Category Archives: over-working
The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and The Body–An Awakening To the Importance of Listening To It and Core Strength
Hi everyone. I am back and writing again. Yay! I hope you are enjoying the beauty of this spring season and all the brilliantly colorful flowers. Thank you to those who commented or emailed me such wonderful wishes. It was quite a traumatic ordeal for me but I believe there are lessons in all things that happen to us–especially the painful things.
As a highly sensitive child, I have always been sensitive to pain and felt my pain more acutely than others–both physically and emotionally. I have childhood wounds related to how I was cared for during illnesses and also a hospitalization as a toddler. Being “laid up” as I have been the last few weeks has broken open many of those wounds so that I could remember, reframe them with the truth of who I was, and finally grieve, release and heal the repressed emotions.
I had always had a hard time when I was sick–I would beat myself up, blaming myself for causing it–always finding it difficult to rest in order to heal–sometimes even prolonging my illnesses because of the stress I added to the illness. I discovered this 2 years ago when I had 2 bad viruses back to back. I had to face up to the fact that I had to change how I pushed my body too far and was terrible at resting and relaxing. Things like this always have their foundations formed in childhood. My husband could see the patterns I couldn’t see as clearly. “Don’t be so hard on yourself, relax and let your body heal “, he would always say. “Take it easy, don’t do anything today but rest.” It helped but as soon as I recovered I’d go back to my bad habits of not listening to my body.
If you’ve read my post from June 15, 2010 on HSPs and allergies and stress-related illness you know that I am recovering nicely from adrenal fatigue. Developing stronger boundaries has definitely helped reduce the negative energy in my life and the “fight-or-flight” responses to stress that I had a pattern of. When your body reacts to stress with a fight-or-flight reaction you have increased cortisol (the stress hormone) in your body in the form of adrenaline. This is an “extreme fear” reaction that I believe many HSPs with childhood wounds do not even realize they are experiencing because it is combined with the numbing or anesthetic effect that goes along with the adrenaline rush. What I now have learned is that even positive events in life can trigger this fight-or-flight response if you had the daily trauma in your childhood.
It’s like post traumatic stress in a way–any event, positive or negative, can open the wound and the internalized belief “I am not good enough as I am, I must work extra hard to be perfect to be loved”. These are the roots of the compulsions of perfectionism, workaholism, burnout, and exhaustion etc. It is automatic and unconscious until we become aware of it, give voice to it, and then can reassure ourselves and calm and slow ourselves down. Sometimes it takes an accident, illness, or an injury for us to awaken to the knowledge of: “this pattern has to change–I am hurting myself by doing this!”
For me it was the event of both my children coming home. My 24-year-old son who lives 3 hours away and I hadn’t seen since Christmas was coming home for 4 days at Easter. And my 20-year-old daughter was coming home from her semester studying abroad in Australia 2 days after Easter. I overdid it! I was drained and exhausted but still so excited by the end of Easter evening–my low back/hip was aching but I ignored it. My son left after a wonderful visit but my daughter would be home in 2 days. I ignored my hip pain and exhaustion and just had to go to the grocery to get her favorite foods, just had to go to the party store to buy welcome home decorations and balloons, just had to clean up her room and get it ready for her, just had to hang up the banners and reach and stretch to hang lots of streamers in the main area of the house. All that stretching and twisting was way too much for my already injured sacroiliac joint! (I had moved boxes out of my son’s room to prepare for his visit). I thought I just needed a chiropractic adjustment and I’d be good as new–but I was continually injuring the ligaments to my sacroiliac joint! I didn’t listen to my body–it was begging me to stop, begging me to rest, “all this isn’t necessary, don’t do it” my intuition whispered to me. But “I have to” was a louder voice. I now realize my childhood fear of “not being good enough as I am” was playing out my trauma from the past into the present.
I did cut back on some things I had planned to do and rested with heat and ice packs for 3 hours before we picked up my daughter at the airport–but it was too late! The damage was done! And as the adrenaline wore off and my daughter settled into our home with “Mom, you shouldn’t have!”, she ended up being so right! I shouldn’t have! And I will never forget this painful lesson of ignoring pain in my body again. (I ended up in the ER with excruciating pain 1 and 1/2 days later–see my last post for more info.)
Nothing like this has ever happened to me before. Besides adrenal fatigue, I have never had anything chronic and this was chronic excruciating pain. I thought I had discovered a healthy alternative to exercise with my specific carbohydrate diet that was and is the perfect solution for my highly sensitive digestive system. Avoiding complex carbohydrates and sugar gave me more energy and kept my weight down. So I fooled myself into believing I didn’t need to exercise. (I tried exercising occasionally with fits and starts but the pain always made me quit–I now see there was emotional pain from my childhood tied into “getting stronger”. I learned that often childhood wounds related to our bodies can have complex origins. Hsps can feel shamed with looks of disgust or disapproval when expressing themselves joyfully through their bodies–dancing, running, and playing can be seen as threats to a N parent who need their hsp children to stay dependent and near and “take care of them forever”. This may be an unconscious act on the part of the N parent–The mixed message of “grow up”/”don’t grow up and leave me” leaves many HSPs to feel guilt about growing strong and competent and enjoying having strong bodies. HSPs can sense this message even though the parent may be completely unaware that they are projecting this onto their child.
Now I am told that if I’d had more core strength and the overall strength and stamina that only exercise can provide I could have avoided this injury. With weak core muscles I put strain on the ligaments related to my sacroilliac (SI) joint and injured the ligaments severely. Sprained ligaments like I have takes 4-6 weeks to heal. And you must be very careful not to reinjure them by doing too much too soon–I read that if you reinjure certain SI areas 4 or more times, you could end up with chronic pain there for the rest of your life!
And this week I did have a setback. 3 weeks in I was doing well and was finally able to pick things up off of the floor and drive etc. but I must have done too much and remember one sudden jolt that retriggered my pain and set my progress back a whole week! Ugh!…back on the couch just when the pain was beginning to lessen. But I learned from it and am now even more careful and even more grateful for the activities I took for granted before.
As bad as it sounds, this traumatic experience has changed my life for the better. I learned:
1. I avoided exercise because of the pain it caused me but that is nothing compared to the pain of being immobile and unable to function normally and perform the simplest of tasks like putting on ones own socks!
2. I must commit to regular exercise as soon as possible after I heal. My plan is to start walking and doing core strengthening daily and then I am going to do Pilates or yoga and join jazzercise again. I loved Jazzercise classes in my 20’s and 30’s–I had stopped in 1999 when it became too fatiguing and painful for me (I didn’t know then that I already had symptoms of adrenal fatigue). The adrenal fatigue is now better so I should be able to get back into it if I am very gradual and process the emotions as they come up.
3. I must get in shape and get core strength for the first time in my life and stay that way! I hope to get up to doing Jazzercise 3 times a week. Also I plan to do lots of hiking and biking with my husband which he loves to do but has always done without me because….well… honestly… I couldn’t keep up. My body has now taken a front seat in my life–I am sorry I didn’t listen to it sooner! Fear of this pain returning is a great motivator–muscle soreness is nothing compared to the intense chronic pain and the pain of being immobile and dependent on others for everything.
4. I am too young for this kind of injury–I am only 49. Now my body has caught up to the “new beginning journey” that my heart and mind were already on! And so for this wake up call I say, Thank you, Universe, for all that it taught me!!!
Wishing all of you love and kindness to your spirit, mind, and BODY!!
How Highly Sensitive People Who Are High Achieving and Intuitive Can Overcome Self-Defeating Behaviors
Hi everyone. Today I want to talk about the special complexity of being both a high achiever and Intuitive, and a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and how this combination of academic giftedness, and a deep thinking facility can lead to avoidance and a numbness in regard to emotions.
What I have come to learn about healing is that it is often so difficult to begin when, as highly intuitive (highly sensitive) children, we have spent most of our lives trying not to be so “sensitive”, and to fit into the rest of society, that, at least in the American Culture that exists today, being sensitive is not the “ideal”. There exists a pressure to be extraverted, social, superficial, constantly busy, productive and able to produce and work hard no matter what is going on in our lives. Also the word sensitive is often used synonomously with the word “insecure” and that is not at all what is meant here. Sensitivity (Intuition) is a gift and it causes you to experience everything in life at a deeper, richer level. Less sensitive others may outnumber us and put it down but they are just plain wrong!
Because of ridicule of our budding sensitive selves early in life, we have hidden away the part of us that “feels” and have become very good at being successful and “thinking” our way out of problems and “thinking” our way to finding a cure for the emptiness and loneliness we sometimes feel. So we keep seeking out superficial relationships and experiences, looking for some “one” or fun experiences that will be the answer to our discontent.
Also we try to fill our time with busy tasks that satisfy our immediate need for validation and often this is through technology, being constantly plugged in to our computers or phones, being news junkies, texting, video games, watching television etc. All of these tasks seem to keep us going through another empty day of being out of touch with who we really are and help to keep us in a state of numbness that was a state of survival for us as highly sensitive children.
The problems that crop up in our lives are clues to the fact that this superficial state of existence is not really working for us and we need to make a change. For example, it is often a shock to us when we have relationship problems with others because we, for the most part see nothing wrong with how we are functioning and relating to others. When you have spent your life avoiding painful feelings you begin to believe that you have no real problems at all and everything would just be fine if people would do things your way—the logical way. It isn’t until others in our lives complain about our emotional unavailability that we even see that there is a problem at all.
Other problems that may crop up from not being in touch with our emotional side are that you may be out of touch or blocked from fully utilizing your creativity and this can lead to a feeling of dissatisfaction with the work that you are doing. Also, when you are dissatisfied with your work because it is unfulfilling on a deeper emotional level, gradually it saps your energy.
You may also “over-work” to continue numbing out your feelings because you are out of touch with your feelings that tell you a natural time to stop and you are not listening to your body. When you over-work at an unfulfilling job you run on adrenaline a lot from stress. This causes your body to produce too much cortisol which can mess up the balance of hormones and cause you to have less energy. motivation, and even feel semi-depressed (possible symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue or “burnout”). This can cause you to become overwhelmed with even simple tasks in your life that you just don’t have the motivation or energy to do anymore.
This is worsened when you are highly intuitive (sensitive) in that you are constantly taking in more stimuli than other people who are not intuitive. You may be comparing yourself constantly to less intuitive (less sensitive) others and you get overwhelmed trying to do what everyone else seems to be able to do. Intuitives are only 15 to 20% of the population and it will help you so much if you embrace that it is a gift that sets you apart and you are different for a reason. You must make allowances for your need for breaks and time alone to recharge–even extraverts who are highly intuitive (sensitive) need to cut back on their “list of shoulds” because they are taking in more stimuli than extraverted others. Just realizing you “require” more rest and more time to recharge and regroup when you are in a stressful job can be quite a relief–especially for this group that tends to be harder on themselves anyway and want badly to succeed and be the best at their jobs which are often technology based.
Getting access to your emotional side and out of the left-brained thinking side which you exist in most of the time will help you to feel more satisfaction and joy in your life and at work and have more fulfilling connections with others.
This is not easy but it is so worth the effort because the end result is the connection to the real you—the emotional side of yourself that is the connection to the source of all love and compassion which is a higher power/universal consciousness/or “God”! Now I know I may have lost some of you just now because your scientific mind refuses to believe in something so intangible and illogical. However, if you do some research you will find that some of the greatest minds including Albert Einstein believed in a spiritual creative universal consciousness that could be tapped into. This can be achieved by believing in your self and your dreams and requires a certain amount of “emotional self-discovery” and healing of those blocks which keep us from feeling things on a deep level.
When you work through the blocks that keep you from enjoying your life on a deep level you can overcome compulsive behaviors such as perfectionism, over-working, and procrastination as well. These behaviors often result because you are trying to do too many things and have unrealistic expectations of your highly sensitive self–you may try to “overcome” your sensitivity if you look at it as a weakness or you may try to ignore it–but it is innate in you and it will always be there!
As I said before, it is better to embrace it and surrender to it and see it as the gift that it really is–a higher level of creativity and vision will be available to you at your work if you finally start taking care of your extra needs for sleep, time alone, and down time from the left side of your brain. You will be able to tap into your creative genius as a visionary at work if you do some things that help you tap into the right side of your brain–the creative, emotional, and spiritual side. Operating with access to both sides of your brain is so important for balance in your life and in your health and vitality. Makes logical sense, right?
My recommendation is Journaling–writing out your feelings, whatever they are, negative or positive, daily in a journal for your eyes only–because it is a scientific fact that writing in order to express your “feelings” opens up neural pathways to the right side of your brain. It is a channel to the creative side of your life which is the key to a fulfilling connection to your true self and to a source of love we are all capable of experiencing as humans on this planet.
You can do this yourself by following the journaling guidelines in the book, “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. It is a course in discovering and recovering your creative self and I highly recommend it–I did these “morning pages” myself as part of my own recovery. I have written some other posts on how journaling has helped me and I have referred to it as my own inner grief work and the process of “growing a backbone”. My husband (an INTJ) journals for healing and was amazed at it’s effect and referred to the process as “growing a new heart”. The outcome of this kind of journaling is as unique for the person as the uniqueness of the person doing the writing.
The truth is you need to be able to love your self in order to give love to others and that is necessary in order to be happy and fulfilled in your life and in your work. You may be saying, “I love myself already”, but it may be more of a sense of entitlement for things and success and a superficial love for self. What I am talking about is loving all of you including the parts of yourself that you are cut off from and avoid–the feelings that make you uncomfortable–shame, sadness, despair, loneliness, and anger etc.. These are feelings that we all feel for a reason and the reason needs to be acknowledged along with the feelings so that you can express them and ultimately release them and heal them. When you allow painful feelings to be expressed at the core of when they occurred and for the reason that they occurred then you are connecting to the truth that you blocked from your memory. A block such as this is always going to keep you from being able to experience full joy and happiness in your life until you work through it.
Often these blocks were formed in childhood. If you were a highly sensitive child in an environment where your parents were already overwhelmed with dealing with their own feelings, then you may have shut off your feelings and repressed them in order to “be good” and helpful to your parents. Sometimes we were so gifted and so intuitive that we were able to shut down our feeling sides without the memory of any real trauma from childhood but just because we constantly told ourselves that our feelings didn’t matter. We then have a “belief” that we are no more than this false self that we created to survive—when in actuality there is a whole other rich and emotional side to us that is begging for our attention!
Problems that come up in our lives are clues to this other side of our life that needs healing. Gary Zukav, author of the Seat of the Soul, is a physicist who embraces the spiritual side of his life and believes that the way to feeling wholeness is by excavating our feelings as if we are an archeologist looking for clues and answers to “why”. The answers are inside of us and often are because of events that occurred in our childhood that keep us stuck at the emotional level that we were at the time the event occurred.
Often, things that happened in childhood were unbearably painful and we had to repress them in order to survive them. To “repress” is to completely deny them and remove them from our consciousness! Journaling helps to bring them forth and allow us to discover things about us that are important clues to how to be happy in life!
Remember, the opposite of depression is not happiness but “vitality” which is the ability to express and let flow the full spectrum of emotions—the negative uncomfortable ones as well as positive and easy ones. (Alice Miller–The Drama of the Gifted Child). I hope this information has been helpful to you.