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. 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
(This post is the most viewed post on this blog with over 18,000 views and 146 comments at the present time. It was updated and revised in March of 2017. If you are looking for the original version of this post, you may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Warmly, Roxanne)
As a life coach I have experience helping HSPs with emotional wounds from childhood often stemming from one or both parents being a malignant narcissist. Emotional abuse is an especially horrible experience for a highly sensitive child. It may be that you felt there was no caring about your feelings whatsoever. You may have felt invisible and as if you don’t matter. …As if your feelings don’t matter! If you were emotionally abused or continually diminished as a child by your parent it’s not healthy to hold that in! Let it out–voice it or write out the truth, acknowledge what happened and then continue to practice letting it go–releasing it–sending it out away from you to be replaced by comfort, compassion, and love for yourself. It’s not healthy to hold onto blame–but admitting it is important and the start to healing repressed and denied emotions.
At under age 2, when we can’t express ourselves with words, we can only cry to get our needs met. A sensitive child becomes obedient out of mortal fear but you can’t tell–they don’t look afraid because they have repressed it. As an obedient highly sensitive child, you put your own needs away and focus on pleasing others–but lying under the surface those unmet needs are still there! Begging for attention! Longing for love! There is nothing wrong with you! You are just afraid to speak up and ask for what you deserve.
And in some families there is no genuine love to be given. And even as a tiny child you know it. As the sensitive child in the family you felt it’s absence and it hurt like hell! And you cried and complained and may have had tantrums of despair in the grocery store! But then at some point it was too much and you stopped crying or complaining and you stopped being …YOU. The fear of being hit or just the mean look from their eyes would feel like a spear of pain through your heart and it would shut you up over and over again until you gave up and became obedient. And that is the trauma! The pain so unbearable to a child that you cannot survive it and so the repression happens. (See Alice Millers’ book, The Drama of the Gifted Child.)
If you experienced this too, the fear you had to repress also held down your true self and all the feelings that went with it. You became obedient and fearful from the trauma but instead of expressing your rage at the injustice of it all, you pushed your feelings down so deep you hid them even from yourself. You didn’t know ’til now that you have such a rich and deep inner life, and a wonderful, loving personality. It was all hiding in fear. Until now.
Now it is safe to come out. For whatever reason, your beginning years were spent in an environment of fear and no love, but there is love out there to be found! Get some support and start a life with stronger boundaries so that you can fully heal. You may need to cut the strings so you can feel safe and free. You deserve to live a life of peace that is free from guilt-inducing manipulations, negative comments undermining your confidence, fear-inducing threats, comments about the rewards others will get for being “good”.
It’s wrong to take care of the feelings of anyone who continually diminishes you in any way at the expense of yourself. It’s difficult but very necessary to set boundaries with malignant narcissists. It’s especially hard being blamed and turned into the bad guy more than anything. It’s excruciating! But you are worth the fight and you must be strong. You have to take care of yourself and your health. You will also feel a sense of exhilaration and freedom and pride in yourself for being honest and no longer pretending like you approve of how they treat you. With support from your new loved ones in your life you can move forward and go for your dreams! You can learn to comfort yourself through the hard times. Know the truth and be strong and hang on ”til the good times–“the sweet tasting good life”… I love that song…”Way Over Yonder. …the sun shinin’ golden, shinin’ right down on me.”
For more on the subjects I have written about today please click on “Recommended Books”. Thank you so much for reading. Please leave a comment about your story. It will help others to know they are not alone.
Way Over Yonder lyrics
Songwriter: King, Carole
Way over yonder is a place that I know
Where I can find shelter from the hunger and cold
And the sweet tasting good life is so easily found
Way over yonder, that’s where I’m bound, that’s where I’m bound
I know when I get there, the first thing I’ll see
Is the sun shinin’ golden, shinin’ right down on me
Then trouble’s gonna lose me, worry, leave me behind
And I’ll stand up proudly in true peace of mind
Talkin’ about a, talkin’ about a
Way over yonder is the place I have seen
In the garden of wisdom from some long ago dream
And maybe tomorrow, I’ll find my way
To the land where the honey runs in the rivers each day
And the sweet tasting good life is so easily found, yes it is
Way over yonder, that’s where I’m
That’s where I’m bound, talkin’ about, talkin’ about
Way over yonder, that’s where I’m bound