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 have been wanting to share my song “Help Me to Forgive” for a while, but I wanted to explain what I mean by forgiveness because it can be such a confusing and guilt-inducing concept. For myself, forgiving was something I kept trying to do because I thought it was the right thing to do.
As highly sensitive people (HSPs), we want so badly to be compassionate, fair, and kind. I kept forgiving and forgetting the past. I pretended like everything was going to be okay if I just forgave and moved on but I continued to let myself be walked on. I ignored my feelings and kept telling myself I was forgiving and that was the right thing to do. For me, it was the wrong thing to do and the pattern continued until I felt so hurt one day by blatant disrespect for my feelings–when I made a simple assertion that was not to this person’s liking and then they said they were going to do it anyway whether I liked it or not.
I could not deny my feelings any longer. My rage shocked me–I knew it was from childhood and way out of proportion to the event at hand. But I listened to my feelings and it felt good to feel this truth–it was how I had always been treated me and I kept giving out the benefit of the doubt. The anger awakened something in me that needed to come alive–my assertiveness about my needs and feelings and about the boundary that kept being crossing and I kept letting it happen all because I felt it important to forgive and forget.
Now this anger fueled me in a healthy way for a while. It felt good to feel instead of being numb and self-doubting for so long. I wrote a lot about it and found myself in my journaling to have a lot of wise insights and a lot of reasons to be completely fed up with the insidious and mean things that were said to me with a smile.
But I was still so angry, it scared me how angry I was because it was so intense I felt hatred. And this makes sense really when, as highly sensitive children, our trust in ourselves and our spirits feel consistently stomped on until we give up and repress and hide our true selves and feelings away so completely–this is a trauma!– not feeling safe to express our intense anger we hide our true selves away. Now for the first time, I was so angry but I felt alive, I knew it was the truth I was feeling. I was somehow grateful for everything that had happened to me to give me the self-awareness to finally know the truth! Writing my feelings out helped me make sense of it all. I was able to see actions from my childhood which were the cause of much pain and self-doubt. It was very clear! I will never forget this moment in my whole life when I realized there was absolutely nothing wrong with me and that I had just been the victim of a person that I wrongly trusted with my heart and soul. So I made myself a promise not to trust this person with my private feelings (a healthy detachment) and set some boundaries for time and space to heal and it has been a very important decision in my life.
All these emotions coming up helped me connect to this wonderful aliveness–a connection to my true spirit and a connection to God and that he was there with me all along. I know it sounds strange–how could all that pain be so awakening in a positive way but it was. In the midst of the pain, I felt bliss and freedom and truth and so I knew it was right to stop trusting this person. And after a long period of intense anger, pain, grief, and then acceptance, I finally understood what all the talk and importance of forgiveness was all about–I needed to forgive God/The Universe and stopped blaming Him/It for “giving me” such a painful childhood. And I needed to forgive myself because I knew I did the best I could at figuring out a very confusing situation and for blaming myself as a child out of survival. I needed to forgive the whole situation and all the pain it caused me because I had ME again. I do not have to forgive a person who is not sorry to their face and never will be–but I do forgive what they did. I had been holding onto a lot of resentment which I didn’t realize was hurting me and taking a lot of energy.
And that is when I sat down and wrote the song “Help Me To Forgive”. I’ll never forget writing it. It was a very spiritual and pivotal moment in my life. It helped me to start the process of trying to forgive God, The Universe, and me, and the whole situation, and my pain. That is what forgiveness really means for me. Then, a few weeks later, I wrote the song “This Too Shall Pass” with a newfound ability to comfort myself through the worst feelings of rejection and betrayal.
Yes that was quite a month–September 2007. And I am glad I have these two songs to commemorate that special time when I reclaimed my true self and found inner peace and acceptance. And I also discovered a way to let God’s love in my life and really feel it and believe it. As the saying goes, ” The truth will set you free,” but you must feel your feelings to get there.
But in all my writing just now about forgiveness, I don’t want to forget my reasons for writing this post. It is to support you, the highly sensitive child with childhood wounds, from not feeling guilty that you cannot forgive yet. And that trying to forgive even God and yourself before you have gotten through all of the anger and all the repressed emotions from your childhood can leave you feeling guilty and beating yourself up. Please do not feel guilty if you are not ready to forgive anything yet. Please be kind to yourself and love and comfort the wounded child inside for all the feelings you were denied being allowed to express. That is the first step and it takes a long time to tell your whole story–to let out the entire truth. The song “Help Me To Forgive” is meant to comfort you on those times you are filled with anger and resentment about the past–and you are realizing how strong you are because of the pain you’ve been through and you are ready to stop holding on to blame. I share the lyrics with you with the utmost compassion and love in my heart.
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