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 aliveness—I 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!
Hi everyone. I’m happy to be back. I had a wonderful vacation and it is also great to be back home. I am feeling renewed and energetic now (five days after we returned) but I was extremely exhausted when we first got back. And my husband bounced right back after like one day–and so, comparing myself to him, I was feeling very much lost and empty and discouraged…. and then started wondering how will I ever write another post and even…how did I ever write all that stuff I already wrote–I was spiraling negative thoughts again–my inner critic took over! And it was so hard to decipher–I just felt bad and exhausted with no hope in sight. So I wrote in my journal and it helped!–so I thought I would share with you my technique.
First of all, in journaling you must tell yourself that no one is going to read this ever! –and mean it and believe it. Then you let loose with all your feelings. I started out saying ” I feel horrible! I can’t remember who I am or how to feel good.” Within 2 sentences though I remembered, ” I used to feel this way all the time as a child.” And then, “Oh yes this is childhood pain coming up to heal. I just had a wonderful vacation! My inner child is expecting to be punished.” Then my own compassion kicks in with ” I need to be extra nice to myself. I am being too hard on myself. Do nice things for myself today. I am a highly sensitive person. No wonder I am tired–vacations are highly stimulating–just give myself extra time. Everything is going to be okay.” Before long I am cheering myself up. I have over-ridden my inner critic–that negative voice inside my head. This process always amazes me because I feel like I should be “fixed” by now and should never feel bad again. But that is the negative voice in my head–the pressure from my mother to “be happy — just get over it, you are too sensitive blah, blah, blah.” That is the opposite of what I needed as a highly sensitive child. On vacations I would get overwhelmed, over-tired with all the new sights and activities. I know I deserved kindness instead of impatience, rest instead of guilt for slowing them down, compassion for my ability to see the beauty in the small things like nature instead of annoyance about my questions and my disappointment in their lack of carefulness with my feelings. There was nothing wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with me now. My only mistake was believing them when they blamed me. I don’t believe them and choose to be around people who are safe and kind and who like me easily. My husband is one of those people and was the first to remind me to not be so hard on myself and to take it easy. He was right.
Do not be discouraged if this technique of journaling does not come so easily to you yet. This takes a long time and lots of effort deciphering the truth of what you went through and what you truly deserved as a highly sensitive child. The book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is SO helpful in guiding people through the journaling process that helps unblock creativity (finding your voice and your true self!)
Many different techniques help me to find my voice and vitality again. Sometimes it is playing my songs when I am feeling so lost I don’t remember being able to write songs. Reading your own journal helps too especially if you are the kind of journaler who ends up feeling hopeful after you write. (You have to make yourself do it–it doesn’t come natural to read your own stuff when you are feeling bad about yourself–you’ll be surprised how your own words lift your spirits.) Other times I read books or blogs by people with a compassionate voice and I recover my own compassionate voice. Elaine Aron wrote the book on “The Highly Sensitive Person” and was the catalyst that started the HSP support groups that have grown and spread in cities and online. Online, I read her article on “the problem of bearing an unbearable emotion” that she wrote in her newsletter for Feb. 2006 and I immediately felt “found and validated” just by her compassionate words–my energy came back and I was excited about my life again. I hope my blog does the same for you.
I was fortunate to have some time to find myself and work on myself and read self-help books and write in journals while my children were growing up because my husband was so grateful that I was home raising emotionally healthy kids–he is a “thinking” type although a highly sensitive guy (an INTJ), whereas I am a “feeling” type (an INFJ). (See the book by Keirsey and Bates in my Recommended Books section for a test on temperament types.) He had an even more difficult childhood than I did and is grateful for my compassionate ways. When I think of how far I have come, it feels rather miraculous so I want so much to help others who are as lost and hiding as I was. I believe that those of us who are the most sensitive and almost destroyed are an important resource to this planet if we can join together and rise up as a voice of love, peace, and compassion. The fact that you are feeling beaten down is the very indicator that your sensitive ways have been misunderstood and need to be put to better use. All you need is a witness to validate the injustices you have suffered and then you can rise up and start speaking your mind and being a messenger of compassion that the world needs. DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHER PEOPLE! You are exactly the way you are supposed to be. Be kind to yourself and learn to love yourself.
Louise Hay’s book You Can Heal Your Life is a book I have been reading on and off for 15 years. The positive affirmations in her book I use daily now but felt so foreign to me when I first got the book. One of my favorites is “I give myself permission to be the best that I can be”. Growing up I was not allowed to express my authentic self (or be my best) because it threatened my narcissistic mother and she would withdraw her love and approval. My mother was jealous of my many gifts. I didn’t know I had any gifts at all because she was determined to control me and keep me close and, in her view, if I knew I was gifted I might leave her. That whole concept was hard for me to grasp because it would never occur to me to be that way or be jealous of a child of mine–it is my responsibility to help my child see all his/her gifts and how special he/she is. So this explains why I couldn’t have compassion for myself–I trusted so completely in my mother. And also then came the question “why would God give me a mother who was so manipulative and unloving?” That was another chapter in my life that I now have completely resolved. God did not arrange for me to have this emotional pain and hardship but has given me the inner strength and compassion to overcome it and become strong. Had I not had a mother like that I would not be reaching out to help others who also experienced a mother like that right now in this moment.
In this moment, I am happy and complete and grateful for all the pain I went through to make me this strong. But while I was in the pain and lost and alone and not knowing how to let God’s love in, I was not grateful–no way! But there was a pivotal moment when I was crying in despair that I became aware that no one but me was going to rescue me–of the two of us, my husband and I, I was the stronger one emotionally. Something Eckhart Tolle said in his book A New Earth helped a lot. He said something to the effect of… I am not all that happens to me–I am ” the presence” that observes all that happens to me…. It made me realize I am not this abused child who is forever a victim. I am all the wisdom from what I have learned from it and can comfort my inner abused child through it. I still keep learning it over and over and each time it gets easier to find myself again. So do not give up. You who are hiding and afraid to speak up–it’s okay and you have every right to be afraid. But that it is not all of you. You have a gift, a wisdom, a compassion, that is sorely needed in the world. Don’t let the bullies and controllers and competitors win. They are not like you and so cannot understand you. But you can understand you! You are on this planet for a reason exactly as you are. Change only the people you are around. Elaine Aron says that HSPs have an easier time overcoming depression just by changing our environment to being around people who love us and accept us as we are. She says “get out of competitive environments where you have to fear that you will be judged, rejected, or seen as a failure, and stay around those who like you.” (see her newsletter the Comfort Zone , and the article called “A Few Happy Things Regarding Depression”). I am adding her website to my blogroll. It is hsperson dot com. I hope I have helped you to feel more hopeful and happy. You deserve it. You are a highly sensitive person and that my friend is a gift. Thank you to my readers.
Hi everyone. The day after I started writing on this blog for the very first time you might be able to guess what happened–I woke up in the morning with the dreaded feeling of Guilt like a black cloud hanging over my head. In the past I might have felt guilty and spiraled into negativity but thank goodness I knew what to do. I observed this feeling instead of falling into it. I was actually grateful for my new awareness of knowing and being able to label this feeling as Guilt. (I used to just feel numb or a generalized anxiety in the morning–it was a familiar and comfortable state–it was how I survived as a child.) I said to myself, okay this makes sense to feel this feeling today after the success of my first blog. This is Childhood Pain Coming Up to Heal Because Things Are Going Well. This powerful phrase has helped my husband and I so many times. I learned about this from John Gray–in one of the last chapters in his Venus and Mars book. This was one tiny section which I feel was so important he could’ve written a whole book on it for the impact it made on my husband and I.
I realized I had internalized shame that showed up after I had successes that made me feel good about myself. I believe ultimately as a small child that I believed “there is something wrong with me. I am guilty–it is all my fault.” To survive I had to repress all the anger and fear at having been blamed unfairly. I was a highly sensitive child. I desperately needed love and approval. So I settled for conditional love–I became an obedient and anxious shell of a person.
So I had expressed my true authentic self by writing my truth and my inner child was expecting to be punished and blamed and felt guilty. What I have learned is that the strong part of me which now knows the truth is able to comfort the wounded child in me that still feels fear and insecurity and blamed and guilty. See, as a child we make decisions and believe them so thoroughly it’s very hard to change the neural pathways in our brains that are so deeply set. The negative thoughts are so automatic–that’s how we survived. But we can change those pathways in our brains by becoming aware that the negative things we are saying to ourselves are from a wounded child’s perspective! As highly sensitive people, we know how to nurture and love and comfort other people through their self-doubt and fear–so by taking that wounded child inside of you and comforting yourself you can change your inner child’s beliefs about yourself and the pathways of negative spiraling thoughts. Realizing that I had to be the one to love myself and that noone was going to do it for me was a big revelation and turning point for me. Learning to comfort myself with positive affirmations and taking it easy when these big overwhelming feelings come up is now something that comes much easier.
So do I still feel guilty about my speaking out and writing on this blog? In a way the guilt is still there but it is small and completely manageable. And the part of me that is strong, wise, and knows the truth is keeping it in check–telling the wounded child in me that it is going to be okay and I am doing the right thing by speaking my truth. Do I have days when I still succumb to the child part in me and spiral negatively and beat myself up in despair? No, not any longer but I used to and it was a gradual process to get me where I am now. It used to happen mostly in the mornings and sometimes I couldn’t stop it right away. But then, there usually came a time of awareness a short time later, on the same day, when I realized this was a brand new layer of unbearable pain from my childhood that came up to heal because things were going well. My inner child felt safe enough to show it to me and say hey this really bad injustice happened to me and I needed to let it out finally. These are days when I put everything else aside–my list of things to do can wait until tomorrow. I allow myself to grieve for the childhood I never had and deserved. I comfort myself with my favorite things and am nice to myself like I deserved to be treated as a child-legitimate needs that went unmet until now are being healed–by me. I am a nurturing, supportive, comforting mom to myself. I can do it! And so can you. Ultimately this process is what a good empathic coach or inner child counselor is for. They are someone you can trust with the pain of your inner child to help you figure out the truth of what really happened and help you grieve. Then, when you can comfort yourself through the worst of the feelings that come up, then you know you no longer need the coach. You can take care of and love yourself through anything!
Thank you for reading! I hope my words have been helpful to you.