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.
Hi everyone. It’s November!—and there’s a briskness in the air and the awareness of the holidays approaching. For many highly sensitive survivors that comes with a bitter-sweet feeling–of light and love from God above (the true reason for the season) mixed with the grief of a lost childhood and sad or painful holiday memories of being misunderstood and diminished. Or it can be an overwhelming feeling of dread on some days for many reasons related to your present relationship with your some bullies in your life, and on other days of stress–being caught up in the busy-ness of getting ready for the big days ahead for your loved ones–often too busy to feel anything at all.
Depending on where you are in your recovery, it is normal for you to be feeling all of these different ways. Be kind to yourself no matter how you are feeling and please try to slow down, breathe deeply and take self-care breaks–stop and be aware of the negative messages in your head and change them to kind words that you deserved as a child such as: Everything is going to be all right, You are doing a good job, It’s okay to make mistakes, You are special, deep, and a rare gift to this planet.
Affirmations you can say to yourself are: I love and approve of myself, I am safe, and, my favorite, I give myself permission to be the best that I can be. This last one is helpful especially because often others may have been threatened and jealous of your gifts and so, sensing this, because you were highly sensitive and empathic, you protected them by hiding your gifts away so they would feel better. Giving yourself permission to be the best that you can be can be so empowering and satisfying–like suddenly realizing, “Oh, wow, I don’t have to protect anyone anymore and I can just relax and be awesome!” Many of you feel guilty for everything even for your own creative and artistic gifts! A caretaker from childhood may have caused you to feel shame for expressing them. Please take your gifts out of hiding and take a good look at the truth of the gifts and talents that you brought with you to this planet. They are your gifts and yours alone and you deserve to enjoy and feel good about them and share them with others!
For more about overcoming creative self-doubt please read my post from January 28, 2010 On Overcoming Self-doubt–The Story Behind My Songs Of Hope and Healing.
Hello to all of you sensitive souls. I hope you are enjoying this beautiful week of Indian Summer we are having. The news says that most of the U.S. is experiencing gorgeous mild temperatures and colorful changing leaves right now. It is definitely my favorite time of the year and it feels like such a gift from above now that I can relax and take it in and be in the moment and fully appreciate it. As many of you who follow my blog already know, it wasn’t always this way for me. I used to be numb to my feelings, keeping too busy to feel, compelled to be a people-pleaser and a perfectionist, and full of self-doubt and anxiety.
There are many facets to my journey to finding my voice as a person, many of which I describe on my blog so that I might inspire other highly sensitive people (HSPs) to believe in their dreams. Writing out my feelings in a journal has been one of these many facets that contributed to my awakening to my true spirit which was hiding inside. I have been writing poetry in a journal since the age of 14, but it wasn’t until about 2002 that I set out to to try to do Julia Cameron’s morning pages (3 pages of free writing every day) which turned out to be extremely therapeutic “inner grief work” that took place over a period of 5 years. It was during this period that I wrote about the feeling that I was “growing a backbone” and this felt very miraculous indeed. I knew I was finding my voice finally and it had been hidden away in fear for so long. I was writing songs and poetry and it never really occurred to me to seriously share them with others until one day when an extra special one poured out of me. When I wrote this poem, it dawned on me that I had been transformed and now, finally, I could reach out and help others–something I had always wanted to do but I always felt I had to figure myself out first. I had a new found sense of self and there was no going back. I am very happy to be sharing it with you today.
After I wrote this poem, I got the idea to write a book sharing many of my poems and my growth along the way to finding my voice and that this poem would be the final one in the book–a finale of sorts. However, since then I have written even more special poems and songs so I have decided to go ahead and share a shortened version of it here in my blog. (I haven’t written my book yet but I plan to start it in the near future.) This very special poem is entitled, “Joy, Our Birthright, Waiting There”. I want to explain that I wrote this with my children in mind– when I say “and I was never there for you the way I thought I was, it’s true”. What this means is when I went through growth and gradually had more access to my true self, then I couldn’t help but feel regret about the past when I had been doing my best but I was not able to be my strong confident true self yet. When I expressed this regret to my children expecting them to agree and feel relief and tell me it had been hard for them, they both instead said they always felt I was always emotionally available to them and it meant a lot to them that I always apologized to them whenever I made emotional mistakes and they felt fully validated at each step along the way in their upbringing. For this I feel extremely grateful because nothing has ever been more important to me than my children feeling good about themselves and their unique gifts and breaking the cycle of dysfunction that my husband and I experienced as children. Still…I can’t help but wish I knew then what I know now….
So here it is:
Joy, Our Birthright, Waiting There
By Roxanne Smith
Feb 21, 2007
Telling someone helped me heal
All the pain inside was real
No wonder I had been so tired
My whole heart had been so mired
So much grief to lead the way
Let it out, so much to say
I was never there for you
The way I thought I was, it’s true
Because I was empty – none to give
Alive but I just now learned to live
Soulful is the proper word
I have “me” – it sounds absurd
Let your painful feelings out
You can’t be whole and live without
Expression of unfairness do
Your soul will help you live anew
And learn compassion for your self
Don’t put feelings on a shelf
Any doubt is harmful thought
The truth is–look how far you got!
Negativity and blocks
To true self and joyful shocks
Being blamed can stunt our growth
Fear of feelings: anger, both
Also fearing joy and bliss
Pain comes up and we all miss
The connection to our rightful heir
Joy, our birthright, waiting there!
Love is what we all deserve
Joy it feels when then observed
Share it then and it comes back
Filling up the past we lacked
Helping others heal their wounds
Nothing like it – glowing moons
Stars are twinkling, warming sun
Nature loves us one by one
Let the love come down on you
It is there don’t block the view
Doubts of self will keep it blocked
You must trust your soul’l be rocked!
With this truth I’m trying to tell
Creative soul fear-blocked is hell
Heaven is a word away
Love is here please let it stay
You deserve its welcome home
Inside you it does belong
Love yourself I’m trying to say
God is trying – just light the way
Ask him to comfort your soul
Believe! And he will rock and roll!
I’m not kidding this I know
I let out grief and felt a glow
A light inside I did believe
I’m OK. I feel. I grieve.
Compulsions all have fear beneath
God has no “shoulds” or “work hard” teeth
Be yourself and kindness do
Serve to help others heal anew
Help them see that love transcends
We can all relax and mend
“Relax and enjoy your life
and everything will be alright!”
This phrase came in a dream so real
I hope this poem will help you heal
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Hi everyone. I am a life coach for highly sensitive people with childhood wounds and I specialize in inner child healing. Today I am releasing Part 2 of my More Helpful Tips post for those of you Highly Sensitive Souls trying to figure out how to thrive when you have a narcissistic parent. It may help for you to review tips 1 through 6 in my last post. To summarize, they were about: your gift of intuition; the childhood traumas you repressed to survive; anxiety, self-doubt, co-dependence and PTSD; there is hope; inner child healing can help; and no contact with your Narcissistic parent may be vital to the healing process. So here are tips 7. through 12.:
7. Know that the GUILT is relieved by acknowledging the anger and hatred you felt as a child that you were forced to repress.
The guilt of setting boundaries in your relationship with your Narcissistic (N) parent will be strong! Ignore it! It is guilt induced from elsewhere that you internalized since you were a tiny child. That has affected your freedom as a gifted child to become your own wonderful self! It may feel as if they took that from you and gave you guilt, shame, and fear in it’s place. So what do you do with the guilt you feel when stepping out on your own to become the person with freedom to do whatever you want with your life? HSPs tend to feel guilt for feeling anger–allow yourself to feel angry about it! Righteous anger is a healthy emotion that you were not “allowed” to express to them–but it is important that you release this anger in harmless ways (not to the parent who abused you) . Acknowledge it, tell a safe person, or write it out in a journal (for your eyes only) in detail the anger you feel for all that you lost. Because this rage inside that comes out sometimes in your life at the wrong people has an origin that needs to be acknowledged and let go of. You have a right to acknowledge this repressed anger for the traumas that happened to you as a child–it was too painful for a child to survive this kind of excruciating, unbearable emotional pain of hating your parents when you needed them so desperately. So the trauma is repressed and the truth of what happened to you needs to be released so that you can finally be free. Punching a mattress with your fist and/or screaming into several pillows for as long as you need to is helpful to release the rage you have kept inside all these years. It helps to have a supportive and safe person present to validate your feelings as you release them. Do not hold onto this intense anger–release it and imagine this energy going away from you forever. (Forgiveness is important but not until all the layers of repressed anger are worked through and this takes time and patience with yourself–do not attempt to forgive too soon or you may get stuck in a guilt about not being able to forgive cycle.)
8. Know that grieving the loss of your childhood is part of the healing process.
Often after the release of anger you will begin to feel all the hurt and pain of not being truly loved as you deserved. Letting this out and releasing this is so important as well in the healing process of your wounded soul. It helps so much to talk to another empathic human to feel fully validated and comforted through this grieving process–but if there is no one possible then you can write this pain out and you may even surprise yourself by the poetry that pours out of you. (No rules when you write–just let it pour out). These words of your soul will always surprise you– you will discover a richness and deep inner life inside of you that you never knew existed. Because it was hiding in fear all this time–a very real fear–fear of your parent’s judgemental rejection and abandonment of your budding wise self.
9. Know that it is okay for you to be FREE of them and put yourself first so you can heal.
It is a free country! You are a free person to do as you wish. And noone knows the pain that a narcissistic parent can do to the soul of a highly sensitive child except those who have experienced it. So stop waiting for approval from the rest of society. You may need to stop all contact with the harmful, negative, malignant narcissistic parent in your life forever and always if that is how long it takes for you to feel safe and have inner peace. You do not even need to attend their funeral if that is something that worries you. It is okay to protect yourself from all the negative energy and judgements of others at family gatherings if you are feeling this will happen. (This all depends upon your own personal spiritual beliefs–I personally now believe our souls live for eternity and those who truly love and support you will be there in heaven and watch over you in spirit–they will understand your reasons for staying away. I believe you don’t need to go to a funeral to say goodbye or to appease family members who don’t support you either. This is something that must feel right to you and your own personal spiritual beliefs) And to support you further, I just happened to hear on the radio today, a Christian counselor reminding someone that “Honor thy father and mother” DOES NOT APPLY when they are emotionally abusive and use fear to control you. Fear is the opposite of love! It is a deal breaker and they are no longer honorable parents. God wants for you to protect yourself and go towards love in your life and away from those who induce fear. I agree with this. Loving parents want you to feel safe and loved–N parents do not care if you feel safe and loved, they want you to obey or else! Please get yourself safe and free.
10. Know that Narcissistic people are known as “Crazymakers” for a good reason.
If you have malignant narcissistic parents, they are not going to change and they are not going to stop trying to make you wrong. You are not wrong for putting your life and your dreams first for a change. This is your time! This is your life! This is your time for healing and dreaming and learning to love yourself as God has always wanted for you. Malignant Narcissism is mental illness. It’s a severe problem and insidious in nature because they appear to fit in with other people and have friends and thrive and look fine on the outside. They may even be religious and say they are devoted to God but it is not true! It is just words! They may even appear to change and will be on their good behavior around your children but don’t believe it. They may even turn your kids against you in an instant if they are able. There’s a hidden self-hatred there underneath in a narcissist and a desire to control others with no remorse and no desire to change as a disconnected self-protection from emotional pain–a complete separation from their soul’s true essence. That’s enough knowledge for you to know you need to get you and your children safe with safe boundaries in place.
11. Know that highly sensitive people absorb the negative energy of others. Time alone and the beauty of nature can help recharge your positive energy.
Malignant narcissists are like energy vampires sucking the good energy out of you and replacing it with all their unconscious negative feelings about themselves. You feed them, so to speak, and they take it and feel better about themselves. And they constantly want more, not seeing or caring how it is hurting you. Only you can stop feeding their endless need for your supply of positive energy. This is what it means to develop healthy boundaries. It is your very essence, your “gift” that they are taking–your ability to give light and love to others. You must protect this gift. It is meant for those who are also of light and love so that we can build each other up and help each other so that all of our dreams can come true and we can improve life on our planet. These dreams and desires that you have deep inside are the innervoice that connects you to God and the light that feeds all of us (HSPs). It is the LOVE that you never got from your N parents that you begin to feel has been inside of you all along. As you begin to connect with your real feelings and your vitality you connect with God and the love and bliss that was there innately in our true selves. Love exists and you can give it to yourselves when you realize you were loved all along and were born with this love to give to others who don’t exploit you.
12. Know that you can rescue yourself! Noone can do it for you.
Take the first steps and start on a path of healing today! Be strong and stay away from your malignant narcissistic parent while you heal and anyone who judges you for doing so. You don’t need to explain it to anyone. Most highly sensitive people will understand without explanation. They are out there–don’t give up! I am proud to be a highly sensitive person and now as a life coach of inner child healing I shine my light brightly to help other sensitive souls out of the dark. You have a light inside of you that has just been hiding in fear. Everything is going to be all right now as the truth of who you are comes to light. Please take extremely good care of yourself so your highly sensitive soul can shine and inspire others. I hope these tips have been helpful to you.
With Love and Light,
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.
Perfectionism, The Highly Sensitive Person, and How Grieving Our Childhood Pain Is Essential To Healing
Hi everyone. I hope you are enjoying the summer. I hope you are not heaping lists of “shoulds” on yourself (home improvements etc.) to accomplish–only to realize, “What was I thinking?! I can’t do all this stuff!–the KIDS are home!” ha ha. Yes I remember, and I still do it somewhat but this summer is SO much better. Back then it was a priority for me to make happy, fun summer memories for my children and connecting with them emotionally. I always ended up throwing out my long list of shoulds. If you don’t, you end up saying to yourself, “I didn’t get this done and I didn’t get that done. Instead make a list of all the things you DO accomplish after they happen–write down each special conversation, each walk in nature, each memorable meal together etc. By the end of the summer you will have a wonderful memoir of how special your summer actually was instead of a list of what you didn’t get done.
Even with my best efforts when my children were growing up, I was too busy satisfying their needs for a fun summer and way too many “shoulds” for myself that I often felt like I missed it–summer would just zip by me and I was left feeling regret.
I think often times we are busy like that to avoid our painful feelings that we may have experienced in childhood. We found ways to cope and survive the lack of love, encouragement, acknowledgement, and acceptance we all desperately wanted and needed. We are perfectionists, compulsive over-workers, compulsive shoppers, compulsive list-makers, and then call ourselves procrastinators because we put things off–but it’s really because we have unrealistic expectations of what we need to accomplish.
As highly sensitive children, it seemed to us that nothing we ever did was praised or applauded as we deserved unless it was something others wanted us to be doing. This was so confusing to us so we rationalized that we must not be doing enough or doing it well enough. Now when we overwork because of perfectionism it is because we are still trying to fill an unmet need from childhood–one that will never be met but can be resolved if we allow our sadness about the truth of it all to come to the surface. Grief is a positive, healthy emotion that is necessary to heal your childhood wounds. You deserved so much more–you deserved…”love”. You did not get what you felt you needed and you may feel you are still not getting it. The problem is not with you…you are so loveable! Aren’t you! You know it. You are smiling right now aren’t you because you know it on some deep level. 🙂 That is the truth that you must listen to. The love you need and deserve exists–we know what we deserved.
For some reason, we may feel we were born into situations where we couldn’t get love the way our souls needed to be loved. I had a hard time resolving this–it didn’t make sense. I was drawn to reading a lot of new age books on spirituality to figure this out. Reading all these books really helped me get a new perspective. I now believe that I may have more innate inner strength than certain family members. I am able to grow and give to others even more because of my childhood wounds. We (HSPs) see the truth, we KNOW we deserve love and better treatment and we know we don’t deserve feeling bad about ourselves any longer. When someone sees you as LESS THAN and you know you deserve more–you don’t have to be around that person. You may need to try a few times to get them to see you and understand you, but if you keep on coming up short in their eyes, and this is causing you a great deal of stress, then it’s time to distance yourself from them and get some healing support. Some of us can’t even try to be ourselves with them–it’s too excruciating to re-experience the rejection, so we must just leave for as long as it takes so that we can begin to heal.
We all NEED acceptance. It’s very important to look elsewhere for people who accept you and understand your self-expression for support. We (HSPs) eventually grow from the pain of it all, and we learn to rely on our selves if we can get away from the negativity that unhealthy family members, bullies, and/or society use to control us and keep us DOWN. They know we are different and special and yet maybe they are not as evolved as we are and so it seems they do not have the inner strength to say, “Wow you have these great gifts of sensitivity and awareness and depth–you are different from us, you should go out into the world and share your knowledge, vision, gifts, and message of love and peace to the world–we understand and we are in awe of you. So GO, fly away and be the best that you can be!” ha ha Wouldn’t that be the greatest to hear anyone say that!?!
In order for them to say that to us, they would have to be very secure and love themselves a lot (or be an HSP like you). It could be they don’t love themselves at all. They may want to control us because they have so much pain and if we leave them it makes them feel their pain so they blame us. They may not have the “insight” to see what we see or want what we want and to see that their pain has nothing to do with us. We are holding ourselves back, waiting for their permission to leave.
Reading the books on spirituality helped me to believe that my spirit (everyone’s spirit) is going to live for all eternity and the lessons I learn in this lifetime will never be forgotten. I believe we all evolve at different levels and different speeds and some of us souls are more advanced than others. We (HSPs) are continuously healing our post traumatic stress from our very real childhood wounds, and it is necessary for us to separate from those who caused these wounds and move forward toward new healthier people. We must not feel guilty for healing–I believe GOD wanted us to be all that we can be and he is with us in all our healing. We each have different limits to what negativity we can be around–we need to honor these limits and take care of ourselves whatever it takes! Alice Miller often talks about the “never-ending work of mourning” in her books and how important the grieving process is for our recovery–we must accept it as essential to our healing and to our eventual freedom from our inner-prison of self-doubt.
Perhaps our highly sensitive souls are more evolved and we chose (with the gift of God’s free will) to have these experiences in this lifetime to learn about the pain of rejection and about our own strength in overcoming it. Maybe we chose them so we could learn what not to do to our own children and develop empathic skills to help others by surviving such treatment as children. I know that I am finally glad to be me, and I am proud of myself for all that I have figured out and how this knowledge has helped a lot of other people to heal.
The grieving process has opened my life up to the most wonderful feelings of joy, love, and trust in my creativity, and this is what keeps me going in this direction. When I love and value myself and my feelings, all of them, I have more to give others to help them to heal as well. I believe we are all highly sensitive for a very special reason and may need to heal separately from our families until we are strong enough to not be triggered and to give back to others…others who are ready to heal and ready to feel.
With support we can grieve for not getting the love we feel we needed and we can have a happy, healthy, guilt-free, and independent life. The joy and relief you will feel when you allow yourself to grieve will feel wonderful and so you will know you are going in the right direction. If you need help grieving and someone to listen, this is what this blog community is here for. Thank you sensitive souls out there for being here on the planet.
Thank you to all my commenters for sharing your pain and experiences and encouragement–your words are so helpful to others who have not yet found their voice.
Please also check out my new pages called “Portrait of an INFJ, …INFP, and …INTJ”. Very many of my clients have turned out to be these three temperament types (but not all) and I believe it would benefit those who are to read the description of your true potential as was written in Keirsey and Bates book on temperament types. (See Recommended Books). It certainly gave me hope when I read it and I hope it does the same for you.
Hi everyone. The Fourth of July is coming soon! I hope you are able to enjoy Independence Day with the knowledge that you are a special highly sensitive person (HSP) and you deserve independence and freedom to be you. 😀 Because this is typically a family holiday, it can bring up and trigger memories and childhood wounds of loneliness and pain–large get-togethers with people and possibly not one of them really understanding you because you were an HSP. And in most cases you were probably an “introvert”–70% of HSPs are! The word introvert is highly misunderstood and it is important to me that I set the record straight on the true meaning of the word and how it’s perception and judgement can be damaging to those of us who are born-introverts.
When you hear the word introvert or introverted you probably have heard the wrong meaning with such comments as: “He became introverted because of his fear of his abusive father”; or “I used to be an introvert but then I got some confidence and came out of my shell”. These examples of the word are used very often in the media but these usages are incorrect! The correct word in these examples should be the word “insecure” instead. The real meaning of introvert is not insecure or turned inward out of fear as most people have been taught to believe.
The book Please Understand Me by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates explains about each of the temperament types in a wonderful and positive way and explains the true meaning of being an introvert. When I was 23, I was told about this book by my counselor at the time who had her PhD in Clinical Counseling Psychology and, when I read it, it changed my life in a major way due to its wonderful explanation. Since then I have known I am an introvert like her and am very proud to proclaim it!
The book explains it so well: In 1920 Jung invented the psychological types and believed that people are different in fundamental ways. In 1950 the idea of temperament types was revived when Isabel Myers and her mother Kathryn Briggs devised the Myers-Briggs type indicator–a tool for indicating 16 different patterns of action. Keirsey and Bates later came up with a book with a similar temperament sorter and a self-test to take. Here is Keirsey and Bates’ definition of an introvert, word for word, from their book:
“…the introvert is territorial. That is, he desires space. Introverts seem to draw their energies from a different source than do extroverts. Pursuing solitary activities, working quietly alone, reading, meditating, participating in activities which involve few or no other people–these seem to charge the batteries of the introvert. Thus, if an extreme introvert goes to a party, after a “reasonable” period of time–say half an hour–he is ready to go home. For him, the party is over. He is not a party pooper; rather, he was pooped by the party.”
“Introverts, too, are likely to experience a sense of loneliness–when they are in a crowd! They are most “alone” when surrounded by people, especially strangers. When waiting in a crowded airport or trying to enjoy themselves at noisy cocktail parties, some introverts report experiencing a deep sense of isolation and disconnectedness. This is not to say that introverts do not like to be around people. Introverts enjoy interacting with others, but it drains their energy in a way not experienced by extroverts. Introverts need to find quiet places and solitary activities to recharge, while these activities exhaust the extrovert. If the latter goes to a library to do research, for example, he may have to exercise strong will power to prevent himself, after fifteen minutes or so, from taking a “short brain break” and striking up a conversation with the librarian.”
“It is quite the opposite with an introvert, who can remain only so long in interaction with people before he depletes his reserves.”
“The question always arises, “Does not an extrovert also have an introverted side and does not an introvert also have an extraverted side? Yes, of course, but the preferred attitude, whether it be extraversion or introversion, will have the most potency and the other will by the “suppressed minority”. The preferred attitude will be expressed in the conscious personality. The suppressed minority is only partly in consciousness and reflects “what happens to one.” This less-favored side of a person’s temperament is less differentiated and is less energized, and is apt to be more primitive and undeveloped. Jung even claims that if, through pressure on the part of the mother, the child is coerced into living out of his inferior side, this falsification of type results in the individual’s becoming disturbed in later life.”
“If a person prefers extraversion, his choice coincides with about 75 percent of the general population (Bradway, 1964). Only 25 percent reported introversion as their preference, according to Myers (Bradway, 1964). Indeed, Western culture seems to sanction the outgoing, sociable, and gregarious temperament. The notion of anyone wanting or needing much solitude is viewed rather often as reflecting an unfriendly attitude. Solitary activities frequently are seen as ways to structure time until something better comes along, and this something better by definition involves interacting with people. As a consequence, introverts are often the ugly duckling in a society where the majority enjoy sociability. There is the story about a mother heard to protest loudly and defensively, “My daughter is not an introvert. She is a lovely girl!””
“Introverts have reported that they have gone through much of their lives believing that they ought to want more sociability, and because they do not, are indeed ugly ducklings who can never be swans. As a result, the introvert seldom provides adequately for his very legitimate desire for territoriality, for breathing room, without experiencing a vague feeling of guilt.”
“Cue Words: The main word which differentiates an extrovert from an introvert is sociability as opposed to territoriality, but the extrovert also finds breadth appealing where the introvert finds the notion of depth more attractive. Other notions which give a cue to this preference are the idea of external as opposed in internal; the extensive as opposed to the intensive; interaction as opposed to concentration; multiplicity of relationships as opposed to limited relationships; expenditure of energy as opposed to conservation of energy; interest in external happenings as opposed to interest in internal reactions.”
Reading this for the first time really validated who I was on a deep level and changed me for the better! I was so excited! Finally I had an explanation for who I was and I felt relieved of the shame and the sense of being flawed and not good enough! I hope this information does the same for you. You may want to go out and buy the book and read the whole thing as I did–I highly recommend it as a handbook for your life and helpful in understanding yourself and in understanding all the other temperament types as well.
Fellow introverts, it is my own belief that introversion is innate in us and that we cannot change it. I believe that it is helpful to explain it to others by using the word introspective or inner-directed. It is an innate gift of introspection and inner-directedness that connects you to experience everything on a deeper level. Extroverts who do not understand this might have you believe that you are LESS THAN because you are different and thoughtful before you speak. Shyness, however, is more prone to the insecure extrovert and NOT to the introvert who can be happy alone and without fear because the confidence comes from within and not needing validation from others but only from the self. This inner-connectedness can feel spiritual and healing to us when we learn to recharge by allowing ourselves to feel connected to God and nature and the magic of the universe.
If you are an introvert, I hope that this information has been helpful to you. Introverts can experience painful rejection and judgement from 75% of the population who through no fault of their own have been incorrectly taught about the meaning of the word or taught to judge others who act more introspectively. I don’t know very many extroverts who really understand introverts. Years ago, I showed the above quotes to an extraverted friend with her Masters in Social Work, after I explained and showed her the book, kept saying to me, “are you sure you are an introvert? You don’t seem like an introvert?” And a sensitive yet extraverted professor of psychology in college made me feel just awful about myself repeatedly for not being more outgoing and more like “him”. ‘But there are extroverts who do get it and appreciate introverts and all others for all their differentness and uniqueness so please don’t judge extroverts now that I’ve explained how wonderful introverts are! Nevertheless we are outnumbered by 75%! We introverts must learn to love and appreciate ourselves exactly the way we are and start standing up for ourselves and educating the world on the true meaning of introversion. I love being an introvert! It is a very big part of who I am and I am very proud of it and wouldn’t have it any other way!
Elaine Aron reports on the home page of her website that 30% of all HSPs are extroverts so to you extroverted HSPs who get comfort and encouragement from my site, I apologize for leaving you out of this weeks post. Please know that my intention is to educate everyone that not one type is better than any other and the whole point is for us all to see the specialness in each other as unique souls with unique talents and gifts that we bring to share with the world. Thanks to all for reading!
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
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. Michael Jackson was definitely a highly sensitive person (HSP) with a narcissistic father and he suffered from much childhood pain because of it. There has been a lot about him on the news again lately. So it seemed timely and appropriate for me to write this post about him.
I think it is wonderful that they are doing a remake of his co-written song “We Are The World” to raise money for Haiti. Also, the DVD of “This Is It” just came out and I bought a copy yesterday. On Sunday, I cried when his two oldest children spoke at the Grammys. I am always surprised at my strong reaction. It reminded me of my severe and unusual reaction to his death and especially watching his funeral on TV. I cried, sobbed, and grieved non-stop for 3 hours watching it. I was shocked at my reaction. I had been a fan but I hadn’t been a devoted fan in his recent years. It made me look at a deeper part of myself and how important music was to me and how fearless he was about expressing it. I didn’t know how much I loved him until he was gone.
I had been profoundly affected by his musical gift as a child and watched him on TV every chance I got. I had two Jackson5 albums which I can remember joyfully singing and dancing to in my room. I’ll never forget how, in sixth grade, my classmates and I practiced a line dance to Rockin Robin everyday at recess. And I can still remember where I was when the Thriller video came out. The Thriller album was the last album of his that I bought and I am ashamed to admit that in his later years I gave up on him due to the media’s negative slant on his behavior.
For two weeks after he died I could do nothing else but watch and record everything about him on TV at the time. I know now he was innocent of everything he was accused of. My family thought this all very odd of me and, although supportive, they couldn’t really relate to it. All I knew was my heart was grief-stricken. And so I wrote this poem (as I often do to relieve myself of my pain) and it helped. Here it is:
My Ode to Michael Jackson
By Roxanne E. Smith
July 7, 2009
Your light was bright when mine was dim.
You gave me hope. Felt I could win.
When as a child with doubt within
My love for music did begin
You showed me how to celebrate
Life is good whatever your state
There’s something to look forward to
God must be good ’cause he gave us you
Now I know how to dance and sing
My soul said yes this is my thing.
When so alone you were right there
Telling my soul remember you care
“You care about this music stuff.
You forget to sing and dance enough
It fills your heart with joy to do it.
Music! You’re important to it.”
My heart aches that you’re not here
The gift you gave was oh so clear
We didn’t know how dear you were
Now that you’re gone the silence stirs
Can we keep up this music gift?
Share our hearts and move our hips
Can we still feel joy again?
Who will show us how, my friend?
I will try to keep up my end
Music has helped me transcend
From frightened child to now a voice
You have helped me make that choice
Music it can change a life.
Give new courage, heal the strife.
Sharing feelings gives them strength
You have helped me see this. Thanks!
I am still so sad and lost.
You gave your all and look the cost.
Now you are in bliss with God
Without you here it seems so odd.
What is there to sing about?
I don’t want to do without
Not that I’m as good as you
But God gave me the singing too
Maybe I’m supposed to sing
Because I love to do this thing
And write these songs and play guitar
Give to others near and far
Look at singing as a gift
To other people as a lift
Not be so focused on my self
And get my writings off the shelf
And share with others what I do
And be a little bit like you
‘cause you had compassion just like me
Your life and death has set me free
Thank you Michael for helping me.
Thanks for reading. Today I am going to release the audio for my song “Free To Live.” This song always takes me from feeling bad to feeling good and I hope it has the same effect for you.
I felt it was appropriate to release this song tied into this post–because, as we all can relate as highly sensitive souls and a difficult childhood, Michael Jackson often did not feel…Free To Live! Thank you again to my readers. I care and I am here for you.
With Love, Roxanne
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN->Free To Live (For the lyrics, click on the song title under Pages on the side bar on the top right.)
*You may listen to my songs for free on this website. If you would like to save or download my songs though, please make a donation. Thank you for your support!
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.
My very first post, Dec. 30, 2009:
I Was Lost But Now I’ve Found Me
Lyrics By Roxanne Smith
I am strong but they can’t see me
I am wise but they can’t hear me
You are there to help me sigh
And surrender to the truth
That I learned from my youth
That I had you all along
The painful lesson is now a song
I am sad and you are there to hold me
I am weak and you are there to guide me
I am scared and you are there to love me
I was lost but now I’ve found me
I was lost but now I’ve found me
I was lost but now I’ve found me
Original Song © Roxanne Smith