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Category Archives: illusions

How HSPs Can Heal From Inner Shame and Numb Emotions

Hi everyone!  Summer is upon us and I hope you are enjoying the many opportunities that arise in this beautiful season.  For those of us in the midwestern United States, we know the warm weather is short-lived so we try to get outside and enjoy it while we can.  As highly sensitive people though this “pressure” to enjoy the outdoors can add to our “to do” list that is already too long as it is!  Please look at the weather as a bonus to get outside in nature to recharge from the usual stress in our lives–just setting aside even 10 minutes alone in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening to walk, ride a bike, or even just sit outside and look and marvel at the sky or walk barefoot in the warm grass will help you enjoy the moments of summer more fully and not feel like the summer is passing you by yet again.

Today I woke up with a very strong feeling of shame and dread.  Along with it though there was very strong clarity about the truth of these feelings and the shame and dread very soon faded away as I got on with my day.  So I wanted to share with you the process that I go through and how I got to this emotionally healthy place!

Immediately when feeling this strong dread and shame this morning I went straight to comforting myself and saying to myself, “Wow, I must have done something really great for my true self yesterday–I must have really been expressing my truth and shining my light…. these feelings from childhood coming up to heal are the evidence and so I must be extra kind to myself today.”  I KNOW this now because of many years of analyzing and paying attention to my own emotional patterns.  I learned that when I wrote a great song,  poem,  or even when I just had great uninhibited fun or even exercise, this strong shame feeling would always pop up for me the morning of the next day.  This is because these feelings from childhood were my experience day in and day out until I had to give up as a child and repress my true self and all of the memories of this unbearable shame in order to survive.

Back then as a child, when I expressed my true wise self, or my joy in my own creativity, I felt shamed to the core.  I KNOW this now.  I no longer allow these dreadful feelings when they arise in me to negatively spiral in the following way:  My inner critic used to say, “What is wrong with me that I feel this shame, it feels terrible, almost unbearable, I feel disgusting, I must have done something horrible and shameful, I thought I had a good day yesterday but it must not be true, what was I thinking, I am never going to feel better, why do I even try”…blah blah blah, down down down the spiral went, draining all hope and positive energy out of me, leading to a depressed feeling and sometimes just numbness (dissociation) as I trudged though the day.  Wow, it’s hard to believe I used to spiral this way!!  But I did!  My inner critic has now completely been replaced with positive affirmations that I KNOW are true.  I don’t let my inner critic take over and I over-ride it with love and compassion for myself.  It took a lot of inner work but the whole process was well worth it.

My thought and feeling cycles are so different now as I know that how I treat myself with my inner thoughts create the kind of day and experience I am going to have.  This is more than just positive thinking or law of attraction techniques.  I had to go through a grieving process that actually changed my core beliefs about myself to the point that I learned that I had a lot to be sad about, angry about, and plenty to comfort myself through.  I had to delve into the past to see where the negative beliefs came from and get justice (inwardly) for the little girl inside who felt so much like an inferior being.  It was not the truth and I had to figure out what the truth was for ME.

As a mother I knew, and my college education in child development told me, that NO child is inferior and deserves to be shamed–so the inner grief work was a challenge for me to put together this puzzle to find out the truth about what happened to me to make me feel so bad about myself.  Memories started coming back to me and feelings that had been dormant and frozen in time became “available” to me again and I learned compassion for that little girl inside.  This took a while and everyone’s journey to healing will be different and take as long as it takes to work through your layers of illusions that keep you from seeing the truth of your brilliant shining light and true self.

So please be patient with yourself if you are in the middle of feeling all the pain and not yet seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.  Or if you are feeling comfortably numb but joyless and lacking motivation.  The light is there.  It is because you had this bright light and higher spiritual level that bullies in your life had to put you down and put out your light.  You may have been a threat to their distorted view of the world where “their” feelings were the center of the universe.  But your light never went out–it was just dimmed or covered up with illusions and blocks that are not true about you.  You have the power within you to turn your light back up high yourself!  No one can do it for you. It takes time to learn how to process through the layers of dormant feelings.

Writing out your pain in a journal for your eyes only is so important to the healing process because it gets you out of your left brain’s spiraling or scattered thoughts and connects you to your right brain’s compassion for yourself and creativity.  Document your progress in the journal and then go back and make yourself read the hopeful stuff you write, you will begin to see how amazing and wise you are that you survived it all and that there is so much to look forward to as you grow and grow in your own compassion for your wounded inner child.  As you grow to protect your inner child and stand up for the rights to all of your feelings, the negative thoughts about yourself begin to change.

Another thing I had to realize was that no one was going to rescue me but ME and I had to make a decision to never ever beat myself up again.  I remember saying to myself once, “That is it!!, that is the last time!  I am never going to waste my time in such misery again!”  And it stuck.  I still had bad days when shameful feelings came up to heal but I comforted myself instead.  Maybe I stayed on the couch that day BUT I was kind to myself instead.  I put away my to-do list, watched a favorite movie, made myself my favorite warm soup or hot tea, wrapped myself in a soft blanket, “loved” myself through the bad feelings and had compassion for my inner child who deserved love  and comfort.  And I allowed myself to grieve the happy carefree childhood that I never had.  This is so important to learn to do for ourselves–we hsp survivors may feel like we got skipped as we nurture our children and everyone around us–I realized this was important for me to take the time to mother my self for a while.  Then I would feel SO much better after I took a day for myself like this–I would feel renewed and recharged and it started a habit of a positive cycle of healing and change.

These were the new patterns and beliefs that were laying groundwork for new neurons in my brain for a new future and over-riding the shame from childhood.  This is the process of recovery from emotional abuse.  It is not easy.  It is not fun.  It is painful. But with delving into the pain at first I noticed that I at least felt more “alive” and this was a “spark” of light that kept me going towards the painful truth and not escaping into a comfortably numb existence of denial and dissociation that had for years kept me from moving forward towards my dreams and desires.  Instead I started continually delving into and through the pain to find my truth and alivenessI acknowledge the painful feeling and released it layer by layer in my journal or to a trusted, safe witness and gradually I emerged on the other side of it all.  The shame and dread that I wake up to is now just a weak residue, a glimmer of the truth of the past and all I worked through to get here–to where the joy in my heart can’t wait to get started on another day of being me in a Universe that I feel connected to and know that it supports me!

And so I say to all of you out there who are on what feels like an endless healing path, there is light at the end of the tunnel and it is awesome! When you can tap into the light and love from inside of you and believe and know that you deserve it, then you will be able shine your light and recharge and renew yourself anytime you want to!

P.S. More posts are coming soon!  I am working on putting together a post with all of the comments and replies from a frequent commenter who calls herself Belinda.  Her story is an inspiring example of a highly sensitive soul with bullying parents whose painful drama unfolded here on this blog–she bravely reached out and expressed what was in her heart and she came out the other side and into the light–and now she is shining her own light to help others.  Other commenters and my replies will be highlighted in upcoming posts as well.  (I ask all commenters for their permission first before highlighting it in a post.)  Be kind to yourself, HSPs, and I’ll be back in touch soon!

With love,

Roxanne 😀

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Hurts So Good?–Through Pain You Grow Stronger–Processing Childhood Emotional Pain So You Can Heal

Hi everyone.  Today I was out on my patio getting my morning dose of Vitamin D from the sun (hallelujah, the warmth is finally here to stay!) and writing down ideas for my next post.  When I was finished, the song “Hurts So Good” by John Mellencamp came on the radio I was listening to.  You know the one…”sometimes love don’t feel like it should…”  Anyway, I had to laugh out loud with amazement as it seemed like a sign from the universe/God that my topic was approved–it seemed clear that I should trust my intuition to write about what I had decided to focus on and that was:  what hurts the most in life emotionally can reveal the truth of who we really are–and physical pain can teach us the exact lesson we need to learn to move forward–both kinds of pain help us grow and heal to become our best selves.

Of course the lyrics of the song do not imply that, but the title jumped out at me as confirmation and I have always loved that song!  It always makes me want to get up and dance and celebrate being alive for some reason.  Sometimes when you are feeling the pain from childhood wounds, acknowledging you were wronged, and you know you didn’t deserve it, you feel so much more alive and you have the right to your feelings about it!!  Your anger can be channeled into positive energy to take action for your self and improving your life and moving forward towards your dreams!  Also the song implies that you know how love should feel but you are willing to take the painful risk of loving again for the chance of being loved in return.

I so look forward to dancing again to songs like this and forgot how much I missed it until it was taken away when I recently injured my back/hip (S.I. joint)!  My pain has almost completely healed. Yay! I still have restricted movements but I have so much to look forward to.  And I am on my way to complete healing and I learned much–I will spare you the details until the end of this post for those interested.

Okay, so about the lessons to be learned from the emotionally painful things that happen to us….   I believe that all of us are here on this planet to learn lessons about who we are, what we are capable of, how to achieve inner peace, love ourselves the way we deserved to be loved, and how we can use our gifts to help others.  For those of us who are gifted with high sensitivity and intuition it is so difficult to figure these things out until we realize that a lot of the pain we experienced as children was pain of the people around us that we just absorbed and internalized as our own.

One of the most complex examples contributing to many of my clients’ childhood wounds are when the parent is a malignant narcissist. I am sharing these examples of extreme cases in the hopes that they will be the most helpful. When a malignant narcissist starts to feel any emotional pain they get rid of it immediately by blaming the people around them. The highly sensitive child is the perfect target to take away the malignant narcissist’s pain because they absorb it completely and don’t retaliate.  As kind and loving spirits, highly sensitive compassionate children would never dream of blaming someone else for anything so they can’t imagine that their parent might be wrong or sick or unhealthy in any way.  Now that they are adults they are starting to see the light of how they were “used” to take away the parent’s shame, self-hatred, blame, and self-doubt. Hsps can heal as they acknowledge the truth that they were fine before malignant narcissistic parents took away their hopes and dreams and gave them their pain in its place.  They absorbed it all and believed it to be true–saying to themselves, “I am to blame, there is something wrong with me, I am not good enough, I must try really hard to be someone else other than who I am in order to be loved, I am not as good as I think I am, I cannot trust my feelings, I must not make any mistakes, I am unloveable, I am unworthy, I hate myself, or I must be a disgusting human being for upsetting my parent in such a way.”  This is what a highly sensitive compassionate child can determine to be true when they are not seen for the kind and sensitive soul they are but used for the dumping ground of the negative emotions of a highly dysfunctional family.

They numb their feelings to survive as children–They repress the pain and decide to be obedient (if they were the Golden Child) or they rebel (if they were the Scapegoat).  Either way their mind protects them with illusions about their parents in this case because they need them to survive.  They were after all children doing the best they knew how–there is no way for a sensitive child to detect danger when for as long as they can remember, this is what a loving family looks and feels like and it is ingrained in the neural pathways in their brains.  They believed the distorted view that their malignant narcissistic parent presented to them and insisted upon because they believe in the goodness of life innately–they trust completely which is a beautiful thing.  It is a wondrous gift to be able to trust in life, to trust in the universe, that it will support them and show them the way if they trust their feelings and our intuition.  We have the inner guidance and wisdom to be happy and fulfilled, enlightened and loving, full of vitality with the perseverance to press on through the ups and downs of life.  They all (HSPs) have this ability inside of them, this trust in the goodness of life, but it was taken away from them.

But what happened to them is not really about them at all.  They were victims, yes, but they don’t have to be victims ever again when they work through the truth of what happened to them as children–layer by layer, injustice by injustice, voicing the truth of how much it hurt, how they didn’t deserve it, and see how they lost their trust in themselves and their feelings.  Once you start this process of healing the layers, you feel lighter and a little kinder to yourself each time.  It is a blessing when you are in the midst of an episode of despair because someone you trusted criticized you and you suddenly realize, “Oh wait, this is how I felt as a child when my malignant narcissistic mother would feel threatened when I expressed a brilliant creative idea and put it down–I was smarter than she was!” –or something to this effect.

DOCUMENTING YOUR TRUTH STATEMENTS is a method I invented during my years as a life coach.  Journaling these revelations by writing statements of what you learned about yourself when a new layer of pain is uncovered  helps to document your progress.  Then when you are feeling lost, depressed, or blocked make yourself get out your journal and read over these statements and you will see the true voice of your soul being uncovered.  Statements like “I had brilliant creative ideas as a child”, “I discovered I was actually smart”, “I was kind, caring and innocent and did not deserve to be criticized and abused!”  These are truths come to light and will forever be true about you–they will help you change the internalized beliefs about yourself so you will develop your true voice.  This will help you stop listening to your inner critic and say,” No!  That is not true about me”.  Then say your new-found personalized positive affirmations (truth statements) to yourself instead. Your self-doubts will gradually fade and your confidence will grow stronger and stronger.

Childhood pain comes up to be healed in layers–it is like the truth of your untold story from childhood wants to be told and when you are strong enough, the painful feelings pop up unexpectedly in your lives.  You sometimes unconsciously provoke painful situations in our lives so that the original trauma can be healed.  For example:  you are feeling grouchy, irritable,  numb, and lost, and you criticize your husband for not supporting you enough, for not just listening, (he is trying to solve it and tell you what to do and you just want to be listened to and heard).  He responds with, “Something else must be wrong because I have been listening to you a lot lately but you are still really grouchy.”  You blow up and yell, “I wanted an apology but instead you are attacking me” and you fall in a heap of crying, blaming, angry despair. The feelings directed at your husband are so real to you but you are actually experiencing post traumatic stress from your childhood.  Your husband deserves about 10% of the anger that you are feeling but the other 90% is from your childhood. (90/10 Principle.  John Gray,…Venus and Mars).

In that moment you are reexperiencing the unresolved feelings of your self as a small child with legitimate needs to be seen and reassured and loved–you were perhaps rejected by a malignant narcissistic mother who was too busy with her own agenda to stop and be the loving mother you needed in that moment.  Perhaps instead she lashed out at you for being too sensitive, told you to knock it off and be quiet so she could think.  When you cried harder she may have slapped you on the bottom, screamed at you, and told you that you were giving her a headache and to go play somewhere.  You went to your bedroom and cried and cried and she ignored you–you felt rejected, scared, and humiliated but you felt so ashamed that your mother was angry at you that you wiped away your tears and went out and said, “I’m sorry Mommy I will try to be good”.  Then, she smiles at you and says, something like, “good, you learned your lesson about obeying me”.

This is horrible abuse for a highly sensitive gifted child whose only way of surviving this situation is to be a shell of her former self, deny all of her legitimate feelings and needs for pursuing her gifts and talents and dreams, and become a little robot shell of a person with all her feelings pushed way down deep to the point of repression.  A child incorporates the internalized message of, I must not trust my feelings or I will upset my mother/father and I need her/him.  To the less than sensitive observer this exchange seems harmless enough and they might even think “what a good child” or worse “what a good parent to have such a child that obeys so well”.  That is one reason that it is difficult for HSPs to change our negative beliefs about ourselves–most of society doesn’t yet understand or support a childs need to express needs contrary to the parent in charge.

You won’t feel guilty about leaving your abusive narcissistic family members behind when you understand that if malignant narcissists are in emotional pain for even a second, they lash out and blame someone else for it–they are not feeling pain the way you and I do–they get rid of it immediately.  They put on acts of great suffering because they know it works to make us feel guilty.  Don’t fall for it–it is all an act.  They are going about their merry way without a trace of remorse or guilt. They pull out the tears and anguish when other family members are around to get them against you–they get relief and control back from these antics so don’t feel guilty about leaving all of the craziness behind.

So back to how pain is helping you have a better life….  The truth too painful to bear as children has to come up as the painful truth or you can’t acknowledge that it happened, release it, learn from it, and find yourself!  It is a painful process but you are worth it!  Your true voice has been in hiding for far too long.  Next time something happens to you that is so painful it makes you want to give up on a person, try telling yourself,  “this pain is exactly how I felt as a child when ___ happened to me!”  Then write it out with all the pent-up emotion you can conjure up and see if you don’t feel better when as you write you realize you were an innocent victim and have a right to all of those feelings!

You may just be so grateful for the realization that you were a child who deserved so much more that you will even feel grateful for the person in the present that hurt you! They helped you bring a painful truth from your childhood to the surface to be healed.  You healed a layer of pain from your childhood!  On to the next!  Soon you will begin believing in your goodness and see your inner wisdom and kindness. You will begin attracting only loving giving people like you because your bright shining light of your special highly sensitive intuitive soul can now shine through the existing layers making them much easier to process through.  The illusions that helped you survive will fall away and a new-found confidence and ease will emerge.

So remember, from the layers of pain and hurt emerges the wonderful and amazing true YOU!  You can do it!  I hope that my words can assist you through this complex healing process.

Part 2

Okay, now for the health update:  The recent painful injury to my low back/hip sacroiliac joint (S.I.) is another example of how the universe/God  helps us along our path with painful obstacles that are lessons in disguise.

My holistic chiropractor was unable to answer my many questions about what I could and couldn’t do and what would help and hinder my recovery.  So I made an appointment with a physical therapist that was prescribed by my family doctor. She was able to tell me exactly what ligaments I had sprained, the reasons for my pain, exactly what movements to avoid and which ones were so safe so I could heal in the fastest amount of time.  She explained exactly why it had happened to me–with no core strength in my pelvis from lack of exercise, the ligaments were sprained severely requiring 6 to 8 weeks to heal completely.

She explained that sitting and standing hurts because those actions depend entirely on the ligaments I strained, whereas walking uses different muscles.  I can sit for a one hour at a time now, can drive for short periods, am allowed to walk on flat surfaces only, and should avoid all stairs as much as possible until I am fully healed.  She showed me the correct way to pick up something from the floor, bending at the knees and holding onto something for support–I had been doing it wrong every time.  She has given me homework of daily exercises to start strengthening my core muscles as I heal and I am doing them diligently!

Before I went to my physical therapist, there were 3 occasions when I had no pain in the morning (that is usually when I was in the most pain).  I  had gotten so excited I ended up doing too much that day and the next day I paid for it with pain that sent me back to the couch with ice and rest.  The third time it happened I had this surreal moment of anguish but at the same time a moment of grace and surrender–a reminder of how, even though I was exiled to the couch, I had a glimpse of what I had learned spending most of the month of May on the couch unable to move without the severe pain recurring.  The month of May gave me an entirely new perspective on my life and this moment of grace made me permanently slow down and appreciate that the small things in life were actually huge things to be grateful for.

It made me realize:  the things I missed being able to do most were things I did not expect because they were lost in all the busy activities I took for granted.  I missed most being able to sit up and play my guitar and sing my songs without pain. I missed being able to sit and write creatively on my computer for long periods (my last post I had to write and edit in long hand first).  I missed being pain-free so that I could concentrate again and get back to coaching my clients–having chronic pain is exhausting and I had to put my coaching on hold for a while (but it has now resumed 🙂 ). Biking, hiking, and dancing were also activities I loved and never found time for.  These are all things that have now been moved even higher on my priority list–maybe this injury is the only way for me to really learn what is most important to me in life.

A bonus from all this is that my husband had no idea how much I did around our home and has a new appreciation for all the years I spent managing our home because suddenly, he had to do it all!  I didn’t even realize how much I took on. Now he has wonderfully agreed to continue taking on his share of these tasks even after I fully recover (including half of the grocery shopping 🙂 ).  After all, I have a successful career too now and it is only fair!  My husband was really amazed at how much work it was and he now has a new appreciation of how much time and energy I spent doing it.  As I recover I am learning to delegate tasks that need taken care of, but more important than that, I learned to just let the unimportant things go so we can just spend more quality time together and be in the moment enjoying life! I am very grateful for a husband with such a kind and compassionate soul.

With every new victory in my physical abilities, we celebrate together and both of us appreciate our life together and our health so much more.  Soon I will be able to dance again.  We both loved to go out dancing together when we were younger–why don’t we do that more often!  Now with my physical therapist teaching me core strengthening exercises, I am determined to get strong and enjoy things with my husband that we both love to do together: biking, hiking, and dancing! Yay!  Through pain came important changes: the ability to slow down, be grateful, and relax and live in the moment; delegating tasks so I have more time to commit to the work and activities that I love; commiting to getting and keeping core strength and stamina; and letting the unimportant things go!

I hope my words have inspired you to look for and find the lessons amidst all the wonderful ups and painful downs of life.  I hope I have helped you to find strength in the truth re-experienced by your wise and gifted inner child. And I hope I’ve helped you to slow down and discover the joys in the small blessings in your life.

With Love,

Roxanne

The Connection To Learned Helplessness in Highly Sensitive People (HSPs)

Updated March 2016

Hi everyone.  Today I want to write about a subject that many of my clients and readers can relate to as Highly Sensitive People.  It is something called Learned Helplessness.  Learned Helplessness is that feeling of powerlessness that we all feel at times, and for some of us it is more pervasive and all encompassing than for others.  There is much hope in talking about it because if you can understand the roots of this feeling, you can understand that it is “learned” behavior and that you can become aware of it when it hits you and ultimately heal from it completely.

I first heard about Learned Helplessness in my introductory psychology class in college.  And you probably have heard the story as well–the story of Pavlov’s dog. Pavlov used a dog in an experiment in human behavior to demonstrate the result of conditioning. I can’t recall the exact details except that the dog was given rewards or withheld the rewards and the resulting behavior of the dog was recorded and studied. There were other dog experiments by a psychologist named Seligman in which he shocked sets of dogs to demonstrate learned behavior and conditioning and punishment.

The main thing I remember vividly about the whole thing was that at the end of the Seligman experiments, the dogs were shocked repeatedly both when they completed a task correctly and also when they did not.  The poor dogs were so confused that they layed down depressed and GAVE UP and even whined–and this was Learned Helplessness that the dogs were experiencing.  I still remember learning about this vividly because I felt SO bad for these dogs–I was empathizing and upset beyond what the average person reading this would expect to be.

At that time in college I did not have the insight or self-awareness yet to realize it was because I resonated so much personally with how the dogs were treated. As a highly sensitive, empathetic person I knew just how those dogs must have felt and I related to them giving up and laying down, hopeless, and helpless, in fear, and self-doubt.  Those dogs were experiencing the same damned-if-you-do-and-damned-if-you-don’t no-win situation that those who were bullied consistently (or even neglected or controlled) by a caretaker or narcissistic or controlling parent were subjected to day in and day out as children.  Years later I remember talking to a counselor about this, knowing just how a dog in those experiments must have felt and it helped the counselor have a picture of the frustration, fear, desperation, loneliness, despair, hopelessness, and helplessness.

After I voiced this to the counselor, I was able to picture myself as a small child with the same compassion I had for such a dog and finally realized that I deserved so much more.  The roots of my anxiety were then exposed–no wonder I felt anxious all the time, no wonder I was a perfectionist and afraid to disappoint anyone, no wonder I didn’t know how to relax, no wonder I had no access to my own dreams and desires and was filled with self-doubts and negative messages in my head.  It helped to talk to someone about how I felt what I experienced could compare to the treatment of those dogs–the feeling of not being given consistent love and support and feeling rewarded only if obedient and punished with emotional rejection if not.

My life coaching experiences and studies have taught me the following in regards to those highly sensitive people with a narcissistic parent:  The Scapegoat child of a N parent can very much relate to this constant punishment and criticism.  But the Golden Child (GC) can relate as well because they are often the obedient one who needs desperately some kind of loving approval and, out of fear, becomes what the parent or  wants for them to become.  Outwardly to others it may appear as if the GC has it all–the love, attention and admiration of the Narcissistic parent.  But inside there is so much emptiness and pain, an absence of the knowledge of self and true feelings–feelings that had to be hidden away because they were too painful to bear.  The false self is developed and honed in, the GC knows exactly how their N parent feels even before they do.  The GC develops a radar that helps them to survive the lack of love and support–and they develop an illusion that they are the ones at fault if, even with their best efforts, they fail to win the acceptance of the N parent.  They blame themselves and have very low self-esteem, crushed by criticism, holding relationships at arms length so no one will get too close and cause them further pain.

The roots of co-dependence are also linked to this learned helplessness–victims of such abuse telling themselves that there must be something wrong with them and that they are deeply flawed and it usually goes in one of two ways–either they decide they need to find another person to love them and take care of them and then they will be happy (co-dependence) or they become a porcupine not letting anyone one else near, lashing out at anyone who suspects that they just might have some insecurities underneath their outwardly successful yet workaholic exterior shell. People who suffer from panic attacks and even agoraphobia often have learned helplessness from childhood as a root cause as well.

“What can a person do?” you may be asking if you relate to what I am describing.  Plenty!  Just being aware and believing that this happened to you as a child is the first step. Just as you have compassion for the dogs in the experiments, you need to develop this same compassion for yourself and make a decision to stop being so hard on yourself.  Make a decision to be kind to yourself every time you are feeling bad–it is almost always childhood pain coming up to tell you the truth of what really happened to you.  Become aware that the negative messages in your head were put there by someone else and that you did not deserve them.  Change them to positive messages.  Write in a journal all the things you were good at as a child and never given credit for.  Writing out the truth is powerful and go back and read it often to remind yourself.

It takes time so be patient with yourself.  Taking baby steps in the direction of healing is wise because there is pain to work through and release but you can do it!  You have many gifts and talents that have never been acknowledged yet and only you can bring them out from their repressed state of Learned Helplessness.

Whether you were the scapegoat in your family or the obedient golden child, you can heal from the trauma of Learned Helplessness.  Often people who experience post traumatic stress from an abusive childhood fall into this state of learned helplessness when their wounds are triggered.  It can feel like an inability to function, a numbness–but sometimes the feelings along with that are a mix of rage and despair.

If you have lashed out at loved ones with an intensity beyond what is appropriate then you probably were a victim of a person that controlled you in an abusive way far far too much with no remorse. If you were extremely sensitive (extremely emotionally gifted 🙂 ), just a mean look from his/her eyes could cause a traumatic reaction in you as a child and the fear may have felt like a spear through your heart.  The rage and despair you feel is understandable and appropriate but needs to be directed, voiced, and released at the person that did this too you in a journal, letter that won’t be sent, and/or perhaps even read outloud with a safe witness friend, counselor, or coach present (never to them or to their face) .  You will find a sense of relief each time you release some of this truth and the light inside of you will become brighter and brighter and you will feel lighter and lighter. You will begin to experience the essence of your true self and the vitality you deserve.  This is the process of healing. Don’t hold onto the anger and resentment that comes up but release it completely each time, visualizing the negative emotions going up to heaven or into the earth,whichever appeals most, to be healed by love and light–Imagine love and light coming to you as well to replace these negative emotions each time to center yourself again to a peaceful state.

Why did you experience learned helplessness while your siblings did not?  Perhaps you had the gift of high sensitivity and along with that the knowledge and expectation of a higher level of love.  And when you did not receive this love that you innately knew existed, you had no choice but to blame yourself because…it made no sense to you.  Your siblings possibly just got mad at your parents and rebelled–they may have had no higher vision of a loving existence so it didn’t feel as traumatic to them.

So you see, the cure and the answer to all of your self-doubt and learned helplessness is LOVE Love yourself as you deserved to be loved and give yourself the love that you so easily give to others because that is your gift.  Compassion and love for yourself will help you overcome all of the many symptoms of Learned Helplessness just as consistent love and affection and kindness would help Seligman’s abused dogs to learn to trust people and trust themselves again.  I hope my words have been helpful to you.

With love,

Roxanne

More Helpful Tips–For Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) With A Narcissistic Parent–Part 1

Hi everyone. As highly sensitive people, many of you are struggling with how to cope with your relationship with your narcissistic parent and your unsupportive siblings and extended family.  First of all I want to tell you that as a life coach for people with childhood wounds, I understand your pain and how hard it is. There is very little support in our society for not having a relationship with ones’ parents no matter how negative and destructive they are to you or were to you in your childhood.  Many people have difficult parents but they tolerate them and seem to get by okay so why can’t you, right?  The pressure is very real.  But let me help you understand the difference between you (an HSP) and everyone else with some more helpful tips that are very important for you to know.

1. Know that your greatest gift is your intuition.

As a highly sensitive person (HSP), you were naturally giving and loving and trusting as children.  You had high hopes for yourselves and others including your parents.  People with loving and supportive parents are more likely living lives full of vitality and creative fulfillment and healthy boundaries to keep negative, manipulative, harmful people at a distance naturally and sharing their unique gifts with others.  These people don’t feel guilty about not getting along with everyone–they just “know” there are some people who are unhealthy and dangerous–they pay attention to their natural instincts.  But people with a narcissistic parent were taught at a very young age, even from birth not to trust their own instincts, their own intuition.  The horrible thing about that is, that was their greatest gift, “their sensitive intuition”, and it was often used against them.

2. Know that you may have repressed a terrible trauma from your childhood–the loss of the knowledge of your gifts.

Possibly, if you had an N parent, then part of your sensitivities were seen as a gift for “them”.  They could control you easily because of your trusting nature–so often they used fear to get you to be quiet, anger to get you to obey, and shame to keep you from feeling independent and strong.  And it worked.  You trusted them and needed them to take care of you and protect you from a world that overwhelmed your sensitive souls so you…experienced a trauma that caused you to shut down your true selves and become what they wanted you to become.   Something happened that was “the last straw” for your fragile but wise self that was developing.  Typically it happens around age 5 or 6, according to Alice Miller (Author of The Drama of the Gifted Child).  After an incident that you can’t remember because you have repressed it, suddenly, you are obedient and sweet wanting only to please.  And please them you did.  And that is why it is so hard for them to let go of you now.  You took care of them.  Completely and amazingly.  They felt loved by you and validated by you filling a void inside of them that was caused in their childhood.  It is as if you were the loving parent that they never had.  That is how gifted you were.  Those gifts of intuiting the needs of others are still there–they were just misused and abused by your needy and narcissistic parent.  Those gifts of being a loving and giving and caretaking soul were mis-directed.

3. Know that your childhood holds the roots of your anxiety, self-doubt, post traumatic stress, and co-dependence issues.

As you grew up and tried to do some of the creative endeavors that were driven by your soul, your parent probably did not support you because they did not want you to leave them or stop taking care of their emotional needs or they just saw no harm in controlling you.  As narcissistic parents with no conscience or guilt, it was easy for them to manipulate you, so they did.  The pain of your original trauma at the age of 5 or 6 would come up for you each time you tried to express your true self and these outbursts of emotion may have been shamed and punished by your parent and made you give up each time.  This is the beginning of the post traumatic stress that still plagues you today. ” Why do I over-react in these explosive ways”, you may have asked yourself.  This is why.  Your true self and all your repressed feelings and desires from childhood still want badly to be heard and understood and validated and “loved”.  Your narcissistic parent was not capable of giving you this love and still is not and never will be.  Your love needs are still unmet.  You searched for love from others but sometimes, because parts of you are still undeveloped and childlike, you end up being attracted to people who seem wonderful and charming at first but then turn out to be needy and manipulative and unable to comfort you when you need it most–just like your N parent.

4. Know that there is hope and you can heal.

So what is a highly sensitive person with an N parent to do?  You can heal and learn to love yourself and slowly unblock all those creative parts of yourself that never got a chance to be expressed.  You can learn to trust your self and your gifts of emotional intelligence and intuition that were seemingly robbed from you and misused and abused.  You can gain clarity amidst all the confusion, and hope amidst all the despair.  You can learn that it is okay for you to say no to other people’s demands and put yourself first.  You need to learn about extreme “self- care” (Cheryl Richardson–author of the book Life Makeovers) and you need a journal to pour into all the feelings from your deepest heart.  You need support from like-minded, highly sensitive, safe people to share the pain and grief from the loss of a childhood that feels as if it was taken away from you.  All your desires and free impulses were repressed so that you could survive with an illusion that your parent’s needs were more important than your own.  But surviving was not really living your life.  Surviving is not good enough.  Your survival skills just cause you trouble because they are not driven by your heart, they are driven by a needy inner child trying to please a parent that felt unpleasable and without remorse about what they did to you.

5. Know that the answers are inside of you and support is available.

You need to take a new direction.  A direction into your own soul.  You need to excavate the desires of a child who never had a say in the development of his/her own life!  Write it out!  Talk it out! Cry it out!  Shout it out!  You can do this in a journal that is meant for your eyes only.  Or you can find a counselor or coach who does inner child healing therapy.  It’s important to find support somewhere so you can find your true voice and express it.  There are HSP meet-up groups in larger cities.  You might also look into Unitarian churches or Unity churches to meet people of a spiritual nature who are not necessarily “religious”.

6. Know that no contact with a malignant narcissistic parent is not just recommended so that you can get the time you need to heal, it is vital!

One of the first steps into this new direction of healing for yourself is ending the old song and dance and unhealthy relationship that you have with your narcissistic parent.  If you’ve tried everything else and you are still miserable, that means setting boundaries on contact is an important step so that you can heal and move on with the life that you always deserved.  The fact that you understand the words Malignant Narcissistic is crucial here.  We are not talking about a parent that is capable of being remorseful about your childhood and trying to change, we are talking about a parent who blames you every time the relationship isn’t going their way–they resent the loss of control over your life that they always had. Control is not love. It may be time to cut off contact so you can finally heal.  You do not owe them another ounce of your precious energy.  You owe it to yourself to stay away from them as you heal, because being around them at all always takes a toll on you,  a toll that is much heavier and destructive and stressful and toxic to you than you may realize.

There are a total of 12 tips that I have written about here today, but I am going to stop here and give you the other 6 in my next post in two weeks because this is getting really long. I hope that what I have written has been helpful to you.  I hope that you can enjoy this last week of summer and get out in the warmth of the sunshine–slow down and feel the connection to God’s love that nature provide’s and really take it in. Walks in nature are a great way to recharge your energy.  Your highly sensitive soul and body deserve this special treatment.  It’s never too late to start on the path to the healing you deserve.

With Love,

Roxanne

How My Best Counselor Helped Me to Break Through My Illusions and Self-doubt

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

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