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. 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.