Hi everyone. Yay it’s Spring! I hope you are enjoying the beauty of nature as it comes to life again. That’s how I’m feeling too–as if I am coming to life–happier than I’ve ever been in my life. And it is a new feeling–I catch myself out of habit being tensed up in my shoulders and neck and then I realize it and relax. It feels like for the first time I can finally… really relax! It is really quite amazing to me–this feeling of exhilaration with my life and how I can feel happy in the moment. As highly sensitive people (HSPs) we are all too hard on ourselves–as children it HURTS to be different from almost everyone else around us–so without proper encouragement and support, we hide our gifts away to protect ourselves from further pain.
It’s taken me so long to come to this place where I understand what it means to be my own best friend. I used to hear people say that or I’d read about it and it just sounded like Blah, Blah, Blah, (like the adults sounded on Charlie Brown ha ha). But now I get it. I found it difficult to feel good about myself or love myself growing up. I grew up in a time when I felt I wasn’t even supposed to like myself. I could feel the “Who do you think you are?” judgement of those around me much of the time. I didn’t know who I was but I felt who I was trying to be was never ever good enough.
I have realized that illusions play a valuable role in our survival as children when we have been emotionally diminished (abused), whether it was intentional or not. The pain of our disappointment is too great to bear as highly sensitive children, so we make decisions about ourselves that help us to cope with the situation. For example, rather than facing this pain we say to ourselves, it must be me, I need to act differently in order to get love and approval so I will become obedient and do what others want, then I will be loved and seen. And it appears that we feel accepted as long as we keep up this facade and keep our “real” selves and feelings hidden away. I believe this is why journaling “for your eyes only” works so well to uncover the truth of how we really feel about things–and we can then break through those illusions and gradually free ourselves from our false self that we created to survive and eventually find our true voice. But you really need to do it often enough that the voice in your journal (and your heart) becomes dominant over the negative voice in your head. I know I’ve written about this before, and I apologize if I am repeating myself. But I guess I feel it is crucial to really make this point–the way you speak to your “self” is ultimately what ends up mattering the most in your ability to be able to comfort yourself and relax and enjoy your life in the way you truly deserve.
I apologize if I make it sound easy. It can be really difficult if you don’t know where to start and when you write it’s all bad feelings and it doesn’t help you feel better. I guess my real success in journaling really didn’t start until after I had found a person I could trust to talk to–an outside support for the hidden “me” that I was sure was supposed to be hiding away because I was sure I was flawed and thought “something is wrong with me”. I had forgotten about the fact that I really felt that way most of the time but it wasn’t even in my awareness–I didn’t know I was hiding–I just existed that way–it was completely hidden from me. I thought, this is who I am–an insecure and anxious person who will always and forever need someone else to take care of me. Until that special day–the day I went to my first counselor who turned out to be the best counselor I’ve ever had in my life–and she really changed my life.
At the time I had no idea how hard it would be to find another counselor who came close to her compassion and depth of understanding ever again. But I will never forget her words and wisdom and how she saw the potential in me that I didn’t dare even imagine. I was 22. She listened and cared and I learned to trust her with my deepest feelings and I shared some of my poems with her. She told me, to my surprise, that I was a gifted writer and that I could be my own psychotherapist if I kept on writing in this special way. Together we discovered the roots of my self-doubt and she revealed to me that she had benefitted from counseling too in the past. She confided that, as a counselor, she felt it was important to have been on both sides in order to really understand the helping process. Another very helpful part of this special counseling experience was when she had me take the character and temperament test from the book Please Understand Me (See Recommended Books). My results were that I was an INFJ–Introvert, iNtuitive, Feeling, Judicial and that this type is only 1% of the population. Then she told me I had the gift of empathy like her and that she was an INFJ too. (I will explain more about the 16 temperament types in a future post). I thought how could this be…like her? She had a Ph.D and was a successful professional clinical psychotherapist and yet she said I was like her. Unbelievable…could all those hopes and dreams I had in the back of my mind actually be a possibility? I went out and bought that book and I studied it a lot. The book talks about the positive aspects of each of the types and my type described me so well I felt special and normal and understood for the first time in my life.
I went to see her once a week for 6 months and then I had to stop because our health insurance only covered 25 visits per year. During that time, my confidence soared and, I remember now, I joined the Sweet Adelines and had fun performing in a barbershop quartet. (It was easy to perform with these other ladies on stage with me–I continued to have stagefright about performing alone or singing the kind of music where I expressed my soul though, but it was a start in overcoming it ). I also started taking some guitar lessons and learning to play and sing the songs I had always loved. Even though I had my college degree, I had temporarily taken a job at JCPenney’s catalog ordering service because I thought I wasn’t ready to help other people until I figured myself out first. But she said this job was way beneath me and encouraged me to go to graduate school in counseling psychology. (Even with a 3.8 in my major, much praise from my professors, internship experience, and letters of recommendation–when my graduation was barely acknowledged, all my confidence had evaporated.) “Make sure it is a program that is APA approved,” she said. And I listened. And I grew in confidence and continued writing my self-help poetry. And you know what happened next…I was so confident in myself, I thought I could even change my relationship with my extended family! Without talking to her first, we moved many states away from my wonderful counselor. We decided to start a family and I put graduate school on hold…
And now, telling you my story, I realize I do NOT want to emphasize how tragic it was…and that I had to wait so long to find myself and be happy and figure myself out so I could finally be that counselor/coach and writer that she saw that I could be. Instead I feel strongly that it all really worked out for the best. I grew so much as a person watching how my children thrived with our unconditional love and emotional support and I saw the world through their eyes and healed my soul right along with them experiencing the wonders in this world. And I continued to write in a way that I was able to be my own psychotherapist–writing through the layers of pain and breaking through the illusions that helped me survive a childhood of feeling emotionally diminished and misunderstood.
And I see how I had to try everything before I had the ability to start setting boundaries in certain relationships in my life. My counselor back then never used the word narcissisism and I wonder if that would have helped me realize the futility of my quest for healthy give-and-take in certain relationships in my life sooner. It is all right though, because I know the meaning of the word now and had to find out the depth and scope of it’s meaning in my own way. I hope my journey inspires you to embrace the path you are on but also to look inward and explore your true feelings and write about them–and keep listening to your hopes and dreams that exist in the back of your mind . For I believe that is the voice of your true self that you must not ignore.
Finding a caring, empathic counselor to support the true reasons for my deepest fears, and self-doubt, and to believe in my unique gifts made all the difference in my life. Her words kept me on the right track and kept me writing through the layers of pain that would arise between the numbness or anxiety. Her words kept guiding me towards the release of my pain and ultimately to the joy and pride on the other side. It changed the course of my life and to her I will always be grateful. I hope my story has been helpful to you and provides you with some comfort and encouragement.
Today I am releasing the lyrics for the song “This Too Shall Pass”. This song was written to ease myself through a period of my worst grief and anger when I started setting some boundaries for myself–and instead of getting respect and love, I felt rejection and experienced guilt-inducing manipulations. It was a pivotal point in my recovery when I let go of my illusions about the potential of certain relationships and grieved for what would never be and comforted myself by writing this song. After writing it and singing it, I felt stronger than ever before that everything was going to be alright and that ultimately I must take care of myself and honor my feelings. This song still comforts me when I am feeling my worst and I hope it does the same for you. I hope you enjoy it.
With love, Roxanne
Thought of you when I saw this article:
Thanks for this article, Cyndi. I like it because it puts the complex definition of being Highly Sensitive (HSP) into a concise and easy to read format–5 assets or gifts of being highly sensitive, and 5 hardships to overcome yet we must ultimately embrace. Readers please check out this article if you would like more information on whether or not you fit the definition of a Highly Sensitive Person. I definitely fit in the definition with each and every point. Cyndi, did you think of yourself as well when you saw the article? 🙂
Yes, I identified with every single point! I sent it to a few friends who felt the same way.
Wow, that’s really great! The more HSPs in the world the better. 🙂
Roxanne, This is brilliant! I love your honesty!
My experience and my feelings (invisible, non acceptance, illusions and guilt) are so similar! Wow, it’s good to know that we don’t have to feel guilty for being brave enough to stand up to the lies and abuse! And to allow ourselves the gifts of self acceptance and love…And to trust where to draw the line.
We are worthy to seek and attract people, places and experiences that serve to promote individual uniqueness, respect, understanding, and the basic need to express and share love…..by the balance of giving and receiving, from the heart’s deepest desires.
A narcissist does not honor the true meaning of “Relationship”…to relate in the giving and receiving of love, relate in our shared humanity, and relate in our individual and shared experiences. And in honoring personal boundaries.
A narcissist parent does not allow their children to have healthy boundaries…They violate all boundaries and shame you for having them, then beat you up emotionally for not having them. It is a double edged sword!
Anyone, with any dignity would walk away from the crimes of emotional and mental abuse, right?. Family on the other hand isdeeply rooted and complicated….(the illusions)…..but it is necessary for the abused HSP, to put an end to the insanity, by breaking away, for self preservation and the ability to expand, evolve and flourish… as we have the right to do, and were created to do. It is a risk worth taking.
I agree with you, that we have to be cheerleaders for ourselves and seek environments that promote individual uniqueness, and the openess we desire. I now realize that Healthy, loving personal boundaries are so important in this healing process. I realize that I don’t have to try and fix, rescue or constantly appeal to others needs…..I can say NO! I can be selfish enough to take care of me! AND NOT FEEL GUILTY !!!!!! YEE HA!
evenus, thank you so much for your kind words and for sharing these words of wisdom. It feels good to hear someone else say it too–“I can say NO! I can be selfish enough to take care of me! AND NOT FEEL GUILTY! YEEHA says it all! I am so happy that you were able to find strength and support from this post. You summarized it all so well. I love this: “We are worthy to seek and attract people, places and experiences that serve to promote individual uniqueness, respect, understanding, and the basic need to express and share love…..by the balance of giving and receiving, from the heart’s deepest desires”. I also love your point about the boundaries, “They violate all boundaries and shame you for having them, then beat you up emotionally for not having them”. Exactly! This is what I mean when I talk about not being able to win and it being a no-win situation. But we CAN win if we realize, as you say, “it is necessary for the abused HSP, to put an end to the insanity, by breaking away, for self preservation and the ability to expand, evolve and flourish… as we have the right to do, and were created to do.” You are so right that we have to be cheerleaders for ourselves and that we can stop rescuing others and responding to all of their needs which we all can feel because we are HSPs. We are of more help to others when we have healthy personal boundaries and focus on our healing. Yes! You have such a way with words, evenus. Thank you for sharing this and putting a very complex subject into a concise and helpful summary that is a wonderful pep talk for all of us! With love, Roxanne