” What assurance do I have that you won’t sting me as I carry you?”

The scorpion replies; “If I were to sting you, I too would drown”. Satisfied, the frog allows the scorpion to climb on its back as they set across the river, however midstream the frog feels the sting of the scorpion.

“Why are you doing this to me?’ the frog gasps as it grows weaker, knowing that their drowning is imminent.

“Because it is my nature.” the scorpion replies.

Finding Grace When Working With Our Sensitivity

Kira studied my face as I finished speaking. Because intuition can be  accessed through a persons eyes, I watched  her eyes as I presented the lesson I had  observed through the fable;

“Perhaps your divorce centers around that fact that like the scorpion, your husbands true nature is to sting causing you both to drown. In every situation there are two sides to the equation; take responsibility for that which is yours but also recognize the true nature of the person you are dealing with.”

As I spoke, I could see awareness register in her her eyes. She understood the lesson and I could feel that over time she would then see how the metaphors contained within the fable could help her understand the experience of her divorce. It wasn’t up to me to teach her those connections within the lesson; instead my role was to lead her to awareness of the lesson itself. To fully understand it, she would need time for contemplation. Only then, would healing begin. Giving her time to do just  that, I  leaned over and gave her a brief hug before walking back to my car.

The following week, Kira came up to me after meditation class. I could feel the question in her eyes before she asked it; “How did you know to share that particular story with me?” It was obvious from her expression that the lesson had hit home with her.

“It’s all about energy or using our sensitivity to perceive the environment around us ” I replied. “We are taught in class that we are all droplets in the same ocean of humanity; perhaps intuition allows us to see beyond the waves.”

I could tell she wasn’t entirely satisfied with that answer. She wanted something concrete to explain how I knew of her husbands nature which she had never spoken of. However, it has always been hard for me to explain the mystery of Grace; the experience of being in the right place at just the right time in order to bring someone healing through awareness of the bigger picture. Reduced to its purest form,  Grace  is the gift our sensitivity gives others in the face of life’s lessons. As we become proactive in working with the energy of our sensitivity, Grace is the foot print left behind for others to follow, as we continue our journey on the paths we travel.

Tyranny of the Clock

Maria HillEmotional And Mental Health, Personal Development4 Comments

 

Clock © by Earls37a Flickr

People in an economic system based on production learn to live with the tyranny of the clock.  Although people have been tracking time since the early days of humans, our relationship with time has become different.

Time used to be related to something going on in nature.  People measured the hours of sunshine, the seasons, and how long crops took to grow.  The day began when the sun came up and ended when it set. Our survival was directly related to what nature offered us and so our relationship to time was related to nature also.

Since the Industrial Revolution, we have changed our relationship to time and nature. We treat nature as something we control.  It is understandable that we sought to control nature because we felt so out of control in relation in nature: weather was so unpredictable, the basic needs of people were not being met, and disease was rampant.  At the time, natural resources were so plentiful. So we created machines and production processes to harness natural resources to take care of our basic needs and kept on going.  Time became a factor in production costs and therefore directly affected profits.

Time And Limits

There were understandable reasons for the economic system that we have created.  Human society at the time of the Industrial Revolution was saddled with all sorts of limits that needed to be challenged. Some of these limits were based on belief systems. Some limits were geographical, others political. Even time felt limiting because we were limited by the amount that each person could accomplish which in turn limited our ability to meet our needs. Since the Industrial Revolution, the clock has been used as a tool for challenging limits through productivity measurements which evaluate how well we produce in a specific period of time.  Our educational system is organized around time.  We have a certain period of time to learn a given amount of material, whether we learn or not is often irrelevant, when time is up, time is up.

When the clock controls how much attention we give to something or someone, we relinquish control over our lives because we are not really engaging with life and the realities around us.  If it takes two years to learn a subject but you only have six months, then essentially your learning is controlled by the demand for speed. If it takes 2 hours to accomplish a task well and one hour is all that is allowed, again you relinquish control over the quality you are able to bring to the work by the demand for speed.  If it takes a year to grieve the loss of a friend, and the people around you demand that you grieve quicker, then your life is diminished by the demand for speed and your health may be negatively affected.

Speed And Sensitive People

The demand for speed is a serious issue for highly sensitive people since creativity, deep listening, and serious problem solving do not lend themselves to time pressure. HSP’s inevitably suffer from distracting and unhelpful conflicts when they are expected to work under artificial, and unnecessarily restrictive time schedules. To the highly sensitive person production is not the end and be all of one’s work life. Qualitative considerations are more important than quantitative ones – within reason of course.

Being sensitive means that we notice the cost of our highly competitive and highly demanding capitalistic system. We notice the stress in ourselves and others, the loss of time for connection and the kind of deep teamwork that is satisfying and inclusive. We see the loss of our cherished natural environment and all the cost to animals and humans. I suspect that to most HSPs the cost-benefit analysis does not read the way it does to an accountant. As a result, how we use time will also be different.

Time And Quality Of Engagement

The tyranny of the clock does not allow for the freely engaged way of relating to living and problem solving that results in deep satisfaction. It does a lot of damage and create more problems than it solves. There is such a need for healing caused by the destructive shortsightedness of a high pressure economy.  As a result it is bound to be unsatisfying to highly sensitive people.

Time is precious. A high pressure system is not very appealing to highly sensitive people who will treat time as they treat other things with regard and diligence. Finding a way to live true to your sensitive self and still contribute to your culture is a central challenge of sensitive people everywhere.